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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a Church that billions of people have embraced throughout history but millions of people ttoday dismiss as bigoted and outdated'.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.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Grant & I: Inside and Outside the Go-Betweens by Robert Forster

I like the Go-Betweens and my mother had some connection with Lindy Morrison's mother, but I couldn't get into this book. It seemed to take a long time to get going! I may try again later.

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

I, Eliza Hamilton by Susan Holloway Scott

Portrait of Mrs Alexander Hamilton by Ralph Earl

Although handsome and ambitious Alexander Hamilton was a ladies’ man, he wanted to marry a woman with character and wisdom as well as looks.  When he met charming Elizabeth Schuyler, he knew that he’d found her.  They were a perfect match.  She would be a courageous wife to the rising star of the developing nation through all the traumas of war, betrayals, scandal and illness. At one stage, she even showed great bravery when her parent’s home was under attack. ‘Betsy’ would also often have to look after the children while he spent long periods away.

Unfortunately, Hamilton’s brilliance caused jealousy and he also had a few flaws in his character which didn’t help his political career so  he unfortunately made several enemies. Elizabeth was also warned by her sister Angelica that Hamilton still had an eye for the ladies…She certainly had a lot to cope with but her life was never dull!

I had recently read a biography of the young Hamilton when I started this book so I expected much from it, and I am happy to write that I loved it. Susan Holloway Scott creates memorable characters in her portrayals of Elizabeth and Alexander. She does this great love story justice and the book is captivating until the end.  This is definitely a keeper, and I will definitely buy the paperback version!


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

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Letter From Italy by Pamela Hart

Brindisi Cathedral
By Freddyballo - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7331187

This beautifully written historical novel set in the dangerous Italy of World War One kept me riveted to the page. The story involves Rebecca, a young Australian war correspondent, who is in Brindisi with her handsome husband, Jack, who is also a journalist. When Jack sets off to chase stories, Rebecca wants to advance her career and she is anxious to write articles about the Royal Australian Navy which is stationed in Italy. Although she dislikes Sandro, an Italian-American photographer staying with his grandmother, at first, they start working on stories together and she soon finds herself increasingly attracted to him.  The problem is that they are both very Catholic and Rebecca is married…
This was a moving love story and it became more exciting as Rebecca and Sandro look for a possible traitor in their midst and journey into war-ridden territory, as Italy is under siege from Austria. It’s also extremely well-researched with information about the interesting background to the novel and further books to read in the Author’s Note at the back of the book.  Although I liked Christianity being central to the lives of the main characters, I also found it a problem that Rebecca was married and attracted to someone else at almost the beginning of the book.  However, this did create great dramatic conflict.

I am looking forward to reading more books by Pamela Hart.


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

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

How To Be A Catholic Hipster. The Catholic Hipster Handbook by Tommy Tighe Ave Maria Press


Do you know about all the coolest Catholic Twitterers, the best Catholic music, the loveliest prayers and the most interesting Catholic blogs? This handbook by Tommy Tighe will help you find all of these! It’s not just a frivolous guide, however. It also contains articles about important Catholic doctrines and history, and it’s worth keeping whether you are a cradle Catholic, a convert or even undecided! I greatly enjoyed it. I am not sure about going to a Tridentine Mass, however.  Although it sounds interesting, it’s a hard idea to get used to.  This section did remind me that my parents were shocked that the Mass was in Latin until recently, and I liked the thought of going to a service in Latin when I was a child!





I especially liked the fact that one of the authors reminded readers that the first duty of a Catholic (and, arguably all Christians) is to give. 



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

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan

When Kate becomes the lead counsel for a case against a Big Pharm company MPC which has
allegedly been making migraine drugs causing brain tumours, she becomes involved in very dangerous situations and several mysteries. Who has killed the scientist who was going to be a witness in her case? Why are leading documents in the case going missing? When she starts getting physically attacked, she is forced to get security and finds herself attracted to Landon, who has his own security firm.  But Kate is so busy, her budding romance almost seems like another problem, especially when Landon isn’t a Christian like her…

Ethan, MPC’s leading defence lawyer, is a friend of Kate’s but is he willing to let ambition make him cross the line into unethical behaviour? At the very least, he wants to take advantage of her idealism and he knows that she does everything by the book.  He is put under great pressure by MPC.
This is an exciting story which keeps one reading as Kate attempts to get to the truth of the case and keep one step ahead of Ethan and MPC.  I also enjoyed the romance. However, the story sometimes got rather technical for a lay reader, I felt, and it also seemed contrived at times.  I also thought that the ending was far-fetched until I read an article in The Australian which made me think again! Who knows what is going on behind the scenes these days?


I enjoyed this legal thriller and I am interested in reading more by Rachel Dylan.

