Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Irish in the Spanish Armies in the Seventeenth Century by Eduardo de Mesa

Irish in Spanish ArmiesReview by Craig Nakashian for De Re Militari:

Eduardo de Mesa’s tome on Irish soldiers that served in Habsburg Spain’s armies succeeds on at least five levels. First, it establishes a significant (and convincing) revisionist position on the military revolution. Second, this work constitutes a contribution to the literature on early modern European identity. Third, de Mesa makes accessible a trove of archival evidence. Fourth, readers with interests beyond Ireland’s shores and the Spanish Road will find insights illuminating the broader topography of the early modern world. Finally, the book advances the historiography that underscores Ireland’s importance in the early modern state-system.

Medieval historians have long recognized that although on the geographical periphery of Europe, Ireland occupied a central place in letters, theology and culture. Early modernists increasingly have appreciated the reach and relevance of the Irish. As de Mesa documents, Irish arms were, in certain well-defined periods, instrumental in preserving the fortunes of the Catholic Crusade against Protestantism and in championing the survival of the House of Habsburg. The book’s conclusion makes clear how political and military reverberations from Ireland affected Habsburg strategy.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Review: Kin by Snorri Kristjansson

Kin (Helga Finnsdottir #1)
Historical crime / mystery set in 10th century Iceland.

The family of Unnthorn Reginsson have gathered at the family homestead - there are all the usual family rivalries and petty jealousies that could easily be found in a more modern setting, say in Midsomer or St Mary Mead. But positing this in remote and wild Iceland makes for an interesting read.

At the heart of the story is promise of long hidden buried treasure, and as the clan gather, the posturing begins and the tension slowly builds - sometimes, painstakingly so. This is where the scene is set, the characters are introduced and brought together. It is not until nearly half-way through that the murder is committed.

Enter the two main characters - Helga, the adoptive daughter of Unnthor, and Hildigunnur, Unnthor's wife. Whilst Helga is intent on solving the mystery and saving the man-boy before the family seek vengeance (blood price), Hildigunnur provides a more calming figure in the face of a rising body count.

Being familiar with the history and the style of the Icelandic and other Sagas enabled me to easily gain a better sense of the period and the characters the author was presenting to us.

suggested further reading:
> The Sagas of the Icelanders by Jane Smiley
>  Medieval Iceland: Society, Sagas, and Power by Jesse L Bycock
>  Saga: A Novel of Medieval Iceland by Jeff Janoda

Review: The Monastery Murders by EM Powell

The Monastery Murders (Stanton & Barling, #2)
Their lives are ones of quiet contemplation—and brutal murder.

Christmas Eve, 1176. Brother Maurice, monk of Fairmore Abbey, awaits the night prayer bell. But there is only silence. Cursing his fellow brother Cuthbert’s idleness, he seeks him out—and in the darkness, finds him brutally murdered.

Summoned from London to the isolated monastery on the Yorkshire Moors, Aelred Barling, clerk to the King’s justices, and his messenger Hugo Stanton set about investigating the horrific crime. They quickly discover that this is far from a quiet monastic house. Instead, it seethes with bitter feuds, rivalries and resentments. But no sooner do they arrive than the killer strikes again—and again.

This is the second outing of EM Powell's Stanton & Barling mystery series - the King's Justice being the first, and one I did not read beforehand.

The series is set in the time of Henry II, in this instance, after the murder of Thomas a'Becket, for which Henry is still atoning, and the Assize of Northampton. The final years of Henry's reign are filled with political and familial turmoils, rebellion and revolt, Henry was facing battle on many fronts.  It is into this that our two are sent, to the far flung Cistercian monastery of Fairmore in Northern Yorkshire to investigate the mysterious and gruesome death of one of the monks.

Along the way, and throughout, we are given a glimpse into the lives of these two - master and pupil - which also provides enough of a backstory to the first tome (though I still wish I had read it nonetheless). Far from being welcomed, the two - considered outsiders - are treated with suspicion and contempt.

As the investigations continue, more is revealed about the monks and life in the monastery; the truth lies in the past, and more than one secret is revealed.

