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Reviews Written by
Sunnye Tiedemann "Sunnye" (Bellevue, NE USA)

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In Red Hats, Beads, & Bags: 1908 Graduates Sharing Their Lives Through Letters
In Red Hats, Beads, & Bags: 1908 Graduates Sharing Their Lives Through Letters
by Dolores A. Murphy
Edition: Hardcover
11 used & new from CDN$ 3.54

4.0 out of 5 stars How little reality changes!, June 6 2004
Dolores Murphy bought a box of books at a Denver auction and stumbled upon a stash of letters from members of the Wellesly College Class of 1908. The letters, written in the warmth of friendship, give accounts of individual lives as each records personal and world events from 1918 to 1958 and traces her hopes, fears, dreams and disappointments. Out of 200 members of the graduating class, Murphy has selected the correspondence of 42.
These women write from a variety of perspectives: From China and Europe during wars and revolutions as well as from the post-WWI homefront in our own evolving nation. Reading, we see changes in the women as the mature as well as changes in the societies in which they live.
There's much to enjoy and much to learn from these engaging voices from a past not all that different from our own present.

The Journals of Louisa May Alcott
The Journals of Louisa May Alcott
by Louisa May Alcott
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 48.46
16 used & new from CDN$ 25.87

4.0 out of 5 stars An intimate view of a 19th Century author's life, June 6 2004
When Louisa May Alcott's biography was published shortly after her death in 1888, a reviewer lamented, "We wish heartily that Miss Alcott had chosen to tell her own story." She does in these journals.
Through her father's influence as well as the emerging recogniton of her own devleoping talent, Alcott met many of the masters of American literature in her day: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne -- all of whom are mentioned often in her journals among her everyday struggles to support her family with her writing. She learned her craft by writing thrillers for tabloids while working as a domestic in wealthy households.
Louisa Alcott never intended for these pages to be read so reading them is an extremely personal experience. The reader gains an intimate insight into the life and mind of one of America's premiere 19th century women writers. Louisa was a poor speller, we learn, and we also learn how she felt about abolition, the Civil War, educational reform, women's rights and many other issues including arguments she had with her editors.
Reading JOURNALS was an intense experience that transported me into her time and her life. If you grew up reading LITTLE WOMEN and LITTLE MEN you'll thoroughly enjoy this look at a remarkable author's life.

The Perfect Murder: A Study in Detection
The Perfect Murder: A Study in Detection
by David Lehman
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 36.46
18 used & new from CDN$ 26.25

5.0 out of 5 stars One of my fav books of all time, June 6 2004
David Lehman investigates the development of mystery fiction, defining improvements and refinements, comparing auth
ors, detectives, plots and techniques.
If, as he observes, the murder in the most inspired detective novel is perfect, it's not because of its solution but because of its artful conception. The first clue is in the basic premise of mystery fiction. Speaking, as it does, of such basic matters as life and death, quest and query, fear and the unknown, the detective novel assumes that the puzzles of life can and will be solved. The reader turns from the ordinariness of life to the author's promise that around each corner lurks the possibility of menace, that conspiracy fills the air, that we have every right to be paranoid, but in spite of it all, everything will turn out all right.
Another clue: Reading mystery fiction provides us with a harmless and vicarious way of releasing our homicidal instincts, says Lehman, allowing us to murder again and again without having to suffer the consequences. Thus, he concludes, reading mysteries leads us away from performing the act of murder.
"Our love of mystery is matched only by our longing for certainty," he writes. "and because we find it hard to tolerate the condition of doubt and guilt in shich we are destined to live."
Lehman's love of mysteries and his eagerness to share favorite books and characters lends charm and emphasizes his major points. A chronological bibliography is included and divided into related genres, critical documents and resource books. That proves to be a banquet of delicious additional reading on the subject. Another delight is his review of 15 of his favorite mystery novels.
Read this one to gain new insight and a deeper appreciation for the mystery genre.

