Top 5 Wednesday Rewind: Authors You Want to Read More From

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This week is the last “re-wind” week here at Top 5 Wednesday. All of May we’ve done topics we missed in past years. Next week it’s back to new topics.

Do you ever find an author and then read all/any prior book’s of theirs? Their “backlist” that’s called. I love to find authors whose writing compellsme to do this.

 

#1 Jojo Moyles

So far I’ve read:

 

# 2 Fredrik Backman

So far I’ve read:

I did have to give up on My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry though. It just wasn’t for me.

 

#3 Joanna Trollope

So far I’ve read:

Yes, the “Queen of the Aga Saga.” And an early nonfiction book by her that I read in the Peace Corps years ago.

 

#4 Elizabeth Buchan

So far I’ve read:

#5 Helen Rappaport [non-fiction]

So far I’ve read:

 

 

Join the fun of Top 5 Wednesday. Just join the group on Goodreads.com and post a blog post or a youtube video post each week.

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Top Ten, well, 13, Tuesday: Bookish Worlds I’d Love to Live An: Writer’s Worlds

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Thanks to the blog Literary Sisters for the idea for this post!

I love writing and am nearing submission with one manuscript, so it is no accident that I also enjoy reading about writers.  The burgeoning genre of historical fiction–especially biographical historical fiction has made reading about writer’s lives very enjoyable. I also enjoy traditional biographies, too. Here are some of my recent favorites in both categories–all of which bring that writer’s world to life.

Nonfiction

 

 

Fiction

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Anyone can join in. Check out the rules here and read this week’s great posts here.

Note: You can find my reviews for several of these here on this blog. Others I reviewed on my old blog.

Review: Love and Ruin: A Novel by Paula McLain

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Ever since I finished reading Paula McLain’s earlier Hemingway book, The Paris Wife, I have ached for Hadley Richardson, first wife of writer Ernest Hemingway. Now I have a few feelings–though not many, for Pauline Pfeiffer–the woman for whom Hemingway left Hadley. But for Martha Gelhorn? None, I’m afraid. Hear me out, please.

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Gelhorn and Hemingway in China. Photo: Wikipedia

 

“That’s the problem with going into the world, isn’t it? You actually have to face things you find you don’t want to know….”  

[Ernest Hemingway in Love and Ruin]

Martha (Marty) Gelhorn is a legend. She was a war correspondent at a time when women were barely allowed into the military let alone allowed to serve as correspondents at the front. She was a successful writer whose work appeared in the top-selling magazines of the day–back when magazines were a huge part of people’s lives. She also wrote short stories and books.  All of this gets overshadowed today by one simple choice she made: She became the third Mrs. Ernest Hemingway.

“Not every place has a story.”

[Ernest Hemingway in Love and Ruin]

Now, I can’t explain any more than she or Ernest, why they thought having an affair in a war zone was a good idea. It’s even more baffling that they thought the idea of him divorcing the second Mrs. Hemingway and leaving behind two of his three sons, was absolutely necessary to their happiness, but that’s what they did.

“…simple perfection of each day….”

Hemingway, often characterized as a “man’s man,” needed the bolstering of a devoted wife, yet sabotaged his marriages with his womanizing. Gelhorn, as relentlessly independent as I am, was not suited to marriage with such a needy partner. I could relate to her feelings so well.  I was amazed, though, at her naivete that it would all work out with a man on his third wife! And her easy use of the word “we“? I honestly can’t imagine using that word today and I’m only down one husband!

 

One minor historical error that does not affect the story–penicillian wasn’t available for the Spanish Civil War.

And, one very annoying thing– how many times can you use an odd word like “escritoire”???

A couple of odd modern-day ideas slipped in as well. Were people “self-aware” in this time period? And, was “shape-shifting” an idea? Those struck me as very out-of-place.

My Verdict

A very well-done retelling of their lives.  I hope she’ll do the story of his last wife, Mary, as well since that marriage will be lived out in the house Marty found and lovingly made into Ernest’s home. Reap what you sow. I’ll be in line on release day to get it if she does!

3.75

 

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Review: How to Get Dressed…by Alison Freer

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What a fun read! “You’re joking, right?” I hear you say. Nope! Fun Read.  This is not a home ec textbook on constructing clothes to fit properly! This a savvy young woman telling it like it is in words we all understand. It helps, I supposed, that she is a Hollywood costume designer. She knows both how to achieve perfect fit in clothing–and to fake it for the cameras.

