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Monday, January 08, 2018

They Came For Freedom by Jay Milbrandt

This is an interesting story, but, unfortunately it is written in  a rather 'textbookish' manner. Still, it's
an important part of American history which has been somewhat neglected, surprisingly.  I am not American but I like to read American history and I have been to Plymouth a few times so I am very interested in the Pilgrims.

The Pilgrims are often regarded as quaint and backward. Milbrandt shows that they were the opposite. Most, if not all, were well-educated and some came from moneyed backgrounds. They found the relgious laws of England oppressive to Non-Conformists and they faced a difficult struggle because of their beliefs leading to their fateful journey to the U.S. Although their experiment was a failure, they created a 'remarkably ordered society,' established the rule of law and separated church and state.

Milbrandt writes in detail about their terrible difficulties. Even before they arrived in America, many had to endure prison terms in England and  working in harsh factories in Holland. Once they arrived, there were fights with the Indians, severe weather conditions and near-starvation. It's certainly harrowing to read!

This is worth reading, especially if you like American history.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Cousins by Salley Vickers

I know that this book was given good review and I usually like the wonderful Salley Vicker's novels, especially when they have references to Catholicism, but I just couldn't get into this one at all, and I tried to read it about three times. It was just too dreary and depressing. I also found most of the characters a bit unlikable and not well-drawn.

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


Princess Margaret by Theo Aronson

William Timym [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Princess Margaret saw Tommy Lascelles (the Queen's Private Secretary) walking by one day and remarked: ‘There goes the man who ruined my life’.  She blamed him for preventing her marrying handsome and divorced Captain Peter Townsend, the great love of her life. She could have married him, but it would have meant a civil marriage, giving up her title and privileges and a long exile overseas. It probably wouldn’t have worked out anyway, but it was extremely unfair.

Theo Aronson in this rather factual and not terribly sympathetic biography, written while the Princess was still alive, rightly emphasizes this love affair and the huge effect that it had on her life. For example, he writes that she only accepted Lord Snowden’s proposal after she learned of Townsend’s engagement.  As her remark showed, the Princess probably never got over Townsend, not a good way to start a marriage!

Aronson discusses Princess Margaret’s personality, which seems to have been full of contradictions. Her royal duties were underestimated, for example, and she was also very religious with a preference for Anglo-Catholicism. However, this didn’t prevent her living a rather purposeless and jet-setting life which made headlines in the press and having affairs, including a strange one with a much younger and unknown man called Roddy Llewellyn.  She could also be extremely rude, according to this book, and stand very much on privilege.

This is worth reading if you are interested in the Royals or just Princess Margaret. I couldn’t help feeling that some of the anecdotes were rather nasty, however.

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

EDITION  Paperback


PRICE$16.99 (USD)

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Teenage Resistance Fighter with the Maquisards in Occupied France by Hubert Verneret

When Hitler invades Poland, 14-year old Hubert Verneret watches the French soldiers leaving South Morvan to fight, thinking that they will soon be marching victoriously through German cities. How little the Boy Scout knows! As the Germans march through France instead, he sees hordes of refugees fleeing their approach and he tries to help them. He also sees the French soldiers in a complete rout.

The brave young boy joins the Maquis and his adventures begin as he learns to shoot, attempts to prevent Germans retreating to the Rhine and looks for soldiers to take prisoner.  Much of his war, to his disappointment, consists of watching and waiting, and there is a nasty episode where he almost shoots one of his own.

This was written in the middle of the war and it provides a vivid picture of the suffering of the French and the courage of the Maquis and Resistance.  Some of the writing is quite beautiful and makes one wish that Verneret had written more books.  There are interviews with some of the major characters in his group at the back to provide more background. It's certainly worth reading if you are interested in the French Resistance. And as Catholics are often criticised for their role in the war, I was glad to see that an Abbott was involved in Verneret's group.

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

EDITION  Hardcover
ISBN         9781612005508
PRICE      $24.95 (USD)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

To Light A Fire On The Earth. Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age. Bishop Robert Barron in conversation with John L. Allen, Jr.

