Chanel’s Riviera: Glamour, Decadence, and Survival in Peace and War, 1930-1944

Chanel's Riviera: Glamour, Decadence, and Survival in Peace and War, 1930-1944Chanel’s Riviera: Glamour, Decadence, and Survival in Peace and War, 1930-1944 by Anne de Courcy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Chanel’s Riviera is entertaining and easy to read with many captivating facts about Côte d’Azur and Paris during the 1930s through late 1944.

The novel is divided into two parts, the first half describes Coco’s life and rise to power, her powerful friends, affairs. In this part of the book, the reader is introduced to multiple high society figures that at one point or another were a big part of Chanel’s life. Not knowing much about Coco’s life in general, this book has shed lite on her business and love lives. It’s short, well detailed. I’ve learned many interesting facts about the days of the Chanel empire and the designer herself.

The second part of the novel discusses the life of Coco and her circle of friends during the war, their fall of power, and struggles. The novel covers many lives of famous and non-famous people, as a comparison between the social classes and roles it played in their survival.

The novel was well written, with many interesting facts. I found myself enjoying the life of Riviera prior to WWII as it had more new info for me rather than the years of the war. Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press publisher for a free and advanced copy of the book.

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Barack and Joe: The Making of an Extraordinary Partnership

Barack and Joe: The Making of an Extraordinary PartnershipBarack and Joe: The Making of an Extraordinary Partnership by Steven Levingston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The political bromance, Barack and Joe’s friendship, and collaboration will forever leave its footprint in American history.

Starting from political rivals, the two managed to build a strong foundation of the phenomenal President & Vice President team. This book tells the story of two democratic US senators who came from two completely opposite backgrounds but shared an important mission. This is not a biography of either man, this is a story of their bond, the way they were able to look past their differences, listened and accepted each other’s objectives, and most importantly – held one another’s back. An author made an excellent note regarding the two: the Barack-and-Joe friendship did something else: it stirred the imagination. It gave Americans hope that the nation could work together harmoniously. Barack and Joe looked beyond color and age and personal quirks to the importance of shared values.

This book is an easy read. I didn’t find any new information in it, however, it is a perfect guide for any political enthusiast that contains all the facts of Barack and Joe’s friendship and partnership during their time in The Office.

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Condé Nast: The Man and His Empire

Condé Nast: The Man and His Empire -- A BiographyCondé Nast: The Man and His Empire — A Biography by Susan Ronald

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Susan Ronals did an incredible job of composing a phenomenal book about the life of the publishing magnate Conde Nast, the founder of Vogue, Glamour, Conde Nast Traveler, Vanity Fair, and many more world’s best-known magazines.

The book begins with a story of Nast family, their origin and background. Very early in the book, we find out that Conde has come from a broken family, however, it never reflected on his character. Opposit to his father, he remained close with his family, children, and ex-wives.

From the first pages of the book, Conde’s character showed affection to the circle of his friends and partners, dedication, fearfulness, honorable and strong will. He never has forgotten where he came from, and people who helped him succeed. Although, he was equitable with his frenemies and competitors.

It was very interesting to read about the way Conde has built and extended his publishing empire. He is a great example of a man who has been knocked down in personal and business lives, however no matter how hard the hit was – Conde always found ways to get back up. I’m fascinated by his life and accomplishments.

Thank you Susan Ronals for a remarkable story and introduction to the life of world’s famous publishing mogul. And big thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press publishing for a free and advanced copy of the book.

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Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott and Zelda FitzgeraldDear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald by F. Scott Fitzgerald

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald” book combine survived Fitzgeralds’ letters that Scott and Zelda have exchanged from the time they have met and thru Scott’s death.

For me, as a newbie to Scott and Zelda’s love story, this book was a phenomenal information source that explained very thoroughly Fitzgeralds’ relationship and reasons that drove Scott to alcoholism and Zelda to insanity.

One thing that fascinated me the most was their dedication to each other. Even in the period of Zelda’s first breakdown, Fitzgeralds were able to sustain their alliance despite the fact they have blamed each other for their failures. It was an interesting fact to see that while apart – Fitzgeralds’ lead calmer lives, but once together – their worlds would collapse with rapid speed.

While reading Fitzgeralds’ letters – I often caught myself thinking: how different their lives would become if they would never be married, or separated once their marriage problems have begun. Would Zelda lose her sanity? Would Scott’s alcoholism be prevented?

