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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.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Hank and Jim The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart by Scott Eyman Simon & Schuster Biographies & Memoirs

By Studio publicity still - [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14857265

An ageing Jimmy Stewart slowly walked up the hill every day to see his dying friend Henry Fonda. They didn't talk much, but they understood each other. Theirs was an unusual friendship between opposites. Stewart voted Republican while Fonda was a Democrat; Fonda wasn't religious and Stewart was; and Stewart had one long, happy and stable marriage while Fonda had five marriages. However, apart from some arguments along the way, their friendship lasted fifty years.

The friendship started when they met as young struggling actors, and it became deeper when they shared a house in NY and they were so poor that they practically lived on rice! They even fell in love with the same woman, the beautiful Maggie Sullivan, and both probably held a candle for her throughout their long lives. Fonda married her but the relationship was volatile and she soon left him for another man.

This book tells the moving tale of how these two great actors' friendship lasted during their young acting days, their stellar Hollywood careers, and marriages and children.  I especially liked the anecdotes from the children and Fonda's last wife.  Anyone who is a fan will love this book, although I found the writing a bit 'slangy' at times, and I can almost guarantee that you will cry at the end.

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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Spirituality of Jane Austen by Paula Hollingsworth Lion Hudson Plc

This is an excellent book about Jane Austen's beliefs and how they affected her writing.

Paula Hollingsworth relates the story of Jane Austen's spiritual background, her loving family and her trials and tribulations.  A vicar's daughter, Austen's conservative and carefully considered Anglicanism was extremely important to her. She even wrote prayers from a young age!

Hollingsworth analyses the books thoroughly, telling how Jane Austen's Anglican values affected her characters and how her belief changed over time.  She was more attracted to the evangelical stream of the Anglican church when she wrote Mansfield Park, for example.  Hollingsworth's study of this book is especially good.

This is written in an interesting and lively manner and not at all dry.

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


The Potential Principle by Mark Sanborn

James Joyce wrote that: 'A man's errors are his portals of discovery'.  This inspiring book based on the Potential Matrix aims to show you how to use your mistakes to improve and how to decide what you need to do to develop a 'growth' mindset and not let disappointments weigh you down. As he writes, highly successful people are actually disappointed even more often than others. 'They just don't let disappointments bother them'.

Sanborn includes so much useful information in this book that it's hard to remember. I suggest that you keep a notebook beside you while reading it. He writes about the importance of finding purpose and thinking and evaluating . I especially likes his chapter on finding a quiet place to think and how to spot errors in thinking and the right way to focus.

He also writes about performance, and gives examples of how successful people improved their preparation. I liked the story of how he decided to become a better public speaker from a very young age and did everything that he could to achieve his goal.  This leads to the importance of discipline...

This is an excellent book for anyone who wants to advance in his or her career.

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Far Away Brothers Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life by Lauren Markham

Why do so many child migrants go to the United States? What struggles do they have to go through? Was it likely that they’d be able to stay?
Lauren Markham set out to find the answers to these questions, and decided to use the example of thestory of the Flores brothers from El Salvador as an indication of their trials and tribulations. 

The town that the inseparable twins came from used to be beautiful, but now it was ruined by violent gangs. Even the brothers’ evil uncle had joined one. Their parents were struggling with poverty, large debts and illness. Life was incredibly tough, but the Flores’ older brother Wilbur had escaped to the US. Now Raul and Ernesto were thinking of joining him.

This book describes their terrifying and harrowing journey to the US. They had to endure lack of food and water in the desert, and other frightening experiences. Even when they finally reached the US, it was difficult to get legal representation and they had to learn English. Life with Wilbur wasn’t easy, and they still had to face violent gangs. One of them even thought of going home. Markham, a writer and a teacher at the boy’s school, also writes about her own personal story and her efforts to help them.

   Intersperses their story with the hardships that migrants face generally in the US and possible solutions. I was quite surprised that they found it hard to get a lawyer who would help them pro bono. This is hard to read, but interesting, although I must admit to skimming the end because it was such a grim tale.

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



Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived by Adam Rutherford (Author); Siddhartha Mukherjee (Foreword)

I am afraid that I will have to try the paperback.  I found this too scientific to read as an ebook. If I read the print, it might help. The author mentions Anne of Green Gables, so I will definitely try to read it again!

