Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The last man who knew everything

Image result for Sabine Baring-Gould: The Man Who Told a Thousand Stories,From The Week:

It hardly seems likely that the life of an obscure Anglican clergyman should recommend itself to the attention of a modern biographer; the shelves of second-hand bookshops are the sepulchers of many an Essex parson's dutifully compiled Life and Letters. But Sabine Baring-Gould happens to have been the last man who knew everything.

Rebecca Tope, the distinguished crime novelist and independent publisher, begins her fascinating new biography, Sabine Baring-Gould: The Man Who Told a Thousand Stories, by admitting that she does not know how her subject was capable of such impossibly wide learning. The question is very likely unanswerable.

Image result for Sabine Baring-Gould: The Man Who Told a Thousand Stories,

Baring-Gould was a fascinating subject: a man who did everything in excess. He lived to be ninety; he fathered fifteen children; he wrote 130 books; he collected folksongs and wrote hymns. He never ran short of energy. His novels were bestsellers in the final decades of the Victorian era. He was almost never dull, even when writing collections of sermons or Lives of the Saints.

Incredible stories of America's first black millionaires

Black Fortunes” by Shomari Wills, is the extraordinary story of six black entrepreneurs who became wealthy despite having been born either into slavery or barely one generation removed from it. Two of them spent a considerable amount of time in St. Louis.

Black Fortunes” is a serious, deeply researched book but not a dry one. It is filled with interesting detail and shows the early black entrepreneurs of America as remarkably tenacious visionaries who were, in the main, generous men and women willing to share their riches with those less fortunate.

Profiled are: Mary Ellen Pleasant, Robert Reed Church, O.W. Gurley, Annie Turnbo (Malone), Madam C.J. Walker, and Hannah Elias.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Review: The Traitor's Niche by Ismail Kadare

The Traitor's Niche: A Novel
"At the heart of the Ottoman Empire, in the main square of Constantinople, a niche is carved into ancient stone. Here, the sultan displays the severed heads of his adversaries. People flock to see the latest head and gossip about the state of the empire: the province of Albania is demanding independence again, and the niche awaits a new trophy.

The Traitor’s Niche is a surreal tale of tyranny and rebellion, in a land where armies carry scarecrows, state officials ban entire languages, and the act of forgetting is more complicated than remembering."

This was an interesting read. Told in part via first person narrative it changes swiftly into third person narrative, and when you think you are following one voice, another steps forward.

Having said that, this novel takes place in predominantly in the Ottoman capital of Istanbul and in Albania, on the outskirts of the Ottoman Empire c.1800s. Rebellion is in the air, and the Ottoman Pashas are sent out to bring back the heads of the rebels (to be displayed in the traitors niche) or fill that void with their own.

To that end our narrators are one Abdullah, Keeper of the Traitors Niche (ie: caretaker of the featured severed head); Hurshid Pasha, who is sent out to captured the traitor, Black Ali; and Tundj Hata, the courier of the severed heads, and a man who enjoys his job a little too much. Each man tells his tale, giving us a glimpse into the fragile, yet tempestuous and dynamic Ottoman political and social scene.

As I said, it is an interesting story, translated from Albanian by John Hodgson. It may not be written in the style you are most used too, but perservere - the fates of of narrators are in your hands.

View all my reviews

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Alyss Morgan Gives Romance and Adventure a Medieval Twist in Her New Book

From WebWire:

Mystery, romance, and adventure come together in the masterfully written story by Alyss Morgan, “Blackwater Castle.” Set in the medieval period, where kings, knights, and castles flourished, readers will get to experience that golden age in human history once again. Alyss craftily revives the interest in castles, knights, and damsels who may be in distress for the millennial readers.

Blackwater Castle” is a good book for readers seeking new twists to romance, adventure, and mystery stories. Alyss deftly incorporates historical settings, authentic descriptions of medieval towns, people and way of life. Readers will get to enjoy following the story from start to finish in the hopes of wanting to know what will happen with the adventure that Sir Guy is embarking on in “Blackwater Castle.” Readers will get to know that there is more story about a place than meets the eye. To unravel that mystery, Sir Guy must dig deeper into the facts and details that transpired in the castle that sits on his new land – Blackwater Castle. The characters and the settings are delightfully interesting adding to the appeal of the story.

