Ninety Three

bookshelves: winter-20132014, fraudio, published-1874, historical-fiction, france, tbr-busting-2014, revolution, lit-richer, execution, epic-proportions, gr-library, channel-islands, victorian, translation, seven-seas

Read from January 05 to 27, 2014


Description: Ninety-three, the last of Victor Hugo’s novels, is regarded by many including such diverse critics as Robert Louis Stevenson and André Maurois as his greatest work.

1793, Year Two of the Republic, saw the establishment of the National Convention, the execution of Louis XVI, the Terror, and the monarchist revolt in the Vendée, brutally suppressed by the Republic. Hugo’s epic follows three protagonists through this tumultuous year: the noble royalist de Lantenac; Gauvain, who embodies a benevolent and romantic vision of the Republic; and Cimourdain, whose principles are altogether more robespierrean.The conflict of values culminates in a dramatic climax on the scaffold.

“Was it a Blue; was it a White?”
“It was a bullet”

Trivia: The former priest who is considered by some to be the novel’s villain, Cimourdain, purportedly “made a deep impression on a young Georgian seminarian named Dzhugashvili, who was confined to his cell for reading Ninety-Three and later changed his name to Stalin”, according to a biographer of Hugo. (wiki sourced)

Daniel Vierge, illus. from “Ninety-three”

Achille-Isidore Gilbert, from Ninety-three vol. 1

Tellmarch. Jules Férat, from Ninety-three vol. 1

Charlotte Corday killing Marat. Frédéric Théodore Lix, from Ninety-three vol. 1

Imânus. A. Lançon, from Ninety-three vol. 2

She walked towards the tower. Édouard Riou, from Ninety-three vol. 2

Wow, this was rich pickings indeed, and delivered in that wry way that Hugo does to great aplomb. A great listen; fully recommended.

5* Les Misérables
3* The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
5* The Man Who Laughs
4* Ninety-Three
TR The Toilers of the Sea



books-with-a-passport, giftee, published-2013, architecture, author-love, britain-england, families, eye-scorcher, gothic, lifestyles-deathstyles, lit-richer, love, mystery-thriller, paper-read, period-piece, recreational-drugs, victoriana, archaeology, dodgy-narrator, betrayal, bettie-s-law-of-excitement-lost, bucolic-or-pastoral, bullies, casual-violence, doo-lally, epistolatory-diary-blog, gambling, gangsters, gorefest, medical-eew, mental-health, ouch, revenge, sleazy, suicide, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts, washyourmouthout-language, winter-20132014

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Read from May 08, 2013 to January 26, 2014


Synopsis: Christmas 1863. Seventeen-year-old Richard Shenstone has been sent down from Cambridge under a cloud of suspicion. Addicted to opium and tormented by disturbing sexual desires, he finds temporary refuge in the creaking old mansion inhabited by his newly impoverished mother and his sister, Effie, whose behaviour grows increasingly bizarre. Threatening letters circulate among the locals, where almost anyone can be considered a suspect in a series of crimes and misdemeanours ranging from vivisection to murder. Fans of Charles Palliser’s books, as well as readers of Sarah Waters and Michel Faber, will delight in this, his first new novel in over ten years. Hailed for fiction that is “mesmerizing, meticulous” (Entertainment Weekly), Palliser confirms his reputation as “our leading contemporary Victorian novelist” (The Guardian).

Another blurb: Charles Palliser’s work has been hailed as “so compulsively absorbing that reality disappears” (New York Times). Since his extraordinary debut, The Quincunx, his works have sold over one million copies worldwide. With his new novel, Rustication, he returns to the town of Thurchester, which he evoked so hauntingly in The Unburied.


1. To go to or live in the country
2. Used at Oxford, Cambridge and Durham Universities to mean being sent down

Well, that was a tricksy tale, and the core of Rustication being small town maliciousness, ugly letters and heinous crimes redolent of that within ‘Arthur and George’. Not that I need to have a cast of adorables peopling my fiction, however it was odd that there was no-one at all here to cheer for, to get behind. A technically clever novel that was bereft of any heart.

