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review 2018-02-16 18:34
Pilgrimage by Derry Brabbs
Pilgrimage: The Great Pilgrim Routes of Britain and Europe - Derry Brabbs

I love to travel. I love to see new places, experience the sites and sounds of places I have never been. I have been a lot of places, and I will still go to more places. But there are some places I know I will probably never get a chance to visit. So I travel through books about real places. This is one of those books. Pilgrimage by Derry Brabbs is an amazing book to armchair travel and it is also a great guide book if you were to get a chance to actually go to the laces in the book. 

 

There are 11 routes in the book that Europe's Pilgrims used. From 3500 people walking the route from Northern Spain to the Shrine of St James the Apostle in Santiago de Compostela in 1988 to 277,000 as of  2016. 

 

The book features amazing photos along the routes, maps, and lots of information about all the stops along the way and of course the ending point.  It tells you how many miles the route is and how many days it should take to cover the route. These routes are done by walking, they way the original Pilgrimage took place. I am sure some of the routes you could go by car but if you wanted to experience the routes they way the pilgrims did you would want to walk the route. 

 

I received this book from the Author or Publisher via Netgalley.com to read and review.

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review 2018-01-17 21:26
Ambition and Destiny
Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution - Nathaniel Philbrick

The war for Independence has long been glorified in our history books. However, Nathaniel Philbrick looks through the layers and brings us a untarnished view on the history of the war.

George Washington and Benedict Arnold were two men that became legend during the war. While the war raged on, the two men could not have been more different. Washington worried about the army as the whole and suffered from indecision. Arnold thought of himself and what he could gain from the war. Two men who had greatness before them, but who could not have been more different in their mindsets and goals.
Benedict Arnold became one of the greatest traitors in the history of the United States, and his defection could have demoralized the entire army. However, Washington had been turning the war around, and those who had once been detractors of the Commander in Chief were realizing that he was the only one who could effectively lead the army. Arnold wanted to enrich himself, and come out of the war as a hero, but his actions can speak to anything but. Instead of working toward the betterment of his country, he became a turncoat, and began to work with the enemy, with the urging of his second wife, Peggy.

This is one of the best books on the American Revolution that I have read. While Benedict Arnold and George Washington are the two main characters, there is so much more present. The highs and lows, the good and the bad are all played out on the pages, and no one is spared. From the Continental Congress, to the French allies - every leaf is overturned to give a comprehensive view and greater understanding of what lead to the defection of Benedict Arnold.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the war, and the men who's names have become entwined in history.

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review 2017-12-04 00:00
How To Stop Brexit - And Make Britain Great Again
How To Stop Brexit - And Make Britain Great Again - Nick Clegg Concise summary of the UK'S relationship with the EU. How the issue has split the Tory Party for decades; how big money, and a small number of people, hijacked the debate and used the right-wing newspapers to poison attitudes and distort the truth; how the referendum was won and how MPs have capitulated their personal views to the two big party machines. But also an honest assessment of the failings of the EU and its need for reform. He suggests an EU of varying types of membership from inner committed core countries to two outer layers of countries with looser relationships. As, for stopping Brexit, he only sees that a rise in political activism from armchair voters, and an obvious shift in public opinion against the likely damage to the UK can bring enough pressures to bear. Worth reading by all who have the future of the country at heart, whether Leave or Remain.
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review 2017-06-03 14:03
A gentle read for those who love books set in Britain, short-stories and Blithe Spirit
The Keeper of Lost Things: A Novel - Cecily Ruth Hogan

Thanks to NetGalley and Two Roads for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Although I am not sure this is ‘the feel-good novel of the year’ I’d have to agree it is a feel-good novel, although perhaps not for everybody.

The novel tells many stories, although it tells two in more detail, those of Anthony and Laura (later of Laura and her new family) and Eunice and Bomber. Although those stories are separated by forty years, they are parallel in many ways: an older man who puts an advertisement for an assistant, a younger woman —very young in Eunice’s case— who ends up becoming a personal friend of the man and whose life ends up enmeshed and entangled with that of her employer, both men’s work relates to literature (Anthony is a fairly successful writer of short stories and Bomber is a publisher), both males die leaving some sort of legacy to these women (and also asking them to fulfil their final wishes). As we read on, we might suspect that the relationship between these two stories runs deeper than at first appears, but it is not confirmed until very close to the end.

There are other important elements in the novel, which functions also as a collection of short stories, as Anthony, after experiencing a terrible loss, started to collect lost things, cataloguing them and using his study for safe keeping, in an attempt at recovering something he had lost himself. Throughout the novel, there are stories about those objects (written in italics so it is easy to differentiate them to the rest) interspersed with the two main stories. We are told, later in the book, that Anthony used those objects as inspiration for several collections of short stories, but the novel allows for several possible interpretations of what these stories really are. Are they imaginary stories? Are they the real stories behind the objects? If they are imaginary short-stories who has written them? Anthony? Somebody else? Each reader can choose whatever explanation s/he prefers and I’m sure there are more possibilities.

