Book Reviews: HRH Prince Philip Escape From The Palace & How The Stock Market Works

Hello everyone,

the last couple of weeks I was very busy and didn't have the time to read as much as I'd have liked, so you only get two reviews this week. But I hope you will enjoy them:

HRH Prince Philip: Escape from the Palace by Thomas J. O'Mara
If you like books with sensible plots, stay away from this one. HRH Prince Philip: Escape From The Palace is a very surreal read that makes the less sense the further on you go. But if you just relax and go with the flow, you may really enjoy it.
1960s. A middle-aged Prince Philip, father to four children and husband to the Queen of England, is living a privileged and comfortable life. But he doesn't see it that way. He feels trapped in a gilded cage. He doesn't want to abandon his duties completely, but needs at least a taste of freedom. But how? One night, Jones, the butler, informs him that he has found, in the Prince's bathroom, a mysterious hole. Curious, Philip decides to explore it. The hole is the entrance to an underground tunnel that runs under Buckingham Palace, connecting it to the outside world. It's an entrance very few people know about. One of these is the Earl of Buckingham, a hermit who lives under the palace to protect the royal family.
Philip asks his help to escape in disguise from the palace on a regular basis. It's not long before the Queen realises something's wrong with her husband. She decides, with the help of her mother and a few ladies-in-waiting, to investigate. Will she find out his secret? Will the press? That would create such a scandal, and every precaution must be taken to make sure they never get even the slightest hint of what's going on.
I found it hard to get into this book. At the beginning, I just kept thinking, "I can't imagine Prince Philip suffering from depression," "the Queen can't possibly be that petulant," or "this development in the plot doesn't make sense at all. There's no way this could ever happen." But, after a while, I decided to do something that made me enjoy the book a lot more: I took it for what it is. A surreal, senseless tale that however, explores serious issues. Are the lives of the privileged really that privileged? How much personal freedom should a person give up to do his/her duty and the right thing?
The book is written in a witty and entertaining writing style. And even though there isn't just one narrator (Prince Philip is, however, the main one), the story is not confusing at all. It flows easily and is a pleasure to read. Until you reach the last chapter at least. Even though at that point I didn't expect the story to make much sense and was glad with that, the end was so unbelievable it turned into a bit of a farce. But that's just me. I'm sure those who are into the surreal will love this book from the very beginning to the very end.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

How the Stock Market Works: A Beginner's Guide to Investment by Michael Becket
A lot of people are scared of the stock market and prefer to keep all their savings safely in the bank. But to invest some in stocks, bonds, and other financial products can make you a lot of money, even now in a time of recession. You just need the necessary knowledge to make the smart and right choices. Michael Becket, with his book How The Stock Market Works: A Beginner's Guide To Investment, helps you do just that.
Becket starts by explaining all the financial products being traded are, how they work, what their pros and cons are, and who should invest in them. He then explains how to evaluate the market, financial information, and individual shares to help you choose which ones are worth buying, how to buy, trade, and sell them, and the consequences, duties, and benefits of being a shareholder. The last chapter is dedicated to taxes. At the end, you will find a glossary explaining all the financial terms used in the book. But the most important advice he gives is this: listen to everyone's advice but follow your instinct. No one, not even experts, gets it right all the time. Following someone else's advice's blindly could cost you a lot of money.
Michael Becket is a financial journalist who worked for the Daily Telegraph, so the book is aimed at an UK audience. Some chapters, like that dedicated to taxes, will be of little use to those living in other countries, although there is a lot of information in here that anyone will find useful.
The book claims to be a beginner's guide to investment. I think that's partly true. I found some sections, like those who explained what stocks and bonds are, very straightforward and easy-to-understand even for newbies who know nothing about finance. But other parts, such as that dedicated to derivatives (quite a complicated topic I must add), were more difficult to grasp, and I had to reread them a couple of times to make sense of them. If you already know something about the topic, reading this book will be much easier for you. Even so, it is a very informative read. If you are interested in starting to invest in the stock market, and ready to master some financial language, you will find this book very useful.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

Would you like to read these books, or already have?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

New Look

Madame Victoire Of France

The birth of a child is always a joyous event, but an expensive one too. And that's true for kings too. Especially kings of France. Etiquette required that every princess was to have her own household, with hundreds of attendants taking care of her every need and whim. The cost to keep it running was outrageously expensive so when on 11 May 1733 Queen Marie Leszczynska, wife of Louis XV, gave birth to the couple's fifth daughter, Victoire, the Prime Minister, Cardinal de Fleury, chose to send her, once turned 5, to the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud (her younger sisters would follow her there too).

The Abbey was a prestigious, but not a teaching, establishment. The princesses were mere boarders there, and were raised, according to Madame Campan, as "provincial nuns." The princesses' education thus suffered and the poor girls didn't have even the comfort of her mother's love and tender care. Madame Campan continues: "Madame Victoire attributed the terror attacks she had never been able to overcome to the violent fears she felt at the Abbey of Fontevraud, every time she was sent, as a punishment, to pray alone in the nuns’ burial crypt. No salutary foresight have protected these princesses from the fateful impressions that the least informed mother knows how to keep away from her children."

