The Poisoned Crown by Maurice Druon

bookshelves: spring-2014, historical-fiction, film-only, published-1956, france, medieval5c-16c

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Susanna – Censored by GoodReads


Film the third.

Description: ‘This was the original game of thrones’ George R.R. Martin

No man is impervious to the poisons of the crown… Having murdered his wife and exiled his mistress, King Louis X of France becomes besotted with Princess Clemence of Hungary and makes her his new Queen. However, though the matter of the succession should be assured, it is far from so, as Louis embarks on an ill-fated war against Flanders.

Where his father, Philip IV, was strong, Louis is weak, and the ambitions of his proud, profligate barons threaten his power and the future of a kingdom once ruled by an Iron King.

Princess Clemence of Hungary.

Gibbet of Montfaucon

War against Flanders

John I (15 November 1316 – 20 November 1316), called the Posthumous, was a Capetian King of France and Navarre, and Count of Champagne, as the posthumous son and successor of Louis the Quarreler, for the five days he lived. He thus had the shortest undisputed recognized reign of any French king.[1] The son of Louis the Quarreler and Clementia of Hungary, sister of Charles I of Hungary, he is the only person to be King of France since birth, and thus, the youngest King of France.

4* The Iron King
4* The Strangled Queen
4* The Poisoned Crown
TR The She-Wolf of France
TR The Lily and the Lion

Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller

bookshelves: spring-2014, norway, library-in-norway, one-penny-wonder, hardback, oslo, those-autumn-years, published-2012, mental-health, families, debut, jewish

Read in February, 2013

 

Description: He will not admit it to Rhea and Lars – never, of course not – but Sheldon can’t help but wonder what it is he’s doing here..

Eighty-two years old, and recently widowed, Sheldon Horowitz has grudgingly moved to Oslo, with his grand-daughter and her Norwegian husband. An ex-Marine, he talks often to the ghosts of his past – the friends he lost in the Pacific and the son who followed him into the US Army, and to his death in Vietnam.

When Sheldon witnesses the murder of a woman in his apartment complex, he rescues her six-year-old son and decides to run. Pursued by both the Balkan gang responsible for the murder, and the Norwegian police, he has to rely on training from over half a century before to try and keep the boy safe. Against a strange and foreign landscape, this unlikely couple, who can’t speak the same language, start to form a bond that may just save them both.

An extraordinary debut, featuring a memorable hero, Norwegian by Night is the last adventure of a man still trying to come to terms with the tragedies of his life. Compelling and sophisticated, it is both a chase through the woods thriller and an emotionally haunting novel about ageing and regret.

Frogner Park – Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) worked on the sculpture park from 1924 until his death in 1943.

Dedication: For my son

Opening: It is summer and luminous. Sheldon Horowitz sits on a folding director’s chair, high above the picnic and out of reach of the flood, in a shaded enclave in Oslo’s Frogner Park. There is a half-eaten karbonade sandwich that he doesn’t like on the paper plate cradled in his lap.

Nothing major at fault – it just proved to be an also-ran in my reading career. Three stars by the skin of its teeth.

The Chessmen by Peter May

bookshelves: spring-2014, britain-scotland, hebridean, published-2012, tbr-busting-2014, e-book, music, mystery-thriller, nutty-nuut, gr-library, art-forms, series, poachers

Read from April 29 to 30, 2014


Lewis Chessmen in the British Museum

Description: Fin Macleod, now head of security on a privately owned Lewis estate, is charged with investigating a spate of illegal game-hunting taking place on the island. This mission reunites him with Whistler Macaskill – a local poacher, Fin’s teenage intimate, and possessor of a long-buried secret. But when this reunion takes a violent, sinister turn and Fin puts together the fractured pieces of the past, he realizes that revealing the truth could destroy the future.

Dedication: In loving memory of wee Jennifer

Opening: When Finn opened his eyes the interior of the ancient stone dwelling which had sheltered them from the storm was suffused with a strange pink light. Smoke drifted lazily into the still air from the almost dead fire and Whistler was gone.

Golden eagle.

I don’t want this to be the last book! I know, I know, the appearance of circumstances until now never mentioned when Finn’s background had been pretty much trawled is an author’s ploy to extend a story. Hands up in overt submission, this is the case here. I acknowledge, however this really is a story worth cottoning on to, so put those connivences aside and go with the ride, it is worth it.

