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

Friday, April 30, 2021

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

 The Splendid and the Vile - A saga of Churchill, family and defiance during The Blitz by Erik Larson is a view of WWII through Churchill in his first year as Prime Minister, his War Cabinet and his family and friends. As unsettling and fearful 2020 and 2021 has been for the world and currently without a strong U.S. leader or government, our woes dim in comparison with the bombardment and German occupation that Europe struggled through during the war years. One thing England had to carry them through was a dedicated and smart leader in Sir Winston Churchill. But unfortunately the British did not have equipment or aircraft capable of fighting against the night time raids of the German Luftwaffe and "England's green and pleasant land" took a beating.

I found Erik Larson's writing gives an intimate look into the day to day struggles throughout the war and often with humor. Churchill's resolve to never give up pulled  the United Kingdom through a dark time in English history and thank goodness King Edward VIII, a Nazi sympathizer, had previously abdicated and England was ruled during this period by a patriotic King (George VI) and Queen. For me, the book gave me a more in depth look at the life of my parents and grandparents living in London during WWII. Although I heard many stories over the years I didn't comprehend just how brutal and constant the night raids and bombings were. Penge (and nearby Beckenham), where my family lived was the most fly-bombed square mile in London.

Note: Page 420 describes Churchill sitting on the folded canvas top of an open touring car and states that in British English this is called a hood. Hood is an American term and the back of the car is called the "boot" in England.

Friday, April 23, 2021

To Kill a Queen by Valerie Wilding

 Sometime ago I purchased a set of My Story books by Scholastic for the grandkids. The set is the U.K. series. To Kill a Queen by Valerie Wilding is An Elizabethan Girl's Diary and covers the conflict between Queen Elizabeth I and her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots - 1583-1586. The book is written from a young girl's  point of view who learns much of what is happening at the English court through her father and other relatives who work in the Tower of London. One thing I learned about Elizabethan life is that girls wore pattens - a wooden sole that was tied to their more delicate shoes and worn outside to avoid mud and other foul things thrown onto the streets. Unfortunately, this was a barbaric time and hangings and torture were often a public event - it's  always a good idea to read a book for content before passing on to children.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Narcissists, Sociopaths and Psychopaths

 After a very confusing long term relationship with whom I've since  discovered was a sociopath, I've been interested in finding out more. Although it was a long time ago I still want to share traits so that others might not fall into the same craziness. The first book I read was The Sociopath Next Door and I've since found many You Tube videos further explaining the differences between a narcissist, sociopath and psychopath. I think we are all confused by the sad and destructive relationship of Harry and Meghan.

Surviving Narcissism on You Tube has some great videos.

There is a common thread between narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths. There is no honesty or empathy and they view you as lesser than they are. They seek out people whom they can easily manipulate and exploit.

Narcissists tend to be dismissive and manipulative with a need to control.

Sociopaths are schemers. Rules don't apply to them and they have an addictive behavior with no remorse or guilt.

Psychopaths have no conscience, often with a criminal mind, and have no compassion. Watch the Surviving Narcissism video for more details.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Steve McQueen by Malachy McCoy

 Malachy McCoy's Steve McQueen biography is shown to be unauthorized. As a fan of Steve McQueen's films I was interested to learn more about him and the striking difference between his on screen persona and that of his real character. He was one of the major stars who could demand a high salary, along with a percentage of profits, in his later films. He came from an unstable family, but later enjoyed a family of his own with Neile Adams. (He met Ali McGraw when filming The Getaway and they later married).  The Sand Pebbles, Thomas Crown Affair and Great Escape with it's motorcycle stunts were favorites. An avid racer on both motorcycles and in cars, film makers often worried that their star would be injured and eventually required him to abstain during filming. Despite his life of healthy eating, it wasn't the fast vehicles that caused his death, but cancer at the age of 50. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

The Dutch Girl by Robert Matzen

 The Dutch Girl by Robert Matzen is mostly set in WWII Netherlands and follows the life of Audrey Hepburn and her family during the war years.

Although she protested that her family was not wealthy, her grandfather was a Baron and her father descended from Mary Queen of Scots and the Queen's 3rd husband James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. Her grandfather was Mayor of Arnhem. 

Audrey's passion was for ballet and she continued her dancing well into the war even during the occupation of her town of Velp. Her dancing became increasingly difficult with little nutrition and virtually no protein, but when she was unable to dance she taught younger children. Her mother, Baroness Ella Van Heemstra, was once a Nazi sympathizer (lipstick nazi), friend of the Mitford sisters, and thought the war, like  the first world war, would avoid the Netherlands, but that was not to be and they soon learned that the occupiers had little empathy for the Dutch. Audrey helped a young doctor for a short time at the local hospital and on occasion helped the resistance to whom he belonged. He was harboring Jews and rescuing downed British and American  allied airmen. The advantage Audrey had was that she spoke English, having spent some of her childhood at an English school before the war. Operation Market Garden was a particularly horrendous experience when allied troops descended from the sky in nearby Arnhem to protect bridges for the army but the  liberation was short lived when the army was delayed and many of the brave paratroopers were captured or killed. Arnhem, a town that had survived for hundreds of years, was sadly left in ruins including the music center where Audrey had performed and attended ballet school.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Wealth, Poverty and Politics by Thomas Sowell


Instead of watching far too much depressing news, I've been looking at interesting videos and non-fiction books. While I'm not overly keen on fiction audio books which can spoil the story depending on the reader's voice, I've found audio non-fiction books are great and by uploading them to my Kindle Fire, I can carry it around with me as I work on various projects.

Thomas Sowell, who has many Hoover Institute interviews on You Tube, is an economist and in Wealth, Poverty and Politics explains how culture, land and opportunity make a difference in how people live, their wealth and education. For instance, countries with deeper rivers and fewer obstructions such as waterfalls and rapids have had more chance in importing and exporting trade. He has been criticized for being against affirmative action, but he feels that the better approach is to give everyone the same equal opportunity.

Many libraries offer access to audio books on Hoopla.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Acts of Faith by Erich Segal

 Erich Segal is best known for his Love Story novel, and in Acts of Faith the dilemma isn't between rich and poor but of two faiths, Jewish and Catholic. Siblings Deborah and Daniel struggle with their strict Jewish upbringing - Daniel because so much is expected of him and Deborah because her ambitions are quashed with the expectations to become a wife and mother at an early Age. Timothy is left to live within a contentious Catholic household of his aunt and uncle and after a mischievous childhood, finds a kindly priest who encourages him to take the same road toward priesthood. 

From the cover:

Three young people - gifted, passionate, dedicated to their beliefs. Yet as they search for faith and for love in the modern world, the sacred and secular collide, and lives are changed forever. A stunning novel that moves from the mean streets of Brooklyn to the holy cities of Rome and Jerusalem, and beyond.