Victoire spent 10 years at the Abbey before finally being allowed to return home. She was now young enough to marry but the only proposed suitor was King Ferdinand VI of Spain. Problem was, he was already married. His wife was sick, but in no rush to die. When she did, Ferdinand was dying too. So, Victoire spent the following years at Versailles with her family. She grew particularly close to Louise, so it must have been particularly hard for her when her sister left to become a Carmelite nun.

She found solace in food and the company of her remaining sisters, Adelaide and Sophie, with whom she lived at their château of Bellevue, away from Versailles. Sophie, though, wouldn't live to see the Revolution break out. Adelaide and Victoire were the only children of Louis XV alive at the time and together, they fled to Italy in 1791. They had to move from town to town as the French troops kept advancing into the country. On 7 June 1799, after 8 years of wandering, Victorie died of breast cancer in Trieste.

Further reading:
Memoirs Of The Court Of Marie Antoinette, Queen Of France by Madame Campan
Versailles And More

I Let The Public Believe That I Have More Influence Than I Really Have

Marie Antoinette is often unjustly accused of having too much influence on her husband and interfering in political affairs. In truth, Louis XVI was determined to keep her away from politics, as the Queen herself explained to her brother in this letter:

September 22d, 1784.

"I will not contradict you, my dear brother, on what you say about the short-sightedness of our ministry. I have long ago made some of the reflections which you express in your letter. I have spoken on the subject more than once to the king; but one must know him thoroughly to be able to judge of the extent to which, his character and prejudices cripple my resources and means of influencing him. He is by nature very taciturn; and it often happens that he does not speak to me about matters of importance even when he has not the least wish to conceal them from me. He answers me when I speak to him about them, but he scarcely ever opens the subject; and when I have learned a quarter of the business, I am then forced to use some address to make the ministers tell me the rest, by letting them think that the king has told me every thing.

When I reproach him for not having spoken to me of such and such matters, he is not annoyed, but only seems a little embarrassed, and sometimes answers, in an off-hand way, that he had never thought of it. This distrust, which is natural to him, was at first strengthened by his govern--or before my marriage. M. de Vauguyon had alarmed him about the authority which his wife would desire to assume over him, and the duke's black disposition delighted in terrifying his pupil with all the phantom stories invented against the house of Austria. M. de Maurepas, though less obstinate and less malicious, still thought it advantageous to his own credit to keep up the same notions in the king's mind.

M. de Vergennes follows the same plan, and perhaps avails himself of his correspondence on foreign affairs to propagate falsehoods. I have spoken plainly about this to the king more than once. He has sometimes answered me rather peevishly, and, as he is never fond of discussion, I have not been able to persuade him that his minister was deceived, or was deceiving him. I do not blind myself as to the extent of my own influence. I know that I have no great ascendency over the king's mind, especially in politics; and would it be prudent in me to have scenes with his ministers on such subjects, on which it is almost certain that the king would not support me?

Without ever boasting or saying a word that is not true, I, however, let the public believe that I have more influence than I really have, because, if they did not think so, I should have still less. The avowals which I am making to you, my dear brother, are not very flattering to my self-love; but I do not like to hide any thing from you, in order that you may be able to judge of my conduct as correctly as is possible at this terrible distance from you, at which my destiny has placed me."

Further reading:
The Life of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France by Charles Duke Yonge

Book Reviews: Teachable Moments, Happiness By Design, & The Complete Guide To Professional Networking

Hello everyone,

today let's take a break from history to talk about three interesting self-help books I've recently read. Enjoy!

Teachable Moments: Using Everyday Encounters with Media and Culture to Instill Conscience, Character, and Faith by Marybeth Hicks
Some people have questioned what right Hicks had of writing this book. Apparently four children and a career as a media columnist and adviser on all things parenting aren't good enough credentials. To me, raising balanced, conscientious, and independent children is all the credentials I need. These parents often give much better advice than so called experts who have studied child-rearing only on books.
That doesn't mean that I agree with everything Hicks said, though. But I still think this is a great resource for Christian parents who are finding it harder and harder to raise children in the tenets of their faith in a world that has lost its moral compass. Although we'd like to protect children from everything that is wrong and that could harm them, we can't. Even if we, for instance, ban them from watching at home a TV show we think is promoting the wrong values (and Hicks thinks you should if it doesn't match yours), your child will still hear about it from his friends or schoolmates. What to do then? Use it as a teachable moment. A teachable moment is an unplanned event that parents can use it to teach children a valuable lesson. In the example above, if you find out your child has watched something that was banned at home, talk to them about it and explain what you find offensive and wrong about it.
Teachable moments can happen at any time, anywhere. They can happen at school, at sports, at home, in the real world, while consuming media... Hicks has identified 8 categories where teachable moments can occur and, for each one, she has created 10 scenarios, often inspired by her personal experiences with her children, that help parents figure out what to do when they experience them. Of course, this is not a comprehensive guide. There is no way anyone could list all the situations your children can find themselves into, but it provides some practical tips and guidelines that can be applied to many events.
Hicks' approach is very old school. A conservative Christian and patriotic American, she believes in the importance of teaching obedience to children and thinks shame could be used to instill conscience and character into them. But she also believes in being present so as to be able to catch any teachable moment that comes your way, in talking to children, in teaching them to live their lives according to their values, and in loving and respecting even those who makes choices we don't agree with.
This approach to parenting certainly won't appeal to anyone. Patriotic and conservative Christian American parents will consider this an invaluable guide to help them raise their children, while everyone else may find Hicks' approach too strict and her tone a bit too preachy at times. Even so, though, there are many tips here than any parent can implement to help them navigate the many tricky situations they will encounter along the parenting way, and teach their children media literacy. Overall, I found the book very useful.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

