Book Reviews: La Belle Creole, So You Want To Work In Fashion, & Train Your Way To Financial Fitness

Hello everyone,

curious to know what I've been reading lately? Read on:

La Belle Creole: The Cuban Countess Who Captivated Havana, Madrid, and Paris by Alina Garcia-La Puerta
Before stumbling upon this book, I had never heard of Mar a de las Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo, later knows as Comtesse Merlin, but boy, what a fascinating woman she was! Born in an aristocratic Cuban family, she was raised by her maternal grandmother, who adored and spoiled her, while her parents left for Europe. She would meet her father again only years later, when she was 8, and had to wait even longer, and move to Spain, to be reunited with her mother. Life in Europe was far from peaceful and quiet, though. Mercedes lived there during the time of the Napoleonic invasion, became friends with Joseph Bonaparte, the new king imposed on the country by Napoleon, and then married a French military officer in the emperor's army. When Napoleon lost his throne, Mercedes and her family had to hastily leave the country and start again in France. Here, she hosted a popular musical salon where she entertained and charmed with her grace, colourful personality, and beautiful singing voice, the likes of Rossini and Liszt. But her main contribution to history are her books. She penned several memoirs and accounts of life in Cuba, which charmed European audiences with their exotic descriptions but also made them think by discussing serious issues like slavery.
Mercedes was an emotional and generous woman with a somewhat disobedient streak (she once escaped from a convent to go back to her beloved grandma) but who never let any of the many adversities she faced get her down. Instead, she always made the most of what she had. Garcia-La Puerta draws on her embellished memoirs, letters, and contemporary accounts to bring her back to life once again. She tells her story in an informative yet engaging manner that hooks you from the beginning. You won't be able to put it down.
I highly recommend this biography to all fans of Cuban history, the Napoleonic Wars in Spain, travel, and strong women.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

So, You Want to Work in Fashion?: How to Break into the World of Fashion and Design by Patricia Wooster
Thinking of starting a career in the fashion world? Whether you'd like to become a designer, model, photographer, writer, PR, cutter or colourist, this book has you covered. It features an overview of the many different professions needed in the fashion industry, along with tips on how to get started and interviews from young people, including teenagers, who are making their dreams come true. While the book has a positive tone, the many paths it presents to get an education and start a career in fashion are also realistic. There are several roads you can take, depending on what you want to do and what your current situation is, but they all demand a lot of commitment and hard work.
Although the book is quite short, it is very informative and engaging. It features cool quizzes and activities you can do to learn the basic and prepare yourself for a career in the industry. My only disappointment? The model section doesn't mention the dark side of working as a model, such as the risks of developing an eating disorders or sexual abuse, or the tendency of agencies to separate young girls from their families and making them navigate this sometimes dangerous world on their own when they're still too naive and inexperienced. That doesn't mean you shouldn't follow your dream, but it would have been nice if the book had offered tips on how to deal with these issues.
Overall, this is a honest but supportive read that offers many practical tips on how to get started in fashion, even if you're still at school.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Train Your Way to Financial Fitness by Shannon McLay
I loved the concept of this book, but its execution didn't fully satisfy me. McLay acts as a financial trainer who promises to help you achieve a healthy financial life. The book starts with a quiz to determine your level of financial fitness. There are three: fat, skinny, and fit. The latter's your aim, although financially fit people can have issues with money that needs to be addressed too. Once you've figured out in what category you are, you should read only the section dedicated to it. Each section helps you figure out what your problems with money are and offers advice on how to fix them. You don't have to do all the exercises, though. Just like you would do a lot of squats if you wanted a firmer behind, you should only do the financial exercises that remove the obstacles that keep you from being financially fit.
Of course, the worse your starting point, the more advice you need. Therefore, the financially fit section is very short, while the financially fat one is the longest. As your situation starts to get better, there is no need for you to read the other sections as well. The financially fat section, for instance, provides all the tips you'll find in the other two, only slightly tailored to you. While I appreciate the intention, this tailoring is so minimal to be almost useless. To me, it just makes the book unnecessarily repetitive. Of course, I've read it all so that I could review it. You would only read the section that applies to your financial personality, avoiding repetition. Even so, I'd rather the author had discussed the problems affecting each type more in-depth and then advised you to read the next section as your financial fitness level improved.
Each section is also very short. I read the book in 3 hours or so, so if you were to read only your section, it'd take a lot less time! Don't let this fool you though. This book may be a quick read, but doing the exercises and improving your financial fitness level takes a lot of time and dedication. Yet, to me the book felt rushed. Others will argue that it is simply straight-to-the-point. And it is. If you want a book that tells you clearly and briefly what you need to do, and in a emphatic and non-judgemental way too, then you'll love this book. As for me, I felt that a lot of the tips were simply common sense that I was already implementing, so I didn't find much value in this book.
Despite its faults, Train Your Way to Financial Fitness is a nice introduction to the topics of money management and budgeting that I would recommend to those who are seriously struggling with their finances and are looking for a clear and concise guide to help them get back on track.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 3/5

What have you been reading lately? And will pick up any of these books?

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