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Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester

Estella is upset when her mother sends her to New York to get her away from Resistance work and the dangers of war. However, the young and beautiful seamstress soon finds friends and sets up her own sewing business. But she is puzzled by many mysteries. Who is the handsome spy she keeps meeting? Who is Lena and why is she the image of her? Who is her real father? What does the tragic Evelyn Nesbitt have to do with it all?

Fabienne, Estella's granddaughter, also must solve mysteries. Who was her real father? What did Estella do in the Resistance?

This story sweeps between France, New York and Australia in a fast-paced manner and kept me riveted to the page.   Natasha Lester deftly combines the worlds of Second World War fashion and the dangers of the Resistance. Esttella and Fabienne are lovely characters while the villain is frightening and the men are handsome and intriguing. I liked the way in which the historical information was cleverly intertwined with the story.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for a free

Monday, March 05, 2018

Renoir's Dancer. The Secret Life of Suzanne Valadon by Catherine Hewett

Suzanne was once called 'the terror of Montmartre'. The pretty golden-haired child of a single mother climbed out of Windows, played truant from school and associated with vagabonds. After joining the circus, however, she suffered a terrible accident and focused on her drawing. Once she became an artist's model for illustrious artists, such as Renoir, she was on the road to success.

She became respectable married woman, the mistress of a large house with her own studio and servants. But she had trouble with her son's inclination to drink. Would she give it all up for a handsome and much younger man...?

This is a fascinating tale about the wild-child of Montmartre and her talented son with vivid
descriptions of the bohemian lives of the famous artists of the late 19th century. I felt that I had a birds-eye view to the charm and glamour of the  Paris of the time. Suzanne Valadon has been neglected so this biography is a welcome addition to books about these artists.

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

Friday, March 02, 2018

Breakthrough by Fr Rob Galea

When he was a teenager, Fr Galea suffered an existential crisis. Bullied at school, he sat alone in his room night after night, and he eventually turned to bad company and even shoplifting. He felt abandoned although he had a good and loving Maltese family. Eventually, he decided to join a Catholic youth group which changed his life and led him on the path to bring a priest in Australia.

In this book, Fr Galea tells his life story and the pitfalls on the way to his becoming a priest. He had to overcome several obstacles, including depression, while he was studying. He also fell in love before hearing the call, and had to choose between his girlfriend and the priesthood.

I found Fr Galea's description of his parish and the people in Australia the most interesting part of the book. He was surprised that we are such a secular and agnostic society compared with Malta which is very religious. His struggles to bring young people back to the 
Church sounds very tough but his decision to 'take the church to the people' is an excellent one. He also inspires people with his music.

I also liked Fr Galea's helpful suggestions about prayer and the Sacraments.

This is well-worth reading, especially for young Catholics.

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

Monday, February 26, 2018

Clutter Intervention by Tisha Morris

This was well-written and philosophical but the author's system just didn't work for me.

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

A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green

Vivienne, a lacemaker to Queen Marie Antointette, finds herself in grave danger in the midst of the French Revolution. She manages to escape to Philadelphia only to see that the Jacobins are powerful there, and she is surrounded by untrustworthy people, except for Liam, a brave farmer,. who helps her. Suddenly she has a precious charge. Can she protect him?

This enjoyable Christian novel by Jocelyn Green has a likeable hero and heroine, interesting historical detail and a well-thought out plot.  I especially liked reading about the real people who were involved in the fascinating politics of this era of American history, such as Alexander Hamilton, and the intricacies of the whisky tax. The whisky tax was a surprise to me.

I received this free ebook through the Bethany House Reviewer Program in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Dangerous Woman by Susan Ronald

Beautiful, wealthy and clever, Florence Lacaze had a great ambition. She wanted to be an opera singer. However, it was easier for her to marry wealthy men and when she eventually married Frank Jay Gould, she hit the jackpot! She and Frank cut a swathe through the Riviera with their lavish hotel and casino businesses but they associated with swindlers and thieves, and scandals would eventually follow them. These were nothing, however, compared with Florence’s extremely questionable activities during The Second World War…

This was a very enjoyable book, partly because of all of Florence’s famous friends, such as Chanel and Arletty, and the wonderful descriptions of the luxurious lifestyle on the Riviera in those days. I have seen Arletty in old movies but I didn’t know much about her. However, I found the machinations of the casino and hotel businesses very technical at times.

If you like biographies and reading about high society, you will enjoy learning about this ‘dangerous woman’.

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


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Fire on the Track by Roseanne Montillo

By Unknown (Library of Congress) - [1], Public Domain,

I don't usually read books about sports but this true story of the first women track and field stars kept my interest. It tells the tale of several women who went to the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936, including Helen Stevens, Babe Didrikson and Stella Walsh. The main story, however, is that of Betty Robinson who was the first women to win an Olympic track and field gold medal.

Pretty and popular, Betty Robinson loved to wear attractive clothes so when a determined coach accidentally discovered her, one of her main problems was finding the right shoes to wear on the field. She sailed through her first Olympic games, capturing gold.  But a terrible event would cause her much hardship and pain. She wondered whether she would ever walk again, let alone run...

The stories of the other athletes are not as enjoyable, but still interesting. All of them have to deal with opposition to women being in the Olympics at all, let alone running. Some have to struggle with questions about their sexuality and gender. Most have a hard time scraping money together.

This was a well-written book. I did find some of the information in it rather detailed and personal, though. However, it's well-worth reading, especially if you like reading about sports.

I got this free ebook from Crown Publishing via
Blogging for Books in return for an honest review.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Making Room for God Decluttering and the Spiritual Life by Mary Elizabeth Sperry

G.K. Chesterton once wrote: 'There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.'  These are extremely wise words for pack rats, and Mary Elizabeth Sperry's book will not only help you to declutter. It will also help you to desire less. 

Some early Church Fathers, such as Saint Anthony, escaped from the Roman Empire, to live ascetic lives and become closer to God.  They owned nothing and ate very little. This was partly because they wanted to separate themselves from attachment to material possessions so that they could become closer to God.  As Sperry writes, they were the true forerunners of today's minimalists.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines sin as 'failure in genuine love for God and neighbour caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods'. (CCC, 1849) (Buddhism states that misery is caused by attachment). Possessions can separate us from God and from other people. Sperry explains how and why this is so, and combines the spiritual advantages and reasons for decluttering and gives practical tips in this well-written book. She writes about spiritual discipline, gratitude and generosity as well as how sins, such as envy, can lead to accumulating more 'stuff'. There are exercises at the end of each chapter to help.

I also found Sperry's struggles with her own clutter similar to mine, and rather endearing. For example, she sometimes has to look through several cabinets and drawers to find a utensil. She also almost lost a job opportunity because the offer got mixed up with the spam! It was good to read this, and know that I am not alone!

This is highly recommended for Catholics, or indeed, any Christians who feel that they need a more spiritual approach to getting rid of clutter.