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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Always in Fashion by Albert Geiger

I hadn't heard of Bert Geiger but I liked the photos of his dress designs when I looked him up.  This long book tells the story of his successes and failures in the fashion world, and it certainly sounds like a hard life.  Luckily, Bert had a resilient and optimistic character and he was able to pick himself up again fairly rapidly most of the time.  He needed every ounce of these qualities.

He is a very engaging person, judging by this autobiography, but he is also searingly honest about his being raised a Catholic and how this affected his relationships,and the troubles caused by the rebellion of his children who appeared to 'begin the Sixties revolution!' The book has some strange anecdotes about his time in India, as well.

This is fairly technical so I sometimes found it a bit dull, but I would recommend it for any budding fashion designers.

I received this from Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

Ilsa by Madeleine L'Engle

Although I liked L'Engle's writing, I just skimmed the end of this book.  This melodramatic story of a young man's infatuation for his lively and beautiful distant cousin seemed to go on and on in no clear direction. The tale of this family with secrets in the 'Deep South' was atmospheric but the descriptions of the scenery and old houses were more realistic than the actual characters, I thought.

This is L'Engle's earliest novel, so I will read more of her adult fiction.

I received this ebook from Open Road Integrated Media via Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Life after Heaven by Steven R. Musick

Steven Musick is well-named because he translates the music of heaven into music on earth by helping others. Whether you believe his incredible story of experiencing the beauty of heaven or not, there is no doubt that it profoundly changed his life and it inspired him to do much good.  He tells this story in the hope that he can assist others to improve their lives and be more giving.

After a fairly traumatic but Anglican childhood, Musick was happily married and on his way to great success. He was going to train to be an officer in the U.S. navy and a SEAL. However, after receiving a swine flu vaccination from a bad batch and suffering an allergic reaction to the chemical that was supposed to cure him, he went into a coma for five weeks! During the coma, he writes that he went to heaven and he didn't want to come back.

After this, he continued to be very ill and this ruined his naval career.  He had a difficult time picking himself up again, but he became a successful financial adviser. He also found a church that he enjoyed and he eventually even became miraculously cured. He also concentrated on helping others and trying to experience some of the power of  heaven on earth, and he was eventually inspired to tell his story.

This is a memorable book. Although it is simply written, Musick's advice to readers is quite profound and needs to be though through.

I received this free ebook from in return for an honest review.

Images of the Past: The British Seaside by Lucinda Gosling

This delightful book with its images of the seaside will take you into a world of nostalgia, gaudiness and even glamour.  There are photographs, posters, cartoons and paintings of every different aspect of the British enjoying coastal resorts in bygone days, such as the transport, the entertainment and the fashions, as well as the cliched scenes of happy families and children building sandcastles. Some of the pictures are amusing, such as the ladies wearing string vests on their heads, the men in suits on hot summer days and the lady in beach pyjamas which look home-made. The writing is interesting and easy-to-read and the captions are extremely detailed.

I especially liked the information and images of the resorts in Edwardian times, such as the Punch and Judy shows and the Pierrot shows. There were also glamorous buildings in some of the resorts, where a wide variety of entertainment could be found. Tower Ballroom at Blackpool with its dance floor of mahogany, oak  and walnut looks spectacular. The white turrets of Spanish City also look inviting, and this unusual building in Whiteley Bay also offered lots of shows. It inspired Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits's song 'Tunnel of Love!'

Unfortunately, some of these attractive towns have suffered from a decline in recent years. However, a regeneration project is enabling restoration of the famous dome of Spanish City, and there are other signs of new life. Hopefully, this book will help. If I were English, it would certainly inspire me to visit many of these towns!

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.

PRICE£14.99 (GBP)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Valancy's Blue Castle. The Blue Castle by L.M.Montgomery

This book may not be as memorable as the Anne or Emily novels, but L.M. Montgomery still weaves her famous magic into this lovely story.

The heroine, Valancy, is 29, living at home and considered an 'old maid'.  She is downtrodden by her rather nasty family - even her mother is quite cold and sulks when she is opposed - and she seems to be completely lacking in spirit. She even hates her bedroom and its view over the railway station with its derelicts and flappers.  Valancy feels that she is  'lonely, undesired, ill-favoured - the only homely girl in a handsome clan, with no past and no future...' She is even called Doss by many of her relatives, a name which she understandably hates.

