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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.