Friday, April 23, 2021

The Search for God and Guinness by Stephen Mansfield

 This is the first book I have read by author Stephen Mansfield and I can report that I found it very interesting. It was Guinness that attracted me to the book cover and upon picking it up, found I had read several pages whilst leaning against the bookshelves at my local library. Why not bring it home?

This is story about the humble beginnings for Arthur Guinness’ career in brewing beer. While many people are under the impression that Arthur started up the family business after acquiring long lease on St James Gate, you will be quite engaged to read about the real beginnings of his brewing experience. Arthur had roughly 25 years of experience before he started up at St James Gate. As a matter of fact, he brought hops from his family home in Celbridge and began brewing in Dublin after years of experience with his father and on his own talent.

The company treated the employees very well. You’ve read or heard about the benefits provided by Google to their employees? The Guinness family were the precursors for that business model.

Guinness IS good for you!

Each of the facts I listed below is written about in detail in this book, telling of the circumstances.

From the book
Some Guinness facts:

* More than ten million glasses of Guinness are consumed each day worldwide. That is nearly two billion pints a year.

* In 1759, Arthur Guinness founded the Guinness brewery in Dublin by signing a lease for famous property St James Gate – a lease that has given him rights to that property for nine thousand years!

* It is a myth that the water for brewing Guinness comes from the River Liffey. Most of the water comes from the streams of the Wicklow Mountains which lies just south of Dublin .

* A Guinness worker during the 1920s enjoyed full medical and dental care, massage services, reading rooms, subsidized meals, a company funded pension, subsidies for funeral expenses, educational benefits, free concerts and lectures and a guaranteed two pints of Guinness beer a day.

* During World War I, Guinness guaranteed all of its employees who served in uniform that their jobs would be waiting for them when they returned home. Guinness also paid half salaries to the family of each man who served.

* A Guinness chief medical officer, Dr John Lumsden, personally visited thousands of Dublin homes in 1900 and used what he learned to help the company fight disease, squalor and ignorance. These efforts also led to the establishment of the Irish version of the Red Cross, for which Dr. Lumsden was knighted by King George V.

Guinness was known for its care of its employees, One Guinness family member who headed the brewery said, “You cannot make money from people unless you are willing for people to make money from you.

There were so many, “Oh I didn’t know that, how interesting” moments that I would stop and call out to Doug, “Listen to this” and proceed to share parts of this book.

We had been fortunate to have a family vacation in Ireland that took us to Arthur Guinness’ hometown of Celbridge and we enjoyed a pint there, talking to the bar maid about the town history, sipping our pints in the old pub on a chilly afternoon. We also took a tour of the brewery in Dublin and have our photo at the famous St James Gate. The tour was great but I wish I had read this book prior to going to Ireland .

A good read – I recommend it!

Sharing with Joy for British Isles Friday and Shelleyrae at BookdOut for the Nonfiction Reader challenge.

Catergory/Genre: Food as it's listed under food and cookbooks on Amazon

 The Nonfiction Reader Challenge hosted by Shelleyrae at Book'd Out.  Check out the sign up post and info HERE. The challenge runs from January 1 through December 31, 2021. You can join in anytime!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline


This historical fiction starts off in nineteenth century London giving us a glimpse of the good and bad in society. Two of our main characters, Evangeline and Hazel,  are exiled to prison in Tasmania or as it's refered to in the book, Van Dieman's land.  

Evangeline is an educated woman employed as a governess in an affluent household.  She is an innocent and when the adult son takes a liking to her, she is easily seduced in believing it's true love.  He gifts her an expensive ruby ring before going away on a holiday, telling her to keep the gift a secret. As you can imagine, she is "caught" with the ring, accused of stealing and sent to prison. Can it get worse?  Yes. Yes it can. Evangeline finds she is pregnant while awaiting her court date.  Her sentence is transporation and she is sent to a prison in Tasmania.

On the ship she meets Hazel, a very young woman who knows a good deal about natural medicine and midwifery.  Hazel was accused to stealing a silver spoon and for that, she is also sentenced to transportation. They form a friendship and take care of one another. Hazel learns to read as Evangeline teaches her during their time together. Eventually she is able to assist the ship's doctor with other pregnant prisoners and minor ailments.

Our other main character is a nine year old aboriginal girl named Mathinna.  She lives with a group of extended fanily on Flinders island as the aboriginals were exiled there with promises of a better life. This is a heartbreaker of a story.  The Governor's wife fancies the looks of Mathinna and takes her from all she knows to "become civilized" in their household.  She is a toy, a pet, to the the woman who only cares about parading her about to friends to show Mathinna can dance and learn to speak French. It's despicable.
She doesn't fit in with the white culture and they've stripped her of her connections with her heritage. 

The fates of the young women in this book could be explored further and I wish the author had done so. While it wrapped up sufficiently, I would have rather the book were longer and more detail about the character's fates and conditions on Van Dieman's land. More of Mathinna in later life would have been good as well.

Sharing with Marg at The Intrepid Reader for the Historical Fiction Challenge.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Practical Houseplant Book

I will be the first to admit I'm not very good with houseplants.  I love books which feature characters who are experts at gardening or those with botanical gardens featured as a main setting. It would be lovely to have my mother's green thumb but it must have skipped my generation, however, I am determined to keep our gifted peace lily alive!