Babur – the Remarkable Emperor Who Happened to Be a Muslim

Review from Harbans Hukhia for The Wire:

Among several other records, Babur could probably be credited with having inspired the largest number of biographies among the long list of emperors of India. Babur: Timurid Prince and Mughal Emperor by Stephen Frederic Dale is one more, one which is brief, crisp and easy on the mind’s eye. This, by an old hand at the study of “Islamic” empires and societies in West and Central Asia, Iran and India. Giving us a biography of Babur is for him not a new enterprise.

Indeed, his entire quest, combined with an unapologetic age-old style narration of events of his subject, reinforces the impression that while one can look for a good summary of the existing knowledge relating to Babur, one would be hard put to find any new perspectives or new lights. The question with which he begins, “Did Babur always tell the truth?” and the observation that his account is “not absolutely truthful” (pages 5-6), lets you in on his quest, seeking out the absolute truth in history, a la Leopold von Ranke.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Templars and their Sources

The Templars and their Sources (Hardback) book coverSummary from Routledge:
The papers in this volume step into this gap and critically evaluate new directions in Templar studies on the basis of as-yet unedited source material. Open issues and desiderata regarding the sources are discussed and from a range of inspiring results a new status quaestionis is proposed that will not only provide a better understanding of the Order’s archaeological, economical, religious, administrative and military history, but also set new points of departure for the editing of charters and administrative documents. The papers here are grouped into six sections, focusing on the headquarters of the Order, its charters, manpower and finance, religious life and finally the suppression and the Order’s afterlife.

Definitely on my wish-list.

Sex Pistol Steve Jones Finally Outgrew His Punk Outlaw Past

Interview with Jeff Slate from Esquire:

Jones confesses to the kind of sordid, outlaw upbringing that would make even Keith Richards blush. His frank tales about his childhood addiction to masturbation, run ins with the local pedophile in his rough and tumble London neighborhood, his abusive stepfather, homosexual dalliances, and acute kleptomania read like the tales of a crazy uncle who comes to holiday dinner and shares hard-to-believe stories of his youthful exploits with abandon. But it also ensures that Lonely Boy is unique amongst rock star memoirs: Jones is the real deal, and he isn't afraid to put it all—the good, the bad, and the truly ugly—out there for all to see. In fact, those tales of his early life make Jones' days as a Sex Pistol seem almost the least remarkable part of his story.

read more here @ EsquirePenguin BooksThe Guardian

Celebrating the Treatment of Women in Anglo-Saxon England

Article from author Lynda Telford @ History News Network:
What was the way of life for most ordinary women during the early Middle Ages in England? The answer is surprising. In Anglo-Saxon England – before the Norman Conquest in 1066 – men and women enjoyed relatively equal rights and social, cultural and religious conditions. Compare that situation with the changes brought by the Norman Conquest – a woman became a possession.   Over eight hundred years of hard struggle for women’s basic rights – and to get back the legal safeguards that Anglo-Saxon women took for granted!

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold

Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined—an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel.

Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

Jessica Shattuck’s evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love, and, ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship.

The Hidden Keys by André Alexis

In the depths of the ill-reputed Green Dolphin bar in Toronto, Tancred Palmieri, a talented thief with extravagant tastes, encounters Willow Azarian, an aging heroin addict. She reveals to Tancred that her very wealthy father has recently passed away, leaving each of his five children a mysterious object that provides a clue to the whereabouts of a large inheritance. Willow enlists Tancred to steal these objects from her siblings and solve the puzzle.

A Japanese screen, a painting that plays music, an aquavit bottle, a framed poem, and a model of Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater ... Are these really clues, or has Tancred fallen victim to the delusions of a junkie?

Reviews here 

The Baker’s Alchemy by John Stephenson

Review by Robert Jones for the Blue Mountains Gazette:

Stephenson’s first opus, The Optimist, is based on the early years of the iconic Australian poet, Christopher Brennan.

The new novel, The Baker’s Alchemy, also has at its core the central themes of romance and difficult liaisons except, and with painstaking authentic detail, this book is set in Poland and weaves a dense story of magic laced with ancient European ‒ and specifically ‒ Polish beliefs and traditions.