The only joys that Valancy has are dreaming of her Blue Castle in Spain and reading John Foster's books which describe the beauty of the Canadian countryside in a dreamy manner. It is not his descriptions of nature which interest her, however. She feels that he writes as if he is searching for an elusive and indefinable mystery.

When Dr Trent tells Valancy that she has a fatal disease, she begins to rebel. After all, if she is about to die, why should she care what people think or be afraid of them? She tells her family what she thinks of them, to their great shock, and she finds new friends. She even moves out, and then she meets wild Barney Snaith with his kind heart and bad reputation with women...Will Valancy finally find her Blue Castle?

I loved this book, and I could read it again and again! Valancy and Barney are such likeable characters, and the hypocrisy and bossy attitudes of Valancy's materialistic family is described perfectly. The beautiful Canadian setting is almost a character in itself.

If you like L.M. Montgomery, you will probably enjoy The Blue Castle.

I read this for the Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge 2017 - I know that it's late!

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Tower by Marguerite Steen

This was a very strange and miserable story, although the Riviera setting brightened the second part of the book a little. The main character, Tom, is a struggling artist with a wife who he loves very much and a severely disabled child.  He can’t seem to get ahead no matter what he does and looking after the child is ruining their marriage. Antonia eventually gives him a lecture because he doesn’t want to take a job on the Riviera painting a tower in the mountains for an odd, egotistical French artist called Mesurat.

When circumstances change, Tom finds himself near Nice surrounded by the weird cronies of Mesurat, such as the calculating Comtesse with her frilly dresses and plimsolls.  But he also finds some inspiration in the beauty and serenity of the scenery which gives his painting new life, until a tragedy occurs…

This was written in a rather angry and bitter way a lot of the time, I found. In fact, the story involved a controversial modern issue and it was polemical, I thought.  But Steen’swriting is very good. I especially liked her ability to sum up minor characters in a few words. For example, she writes that the young painters who offered to help Tom, ‘flamed with enthusiasm like a pair of Roman candles.’
The politics of the book annoyed me somewhat. Steen certainly makes her feelings about the overpowering Welfare State and the coming Age of the Machine known! I didn’t think that these issues really had that much to do with the story, and that these were Steen’s personal views!
It was an interesting and unusual novel, however, so I would like to read more by this author.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Finding Freedom in Fashion. Freedom Is Fashion by Tala Raassi

Tala Raassi had an idyllic childhood in Iran but it was always under the shadow of the oppressive government, Under the Republic, women had to wear the hibjab, alcohol was banned and clubs were shut down and there were several other restrictions.  The religious police stopped women on the street for wearing lipstick or showing a bit of their hair.  Tala chafed under this regime and she was horrified to discover herself in a nasty jail and sentenced to 40 lashes for wearing a mini-skirt! This horrific experience started her thinking about how women should have the right to wear what they like, and she started to dream of starting her own fashion business.

She was lucky enough to have an American passport and she eventually went back to America Starting her own business was extremely difficult, however, and she had lots of bad times along the way.  For example, she had a dreadful partner and even after finally attaining much success with a swimwear line, she found being part of the Miss Universe event traumatic. She was also subjected to a lot of disapproval from many fellow Muslims for promoting swimwear. She even received death threats.

Tala Raassi had a lot of drive, ambition and resilience, and she certainly needed all of it! This is an inspiring but rather harrowing story,  Raassi has plenty of helpful advice for would-be entrepreneurs, especially for those who want to start a fashion business. However, this is an interesting story for anyone to read, and I highly recommend it.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Fighting Hislam Women, Faith and Sexism by Susan Carland

I am afraid that this was yet another book that I just couldn't get into at the moment! I was interested in the subject, but this is a thesis and I think that I just found it a bit heavy-going.

I received this from Net Galley in return for an honest review.

The Other La Boheme by Yorker Keith

I love opera, especially Puccini, but I couldn't get into this novel about young opera singers trying to get ahead in New York for some reason. I may try again later.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan

I am afraid that I couldn't get into this novel about a women's choir in The Second World War in spite of rave reviews. I didn't like the diary format and there were also a lot of different characters.  It's a pity - I may try again later.