NB – for those who have marked this as horror, it is not.
3* no more, no less

5* Quincunx
4* The Unburied
3* Rustication
3* Betrayals
1* The Sensationist

Barbados Bound (Patricia McPherson Nautical Adventure #1)

bookshelves: seven-seas, winter-20132014, published-2012, historical-fiction, caribbean-caper, e-book, net-galley, next

Read from January 19 to 24, 2014

 photo heartnetgalley_zpsff301538.jpgNetgalley/Fireship Press

From the description: Portsmouth, England,1760. Patricia Kelley, the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy Barbadian sugarcane planter, falls from her imagined place in the world when her absent father unexpectedly dies. Raised in a Wiltshire boarding school sixteen-year-old Patricia embarks on a desperate crossing on a merchantman bound for Barbados, where she was born, in a brash attempt to claim an unlikely inheritance. Aboard a merchantman under contract with the British Navy to deliver gunpowder to the West Indian forts, young Patricia finds herself pulled between two worlds — and two identities — as she charts her own course for survival in the war-torn 18th century.

Okay – it seems that this was published back in 2006 under the name ‘Star-Crossed’ with the tags of young adult/romance/fantasy and a 3.36* average rating made by 349 readers. Thanks to Pat for pointing this out (they are not my genres of choice) but the thing is it has to be read now or my netgalley stats will become skewed.

3* is an reasonable rating average so let’s see what happens with our initial visceral attraction.

Opening: NOVEMBER 1760, PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND: I came aboard with the prostitutes the night before the ship set sail. It was a rash scheme but I was a brash girl with nothing to my name but a promise.

Author Website

2.5* upped to 3*


Trivia: PROGESS:

At the half way stage I can say that the writing is competant, the story palatable, however it is ZING-LESS, no KABOOM, and upon checking the scores for this re-published name-changed story I see the five who have rated it give it 5* each (as of 24.1.2014). The perfect score of friends and relatives and not at all representative of the contents.

The Golem and the Jinni

The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel - Helene Wecker bookshelves: currently-reading, e-book, fantasy, cover-love, flufferoonies, handbag-read, published-2013, tbr-busting-2014, winter-20132014, historical-fiction, jewish, muslim, medical-eew,magicians, love, lifestyles-deathstyles, mythology, gr-library, philosophy, debut, christian

Read from January 18 to 24, 2014


Opening: The Golem’s life began in the hold of a steamship. The year was 1899; the ship was the Baltika, crossing from Danzig to New York. The Golem’s master, a man named Otto Rotfeld, had smuggled her aboard in a crate and hidden her among the luggage.


“Do you know what a golem is?”
“A person made of clay,” Rotfeld said, uncertain.
“Wrong. It’s a beast of burden. A lumbering, unthinking slave. Golems are built for protection and brute force, not for the pleasures of a bed.

““I’m sorry, Uncle, but it’s how I feel,” said Michael. “I look at what we call faith, and all I see is superstition and subjugation. All religions, not just Judaism. They create false divisions, and enslave us to fantasies, when we need to focus on the here and now.”

““In the dark, the enormous marble carvings seemed to change and ripple like waves. “It serves no purpose,” he said, trying to explain his fascination, to himself as much as her. “Buildings and bridges are useful. But why this? A gigantic arch from nowhere to nowhere.”

The Golem and the Jinni is flawed, overlong, drags in places and yet it has a magic about it. I certainly wanted to know what happened to the characters and waited for the evil one to get his comeuppence.


For All the Tea in China: Espionage, Empire and the Secret Formula for the World’s Favourite Drink

bookshelves: nonfiction, autumn-2012, history, published-2009, biography, colonial-overlords, victorian, recreational-drugs, war, fraudio, china, india, gardening, pirates-smugglers-wreckers

Read on November 05, 2012

Read by the author herself.

Blurb – A dramatic historical narrative of the man who stole the secret of tea from China.

In 1848, the British East India Company, having lost its monopoly on the tea trade, engaged Robert Fortune, a Scottish gardener, botanist, and plant hunter, to make a clandestine trip into the interior of China’s territory forbidden to foreigners,to steal the closely guarded secrets of tea horticulture and manufacturing. For All the Tea in China is the remarkable account of Fortune’s journeys into China; a thrilling narrative that combines history, geography, botany, natural science, and old-fashioned adventure.