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

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility Jane of Austin by Hilary Manton Lodge

Jane and her two sisters Celia and Margaret have huge problems. Their father has skipped the country because of possible fraudulence and they are forced to close their beloved tea salon because they can't afford to pay the new landlord.  Their only hope is to take refuge with their cousins in Austin, Texas, a long way from beautiful San Francisco. Celia also still misses Teddy, her ex- boyfriend.

When Jane arrives in Austin to stay with her warm-hearted cousins,  she meets Callum, an war veteran who has lost his leg, and Sean, a handsome blond singer. Of course, she falls for Sean very quickly, but is he really what he seems...?
There is also the problem of finding a new property for their tea business.

This is a clever,  original and well-written modern American version of Sense and Sensibility written from the points of view of Jane and Callum, with tea quotes at the beginning of each chapter, recipes of Southern food and atmospheric descriptions of Texas.  Jane and Callum are both lovely characters, although Callum is understandably fairly bitter at the beginning of the book because of his war experience and his problems with some of his family.  The love stories are moving and it was interesting to read a version of Jane Austen's classic which is set in America. The only flaw is that there were a lot of characters and I found this confusing.

This book is also a tea-drinker's delight! As an aside, I liked the fact that Jane never drank coffee - very unusual for an American, I should think!

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


How to Listen So People Will Talk Build Stronger Communication and Deeper Connections by Becky Harling

Are you often distracted by social media when you should be listening? Do you sometimes look shocked when your child tries to tell you something important? Is it hard for you to handle conflict?
Then you need this book! As Maya Angelou said, 'The most called-upon prerequisite of a friend is an accessible ear'.  Becky Harling has lots of excellent advice from a Christian perspective to help you improve your listening skills. She also fills the book with useful anecdotes, prayers and exercises. 

Harling writes about the importance of reflective listening.  This will help you to find hidden ulterior motives, such as jealousy or insecurity. She suggests asking yourself about your feelings and what you were looking for.  This is especially useful if you are inclined to offer unsolicited advice. This is very easy to do!

I found the chapter on conflict the most helpful.  Her advice includes finding a point of agreement, letting someone vent and asking for clarification.  Sometimes, you have to deal with toxic people, however, and she suggests ways to do this.  Unfortunately, I am not sure if this book is going to help readers who have to try to cope with deliberately obstructive people, and that is probably it's only flaw.

I received this free ebook through Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Alexander Hamilton's Revolution His Vital Role as Washington’s Chief of Staff by Phillip Thomas Tucker

  Phillip Thomas Tucker restores Hamilton’s legacy in this timely book. Alexander Hamilton was an illegitimate child from a poor background in the West Indies who had a troubled youth, yet he rose to great heights in colonial America and played a big part in the Revolution. ‘Irrepressible and brilliant’, the young man became Washington’s unofficial chief of staff, liaised with the French, including Lafayette, and provided important military  advice to Washington and to Congress. Hamilton also fought in the Revolutionary Wars and  finally gained ‘battlefield glory’ in the most crucial victory of the war. The young lawyer who spoke fluent French unfortunately made many enemies, including General Lee (Robert E. Lee’s father) and, famously, Aaron Burr.


This interesting and detailed book which describes Hamilton's rise to power, his friendship with Washington, and his frustration about being trapped in his position is well-worth reading if you like American history and biographies. It made me want to read more about Alexander Hamilton. I did get a little fed-up when I first began the book, however, because I found it a bit sycophantic and remember wondering whether Hamilton had any faults! (He finally turned out to have a very few, including a quick temper). Apart from this, it was an excellent account of this American hero’s youth.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

A New England Affair by Steven Carroll

This is a luminous and beautifully written novel about Emily Hale and her love for 'Boston Tom', i.e. the famous poet T.S. Eliot.  This is part of a series about the couple by Steven Carroll and this one is just as good as the one I read years ago.

Tom and Emily famously enacted a scene from Jane Austen in the early twentieth century  and fell in love,  but Tom went to England and suddenly married someone else without even telling Emily. The marriage was extremely unhappy to say the least and Tom and Emily started meeting again secretly in England and the USA.



By Thomas Stearns Eliot with his sister and his cousin by Lady Ottoline Morrell.jpg: Lady Ottoline Morrell (1873–1938)derivative work: Octave.H - Thomas Stearns Eliot with his sister and his cousin by Lady Ottoline Morrell.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7748785

Steven Carroll has created a deeply sympathetic character in Emily, who struggles with her love for Tom, wondering if there is 'some flaw in the crystal'.  Now a drama teacher, she looks back on her life recalling their love affair and trying to come to terms with her situation and why she never gave up on him.  Is she partly at fault for not taking the leap when they first seemed destined for marriage? 

This book is rather deep and profound, and Carroll uses 'stream of consciousness' writing much of the time, so it isn't really a good idea to read it as an ebook. I strongly suggest that you buy the book!

