The Miniaturist

bookshelves: summer-2014, published-2014, historical-fiction, dutch, art-forms, fradio, glbt, arch, overwrought, empty, next

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from June 11 to August 02, 2014

 

Lookedinto-decidedagainst: ‘This has to be one over the most over-hyped debut novels I have ever read’: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…

Well, the above was written before Laura gave the heads up that it is BABT next week so I will give it a whirl. Will my initial verdict be the correct one? Emilia Fox narrating is one enormous plus point!

BABT

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04b3tyw

Description: On a cold autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of the Dutch East India Company’s most successful merchant trader : Johannes Brandt. But her lavishly furnished new home is not welcoming, and its inhabitants seem preoccupied with their own secrets. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office which leaves Nella isolated in the grand house on the canal with his sister, the sharp-tongued Marin and Otto and Cornelia their servants as company.

Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist, an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny and intricate creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways.

But as she starts to receive unexpected and unasked for items for her ‘toy house’ Nella becomes aware that the Brandt household contains unusual secrets and she begins to understand – and fear- the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society conformity is all. Neighbours are encouraged to spy on each other, excavating ‘the canker’ of sin. The packages from the mysterious miniaturist begin to reveal chillingly prophetic objects but Nella remains at a loss as to what they all mean.

Dutch dollhouse from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

1/10 Amsterdam, 1686: Nella is welcomed into married life with a strange and lavish present.

2/10 Nella continues to wonder when her husband is going to consummate their marriage.

3/10 The unlooked for package from the miniaturist has unnerved Nella, but she can’t help but be seduced by the intricate craftsmanship.

4/10 Rejected by her husband, Nella continues to feel alone in the city.

5/10 Nella decides to pay a visit to her husband at the offices of the Dutch East India Company

6/10 While Johannes is in Venice, an unwelcome visitor arrives at the Brandt household.

7/10 Nella discovers Marin’s secret, but does she fully understand its implications?

8/10 With Johannes under arrest, Nella must do what she can to sell the sugar before it rots.

9/10 The burgomasters of Amsterdam are determined to uphold their city’s god-fearing reputation

10/10 Nella bids her husband farewell and welcomes the new arrival.

my musical interpretation

Couldn’t for one minute buy into this, however it made pleasant listening and I’m sure that is not how Ms Burton wanted it. C’est la vie, cher sucre!

Ooo – only the two doll’s houses and both of those are for this production and narrator.

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard

bookshelves: poetry, summer-2014, glbt, published-2012

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: B&B (do it for the crumpets)
Read from June 26 to 27, 2014


http://www.audiobooksync.com/free-syn…

By Lesléa Newman
Read by Emily Beresford, Luke
Daniels, Tom Parks, Nick Podehl,
Kate Rudd, & Christina Traister
Published by Brilliance Audio

Description: On the night of October 6, 1998, a gay 21-year-old University of Wyoming student named Matthew Shepard was lured from a bar by two young men, then savagely beaten, tied to a fence on the outskirts of Laramie, and left to die. October Mourning is Leslea Newman’s deeply personal response to the events of that tragic day and its brutal aftermath.

“The narrators expertly carry the weight of the poems, excelling on verses that combine more than one voice.”
– AudioFile Magazine

he Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie: Three Novels

Read from April 02 to 03, 2014

 

Book 1 – The Notebook

Book 2 – The Proof

Book 3 – The Third Lie

Three novellas rolled into one of the most powerful reads I have experienced about how ordinary people try to cope from day to day in times of war and political upheaval. Does it still have relevance in today’s world? You just have to look at Crimea to arrive at the correct answer to that particular question: within a week the area changed nationality, a perimeter minefield was dug in, barbed wires fences raised, old troops replaced by foreign troops, people executed or gone missing, certain books, songs and flags have become unacceptable, curfews in place and Whoosh!! a time-zone change. I bet the people there have either fled or are having to use new tactics just to survive.

I’m thinking a re-read will be needed now I know the story; a little more attention to detail to see if there were any cracks I could have prised open earlier.

A fantastic trilogy that was utterly jarring on the emotions and galling in its dispassionate cruelty.

The Blackhouse

bookshelves: published-2009, tbr-busting-2014, series, winter-20132014, mystery-thriller, e-book, britain-scotland, gr-library, contemporary, first-in-series, medical-eew, religion, glbt, bullies, bedside, hebridean, zoology, teh-demon-booze, revenge

Read from June 19, 2013 to March 05, 2014

Here we go: They are just kids. Sixteen years old. Emboldened by alcohol. and hastened by the approaching Sabbath, they embrace the dark in search of love and find only death.

Excellent; looking forward to the next.

The Guga Hunt, Sula Sgeir. The chute used to drop the guga down to the boat.