Disguised in Mandarin robes, Fortune ventured deep into the country, confronting pirates, hostile climate, and his own untrustworthy men as he made his way to the epicenter of tea production, the remote Wu Yi Shan hills. One of the most daring acts of corporate espionage in history, Fortune’s pursuit of China’s ancient secret makes for a classic nineteenth-century adventure tale, one in which the fate of empires hinges on the feats of one extraordinary man.

Camellia sinensis:

Robert Fortune, the tea thief. From wiki: Robert Fortune (16 September 1812 – 13 April 1880) was a Scottish botanist, plant hunter and traveller, best known for introducing tea plants from China to India. Robert Fortune was born in Britain on 16 September 1812, at Kelloe, Berwickshire.

This does have the tang of ‘must publish my dissertation or bust’, feeling; the author delivers this in rather a dramatic and staccato’d fashion.

Can’t fault the historical research and it is enjoyable enough for a solid 3*

The Summer Day is Done

bookshelves: summer-2012, tbr-busting-2012, slavic, published-1976, one-penny-wonder, paper-read, flufferoonies, hardback

Read from May 28 to 29, 2012

Description: John Kirby was a British secret agent. Olga was the oldest daughter of Czar Nicholas and his Empress, Alexandra. It was 1911. Imperial Russia was already in its death throes, torn between evil manipulators and determined revolutionaries such as Rasputin and Lenin. But still, women in dazzling gowns and men in lavishly decorated uniforms whirled around opulent ballrooms and took drives in splendid carriages. Palaces and villas still gleamed in the sun, winter and summer.

While the storm gathered, John Kirby played tennis with Nicholas, frolicked with Nicholas’ children and floated on the delicious laughter of his radian Olga. But even the aching, unfulfilled happiness they won was not to remain undisturbed. Grand Duchesses are not destined to share their lives with untitled Englishmen. Glorious summer days do not last forever. The memories, however, do linger. And the images so hauntingly painted by R.T. Stevens-the characters ad the world they inhabit-will glow long after the last page of this novel has been turned.

0708935109 (ISBN13: 9780708935101)
The Summer Day is Done

Withdrawn from Berkshire Library

Dedication: To My Wife

Opens up in 1911 – The main station of the Ukranian seaport Nikolayev was more active than usual that morning, a buzz, a bustle, a shouldering of neighbours.

Page 35 (of Yalta): It was on this coast that many of Russia’s most privileged aristocrats had built their great houses or palaces. Somewhere in the vicinity was the enormous estate of the Tsar himself, crowned by the Lividia Palace.

Yalta – A Sunlit Street(painted 1932) by Aristarkh Lentulov (1882-1943)

Ai-Todor Cape, Black Sea (Crimea). It is located about 10 km west of Yalta. Built in 1911 by Architect A. Sherwood on Aurora Cliff. It was a summer retreat for Tsar Nicholas II. MEASUREMENTS: highest tower-45ft, length of base-90ft. Also called “The Castle of Love” or “Lastivchyne Hnizdo”! Survived an earthquake in 1927. Held the 1945 “Big 3” conference. It’s an architectural symbol of the Crimea and an Italian restaurant now.

Page 99 (entering Livadia Palace): He smiled as by his side he heard Alekabhumming the waltz from Tachaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty

From wiki: The Treaty of Björkö, known as the Treaty of Koivisto in modern Finland, was a secret mutual defense accord signed on July 24, 1905 between Wilhelm II of the German Empire and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.

Anna Alexandrovna Vyrubova, (16 July 1884 in Moscow — 20 July 1964, Helsinki), was a lady-in-waiting, best friend and confidante to Tsaritsa Alexandra Fyodorovna.

Page 129 (Kirby’s thoughts on Olga) : When she speaks like that, he thought, I could find her on any page in any Jane Austen book. She is as delicious as that.

