The Master of Ballantrae

 

bookshelves: adventure, classic, historical-fiction, revenge, britain-scotland, victorian, seven-seas, war, published-1889, hardback

Read in June, 2009, read count: 2

 

Description: Set in Scotland during the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, in the exotic French Indies, and in the North American wilderness, the story has as its hero one of the most compelling yet horrifying studies of evil in nineteenth-century fiction—James Durie, Master of Ballantrae. The Master is about his infective influence—on his younger, less attractive brother Henry; on Henry’s wife Alison; and on those narrators whom Stevenson so skilfully employs to present their experiences of this charming, ruthless, and evil man.

A very fragile copy of my mothers – faded red cloth, inscribed Gillian R Tanner(1956) and the price? 4/-, that’s four shillings to us who remember the ol’ conundrums. I think this is my favourite RLS; it is so dark.

At that time [1745:] there dwelt a family of four persons in the house of Durrisdeer, near St Brides, on the Solway shore; a chief hold of their race since the Reformation.

The Rising(from Wiki)

The novel is presented as the memoir of one Ephraim Mackellar, steward of the Durrisdeer estate in Scotland. The novel opens in 1745, the year of the Jacobite Rising. When Bonnie Prince Charlie raises the banner of the Stewarts the Durie family–the Laird of Durrisdeer, his older son James Durie (the Master of Ballantrae) and his younger son Henry Durie–decide on a common strategy: one son will join the uprising while the other will join the loyalists. That way, whichever side wins the family’s noble status and estate will be preserved. Logically, the younger son should join the rebels, but the Master insists on being the rebel (a more exciting choice) and contemptuously accuses Henry of trying to usurp his place, comparing him to Jacob. The two sons agree to toss a coin to determine who goes. The Master wins and departs to join the Rising, while Henry remains in support of King George II.

Ailean Breic Stuibhairt was an 18th-century soldier and Scottish Jacobite resistance figure. He was the centre of a murder case that inspired novels by Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Notorious as the Appin Murderer.

The Thief Taker by C.S. Quinn

 

Description: The year is 1665. Black Death ravages London. A killer stalks the streets in a plague doctor’s hood and mask.

When a girl is gruesomely murdered, thief taker Charlie Tuesday reluctantly agrees to take on the case. But the horrific remains tell him this is no isolated death. The killer’s mad appetites are part of a master plan that could destroy London – and reveal the dark secrets of Charlie’s own past.

Now the thief taker must find this murderous mastermind before the plague obliterates the evidence street by street. This terrifying pursuit will take Charlie deep into the black underbelly of old London, where alchemy, witchcraft and blood-spells collide.

In a city drowned in darkness, death could be the most powerful magic of all.

Opening: London, 1665
In the year of the Black Death London is a city of half-timbered houses and dark towers. In the narrow backstreets, astrologists predict the future, and alchemists conjure wonders. Traitors’ heads line London Bridge, where witches sell potions, and gamesters turn cards. The river flowing beneath lands a daily cargo of smuggler gangs and pirates.

Loved this from the very start: it is gory, graphic and dead gruesome. Many gizzard for dinner scenes so I suppose this is not for the squeamish, and the murdering hulk is terrifying so this is not for the shiverers either. Rest assured though, it is not a horror fic by any stretch of the imagination. The Thief Taker for all its grisly subject is written in a very upbeat fashion. I would loath to call it YA because lots of people have a very prejudiced mindset when it comes to that shelf. It is a highly enjoyable piece of hist-fic fluff.

Holborn Bridge: 1831 Drawn by Tho. H. Shepherd. Engraved by M. Woolnoth.

What a debut, and ike Oliver Twist, I’m asking for more of Charlie Tuesday. Three point five plague hoods rounded up for the sites that do not operate on half ratings.

Endorsed by my Peter James: ‘Quinn is a brilliant new talent!’
Images from the book

The Physician by Noah Gordon

 

Description: In the 11th century, Rob Cole left poor, disease-ridden London to make his way across the land, hustling, juggling, peddling cures to the sick—and discovering the mystical ways of healing. It was on his travels that he found his own very real gift for healing—a gift that urged him on to become a doctor. So all consuming was his dream, that he made the perilous, unheard-of journey to Persia, to its Arab universities where he would undertake a transformation that would shape his destiny forever.