Happiness by Design: Change What You Do, Not How You Think by Paul Dolan
Self-help books about happiness usually focus on changing the way you think. Paul Dolan, instead, has a different approach. He believes that we should change what we do. A self-styled sentimental hedonist, Dolan defines happiness as "experiences of pleasure and purpose over time." Therefore, we should behave in a way that increases our positive experiences. Combining the latest insights from economics and psychological research, he has created a "deciding, designing, and doing" system that helps us do just that.
To be happier, Dolan argues, we need to pay more attention to positive stimuli and devise our environment in a way that automatically maximizies our happiness. How? If you'd like to quit smoking, for instance, you should stop taking your cigarettes at work with you. Want to lose weight? When going to work, take a road where a gym, rather than a fast food, is located. This will take some cognitive effort at the beginning but, before you know it, your brain will become used to the new behaviour and turn it into a habit. This way, it will be much easier for us to achieve our goals.
Dolan also states how important helping others is for our happiness, and how we can stop procrastinating. That's a section that I found particularly useful as I'm a chronic procrastinator. Dolan made me think about why I do it and offered tips to stop this bad habit. Pretty much every claim he makes is backed-up by research or from personal experiences, making this book both an informative and engaging read. If you're read many self-help books about happiness without success, pick this up. This innovative approach may work for you. And if you’ve never read any, check it out too. The insights and tips it provides can help anyone become happier.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

The Complete Guide to Professional Networking: The Secrets of Online and Offline Success by Simon Phillips
It's not just what you know. Who you know matters too. Often, the best opportunities from your career come from networking rather than job boards, newspaper ads, and postings. Luckily, getting to know people is now easier than ever. Technology has made it easy for everyone to connect with anyone, but that doesn't mean that networking in person can be neglected too. In The Complete Guide to Professional Networking: The Secrets of Online and Offline Success, Simon Philips help you succeed in both.
The book provides lots of ideas and tools to help you build an effective network, and as a result, grow your business. It will help you figure out what events and conferences are worth attending (those can be pretty pricey and you want to make sure they are a good fit for your business needs), how to work the room once you are there, how to follow up with the new connections you made, how to use social media, email, and other online tools to grow your network and more. My favourite sections, though, were those about the four different styles of networking and the importance of adapting yours to that of the person you're connecting with, and those about accountability. After all, how do you know if you're using the right techniques and are connecting with the right people if you never measure your progress?
Every tip or technique is backed up by interviews with some of the world's most successful experts on networking, which are accompanied by their caricatures. These images are really fun and add an informal touch to a professional book. Not that the writing is boring. Phillips writes in a clear and straightforward way and the book flows easily. However, to me, what's missing to make it a complete guide on networking is practical examples of speeches, emails, and online profiles people can tweak and use to start a conversion with a stranger or follow up with their contacts.
Despite this, this is one of the most comprehensive books I've read so far on networking, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get better at it.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

What do you think of these books?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

At The Milliner's

A Milliner’s Shop, 1787

At the milliner's

Ladies at the Milliners by Alonso Perez

The Milliner's Shop by James Tissot

The Milliner on the Champs Elysees by Jean Beraud

At The Milliner's by Edgar Degas, 1882

The Millinery Shop by Edgar Degas, 1885

Two Milliners Rue du Caire by Paul Signac

The Hat Makers by Carlton Alfred Smith, 1891

The Hat Shop by Henry Tonks, 1892

The Milliners by Marie Louise Catherine Breslau, 1899

The Milliner by Richard Edward Miller, c.1909

The Blue Hat by Arthur Navez, 1917

Movie Review: Mayerling

On 30 January 1889, the dead bodies of Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria and his lover, Baroness Maria Vetsera, were discovered in the Imperial hunting lodge at Mayerling. The official version is that Rudolf killed Maria in a suicide pact before taking his own life. But, another, more sinister theory suggests that the two lovers were murdered by political enemies. Personally, I believe the assassination theory. The suicide pact has always seemed too simple an explanation to me.

Plenty of royals, even married ones, have found ways to be with the women they loved. So, was suicide really necessary? It's also true though, that as Rudolph used drugs and probably suffered from bouts of depression, he may have thought there was no other way for him to be with Maria bar in death. Depression twists our perception of things and can make any situation seem utterly hopeless and any problem without solution. Self-medication with drugs just makes things so much worse. I doubt we'll ever know for sure what happened, unless new evidence should be discovered in the future.