This is a truly hilarious book, very well written and most enjoyable. I found myself reading aloud to my partner great slabs of Stephenson’s glorious prose, ripe with clever wit and marvellous word-play. Be warned, if you pick it up to read you honestly won’t be able to put it down. Like one of the baker’s piquant gingerbread men, it is a pure delight! 

"King of Spies: The Dark Reign of America's Spymaster in Korea"

Image result for king of spies blaine hardinPatrick McEachern reviews King of Spies by Blaine Hardin for 38 North:

Blaine Harden has written another captivating narrative on Korea, this time telling the story of an American military intelligence operative, Donald Nichols, who lived and worked in South Korea for eleven years before, during and after the Korean War. The book’s teaser promises a spy story with the intrigue of a great novel or film plus the added benefit of being a true story. Through a series of interviews, Freedom of Information Act requests on Nichols’ official performance files, legal proceedings for criminal conduct and obscure autobiography, Harden separates the tall tales from the facts to create a compelling story of a relatively unknown individual’s tortured participation in the American involvement in this critical period on the Korean Peninsula.

No one is better placed to write this story than Blaine Harden. A New York Times best-selling author, Harden is a master of his craft. He knows Korea well, and his research has produced a treasure trove of information for a compelling personal account of a significant and virtually unknown American in the Korean War. King of Spies is a page-turner that is difficult to put down, and I imagine many readers will finish it in one sitting.

The Fascinating Story of the Russians Who Spied for the West on Moscow

31448970. sy475 Jefferson Flanders reviews Spies in the Family by Eva Dillon for History News Network:

We have learned since the end of the Cold War that the West had well-placed spies in the Kremlin, and that those double agents provided timely intelligence about Soviet aims and intentions. It’s impossible to gauge their full impact in hastening the fall of the Communist regime, but it’s clear that these inside sources helped policymakers in London, Paris, and Washington in assessing the thinking of the Politburo and other Soviet leaders.

A new memoir/history by Eva Dillon, Spies in the Family, offers a fascinating and deeply sympathetic account of perhaps the most important of the Kremlin spies, Dmitri Polyakov, code name TOPHAT, who was the third major GRU (military intelligence) officer to pass vital information to the CIA. All three were discovered. Polyakov lasted the longest; the other two—Pyotr Popov and Oleg Penkovsky—were betrayed, it is believed, by British mole George Blake (who is in his 90s, living in exile in Moscow).

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Fourth most published book in English language to go online

From The Guardian:

A book that influenced Charles Darwin and is reputedly the fourth most published work in the English language is to be made available online.

The title page from The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne.The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne by the Reverend Gilbert White, first published in 1789, has inspired generations of naturalists with the vivid descriptions of the flora and fauna – as well as the weather and crops – the author encountered in the countryside around his Hampshire home.

The book has since been published in more than 300 editions and has never been out of print. It is believed to be the most published book in the English language after the Bible, the works of Shakespeare and John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress.

The Fire Court by Andrew Taylor

The Fire CourtA sequel to The Ashes of London, his magnificent evocation of the Great Fire of 1666, The Fire Court takes place the following year and continues the stories of James Marwood and Cat Lovett. The city is being rebuilt, with the eponymous fire court settling individual disputes over who should pay for what. Marwood’s elderly father, Nathaniel, claims to have seen the body of a woman at Clifford’s Inn, where the court sits. This is chalked up to senility, but after Nathaniel is run over and killed by a wagon, James discovers a bloodstained list of names among his personal effects and begins to wonder if the old man was telling the truth. His investigation brings him back into contact with tough-minded Cat – now living under an assumed name – and he turns to her for help. With a fast-moving, complex plot underpinned by solid but unobtrusive research and plenty of drama and intrigue, Taylor brings the 17th century to life so vividly that one can almost smell it.

Margot Asquith's Great War Diary

Margot Asquith was the opinionated and irrepressible wife of Herbert Henry Asquith, the Liberal Prime Minister who led Britain into war on 4 August 1914. With the airs, if not the lineage, of an aristocrat, Margot knew everyone, and spoke as if she knew everything, and with her sharp tongue and strong views could be a political asset, or a liability, almost in the same breath. 