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

Vigil in the Night by AJ Cronin

I am a big fan of AJ Cronin, and this was a powerful medical story of self-sacrifice, redemption and love written in his inimitable style. Some nurses  have actually praised it in their Amazon reviews because it is so realistic, even today! I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as my all-time favourite Cronin book, however, my beloved The Keys of the Kingdom.  (This is one of the books which made me think about Catholicism).

The story concerns Anne, an excellent young nurse in a small town, who covers for her irresponsible little sister and consequently loses her job. She decides to leave and travel to Manchester where she finds herself working in a grim and dirty working-class hospital where the only interesting work is in Dr Presscott's operating theatre...She also has to cope with her unfriendly and sour colleagues and her sister's problems.

Although Anne is rather too saintly to be real, and the story is extremely harrowing, I found it riveting, probably because it was so well-written. One wonders whether this kind of tale could be published today, however. Probably, no one would believe that anyone would make such an act of self-sacrifice...

The movie based on the book is supposed to be just as good, so I hope to watch it soon!

I hope to read most of AJ Cronin's wonderful novels again, so watch out for more reviews here.






Saturday, October 07, 2017

Why I Am Catholic (and You Should Be Too) by Brandon Vogt

By User:MatthiasKabel (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

When Brandon Vogt decided to turn Catholic, some of his friends and family were astonished. He was greeted with 'crickets and confusion'.  Vogt thinks that this is because it is 'countercultural' and provocative because it is travelling in the opposite direction to our Western culture. He argues that these days when practically anything is allowed, it is really the only way to rebel.  It's not rebellious anymore to get drunk, have sex, pursue money or turn atheist. As Vogt writes: 'What's truly radical is to consider a Church that billions of people have embraced throughout history but millions of people ttoday dismiss as bigoted and outdated'. He quotes G.K. Chesterton saying that the Catholic Church 'is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age'.

Vogt points out, and people who are anti-Catholic should remember this, that 'no other group feeds more people, heals more people, teaches more people, or houses more people around the world'. Catholics have a duty to help others, and their considerable charity work shows that many of them are fulfilling their duty.  This is the part that I liked best about the book.

In this excellent introduction to Catholicism, Vogt studies the truth about Jesus and Catholicism in an academic but lively way so that this book is not at all dry.  He goes through the reasons for God's existence and Jesus's life point-by-point, and examines the writings of Jesus's followers who believed in his miracles and that he was raised from the dead.  Vogt makes a very considered study of the skeptic's arguments here which is extremely impressive.

He also doesn't shy away from the scandals of the Church and the difficult teachings on, for example,  abortion and homosexuality and women priests. Vogt considers whether the Church is anti-women and discusses why it only has male priests. However, this is not a long book so he doesn't go into the ins and outs of every ruling.

I liked the sections on the doctrines of the Church and the differences between Roman Catholicism and the Orthodox churches. However, I was surprised that Vogt didn't try the  Anglican Church and that he didn't mention it at all when he was explaining what distinguished the Roman Catholic church. Also, I don't think that he went into rules about Communion which affect an enormous number of people, and the arguments about watering them down.

This probably needs a few readings but it's recommended if you are interested in the Catholic church.

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

Friday, October 06, 2017

The Making of Jane Austen

Did you know that Jane Austen was a 'transnational' figure used in support of women's suffrage,' or that early twentieth century playwrights 'tweaked' her characters and plots to make them more 'feminist'? This interesting and well-researched book has these details and more.  The author looks at the history of illustrations of her novels, plays based on the novels and how they have been used in the education system.  Sometimes, Jane Austen has been seen as a traditional and pious, while at other times she has been seen as an author who wanted social change, especially for women. Her humour has often been seen as mild and gentle, but some have enphasized her biting wit and irony.

This is a good look by Devoney Looser at the different versions of Jane, but I did skim over some parts of it, and I found it a bit dry at times, although I enjoyed reading about the many fascinating people who have been involved in 'making Jane Austen,' such as the Australian Helen Jerome who deserves a biography of her own! It's recommended for academics and readers who want to learn more about how Jane Austen was seen in the past. I will look for more of Devoney Looser's books.

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