The Grand Failure: The Birth and Death of Communism in the Twentieth Century
The Grand Failure: The Birth and Death of Communism in the Twentieth Century
by Zbigniew Brzezinski
Edition: Hardcover
35 used & new from CDN$ 2.61

5.0 out of 5 stars A Necessary Historic Read, June 6 2004
Any serious student of world affairs should read -- even study -- this book. Brzezinski was director of the National Security Council during the Carter administration so few could write with more authority on the subject of communism in the 20th Century.
First he gives detailed background information on the unraveling of the Soviet empire. Beginning with Lenin's concentration of political control and the use of terror, Brzezinski traces Stalin's total consolidation of power through elimination of rivals and the subjugation of peasantry. Although interrupted by World War II, these tactics were revived in Eastern Europe during the postwar period. Stagnation set in, however, and the systme failed to deliver the promised social and economic improvements.
After Stalin's death, his repressive regime decayed to a corrupton-dominated state under Breshnev, interrupted only by abortive reform movements during Khrushchev's tenure. By the mid-1980s most top Soviet leaders accepted the need for renewal and began to debate how these reforms were to be accomplished.
Brzezinski details emerging unrest, beginning in Poland, and discusses China's "commercial" communism. The events he describes confirm the seriousness of the now often disclaimed Cold War threat and helps the reader to understand what happened, how it happened and what it all means to us today.

The Many Masks of Modern Art
The Many Masks of Modern Art
by Theodore F. Wolff
Edition: Hardcover
16 used & new from CDN$ 4.60

5.0 out of 5 stars An enchanted passion, June 6 2004
Here's a gorgeous book presenting 56 entertaining and erudite opinions on the works of a wide variety of artists. Wolff, a prize-winning art critic, is an artist as well as anart lecturer, writer and judge.
Controversy could understandably be a synonym for modern art, especially abstractionist art. By 1950, abstractionism had become the dominant force in the art world, partly because of the influence of the likes of Peggy Guggenheim who had more money than taste, knowledge or morals. Guggenheim used her inexhaustible supply of money to promote artists whom she liked for personal reasons that had little to do with their talent or abilities -- at least artistic abilities. This influence led to prominence. Prominence led to contempt -- for traditionalists and those who dared to criticize abstract art.
In this atmosphere of prejudice and suspicion strides Wolff with this collection of intelligent and witty articles. He is motivated, he tells us, by concern about the "cavalier manner in which entire categories of artists were...not recognized as serious creative figures."
"To prefer one kind of art over another is one thing," Wolff writes, "but then to condemn the rest is to make a mockery out of art."
Artists essayed here are varied: from Munch, Mondrian, Roualt and Klee to Warhol, O'Keefe, Cezanne, Homer and Matisse. There's even an essay by Wolff on a charcoal by Wolff. MASKS is a passionate and learned voice expressing with a lyric charm a very personal and individual appreciation of an eclectic assortment of artistic works.
Find a copy and put it in your permanent collection. You'll find yourself reading it again and again. And again.

Miracle on the Potomac: The Kennedy Center from the Beginning
Miracle on the Potomac: The Kennedy Center from the Beginning
by Ralph E. Becker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 32.48
22 used & new from CDN$ 4.02

5.0 out of 5 stars It's your center for performing arts -- enjoy!, May 24 2004
MIRACLE is a specialty book for a special audience. It's the story of the building of the nation's performing arts center in Washington D.C., from President Eisenhower's signing of the Sept. 2, 1958 legislation authorizing a national cultural center to its opening in 1971. It's a story of trial and triumph, of bitter controversy and rivalry, of failure and success.
In 1789 George Washington directed Pierre L'Enfant to design the Federal City as "a cultural and civic center of the United States." National civic matters dominated immediately but culture lagged behind. (Not a new state of affairs!) As distinctive American music, theater and dance developed, however, the need for a national performance hall became more and more obvious and slowly gained recognition.
In the years between 1958 and 1971, General Counsel Ralph Becker was intimately involved in the development of the center. This is his story as well as the center's, for he was not only instrumental in helping solve the problems but his influence and leadership provided a guiding light for the project, which often floundered on the shoals of bureaucracy, tossed on the storms of red tape.
From the beginning there was opposition, sometimes quite powerful, to building a national culture center. Many argued that government had no business dabbling in the arts. Even supporters disagreed among themselves. There were arguments and disputes among builders, politicians, developers and civic leaders. Some didn't like the site on the Potomac, some objected to the design, others objected to the materials and still others argued about the cost. That bugaboo of progress, funding, stood on its back legs and roared.
Presidents formed committees and commissions. Congressmen wrote bills. Senators debated, citizens lobbied. Just about the only thing about the center that everyone agreed on was the name. After November 22, 1963, everyone who was anyone agreed that the name should be changed from the National Cultural Center for the Arts to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Black and white photographs grace these pages. There are pictures of the building under construction and photos of the pols and performers who've graced the grand occasions at the Center since First Night.
If you love the hall as much as I (and it's SO much more than a performance hall) you'll find this an absorbing story. Some of the facts and figures are a little dry but it's a testimony to the persistence and dedication of those who were determined to make it happen.
If you're not familiar with the center, you will be after you read this book. After all, it's yours.