This post, though, is not about my thoughts about Rudolph's death, but on the 1968 movie inspired by the events at Mayerling. The movie espouses the suicide pact theory. Rudolph (played by Omar Sharif), kept away by his father from any real position of power for his liberal ideas and thwarted in his desire to be with Maria (Catherine Denevue), becomes so depressed that he decides to take his own life. Maria, who doesn't want to live without him, asks him to kill her too. 

Although Sharif and Denevue are both great actors, they lack chemistry. There is so little spark between them that you can hardly believe they are madly in love with each other. Of course, this could have been intentional. This story is more about despair than passion, but still, I'd have loved to see more of the latter at least in the initial stages of their relationship, before the obstacles in their path seemed so large and indomitable to destroy all their hopes and lead them, ultimately, to their deaths.

The lack of emotions permeates the entire movie though. The cast is full of brilliant actors - James Mason plays the Emperor Franz Josef, Ava Gardner the Empress Elizabeth, and James Robertson Justice the Prince of Wales - but their performances are quite cold and detached, even when away from the prying eyes of the court. Instead, the movie is a feast for the eyes. The costumes, settings, and music are absolutely stunning and show us the opulence and decadence of a world long gone. Just for that, this movie is well worth a watch.

Prince Arthur, Duke Of Connaught

Queen Victoria didn't like babies much, but her seventh child, Prince Arthur, seems to have been the exception to that rule. Born at Buckingham Palace on 1 May 1850 (the same day as the Duke of Wellington, who was chosen as his godfather), the little prince had an easy-going and obedient nature that appealed to the Queen right from the start. The adoring mother gushed that he was "dearer than any of the others put together", probably because, unlike his siblings, he "has never given us a day’s sorrow or trouble".

Arthur received a private education at home, dreaming of embarking on a career in the army. In 1866, aged 16, he entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, were he distinguished himself well and, later, he joined the famous Rifle Brigade. His Commander-in-Chief? First his godfather, the Duke of Wellington, and then his father, Prince Albert. During his career he served in Ireland, South Africa, Egypt, India, and Canada, where the Iroquois made him a Chief of the Six Nations.

In 1874, Victoria made her favourite son Duke of Connaught and Strathern. Five years later, he married Princess Louise of Prussia. The couple was very happy together. They had three children: Margaret (later Crown Princess of Sweden), Arthur, and Patricia. Sadly, his wife passed away in 1917. He then became close to Leonie Leslie, Winston Churchill's aunt.

Arthur continued his career in the Army, reaching only the grade of Field Marshal, rather than Commander-in-Chief as his mother had hoped. In 1911, he became the only member of the royal family to serve as Viceroy of Canada. He greatly contributed to the war effort, visited the wounded in the hospitals, and served as auxiliary war services and charities. Although he was loved there, he came home after the war, having received a mixed review by the Prime Minister Robert Borden, who thought he had overstepped his constitutional role. Back in England, he took up ceremonial duties as a minor member of the royal family. He died at his home, Bagshot Park, on 16 January 1942, aged 91.

Further reading:
Witness of a Century: Life and Times of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught (1850-1942) by Noble Frankland

The Balm Of Mecca

This is a liquid resin, of a whitish color, approaching to yellow, with a strong smell, resembling that of a lemon; a pungent and aromatic taste. It is likewise called balm of Judea, white balm of Constantinople, balm of Egypt, balm of Grand Cairo, and Opobalsamum. It is one of the most highly esteemed cosmetics, though very dear, and in its genuine form extremely difficult
to be procured. That sold in London and Paris is made by the perfumers of those cities: "It is," says M. Mongez, "a mixture of the finest turpentine with aromatic oils, whose aroma approaches nearest to that of the genuine balm. These imitations sell at the rate of twenty-four to thirty shillings per ounce, whereas the same quantity of the real balm of Mecca cannot be procured for less than four guineas."

The balm of Mecca, as already observed, in its genuine state, is held in the highest repute by the ladies of the East, by whom it is used to render the skin soft, white and smooth. They anoint their heads and face with it at night going to bed; the following morning minute scales are detached from the skin from every part in which this precious balm has operated. This renovation of the skin renders it incomparably white and delicate. The Egyptian females use it in a different manner. The dark color of their complexion, it is true, requires a stronger dose. It is at the bath that they anoint themselves with this balm.

They remain in the bath till they are very warm; they then anoint their face and neck, not slightly, like the women of the East, but wit an ample and copious ablution, rubbing themselves till the skin has absorbed the whole. They then remain in the bath till the skin is perfectly dry; after which they remain three days with the face and neck impregnated with the balm ; on the third day they again repair to the bath, and go through the same process. This operation is repeated "several times, for the space of a month, during which time they abstain from wiping the skin.

The European ladies who have an opportunity of procuring the genuine balm are more frugal of it. They seldom use it pure, but mix it with other similar substances, and compose a cosmetic balm which is thought to possess considerable efficacy in preserving the beauty of the skin. A good composition of this kind is the following : — Take equal parts of balm of Mecca and oil of sweet
almonds, recently extracted. Mix these drugs carefully in a glass mortar till they form a kind of ointment; to three drachms of which, previously put into a matrass, pour six ounces of spirits of wine. Let it distil till a sufficient tincture be extracted; when this is done, let it be separated from the oil, and put one ounce of it into eight ounces of the flower of beanwater, or other water of a similar kind, and an excellent milky cosmetic will soon be formed.