There are many, many great tips that are easy to accomplish if you are willing to either figure in the cost of the small alteration or to just do them yourself. Stop! I know what you are thinking! I hate sewing and don’t want to do it. [Well, “hate” is a bit extreme, but you get my gist, right?]

If, like the author–or like me, you grew up with a relative sewing your clothing so it all fit perfectly, you’ve likely struggled ever since with clothing choices (unless you ended up liking to sew or do alterations). But, thanks to my Mom teaching me over the years, I know this author is RIGHT. Fix it if it can easily, and cost-effectively, be fixed. Otherwise, don’t buy it.

Back in the day, the great department stores, ladies’ dress shops, etc., offered alterations either for free or for a very reasonable fee. They liked having their image protected as style arbiters by having their clientele wear their fashions fitting correctly. Today? Try and find this service unless you are buying a high-end item or a man’s suit!

 

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This image is from the book.

In spite of 56 years of my Mom’s fitting knowledge (don’t laugh–she was a clothing major in college and can even construct a man’s suit!) I still got a few great tips that I won’t share (T.M.I. about yours truly) but if you are my age, these tips will leap off the page at you! Like my cousin, who started life in retail selling with commission, the author knows that “fit” is not size. My cousin once showed me that (at my smallest adult weight, but sadly not today), pants that fit me “right” were the width of a hanger! Oh to be that size again (oh! to have knees that could run and keep the weight off again!).

I enjoyed her debunking of fashion maxims, too! “Never do X…” “Never wear Y…” Very helpful. She also has helpful tips beyond the usual on dry cleaning, hand washing, regular laundry, and on buying and wearing vintage clothing.

Best of all, this is a super-fast read that will make you want to go out and SHOP! Now, who doesn’t love THAT idea?

Perfect for the new graduate!

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This would make a SUPER college graduation gift for the new career woman! Forget the old Dress for Succes book–give this and a huge gift card instead.

Rating

4.0

Rating is for the fun writing style and the practical, real-world friendly tips.

 

How to Get Dressed: A Costume Designer’s Secrets for Making Your Clothes Look, Fit, and Feel Amazing by Alison Freer

Want to see what life is like in a lingerie shop like Alison Freer mentions in How To Get Dressed, then read Sima’s Undergarments for Women. Here’s my review from my old blog:

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I’ve long been fascinated by all types of fundamentalism, regardless of the political or religious creed the espouse. Sima’s Undergarments for Women is set in a mostly Orthodox and Hassidic Jewish neighborhood in New York. As the title indicates, Sima sells lingerie–the real stuff that real women wear daily. She fits bras perfectly–altering them when necessary. [Yes, I learned a lot!] The story intermingles her struggle to have children with that of the young woman she takes under her wing as a sort of surrogate daughter. Her stale marriage, a friend’s glorious marriage, all get worked into the story. Sima’s Undergarments for Women by Ilana Stanger-Ross.

Review: An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew by Annejet van der Zijl

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Allene Tew

On Saturday, a second American actress became a Princess. First Grace Kelly back in the 1950s and over the weekend, LA’s own Meghan Markle married Prince Harry, grandson of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth. But, back in the day– way, way back in the day of “between the wars,” another American became a very minor German princess. And, later still, she married a Russian Count. But I’m getting ahead of the story.

Women born in the 1870s who wanted the good life had one option: Marry Well. Allene was the child of a less-successful younger son but made up for that flaw by marrying money at a very young age. Divorces followed in 3 of the five marriages. One marriage was for love (the middle one) and one husband survived her. As she put it “The first two married her for her looks, the third for love and the last two for money.” While that’s a high number of marriages (paraphrase, p. 225-226), I believe she got the reasons right.

Allene was amazingly resilient. Her attitude was simple–just get on with it! She didn’t have time to wish for what might have been or to look back at what might have been lost. She just went forward. While one set of in-laws thought her a gold-digger, she had a lot of genuine concern for those she came to love. For example, continued to take care of her stepson until her death, and left him most of her huge estate in a will contested by her own family. Mind you, she made sure to leave his bratty sister out of it completely! A realist. [Note: I loved that she found the Duke of Windsor to be a bore!]

This Book

While Allene’s life WAS interesting, this book was basically a beach or poolside read. I knocked it out in a few hours. The writing may have lost something in the translation–it was written in Dutch and translated into English. Lots of cliches and a tone not normally used in a biography unless it is of a movie star or other celebrity.