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.
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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder The Frontier Landscapes that Inspired the Little House Books by Marta McDowell

This is a lovely companion to the Little House on the Prairie books which shows Laura's love of nature, including the beautiful flowers and abundance of wildlife in the American West, and describes the history of the family's journey to the West.  The author also writes about her own relationship with nature and her search for Laura's past. The gorgeous illustrations and photos help readers imagine Laura's life.

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

Monday, August 28, 2017

Life on the Victorian Stage Theatrical Gossip by Nell Darby

This is a useful reference book for those studying the Victorian stage, but it wasn't the type of book one reads for enjoyment.

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

Tudor Fashion by Eleri Lynn Yale University Press

This is a very detailed and well-research reference book for anyone interested in the history of fashion with excellent pictures and illustrations.

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

Free Speech on Campus by Erwin Chemerinsky, Howard Gillman Yale University Press

This is a clear, well-written,  thoroughly researched and persuasive book about the importance of free speech on campus and the idea that places of higher education should encourage independent thought and the ability to challenge ideas.  It is quite academic and the authors go into some detail about the meaning of the First Amendment, the history of free speech, the definition of hate speech, protests and the modern liking of students for trigger warnings.

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Your Shelf Victoria & Abdul (Movie Tie-in) : The True Story of the Queen's Closest Confidant Shrabani Basu

The Munshi by Rudolf Swoboda

Abdul Karim felt very excited when he first stepped on England's shores. Only 24, he had been chosen to be one  of Queen Victoria's Indian servants.  He soon introduced her to the colour and glamour of this 'Jewel in the Crown' by making her curries, teaching her Urdu and telling her stories about his homeland.  She quickly made him an unofficial 'secretary' and he helped her with her paperwork and even began meeting powerful people.  She lavished her Munshi and his family with attention giving them several houses in the UK and extensive lands in India. The Queen also conferred several medals and honours on handsome Abdul,took him on many trips to Europe with her Household, and had his portrait painted by famous artists. She even discussed Indian politics with him!

The Queen's family and staff were mostly horrified by all this attention being given to a lowly Indian clerk and feared that he would become another John Brown.  There were also worries that his good friend was sympathetic with the independence movement. The Queen attributed their dislike and jealousy of Abdul to racism and snobbery, and much of it undoubtedly was, but he did not do himself any favours. He could be rude to other staff, spared no expense (of taxpayer's money) and he stood on privilege.

This is a riveting and well-written story which I read very quickly, because I was keen to see what happened to Abdul. Shrabani Basu was lucky enough to obtain Abdul's diaries (a tale in itself0 so much of this book is based on new information.  I am looking forward to the film!

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

$16.00 USD, $22.00 CAD
Trade Paperback
Biography & Autobiography \ Historical

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

As I Saw It A Reporter’s Intrepid Journey by Marvin Scott

This is a fascinating book about Scott's many years of reporting.  He tells how he met and liked JFK, Marilyn Monroe and many other famous people.  He also includes harrowing stories of injustice, for example, his account of Isidore Zimmerman, who came within two hours of dying in the electric chair for a crime which he didn't commit and spent many years in jail and  the civil rights protests of Martin Luther King.  He writes about spending Christmases with the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.Scott knows how to tell a good story and even bring a tear to the eye!

Scott includes articles which will help aspiring journalists, for example, about doing interviews and other important aspects of the profession.  This part of the book may not be as interesting for the general reader.

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

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Train to Nowhere One Woman's War, Ambulance Driver, Reporter, Liberator by Anita Leslie

According to the Introduction to this book, this story is one of 'dancing among the skulls'. We certainly don't know that we're alive compared with the brave women who volunteered for roles in the World Wars, such as Anita Leslie who worked as an ambulance driver in France.  She certainly had a tough time, for example, she found herself on 'a road strewn for half a mile with dead bodies and blown-up carts' when driving a wounded little girl to the hospital.  She watched soldiers die in a 'sea of red snow' and heard dreadful stories about German atrocities, such as thier shooting the inhabitants of every house that had hung our French flags when they retook Metz'.  Nothing could have prepared her for the horror of the concentration camps, however.

It is not all grim reading. Leslie manages to invariably keep her spirits up under the most trying circumstances, and she includes humorous anecdotes, including the story of Miranda who would escape from the camp for a night out by digging in the sand under the barbed wire fence in a silver evening dress. She also writes about visiting the great Winston Churchill, her cousin, who sent the French 'his love'.

Anita Leslie has a rather breathless, fast-paced style which is very engaging and suits the story.  She seems to have been extremely likeable as well as wonderfully courageous. She was awarded the Croix de Guerre by General de Gaulle.

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


Friday, August 18, 2017

Doorkins the Cathedral Cat by Lisa Gutwein

Southwark Cathedral by Night, Carlos Delgado; CC-BY-SA"

I have met Doorkins, the regal but friendly cat at Southwark Cathedral, and I am sure that she would be very pleased with this beautiful book by Lisa Gutwein!