Obs. Others make a kind of virgin-milk. For this purpose it is sufficient to dissolve the balm of Mecca in spirits of wine or Hungary water; then put a few drops of this solution into Hungary water.

Notwithstanding the great reputation of the balm of Mecca, it has been deemed by some as dangerous and injurious. Lady Mary Wortley Montague describes it as having agreed very ill with her. In one of her letters from Belgrade, near Constantinople, to a female friend in London, she writes as follows: "As to the balm of Mecca, I will certainly send you some; but it is not so easily got as you suppose it, and I cannot in conscience advise you to make use of it. I know not how it comes to have such universal applause. All the ladies of my acquaintance at London and Vienna have begged me to send pots of it to them. I have had a present of a small quantity (which I assure you is very valuable) of the best sort, and with great joy applied it to my face, expecting some wonderful effect to my advantage.

The next morning, the change indeed was wonderful; my face was swelled to a very extraordfaiary size, and all over as red as my lady H 's. It remained in this tormentable state three days, during which you may be sure I passed my time very ill. I believed it never would be otherwise; and to add to my misfortune, Mr. W reproached my adventure without ceasing. However, my face is since in status quo; nay, I am told by the ladies here that it is much mended by the operation, which I confess I cannot perceive in my looking-glass. Indeed, if one was to form an opinion of this balm from their faces, one should think very well of it. They all make use of it, and have the loveliest bloom in the world. For my part I never intend to endure the pain of it again; let my complexion take its natural course, and decay in its own due time."

Obs. It cannot be denied, notwithstanding the inconvenience suffered by her ladyship, which might be attributable to a variety of causes, that the balm of Mecca is used with advantage by the most beautiful women, and that the Turkish ladies, who all make use
of it, have, as her ladyship justly remarks, the loveliest bloom in the world.

The following method has been pointed out by a person who resided at Constantinople, to detect the spurious from the genuine balsam of Mecca. — Pour a drop into water of the genuine balm; and put into this drop an iron knitting needle. If the whole of the drop of balm adhere to the needle, it proves that it has not been adulterated.

Further reading:
The Toilette Of Health, Beauty, And Fashion

Book Reviews: Irene A Designer From The Golden Age Of Hollywood, Robert The Bruce, & One Size Never Fits All

Hello everyone,

ready for today's reviews? Let's get started then:

Irene: A Designer from the Golden Age of Hollywood: The MGM Years 1942-49 by Frank Billecci and Lauranne Fisher
In the Golden Age of Hollywood, actresses were the epitomes of timeless elegance and sophistication. That was, in part, due to the very talented but troubled designer Irene Lentz-Gibbons, who created countless looks for the big screen before moving on and starting her own label, Irene Inc. But if you're looking for a full, in-depth biography of this remarkable woman, you won't find it here.
Irene: A Designer from the Golden Age of Hollywood: The MGM Years 1942-49 is a short volume that focuses on Irene's time at MGM. Based on interviews of people who knew Irene well, unprecedented access to her records, and the memories of her personal artist, Virginia Fisher, the book reveals what it was like to work for such a big study in the '40s, and the friendships, politics, and backstabbing that took place behind the scenes. It's peppered with anecdotes about the movie stars of the era, who often sought reassurance from Irene, and glimpses into her tragic personal life, marred by the loss of her first husband, the love of her life, and alcoholism.
Although chapters are short, they are widely illustrated. The book is full of photos of Irene and her staff and of sketches of designs created by the designer for the many movies she worked on, including some that were never used. They are absolutely gorgeous.
If you're a fan of Irene, fashion, or Hollywood's Golden Age, you can't miss this book. It deserves a place in your library.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 4/5

Robert the Bruce: King of the Scots by Michael Penman
My science teacher in high school loved his subject and knew it inside out. You couldn’t fault his knowledge. But you could fault the way he imparted it to his students. He would just enter the classroom, make sure we were all present, and then he'd started talking, piling science facts one upon the other, using always the same dry and monotonous tone of voice, for the next 50 minutes. As a result, me and most of my classmates really struggled in his subject.
What has all this got to do with Robert the Bruce? It's simple. Michael Penman reminds me of my science teacher. He knows and loves his subject, but he doesn't communicate it clearly. Rather than telling the story of what Robert did after Bannockburn (the book is supposed to focus on that, although the first chapters cover his struggle to be recognized as king before that battle), he chooses to pile facts upon facts upon facts, which makes, at time, for some very dry reading. Worse, some of these facts, such as the endless lists of land transfers from Robert's enemies to his allies, are irrelevant and disrupt the narrative of the book while also leaving no room for important background information. For instance, in the first part of the book, where Robert and Comyn are both battling for the throne, the author doesn't mention what right the latter had to it. He also often introduces new characters (and there are plenty of them) into the story without giving us much information about them. As a result, if you're not already familiar with the history of the time period, you'll often feel lost and confused.
Having said that, this book isn't all bad. It is clear that Penman has done his research. The book is extensively noted and debunks common myths about Bruce. Therefore, it would be an interesting read for scholars and students of this period looking for accurate information about Rober's kingship after Bannockburn. But casual readers wouldn't enjoy it much.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 3/5

