Book Reviews

Nonfiction November: New to my TBR

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Well, November ends tomorrow! On Thursday I’ll post my November challenges, reading months, etc, final post. Today, though, here are some of the new or new-to-me nonfiction books recently added to my TBR.

Most of the royal or royal-related books are not yet out in the USA, so I won’t bother linking to books today. [I make no money off this blog–even if you click on a link, it is merely a convenience for you].

What nonfiction have you added to your TBR recently? Leave me a comment or a link to your own post.

Thanks again to the hosts of Nonfiction November for a great month!

Book Reviews

Top Ten Tuesday: Cozy Reads

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This week’s topic is Cozy Reads–books that give off a cozy vibe!

Dean Street Press’s Furrowed Middlebrow series

Dean Street Press’s Furrowed Middlebrow series is the very essence of cozy!

The Cornish Midwife series is nice and cozy.

Cozy Nonfiction! Even author Meik Winking’s voice is cozy!

Judy Leigh’s books are fun and cozy.

 

Jan Karon’s Mitford is very cozy.

 

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All of the many Miss Read books are very cozy.

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Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books are certainly cozy.

 

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The March family lived a cozy, if often financially strained life. Little Women, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott.

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Check out the rules at That Artsy Reader Girl and join in next week!

Book Reviews

Review: Meredith Alone by Claire Alexander

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First, thank you to Netgalley.com for a free copy of this audio book in exchange for a fair review.

My Interest

Home is my favorite place on Earth. I leave it willingly, but I COVID showed I could just stay home. I’d still love to find a job I could do at home, too. And, ironically, Meredith in this story does one job I tried very hard to find.

The Story

At the start of the story we know that Claire hasn’t left her home in more than 1,000 days. She lives in a neat home she owns (pays a mortgage on) with her beloved cat, Fred. She has a sister and mother, and a best friend, Sadie. She is not a true recluse. She has online friends, texts friends, and calls friends. But why?

One day a representative of a caring organization arrives and Tom becomes her friend and we begin to learn how her past makes her present more understandable.

My Thoughts

This book has all the makings of an Oprah book, and you all know my thoughts on those! In spite of that, it was wonderful. Yes, some bad things happened. No, the reader wasn’t made to suffer every horrible detail. Claire is all of us–if such and such had come our way. Thankfully, she had enough support to make it through. I liked Claire–the sort of person I’d love as a friend. I liked her buddy Saddie, too. I felt for her sister. I didn’t feel anything but cold and disgust for ….. [No Spoilers]

 

My Verdict

3.75

Meredith Alone by Claire Alexander

I listened to the audio version.

 

 

Book Reviews

Top Ten Tuesday: Thankful Freebie

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Well this is a pretty easy one! Let’s see if anyone really read it. Leave me a comment if you read it. An “x” is fine even!

  1. Thankful for for my first grandchild (grandson) who is preparing to be born in March.
  2. Thankful my daughter (the mother-to-be) is healthy and happy
  3. Thankful my adult son walked away unhurt from the accident that totaled his car.
  4. Thankful for the new job, with a much shorter commute, that I started last Monday.
  5. Thankful my 85 year-old mother and her 88 year old brother are still healthy & living independently
  6. Thankful that my cousin’s new grandchild arrived safely last week. Hopefully he and his distant cousin (my grandson) can grow up knowing each other.
  7. Thankful there was no post mid-term election violence here in the USA
  8. Thankful for the unemployment checks that kept me going TWICE this year.
  9. Thankful for all the friends who helped me finish my big charity project–the 69 shoeboxes, and 5 cartons of pencil packs I dropped off this morning. ****
  10. Thankful for all of my friends, those I know “in real life,” those I know here on my blog or IG or Twitter and through even more avenues of friendship. I am so grateful.

To the Americans reading this: Happy Thanksgiving!!

Book Reviews

Review: Mistletoe and Magic for the Cornish Midwife by Jo Bartlett

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My Interest

ZI enjoyed the first two books in this series, but had a hard time getting the next book on audio, so haven’t read that one. This book is book #6 or so, although at least one book has a different title in the USA, I think this one is the same on both sides of the Atlantic. I love the midwives! Each book focuses on a different member of the local midwife team–think Call the Midwife, but set today and in Cornwall. I’ve liked them all so far.

The Story

Back home after a failed marriage in New Zealand, Nadia and her two young children are currently living with her mother in very tight quarters. She’s missing her beloved Labrador who had to stay in New Zealand with her estranged husband. Her job is her sanity at the moment, but with Christmas approaching and ratty soon-to-be-ex-hubs Ryan off living the life with a new girlfriend, his Facetime appearances with his two kids are getting further and further and further apart. Meanwhile, the father of one of her daughter’s classmates, Hamish by name,  is a doctor and he’s well…he’s pretty much everything Nadia has always wanted in a guy. He loves his kids, treats her and her children very nicely and is an all-around good guy. So now what? [No Spoilers]

My Thoughts

Like Jenny Colgan and Judy Leigh, these are pleasant books–nothing too angst-inducing. I love the villages in which these ladies live, enjoy their family stories, like the local businesses like the Fish & Chips place and the Cookie Jar and the rest of them.