Doorkins, a ginger feral cat, turned up on the doorstep of the Cathedral years ago and never left.  This book describes her charming life accompanied by colourful and vivid images by Rowan Ambrose. Doorkins certainly has an interesting time.  She has met the Queen and the Bishop. Indeed, she loves to sit in the Bishop's special chair! She is a regular congregant and she attends weddings. Doorkins has a special place at this Cathedral (one of my favourites) where so many have found refuge.

This is a lovely gift for children.  My great-niece and great-nephew are a bit old for picture books, unfortunately, but I am certainly thinking of buying it for them!

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Real Artists Don't Starve by Jeff Goins

When Tolkien began a new book called The New Hobbit, he got stuck after he'd written a few chapters. He asked his good friend C.S. Lewis to lunch and told him his problem.

Lewis told him that 'hobbits are only interesting when they're in un-hobbit like situations'.

Without that statement, we may never have had The Lord of the Rings! Jeff Goins uses this anecdote to show the importance of collaboration, one of his suggestions for pursuing a career as an artist. This book is full of wise advice, including how essential it is for artists to find their 'tribe,' to get the help of a mentor, and to be stubborn and take the right risks.  He illustrates his chapters on these subjects with examples of successful people and stories from his own career. For example, when he began his career as a writer, the novelist Steven Pressfield told him that you are a writer 'when you say you are'. He then put the word 'writer' on his business cards and email signature and told people that he was a writer. He also started writing every day and treating it as a job.

I did find some of the examples rather daunting, such as Michelangelo and Ernest Hemingway. This could put readers off because they might think that they will never reach the level of these artists. However, Goins also uses the examples of much less famous people, and they are not all 'artists' in the usual sense. For instance, Zach Prichard hated the thought that his favourite author might not be able to turn his memoir into a feature film so he began a crowd funding campaign.  It took enormous effort but he raised the money. This began his own successful career.

This is an extremely useful book to read for anyone interested in a career in the arts but it might be a good idea to take notes. I highly recommend it.

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Edward VII The Prince of Wales and the Women He Loved by Catharine Arnold

Actress and socialite Lillie Langtry photographed by William Downey (1829-1915).

This book is full of gossip and scandal and great fun to read! There is much less about Edward VII than there is about his mistresses, however, and they were certainly a fascinating lot.  There was the dashing Jersey Lily who eventually became an actress and hated the 'dreary rehearsals' in a 'cold and darkened theatre and Jennie Churchill who was 'too shrewd to be explicit about their relationship'. (I read in her niece's book, however, that she sometimes wondered why the room was so dark and perfumed when she entered it after the Prince visited!) The list also included the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt who kept a cheetah, a wolfhound, and chamelons on her shoulder which changed colour to suit her gowns and Countess Daisy who became a socialist after a newspaper editor explained the uselessness of costume balls as a method of providing work for the 'masses'.   There were also Agnes Keyser, a rather moral nurse from a privileged background, and the ravishing Alice Keppel with her curvacous figure and 'superabundent vitality', the legacy of her Greek grandmother.

Catherine Arnold does get Bertie's character exactly right.  He could be very ruthless, for example, he ignored one poor former mistress who tried to blackmail him about a failed abortion, and he treated poor Harriet Mordaunt and Gordon Cummings abominably.  He was a womaniser and a gambler.  However, he was strongly against racism, and he was 'a man of sensitivity' who rejoiced in his friend's triumphs and wept at their sorrows. He was apparently 'hard to know and not love'.

I didn't notice anything especially new in this book and the sometimes blunt statements annoyed me. For example, Arnold writes that Jennie Churchill had 200 lovers - she is alleged to have had them.  However, it was very engaging and I could never read enough about Edward VII!

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

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The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis Ave Maria Press

There are more editions and translations of this Christian classic than any other work of Christian literature, and it has given strength to many famous people over the years, including Dietrich Bonheoffer and Edith Cavell. Maggie Tulliver in The Mill on the Floss thought that it turned 'bitter waters into sweetness'. I have always thought that it would be a bit daunting to read but Dr Creasy's wonderful translation makes it accessable and easy to understand although I found it best to read a little bit at a time!

This classic is meant to accompany a person on his or her spiritual journey through life but it is not altogetherr comforting.  A Kempis discusses, it is not easy to follow the Cross and it can mean endurance and suffering. However, it also brings the 'peace beyond understanding'.  This little book is full of wisdom, such as the importance of avoiding becoming emotionally or spiritually dependent on other people, avoiding gossip and idle chatter and being a busybody.  Love, humility, solitude and calmness are all essential themes.

Parts of this book were written specifically for those in orders. Sometimes, they are still useful, however.

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

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Buddwing A Novel by Evan Hunter

This is a weird tale about a handsome man in his thirties who wakes up in Central Park with amnesia and meets a succession of strange women.  He starts to think that he has escaped from the mental hospital and he becomes increasingly haunted by his memories which leave him on the verge of discovering his real identity.  There are a lot of holes in this frenzied story but it kept me reading, and I will certainly read some of Hunter's other books, although there was one scene which was a bit shocking.

