Speaks the Nightbird (Matthew Corbett, #1) by Robert McCammon

 

Description: The Carolinas, 1699: The citizens of Fount Royal believe a witch has cursed their town with inexplicable tragedies – and they demand that beautiful widow Rachel Howarth be tried and executed for witchcraft. Presiding over the trial is traveling magistrate Issac Woodward, aided by his astute young clerk, Matthew Corbett. Believing in Rachel’s innocence, Matthew will soon confront the true evil at work in Fount Royal….
Evil Unveiled
After hearing damning testimony, magistrate Woodward sentences the accused witch to death by burning. Desperate to exonerate the woman he has come to love, Matthew begins his own investigation among the townspeople. Piecing together the truth, he has no choice but to vanquish a force more malevolent than witchcraft in order to save his beloved Rachel – and free Fount Royal from the menace claiming innocent lives.

4* Gone South
CR Speaks the Nightbird (Matthew Corbett, #1)

Somewhere down below there is a comment that this was written by a mid-life crisis guy who wasn’t having his bedroom needs resolved. Probably nearer the truth than said author would care to acknowledge. You can’t get away from the fact that this is written purely from a male POV, and some of it right from the playground and it would fail the Bechdel test in fine style.

However.

This was an eye-scorcher of epic proportions that at times felt rather long-winded and at other points I was breathless with anticipation. Quite the nail-biting period-piece murder-mystery.

Supernatural? No.

Horror? Hell no.

Just a riveting story that could have been a five star if McCammon shown more style, and have dropped a couple of scenes that were graphic and pointless.

Four Spanish coins from the belly of a turtle.

The Shepherd of the Hills by Harold Bell Wright

bookshelves: film-only, published-1907, summer-2014, lifestyles-deathstyles, lit-richer, forest, bucolic-or-pastoral, christian, doo-lally

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Don
Read from June 29 to 30, 2014


Watch the film here

Description: “Here and there among men, there are those who pause in the hurried rush to listen to the call of a life that is more real. He who sees too much is cursed for a dreamer, a fanatic, or a fool, by the mad mob, who, having eyes, see not, ears and hear not, and refuse to understand.” –From The Shepherd of the Hills Originally published in 1907, The Shepherd of the Hills is Harold Bell Wright’s most famous work. Pelican Publishing Company is honored to bring this classic novel back to print as part of the Pelican Pouch series. In The Shepherd of the Hills, Wright spins a tale of universal truths across the years to the modern-day reader. His Eden in the Ozarks has a bountiful share of life’s enchantments, but is not without its serpents. While Wright rejoices in the triumphs, grace, and dignity of his characters, he has not naively created a pastoral fantasyland where the pure at heart are spared life’s struggles and pains. Refusing to yield to the oft-indulged temptation of painting for the reader the simple life of country innocents, Wright forthrightly shows the passions and the life-and-death struggles that go on even in the fairest of environments that man invades. The shepherd, an elderly, mysterious, learned man, escapes the buzzing restlessness of the city to live in the backwoods neighborhood of Mutton Hollow in the Ozark hills. There he encounters Jim Lane, Grant Matthews, Sammy, Young Matt, and other residents of the village, and gradually learns to find a peace about the losses he has borne and has yet to bear. Through the shepherd and those around him, Wright assembles here a gentle and utterly masterful commentary on strength and weakness, failure and success, tranquility and turmoil, and punishment and absolution. This tale of life in the Ozarks continues to draw thousands of devotees to outdoor performances in Branson, Missouri, where visitors can also see the cabin where the real Old Matt and Aunt Mollie lived. Harold Bell Wright also is the author of That Printer of Udell’s (pb) and The Calling of Dan Matthews (pb), both published by Pelican.

How lovely it is to be so ignorant of divisive issues re geography in US. This, in a heap of reviews, is peculiarly Ozark and that it might be hard to grasp. I looked up Ozark on ‘thankheavenfor’ wiki:

Ozarks is a toponym believed to be derived as a linguistic corruption of the French abbreviation aux Arcs (short for aux Arkansas, or “of/at Arkansas” in English)[1] in the decades prior to the French and Indian War, aux Arkansas originally referring to the trading post at Arkansas Post, located in wooded Arkansas Delta lowland area above the confluence of the Arkansas River with the Mississippi River.

Residents, as far as I can tell, are looked down upon by other US citizens. Please feel free to jump in and explain why this is, I am always up for my horizons being broadened.
:O)*

The answer from Don:

Great post Bettie, thanks! I will be out that way later this week so this is very timely and informative to me.