Nadia’s story though, did induce a little angst. I could just see so many of my friends as we went along through the parenting years. They’d all have to lie for the divorced dad who couldn’t get his act together and do the right thing. Sadly, then many were burned when the “fun Dad” years began and he reappeared dangling a car in front of a 16 year old to get back in good graces and then lied about everything. Thankfully, they couldn’t keep the act going and at least 1 car was repossessed. I hope Nadia doesn’t go through all that was what I was thinking!!

Hamish was believable and likeable as was the story with his elder daughter. Oh, and dog lovers? This one I’ll give a brief spoiler on. Never fear–ok? The dog makes it back to those who love her.

My Verdict

3.25

 

My Reviews of other Cornish Midwives books

  1. The Cornish Midwife
  2. Summer Wedding for the Cornish Midwife (this may be the one with a different title in the UK)

 

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Reading Challenges

Week 3: (November 14-18) – Stranger Than Fiction: This week we’re focusing on all the great nonfiction books that almost don’t seem real.

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This week’s topic isn’t one with which I have a lot of experience. I don’t read a lot of creepy, other-worldly nonfiction and that’s kind of how it strikes me. So, here is as close as I could come. I did not read them this year.

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I hated science in school. It bored me silly. But this book, tracing the origin of a cholera epidemic in long-ago London fascinated me. Ghost Map by Steven Johnson.

 

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What is killing the honey bees? Fruitless Fall by Rowan Jacobsen.

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Why are some of us Autistic? In A Different Key: The Story of Autism by Caren Zucker was very interesting.

I did not read any of these this year. I hope these meet the criteria for this week!

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Book Reviews

Review: The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan

My Interest

Who doesn’t love a quirky old book store?

The Story

Carmen has always been in the shadow of her successful sister, Sofia. Sofia is a lawyer, with perfect children, perfect husband, perfect nanny, perfect home in the most perfect of all Edinburgh neighborhoods. Meanwhile, Carmen partied, didn’t try in school and now even the dull job in a fusty local department store has deserted her. Her mother and sister conspire and she gets a new job in a bookstore lawyer Sofia is trying to get profitable enough to sell it as a going concern so her client will at least get out from under it. And, she’s been given a new home–a former servant’s room in her sisters basement. Next door to the perfect nanny.

Meanwhile, the bookshop hasn’t been dusted since soon after the war and the man who runs it is afraid of his own shadow. His cataloging system defies imagination and he is prone to giving the books away. But, it’s Christmas in Edinburgh, the shop is on the main shopping street and a host of good-looking men come in, including mega-selling author Blare. Maybe Carmen’s life is looking up? In spite of helping with her two nieces and one nephew who go to schools so posh they remind each other constantly to be “kind?”

My Thoughts

I especially liked the way the relationships improved between Carmen and the children, Carmen and her sister and Carmen and her boss, “Young” Mr. McCredie. These were wonderful. I liked the men in the store, too. Ramsey would have been my pick if he wasn’t so encumbered!

But my very favorite characters were Phoebe and the little girl who loved the Little Match Girl. Those were little girls to whom I could well relate!

This was a good book to escape into. I loved it. The Muppet Christmas Carol watching scene was classic!! (Stick around for the aftermath of that!) And then there was the magic of creating the window display with the train set and the house of sweet little mice and on and on and on. Only one tiny thing–Eric’s father–seemed not to fit. I’m not sure why the author did that, but it’s her book and not mine. I loved this book–have I said that already?

Just read it!

My Verdict

4.0

The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan

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Book Reviews

NonFicNov Review: A Christmas Far From Home by Stanley Weintraub

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My Interest

Since moving here to Southern Ohio in 2008 I’ve met two Korean War veterans. One died during the Covid epidemic, the other, my next door neighbor, is still going strong at 90-something. Of course, I have a near life-long interest in U.S. history, too, so that figured into decided to read (well, listen to) this book.

Author Stanley Weintraub has made an industry for himself writing nonfiction stories set at Christmas during the various wars. Finally, I was a child of the 70’s. The movie M*A*S*H was one of the first “grown-up” movies I watched. I also read the book  (and a couple of the sequels) at a tender age. Then there was the t.v. show [see the bottom of this post] that ran about 100 times longer than the war itself. So, in memory of all those people who fought in Korea and were immortalized by the book, movie and tv show characters, I had to read or listen to this book.