 

Prince Bernhard

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Far more interesting to me than Allene herself, was the story of her young, minor-German-princeling-protege, Bernhard von Lippe-Beisterfeld, the one-time Dutch Prince Consort and father of now “retired” Queen Beatrix. Who is again styled as “Princess Beatrix” in her retirement).  ([The author has also written a dissertation and a book on him.] I hope IT has been translated–that would be a good read based on what she presented of him in this book.]

The 1930’s the Dutch were having a difficult time marrying off their the heir to the throne. If she failed to marry and produce an heir then the succession would be in jeopardy. (The same thing had happened in a previous generation for the same reason.) Juliana wasn’t really pretty and was certainly not slim. Very much like another stout Princess– Mary Adelaide of Great Britain a.k.a. ‘Fat Mary,” (Queen Victoria’s cousin, Queen Mary’s mother), a suitably impoverished Prince wanting an easy life had to be found.  In strolls Allene Tew, now familiar with the German minor-aristocracy from her marriage to Henrich Ruess,  to play matchmaker. This is perhaps her “finest hour.”

The similarities between THIS courtship and that of Meghan Markle was astonishing!

See what you think:

“The princess [Juliana of the Netherlands] was now head over heels in love with the charming, worldly young man who had appeared in her life so unexpectedly. [Dutch Queen] Wilhelmina, too, had received a ‘very good impression’ of him…..The fact that neither of them had yet met any of the potential husband’s family member or friends was of little consequence given the relief that there was finally a serious candidate for Juliana’s hand. ‘Beggars can’t be choosers,’ as the Dutch ambassador in Berlin summed up the matter.” (p. 166) 

“The engagement of the Dutch princess was made public on September 8, 1936. It was considerably earlier than had been intended, Bernhard and his mother clearly didn’t want to run any risks that the union might be called off, and they’d had the news leaked through a journalist friend….. Juliana and her mother met Armgard, Bernhard’s mother for the first time.” (p. 169)

 

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Allene Tew, Countess Kotzebue as she was then known, as a godparent to Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands.

An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew is on sale for Kindle for $5.99.

Rating

3.5

Post-Script

One silly mistake, possibly due to translation: she mentions meeting someone in an Army Jeep before they were invented.

 

Review: Diary of a Provincal Lady by E.M. Dealfield

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What a hoot! I love it when books stand the test of time, don’t you?  Written in the 1920s and published in 1930, this fictitious diary relates the day-to-day life and often unspoken (well, un-speakable!) thoughts of the wife of business manager at a somewhat large Stately home estate in Southern England, owned by Lady Box. Portsmouth is the nearest city–hence “Provincial.”

Here are her thoughts on arriving at a function at Lady B’s….

“Received by Lady B. …surrounded by a bevy of equally bejeweled friends. She smiles graciously and shakes hands without looking at any of us, and strange fancy crosses my mind that it could be agreeable to bestow on her sudden sharp shaking, and thus compel her to recognize existence of at least one of guests invited to her house.” (p. 383).

Her true thoughts on people and events are what make the book such fun. Her husband, Robert, makes rare appearances and tends only to put in a word about the coffee or some other mundane matter and, if at home, can generally be found asleep behind the Times. Son Robin, age 9, is at boarding school but appears in the holidays, usually with a school friend in tow. Daughter Vicky, 6, is looked after by a governess known simply as Mademoiselle.  Then there are the friends, neighbors, and others about whom she has most thoughts. Her attempts at economy are great–having beans on toast and water for lunch when shopping, but then deciding she “must” have a new evening dress! We can all relate!

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I loved this book from start-to-finish. I truly understand why it has never been out of print. One comment–I’ve never seen so much truly awful and inappropriate cover art on a book in my life as was slapped on later editions of this marvelous book. What hacks created it, I’d like to know? I chose the cover at the top of this post as it seems most likely the original.

 

Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield.

 

Epistolary Novels?

Do you enjoy epistolary novels–stories told in diary or letter form or similar? Check out these past posts on such books.

Epistolary Books Part I: Fiction

Epistolary Books Part II: Wartime and Royal Diaries

My Favorite Books of Real Letters by Real People

Top 5 Wednesday Rewind: Books That Feature Traveling (any genre)

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This month Top 5 Wednesday is on re-wind–using topics you’ve missed or that occurred before you started posting. Today I’ve chosen April 22, 2015’s topic–travel stories. I’ve chosen to go with nonfiction travel books.