What I liked best about this book were the luminous descriptions of New York.  It was almost like a love letter to the city as Buddwing travels though it during the course of one day.

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

Sunday, August 06, 2017

The Kennedy Imprisonment A Meditation on Power by Garry Wills Open Road Integrated Media

I love to read about the Kennedys but I found this book a bit dry and I didn't finish it.

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

Marlene Dietrich by Maria Riva

I am reasonably interested in  Marlene Dietrich but this biography written by her daughter was just too long and detailed, so I didn't finish it.

Also, it rather turned me off this star.  She was extremly possessive of her daughter and didn't want her to have lessons. Instead, Maria spent most of her time on set assisting her mother with costumes and advice.  Dietrich was also bad-tempered and inclined to put Maria down.  She gave her an enjoyable childhood in some ways, but I also got the impression that the oddness of Maria's experiences understandably embittered her for life. For example, Dietrich's husband's mistress lived with them in the same house much of the time and Dietrich would discuss her lovers with her husband! It's probably not strange for Hollywood but it would be hard to come to terms with such  a difficult upbringing



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

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Strrength , Personality and Grace. The Woman I Wanted To Be by Diane von Furstenberg


By David Shankbone (David Shankbone) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Common

Diane von Furstenberg's definition of beauty is strength and personality. The beautiful designer certainly has plenty of both! This autobiography is filled with wisdom and grace which makes it a must-read, especially for budding dress designers and fans of her gorgeous dresses.

The designer owes much of her strength and resilience to her wonderfully courageous mother who suffered in a Auschwitz but never showed any bitterness and looked for the good in everything and everyone.  When Diane' s mother had a problem, she looked for a way around it and found a different path to a solution which was so satisfying that she forgot what the problem was in the first place! Her mother taught her not to blame anyone else for her problems and to turn negatives into positives.  She set a fine example, so that Diane could become the woman she wanted to be.

Although Diane married a prince and mixed with the jet set (she is quite a name dropper!), she has had a difficult life.  She had a surprisingly hard time even setting up her fashion business and the company faced huge losses at times. At one stage, she had four million dollars of dead inventory and in the 1980s she was horrified to find out that the company owed the bank ten million dollars! Not only this, but she had to fight cancer during one awful period of her life. It's a great book to read if you need a lesson in resilience

The designer also writes about the famous people she has known, her marriage to the prince and her boyfriends and children.  I thought that she wrote a few too many details about her boyfriends! The glamorous side of the fashion business sounds like fun but she certainly had to work amazingly hard, even though her marriage gave her a headstart.

I enjoyed this book, although I found it a bit long and technical at times. II really liked her intimacy with the reader which can  be quite endearing, for example, I loved this fact. When Diane lacks confidence in her life, she straightens her hair! When she is confident, she lets it be naturally frizzy! That is one in the eye for all the straighteners.

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






Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Penance of the Damned by Peter Tremayne

When Segdae, the Abbot of Imleach and adviser to Sister Fidelma's brother, the King, is murdered, she is sent to investigate with her husband Eadulf.  Gorman, the head of the King's guards, has been accused of the crime and the Ui Fidgente religious demand ritual execution in accordance with the new rules of the Penitentials, written by the Desert Fathers.

When Sister Fidelma and Eadulf travel intio Ui fidgente territory, they find a can of worms. How can they prove Gorman's innocence when the murder was committed in a locked room and he is seemingly the only one who could be guilty. How do they deal with Abbot Nannid, who is determined to impose the rule of the Penitentials and frightens everyone into submission?

Abbot Segdae's murder sets off a chain of murders and the couple have a difficult time trying to discover the truth of the situation.

Sister Fidelma and Eadulf are very likeable and professional and Celtic law and society are fascinating. Peter Tremayne always tells a great tale, and this is another excellent addition to the Sister Fidelma mysteries.

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

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Make Space by Regina Wong

I will definitely be buying this book! It is full of helpful tips about decluttering, meditation, gratitude and, generally living a more peaceful life.  I especially found the sections about decluttering books and paper useful. It is hard to keep only those books that you love and will reread when you have a whole lot of unread ones, however! Wong probably doesn't say anything new about decluttering but she does tell you how she deals with 'stuff' and I liked her suggestions.

She even has a section on budgeting which can be summarised by Oscar Wilde's advice: 'When you only have two pennies left in the world, spend on on bread and the other on a lily.' He valued the need to eat, but he also wanted beauty.  Wong sets out how to budget in a minimalist manner.

I also liked the sections on finding one's passion and putting all the advice together. Wong's story of how she found her passion is interesting and I also liked her advice about letting go, dealing with stress and considering the worst that can happen.  She also provides a useful list of resources and notes.