The Story

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Mountbatten (left) and MacArthur (right)
photo credit

General of the Armies Douglas MacArthur, was an early believer in public relations–p.r. Much like Lord Mountbatten (“Uncle Dickie” on The Crown), he was a self-promoter who was often regarded as having over-reached. MacArthur had at least some of the traits of a narcissist. He ran away and deserted our troops, fleeing to safety in Australia with his much younger wife, their toddler son (and his nanny) when the Japanese over-ran the Philippines. For this he managed to earn the nation’s highest award for bravery: The Congressional Medal of Honor.

When the Korean “War” began, Arthur hadn’t lived in the USA for many years. He’d commanded the Philippine Army, then been away in Australia during World War II, then oversaw the occupation of Japan. His last big experience in the United States had been leading the Army, with the help of his assistant, Dwight D. Eisenhower, through Washington D.C. and to the camp of the “Bonus Marchers” or “Bonus Army”–the unemployed, homeless, desperate veterans of World War I marching on Washington to try to make Congress pay them their “bonus” for service in WWI several years early. It didn’t work. MacArthur and Ike led the tanks and troops in moving the marchers out of their encampment. (Where many of them were subsequently put on trains and sent to south Florida where they would die in a hurricane). He survived that black mark how? Public relations. He also had a notorious affair with a showgirl called Bubbles who called him, wait for it, “Daddy.” Yeah.

When the U.S. entered Korea Mac Arthur was in charge of the Command area that included Korea. He did not take the whole thing very seriously and insisted, as have so many commanders in so many wars, that our boys would be home for Christmas.

Only, they weren’t. And, many did not even have winter uniforms. [This mix-up of seasons and uniforms is a specialty of the U.S. Army. In the Spanish American War, a tropical war, they had heavy woolen uniforms]. This book tells what the men went trough from Thanksgiving until what we remember today as the Chosin Reservoir aka “The Frozen Chosin” was over. Thankfully, President Harry S. Truman, got tired of MacArthur’s grandiose insubordination and fired him. Who knows how long the war would have lasted with “Doug Out Doug” in charge (the name comes from hiding in a dugout).

My Thoughts

My next door neighbor was a young and bitterly cold U.S. Marine during this battle. It must not have affected him–he used to mow the equivalent of 3 acres with a push mower every week and raise 7 kids on a city cop’s salary. All but 1 went to and graduated from college. He’s still tough. It’s pretty obvious from this story that he wasn’t the only one.

Harry Truman was a remarkable president for standing up to an icon and winning. MacArthur should have been revealed of command when the Philippines fell. Instead he let another general take the surrender while he went on living his life with his family in Australia. His Congressional Medal of Honor should have gone to all of those who survived captivity under the Japanese. He is remembered well, however, for changing Japan to a more democratic form of government. Nonetheless, Truman kept a potential despot from running for president by firing him over Korea. We should be grateful.

My Verdict

3.5

A Christmas Far From Home: An Epic Tale of Courage and Survival During the Korean War by Stanley Weintraub

 

My Review of Another Book by This Author

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Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War December 1941 by Stanley Weintraub

Other

Favorite “Aww” Moments In Books & Movies & TV (Share those sweet/cute moments in books that give you warm fuzzies.)

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“Do it for Blair”

The neighborhood may hate her Dad, but they love Blair!

As Shelby and Jackson leave for their honeymoon everyone is waving good-bye. Drum [Tom Skerrit encircles his wife, M’lynn (Sally Field) from behind and pulls her close. Love it every time).

[Left] The faculty reception where Joy (Debra Winger) pulls Jack (Anthony Hopkins) aside and pretends to wipe something from his face to get the faculty men wondering! The faculty men included a much younger Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame as one of the faculty. Then [right] on holiday, once they are “really” married, Jack kisses Joy and she can’t get close enough to him–she puts her hand under his jacket to feel more of him. I love that.

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My all-time favorite tv shows are the original Bob Newhart Show, the original All Creatures Great and Small, the original Upstairs, Downstairs, and my very favorite show of all time: As Time Goes By with Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer. This show (the awful first season aside–it was necessary but still…) is a multi-year AWE moment. The scene above is wonderful, as is the proposal and so many others. I just plain love this show!

Check out the video from this show at the bottom of this post. If you want to see the whole series, it is now only on BritBox.

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Susan Hampshire and Julian Fellowes (center and right) in Monarch of the Glen
These two had two of the best scenes in the whole series. When Killwillie, knowing Molly and Archie are struggling with the death duties proposes to Molly. When she says a lot of money isn’t a reason to marry he replies “Isn’t it?” and looks so crestfallen! The other scene, which perfectly illustrates the adage that “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did only backwards and in high heels” is when Killwillie and Molly dance a tango. Killwillie is so utterly “chuffed” at his own prowess–it is adorable.

The whole series is available somewhere on streaming. Just not on Amazon Prime in the USA.