by W. E. B. Griffin
Edition: Hardcover
35 used & new from CDN$ 3.06

4.0 out of 5 stars If you missed The Big One (WWII), May 24 2004
This review is from: Counterattack (Hardcover)
This is the third installment of Griffin's epic about the Marine Corps in World War II. It begins with the attack on Pearl Harbor and ends with the landing on Guadalcanal. It's the usual Griffin fare.
It's an absolute must for those who, like my husband, feel cheated because they missed out on WWII (he was too young).

by Anne Rivers Siddons
Edition: Hardcover
48 used & new from CDN$ 0.88

4.0 out of 5 stars Even if you enjoy it, you don't have to like it, May 24 2004
This review is from: Islands (Hardcover)
I love Siddons's books. I'll read anything that has her byline on it and I'll enjoy it whether I like it or not!
How can that be, you ask? Well, she's a pictoral writer. By that I mean her words conjure mental pictures of characters and scenes in the reader's mind. The setting she writes about in ISLANDS (the coastal South) is beloved and familiar to me. She has the ability to create a charming world for the reader that is a delight to experience.
All that said, although I enjoyed reading ISLANDS, I felt the story was weak. The ending seemed dux ex machina and the characters were too familiar to avoid the feeling that they were cliches.
She's still my favorite author and I'll read every book she writes, but ISLANDS strikes me as a book written by someone who no longer has anything to say. Ms. Siddons has lived in her world so long and written it so well that it's time to stretch her talent with something new.

The Art of Florence
The Art of Florence
by Glenn Andres
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 551.65
9 used & new from CDN$ 90.18

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare and Treasured Treat, May 24 2004
This review is from: The Art of Florence (Hardcover)
Talk about magnificently beautiful! THE ART OF FLORENCE does full justice to its subject -- and it's a lot cheaper than plane fare to Italy.
The last time I was in Italy I witnessed three muggings, one in the Church of Santa Maria Novella, and those experiences were so unnerving that I couldn't fully concentrate on the loveliness of the many treasures before me. I barely remember any of them. So what a delight to discover so many of them in stunning full-color plates, to be enjoyed again and again in the comfort and safety of my own home.
The dual volume book is divided into historical sections of about a generation each in length. Each begins with a lucid account of the history of the city during that period with emphasis on the political, social and economic events that influenced the patronage of art at that time. There are separate accounts of the architecture, sculpute and painting done in each period. A rich and exciting interplay unfolds between the arts, the politics and the social structure of each time period. No wonder Florence was the artistic and political leader for all of Europe during the 13th through 16th centuries.
The authors confine themselves to Florentine artists or those who lived for some time in Florence. References to other artists, when necessary, are minimal. Michaelangelo, for instance, is discussed only in terms of the Dona Madonna, since it is the only painting of his in the city. His limning of the Sistine Chapel in Rome is mentioned only in passing.
These two volumes are special -- so special they'll draw you to the reading chair even when the siren of Spring calls through your window.

Bridesmaids: Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco, and Six Intimate Friends
Bridesmaids: Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco, and Six Intimate Friends
by Judy Quine
Edition: Hardcover
29 used & new from CDN$ 5.47

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and unusual, May 24 2004
It's an absorbing and different kind of story, this tale of six girls, best friends, of The Lsst of the Hollywood Glamour Girls (Grace Kelly), who were bridesmaids in Ms. Kelly's Royal Wedding. There's more to the book, however, because it's a book about women who grew up believing they would find their Prince and live happily ever after someday -- and didn't.
Whether the bride did or not remains a matter of conjecture, although the impression here is that Grace Kelly Rainier's married life really wasn't all that terrific after all.
The book is opinionated to the point of being offensive. The author solves problems and gives advice to all who would listen. Her voice is strident but her story is compelling. I enjoyed the book, although I certainly do not agree with her perception of the women of her day. (I am one, after all, and I can speak with the authority of personal experience.)

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