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

Friday, July 21, 2017

Eight is Enough A Father's Memoir of Life with his Extra Large Family by Tom Braden

(The cast of the TV series 'Eight is Enough,' Wikipedia)

I would love to have a big family and I enjoyed this series, but, unfortunately, I found this book a bit dull and polemical.  I wanted to know more about the children and less about the differences between the generations.  I did think that it would be more of an amusing and light book.

However, I really enjoyed reading about the famous people who Braden and his wife knew.  For example, they were good friends of the Kennedys - Jackie and Joan (Braden's wife) seemed to be especially close.  There was also a fascinating anecdote about Rosa Lewis and the old Cavendish Hotel.

Braden's book about his time in the OSS might be more interesting.

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

After Many Years Twenty - One "Long Lost" Stories by L.M. Montgomery by Carolyn Strom & Christy Woster

Sand Dunes on P. E. I. (Wikipedia)

This collection of short stories by L.M. Montgomery isn't as enjoyable as the novels but it does have Montgomery's charm and magic. Filled with unusual characters and descriptions of the beauty of Prince Edward Island, they are a joy to read. Any Montgomery fan will want to read them.

There's the naughty orphan boy who makes friends with the old judge, old Miser Tom who sits under the apple tree, the strange and messy family who provide their judgemental neighbours with a wonderful dinner and the matchmaker who uses reverse psychology to get a young couple together.
These are just some of the memorable characters in these stories.  Montgomery has an almost mystical relationship with nature so even trees, such as the apple tree, become like people in her stories.

I prefer her series, but I have always loved L M Montgomery's stories as well so it was wonderful to find a new collection.

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

EDITION  Paperback
ISBN         9781771084994
PRICE      $21.95 (CAD)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

How To Color Like An Artist Instructions for Blending, Shading and Other Techniques by Veronica Winters

This is an excellent introduction to using coloured pencils by artist Veronica Winters. She recommends the best pencils and paper to buy, explains techniques, such as rubbing and shading, and textures and provides lots of step-by-step demonstrations. It is probably better to buy the printed version unless you are used to printing pages from ebooks.

Winters also provides tutorials and video demonstrations at her website. Most of them cost a small amount of money.

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

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Saturday, July 08, 2017

God Moments Unexpected Encounters in the Ordinary by Andy Otto

I went to a service in Exeter's beautiful cathedral last Easter where I listened to a brilliant service partly about  finding God in the moment.  It was an extremely cultured presentation, however, and a bit difficult at times. I would like to read it!

This book is a clearer and simpler extension of the subject and not just for Catholics, although it is certainly written from a Catholic perspective and based on St Ignatius's system of prayer.  The most important principle of Ignatian spirituality is finding God in all things.    helps readers to do that and uses anecdotes to show how this has helped him during his life.

Many suggestions in God Moments involve using steps. For example, Otto lists the way to make an important decision using Ignatian spirituality. He also writes about St Ignatius's famous Examen in detail, explaining all the stages required to complete this each day. I found the firs part of this very helpful - asking God for a grace in the morning. It's certainly a lovely and soothing way to start the day when you remember to do it!

Many religious books are quite heavy and boring, I am sorry to say. This one is well-written, profound and interesting, and I actually enjoyed it!

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

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Friday, July 07, 2017

Illuminating Women in the Medieval World by Christine Sciacca

Christine de Pisan educating women. http://bcm.bc.edu/issues/winter_2010/endnotes/an-educated-lady.html

This is a beautiful book which is worth buying for the luminous images of the medieval manuscripts but it is also a fascinating look into the world of the women in this era.

Medieval women are usually thought of as being  idle and wealthy, damsels in distress, nuns or prostitutes. The truth is very different. Women played a big role in the economy. Merchant's wives sold their crafts at markets and participated in the trade of goods and poor man's wives worked in the fields. Aristocratic women often commissioned manuscripts, became patrons of art and the higher-ranking ones even played a part in negotiations. Saint Hedwig, for example, had seven children, assisted her husband, a former duke, with peace negotiations, and after she and her husband made vows of chastity, she sponsored religious houses and cared for the poor.  She is also supposed to have performed miracles so she became a saint.

Some women, such as Christine de Pisan, Helouise and Hildegarde of Bingen, also played important roles in the arts. Christine de Pisan and Helouise wrote while Hildegarde composed wonderful music, amongst other things. Other women illuminated manuscripts themselves or had their own images or words placed in works that they commissioned.

This book covers a wide range of topics, such as how women were viewed, the ideal women,'bad' women and marriage and courtly love. Each chapter contains manuscripts illustrating these subjects.  Although piety and obedience were regarded as virtues, I liked the fact that strong-willed and courageous Biblical women, such as Judith who slayed an Assyrian general in his sleep to save her people, were also greatly admired.

This is a must-read for anyone interested in medieval women.