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The Queen’s Guards starred both Raymond Massey (above) and his son, Daniel Massey. Above Ursula Jeans, aka Mrs Fellowes (coincidence on the name–nothing to do with Julian) and her husband exchange the tenderest, stilted, awkward “love” scene ever. Two people who have likely never let anyone see that they are married, in love, or even like each other, but this one “outburst” of affection occurs once she’s closed all the curtains! Love it’s utter awkwardness. You can watch it it here at around the 1:36:28 time stamp. Must be seen to be appreciated. https://youtu.be/h1CxpiXBmaY

I’m back to work! Monday was my first day, so that’s all I’ve got for this week. Thank you to everyone for your encouragement during my TWO periods of unemployment this year. You really helped me.

Book Reviews

Nonfiction November Review: The Women of Rothschild by Natalie Livingstone

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My Interest

The name “Rothschild” conjures up for me images of unimaginable wealth. Aristocratic families are a big interest of mine, so when I saw this on NetGalley I requested it and somehow got both a print and an audio copy. I listened to the audio.

The Story

Starting in the 18th century in “Jewish ghetto” and ending in the late 1990s, this biography purports to tell the real story of the women behind the Rothschild men. We are promised that the women were more than mere wives and mothers. What did these women do as the wives and daughters of one of the world’s best known Jewish families? That is what the biography sets out to tell us. The family is compared to a royal family because they all hate each other but close ranks and form a united front in public–I loved that, even if I couldn’t stop and write out the exact quote. (NetGalley’s reading app doesn’t have any features and I forgot and downloaded to it and not Kindle, so it wasn’t easy to find it).

In the early years the women were more involved with the family business, but as time went on they fell into the normal society lady type charitable works. There is nothing unusual about a great “lady” helping with encouragement and money to improve the education of poor children, nor is there really anything unusual about them working to improve health conditions. It was unusual for anyone to take up the cause of Jewish “women of the night,” but as others were doing it for non-Jewish women of that profession I don’t really see it as that unique.

Fast-forward to the 20th Century. While various men of the family involved themselves in the late 19th Century with the Prince of Wales “Marlborough House” set, there was little remarkable about that, either. They had pots and pots of money. The Prince often needed it. Sir Ernest Cassel (Grandfather of Edwina Mountbatten) was another Jewish financier in the Marlborough House set.

Finally, somewhere around World War II or just after we get to some slightly more interesting activities. A Rothchild woman contributed to a report hoping to de-criminalize h o _ – se-u _; ! ty. Good thing, since at least one of the men had such proclivities. Miriam became an expert on fleas and other parasites. She was finally even welcomed by “professionals” for her extensive knowledge. Veronica, aka “Nica’ gets the lion’s share of the coverage–or rather her famous male associates to. Thelonious Monk and Charlie “Bird” Parker. The hose she built for jazz sessions was called “The Cat House.” And, she observed first hand a Jim Crow-era beating in New Castle, Delaware (a Civil War border state) that Monk endured.

Finally, another end-of-the-book Rothschild,  discovers that motherhood isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Being rich and having discovered this, she got to write about it. Wow. I think Betty Friedan beat you to it, Sweetie, but …. Goodness knows it must be way harder to be a Mom with a ton of money in the 1990’s than in the stifling suburbia and low pay of the early 1950s!

Miriam, of flea fame, also did contribute in a very humanitarian way to the founding of Israel and the Zionist movement as led by the nation’s first President, Chaim Weizmann. That was very commendable and I would like to have heard more about that.

My Thoughts

I’m being a bit snarky for a reason. There is so much MORE material in here (as there often is in such biographies of pre-21th Century women) about the men. And the man with the most coverage wasn’t even a Rothschild! He was Theolnious Monk, a great jazz musician. I love his music, his talent, but I came to read about how different the Rothschild women were. Instead I found out they did exactly the same sort of charity work as most other titled ladies of the era until about the time of World War II. Helping decriminalize you-know-what is very noteworthy. Also, Miriam certainly deserves praise for sticking to her studies and taking her naturalist studies to the professional level. (I loved that she included her son in her research)/

This is not a bad biography. I learned a lot. The prose is well written. It just didn’t profile enough about the women that was “exceptional.” I also found it very weird that they married cousins and it was even possible for an uncle to marry a niece–though not the very bold uncle whose announcement of such a marriage was one of the stories in the book. Too weird for words. Liberty Rothschild, the hidden “Rosemary Kennedy” of the family, deserved more attention, but alas, the records about her treatment were mostly burnt. I also like the appearance at the very, very end of Lady Bird Johnson and her “beautification” schemes with wildflowers. That was wonderful. She gave the world a gift–nice to see someone outside America, and with influence, admiring her work.

My Verdict

3.5

The Women of Rothschild by Natalie Livingstone

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