In the end, I find Fitzgeralds’ story love story passionate and romantic. Two highly intelligent people hopelessly in love, whose remarkable personalities clash once together, but remained devoted to each other thru their best times and worst. Their story is inspirational but tragique at the same time.

Thank you, NetGalley for an advanced free copy of the book.

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Queen Victoria: Twenty Four Days That Changed Her Life

Queen Victoria: Twenty-Four Days That Changed Her LifeQueen Victoria: Twenty-Four Days That Changed Her Life by Lucy Worsley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was a very long book to start my 2019 reading year. However, Queen Victoria did live a very long and sensational life.

I’ve always admired Queen Victoria. England went thru many great changes during her reign. She is known as a woman who redefined British monarchy. Thankfully to this book, I’ve learned many new facts about Victoria. I was not aware of “baby race” prior to this book. And it was great to learn more about her parents, her relationship with uncle Leopold. And there were many new details about her favorite attendants: Munshi and John Brown. Her relationship with Disraeli and Lord Melbourne. Also, this book confirmed my theory about Albert and Victoria’s marriage and bond.

This book is a great introduction to the Queen’s life. However, just keep in mind that this book is not about Victoria’s twenty-four specific days that have changed her life, the writer has divided her life into twenty-four periods. In my opinion, the book is very well written, thoughtfully sorted, each chapter of the Queen’s life is covered equally. It is quite captivating. I really like Lucy Worsley’s style of writing. She makes it into a fascinating story instead of just counting Victoria’s biography facts.

Thank you NetGalley and MacMillan publisher for a free copy of this book.

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Hitler’s Last Day

Hitler's Last DayHitler’s Last Day by Richard Dargie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this book, with hopes to learn a little more of Hitler’s actual last day. The story in the book opens up broader to the whole story behind Hitler’s history.

I enjoyed the book, and author’s writing. It reminded me a lot of the book I’ve read earlier this year called “Five Days That Shocked the World” by Nicolas Best. Unlike the first book, this story is introduced in a lighter and less bald way. While telling the story of Hitler’s last day, the author trails back to the earlier days of Nazi’s leader. The book introduced me to a few brand new details, for example, Hitler’s relationship with women, a history behind it, his WWI experience and new facts/rumors from that time. And most importantly Stalin’s point of view on Hitler’s suicide. Many other facts were already known to me, however, it was a nice way to refresh the memory.

“Hitler’s Last Day” is a wonderful, short, very informative story of Nazi’s leader. Wonderful read and definitely a gift for any history lovers. Thank you, NetGalley for a free copy of the book, and Richard Dargie for a fascinating story.

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Abandoned In Berlin

ABANDONED IN BERLIN: A TRUE STORYABANDONED IN BERLIN: A TRUE STORY by John R. Cammidge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As you all already know, I am a little bit obsessed with WWII history. Therefore when I saw the title of the book – I knew I had to read it. The book is based on the true story.

The story itself is heartbreaking. As we already know the history, prior and during the WWII many Jewish owned businesses were eliminated by German laws. In this particular book, we are introduced to a wealthy family that eventually were forced to sell their business and home and run away to England, Japan, and the US to avoid Nazi concentration camps.

Unlike many others, Hilda’s family were able to survive and built better life outside of their homeland. And one fine day, Hilda uncovers the truth of why her mother and grandmother were forced to leave their family home. Will she be able to get back the property that legally belongs to her?

“Abandoned in Berline” is a short novel, great for a great any history lover. Thank you John Cammidge for a lovely read and NetGalley and Gatekeeper Press publisher for a free copy of the novel.

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Paris On The Brink

Paris on the Brink: The 1930s Paris of Jean Renoir, Salvador Dali, Simone de Beauvoir, Andre Gide, Sylvia Beach, Leon Blum, and Their FriendsParis on the Brink: The 1930s Paris of Jean Renoir, Salvador Dali, Simone de Beauvoir, Andre Gide, Sylvia Beach, Leon Blum, and Their Friends by Mary McAuliffe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very informative and compelling book that contains stories about a set of brilliant individuals that found themselves in the city of light between the Wall Street Crash and German occupation.

Because of this incredible book, I was able to find myself in a circle of Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Gide, Marie Curie, Picasso, Stravinsky, the fabulous Coco Chanel, and Elsa Schiaparelli, sassy Josephine Baker, my hero Sylvia Beach, James Joyce, Man Ray, and Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, also Renoir, Dali. This book provides many more interesting facts about each character’s life, their friendships, and struggles. The book’s purpose is to focus on each individual’s lives during the late 1920s and thru 1940, however, the reader is also given an opportunity to learn a bit more of their backgrounds prior to 1929.

