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review 2018-01-14 03:21
The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan
The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home - Denise Kiernan

Biltmore is an enormous Gilded Age estate in North Carolina. It was built on the orders of George Washington Vanderbilt II in the 1880s-90s as a summer retreat and became the largest private home in America. Biltmore is situated on a plot of land to match, over 10 square miles, the bulk of which is forest and now a National Park.  The house itself, astonishingly, remains in private hands. How this came to pass makes for an entertaining bit of history.

I hadn't known much about the origins of Biltmore or its role in the early environmental movement and was impressed. Kiernan veers away from the story of the house to dwell on Vanderbilt family drama, but its to be expected. Not many people just want to hear about stone korbels and inspiration for plasterwork. The Biltmore Vanderbilts lived interesting lives, Edith (George's wife) in particular with her involvement in an Arts & Crafts cottage industry around the estate. The other family members, especially where it seemed Kiernan had to fill gaps of information with speculation such as with Cornelia Vanderbilt (the original heiress), was less interesting. Thanks to this book, Biltmore and its gardens and the park surrounding it have risen above the 'cottages' of Rhode Island as a must-visit for me.

The fact that Biltmore, such a white elephant from the beginning, survived intact through a century as destructive as the last one is remarkable.

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review 2017-12-18 15:24
The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed: The only personal finance system for people with not-so-regular jobs - Denise Kiernan,Joseph D'Agnese

Excessive purportedly-illustrative anecdotes with occasional useful bits buried deep inside.

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review 2017-12-05 06:30
The Long Drop - Denise Mina

Two and a half star rating.
Bleak and chilling, based on a real individual, Peter Manuel, dubbed Scotland’s first serial killer. Not a nice man at all and most of the other people in this book weren’t particularly pleasant either. The start of this story is like being thrust into a conversation which began long before you arrived - confusing, trying to make sense of it all, so it helps to already be familiar with this appalling man before starting. I found this a bit hard going and struggled to get through it. Good descriptions of 1950’s Glasgow which gave a realistic feel of those days.

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review 2017-11-24 00:00
Always You
Always You - Denise Grover Swank A long lost dream becomes a real life fantasy. When Anna broke Matt's heart, she never thought she'd see him again. Amazing how time and regret can shape a life and give a person the maturity they once lacked. Matt has never gotten over the girl who broke his heart. Can he forgive the girl and accept the woman and mother she has become? Always You is a what - if story of second chances and lasting romances. A little laughter and a heartwarming happily ever after.
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text 2017-11-20 13:08
16 Tasks of the Festive Season - Square #4: November 22nd and 23rd - Penance Day
The Tremor of Forgery: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics) - Denise Mina (introduction) Patricia Highsmith (author)

Book themes for Penance Day: Read a book that has a monk, nun, pastor / preacher or priest as a protagonist, or where someone is struggling with feelings of guilt or with their conscience (regardless over what).

 

I meant to update this over the weekend while I was reading the book, but BL maintenance/bug fixing meant that I had to save this post until now.

 

I've read The Tremor of Forgery - a full review is still to come - and it's a book where Highsmith explores some existentialist ideas about morality and how morality is shaped. 

As it turned out, the main character spent a lot of time feeling guilty - and questioning his feelings of guilt - over current and past relationships as well as over a more tangible event that occurred during his stay in Tunisia on which the plot is based: Did he or did he not kill a man?

 

 

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