Her Great War Diary is by turns revealing and insightful, funny and poignant, and it offers a remarkable view of events from her vantage point in 10 Downing Street. The diary opens with Margot witnessing the scene in the House of Commons, as the political crisis over Irish Home Rule began to be eclipsed by the even greater crisis of the threat of a European war, in which Britain might become involved…

Bookmobiles - Now a thing of the past

The bookmobile’s design is such that once parked, readers could easily access its treasured literary items. Now it’s more like a thing of the past, but back in the day, this way of distributing literature to people functioned perfectly.

It was working exceptionally well in remote areas such as villages or suburbia – places that otherwise did not have an access to a nearby library.

As of more recent times, there has been a 20 percent decline reported in bookmobiles in the years between 1990 and 2003. Nevertheless, the digital revolution of the 21st century and the availability of many books online just may be a good reason why bookmobiles are now thing of the past. Despite that, at current, some bookmobiles still function well, especially in developing parts of the world, fulfilling their initial purpose – to bring the books to some of the most remote places around.

Review: Bottom Feeders by John Shepphird

Bottom Feeders
A page-turning whodunit set in the wilds of a remote movie ranch, Bottom Feeders describes the hapless Hollywood cast and crew that eke out a living working on low-budget fare.

I didn't finish this one - it jumped too much all over the place in setting up the scene. Even with notes, I couldn't focus on what was relevant to the story line and what wasn't.

Review: Fiction Can Be Murder by Becky Clark

Fiction Can Be Murder (Mystery Writer's Mystery, #1)
The premise caught me - life becomes stranger than fiction. When author Charlee Russo's agent is killed via method used in her yet to be published manuscript, the question is asked "... who had access ..." Turns out, at least 15 people from the members of Charlee's critique group, people at her agent's office, her boyfriend, her beta readers. Even Charlee herself is front and centre.

So, what does one do when being accused of murder .... one investigates. And thus we have the slow process of eliminating - one by one - all those who could have read the manuscript and had motive for murder. Most annoying character is Charlee's brother - he constantly refuses to take her calls, doesn't assist in her investigations (as every good family member should); just what is his role, why is he even in the book, I couldn't fathom it.

Its a standard cosy mystery where revenge is a dish best served cold. And I am in no hurry to take this series any further.

Review: Mystery of the Templars by Martina Andre

Mystery of the Templars
I so wanted to like it (due to my long fascination with the Templars) but it really just lost me and I consider it a waste of my valuable reading time.

My goodness - with the wealth of information, intrigue, legends, scandal and conspiracy theories surrounding the Templars, there was so much that could have been written, but just wasn't taken advantage of in this instance.  

The inclusion of the character of Amalie was unnecessary and left me completely flat - the action scenes with the Templars were fast paced and dynamic enough for a decent storyline. Then it takes a Da Vinci Code turn when the main character, Gerald of Breydenback, finds himself going forward in time, then back, and then forward again to live happily ever after. 

I honestly didn't know if this was supposed to be a thriller with historical overtones, or a poor man's "Outlander" (which I also could not get into).  A good plot that was poorly executed.

Review: Killing In C Sharp by Alexia Gordon

Killing in C Sharp (Gethsemane Brown Mysteries #3)
Third in the Gesthemane Brown series - and although I didn't read the first two, although there is a lot of character, background and scene setting before things actually start to kick off.

I'm not a fan. I loved the setting - Ireland - and the theme of ghostly revenge, however the character of Brown (and indeed of the supporting cast) did not illicit any connection / empathy that other "cozy crime" sleuths have done. I didn't have an invested interest in either character or the storyline that developed. For me personally, it just doesn't stack up with all the hype. Glad it was a freebie read.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Tin by Padraig Kenny

Tin (Paperback)A science fiction fairy tale, set in a astonishingly realised mechanical world, Tin is a heart-stopping adventure about friendship, courage and finding your identity.

Imagine: the world you know is gone, in its place, a machinarium of Mechanicals, intelligent machines created with the sole purpose of serving mankind. The laws governing their creation are strict and above all the merging of human and mechanical is strictly forbidden.