3.5* The Blackhouse
TR The Lewis Man (Lewis Trilogy, #2)
TR The Chessmen (Lewis Trilogy, #3)

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The Quick by Lauren Owen

bookshelves: currently-reading, net-galley, debut, e-book, victoriana, published-2014, cults-societies-brotherhoods, glbt, vampires, london, gothic, fantasy

Read from February 07 to 13, 2014

 

ARC received with thanks from Net Galley and Random House Publishing Group – Random House in exchange for an honest review.

The most mysterious gentlemen’s club in London. The Aegolius’s character and affairs are kept a profound secret, known only to its initiates.

From the description: London, 1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society, and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Unnerved, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine city that greets her, she uncovers a secret world at the margins populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of one of the country’s preeminent and mysterious institutions: The Aegolius Club, whose members include the most ambitious, and most dangerous, men in England.

The opening is so evocative: There were owls in the nursery when James was a boy.

Since 1830, the club’s address has been Ormond Yard, off St James’ Square.

Expect this to be seen looming large on the updates of paranormal readers after its publication in July 2014. As a debut novel this is good, however flawed. The beginning is slow, it takes such a long time for any significant plot to event the horizon, and the writing for the first 50 pages is pedestrian. However, it does settle down and even the writing starts to fly into what the author must have been capable of all the time. Don’t forget, I am reading an uncorrected proof so these things may all be sorted by the time it is in the public arena.

It would be unfair for me to give away anymore than what is in the description above, yet I will stress that this will be highly appealing to great swathes of readers.

As the blurbs imply, this is a good debut novel by Lauren Owen.

The Aegolius Club

LOOKSEE: I see there is a way to request a free copy of The Quick here

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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 French Orphan

bookshelves: published-2012, net-galley, e-book, historical-fiction, winter-20132014, under-50-ratings, france, adventure, young-adult, spies, paris, newtome-author, bdsm, glbt, filthy-lucre

Read from January 27 to 29, 2014

 

Netgalley/Cameron Publicity & Marketing Ltd. First published 2012

Description: The year is 1640, and Louis XIII is on the French throne. However, as far as you’re concerned, this is all pretty meaningless. After all, as a teenage orphan living in a monastery school in Reims, all you have to worry about is dodging the unpleasant advances of a few unsavoury monks and looking forward to a life of penniless and celibate servitude in a religious order.

After a childhood and adolescence plagued by a constant longing to know who he really is, orphan Pierre has not the slightest idea that his questions are about to be answered. But you know what they say – be careful what you wish for…

Suddenly finding out who you are can bring with it not only happiness and fortune, but danger, friendship and the sort of swift education that the monastery could never have provided! The discovery of who Pierre really is affects not only Pierre and his friends, but has ramifications for the French nobility, the English crown, and most dangerous of all, the machinations of Cardinal Richelieu and his fierce ambition for the Church and for himself.

Dedication: To Polly – thanks for your support
To Katharine – thanks for making it happen

Palais-Cardinal c1642

Cardinal Richelieu was born in 1585 and died in 1642. Richelieu dominated the history of France from 1624 to his death as Louis XIII?s chief minister

Opening to the prologue: The log burning in the imposing marble fireplace disintegrated and sent a shower of dancing red-gold sparks into the air. The sound of the small explosion echoed in the library of the new palatial building known to everyone in Paris simply as le palais du cardinal, the home of His Eminence, Cardinal Richeleu, the revered – as much as reviled – the prime minister of France.

Reims

The story itself opens up in the monastery school in Reims, where the sadistic, paedophile overseer, Brother Heironymous, shows favour towards a comely youth, Armand, who is a friend of our protagonist Pierre, the orphan of the title. The hunt is on to find out just who was Pierre’s parents, and they must have had class because Reims never takes on just anyone to nurture.

That’s as far as I can take you without spoilers galore.

The writing is somewhat pedestrian and as such this is not an engrossing novel for hard-core historical fiction readers, however if it’s a light read you are after, albeit with male rape, as a palate cleanser, this may be the one for you.

The next in the series:

The Secrets of Montrésor (The French Orphan, #2)
Under the Spell of The Serenissima (The French Orphan, #3)

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Absolute Beginners

published-1959, london, lifestyles-deathstyles, britain-england, winter-20132014, racism, radio-4, fradio, cults-societies-brotherhoods, music, recreational-drugs, art-forms, prostitution, gangsters, glbt, under-500-ratings, young-adult, casual-violence, period-piece, bullies

Read from January 12 to 19, 2014

 

BABT

Colin MacInnes’s cult classic about teenagers, style and racial tension in 1950s London.