Great story-telling - I kept thinking, how will this end, will the body count rise, will our two come close to solving this mystery before becoming victims themselves. I love this period of history, and this sort of mystery novel / series is right up my alley.

visit EM Powell's website HERE

Saturday, October 27, 2018

High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic

In High Noon, journalist Glenn Frankel, the author of an outstanding book on John Ford’s The Searchers, examines the making of a classic Western film within the historical and cultural context of the Red Scare that divided America and Hollywood during the 1950s. While Hollywood is often perceived as a bastion of liberalism, Frankel documents how conservatives in the film capitol, such as Walt Disney, John Wayne, Cecil B. DeMille, and Hedda Hopper, formed the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals and invited the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) to Hollywood following the Second World War. The result of the HUAC hearings was the imprisonment of the Hollywood Ten for contempt of Congress after they challenged the right of the committee to question their political beliefs and associations. 

read complete review by Ron Briley here @ History News Network

The Anglo-Saxon Fenland by Dr Susan Oosthuizen

The Anglo-Saxon Fenland, the latest book by Dr Susan Oosthuizen, Reader in Medieval Archaeology at ICE, has just been published. It unexpectedly reveals a traditional landscape managed by relatively prosperous communities who lived in stable societies into which newcomers from north-west Europe were absorbed. The 'dark' ages have finally stumbled into the light.

The Anglo-Saxon Fenland
Synopsis from Oxbow Books:
Archaeologies and histories of the fens of eastern England, continue to suggest, explicitly or by implication, that the early medieval fenland was dominated by the activities of north-west European colonists in a largely empty landscape. Using existing and new evidence and arguments, this new interdisciplinary history of the Anglo-Saxon fenland offers another interpretation. The fen islands and the silt fens show a degree of occupation unexpected a few decades ago. Dense Romano-British settlement appears to have been followed by consistent early medieval occupation on every island in the peat fens and across the silt fens, despite the impact of climatic change. The inhabitants of the region were organised within territorial groups in a complicated, almost certainly dynamic, hierarchy of subordinate and dominant polities, principalities and kingdoms. Their prosperous livelihoods were based on careful collective control, exploitation and management of the vast natural water-meadows on which their herds of cattle grazed. This was a society whose origins could be found in prehistoric Britain, and which had evolved through the period of Roman control and into the post-imperial decades and centuries that followed. The rich and complex history of the development of the region shows, it is argued, a traditional social order evolving, adapting and innovating in response to changing times.

Royal Books and Holy Bones by Eamon Duffy

This tremendous read is a collection of essays published (and lectures given) in the past two decades, some revised for inclusion here. The book is given unity by grouping them under thematic headings, but the profounder unity of these studies lies in Duffy’s remark that “Christianity is a material religion.”

A great strength of the author’s work has always lain in his ability to put theology in its place in the practical realities of Christian living, especially during the Middle Ages and the Reformation.

This is a book for the general reader, spiced throughout with Duffy’s profound scholarly understanding of the giant subjects with which each essay grapples. There are robust challenges to the conclusions of some other modern scholars.

The book is not cluttered with footnotes; it is selectively referenced chapter by chapter at the end. The excellent illustrations are in colour.

The House on Vesper Sands: a delicately and skilfully crafted Victorian thriller

A young man comes to Victorian London in search of his guardian, a troubled woman disappears, a poor little seamstress strives to put a stop to a dreadful conspiracy and grey waves break on the sullen Kent shore where a house broods over Vesper Sands. That faint hum currently disturbing the seismographs of London comes from Westminster Abbey, where Charles Dickens is whirling enviously in his grave.

It takes a certain audacity to write a novel that tips its hat so mischievously to the most celebrated Victorian novelist, but Paraic O’Donnell has more than enough talent to get away with it. The House on Vesper Sands is his second novel after the critically acclaimed Maker of Swans, but there is no trace of difficult-second-novel nerves in this accomplished historical mystery.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Donna Fletcher Crow Announces Release of 'A Lethal Spectre'

Author of Brish History Novels - Donna Fletcher CrowFrom Digital Journal:
Multi-award winning author Donna Fletcher Crow has announced the release of the fifth book in the Lord Danvers Victorian true-crime series, A Lethal Spectre. The series contrasts the elegance of Victorian aristocracy set against the dark underworld of drug addiction.

"I am passionate about recounting events of history because I'm really writing about today," Crow said. "I am continually fascinated to see how events in today's headlines have their roots in the past. In A Lethal Spectre I found London's opium dens and the East India Company's opium trade reflecting today's tragic opioid epidemic."

read more here @ Digital Journal

read more about Donna @ her website

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Women and the Book: A Symposium Preview

At the end of October, the University of London will host a one-day symposium called Women and the Book, noting that this year, the University of London celebrates the 150th anniversary of women’s first access to university education in Britain with the intake of eight women at Queen Mary College.

Therefore the symposium aims to explore the interaction of women and books in Britain from the Middle Ages to the present, from the time that the book left the printing house: as collectors, owners, readers, and mediators, whether curatorial (librarians) or literary (adapting and translating for new audiences).