BOYAR – Russian History. a member of the old nobility of Russia, before Peter the Great made rank dependent on state service. 2. a member of a former privileged class

Alexander Palace, Tsarskoe Selo. Page 316

Page 539 Opening of Book Two – The Four Horsemen: The summer came, smothering Russian with ennervating heat.

A mildly offensive and somewhat feckless meander through the last years of Tsarist Russia. In hard pressed times I would have been frustrated with this long winded romantic approach however the season, weather and circumstances meant it fit the bill.

Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin

bookshelves: teh-brillianz, fantasy, re-visit-2014, winter-20132014, published-1983, paper-read, fraudio, new-york, north-americas, picaresque, amusing, adventure, architecture, art-forms, epic-proportions, eye-scorcher, love, magical-realism, period-piece

Read from January 01, 1992 to January 23, 2014


woot – magical realism has a new benchmark in my humble opinion! This is superb stuff, all the characters are so fully realised.

Revisit via audio before the film comes out 14th Feb 2014 and this is narrated by Oliver Wyman. Given the unusually cold weather, dubbed artic vortex, that is subsuming the north americas at this time one could think, at a stretch, that this is a marketing ploy by the movie house sponsor.

“The shelf was filled with books that were hard to read, that could devastate and remake one’s soul, and that, when they were finished, had a kick like a mule.”

Film trailer

Film theme tune is ‘Wings’ by Birdy

The song I would prefer because I’m an Essex fan since first row, west end opening night of Jesus Christ, Superstar

The inscription on the monument refers to the bridge as the “eternal rainbow”, a simile used by Jackson Mead.

It is strange having Golem & Jinni on my bedside ipad and this on my daytime mp3 – both are set in an alternative New York City at the turn of the century. Also, I shall have to revisit The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard) to see which thief I prefer.

One book always leads to another, doesn’t it!?


Hitler’s Children by Kurt Ladner

bookshelves: gr-library, fradio, play-dramatisation, published-1943, tbr-busting-2014, winter-20132014, wwii, nazi-related

Read from January 20 to 21, 2014


Hitler’s Children (Radio Adaption) 1943 ABEE


HITLERS CHILDREN is a searing documentary focusing on these tormented souls who look, talk, eat and breathe like everyone else… and yet feel as if they were spawned by the devil. –Allan Hall, The Sun

POWERFUL! A compassionate group portrait of five actual descendants of the Nazi regimes most notorious actors. –Michelle Orange, The Village Voice

A GREAT ACHEIVEMENT! Cunningly structured as a good thriller – and just as taut. –George Robinson, The New York Jewish Week

Product Description: Adolf Hitler did not have children, but what of the families of Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler and Hans Frank, to name a few? What is it like for the descendants of these top Nazi officials to deal with the legacy left behind by their notorious families? HITLER’S CHILDREN introduces us to the children, grandchildren and nieces and nephews of these infamous men. Among them Niklas Frank, son of Hans Frank and godson of Hitler, who despises his father’s past so much that he has spent his entire adult life researching and writing negatively about him, often touring around Germany to lecture against his father and the Nazi regime. And Bettina Göring – the great-niece of Hitler’s second in command, Hermann Göring – who lives in voluntary exile in Santa Fe, NM and together with her brother decided to get sterilized so as to not pass on the Göring name or blood. These, and many others, discuss how they have coped with the fact that their last name alone immediately raises images of murder and genocide; and how they have reached a balance between the natural admiration and affection children feel towards their parents, and their innate revulsion of their crimes. Some have been more successful than others at achieving that balance, but each bares, for the first time, the scars that their legacy has left them.

Nelson DeMille, writing as Kurt Ladner, based his book on Cecil B DeMille’s LUX radio show.

Date – 24/05/1943

The Uninvited by Liz Jensen

bookshelves: winter-20132014, under-1000-ratings, tbr-busting-2014, published-2012, britain-scotland, taiwan, recreational-homicide, casual-violence, mental-health, lifestyles-deathstyles, fraudio, britain-england, psychology, boo-scary, anthropology, mystery-thriller, sci-fi, dystopian, filthy-lucre, forest, mythology, religion, arran, sweden, trolls, fantasy, dubai, environmental-issues, suicide, little-green-men, cannibalism

Read from July 01, 2012 to January 20, 2014

Description: A seven-year-old girl puts a nail-gun to her grandmother’s neck and fires. An isolated incident, say the experts. The experts are wrong. Across the world, children are killing their families. Is violence contagious?