From wiki:

The Iolaire was carrying sailors who had fought in the First World War back to the Scottish island of Lewis. She left the port of Kyle of Lochalsh on the mainland late on the evening of the 31 December 1918. But, at 2:30am on New Year’s Day, as the ship approached the port of Stornoway, a few yards offshore and a mile away from the safety of Stornoway Harbour, she hit the infamous rocks “The Beasts of Holm”.

The Beasts of Holm

3*The Blackhouse
5* The Lewis Man
4* The Chessmen

MB Entry Island

Stunning photos celebrate the stark cliffs, ghostly mists and lonely beaches of the Outer Hebrides … as seen through the eyes of the Lewis trilogy’s fictional hero

The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

bookshelves: autumn-2012, slavic, nonfiction, ouch, nobel-laureate, fraudio, epic-proportions, autobiography-memoir, boo-scary, bullies, execution, gangsters, holocaust-genocide, lifestyles-deathstyles, philosophy, politics, published-1958, racism, recreational-homicide, true-grime

Read from September 08 to October 28, 2012


blurb – The Gulag Archipelago is Solzhenitsyn’s attempt to compile a literary-historical record of the vast system of prisons and labour camps that came into being shortly after the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in 1917 and that underwent an enormous expansion during the rule of Stalin from 1924 to 1953. Various sections of the three volumes describe the arrest, interrogation, conviction, transportation, and imprisonment of the Gulag’s victims by Soviet authorities over four decades. The work mingles historical exposition and Solzhenitsyn’s own autobiographical accounts with the voluminous personal testimony of other inmates that he collected and committed to memory during his imprisonment.Upon publication of the first volume of The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn was immediately attacked in the Soviet press. Despite the intense interest in his fate that was shown in the West, he was arrested and charged with treason on February 12, 1974, and was exiled from the Soviet Union the following day.

Map of the Gulags

Image: An abandoned guard tower in one of hundreds of gulags (prison camps) across the Soviet Union, remains as a symbol of profound human suffering. First instituted by Lenin to imprison priests, political opponents, and common criminals, Stalin was then responsible for sending 12-15 million people to these camps. The prisoners were used as forced labor to work on massive industrial projects. As more laborers were needed for bigger projects and those falling behind schedule, Stalin justified the arrests of more people to be sent to the gulags. Millions were executed in these camps or perished as they labored on massive modernization schemes. It is said of the Siberian railroad project that the work was never done, nothing was achieved and it went nowhere. (credit: Jonathan Lewis)

Gruelling yet important; shocks one to the very core. Some books are best left unrated.

The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann

bookshelves: translation, spring-2014, under-500-ratings, published-2011, mystery-thriller, norway, currently-reading, books-about-books-and-book-shops, one-penny-wonder, paper-read, abandoned, bettie-s-law-of-excitement-lost, casual-violence, contemporary, doo-lally, duck-shit, families, gulp, lifestyles-deathstyles, mental-health, midlife-crisis, newtome-author, ouch, next, room-101, slit-yer-wrists-gloomy

Read from April 10 to 30, 2014


Description: Ullmann’s characters are complex and paradoxical: neither fully guilty nor fully innocent

Siri Brodal, a chef and restaurant owner, is married to Jon Dreyer, a famous novelist plagued by writer’s block. Siri and Jon have two daughters, and together they spend their summers on the coast of Norway, in a mansion belonging to Jenny Brodal, Siri’s stylish and unforgiving mother.

Siri and Jon’s marriage is loving but difficult, and troubled by painful secrets. They have a strained relationship with their elder daughter, Alma, who struggles to find her place in the family constellation. When Milla is hired as a nanny to allow Siri to work her long hours at the restaurant and Jon to supposedly meet the deadline on his book, life in the idyllic summer community takes a dire turn. One rainy July night, Milla disappears without a trace. After her remains are discovered and a suspect is identified, everyone who had any connection with her feels implicated in her tragedy and haunted by what they could have done to prevent it.

The Cold Song is a story about telling stories and about how life is continually invented and reinvented.

Translated from the Norwegian by Barbara J Haveland

Dedication: For Niels

Opening quote: ‘Tis Love that has warm’d us?’ – John Dryden

Opening: Jenny Brodal had not had a drink in nearly twenty years. She opened a bottle of Cabernet and poured herself a large glass. She had imagined the warmth filtering down into her stomach, the tingling in her fingertips, but there was none of that, no warmth, no tingling, nothing, so she drained the glass and waited.

Linn Ullmann is the daughter of actress, author and director Liv Ullmann and director and screenwriter Ingmar Bergman.

