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 Lewis Man (Lewis Trilogy, #2) by Peter May

bookshelves: nutty-nuut, e-book, gr-library, britain-scotland, series, published-2011, spring-2014, mystery-thriller, bucolic-or-pastoral, bullies, casual-violence, contemporary, cover-love, dodgy-narrator, families, handbag-read, hebridean, lifestyles-deathstyles, mental-health, ouch, protestant, religion, roman-catholic, those-autumn-years, tragedy

Read from March 19 to 20, 2014

Description: A MAN WITH NO NAME. An unidentified corpse is recovered from a Lewis peat bog; the only clue to its identity being a DNA sibling match to a local farmer. A MAN WITH NO MEMORY. But this islander, Tormod Macdonald – now an elderly man suffering from dementia – has always claimed to be an only child. A MAN WITH NO CHOICE. When Tormod’s family approach Fin Macleod for help, Fin feels duty-bound to solve the mystery.

Dedication: In memory of my dad

‘That is where they live:
Not here and now, but where all happened once.’

– from ‘The Old Fools’ by Philip Larkin

Opening: On this storm-lashed island three hours off the north-west coast of Scotland, what little soil exists gives the people their food and their heat. It also takes their dead. And very occasionally, as today, gives one up.

Mona and Finn say their goodbyes just down the cobbles from St. Giles on the Golden Mile; sixteen years, ~20% of their lives just written off, and now deeper strangers than they ever had been when they first met. So it’s back to the womb, amongst the Wee Frees on the Isle of Lewis, for our hero Finn.

An eye-scorcher that has definitely ratcheted up a couple of notches from the first book. This is a fictionalised story set around the factual and gruelling Roman Catholic practice of sending orphaned kids to the islands to work as slaves.

Sphagnum bog

Beinn Ruigh Choinnich/Ben Kenneth, S. Uist. Strong Roman Catholic community.

Oiled wool Eriskay jumpers: the individual family patterns were as good as a fingerprint.

The Dean Gallery is an art gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is part of the National Galleries of Scotland. It was opened in 1999, opposite the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which is its sister gallery. In 2011 the buildings were renamed Modern Art Two and Modern Art One respectively. The building was originally an orphanage, designed in 1830 by Thomas Hamilton. The conversion of the building into a gallery was designed by Terry Farrell. Since its opening it has housed the Paolozzi Gift, a collection of his works given to the Gallery of Modern Art in 1994 by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi. It contains a large collection of Dada and Surrealist art and literature, much of which was given by Gabrielle Keiller. It is also used for temporary exhibitions. (wiki sourced)

3.5* The Blackhouse (Lewis Trilogy, #1)
5* The Lewis Man (Lewis Trilogy, #2)
TR The Chessmen (Lewis Trilogy, #3)

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A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940

bookshelves: e-book, nonfiction, wwii, war, under-500-ratings, tbr-busting-2014, published-1991, military-maneuvers, finland, gr-library

Read from February 27 to March 10, 2014

 

Description: In 1939, tiny Finland waged war-the kind of war that spawns legends-against the mighty Soviet Union, and yet their epic struggle has been largely ignored. Guerrillas on skis, heroic single-handed attacks on tanks, unfathomable endurance, and the charismatic leadership of one of this century’s true military geniuses-these are the elements of both the Finnish victory and a gripping tale of war.

Dedication:To the memory of Colonel J. N. Pease,
whose faith never wavered

When Stalin says “dance,” a wise man dances.
—Nikita S. Khrushchev, in ‘Khrushcheo Remembers’

Opening: At the easternmost end of the Baltic Sea, between the Gulf of Finland and the vastness of Lake Ladoga, lies the rugged, narrow Karelian Isthmus. Although the land is sternly beautiful—cut laterally by numerous clear blue lakes, tapestried with evergreen forest, and textured by outcroppings of reddish gray granite—it has little intrinsic worth. The soil grows few crops, and those grudgingly, and the scant mineral resources are hardly worth the labor of extraction. Yet there are few comparably small areas of land in all Europe that have been fought over so often and so stubbornly.

Karelian Isthmus

Just how I like my history, concise, to the point, filled with maps and photographs, and without a glimmer of authorial vanity. Excellent.

Finland alone, in danger of death—superb,
sublime Finland—shows what free men can do.
—Winston Churchill, January 1940

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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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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.

Fire in the East

bookshelves: published-2008, ancient-history, historical-fiction, one-penny-wonder, paper-read, tbr-busting-2014, winter-20132014, hardback, roman-civilisation, war, syria, military-maneuvers, testost-tosh, washyourmouthout-language, mythology, adventure, conflagration, spies, gr-library, iran-persia, iraq

Read from February 01 to 02, 2014

 

Description: The year is AD 255 – the Roman Imperium is stretched to breaking point, its authority and might challenged along every border. The greatest threat lies in Persia to the east, where the massing forces of the Sassanid Empire loom with fiery menace. There the isolated Roman citadel of Arete awaits inevitable invasion.