When I went into a Catholic cathedral overseas a long time ago, someone started muttering about 'superstition and ignorance'. Unfortunately, this is an increasingly common view of Christianity and Catholicism in particular.  As Allen writes, Catholics 'have to cope with an elite snobbery that says religion is backward, benighted, superstitious, and dangerous...'  It's good, then, that Barron can actually stand up to the cleverest people of our increasingly secular world and argue about his beliefs in depth.

This book provides an interesting look at how Barron sees the Catholic faith, what he thinks about the Pope, and how to bring Catholics back into the fold.  He especially emphasizes showing someone the beauty of the Catholic world. He thinks that many people today find too much talk about 'truth' a turn-off.  Instead, it's more important to get them to look at the glorious Chartres Cathedral or Sainte Chapelle. Bishop Barron certainly has a wonderful point here. No doubt, there are many who just see these buildings as examples of great architecture, but others will be inspired by their radiance and begin to wonder whether there is something more...

Allen also talks to Barron about the Catholic Church's teachings on sex. This is an important part of the book but Barron's explanations may not convince a lot of people.  However, it is the clearest exposition that I have read.  Barron also argues that the Church's over-emphasis on sexuality has probably turned many people away, and it's a good idea to place more importance on different aspects of its teachings.

He also looks at other controversies, such as the scandals, and dealing with aggressive atheism.  This all becomes quite theological.  Barron discusses Aquinas's arguments for the existence of God, for example.  I may read this part of the book again, although by chance I read AJ Cronin's anecdote much simpler!

This is a good book to read if you are interested in Bishop Barron and Catholicism.

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


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay Thomas Nelson--FICTION

When Mary Davies is offered the chance to go to a luxurious Jane Austen escape in a manor house near Bath by her best friend Isabel, she is reluctant to leave.  However, her father persuades her and she is having problems at work and with the man to whom she is attracted, so she seizes the opportunity after all.

Although the manor is beautiful and they like the other people, the 'sharp edges' of their friendship start to get in the way. Isabel's troubled childhood led Mary's parents to help her, and Mary has often felt jealous.  She also envies Isabel's attraction for men. Isabel even reminds her of the vain, sly and amoral Isabella in Northanger Abbey - not an ideal person to have for a friend! During the holiday, she discovers even more about the real Isabel, leading her to re-examine her life, her values, and what is truly important.

This is a moving and charming love story, but although I loved the way that Katherine Reay cleverly references Jane Austen stories and uses Jane Austen quotes in the novel, I didn't like it as much as some of her other books.  I am not sure whether I would read it again.

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

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Return to Shepherd Avenue by Charlie Carillo

Crowds gathered to watch the crazy man high up on Brooklyn Bridge. The police were called and people were terrified that he was going to jump.  Luckily, Joey Ambrosio just wanted to scatter his father's ashes, but the police still worried that he was mad.

People on Shepherd Avenue also thought that sixty-year old Joey was nuts when he bought his childhood home for too big a price, left his door unlocked and took the bars off the windows in a poor and crime-ridden neighbourhood.  However, after a troubled and peripatetic adolescence and an estrangement from his daughter, Joey feels the urge to return to the home where he lived with his uncle and grand-mother.

In this moving story, he finds old childhood friends, falls in love with a beautiful laundress and slowly starts to rebuild his life...

I enjoyed this very New York story by Charlie Carillo, but I wasn't sure about the author's attitude to age differences in romances.

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden

Brave Lucy and her brother Nick are in a terrible situation. They are involved in a long-standing lawsuit against their nasty family involving the ownership of a patent for valves. This has practically sent them penniless although they are both employed, and in their spare time they help the poor  by secretly installing the valves.

When Lucy, a telegraph operator at AP Press, discovers secrets about her family, the adventures start. Together with her young rival, Colin, who works at Reuters, she gets involved in dangerous situations - even ending up in an insane asylum at one stage! When they discover that Lucy's family may be even more evil than they thought, it's a race against time to stop a terrible assassination plot. Lucy has to struggle to keep the faith, however, there isn't much religion in this book.

Lucy and Colin were engaging characters and the historical setting was well-researched and interesting.  I found the story rather far-fetched, however, and I admit to just skimming the end. I may try more of Elizabeth Camden's books.

I received this free ebook from Baker Publishing Group and Net Galley in return for an honest review.