THOUGHTS DURING READING: Not far enough in (~40 pages) to say if the storyline is good or not but two points have struck me thus far:

1) affected, forced and belaboured descriptions that say more about a writers’ workshop than sincere heartfelt scribbling:

exhibit 1: the brushing of the hair
exhibit 2: Liverpool FC

2) too many views of Ullman’s real-life family connections – it smacks of thinly veiled name-dropping and it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

exhibit 1: Fårö
exhibit 2: Liv

That said, I am intrigued enough to continue on…

Trivia – two hours south of Oslo is Arendal and a spit off shore is the island of Tromøy, where the main man and I hunkered down for a year. Knausgård’s book one of My Struggle (A Death in the Family, first published 2009) was set on that island, an estate just up and over from our gaff. SO, the point I am getting to is this bit in Ullman’s book:

The final part of his trilogy was to be about time. Jon planned to write a hymn to everything that endures and everything that falls apart.

It all seems connected in a plate of worms type way.

Dreadful is closest.
;O)

Into a Raging Blaze Andreas Norman

bookshelves: spring-2014, e-book, sweden, translation, published-2013, net-galley, afr-egypt, politics, spies

Read from April 22 to 29, 2014

 

Quercus Books. Originally published as ‘En rasande eld in 2013.

Description:

Carina Dymek is on a fast track for promotion at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when she is approached by a stranger and given a USB stick containing a report to circulate in her department. Unwittingly, she delivers a time bomb of classified information that sends her career up in flames and puts her on the radar of the security service, Säpo.

Tasked with investigating how Dymek gained access to the confidential report, the formidable Bente Jensen of Säpo is quietly approached by the British MI6, who have an undisclosed interest in the leak. She finds out that Dymek’s boyfriend is an Egyptian Swedish national. But it’s MI6 who link his family to an extreme faction within the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo. The case explodes into an international manhunt. Liaising with the ruthless MI6, Bente uncovers the secretive plans contained in that leaked report: plans for an omnipotent Europe-wide Intelligence Service. Forces hone in on Dymek, while Bente begins to suspect she is a red herring caught in a far wider net: one in which social media is abused for intelligence and civil rights are sacrificed to national security.

Andreas Norman, a former Swedish Ministry official, has written an explosive expose of Anglo-American spying and surveillance on European civilians in the name of counter-terrorism. This dizzying thriller anticipated the Edward Snowden revelations and rocked Sweden on publication.

Dedication: To Anna K

Opening: The man came out of the entrance to the EU Commission, went around the building and started to walk down Archimedisstraat. Dark hair, grey suit and a blue shirt. For a moment he disappeared out of sight.

It’s a shame that political novels can be become outdated pretty fast and that is the sad fact for this Andreas Norman thriller. Since he penned this, Snowden blew the whistle, and those sections about Ukraine in general, and Crimea in particular do not look so clever.

The writing is competent and the main storyline was suspenseful and scary, even nail-biting at times; it was hard not to feel sorry for Carina as everything was aginst her. Solid three star.

Crossposted:
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The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas

bookshelves: spring-2014, britain-wales, fraudio, india, newtome-author, published-2011, adventure, travel

Read from April 26 to 28, 2014

 

Read by Nerys Hughes

Description: Spanning decades and moving from the stark beauty of the Welsh landscape to the Himalayas and Kashmir, this is a story of bravery, courage and love.Within one exotic land lie the secrets of a lifetime…Newlywed Nerys Watkins leaves rural Wales for the first time in her life, to accompany her husband on a missionary posting to India. Travelling from lonely Ladakh, high up in the Himalayas, Nerys discovers a new world in the lakeside city of Srinagar. Here, in the exquisite heart of Kashmir, the British live on carved wooden houseboats and dance, flirt and gossip as if there is no war.But the battles draw ever closer, and life in Srinagar becomes less frivolous when the men are sent away to fight. Nerys is caught up in a dangerous friendship, and by the time she is reunited with her husband, the innocent Welsh bride has become a different woman.Years later, when Mair Ellis clears out her father’s house, she finds an exquisite antique shawl, woven from the finest yarns and embroidered in the shades of lake water and mountain skies. Wrapped within its folds is a lock of child’s hair. Tracing her grandparents’ roots back to Kashmir, Mair embarks on a quest that will change her life forever.