 

The Most Harrowing Trip

Either version–Roosevelt’s telling or Candice Millard’s splendid re-telling, this is a trip never-to-be-forgotten.

 

My First Travel Books

My Mom found Peter Jenkins books when they came out years ago. I still love the first one, The Walk Across America, that was about Peter’s journey with his beautiful Alaskan Malamute, Cooper. The second book–the Walk West, was with his new wife and I didn’t like it as well. The China book came later. I’ve read nearly all of his books and have re-read several.

 

The Ones That Got Me Hook, Line, and Sinker

Paul Theroux is a legend in Malawi–the bad boy of all Peace Corps bad boys. I got to Malawi in the years soon after Peace Corps was allowed back in. His time there got it thrown out. His travel writing is superb, but these are my favorites.  I thought of The Great Railway Bazar when I watched the miniseries Lord Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy and the train comes in with the victims of the massacre–horrifying, yet having read this book it was even more so. I had heard the sounds, smelled the smells, felt the jumble and chaos of the trains thanks to Paul Theroux.

 

The Ones I Loved Watching

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I admit it, I love travel tv. I loved The Great Chefs series that showed the food in other places. I loved Naked Planet. I even love dorky Rick Steves, though I never needed to know about his sunburn, thank you very much. But the ones I love watching the most feature Michael Palin of Monty Python fame. His shows include:

New Europe / Around the World in 80 Days / Sahara / Hemingway Adventure / Great Railway Journeys / Himalaya / Pole to Pole / Full Circle

 

The Book I’d Like to Have

This sounds fascinating. Hopefully, soon I’ll have a chance to get it and read it.

Travelers in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd.

 

If you’d like to join in with Top 5 Wednesday, just sign up in the group on Goodreads. Then each week post on your blog or put up a video on youtube and share your picks. It’s fun!

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 New Royal Books for Royal Wedding Week

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Nonfiction

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Andrew Morton is the journalist to whom Diana told her side of the War of the Wales. Now he’s telling about royal bride Meghan Markle, whose stated ambition is to be the next Diana.

Meghan: A Hollywood Princess by Andrew Morton.

Note: There are way, way too many Meghan/Harry books to even try to cover them all.

 

 

 

Duchess

 

Author Penny Junor is seen as Prince Charles’ apologist. This book is yet another attempt to make the Diana-worshippers and conspiracy-freaks come around to liking Camilla. I wasn’t a fan of the late Princess of Wales, but this book was just unnecessary. Haters are gonna’ hate. In short–don’t waste more breath (or paper) trying to win converts.

Duchess: Camilla Parker-Bowles and the Love Affair That Rocked The Crown by Penny Junor.

 

 

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Britain and Russia had ties thru marriage. First, the sister of the Princess of Wales was married to the Russian Tzar. Then Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Alix of Hesse, married the Tzarevich, Nicholas.  This forthcoming book (June 2018) details three visits between the royal families in the years before the Russian Revolution of 1917.

The Imperial Tea Party by Frances Welch.

 

 

 

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This biography of Prince Charles actually came out in late March but missed my last list of Royal books somehow. Excerpts were published in a UK newspaper. It’s the one you may have heard about that claims Charles travels with his own bed and all the rest. Why no one has ever seen the bed at

the airport isn’t explained.

Rebel Prince: The Power, Passion and Defiance of Prince Charles by Tom Bower.

 

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Eileen Parker was married to Prince Philip’s one-time buddy and Private Secretary before his behavior merited a divorce. Tell-all books are always with us, but viewers of The Crown may enjoy this one. Excerpts have been published in a British paper. This book was released in December.

Step Aside for Royalty: Treasured Memories of the Royal Household by Eileen Parker.

Fiction

 

 

 

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

Royal Mess by Jenna Sutton.  Thanks to As The Book Ends for posting about this book.

Royal Treatment by Melanie Summers

The Royals by Rachel Hawkins  Thanks to Candid Cover for posting about this book.

Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm  Thanks to Candid Cover for posting about this book.

 

 

Want more? Here’s the link to my previous royal books post.

Review: The Female Persuasion: A Novel by Meg Wolitzer

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The Story

Greer Kadetsy meets feminist icon Faith Frank at a college lecture. The attraction she feels to this woman, her ideas, her power, her influence, make a life-changing impact on her. Faith is, in a quote from the story, someone Greer could “love to be led by….”