I received this free ebook from Blogging for Books in return for an honest review.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Finding the Value in Rare Objects. Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro

This beautifully written book strikes straight at the heart, like all of Kathleen Tessaro's novels. Tessaro's writing improves with each novel, and this is definitely one of her best. Be warned, however. The story is extremely miserable at times.

When the novel begins, Mae has returned to her small but bright Irish/ Italian suburb in Boston after getting into a mess in New York.  She failed to find the success that she craved, so she turned to drink and slept around. After having an abortion, she ended up in an asylum where she made one very strange friend.

A clever girl, Mae 'reinvents' herself and finds a job in an antique store surrounded by lovely and rare objects. She becomes fascinated by the idea of the owner of the store who travels on exotic adventures and they begin a correspondence. But when Mr Winshaw arrives, Mae finds him disappointing and his conversation rather banal. She is much more attracted to the wealthy James, the odd Diana's brother...

There are many dichotomies in this novel- between fantasy and reality, infatuation and love and wealth and true riches. Mae has to learn many difficult lessons during the course of the novel. I never used to like novels that are written in the first person, but this helped me to feel for Mae during her several trials.

Rare Objects has a likeable, but flawed hero and heroine, an interesting villain, an atmospheric historical setting in Depression-era Boston and a moving love story which may even make you cry.  The other characters in the book, such as Mae's irritable Irish mother and her old Italian friend, are well-drawn. This is a must-read if you like well-written historical love stories!

I received this free ebook from Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

Channel of Peace Stranded in Gander on 9/11 by Kevin Tuerff

Kevin Tuerff suddenly looked at the map showing the airline route on his plane which was going to New York from Paris. He was shocked to see that the plane was seemingly headed to the North Pole!
The passengers on his Air France plane eventually landed in a little town called Gander in Newfoundland, Canada along with many others because of the terrorist attack of 9/11, 2001.  Frightened and hungry, the passengers were treated like hotel guests by the town - almost everyone in this small place volunteered to help. One meal that Tuerff had there was better than any food that he ate in France, he writes.

Although rather simply written, this is a fascinating tale about how one small town stepped up to the mark, the people who Tuerff met in Gander, and how it inspired him to start doing random acts of kindness on the basis of the book Pay It Forward. He also writes about the musical based on his experiences in Gander.

I was also glad to see that he has remained a member of the Catholic Church in spite of his differences with it.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Reclaiming Hope by Michael Wear

When he started work for President Obama Michael Wear was very young and incredibly excited, especially when Obama spoke to the religious leaders at the first meeting of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neeighborhood Partmerships.  Obama spoke about ‘importance of faith in his own life and the positive role faith communities had to play in bringing our country through the difficult times ahead. Wear hoped that divisive politics could be overcome and faith could be part of that solution.  The President had a different approach to faith than over Democratic presidents.  He was willing to talk to religious leaders and he also realised that there was an ‘evangelical reawakening to issues of justice and the common good’, according to the author.

Although Wear was a Democrat, he was not completely at ease in the party.  He was very troubled by abortion and he disagreed with the approach to matters of sex and sexuality.  Gay marriage, for example, would become extremely difficult to deal with.

Wear discusses Obama’s approach to religion profoundly.  Obama was heavily criticised because he didn’t go to church very often.  However,   explains that the attendance of the President at church creates several security problems.  But    does think that Obama was deeply religious. 

Wear also writes about how Obama’s administration dealt with abortion, contraception, and other areas which intersected with religion.  What made him most disillusioned was Obama’s attitude towards gay marriage.  Obama’s opposition to same-sex marriage was crucial in 2008 because of the importance of winning over conservative white voters and many African-Americans. It was a surprise to   when he changed his mind in 2012.  It was even more of a surprise when Wear read a book by David Axelrod in which Axelrod wrote that the president personally supported gay marriage as early as 2007 but he accepted advice to support civil unions which he called ‘sacred’ unions.   Wear was troubled by the possibility of Obama’s misleading the public and using religious language to do it, although he still admires the former president for many reasons.

This book was an interesting insight into what goes on behind the scenes in Washington and I may even re-read it.  However, I thought that it became rather technical at times.  I highly recommend it for anyone interested in politics, and the intersection between religion and politics.

I received this free ebook from Booklook Bloggers in return for an honest review.