One Size Never Fits All: Business Development Strategies Tailored for Women (and Most Men) by Arin N. Reeves
Only a very small number of women hired by professional firms makes it to the top and becomes a leader of the organizations they work for. Why is that? According to Reeves, it's because most firms continue to encourage the use of traditional business development strategies, which were created and developed by men and thus focus on their strengths. But women (and some men) are different, and these tactics simply don't work for them.
That's when the shoes come in. Doesn't matter how talented a player you are, if you play basketball wearing shoes that don't fit your feet, you're gonna perform poorly and maybe even cost the team the match. Yet, this is exactly what women are been asked to do every day. And when they fail, they feel frustrated and start doubting their abilities. But these women are very talented, qualified and competent. They’re just not well equipped for the game they are playing. Just like a player needs the right shoe size, women need to use tactics that work for them.
After explaining why traditional strategies aren't working for women, Reeves proposes a series of alternative approaches that both firms and women, on their own, can adopt to develop business and thrive in their careers. It's not going to be easy. Business development is closely linked to money and privileges, and those who are enjoying them won't let them go without a fight. But change is possible. Reeves's strategies are simple and customizable, allowing each woman to pick and adapt those that best suit her personality and strength, bringing home results that their bosses and partners simply won’t be able to ignore.
If you're a woman or a man struggling with business development, or a boss who wants to see the women in his/her organization thrive, I highly recommend you pick up this book. It may transform your life.
Available at: amazon
Rationg: 4/5

Which of these books would you like to read?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

More 18th Century Inspired Commercials

A few months ago, I shared with you some cool ads inspired by the 18th century. Well, I've recently found three more I think you may enjoy. I especially love the latter. It features a ball, masks, and David Bowie. Enjoy!

15 Minutes With Evangeline @ Edwardian Promenade

Edwardian Promenade is a must read for all fans of the Edwardian era. Run by the lovely Evangeline, the website covers every aspect of life during this period, "with a bit of Gilded Age America, Belle Epoque France, and WWI thrown into the mix!" Evangeline lives with her "very possessive and territorial cat" in Northern California, where she writes historical romantic fiction with "strong and intelligent heroines grappling their personal relationships and the thornier issues of their time".

Curious to know more about Evangeline, read on:

1. If you could live in any era, what would it be and why?
Tough one! Either the court of Versailles during the reign of the Sun King or 1930s Hollywood. The court of Versailles because I want to see its magnificence at the beginning and have a soft spot for Madame de Montespan. 1930s Hollywood because I am a classic cinema buff and I'd love to meet Jean Harlow (so pre-1937 ).

2. If you could invite three people, dead or alive, to dinner, who would you invite, and why?
Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and Rosa Lewis--three strong, unforgettable, and independent women who left an inedible mark on society.

3. Three books everyone should read?
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

4. Who's your style icon?
The late Lauren Bacall

5. What are you watching on TV?
Sleepy Hollow, Downton Abbey, Extant, Scandal, and lots of history documentaries.

6. What's the soundtrack of your life?
Christina Aguilera's Stripped. I've loved this record for over a decade.

7. What's your favourite holiday destination, and why?
Washington D.C. - I'm a political history junkie and the Smithsonian was where I fell in love with history and science as a child.

8. What inspires you?
Food--as you can see with my recommendation of Julia Child's cookbook. I read them for pleasure, whether they be modern or historical.

9. One thing on your bucket list?
Extensive travel in the UK and Europe.

10. Something about you that would surprise us?
I don't Maybe that I was a cheerleader in high school? I auditioned at the last minute in jeans and made the squad my freshman year.

Thanks Evangeline!

If you haven't already done so, go check out Edwardian Promenade now. You can also keep up with Evangeline on Facebook and Twitter, and buy her books on Amazon.

Laetitia Pilkington, Her Serene Highness Of Lilliput

Laetitia Pilkington was a celebrated Anglo-Irish poet best known for her friendship with Jonathan Swift. Until he cut her off when she divorced her husband, Matthew Pilkington, a priest for the Anglican Church of Ireland. He didn't want to be associated with a separated couple, although he was in a way responsible for the divorce. Not that he had meant any harm. He had just wanted to help the couple. But let's start at the beginning.

Laetitia, whose maiden name was van Lewen, was born in around 1709 in a good Irish family. Her father was a physician and obstetrician, and eventually became the president of the College of Physicians for Ireland, while her mother was the niece of Sir John Meade. Laetitia had met and married Matthew when she was only 16, and shortly afterwards the couple was introduce to Swift. The celebrated author enjoyed the company of the Pilkingtons, whom he called "a little young poetical parson, who has a littler young poetical wife" for their literary skills.

Swift spent many nights conversing on all kinds of topics with the couple. He was inspired by them, but also inspired them. Once he recognized how talented Laetitia was at poetry, he encouraged her to pursue it. He also tried to help the couple financially and was eventually able to get Matthew a job in London, as chaplain to the Lord Mayor for 1732–1733. That's when the problems began. Laetitia didn't follow her husband to the English capital, preferring to stay in London.