Mary McAuliffe did a brilliant job of researching the facts and putting everything together into an astonishing novel. Thank you Rowman & Littlefield Publishers and NetGalley for a copy of this amazing book.

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Lincoln’s Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency

Lincoln's Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the PresidencyLincoln’s Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency by Dan Abrams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a person who has never heard of Lincoln’s last murder case, I found this book very informative. Not only Abe Lincoln was yet again proven to be a great leader but he had an amazing ability to win a case that was set for failure from the beginning.

For those who do not know the case, Peachy Quinn Harrison had stabbed Greek Crafton during a fight. Days earlier the two had another clash during town’s gathering and both made treats against each other. The night of the horrific incident, Peachy pulled the knife and stabbed Greek in self-defense. Well, that’s what he’s been repeating since that dreadful night. As new evidence regarding fight details came to light together with Greek Crafton’s deathbed confession, Peachy Quinn Harrison was released and Abe Lincoln gained admiration, popularity, and well-deserved recognition.

The story was very well written, short and straight to the point. It was an easy and captivating read. I was lured into the pages of the book and could not get enough of the case. I even did a little research on this case online, and surprisingly, was not able to find any new facts that I have not read in the book. Thank you, Dan Abrams and David Fisher for this phenomenal book and story.

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Victoria: The Widow and Her Son

Victoria: The Widow and Her SonVictoria: The Widow and Her Son by Hector Bolitho

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m very interested in English monarchy history, however, I never had a chance to read more of Queen Victoria. I was very pleased to come upon this book on NetGalley. This is not only my very first book about Queen Victoria, but it’s my first book written by Hector Bolitho. Fantastic writing followed by a fair introduction of two English sovereigns.

The book begins right after the passing of Victoria’s most Dear Angel – Albert. As we already know, Victoria grieved the death of her husband for the rest of her days. The author mentions her heartbreak, however, the main focus of this book is on Victoria’s reign after the passing of Albert and her mentorship of the next King of England.

At the beginning of this book, Victoria is portraited as a grieving widow who lives in the shadow of her departed husband, Albert. But years pass by and Victoria learns to separate her sorrow from running her kingdom. Her relationship with her children improves as they grow older. As one of the longest-lived British monarchs, thru 64 years of her reign, Queen Victoria had built a strong Empire. The United Kingdom not only went thru changes in industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military fields but also expanded its territory. This book is another proof that Queen Victoria was an incredibly smart and very patient monarch.

Queen Victoria’s successor, Prince Albert Edward, followed his mother’s footsteps. He had no choice but to grown up fast and dedicate his life to the English throne. In this book we learn that he was a people’s prince, he took a great part of improving education, health reforms, and social welfare.

Wonderful book, filled with many details of Queen Victoria and Prince Edward’s personal and political lives. One other part that I loved about the book – it includes parts of Queen Victoria letters. I’ve become fond of Hector Bolitho’s writing and would love to read more of his books in the near future.

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The Girls in the Picture

The Girls in the PictureThe Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a big fan of old movies, and I’ve seen Mary Pickford in a few, therefore I was familiar with her prior to this book. However, I never heard of screenwriter Frances Marion. Well, not until a few days ago. And while reading the book (and doing my Wikipedia research) I learned that Frances Marian wrote many scripts to the movies I’ve seen and loved. Melanie Benjamin did an amazing job with this novel. Not only I enjoyed learning about female empowerment in early Hollywood days, but I also learned a lot about the movie industry. Well, not all from this book, but I researched every interesting detail I read in this novel. That is another reason why it took me longers than usual to read and finish this gem.

The book concentrates on a friendship of Hollywood “power couple”, and no, I do not mean the first queen and king of Hollywood Mary Pickford and her second husband Douglas Fairbanks. I am talking about Mary Pickford and Frances Marion. And you will understand the meaning of it during the last chapter. Thru the book, we learn that their friendship survived their separate successes, broken marriages, and family losses. While both girls were a complete opposite of each other, their connection was strong. Opposite attracts, doesn’t it?

The story in the book is being told by Frances and Mary in chronological order. Each character explains their view of the certain events/situations. While Frances is a strong character from the beginning, Mary is portraited as a weaker one. Even thru this book is fiction, it was good to learn what drove Mary Pickford into the state she remained during the last years of her life.

It’s a great read, wonderful story of friendship, women empowerment, and early days of cinematography.

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