The Friend of the Family by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04fxy8d

BBC description: 4 Extra Debut. Russia, 1859. Chaos in the manor of Stephanchikovo when an ex-sergeant acts as arbiter of morals and taste. Stars David Suchet.

Drink a bottle of vodka and you can talk in any language you like!

Clive Merison and Davis Suchet excel in this written-as-a-play short story.

A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

bookshelves: handbag-read, paper-read, winter-20122013, tbr-busting-2013, published-1982, amusing, doo-lally, japan, magical-realism

Read from May 17, 2012 to February 28, 2013

 

Translated from the Japanese by Alfred Birnbaum

Opening: It was a short one-paragraph item in the morning edition. A friend rang me up to read it to me. Nothing special. Something a rookie reporter fresh out of college might’ve written for practice.

Ginko leaves strewn across the ground.

#60 TBR Busting 2013

Also have the audio file:

This is Murakami’s version of a Moby Dick story, and fun it was too.

5* The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
4* Kafka on the Shore
2* Norwegian Wood
3* A Wild Sheep Chase
4* After Dark
2* 1Q84 (will re-read at some point)
TR Dance Dance Dance
TR The Elephant Vanishes
4* After the Quake
3* Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

Prayer by Philip Kerr

 

Quercus Books

Description: A chilling modern horror story in which the source of the horror is totally unexpected – and utterly terrifying

Special Agent Gil Martins investigates domestic terrorism for the Houston FBI. Once a religious man, now his job makes him question the existence of a God who could allow the violence he sees every day.

Gil is asked to investigate a series of unexplained deaths of victims known for their liberal views.

When a woman tells Gil that these men have been killed by prayer, he questions her sanity. Yet the evidence mounts that there might be something in what she says, even more so when Gil finds that his own life is on the line.

This standalone is experimental for Kerr, where he invokes the devil to come out to play. Yep, Old Scratch hisself. RAWR. I feel Kerr has sadly mis-fired here and may have lost some of his fan-base.

Next up on my TBR is Kerr’s new one, Research, and I am now slightly nervous about just what the author of the fabulous Bernard Gunther stories is going to throw at me. But each book on its own merit, yes?

3.5* March Violets (Bernard Gunther, #1)
3.5* The Pale Criminal (Bernard Gunther, #2)
3.5* A German Requiem (Bernard Gunther, #3)
3.5* A Quiet Flame (Bernard Gunther, #5)
1* Prayer
TR Research

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

 

Description: In this dizzyingly rich novel of ideas, Mann uses a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps–a community devoted exclusively to sickness–as a microcosm for Europe, which in the years before 1914 was already exhibiting the first symptoms of its own terminal irrationality. The Magic Mountain is a monumental work of erudition and irony, sexual tension and intellectual ferment, a book that pulses with life in the midst of death.

Total Duration: 2:18:04

Olwen Wymark’s BBC R4 dramatisation, first broadcast 2001:

Paul Schofield (narrator)
Robert Whitelock (Hans Castorp)
Clive Merrison (Settembrini)
Sian Thomas (Clavdia)
Simon Ludders (Joachim)
John Hartley (Dr Behrens)
Norman Rodway (Peeperkorn)
Rhodri Hugh (Naphta)
Richard Elfyn (Dr Krokowski)
Christine Pritchard (Frau Stohr)
Directed by Alison Hindell, with music by Colin Sell

Schatzalp Davos

Not sure what I thought this story was going to be like, however I have come away satisfied. Mann makes the reader perform emotional somersaults, at times this is stanley-blade morose then quickly the mood changes to satire. I really did not like the blizzard scene.

In the bigger picture, this is another way to view the mentality in Europe circa 1914 – how weird! The music.

Overall, from this superb BBC production, I come away with three Hans Castor(p)s

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

The Invisible Code by Christopher Fowler

 

Description: Two small children are playing a game called ‘Witch-Hunter’. They place a curse on a young woman taking lunch in a church courtyard and wait for her to die. An hour later the woman is indeed found dead inside St Bride’s Church – a building that no-one else has entered. Unfortunately Bryant & May are refused the case. Instead, there are hired by their greatest enemy to find out why his wife has suddenly started behaving strangely. She’s become an embarrassment to him at government dinners, and he is convinced that someone is trying to drive her insane. She has even taken to covering the mirrors in her apartment, and believes herself to be the victim of witchcraft. Then a society photographer is stabbed to death in a nearby park and suddenly a link emerges between the two cases. And so begins an investigation that will test the members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit to their limits, setting Arthur Bryant off on a trail that leads to Bedlam and Bletchley Park, and into the world of madness, codes and the secret of London’s strangest relic.