A lovely story about searching for roots, and includes just about everything you would ever need to know about kasmiri yarn, cashmere, from goat to shawl. Missionary work is a horrible idea isn’t it – imagine having a bible black, fire and brimstone Chapel minister ramming a harsh God down your throat: oh! those colonial ideas. **shudder**

The Guts by Roddy Doyle

bookshelves: radio-4, britain-ireland, dublin, series, fradio, amusing, music, families, published-2013, spring-2014, midlife-crisis, medical-eew, religion, roman-catholic, lifestyles-deathstyles, lit-richer

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from January 31 to April 28, 2014

 

R4

Description: Twenty six years on and we are back in Dublin with Jimmy Rabbitte, the ex-manager of The Commitments. Jimmy is now 47, married to Aoife and has 4 kids. Life has been rather good since we last met him, keeping a foot in the music industry and doing well during the boom. However, life is about to change for them all as Jimmy has just discovered he is ill. This is a story about friendship and family, about facing death and opting for life and maybe, just maybe, realising you can still live the dream.

Who needs an excuse to play van Morrison anyway! And this one. My significant other and I loved listening to this.

Going To Hell was performed by More Than Conquerors.
Adapted by Peter Sheridan
Producer: Gemma McMullan
Directed by: Eoin O’Callaghan.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b041v063

4* The Commitments
3* The Snapper
3* The Guts
WL The Van
1* Bullfighting: Stories

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

    Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan
    Sean Harris as Joss Merlyn
    Shirley Henderson as Hannah Davey
    Joanne Whalley as Patience Merlyn
    Matthew McNulty as Jem Merlyn
    Ben Daniels as Francis Davey
    Andrew Scarborough as Magistrate Bassat
    Danny Miller as William
    Scarlett Archer as Beth

Production details: Filming began in September 2013 in Cornwall, Yorkshire and Cumbria. It was originally decided that the series would be filmed in Northern Ireland. The BBC was criticised for filming in Kirkby Lonsdale in Cumbria, as opposed to a location in Cornwall. An investment from Screen Yorkshire was provided for the series. The three-part series was commissioned by Ben Stephenson and Danny Cohen, both from the BBC.

Episode 1: (the mumbling one) Orphaned Mary Yellan travels to the remote Jamaica Inn to live with her Aunt Patience and brutal Uncle Joss. Isolated and alone, Mary must learn to navigate the perils of the smugglers’ world and her dangerous desire for Jem Merlyn.

Episode 2:

BBC receives over 100 complaints for episode one

The story itself remains a 3.75* read, however this TV miniseries is atrocious and I could not possibly recommend it.

Penguin Lost by Andrey Kurkov

Kiev

Description: When last we saw Viktor, in the final pages of Death and the Penguin, he was taking his seat aboard the Expedition to Antarctica plane, fearing for his life. Meanwhile, Penguin Misha was left abandoned in a clinic recovering from a heart transplant. Now, in Penguin Lost, we join Viktor for his brief stay in and escape from Antarctica to discover that, characteristically, he has fallen on his feet. Visiting, on his return to Kiev, Penguinologist Pidpaly’s grave, Viktor mistakes an elusive child in white shirt and black shorts for Misha on funeral duty. He is first interrogated and then befriended by a Mafia boss who, while burying his contract-killed son-in-law, is also running for election as People’s Deputy. Viktor helps in his campaign, and is rewarded with introductions to those able to further his desperate search for Misha, said to be in the zoo of the murderous Chechen Khachayev. For Viktor, it is both a quest and an odyssey of atonement; for the reader, an experience as rich, topical and black-humouredly illuminating as Death and the Penguin.

Opening: It took Viktor three days to recover from the four spent crossing Drake Passage. In which time, the scientists who had sailed with him from Ushaia in the Horizon were already acclimatized and working fast to complete measurements and analyses before the onset of the polar night.

As you can see, this book starts off where the first one finished. Neat!

Vernadsky Base: (page 7)[..]after losing 16 men and two supply aircraft, the British had presented it [the base] to Ukraine.

Chechnya

Vernadsky Station, a Ukrainian base which was formerly the British ‘Faraday’ base.

3.5* Death and the Penguin
CR   Penguin Lost

SUPPORT UKRAINE

Turning Crimea into ‘Putinland’?
From Andrey Kurkov, Special for CNN
April 9, 2014 — Updated 0311 GMT (1111 HKT)

“Under pressure from the Kremlin, Russian airlines — the only ones now flying to the peninsula — have slashed prices on flights. I think Russian oligarchs will soon receive an order from the Kremlin to buy holiday packages to Crimean sanitoriums and resorts for their employees.”

Read more

Kiev Zoo Under Fire For Shocking Number Of Animal Deaths And Disappearances