As far as residents being looked down upon, the label for them, hillbilly, as explained by wikipedia, connotes a “stereotype — the poor, ignorant, feuding family with a huge brood of children tending the ancestral moonshine still — reached its current characterization during the years of the Great Depression, when many mountaineers left their homes to find work in other areas of the country. It was during these years that comic strips such as Li’l Abner and films such as Ma and Pa Kettle made the ‘hillbilly’ a common stereotype.” Hope that helps!

Theme tune placed here just for fun

Riight, gotcha, I’m with you. Thanks for answering, Don, I can see why many would not have felt comfortable with replying: regional prejudices are a tricky subject. Funnily enough, because I can see ‘Springfield’ on that map, it set me thinking of stereotypical ‘Dohs’.

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

bookshelves: published-2014, net-galley, e-book, spring-2014, sci-fi, religion, christian, little-green-men, epistolatory-diary-blog, environmental-issues

Read from May 02 to 15, 2014


Crown Publishing. Hogarth,

Description: A monumental, genre-defying novel over ten years in the making, from the internationally bestselling author of The Crimson Petal and the White. The Book of Strange New Things tells the story of Peter Leigh, a devoted man of faith called to the mission of a lifetime, one that takes him literally light years away from his wife, Bea. Peter becomes immersed in the mysteries of an astonishing new environment and the ego-gratifying work of ministering to a native population hungry for the Bible–this “book of strange new things.” But he soon begins to receive increasingly desperate letters from home. North Korea is devastated by a typhoon; the Maldives are wiped out by a tsunami; England endures an earthquake, and Bea’s faith, once the guiding light of their lives, begins to falter.
A separation measured in galaxies, and defined both by one newly discovered world and another in a state of collapse, is threatened by an ever-widening gulf that is much less quantifiable. Peter’s and Bea’s trials lay bare a profound meditation on faith, love tested beyond endurance, and the responsibility we have to others.

Opening:

‘I was going to say something’, he said.
‘So say it’, she said.
He was quiet, keeping his eyes on the road. In the darkness of the city’s outskirts, there was nothing to see except the tail-lights of other cars in the distance, the endless unfurling roll of tarmac, the giant utilitarian fixtures of the motorway.

According to the advance blurb from Chicago Tribune this is ‘deliciously dirty’ so I’d better put on my splash mask.

When Peter signed up as inter-galactic missionary it was the kiss of death to planet Earth, or that is how Beatrice construed it.

The dual storyline is reconciled by letters of disintegrating communication between Bea and Peter, she dealing with climate change issues on earth, and he ministering to the indiginous population.

And hovering in the background is the disappearence of two men from the base, Kurtzberg and Tartaglione:

‘They didn’t vanish overnight. It was kinda gradual. They would come back to base less and less often. They became…distant. Didn’t want to stick around.’

For most of The Book of Strange New Things it felt like HEART OF DARKNESS IN SPAAAAACE, not least because one of the missing men was called Kurtzberg.

I don’t know which book that Chicago Tribune bod read; it couldn’t have been this one as this proved to be tame on all levels.

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The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vac

bookshelves: spring-2014, film-only, spain, north-americas, mexico, under-20, adventure, anthropology, autobiography-memoir, cannibalism, casual-violence, christian, desert-regions, dodgy-narrator, doo-lally, epic-proportions, magicians, mental-health, mythology, napoleonic, ouch, recreational-homicide, sussex

Read on May 03, 2014

 

Cabeza de Vaca (1991)

Description: The dramatic narrative tells the story of some of the first Europeans and the first-known Africans to encounter the North American wilderness and its native inhabitants. It is a fascinating tale of survival against the highest odds, and it highlights Native Americans and their interactions with the newcomers in a manner seldom seen in writings of the period.

Expedition des Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca 1528 bis 1536

We open up in the year 1536…

This film is, as far as I can tell and am open to wiser interpretations, based on the short report (80 pages) by de Vaca entitled ‘Naufragios’.

Wiki sourced bio:

Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was born around 1490 into a hidalgo family, the son of Núñez and Teresa Cabeza de Vaca y de Zurita, in the town of Jerez de la frontera. Despite their status as minor nobility, the family had modest economic resources. In 16th-century documents, his name appeared as “Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca”.

