Welcome to my blog where I share book reviews
and life along the winding road

Friday, February 24, 2017

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

Her Royal Spyness is the first of the Rhys Bowen series set in 1930s England. Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie is the fictional granddaughter of Queen Victoria and thirty-fourth in line to the throne. Despite her claim to the throne, both Georgiana and her half brother are penniless and with lack of skills, she tries to find a way to make a living in their London home while her brother, Binky, ekes out a living on the Scottish family estate. While out on one of her money earning efforts as a maid, Georgiana comes home to find a body in their bath tub and her tenacity is turned to clearing the family name.

Note: I was surprised when Georgiana and Binky visited New Scotland Yard as I thought New Scotland Yard was built in the 1960s. But after doing some research found that Scotland Yard (built on the location of a palace where Scottish nobility resided when visiting England) moved to a new location by the Victoria Embankment in 1890 and then to the newer building in 1967 which has since been sold to a middle eastern investor to turn into luxury apartments! New Scotland Yard's move is part of an effort to cut costs.

I've loved each of the Rhys Bowen series (Constable Evans and Molly Murphy) and this series is no exception. Rhys Bowen conjurs up delightful and interesting characters in Her Royal Spyness and gives us a glimpse into upper crust England of the 1930s.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Murder from the Newsdesk by Peter Bartram

Murder from the NewsdeskMurder from the Newsdesk by Peter Bartram is a collection of short stories, most of which were developed from stories Peter Bartram came across from his years as a journalist.
Set in the English seaside resort of Brighton with sleuth/journalist Colin Crampton, the stories are a delightful look back at the British Swinging Sixties when women wore chiffon scarves and crimes were solved without the use of mobile phones.

Murder from the Newsdesk is currently free for Kindle.

I can't wait to read more of Peter Bartram's stories.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Amy Snow by Tracy Rees

Amy Snow is the first novel I've read by Tracy Rees - it was recommended on a popular blog. Even at over 550 pages, Ms. Rees keep the reader engrossed with the twists and turns of the story. It would make a great book club read with suggested topics of discussion at the end of the book.

From the cover:
Abandoned as an infant in a snowbank in 1831 on the grounds of an estate in England, Amy Snow is discovered by the young heiress Aurelia Vennaway. Despite Aurelia's parents' cold and unwelcoming disapproval, the girls grow up as close a sisters. So when Aurelia dies young, Amy is devastated, abandoned once again. But Aurelia has left Amy one last gift: a coded letter that hints of a secret . . .

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

ANZAC Girls

I came across this ANZAC Girls DVD by ACORN at our local library. Based on the book by Peter Rees, who used original journals, letters and historical records to write the story, it follows five nurses from the British Commonwealth countries of Australia and New Zealand during WWI.

The first DVD follows the ANZAC nurses after their arrival in Egypt during the fated Gallipoli campaign and their work taking care of soldiers on the Greek island of Lemnos.

The second DVD follows the WWI fighting in Europe.

With the help of computer generated imagery ANZAC Girls was filmed in Adelaide, Australia.

Friday, February 3, 2017

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller

A Canticle for Leibowitz was first published in 1959 and has been in print ever since - quite an accomplishment.
The book is set in the post-apocalyptic period of the 26th Century and some have compared the story to Mad Max with desolate areas interrupted by a monastery or two. While recovering from a nuclear war the monks and priests of North America are anxiously trying to recover any memorabilia from the 20th Century - even technical schematics are revered. With foresight, Mr. Miller introduces us to automatically driven cars in the last novella.

Walter Miller enlisted in the army a month after the Pearl Harbor attack and it was after the destruction of the Benedictine abbey at Monte Casino (the oldest monastery in the Western world) that he began A Canticle for Leibowitz. The book is a combination of three novellas with 600 years separating each story. It was nearly forty years later that he neared finishing the sequel, but committed suicide before it was complete.

You can read a summary of the book here

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Anderson Cooper

I've always liked Anderson Cooper's reporting, but it was only recently that I discovered that he was Gloria Vanderbilt's son. In his book, The Rainbow Comes and Goes, are featured intimate and candid e-mails between him and his ninety-one year old mother about their childhoods, thoughts and fears. We often see the lifestyle of wealthy people and think they "have it all", but it is often far from the truth. Born of an alcoholic father (who died when Gloria was just over a year old) and a young lesbian mother who had no desire to be a parent, Gloria Vanderbilt spent a lonely childhood and the object of a bitter custody battle between her mother (wanting access to her daughter's trust fund) and the Vanderbilt family. She was known as "The Poor Little Rich Girl" a newspaper heading during the custody trial.
Anderson also lost his father and at a young age and was confused by the Vanderbilt family. When it was pointed out to him, as a young boy, a statue of his great-great-great grandfather Cornelius Vanderbilt outside Grand Central Station, he immediately thought that all grandfather's became statues when they died - Cornelius Vanderbilt was once the richest man in the U.S. Anderson's brother, Carter Cooper, also died at a young age - he committed suicide at age 23, jumping from his mother's 14th floor balcony.
Despite four marriages, her exposure to Hollywood and the rich and famous in her teenage years (she dated Frank Sinatra and Howard Hughes and her mother's twin sister was the mistress of Edward, Prince of Wales whom she introduced to her friend Wallis Simpson) Gloria Vanderbilt has become a name in her own right as an author, artist, fashion designer and actress.

I've noticed that Anderson Cooper has a great deal of empathy when interviewing people. On one occasion, according to the book, he was in a war torn country where people were selling their belongings. He tried to offer someone money which was refused. Instead, he bought a broken watch from the man. He is very different from his mother who seems to have a selfish/victim/entitlement mentality whereas Anderson was more concerned with making his way on his own without the Vanderbilt name. Gloria Vanderbilt refused to read a letter from Catholic Charities written on behalf of her loyal nanny "Dodo," fearing it was bad news that might upset her. The "beloved nanny" had wanted to see Gloria one last time before she died at Catholic Charities. Gloria later received a letter from them saying that the woman whom she had described as more of a mother than her own mother, had died alone in the care of Catholic Charities.

There was a 1982 miniseries - Gloria Happy at Last about Gloria Vanderbilt.

You can watch some of an interview with Anderson Cooper and his mother here


Friday, January 20, 2017

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick was a book club read choice by our local library. It's a cute story about a widower who finds a charm bracelet belonging to his deceased wife. It opens up a glimpse into his wife's story before he met her and takes him on a tour of exploration as he finds out about each charm starting with an Indian elephant and in the process brings his family and neighbors together. As the story is set in England each new event or discovery is served with a cup of tea.