What I Liked

“I sometimes think that the most effective people in the world are introverts who taught themselves how to be extroverts.”

The story took hold of me right away and I immediately recalled that energy of college. The excitement of new experiences, the angst over relationships, the thrill of learning things that actually interested me. Greer and her boyfriend, Cory, are both brilliant, both striving for the top–obsessed throughout their teens with making the Ivies. There’s so much that is charming about both of them. That they have many of the same likes and dislikes I had at that age made them even more endearing. And, yeah, frat guys and their smarmy sense of entitlement. (Not all, just many, of such guys).

I also felt drawn into Faith Frank–a little older in the story than I am now, yet I could feel her tiredness and know first hand her determination not to be marginalized by the changes life brings. She is at a vulnerable stage in life and has too much to lose and too much she doesn’t want to give up. I could see Jane Fonda playing her in the movie–like Grace (Frankie & Grace) but with feminist passion. (Apparently, Nicole Kidman is working on the movie already.)

But it was Zee I liked the best in the entire story.  Smothered by the careers of her parents, aching to understand her own identity, she was the one I felt for. I didn’t even begrudge her the sex scenes. I don’t when such scenes fit the book.

Some Quotes I Loved

“Why did a strong woman need to be her own shield?”

“A good girl…Good girls could go far, but they could rarely go the distance, they could rarely be great.”

“…other people’s marriages were like a two-person religious cult.”

“….men were a distraction or too high-maintenance or maybe having a man in her life was just one thing too many.”

“Men gave women the power that they themselves didn’t want…power to run the home, to deal with the children, their friends, and teachers. To make all decisions about the domestic realm.”

What I didn’t like

“She became who she had been meant to be.”

After a while, I thought Greer got a tad too full of her own importance. She wavered between shrill and puking-ly earnest with a pinch of precious thrown in. Overall, I still liked her, but she had her moments.

“…relationships were a luxury designed for people whose lives were not in crisis….”

Mostly I didn’t like the bloat to this book. Backstories that grew and grew began to feel smothery.  I wanted them to end much sooner than they did. Some judicious cutting of these would have helped–they seemed to take over the end of the book.

Then there were the sermons. The first was against the voluntary teacher program (like the program “Teach”–formerly “Teach for America”). That’s been discussed many times for many years since the real program began–why rehash it?

“…you bind yourself in your own ignorance….”

Then there was the one that nearly sank the book. I swear if I have to read one more shrill, shrieking, screed-ish sermon on the last election I’m going to scream. IT IS OVER. It was OVER when the book was published.  It’s the winy-girl sing-song-ing “it’s not fair,” over and overand in that tone! Fingernails on a chalkboard in surround-sound–ugh! This lost a ton of my respect for the author. It had little to do with the story and was more of a personal vendetta.

FYI: No, I didn’t vote for him.  Yes, I am upset about stuff. Serious stuff. But, it is OVER. Stop looking back and start moving forward and DO SOMETHING about the situation.

My Rating

3.75

I wanted to give this a 4 out of 5 rating, but that sermon at the end did me in. But, I am still anxious to read many more of this author’s novels!

 

 

Books for Mother’s Day!

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Mother’s Day marks the kick-off of the latest re-boot of Little Women. Maybe you and your mother will be having dinner and then tuning in? If not, or if it just isn’t your type of thing, here are a few suggestions of books you two can read.

 

One of My Favorite Mom Novels

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Yes, Bridget Jones was once a sex-starved singleton. But now she’s 51 and dealing with her kids….. I LOVED this book. It has it all, fun, sweetness, joy, sorrow. Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy by Helen Fielding

 

 

The Ones On My To-Read List I Can’t Wait To Get

 

 

The Perfect Mother: A Novel by Aimee Molloy

That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam

The Two Novels I Keep Hyping Because…well, Mothers!

 

And, no, I’m not paid to promote these. Nor have I had a complimentary copy. Though I’m open to both! How Hard Can it Be? by Allison Pearson.

 

 

The Ones That Are Just Plain Fun For Every Mom

 

Mother-daughter duo Lisa Scottoline an Francesca Serritella team up each year to produce a compilation of their best essay-blog posts. I love these on audio. There are serious pieces, but most are just plain fun. Best of all, each piece is short enough to read while waiting for the washer to unlock at the end of the cycle. And, of course, there’s [thoughts of] Bradley Cooper!  I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool

 

 

Need more choices? Here is 2016’s list of Mother’s Day reads.