As chilling murders by children grip the country, anthropologist Hesketh Lock has his own mystery to solve: a bizarre scandal in the Taiwan timber industry. He has never been good at relationships. Asperger’s Syndrome has seen to that. But he does have a talent for spotting behavioural patterns, and an outsider’s fascination with group dynamics.

Nothing obvious connects Hesketh’s Southeast Asian case with the atrocities back home. Or with the increasingly odd behaviour of his beloved step-son, Freddy. But when his Taiwan contact dies shockingly, and more acts of sabotage and child violence sweep the globe, Hesketh is forced to make connections that defy the rational principles on which he has staked his life, his career and – most devastatingly of all – his role as a father.

Part psychological thriller, part dystopian nightmare, The Uninvited is a powerful and viscerally unsettling portrait of apocalypse in embryo.

Origami Crane

Origami Praying Mantis

Origami Hermit Crab

In the Dubai gymnast leap sequence Tokoloshe was mentioned three times.

From wiki: In Zulu mythology, Tokoloshe is a dwarf-like water sprite. It is considered a mischievous and evil spirit that can become invisible by drinking water. Tokoloshes are called upon by malevolent people to cause trouble for others. At its least harmful a tokoloshe can be used to scare children, but its power extends to causing illness and even death upon the victim. The way to get rid of him is to call in the n’anga (witch doctor), who has the power to banish him from the area.

The children start forming a collective consciousness, show signs of arrested development and an addiction for salt.

Hesketh narrates the first person action from an anthropological and autistic viewpoint and it works very well. In Wyndham’s ‘Midwich Cuckoos’ the story is satisfactorily resolved (view spoiler), all tied up with bows; here was a somewhat wobbly ending as the author mounted her own environmental soapbox, her viewpoint working through the Professors notebooks and Hesketh’s epiphany. Lost a star right there. It has been a while since I read The Rapture but I have a feeling the same thing happened there too. Time for a re-visit of that before I spend future money on habitual preachy endings.

That said, 95% of this was very exciting and fresh.

4* The Rapture
4* The Uninvited

Trivia: Liz Jensen is married to author Carsten Jensen:

5* We, The Drowned
3* I Have Seen the World Begin


Tom Stoppard

bookshelves: fradio, published-2013, tbr-busting-2014, winter-20132014, music, play-dramatisation, philosophy, amusing, gr-library

Read from January 13 to 19, 2014


Darkside: A new drama from playwright Tom Stoppard,to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon.

BBC description: “Darkside, ” a play written by Tom Stoppard for BBC Radio 2, incorporating music from Pink Floyd s iconic The Dark Side of the Moon is released as a deluxe CD package on 25 November. The play was an original commission by Radio 2 to mark the 40th anniversary of Pink Floyd s album, and broadcast on 26 August 2013.

Produced in collaboration with Sir Tom Stoppard s publishers Faber and Faber, the luxury package resembles a hard-backed book, including a CD carrying the 54-minute play, which includes the majority of The Dark Side of the Moon album, plus a 56-page bound insert of the play s script.

“Darkside” is an abstract and compelling drama which follows Emily, a philosophy student, through a series of thought experiments, which are vividly brought to life. The play also ranges over a series of grand themes, which are both thought provoking and laced with Stoppard s characteristic wit and humour. The cast is impressive, with Bill Nighy as Dr Antrobus/the Witch Finder, Rufus Sewell is Mr Baggott/Ethics Man, Adrian Scarborough is Fat Man and Emily is Amaka Okafor.

Just incase there is someone who hasn’t heard the album here it is.

= the meaning of life.

Sir Tom Stoppard takes Radio 2 to the Dark Side

5* Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
5* Arcadia
5* Darkside
3* Artist Descending a Staircase
4* Albert’s Bridge
3* The Dog It Was That Died and Other Plays