Not an item for the rigid, pedantic historian as there are anachronisms galore. Black Death, for one glaring instance and, wait for it,… the discovery that fleas were the carriers. Yes this is 11th century. Who cares, ’tis romping fun!

That aside it is a fabulous tale fully worthy of an encounter.

Isfahan

Three and a half genie lamps

The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

 

Description: Master storyteller and bestselling novelist Clive Barker creates an enchanting tale for both children and adults to cherish and retell. The Thief of Always tells the haunting story of Harvey, a bright 10-year-old who is suffering from the winter doldrums, and of a creature who takes him to a place where every day is filled with fun, and Christmas comes every night.

Opening:

No such thing as a free lunch, Harvey; didn’t your mother tell you?

Four all-day every-day Christmas dinners

Don’t Look Back by Gregg Hurwitz

bookshelves: published-2014, summer-2014, adventure, mexico, net-galley, e-book, newtome-author, rape

Read from August 02 to 11, 2014

 

Description: After the breakup of her marriage, Evie takes the holiday of a lifetime. A few weeks of hiking, rafting and jungle adventure at an eco-lodge in Mexico sound ideal. But what should have been the perfect pick-me-up soon turns into a nightmare.

Nothing is quite what it seems. There are secrets hidden that can’t be allowed to leave their jungle hiding place. And which their keeper will kill to protect.

If she is ever to see her son again, Evie will be forced to find reserves of strength, courage and ingenuity she never dreamt existed. Or die trying.

It’s a jungle out there!

Left feeling completely indifferent to both characters and plot. Maybe the rape in the opening jungle scenes had something to do with my apathy, or maybe it was the writing that never once made me stop to admire a turn of phrase or marvel at a description. There are many who enjoy Hurwitz judging the ratings on his previous books so I’m not sure he will mind too much if he loses out on my conversion.

Two and a half machete swipes and a hand wobble is all I can muster.

Gregg Hurwitz is the internationally bestselling author of You’re Next, Or She Dies, We Know and I See You. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford Universities, he lives with his family in California, where he writes screenplays, television and comics including Batman and Wolverine.

Haphazard House by Mary Wesley

bookshelves: under-50-ratings, kiddlewinks, play-dramatisation, published-1983, radio-4x, art-forms, summer-2014, britain-england, families, fradio, games-people-play, gambling, amusing, adventure, ghosties-ghoulies, devon

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: R4x
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from July 04 to 22, 2014

 

R4x

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b048ndny

Description: When eleven-year-old Lisa Fuller and her younger brother Josh buy a house in the country with their winnings from a horse race, their whole family encounters strange and wonderful chaos in their new home.

Episode 1:Impoverished and desperate, Pa Fuller’s reckless bet and acquisition of a panama hat changes all. Starring James Nickerson.

Episode 2: The Fullers and friends move into their new abode and soon find it a source of joy and ominous mystery.

The Fullers and friends are imperilled and beguiled in equal measure, as well as adrift in time.

‘If you want to get ahead, get a hat’, runs the adage, and in this story runs along with the idea that Papa’s new Panama is magic. This story was long before the Potteresque choosing hat. Charming story. Three hattips.

Shout at the Devil by Wilbur Smith

bookshelves: published-1968, tbr-busting-2014, summer-2014, adventure, african-continent, poachers, testost-tosh, fraudio

Read from July 19 to 21, 2014

 

rosado on the road

Read by John Cormack. Duration: 14:12

Description: The year:1912. The place: East Africa. The action: ivory-poaching deep in the German-occupied delta of the steaming Rufiji river. Flynn, elephant-hunter and hounder of Germans, likes to enjoy the spoils of his sport without too much effort – and the arrival of rich young Sebastian Oldsmith is a windfall he cannot resist. Sebastian is rapidly plunged into not merely an ivory-hunt, but a murderous game of hide-and-seek with Flynn’s enemy, the gross German Commissioner, Herman Fleischer.

Not my favourite WS storyline; a thrilling ride just the same.

Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville

bookshelves: currently-reading, vienna, victorian, gothic, e-book, net-galley, newtome-author, fantasy, anti-semitic, eugenics, historical-fiction, cults-societies-brotherhoods, austria, eye-scorcher, witches-and-wizards, superstitions, published-2014, psychology, lifestyles-deathstyles, gardening, food-glorious-food, doo-lally, cover-love, adventure, a-questing-we-shall-go, austro-hungarian-empire

Read from July 10 to 13, 2014


** spoiler alert **

**WARNING: there are spoilers galore in the reviews of this book, so don’t check down through the community book page.**

Description: Gretel and the Dark is Eliza Granville’s dazzling novel of darkness, evil – and hope. Vienna, 1899.

Josef Breuer – celebrated psychoanalyst – is about to encounter his strangest case yet. Found by the lunatic asylum, thin, head shaved, she claims to have no name, no feelings – to be, in fact, not even human. Intrigued, Breuer determines to fathom the roots of her disturbance.

Years later, in Germany, we meet Krysta. Krysta’s Papa is busy working in the infirmary with the ‘animal people’, so little Krysta plays alone, lost in the stories of Hansel and Gretel, the Pied Piper, and more. And when everything changes and the real world around her becomes as frightening as any fairy tale, Krysta finds that her imagination holds powers beyond what she could have ever guessed . . .

Eliza Granville was born in Worcestershire and currently lives in Bath. She has had a life-long fascination with the enduring quality of fairytales and their symbolism, and the idea for Gretel and the Dark was sparked when she became interested in the emphasis placed on these stories during the Third Reich. Gretel and the Dark is her first novel to be published by a major publisher.

This as change of pace from the huge and delicious dip-in/dip-out read of Der Turm: Geschichte aus einem versunkenen Land

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a young adult read. The main narrative is from the point of view of a young girl who doesn’t quite catch the meaning of all that happens around her, yet you the reader will discern straight away just what is unfolding if you remember your history of the time and the place.

Karl Lueger: The populist and anti-Semitic politics of his Christian Social Party are sometimes viewed as a model for Hitler’s Nazism.

Turn of the century Vienna is a time of blossoming psycho-analysis, uprise in anti-semitism, a rumbling of discontent with the emperor Franz Joseph, and the poor are becoming poorer. This is the backdrop to ‘Gretel and the Dark’, where the deeds are dark, superstitions run rife and most important, the writing superb.

Lambach Abbey: In 1897/98 Adolf Hitler lived in the town of Lambach with his parents. It is often claimed that he attended the secular Volksschule at which Benedictine teachers were employed, but also that he attended the monastery school, where each day he saw swastikas among the carved stones and woodwork, which included the symbol.

Just as Oskar in The Tin Drum is one step removed from the events, so here with Krysta, and her real thoughts sometimes are only revealed when she is conversing to her doll. This is clear at the death of her father where she vocally tells everyone that papa is not dead, then she whispers a query to her doll about what are they going to do now.

Just a smidgeon short of five hitlers

An aside: on NetGALLEY(™) you get a chance to vote whether you do or don’t like the cover. I liked it!

The Rose of Tibet

bookshelves: mystery-thriller, tibet, published-1962, under-500-ratings, adventure, hardback, handbag-read, paper-read, spring-2014, casual-violence, one-penny-wonder, ouch, religion, buddhism, a-questing-we-shall-go

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Karen Witzler
Read from May 15 to 27, 2014

 

Bagged a first edition hardback. Smashing. The prologue states that this story is mostly true so even though some of it may appear ‘out there’ Charles Duguid Houston’s story is, we assured, a fictionalised account of a true adventure. He left for Inda in 1950, and returned on a stretcher in 1951 with a sensational story to tell.

Opening: In the summer of 1949, when he was twenty-seven, Houston found himself having an affair with a married woman. She was thirty, and he was not in love with her, and he had only gone into it because he was bored and lonely. He didn’t think that the affair would outlast the summer, but it did, and by the autumn, when he started school again he was wondering how to end it. He was a bit digusted with himself.

