Saturday, 28 November 2020

Guest Review: The Making of Modern Britain: From Queen Victoria to V.E. Day By Andrew Marr

In The Making of Modern Britain, Andrew Marr paints a fascinating portrait of life in Britain during the first half of the twentieth century as the country recovered from the grand wreckage of the British Empire.

Between the death of Queen Victoria and the end of the Second World War, the nation was shaken by war and peace. The two wars were the worst we had ever known and the episodes of peace among the most turbulent and surprising. As the political forum moved from Edwardian smoking rooms to an increasingly democratic Westminster, the people of Britain experimented with extreme ideas as they struggled to answer the question ‘How should we live?’ Socialism? Fascism? Feminism? Meanwhile, fads such as eugenics, vegetarianism and nudism were gripping the nation, while the popularity of the music hall soared. It was also a time that witnessed the birth of the media as we know it today and the beginnings of the welfare state.

Beyond trenches, flappers and Spitfires, this is a story of strange cults and economic madness, of revolutionaries and heroic inventors, sexual experiments and raucous stage heroines. From organic food to drugs, nightclubs and celebrities to package holidays, crooked bankers to sleazy politicians, the echoes of today's Britain ring from almost every page.

Revview: Andrew Marr is a political journalist and television presenter. He had written previously a book entitled “A History of Modern Britain” which described British history from the end of World War II. This book is a prequel, covering the period from the beginning of the 20th century, just a year before the death of Queen Victoria, to the end of World War II in 1945.

This 45 year period starts in the Edwardian era and covers two World Wars and the inter-war period of the 1920s and 1930s. It was a time of great changes. At the start of the 20th century not all men, and no women, could vote. Much of the political power of the country lay in the hands of aristocratic men. Over the first half of the century, Great Britain became a more democratic country, and there were many other changes in the fields of entertainment and culture.

The book is divided into four sections: the Edwardian period; World War I; the inter-war period; and World War II. Each section is divided further into a series of headings covering specific individuals, such as Douglas Haig, commander of British forces in France from 1915 until the end of World War I, or topics such as the abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936. As a political commentator, Andrew Marr gives much emphasis to political events and the various machinations going on within government and political parties. Two figures, namely David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, feature prominently in the book.

This book covers a wide sweep of history, describing events over almost half a century. As such, I found that some topics were covered in detail, whereas other topics appeared to be touched on but then left with much less information. There are footnotes throughout the book and a comprehensive index at the end. I found  the book an interesting read and plugged a number of gaps in my knowledge, particularly of the periods before and between the two World Wars. For example, I had never heard of the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, a rival organisation to the Boy Scouts set up during the 1920s and which evolved into the Greenshirts in the 1930s. Overall, I would recommend this book as an introduction to the first part of the 20th century, with references at the end for those wishing to study particular topics or individuals in greater detail.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Guest Review: Christmas at the Island Hotel by Jenny Colgan

On the tiny Scottish island of Mure, Christmas preparations are even more hectic than usual . . .

Flora Mackenzie is worried about her brother. Fintan hasn't got over the death of his partner, Coltan, and Flora thinks he needs a project.

The Rock - the rambling, disused hotel on the tip of the island - was Coltan's passion project before he died. With Flora's help, Fintan is going to get the hotel up and running in time for Christmas, transforming it into a festive haven of crackling log fires and delicious food. But running a hotel, they are about to discover, is not that easy. Especially when their motley staff includes a temperamental French chef, a spoilt Norwegian kitchen boy who can't peel a potato without mutilating his own hand and a painfully shy kitchen assistant who blushes when anyone speaks to her.

Can they pull it together in time for the big opening?

And can Flora help her family find happiness this Christmas?

Review: This is the latest in a series of books by Jenny Colgan about the remote Scottish island of Mure, which in fact is closer to Norway than the Scottish mainland. The books have focused mainly on the MacKenzie family who have a farm there, but readers learn lots about other inhabitants as well. Because there are so many characters featured in the books, I would suggest that reading this book before any of the others would be confusing; they make a wonderful set when read together anyway. As the title suggests, this story is set in the run up to Christmas, and has a lovely festive feel about it. As usual with Jenny Colgan’s books, I sat down to read (or in this case listen) and didn’t want to pause until I reached the end. One comment I have about the audiobook is that I was disappointed to find that the narrator was different from the lady who has covered so many of Jenny Colgan’s previous books; I have no complaint about the new narrator, but it changed my perception of the characters I have come to know.

The story this time is set about a year after the end of the last one in the series, which ended really tragically for Fintan MacKenzie. He has now inherited The Rock, a rundown hotel at the end of Mure, and is trying to continue his husband Coltan’s project to open it as a luxury destination for tourists and locals alike. When he is showing little enthusiasm for the job, his sister, Flora, steps in to help. The aim is to have a grand opening on Christmas Day, but there is much to be done and many obstacles along the way. Fintan employs a very temperamental French chef whose ideas are not always suited to what is available on the island. In addition, the kitchen staff includes a Norwegian playboy who has been sent away by his family to learn some sense and has no clue about cooking, and a very shy village girl who lives with an overbearing mother who disapproves of her daughter working at the hotel. With such an assortment of kitchen personnel, can Flora and Fintan pull it off? Meanwhile, there is plenty of other activity on the island as people prepare for the festivities. The islanders we have met before are all present and correct, with developments in the story of the island’s doctor and his sons.

I can highly recommend this book to those who are following the continuing tale of the island of Mure. As I said at the beginning of this review, I’m not sure that it would be an ideal read for someone who has not read at least one of the other books in the series. I very much enjoyed catching up with all the goings on in the island. The staff at the hotel provided a great deal of amusement, the spoilt boy learning to do things he usually had a staff to deal with, and the chef impatiently getting used to island life. It was hard to know whether they would get the hotel up and running on time. In common with small communities everywhere, there was a certain amount of suspicion towards change, and such was the case with the introduction of Christmas lights - another amusing part of the story. As well as enjoying the characters in the book, I was once again struck by the rugged beauty of the island, with its sometimes stormy seas and lovely long beach, all brought to life so well by the author.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

November 2020 Unboxing & Book Haul | Which New Books Did I Get From Book of The Month?


Top Ten Tuesday: I'm Thankful For. These Nonfiction Books.. 24/11/20

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Since it is thanksgiving on Thursday and it is also nonfiction November, I thought I would share some of my favorrite nonfiction books of all time. I am very very thankful for these books. 

And of course everything Bill Bryson has ever written!

Monday, 23 November 2020

Gilmore Girls Readthon Wrap Up-What Did I Read This Week?

 Well we have reached the end of the Gilmore Girls Readathon. I had a great reading week I think perhaps because I was really motivated and excited about what I wanted to read. It was a busy week for me (see the vlog that is coming up) and so I was very reliant on audiobooks this week. I got through a lot of audiobooks and they were really excellent. 

If you missed my TBR and signup post, you can find that here to see what challenges I was intending to take on. 

Here's what I read...

224 Pages

288 Pages

416 Pages

432 Pages

256 Pages

224 Pages

288 Pages

240 Pages

308 Pages

285 Pages

256 Pages

288 Pages

159 Pages

3663 pages total!

I met all the challenge and filled in almost all of the bingo card getting 3 lines overall-yey!