Christopher is 'Proper': a real boy with a real soul, orphaned in a fire, he can remember nothing of his old life but vague images of his mother and father, cloaked in smoke and ash.

Now he works for an peculiar engineer, a maker of the eccentric, loyal and totally individual mechanicals who are Christopher's best friends; his only friends.

But after a devastating accident, a secret is revealed and Christopher's world is changed for ever...

What follows is a remarkable adventure, as Christopher discovers who he really is, and what it might mean to truly be human.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

32508637Lizzie Borden's grizzly tale is hardly the obvious story for a librarian from regional Victoria to retell as a debut novel - but Sarah Schmidt makes a suitably chilling job of rendering the last days of Andrew Borden and his wife Abby.

Covering the period leading up to the murders and the weeks that follow, the story is narrated from four different points of view. Volatile and spoilt Lizzie veers from sweet compliance to shrieking tyrant and is the prime suspect; sister Emma away from the house at the time of the murder has plenty of reasons to be jealous of her sister; the housemaid Bridget is unnerved by the residents of the Borden house and wants to leave but Mrs Borden has found her savings and is withholding them from her. Benjamin is a thug hired to frighten Mr Borden, with Lizzie's doting uncle paying the fee. The household is plagued by unease, vermin, illness and bad feeling.

read about Lizzie Borden here               
@ Wikipedia - Lizzie Borden
@ Famous Trials
@ Smithsonian Magazine
@ All Things Interesting
@ The Telegraph
@ American Heritage
read more reviews here
@ The Guardian
@ The New York Times
@ The Australian
@ Sydney Morning Herald

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

Image result for sunburn laura lippman reviewReview by Oline H. Cogdill (Associated Press) in Lincoln Journal Star:

Lust, deceit and the simple quest for happiness rule the plot as "Sunburn" works well as an homage to Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain and Anne Tyler. Lippman delves into a study of contrasts with a story that's as cynical as it is hopeful, a look at hearts of darkness coupled with a domestic thriller. 

The 1995 setting also adds to the intense character studies — with no cellphones or social media to cloud each persona. Characters are seeking their identities yet submerging themselves with layers of duplicity. In the hard-boiled vein, Lippman takes the femme fatale — the linchpin of novels such as "Double Indemnity" — and puts a modern spin on this archetype, then turns it upside down.

The ingenious plot evolves into myriad twists that are as believable as they are surprising. Lippman's tight control on "Sunburn" delivers one of the year's most intriguing mysteries.

read more here @ Irish Times and @ LA Times 

MI5 and Me by Charlotte Bingham

Image result for MI5 and me bighamReview by Lucy Hughes-Hallett in The Guardian:

In "MI5 & Me" veteran fiction author, Bingham has written the prequel of her bestseller "Coronet Among the Weeds", and we discover how much – as an ostensibly guileless girlish narrator – she was actually holding back.

Cold war British counter-espionage was often cruel. Lottie’s friend Arabella explains, over a teacake in the canteen, that the service’s purpose is to make socialists’ lives “unmitigated hell. But in a very nice way, of course, because that is what we British do.” 

This book is frivolous, but in refusing to take spooks seriously it may be as sensible as it is amusing. “You’re in danger of becoming a lightweight,” Lottie’s father tells her. Perhaps it’s cleverer to be light than it is to be ponderously paranoid. Some of what he himself does is in danger of becoming not only morally reprehensible, but plain daft.

read more here @ Sydney Morning Herald and @ The Telegraph

Women, Crusading and the Holy Land in Historical Narrative

Narratives of crusading have often been overlooked as a source for the history of women because of their focus on martial events, and perceptions about women inhibiting the recruitment and progress of crusading armies. Yet women consistently appeared in the histories of crusade and settlement, performing a variety of roles. While some were vilified as "useless mouths" or prostitutes, others undertook menial tasks for the army, went on crusade with retinues of their own knights, and rose to political prominence in the Levant and and the West. 