Three Brothers by Peter Ackroyd

bookshelves: published-2013, e-book, ipad, spring-2014, period-piece, london, lit-richer, britain-england, tbr-busting-2014, under-100-ratings, families, antarctica, author-love, betrayal, books-about-books-and-book-shops, bullies, casual-violence, christian, doo-lally, filthy-lucre, journalism, library-in-norway, lifestyles-deathstyles, lit-crit, prostitution, recreational-homicide, religion, roman-catholic

Read from March 11 to April 18, 2014

 

description: Rapier-sharp, witty, intriguing, and mysterious: a new novel from Peter Ackroyd set in the London of the 1960s.

Three Brothers follows the fortunes of Harry, Daniel, and Sam Hanway, a trio of brothers born on a postwar council estate in Camden Town. Marked from the start by curious coincidence, each boy is forced to make his own way in the world, a world of dodgy deals and big business, of criminal gangs and crooked landlords, of newspaper magnates, backbiters, and petty thieves.

London is the backdrop and the connecting fabric of these three lives, reinforcing Ackroyd’s grand theme that place and history create, surround and engulf us. From bustling, cut-throat Fleet Street to hallowed London publishing houses, from the wealth and corruption of Chelsea to the smoky shadows of Limehouse and Hackney, this is an exploration of the city, peering down its streets, riding on its underground, and drinking in its pubs and clubs.

Everything is possible, not only in the new freedom of the 1960s but also in London’s timeless past.

Opening: IN THE London borough of Camden, in the middle of the last century, there lived three brothers; they were three young boys, with a year’s difference of age between each of them. They were united, however, in one extraordinary way. They had been born at the same time on the same day of the same month—to be precise, midday on 8 May.


John A. Parks, Camden Town

Wormwood Scrubs in the ’50s

Three boys, so very different on the surface:

Harry ‘Heck’ Hanway, the reporter
Daniel, lit-crit bitch
Sam, personal assistant.

At an early age these lads drifted away from each other, however, by the time they are late teens, early twentiers, they are so ‘Oh my giddy aunt-ishly’ connected in both business and personal matters that it is a wonder Ackroyd could keep this devilishly sly plot going. All the balls were in the air.

Three Brothers is a parable about conectivity: I drew parallels with Brothers Karamazov, Dickens, and The New Testament, however it is because London itself is a main character that these parallels only held a superficial similarity. Ackroyd himself alludes to connections on page 192.

I did not enjoy those brief hallucinatory passages and that is reflected in a star fall.

3* Three Brothers
3* Hawksmoor
4* Shakespeare: The Biography
4* Chatterton
4* Dickens
1* The Lambs of London
3* The House of Doctor Dee
3* Poe: A Life Cut Short
3* Venice: Pure City
2* The Plato Papers
5* Tudors (The History of England, #2)
3* The Fall of Troy
4* Wilkie Collins
5* The Mystery Of Charles Dickens

The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice

bookshelves: essays, fraudio, published-1995, spring-2014, roman-catholic, nonfiction, christian, history, religion, tbr-busting-2014, politics, philosophy, india, calcutta, lifestyles-deathstyles

Read from March 04 to 05, 2014

 

Written by: Christopher Hitchens, Thomas Mallon (foreword)
Narrated by: Simon Prebble
Length: 2 hrs and 11 mins
Format: Unabridged

Description: A Nobel Peace Prize recipient beatified by the Catholic Church in 2003, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was celebrated by heads of state and adored by millions for her work on behalf of the poor. In his measured critique, Hitchens asks only that Mother Teresa’s reputation be judged by her actions-not the other way around.

Among his many books, perhaps none have sparked more outrage than The Missionary Position, Christopher Hitchens’s meticulous study of the life and deeds of Mother Teresa.

A Nobel Peace Prize recipient beatified by the Catholic Church in 2003, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was celebrated by heads of state and adored by millions for her work on behalf of the poor. In his measured critique, Hitchens asks only that Mother Teresa’s reputation be judged by her actions-not the other way around.

With characteristic elan and rhetorical dexterity, Hitchens eviscerates the fawning cult of Teresa, recasting the Albanian missionary as a spurious, despotic, and megalomaniacal operative of the wealthy who long opposed measures to end poverty, and fraternized, for financial gain, with tyrants and white-collar criminals throughout the world.

Somewhat a redundant read given the year that I have finally got around to this and there was nothing in it that any intelligent person hadn’t sussed out about the disservice she did to the Culcutta poor. Far better would have been if she could hand out dunkies and pain killers instead of telling them that pain brings you nearer to God, and it is everyone’s duty (except hers, of course) to bring children to Christ. Powerful writing as always.