Charles’s half brother, Hugh Whittington, is missing, presumed dead after an avalanche in Tibetan pass, and for the life insurance company to pay out to the families of the four men team, death certificates will have to be acquired. Restless, weary of his art teacher job, and ambivalent regarding the two women in his life, Charles makes the journey…

Great adventure tale along the lines of ‘She’ and ‘Lost Horizon’
3.5*

The Invention of Brazil by Misha Glenny

bookshelves: spring-2014, published-2014, nonfiction, travel, politics, filthy-lucre, anthropology, casual-violence, environmental-issues, fradio, gangsters, slaves, under-10-ratings, true-grime, south-americas, sleazy, revolution, religion, recreational-drugs, radio-4, music, lifestyles-deathstyles, history, colonial-overlords, bullies, brazil, art-forms, architecture, adventure, plague-disease, roman-catholic, sport, suicide

Read from May 02 to 19, 2014

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b042jcxs

Description: Forget the beach volleyball, carnival, and the rest – here’s the truth about Brazil. The murder rate is among the highest in the world. The economic inequality is visible wherever you go. Behind the happy cultural imagery there lies a much darker Brazil, the result of an extremely dark colonial history when this land was little more than a giant farm worked by slaves.

Misha Glenny and producer Miles Warde travel from the favela of Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro up the coast to Salvador, the first capital of Brazil, and then back to Sao Paulo, economic powerhouse of the south. On the way they meet contributors including the anthropologist Peter Fry; Americo Martins of Rede TV; historian Lilia Schwarz; and bestselling author Laurentino Gomez. Further contributions from Luciana Martins, David Brookshaw and Patrick Wilcken, author of Empire Adrift.

From the team behind The Invention of Germany and The Invention of Spain.

Salvador. Most of the slaves to Brazil landed here. At that time, Salvador was the capitol.

São Paulo is a sprawling mass and is the modern economic hub of this vast country. It was from this area that the slavers worked to capture indigneous indians. Think ‘The Mission’, Portugeuse style.

Episode 1: BBC DESCRIPTION: In The Invention of Brazil, Misha Glenny traces the gaps between the image and reality, beginning with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1500. More slaves were transported to Brazil than anywhere else, more than the United States, more than anywhere. “There were many Africans who served as interpreters,” Joao Reis explains, “who could tell the slaves: ‘You are not going to be eaten by those whites’. And that was the African fear – that they were being brought to an unknown world by whites where they would be eaten.”

Rocinha, the biggest slum in South America.

The favela borders Gavea, one of the richest areas of the city. The contrast is stark.

Episode 2: BBC DESCRIPTION: Misha Glenny continues his exploration of the little known but extraordinary events that have shaped Brazil. This week, two unexpected events in Brazil’s path to independence. The first occurred in 1808, when the entire Portuguese court moved across the Atlantic to escape Napoleon. They lived in Rio de Janeiro, which they enjoyed so much that they stayed on for another 13 years. The second occurred in 1822 when the King of Portugal’s son, Dom Pedro, declared ‘Independence or Death’, breaking Brazil free from her European overlords. We reveal that the British were heavily involved in both events.

Episode 3: BBC DESCRIPTION: From giant factory farm for Europeans to modern BRIC economy, the story of Brazil’s transformation is captured in this final programme in the life of Getulio Vargas – moderniser, dictator, and finally democratically elected president. In the final part of the Invention of Brazil, Misha Glenny explores the life of Vargas, the man who changed Brazil.

“I was struck by how short he was … the crowd went wild with adulation, an enormous mass of people. Their spontaneous shouts made me think I was in Italy, watching one of those fascist rallies.” Unnamed public official, seeing Vargas for the first time.

Vargas came to power in 1930 and proved an expert at keeping himself in power. Initially he styled himself on Mussolini – the story of why he took Brazil into the Second World War on the side of the Allies is central here. As also are the events leading up to his suicide while still in power. With contributions from anthropologist Lilia Schwarz, Professor David Brookshaw, Peter Fry, and author Ana Maria Machado whose father was arrested by Vargas several times.

“As quid pro quo for escorting the Portuguese across the Atlantic, the British ended up arm twisting the Portuguese royal court into signing a very one sided treaty, which in fact ended up giving the British more rights than the Brazilians themselves.” Patrick Wilcken, author Empire Adrift.

I enjoyed this three part documentary, however flister Laura, a Brazilian herself, rated this 2* so maybe this is not a rounded portrayal.