The Rake Taking Possession of the Estate by Hogarth

A madcap romp through some of the most interesting snippets of London’s history. Add in a Twist of MPs’ Wives (collective noun), a shaken-not-stirred Bethlehem variant, swirl in a whole bunch of code, and top off with three sherbet lemons, a fourth half sucked. What have you got? A rollicking good, solid Bryant and May insert.

3* – Full Dark House (2003)
4* – The Water Room (2004)
4* – Seventy-Seven Clocks (2005)
3* – Ten Second Staircase (2006)
3.5* – White Corridor (2007)
3.5* – The Victoria Vanishes (2008)
3* – Bryant and May on the Loose (2009)
4* – Off the Rails (2010)
3.5* – Bryant and May and the Memory of Blood (2011)
3.5* – The Invisible Code (2012)

Roadside Picnic by Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky

 

rosado mp3 on the road.

Description: Red Schuhart is a stalker, one of those strange misfits compelled to venture illegally into the Zone and collect the strange artefacts that the alien visitors left scattered there. His whole life, even the nature of his daughter, is determined by the Zone.

Picnicers from SPAAAAAAACE!

Our poor human ego takes rather a pounding with the idea here. So insignificant are we that an alien ship stops off on planet for a minimal amount of time and fails to announce arrival. Same sort of discourtesy that anyone of us shows the ants etc. when we take out the ACME red-checkered picnic cloth over their pitch and squash the grass, drop our crumbs and wrappers, take a dump behind a bush.

There is a film loosely based on this book: Stalker (1979)

Three gold spheres as rating:

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!

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

bookshelves: summer-2014, tbr-busting-2014, published-2006, amusing, fraudio, fantasy, mythology, doo-lally

Read from July 08 to 09, 2014

 

Read by Fisher Stevens

Description: Charlie Asher is a pretty normal guy. A little hapless, somewhat neurotic, sort of a hypochondriac. He’s what’s known as a Beta Male: the kind of fellow who makes his way through life by being careful and constant — you know, the one who’s always there to pick up the pieces when the girl gets dumped by the bigger/taller/stronger Alpha Male.

But Charlie’s been lucky. He owns a building in the heart of San Francisco, and runs a secondhand store with the help of a couple of loyal, if marginally insane, employees. He’s married to a bright and pretty woman who actually loves him for his normalcy. And she, Rachel, is about to have their first child.

Yes, Charlie’s doing okay for a Beta. That is, until the day his daughter, Sophie, is born. Just as Charlie — exhausted from the birth — turns to go home, he sees a strange man in mint-green golf wear at Rachel’s hospital bedside, a man who claims that no one should be able to see him. But see him Charlie does, and from here on out, things get really weird. . . .

People start dropping dead around him, giant ravens perch on his building, and it seems that everywhere he goes, a dark presence whispers to him from under the streets. Strange names start appearing on his nightstand notepad, and before he knows it, those people end up dead, too. Yup, it seems that Charlie Asher has been recruited for a new job, an unpleasant but utterly necessary one: Death. It’s a dirty job. But hey, somebody’s gotta do it.

Christopher Moore, the man whose Lamb served up Jesus’ “missing years” (with the funny parts left in), and whose Fluke found the deep humor in whale researchers’ lives, now shines his comic light on the undiscovered country we all eventually explore — death and dying — and the results are hilarious, heartwarming, and a hell of a lot of fun.

Gotta love that bit where Charlie reads Slaughterhouse V to sophie. Great fun yet a touch too frenetic for me to rate higher than three yellow mustard stripes. Another TBR bites the dust; I am on a roll.

3* Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal
3* A Dirty Job
2* Practical Demonkeeping
4* The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
2* Island of the Sequined Love Nun

My guidelines for TBR busting excercises:

stage one – off tbr into wtb shelf if it is really bad or complete lack of interest

stage two – abandoned shelf if I get a little further than stage one but can’t take it anymore

stage three – skim through shelf

stage four – get to the end but want to rip it to shreds = room 101 shelf

Saying that, some TBRs end up as good star ratings

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’.