One man is sent to marshal the defences and shore up crumbling walls. A man whose name itself means war: a man called Ballista. Alone, Ballista is called to muster the forces, and the courage to stand first and to stand hard, against the greatest enemy ever to confront the Imperium.

This is part one of WARRIOR OF ROME: an epic of empire, of heroes, of treachery, of courage, and most of all, a story of brutal, bloody warfare.

There be a map spread over two sides: The Voyage of the Concordia and the itinerary of the Dux Ripae

Followed by another two sided map of the city of Arete, on the Euphrates, and a fragment from the Sassanid Book of Ayin

Prologue (Summer AD238) War is hell. Civil war is worse.

The first line of Chapter I: By the time the warship had cleared the harbour breakwater of Brundisium, the spies had found each other.

Book is discarded from Bristol Public Libraries.

Ahura Mazda

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It is all ‘Nasty Work In The Dark With A Short Sword’.

Ninety Three

bookshelves: winter-20132014, fraudio, published-1874, historical-fiction, france, tbr-busting-2014, revolution, lit-richer, execution, epic-proportions, gr-library, channel-islands, victorian, translation, seven-seas

Read from January 05 to 27, 2014

 

Description: Ninety-three, the last of Victor Hugo’s novels, is regarded by many including such diverse critics as Robert Louis Stevenson and André Maurois as his greatest work.

1793, Year Two of the Republic, saw the establishment of the National Convention, the execution of Louis XVI, the Terror, and the monarchist revolt in the Vendée, brutally suppressed by the Republic. Hugo’s epic follows three protagonists through this tumultuous year: the noble royalist de Lantenac; Gauvain, who embodies a benevolent and romantic vision of the Republic; and Cimourdain, whose principles are altogether more robespierrean.The conflict of values culminates in a dramatic climax on the scaffold.

“Was it a Blue; was it a White?”
“It was a bullet”

Trivia: The former priest who is considered by some to be the novel’s villain, Cimourdain, purportedly “made a deep impression on a young Georgian seminarian named Dzhugashvili, who was confined to his cell for reading Ninety-Three and later changed his name to Stalin”, according to a biographer of Hugo. (wiki sourced)

Daniel Vierge, illus. from “Ninety-three”

Achille-Isidore Gilbert, from Ninety-three vol. 1

Tellmarch. Jules Férat, from Ninety-three vol. 1

Charlotte Corday killing Marat. Frédéric Théodore Lix, from Ninety-three vol. 1

Imânus. A. Lançon, from Ninety-three vol. 2

She walked towards the tower. Édouard Riou, from Ninety-three vol. 2

Wow, this was rich pickings indeed, and delivered in that wry way that Hugo does to great aplomb. A great listen; fully recommended.

5* Les Misérables
3* The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
5* The Man Who Laughs
4* Ninety-Three
TR The Toilers of the Sea

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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*

Hitler’s Children by Kurt Ladner

bookshelves: gr-library, fradio, play-dramatisation, published-1943, tbr-busting-2014, winter-20132014, wwii, nazi-related

Read from January 20 to 21, 2014

 

Hitler’s Children (Radio Adaption) 1943 ABEE
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http://beeimg.com/images/n30969156161…

About:
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HITLERS CHILDREN is a searing documentary focusing on these tormented souls who look, talk, eat and breathe like everyone else… and yet feel as if they were spawned by the devil. –Allan Hall, The Sun

POWERFUL! A compassionate group portrait of five actual descendants of the Nazi regimes most notorious actors. –Michelle Orange, The Village Voice

A GREAT ACHEIVEMENT! Cunningly structured as a good thriller – and just as taut. –George Robinson, The New York Jewish Week

Product Description: Adolf Hitler did not have children, but what of the families of Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler and Hans Frank, to name a few? What is it like for the descendants of these top Nazi officials to deal with the legacy left behind by their notorious families? HITLER’S CHILDREN introduces us to the children, grandchildren and nieces and nephews of these infamous men. Among them Niklas Frank, son of Hans Frank and godson of Hitler, who despises his father’s past so much that he has spent his entire adult life researching and writing negatively about him, often touring around Germany to lecture against his father and the Nazi regime. And Bettina Göring – the great-niece of Hitler’s second in command, Hermann Göring – who lives in voluntary exile in Santa Fe, NM and together with her brother decided to get sterilized so as to not pass on the Göring name or blood. These, and many others, discuss how they have coped with the fact that their last name alone immediately raises images of murder and genocide; and how they have reached a balance between the natural admiration and affection children feel towards their parents, and their innate revulsion of their crimes. Some have been more successful than others at achieving that balance, but each bares, for the first time, the scars that their legacy has left them.

Nelson DeMille, writing as Kurt Ladner, based his book on Cecil B DeMille’s LUX radio show.

ASIN: B008EXG6QC
Date – 24/05/1943