I mentioned the two main stories that frame the novel and the short stories within. Each chapter is told (in the third person) from one of the characters’ point of view (mostly Laura or Eunice) and this is is clearly indicated, as it is the year, because Eunice and Bomber’s story develops from the 1970s up to the current days. We get to know his family and follow his father’s illness (Alzheimer’s) that unfortunately later also afflicts Bomber himself. There are comments on movies of the period; there is the wonderful relationship with Bomber’s parents, the two dogs that share his life and an unrequited and impossible love story. Ah, and Bomber’s sister, Portia, her awful behaviour and her even worse attempts at getting her brother to publish one of her rip-offs of well-known and loved classics, that make for hilarious reading, especially for authors and book lovers. I must confess that, perhaps because their story develops over time and it has none of the paranormal elements added to the other, I particularly warmed to it. I found the depiction of the dementia sufferers (both father and son) touching, humorous and bittersweet, and although we don’t get to know Eunice well (other than through her devotion to Bomber and his life-work), she is a character easy to like and some of her actions make us cheer her on.

Laura’s story is that of somebody lost, perfectly in keeping with Anthony’s life mission. She made some questionable decisions when she was younger, married too young and her knight in shining armour turned up to be anything but. She is very insecure and full of self-doubt and that makes her a less likeable character as she pushes people away rather than risk being rejected, but she is also the one who has to change more and work harder to get out of her shell. Sunshine, a young neighbour, Down’s syndrome, also shares her point of view with the reader at times and becomes a member of the family, although she has her own too. She is less hindered by concern about what others’ might think, or what is right and wrong, and she has a special connection (not sure ‘power’ is the right word) with the objects and with the paranormal elements that later appear in the novel. Fred, the gardener, is the love interest, handsome and kind, but he seems to be there to provide the romance and second chance more than anything else, and he is not very well developed.

I’ve mentioned the paranormal elements. There is a ghost in the house and that takes up a fair amount of the book as Laura keeps trying to work out how to make things right. I am not sure this added much to the story but references to Blithe Spirit (that is being performed by an amateur theatrical group in the neighbourhood) put an emphasis on the effect the writer might have been aiming for (each reader can decide how well it works for them).

This is a well-written novel, with effective descriptions of objects, locations and people. There are elements of chick-lit (the descriptions of Laura’s disastrous date, her chats with her friend…), romantic touches, some elements of mystery, plenty of loss, death and second chances, a fair bit about literature… The whole feeling of the story is somewhat old-fashioned (and very British. I’ve lost count of how many ‘lovely cups of tea’ are prepared and drunk during the novel, and although that is partly in jest, yes, there is a fair amount of repetition, foreshadowing and signposting, perhaps unnecessary in this kind of story). Some of the references, including songs and films, will be lost on the younger generations. Everything is fairly gentle; even the bad characters (Portia) are only moderately nasty and they are the object of fun rather than being truly evil. There are gossip and misunderstandings but nothing really awful happens. No gore details, no huge surprises, no hot sex (I think you’ll have to buy Portia’s stories of Hotter Potter for that), and even technology only appears by the backdoor (people send text messages and a laptop and a website  appear towards the end, but this is not a book where characters follow mother trends).

Funnily enough, a publisher (rival of Anthony) sums up what the books he publishes should be like, thus:

I know what normal, decent people like, and that’s good, straightforward stories with a happy ending where the baddies get their comeuppance, the guy gets the girl and the sex isn’t too outré.

The structure of the novel and some of the short-stories are not at all like that, but the spirit behind it perhaps it and its charm might be lost on some readers who prefer more action and adventures and a more modern style of writing.

In summary, a gentle read, bittersweet, with plenty of stories for those who love short stories, of particular interest to lovers of books and movies set in Britain, stories about writers, the publishing world and women’s stories. It has sad moments and funny ones but it is unlikely to rock your world.

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review 2017-01-03 04:14
BELGRAVIA by Julian Fellowes
Julian Fellowes's Belgravia - Julian Fellowes

BELGRAVIA

Julian Fellowes

Hardcover, 402 pages
Published July 5th 2016 by Grand Central Publishing (first published June 30th 2016)
ISBN
1455541168 (ISBN13: 9781455541164)

 

I usually enjoy Julian Fellowes' writing. And he does well in Belgravia developing the story line and characters. This story follows mainly the upper class and the "new money" upper class. What I read I liked, but I found myself skipping ahead and reading parts just to quickly get through it. I don't feel it was the author's writing style or the story. I think I was not into reading about the subject because of reading so much on similar subjects.

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