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


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

It's Always Summer Somewhere. Lilly. Palm Beach, Tropical Glamour and the Birth of a Fashion Legend by Kathryn Livingston

By WestportWiki (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Lilly Pulitzer should have had the world at her feet- she had a wonderful husband who was also handsome and wealthy and much-loved children - however, she found herself suffering a nervous breakdown in a New York institution. She married young and eloped, thinking that it would 'be just another adventure,' however, she started to find marriage difficult and the heat and humidity of Florida wore her down.  After a few months there, the psychiatrist told her that there was nothing wrong with her and she just needed to find something to do! 

This was hard because she dropped out of college and she had an extremely privileged background although she had worked as a volunteer for the Frontier Nursing Service in Kentucky which was very tough. Lilly had to travel long distances in mountainous terrain riding a mule or a horse and assist at home births in this wild hinterland.

Her husband grew orange trees in Florida and Lilly came up with the idea of selling orange juice from a stall in a swish street in Palm Beach. She also delivered oranges to back doors of houses which she was accustomed to entering from the front! Beautiful and dark-haired, Lilly looked like a barefoot Gauguin princess as she made the orange juice. She was friendly and approachable so all the wealthy shoppers stopped to chat and buy some juice.

It was uncomfortable selling orange juice in the heat and Lilly was inclined to spill it so she designed a brightly coloured printed dress that wouldn't show the stains! So many women asked her about the dress that she started selling them and the 'Lilly' was born. Soon, Lilly was able to get her sister, who had more experience in fashion, to help her and she was also assisted by famous artists. She opened her own boutique and when her old friend Jackie Kennedy started wearing Lilly dresses, the business really took off. The dresses even sold in the winters. As Lilly said: "It's always summer somewhere!"

Lilly Pulitzer's story reads like a fairy-tale, although she certainly had her share of problems. I really enjoyed this book with its fascinating history of Palm Beach and Lilly Pulitzer's success, however, I did feel that the author was a bit too impressed with incredible wealth and glamorous parties at times.  

I certainly want a Lilly dress myself now, but it will have to be a maxi, unfortunately!

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




Friday, June 23, 2017

Living the Good Life in New York. The Heirs by Susan Rieger

Eleanor has a calm and wealthy life in New York - she is happily married to a sophisticated and successful Cambridge-educated lawyer and they have five well-educated and urbane sons. When Rupert (Eleanor's husband) dies at the 'young' age of sixty-five, a woman shows up claiming to be his ex-mistress with two sons who are allegedly his children.  This plays havoc with family relationships and affects them all in different ways. Harry's accusing attitude towards his mother especially shocks his brothers.

This is mainly the story of Eleanor and Rupert's pasts and their marriage, as well as the tale of Sam, their gay son. Rieger contrasts Eleanor's privileged and stable background with Rupert's difficult rise from being a clever boy in a nasty English orphanage who even had a hard time in a cheap boarding house in New York working as a bartender. Rupert was helped by an Anglican minister. (I didn't think that this priest's practice of flagellation was realistic, even in those days. It was usually a Catholic practice).

The book also covers Eleanor's ex-boyfriend Jim and his wife, Anne.  I didn't find this part of the book as interesting, and I also thought that the book perhaps involved too many characters. Eleanor and Rupert's story  was the most engaging although Rupert's past was pretty sordid and his time in New York - the boarding house and the precocious teenage girl - seemed rather cliched and old-fashioned, but also true to life.

This is a modern Edith Wharton-like story of relationships which gives the reader a lot of things to ponder about relevant issues. For example, San's friendship with Susanna, who is in love with him, is not unusual. How will this be solved? How will the brothers deal with the alleged ex-mistress of their father?

Some reviewers have criticised Susan Rieger's writing as being too 'wordy' but I liked her style of writing, and I liked reading about the Falkes's sophisticated and intellectual New York life and the twists and turns of their relationships. Reading about Rupert's childhood was depressing but his rags-to-riches story and how he achieved it was enjoyable.

I am going to read Susan Rieger's first novel now.

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Pondering the Reflections of Life and the Reflections of Love By Patricia Louise

This book is filled with sweet and uplifting poems, prayers and thoughts for each day. I liked it but I have read better books in a similar vein, so I am not sure whether I would actually buy it.

I didn't finish this book because I felt that it wasn't what I needed.

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

52 Little Lessons from A Christmas Carol by Bob Welch

I was really enjoying this insightful book by Bob Welch with its anecdotes about Dickens and its analysis of the characters and story and how we can learn from them,  but there was something wrong with the download, unfortunately, so I couldn't finish it.

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

A Selfish Plan To Change The World: Finding Big Purpose in Big Problems by Justin Dillon

This is an inspiring book about finding a cause and creating change.

In the first and second parts of the book Dillon delves into the psychology of creating meaning in our lives and why helping a cause which we are passionate about is actually selfish.  He discusses how many people are tempted by comfort and entertainment and putting 'survival and control' over meaning. This is because lots of us want to actually contribute to a cause by using our skills instead of just donating money.