Alone in the big city, Matthew did a lot more than preach. He had involved himself in many shady political schemes and had fallen in love with a Drury Lane Theatre actress. Laetitia discovered all this only two years later, when she visited her husband in London. So, she started spending time with the fashionable set of writers, journalists, and artists, and rakes of her time. Years later, she would write about them, their habits and their scams in her memoirs. But Matthew's time in London was running out. In 1734, he was arrested for one of his shady political affairs and sent back to Dublin.

Laetitia had put up with her husband's affair with the actress, but he didn't return the favour. When, three years later, he found her alone in her bedroom with Robert Adair, a young surgeon who would later become surgeon general of England, he promptly filed for divorce. It was a bitter, long and costly proceeding, and it ended up costing Laetitia her friendship with Swift. The writer had once called Laetitia "her Serene Highness of Lilliput". Now, she became the "profligate whore".

Laetitia was left with little money after her divorce so she threw herself in her work. She wrote poems, a feminist prologue for Worsdale's A Cure for a Scold, and even an opera that was however only performed and never published, No Death but Marriage. In 1739, she moved to London, where she lived under the name of Mrs Meade to escape her fame and suitors. Here, she met the great literary minds of her time, such as the publisher and novelist Samuel Richardson and the poet laureate Colley Cibber, who advised her on how to make money from the press, like he had.

She continued writing, penning many poems for other people they could pass off as her own, and even tried to set up a print shop and bookseller's in St. James's. Unfortunately, the enterprise wasn't successful and Laetitia ended up in the Marshalsea prison for her debts. Luckily for her, Richardson came to her rescue. In 1743, she began writing her most popular work, her memoirs. But she struggled to find someone to published the book. No one in the literary London world wanted to see their flaws exposed in a book. Matthew also did all he could to stop his ex wife from publishing her memoirs too.

Finding it impossible to find a publisher for her memoirs in London, Laetitia went back to Ireland. Once there, she published the first two volumes, but died of a bleeding ulcer on 29 July 1750, leaving the third one unfinished. Her son would complete and publish it four years later.

Further reading:
Queen of the Wits: A Life of Laetitia Pilkington by Norma Clarke

A Remarkable Instance Of A Person Being Tried For Murder On The Pretended Information Of A Ghost

Being the first to "discover" the murder and raising the alarm can sometimes serve the culprit as a distraction to take everyone's attention away from him. Just don't embellish your story too much, and don't drag ghosts into it. It's a terrible idea, like this killer found out for himself:

A farmer, on his return from the market at Southam in the county of Warwick, was murdered. A man went next morning to his wife, and inquired if her husband came home the evening before: she replied no, and that she was under the utmost anxiety and terror on that account. "Your terror," said he, "cannot equal mine; for last night as I lay in bed quite awake, the apparition of your husband appeared to me, shewed me several ghastly stabs in his body, told me he had been murdered by such a person, and his carcase thrown into such a marl-pit."

The alarm was given, the pit searched, the body found, and the wounds answered the description of them. The man whom the ghost had accused was apprehended, and committed on a violent suspicion of murder. His trial came on at Warwick before the Lord Chief Justice Raymond, when the jury would have convicted as rashly as the justice of the peace had committed him, had not the judge checked them. He addressed himself to them in words to this effect: "I think, gentlemen, you seem inclined to lay more stress on the evidence of an apparition than it will bear. I cannot say that I give much credit to these kinds of stories; but, be that as it will, we have no right to follow our own private opinions here: we are now in a court of law, and must determine according to it; and I know not of any law now in being which will admit of the testimony of an apparition; nor yet if it did, doth the ghost appear to give evidence. Crier," said he, "call the ghost;" which was thrice done to no manner of purpose!

"Gentlemen of the jury," continued the judge, "the prisoner at the bar, as you have heard by undeniable witnesses, is a man of a most unblemished character; nor hath it appeared in the course of the examination, that there was any manner of quarrel or grudge between him and the party deceased. I do verily believe him to be perfectly innocent, and as there is no evidence against him, either positive or circumstantial, he must be acquitted. But from many circumstances which have arisen during the trial, I do strongly suspect that the gentleman who saw the apparition was himself the murderer; in which case he might easily ascertain the pit, the stabs, &c. without any supernatural assistance; and on such suspicion, I shall think myself justified in committing him to close custody till the matter can be further inquired into." This was immediately done, and the warrant granted for searching his house, when such strong proofs of guilt appeared against him, that he confessed the murder, and was executed at the next assizes.