This book compares perceptions of women from a wide range of historical narratives including those eyewitness accounts, lay histories and monastic chronicles that pertained to major crusade expeditions and the settler society in the Holy Land. It addresses how authors used events involving women and stereotypes based on gender, family role, and social status in writing their histories: how they blended historia and fabula, speculated on women's motivations, and occasionally granted them a literary voice in order to connect with their audience, impart moral advice, and justify the crusade ideal.

review @ University of Chicago Press
read more @ Boydell & Brewer
read more @ Wikipedia - Women in the Crusades

Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer

Review by Jeff Ayres in Mercury News:

This cover image released by Grand Central Publishing shows "The Escape Artist," a thriller by Brad Meltzer. (Grand Central Publishing via AP)A plane crash unveils a vast covert government operation with ties to master escape artist Harry Houdini in “The Escape Artist,” Brad Meltzer’s latest thriller.

Then she replayed those last few minutes before she got on board. Oh, God. Now it made sense. Her stomach was up in her throat. The VIPs at the front of the plane were now screaming. She knew why this plane was going down. This wasn’t an accident.

Meltzer weaves a stellar tale of history, government-insider knowledge, and thrills to deliver his best book in years. At times the violence is intense — and the villains are borderline comic book — but Meltzer’s steady hand knows how to balance a fine line between compelling and discomforting. Since Zig and Nola are both artists in their own unique way, the visuals and narrative are even more intense than one would expect in a thriller.

The Escape Artist” is the rare novel that one wants to read fast while also needing to go slow to savor every word.

read more here @ Brad Meltzer

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Author: Amanda Quick

Amanda Quick is a pseudonym for Jayne Ann Krentz, the author of more than fifty New York Times bestsellers. She writes historical romance novels under the Quick name, contemporary romantic suspense novels under the Krentz name, and futuristic romance novels under the pseudonym Jayne Castle. There are more than 35 million copies of her books in print.

Two books which have caught my attention are:

The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda QuickThe Girl Who Knew Too Much
At the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel on the coast of California, rookie reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool…

The dead woman had something Irene wanted: a red-hot secret about an up-and-coming leading man—a scoop that may have gotten her killed. As Irene searches for the truth about the drowning, she’s drawn to a master of deception. Once a world-famous magician whose career was mysteriously cut short, Oliver Ward is now the owner of the Burning Cove Hotel. He can’t let scandal threaten his livelihood, even if it means trusting Irene, a woman who seems to have appeared in Los Angeles out of nowhere four months ago.

With Oliver’s help, Irene soon learns that the glamorous paradise of Burning Cove hides dark and dangerous secrets. And that the past—always just out of sight—could drag them both under…

The Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda QuickThe Other Lady Vanishes
After escaping from a private sanitarium, Adelaide Blake arrives in Burning Cove, California, desperate to start over.

Working at an herbal tea shop puts her on the radar of those who frequent the seaside resort town: Hollywood movers and shakers always in need of hangover cures and tonics. One such customer is Jake Truett, a recently widowed businessman in town for a therapeutic rest. But unbeknownst to Adelaide, his exhaustion is just a cover.

In Burning Cove, no one is who they seem. Behind facades of glamour and power hide drug dealers, gangsters, and grifters. Into this make-believe world comes psychic to the stars Madame Zolanda. Adelaide and Jake know better than to fall for her kind of con. But when the medium becomes a victim of her own dire prediction and is killed, they'll be drawn into a murky world of duplicity and misdirection.

Neither Adelaide or Jake can predict that in the shadowy underground they'll find connections to the woman Adelaide used to be--and uncover the specter of a killer who's been real all along...

Author examines issues of race in 'Down the River'

Few mystery writers can examine issues of race — how it divides and binds people — as clearly and unflinchingly as Walter Mosley, who returns to this theme in his stand-alone novel "Down the River Unto the Sea."

Examining how discrimination and prejudice affects African-Americans is right in Mosley's wheelhouse. The author doesn't miss a beat weaving this into the gritty plot of "Down the River Unto the Sea."

While the plot soars, King doesn't land as completely formed. Mosley's Easy Rawlins ruled "Devil in a Blue Dress" from the first page; Leonid McGill, Fearless Jones and Socrates Fortlow were also memorable. King needs a bit more sculpting before he reaches the level of Mosley's other characters.