Description: London, 1958. “I swore by Elvis and all the saints that this last teenage year of mine was going to be a real rave.” The eighteen-year-old narrator of Colin MacInnes’ cult classic is determined to declare his independence from earlier generations, as he roams the city with his camera and a sharp eye for the stylish and the subversive. In the smoky jazz clubs of Soho, the coffee bars of Notting Hill and the cheap rooms of Pimlico the young and the restless – the absolute beginners – are revolutionising youth culture and forging a new carefree lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Meanwhile the Teddy Boy gangs are staging internecine battles, and a generation of Black immigrants is struggling to make a life in a hostile city. The definitive account of London life in the 1950s and what it means to be a teenager, this account of a young man’s coming of age captures the spirit of a generation and the changing face of London in the era of the first race riots and the lead up to the swinging Sixties.

Read by Joel MacCormack Abridged and produced by Sara Davies.

Theme tune: Laurie London – He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands – 1958

1. Last year as a teenage for our protagonist, and in Notting Hill too.

2. Mr Cool reports trouble brewing on the streets, the Fabulous Hoplite brings news of a party at Dido Lament’s, and Suzette won’t be persuaded out of her impending marriage.

3. The teenage narrator of Colin MacInnes’s cult classic sets about making some serious money in an attempt to win back the love of his life, and there’s a worrying visit from Mr Cool.

4. The teenage narrator is still shocked by Suzette’s marriage to Henley. Determined to try and woo her back, he takes the opportunity of a boat trip up the Thames to pay her a visit.

5. The teenage narrator finds himself caught up along with his friends in the violence that erupts on the streets of his home patch in Notting Hill.

Unsuprisingly, because of the parentage, MacInnes is at home with his subject matter and the writing is accomplished.

Any Human Heart

bookshelves: impac-longlist, booker-longlist, fraudio, published-2002, winter-20132014, tbr-busting-2014, spies, historical-fiction, lit-richer, lifestyles-deathstyles, art-forms, epistolatory-diary-blog, south-americas, uruguay, britain-england, cults-societies-brotherhoods, sport, gr-library, france, paris, oxford, glbt, spain, books-about-books-and-book-shops, norfolk, teh-brillianz, greece, adventure, cover-love, epic-proportions, eye-scorcher, london, madrid, war, wwii, lisbon, portugal, filthy-lucre, nassau, bahamas, switzerland, britain-scotland, iceland, suicide, teh-demon-booze, new-york, germany, picaresque, tongue-firmly-in-cheek, travel, edinburgh, those-autumn-years, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts, washyourmouthout-language, north-americas, music, midlife-crisis, african-continent, afr-nigeria, skoolzy-stuff, dodgy-narrator, afr-somalia

Read from November 28, 2013 to January 16, 2014

Read by Mike Grady

From the description: The journals begin with Mountstuart’s boyhood in Montevideo, Uruguay, then move to Oxford in the 1920s and the publication of his first book, then on to Paris where he meets Joyce, Picasso, Hemingway, et al., and to Spain, where he covers the civil war. During World War II, we see him as an agent for naval intelligence, becoming embroiled in a murder scandal that involves the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The postwar years bring him to New York as an art dealer in the world of 1950s abstract expressionism, then on to West Africa, to London where he has a run-in with the Baader-Meinhof Gang, and, finally, to France where, in his old age, he acquires a measure of hard-won serenity. This is a moving, ambitious, and richly conceived novel that summons up the heroics and follies of twentieth-century life.

In the fashion of Zelig, Forrest Gump and the 100 year old man, Mountstuart is in all the right places meeting all the important people, however Any Human Heart is an absolute joy as Boyd’s writing leaves those also-rans in the starting gates.

Purringly enjoyed Logan’s slamming of the Bloomsbury set, that circle of spite who lived in squares and loved in triangles. Not sure about the portrayal of Duke and Duchess and for this reason I support a flawed, dodgy narrator scenario.

And that goodreads product description box – WTF! It is just a review filched over from Amazon book sales, with its inherent bias. Bad News! Check the product description elsewhere.

Born on April 20, 1893 in Barcelona, Joan Miró Ferra was a Spanish painter.

From wiki: Sir Harry Oakes, 1st Baronet (December 23, 1874 – July 7, 1943) was an American-born British Canadian gold mine owner, entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist. He earned his fortune in Canada and in the 1930s moved to the Bahamas for tax purposes, where he was murdered in 1943 in notorious circumstances. The cause of death and the details surrounding it have never been entirely determined, and have been the subject of several books and four films.

Have the TV miniseries to watch at some stage, however, for now, I will mull over the full life of Logan MS – I am in my weeds for you.

4* Restless
5* Any Human Heart – recommended
4* Brazzaville Beach
WL Waiting for Sunrise
3* Armadillo
AB Solo