Further reading:
Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions &c, 1820

Book Reviews: Jane Austen's First Love, Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, & The Teen Money Making Manual

Hello everyone,

curious to find out what I've been reading lately? Here we go:

Jane Austen's First Love by Syrie James
I don't read many romance novels these days but, as a Janeite, I just couldn't pass this up. Inspired by actual events in Jane Austen's life, the book imagines our favourite English author falling in love for the first time. The object of her affections is the dashing and charming but devilish Edward Taylor, heir to the Taylors of Bifrons. A 15 year old Jane meets him when she travels to Kent with her family to be introduced to her brother's fiancee, Elizabeth, and her family, the Bridges. It's going to be a month full of parties, fun, and games, as the Bridges celebrate both Elizabeth's and her elder sister Fanny's engagements.
Her feelings for Edward, though, don't prevent Jane from interfering in other people's relationships. Fancying herself a good judge of human character, she starts playing matchmaker, but the outcome is very different from what she had expected. Sounds familiar? During her stay in Kent, Jane learns some important lessons that will one day inspire some of her most popular and loved works.
James has thoroughly research both Austen and the time period. She faithfully recreates Regency customs and courtship rituals and her characters are interesting and charming. I especially loved the young Jane Austen. She's a smart and witty tomboy who is not afraid to speak her mind, almost to the point of rudeness. She's just like I imagined her to be at that age. And Edward Taylor, although no Mr Darcy, is definitely worthy of the affections of our heroine. His charm is very difficult to resist.
The story, narrated by Jane, is written in the Regency style. It's old-fashioned compared to the more colloquial and concise style we're used to these days, but by no means convoluted or boring. On the contrary, it makes for a charming, more realistic read. Although this is a fictional work, it was so accurate that I felt like things could have really happened the way that James describes them.
Jane Austen's First Love is truly a delightful read, which I highly recommend to all Janeites. It will not disappoint.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered by Dianne Hales
Mona Lisa is one of the most famous women in history. Everyone knows her face and her smile, but only a few her name and her story. Who was the woman who inspired Leonardo da Vinci to paint his masterpiece? Although several candidates have been proposed, most experts agree her name was Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, a Florentine woman whose life spanned the most tumultuous years of her city and of the greatest artistic outpouring the world has ever seen, the Renaissance.
Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered is part biography, part history, and part memoir. The things we know for certain about Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo wouldn't fill a whole page, let alone a whole book. But, after spending countless hours in archives, interviewing experts on Lisa and Florentine Renaissance history, and walking through the same streets Leonardo's muse walked in, Hales manages to reconstruct what her life would have been like. Her assumptions are always based on what we know about the lives of women like Lisa at her time, and the customs and laws of the city she lived in. Sometimes, Hales also imagines what Lisa must have felt life at particular moments in her life, but when she does it, she always clearly mentions it.
The book is also a treasure trove of facts about Lisa, her portrait, and anything connected with them. Hales introduces us to her ancestors and her descendants, helps us navigate the tumultuous political times of Medieval and Renaissance Florence, shares anecdotes about the great artists that lived and embellished the city and the men who ruled it, and tells us what happened to the painting after Leonardo's death. Leonardo is also, obviously, a big part of her book. So much so that at times it almost seems like the book is as much about the artist as it is about his model.
But the book is also a memoir of Hales and her discovery of Lisa's story. The author takes us on the journey with her, sharing with us the places she's seen, the sources she's consulted, the conversations she's had about Lisa, and how her fascination for her was born and developed.
Not everyone will be interested in that last part, though. I enjoyed taking a trip to Renaissance Florence with Hales, but some readers may be interested just in the facts of Lisa's life and the history of her city. Which leads me to my main problem with the book. At the end of it, the real Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo remains elusive. This is no fault of Hales, though. It's obvious that she did a huge amount of research, and reported her findings accurately, but there is so little information available on Lisa that any book about her will perforce be more speculation than reality. We may, through careful and in-depth historical research, discover how she lived her life, but not what kind of person she was and what made her tick.
Hales is a journalist, which shows in her writing style. From the first moment I opened the book, I felt like I was reading a very long, and very fascinating, magazine article rather than a boring essay or biography. I mean that in the best way possible. She has a beautiful way with words that sucks you right in from the start. And her passion shines through every page. I highly recommended it to all fans of this iconic painting and those who want to know more about its subject.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

The Teen Money Manual: A Guide to Cash, Credit, Spending, Saving, Work, Wealth, and More by Kara F. McGuire
Think that adolescence is to soon to start making some money? Think again. Learning how money works, how to make it, save it, and invest it, and how to protect it are skills that will benefit you for the rest of your life. And they're never taught too soon. This little manual explains how to do all that in a clear and straightforward manner anyone can easily understand. No complicated jargon here.
You'll learn how to land your first job or start your own business, how to save money for university, a house, or anything else you want, how to negotiate your paycheck and a raise, how to choose the best investments for you, how to stretch all your money so that you can pay for everything you need without giving up all that you want, how to make sure you have enough money for emergencies and retirement, and how to protect yourself from financial frauds and scams.
Although the book is aimed at teens, the wisdom in these pages would be useful for adults that are struggling financially too. However, if it's step-by-step instructions you're looking for, you will disappointed. The information provided is quite general and, while it touches all the bases, it never explains them too in-depth. Because of it, this book is a great introduction to the topic of money, but, as you start practising its advice, you will probably need more detailed information from other sources. Should you buy a more detailed book from the start? That depends on your situation and your interest in the topic. Some teens may be frustrated by how short each section is, while others will feel grateful that the book covers all the essentials rather than overwhelming them with information they won't need straight away. In either case, if you are a teen or know one, you may want to check it out.
Available at: amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

Would you like to read any of these books?

Disclaimer: I received these books in exchange for my honest opinion. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.