35173689Joe King Oliver was one of the NYPD’s finest investigators, until, dispatched to arrest a well-heeled car thief, he is framed for assault by his enemies within the NYPD, a charge which lands him in solitary at Rikers Island. A decade later, King is a private detective, running his agency with the help of his teenage daughter, Aja-Denise. Broken by the brutality he suffered and committed in equal measure while behind bars, his work and his daughter are the only light in his solitary life. When he receives a card in the mail from the woman who admits she was paid to frame him those years ago, King realizes that he has no choice but to take his own case: figuring out who on the force wanted him disposed of—and why.

Running in parallel with King’s own quest for justice is the case of Frankie Figures, a Black radical journalist accused of killing two on-duty police officers—officers Figures discovered had been abusing their badges to traffic in drugs and women within the city’s poorest neighborhoods.  Joined by Melquarth Frost, a brilliant sociopath, our hero must beat dirty cops and dirtier bankers, craven lawyers, and above all keep his daughter far from the underworld in which he works. All the while, two lives hang in the balance: Frankie Figures’, and King’s own.

read more here 

Sticky Fingers describes Rolling Stone founder's dirty deeds

Sticky Fingers is an exhaustively researched, remarkably candid biography of Jann Wenner, who 50 years ago started the world's first newspaper to take rock'n'roll seriously, and last month sold most of his family's remaining stake for $US50 million.

This could also be the most honest business book published in 2017, for Wenner succeeded despite doing many of the things an MBA teaches you not to.

A long-form journalist whose list of credits includes Rolling Stone, Hagan was Wenner's choice as biographer and thus gained access to his archives and his peerless network – Dylan, Jagger, McCartney, Midler, Richards, Springsteen, Townshend and Wenner himself all go on record.

However, Hagan made sure Wenner did not play the old Rolling Stone game, refusing him final copy approval and allowing the multiple character assassinations and sordid 1970s stories contained herein to see the light of day.

Hagan and Wenner have fallen out since Sticky Fingers was published in November. An authorised biography needs no greater recommendation.

Youth Movements and Elections in Eastern Europe by Olena Nikolayenko

Review by Anna Nadibaidze for Democratic Audit UK:

In Youth Movements and Elections in Eastern Europe, Olena Nikolayenko examines the role played by youth activists in mobilising citizens prior to elections against incumbent repressive regimes in post-communist Europe, focusing on Serbia, Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan in the early 2000s. Drawing on interviews, government sources, NGOs and media reports, this book offers important insight into the impact of youth movements upon democratisation processes, as well as the challenges they face.

In conclusion, the insights into the youth protest movements in the five Eastern European countries studied in this book are important for those who are interested in the role of youth in processes of democratisation, not only in post-communist countries, but around the world. The book’s message is that while youth can be an important factor in social change, they need to show ‘a great deal of resourcefulness’ and innovative ideas to develop expertise and mobilise citizens against a repressive regime.

The fabulous women writers of Indian SF

From FactorDaily:

One does not really need a reason to celebrate the fabulous and fantastic women writers of India who’ve enriched science fiction – taking it in new directions with each tale they tell. Their stories are reason enough. The past few years have truly seen a global renaissance of fresh and original SF, and leading from the front have been the women writers, and the same holds true for India as well. Not surprising, when you consider the fact that it was an Indian lady who, over a century ago, wrote what is amongst the first pieces of feminist science fiction: Begum Rokeya Shakawat Hossain who in 1905 wrote Sultana’s Dream, with its portrayal of the feminist utopia of Ladyland, a full decade before Charlotte Gilman’s Herland.

And just as it was then, so it is now, with Indian women writers pushing the possibilities of the genre with their stories, which – while being rooted in our culture – have transcended borders, winning the hearts and minds of readers across the world with their universal appeal. There are so many writers one could list, not least given the fact that the markers of what constitutes speculative fiction is ever-expanding. So here then, are just some works from Indian women writers whose SF you should definitely be reading – if you haven’t already that is!

read more here @ FactorDaily

Palestine - the Reality

From Arab News;

Image result for [palestine the realityPalestine: The Reality” contains invaluable historical information about the genesis and significance of the Balfour Declaration in 1917, and some startling revelations about the actions of UK officials at the time, yet it was very difficult to find a copy for many years.