4* The Portable Atheist
TR God Is Not Great
TR Mortality
4* Arguably
TR Letters To A Young Contrarian
4* The Missionary Position

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Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess

bookshelves: booker-longlist, gr-library, vatican-city, italy, winter-20132014, published-1980, lit-richer, those-autumn-years, books-about-books-and-book-shops, glbt, religion, christian, catholic, malta, art-forms, dodgy-narrator, historical-masturbation, historical-fiction

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Read from February 02 to 10, 2014

Dedication: To Liana

Opening: It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.

William Foster Harpsichord

Chapter Four: ‘On the walls of my study I had a Willelm de Kooning female in mostly red crayon and one of the first sketches Picass had done for Les Demoseilles d’Avignon…’

Flaunt out O sea your separate flags of nations!
Flaunt out visible as ever the various ship-signals!
But do you reserve especially for yourself and for the soul of man one flag above all the rest,
A spiritual woven signal for all nations, emblem of man elate above death,
Token of all brave captains and all intrepid sailors and mates,
And all that went down doing their duty,
Reminiscent of them, twined from all intrepid captains young or old,
A pennant universal, subtly waving all time, o’er all brave sailors,
All seas, all ships.

Walt Whitman: I. A Song for all Seas, all Ships. Book XIII: Song of the Exposition

The fictional Pope Gregory XVII bears a certain resemblance to Pope Paul VI, what with the dates and the inclusion of Mussolini, that said however, all dates, and the characters peopling events, must be taken with a pinch of salt. One could go nuts trying to pin down a definitive, trust me. All further investigations either to blind alleys or to loose fits that are so baggy that one could be accused of making the scant facts fit the way this reader wants it to evolve.

Excellent language, as one would expect; this is one hell of a class act, however if you simply must have someone in a story to like, there will be disappointment. For all his arrogance, name-dropping and snobbery I came to have a soft spot for Mr Toomey in the same way the selfish, arrogant Charles Arrowby of Iris Murdoch’s ‘The Sea, The Sea’ got under my skin by the end.

✮✮✮✮½

The Borgias by G.J. Meyer The Borgias: The Hidden History by G.J. Meyer

bookshelves: tbr-busting-2014, winter-20132014, nonfiction, lifestyles-deathstyles, italy, history, fraudio, politics, biography, under-500-ratings, catholic, christian, incest-agameforallthefamily, poison, published-2013, gr-library

Read from January 27 to February 07, 2014

 

From the description: Forget everything you think you know about the most infamous family of the Italian Renaissance-here in every colorful detail is the real story of the Borgias and their indelible, tumultuous world, written by the gifted author of the acclaimed A World Undone and The Tudors and timed to coincide with the upcoming new season of the celebrated Showtime series, The Borgias.

Meet Rodrigo Borgia-Pope Alexander VI; Cesare Borgia-the reputed model for Machiavelli’s The Prince; Lucrezia; and Juan-the members of one of the most notorious families in European history. Epic in scope and set against the beautifully rendered backdrop of Renaissance Italy, The Borgias is a thrilling new depiction of these celebrated personalities and an era unsurpassed in beauty, terror, and intrigue.

The taunt is on right from the introduction: ‘If you feel that I have gone too far then let that lead to a discussion.’ So one gleans from this that The Hidden History plans to be revisionist in nature. I hope that I am not going to have to swallow the Borgias as lily-white saints!

On with the show…

Part One Alfonso: From out of nowhere.

Pope Callixtus III wasin office 1455 – 1458. From wiki: He is viewed by historians as being extremely pious, a firm believer in the authority of the Holy See and, like the second Borgia pope, he went to great lengths to advance his immediate family.

@25% ‘History is a trickster, though, it mocks the best laid plans’

Okay – that introduction, which reads as if a ‘common, if you think you’re hard enough’ taunt, is followed up through the main body with nothing more than pointing out the lack of concrete evidence of any of the misdemeanors applied to the clan. Meyer posits that the slurs are a case of ‘history is written by the winners’.

However, this was also the case for Richard III and Richardians thought they had such a hold on the ‘true’ nature of the maligned person that they have, over the years, not even shown him on the silver screen with a limp or hump (I’m looking at you, The Cousins’ War). How wonderful that his bones were found to vindicate Holinshed’s depiction of the physical Richard at least.

Is this a compelling read? Very much so. IMHO, the best yet on the Borgias and he doesn’t try to sway you one way or another, just points out the lack of evidence as and when appropriate, so we are not fed a whitewash, just given places to stop and mull, and investigate further on our own.

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.

Updates:

“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.

3.5*