He tells his own story about why he decided to start a campaign against slavery and he provides many examples of people who also found their passion in helping others.  These include Billie Holiday who sang a famous song about lynching of African Americans in the Deep South and William Blake who who wrote poems about the terrible poverty of nineteenth century England.  He also gives modern examples.  These people found what Dillon calls their 'riot' (the cause to which they want to dedicate their lives) and found  what they were 'born to do'.

The problem with this book, I felt, was that the last part was rather vague about how to use your talents and education to carry this out.  It's probably easy enough for most readers to find something which they really want to change but it's difficult to start a charity or a foundation or even make people more aware of important issues.  I didn't really feel that this part of the book helped me that much.

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Web of Friendship Selected Letters (1928-1973) by Christina Stead

A character in a story by Jame's Joyce wanted 'real adventures'.  He reflected that real adventures 'do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad'.  Christina Stead, an ambitious young writer, also went abroad in search of adventures that couldn't be found in the provincial Australia of the 20s, although she longed to come back when she was older.

She writes luminious letters full of life about her adventures in Europe and America, which are full of life and discuss almost everything under the sun, including her impressions of London, Paris and New York, philosophy, politics and books.  In one letter she relates a dinner in Paris with a Serbian anarchist poet hailed by Picasso and an Emir, the head of a famous Arabian family, people she would not be likely to meet in Sydney.

I like her descriptions of the sights and the food the best, however.  Even though she dislikes London, she still writes about the squares in autumn in an almost loving way.  She loves the 'millions of light fluttering leaves --limes, plane-trees and beeches'.  She recounts the food and drink that she buys in Paris which includes unsalted butter, Russian herrings and halva and cheap white Burgundy wine.

She also writes about life with her gentlemanly husband, an American Marxist financier - a rather strange combination - and the books she is writing.  I haven't read any of Christina Stead's books, partly because some of them sounded pretty depressing.  However, if the books are better than these letters, I will put them on my TBR list!

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

EDITION  Paperback
ISBN         9780522862041
PRICE      $24.99 (AUD)


Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Light-Hearted Quest by Ann Bridge


High Atlas, Morocco by Nouari0 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Common

This is the first book in a series about Julia Probyn, an intrepid woman who becomes involved in solving mysteries. When Julia's cousin Colin disappears, his unhappy family decide to send her on a quest to find him. They are sure that he's still alive and safe but they find his actions odd. His sister Edina is especially upset and annoyed because she has to leave her highly-paid advertising career to take care of the Scottish estate.

Julia may look like a 'dumb blonde' (the author's words) but she is an extremely clever and practical young journalist who can charm anybody, including her long list of boyfriends
who appear to propose at the drop of a hat! Julia discovers that Colin is in Morocco, perhaps smuggling, and sets off on a small, rather dirty boat that is not at all what she is used to! However, she makes the best of it and she soon becomes friends with the crew, especially a helpful officer, Mr. Reeder.

She is able to use her journalism as a cover in Morocco and she also obtains a job as a secretary to a rather eccentric archeologist. Julia's journey takes her all over Morocco and she certainly has to keep all her wits about her because she doesn't know who she can trust! However, she has a good time along the way - this book actually made me hungry at times because Julia  has delicious French food in some fine restaurants and always manages to find excellent picnic lunches as well! She also spends a lot of time in a bar trying to obtain information from the owner.

The Light-Hearted Quest is a travelogue as well as a mystery story. Bridge's descriptions of Morocco are colourful and vivid and she includes lots of interesting historical information, especially about the Phoenicians and Romans.  Anyone who reads it will want to go to Morocco.

This book was written in the 70s and, be warned, it's not politically correct.  None of this worried me, except for the anti-Semitism, which I found rather shocking.  Bridge praises the French colonists highly which may not go down well with some readers. I didn't know much about Moroccan history and the book has made me more interested in it.

I really enjoyed this rather frivolous story with its likeable heroine, interesting characters, exotic setting and its touch of romance.  I can't wait to read the rest of the series!

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


Monday, June 05, 2017

What Regency Women Did For Us by Rachel Knowles

Maria_Edgeworth_by_John_Downman_1807

This is an enjoyable and enlightening read for fans of the Regency or British history.  Rachel Knowles's lively and entertaining style makes thes interesting women come to life.  These enterprising women include Eleanor Code who had her own business manufacturing artificial stone, Caroline Herschel who was the first woman to discover a comet and the novelist Maria Edgeworth.  In a time when women had few basic rights and intellectual women were regarded in a derogatory manner, these women managed to have their own careers and overcome many obstacles.

I especially liked reading about Eleanor Code who even manufactured stone for King George III.

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

EDITION
Paperback

ISBN9781473882249

PRICE£12.99 (GBP)

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 www.booksforbloggers.com 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.

EDITION
Paperback
ISBN9781473862159
PRICE£14.99 (GBP)