First published in 1939 by Longman Green and Company, most copies were destroyed when the publisher’s offices in London were bombed by the Germans in the Blitz in 1941. It was republished in the 1970s but even secondhand copies remained almost impossible to find. 

The new edition of this book, while long overdue, is a timely reminder of the true story and the disreputable role played by Great Britain and its allies.

The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch

From The Verge:

In his debut novel, author Tom Sweterlitsch constructed a fascinating mystery with Tomorrow and Tomorrow, set in a virtual version of Pittsburgh after a terrorist attack leveled the city. In The Gone World, he introduces an even more ambitious investigation: one that jumps back and forth in time, and which could decide the fate of humanity. It’s a complicated, dazzling novel that keeps the reader hooked until the last pages.

NCIS agent Shannon Moss hops between 1997 and 2015 a handful of times, encountering wildly different futures as her immediate investigation [into her own brutal murder] progresses. She quickly discovers that there’s more to this murder than meets the eye.

These shifting futures let Sweterlitsch play with some big themes. How do our decisions, given enough time, change the future before us? What lengths will people go through to try to preserve the things that they love?

The Sealwoman’s Gift, by Sally Magnusson

From The Scotsman:
Sally Magnusson’s wonderfully accomplished first novel is an enthralling mixture of recovered history and the imagining of lost lives. It’s a delightful piece of storytelling which is also a story about telling stories.

The Sealwoman's GiftIn 1627 pirates from Algiers raided the coast of Iceland and carried off 400 people – men, women and children – two-thirds of them from a small island. The captives included the island’s Lutheran minister, Olafur, his pregnant wife Asta and their two small children. All were destined for the slave market in Algiers.

In short, this is the best sort of historical novel. It respects the past and brings it alive. It is alert to ethical and cultural differences. It shows that people in the past often thought differently from us and held to different beliefs, while at the same time it reminds us that they experienced the same emotions.

Being ‘Flat Broke’ Could Happen To You

Review by Terri Schlichenmeyer for The North Platte Telegraph:

It could never happen to you.
Flat Broke with Two GoatsOther people have problems. They don’t plan, they don’t act, they aren’t paying attention and that leads to issues they can’t deal with. That kind of thing happens to other people. In the new book “Flat Broke with Two Goats” by Jennifer McGaha, it can’t happen to you — until it does.

For sure, author Jennifer McGaha tells a lip-biting story that starts out bad and grows worse, as tragedy piles on top of hardship stacking on humiliation. If you’re rolling your eyes, though, stop. While McGaha abundantly writes of the pain of loss and the turmoil in her emotions, she takes her share of responsibility here. She also admits how she almost didn’t do even that. The anxiety is almost like putty, it’s so thick.

All This By Chance by Vincent O'Sullivan

All This by ChanceReview by Nicholas Reid at Stuff (NZ):

On the simplest level this novel is, as the cover blurb says, a "multigenerational family saga", moving from parents to their adult children to their adult grandchildren.

In part All This By Chance tells us much about how different generations of young New Zealanders have interpreted the big world called Overseas. Stephen in the 1940s, Lisa in the 1960s and a granddaughter in the 2000s react to Europe in very different ways.

More essential, though, is what the novel says about the hold that the past has over us, how the past shapes us whether we like it or not, and how lethal it can be to pretend uncomfortable parts of the past never happened. This novel is about time, remembrance and the persistence of family traits, even when they have been ignored.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Quines by Gerda Stevenson celebrates the women of Scotland

From The National:

Image result for quinesThe book features portraits in poetry, most in English, a third in Scots, which tell the story of 57 individual women and a football team – the 11 Scottish women who beat England 3-0 in Edinburgh in May, 1881, the first recorded international women’s match, while the second game a few days later in Glasgow was abandoned when male protestors ran on to the pitch.

“I used many sources of information,” explained Stevenson, “especially the Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women which is a fantastic resource, and googling, and talking to people, and buying second-hand books about these women, many of which are out of print. It’s not that they were written out of history, it’s just that were never written in.”

National columnist Lesley Riddoch’s verdict is straightforward: “Quines is a vivid explosion of thought, description and bold opinion, clothing Scots history at last with the myriad contribution of its women. This is a wonderful, life-affirming book.”