This book seemed to have some answers as it explains how to care for houseplants, over 200 profiles and project tips as well.  You find your plant profile and there is an explanation for care, how much light it needs to receive, the potting soil needed for transplant and more. 

The chapters feature succulents, ferns, carnivorous plants, bulbs, trailing plants and explain which ones can be caustic to handle and how much humidity each needs.  It's a well of info and perfect for those trying to learn about plants as well as a guide for those who are knowledgeable. 

Sharing with Shellyrae at Book'd Out for her Nonfiction  Challenge.

Genre/category: Hobbies

The Nonfiction Reader Challenge hosted by Shelleyrae at Book'd Out.  Check out the sign up post and info HERE. The challenge runs from January 1 through December 31, 2021. You can join in anytime!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Kew Gardens Girls By Posy Lovell


This is  a book about friendships, forgiveness with a glimpse of the suffragette movement during the WW I time period.  There seem to be more novels written about the second world war than the first war. This was inspired by true events about women who worked in the historic Kew botanical gardens.  It was interesting to read more about this time period.  Of course having gardens play a big role in this story was one of the attractions for me. 

Women were not given the same considerations as their male counterparts when it came to the jobs in the gardens...or anything else for that matter.  A man who never held a shovel was immediatley "hired" for the Kew garden work but the women were questioned as to their abilites.  That had to be aggravating for those who grew up on farms and knew far more than the men in charge of the projects.

Our main characters are Louisa, Ivy, Bernie, Jim and Mac. Louisa has escaped a bad situation in Kent and made her way to London to start over.  She carved out a life for herself is so happy to have escaped a brutal marriage to a drunken wife beater.  Ivy is a suffragette and much younger than Louisa.  They work side by side in the gardens with a conscientious objector named Bernie. No one knows this about Bernie but when it's discovered he's labeled a "Conchie," reviled and driven away from his work.  There is much more to that story and it was very interesting to me.

I don't want to give spoilers but I can say this was an easy read, nothing violent and no bad language for those who are offended by those details. Reading about the friendships and support of one another during such a terrible time was inspiring. 

Publication date April 20, 2021 by Penguin Group Putman.  Genre: Historical Fiction.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday and Marg at The Intrepid Reader for the 2021 Historical Fiction Challenge.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Madam by Phoebe Wynne

The book starts with Rose Christie receiving an amazing job offer to teach at the prestigious school Caldonbrae in Scotland. The students are all female with a mostly female staff.

She explains to her mother, who is thrilled, yet Rose is hesitant. I'm not keen on her mother from the start and the few times she appears in the story I have a mixture of pity and loathing.  Rose eventually excepts the position and wonders if the distance is enough to sever ties with her mother. You don’t know what’s between them at this point but you can tell Rose is anxious to escape.

There’s something slightly Gothic  with a sinister atmosphere about Caldonbrae.  You pick up on that as soon as Rose arrives at the school. She has no one to meet her, only written apologies from the headmaster and a promise to get together the next day. (This doesn't happen for weeks).

After settling in she is required to give a speech to the students and you see right away a similarity to a Hogwarts setting. The headmaster and other teachers sit behind her as she steps up to the lectern to address the girls. There are four separate Houses (think of Gryfindor, Slytherin, etc.) and the students are placed in different ones according to their value or status. All teachers are called Sir or Madam by the students.

One of Rose's first classes is a complete disaster with all of the girls challenging her with impertinent questions and telling her they don’t wish to be bothered to learn Latin or history. They state they’ve gotten rid of the other Latin teacher and by the end the teacher didn’t care. The smells like a lord of the flies story  but with female students which could be even scarier.  As you learn more about the students and the "curriculum" you'll be applalled. Could something like this go on in this day and age?  Too scary to think it could. Feminists will be apoplectic with this book.

Publication date May 18, 2021 by St. Martin's Press.  Genre: Literary Fiction and Women's Fiction.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman


I have read two novels by Catherine Steadman and I will say this one is her best work. I loved this book. As it turns out this is her first novel and here I am just getting around to reading it.  The suspense levels are perfect. Genre is psychological thriller. 

There have been times I have said to my husband, wouldn't it be cool to find a big suitcase of money abandoned in the woods?  He always said it would bring more trouble than it's worth.  This book has that message and it's full twists and turns.

The primary setting is London and Norfolk England. Erin a  documentary filmaker and her husband-to-be Mark is an investment banker. They are planning a lush wedding when Mark is suddenly fired from his well paying job. They start the cutback on expenses from everyday living to the wedding.  The honesymoon was paid for so they go off to Bora Bora for the last exciting fling and expenditure.  

While scuba diving they discover something in the water which is a real game changer.  This ordinary couple unwittingly fall into sinister situation and it's a real page turner.

The story begins with Erin telling us how hard it is to dig a grave.  In the movies the dirt flings up as if a dog is throwing soft dirt from a hole.  The reality is it's back breaking work and your muscles are sore as you prepare to hide your husband's body in a hole.  Wait!  She's burying her husband and this is in the start?  So is that a spoiler before you get into the book - nope!

As you get into the story you see the sequence of events and I can say, I never guessed how things would turn out. I liked this novel better than her latest.  Right now I am caught up on Catherine Steadman's books and I look forward to more in the future.

Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Roundup

 I had signed up for the book challenge at Shelleyrae's site  Book'd Out  and went for the Nibbler category of six books.  Here'...