The symposium will be held on October 26, from 9:30 am-6:45 pm, Court Room, First Floor, Senate House, University of London. And tickets can be booked online.

The Scottish Clearances: A History of the Dispossessed, 1600‑1900 by TM Devine

The Scottish Clearances : A History of the Dispossessed, 1600-1900, Hardback BookThe Highland Clearances are modern Scotland’s foundational tragic story. More than the Jacobite rebellions, or the story of the Scottish regiments, more than the Enlightenment, more than the medieval wars of independence, they have established Scotland’s identity: that of an oppressed, misunderstood people unto whom great evil was done.

The clearances, which stretch back to the 1760s, but were at their height from 1815 to the 1850s, have their own poems, novels, songs and iconography.

A definitive new history of the terrible process by which much of Scotland was 'cleared' of many inhabitants, written by Scotland's foremost living historian.

read more here

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Overnight Kidnapper by Andrea Camilleri

The new novel in the irresistible and transporting New York Times bestselling Inspector Montalbano mystery series

The day gets off to a bad start for Montalbano: while trying to break up a fight on Marinella beach, he hits the wrong man and is stopped by the Carabinieri. When he finally gets to the office, the inspector learns about a strange abduction: a woman was abducted, drugged, and then released unharmed a few hours later. A few days later, the same thing happens again, but this time the woman abducted is the niece of Enzo, the owner of Montalbano’s favorite trattoria. The only link between the two events is that both women are thirty years old and work in a bank. 

Alongside this investigation, Montalbano has to deal with an arson case. A shop that sells household appliances has burned down, and its owner, Marcello Di Carlo, seems to have vanished into thin air. Has he run off with his lover after a holiday in the Canary Islands? Is he fleeing from his creditors, or was he murdered by the mafia for not paying their protection money? At first this seems like a trivial case, but a third abduction—yet again of a girl who works in a bank—and the discovery of a body bring up new questions. Whose body is it? And where has Di Carlo’s secret lover gone?

Best Horror Books Written By Women

Image result for horror fiction titles
When you think of horror literature, most of the books that spring to mind are written by men. But some of today’s best writers of the macabre are women. Instead of reaching for just another Stephen King or Dean Koontz to haunt your nightstand this year, try one of these 13 spine-chilling books written by female authors.

read list here @ Vulture

To which I would add some classics and new titles:
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
  • Ring by Koji Suzuki
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  • The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
  • Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  • Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
  • Affinity by Sara Waters
  • The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing
  • Fledgling by Octavia Butler
  • Roots of Evil by Sarah Raybe
  • The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender
  • Hammer on Bones by Cassandra Khaw
  • The Missing by Sarah Langan
  • The Red Tree by Caitlin Liernan
  • The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Historical Fiction - Albigensian Crusades Series - Order By Fire

The Apostles of Satan (Ordeal by Fire) (Volume 1)The Apostles of Satan by F Scott Kimmich
Caught up in the turbulent politics in the land of the Troubadours at the beginning of the 13th century, Olivier de Mazan discovers a secret that could change history. At the same time, corruption in the Roman Church and the subsequent rise of heresy has set off a chain of events that pits Olivier and his countrymen against crusaders from the North in a cruel war that threatens an entire civilization and is fought against the background of a long struggle between the dynasties of the Capets and the Plantagenets. The power-hungry prelate in charge of the Crusade seethes over papal restraints to his insatiable ambition, and schemes to gain control of Olivier's secret, stopping at nothing, not even murder, to get it. While Olivier battles to defend his country, he finds he must also protect his family from the ruthless churchman and his crusading minions. 

The Fiery Furnace (Ordeal by Fire) (Volume 2)The Fiery Furnace by F Scott Kimmich
It is 1234, and heretic Olivier de Mazan possesses a secret that makes him a prime target of the Inquisitions secular thugs. At the same time, Count Raimond of Toulouse and Queen Blanche of France are using the boudoir to pursue the policies of their respective dynasties. Oliviers grandsons Odon and Rainier come of age fighting the French usurpers at the side of Robin Hoods son, a veteran mercenary. Along the way, the lovely performer Huguetta steals Odons heart, and Rainier loses his own to Miranda, who embodies Oliviers secret. In contrast, Count Raimond risks a rupture with Blanche by attempting to save his dynasty via strategic marriages and consequently delays rescuing his subjects trapped in the mountain fastness of Montsgur, Mount Secure. In this continuing saga, a Cathar family embarks on an epic struggle as they discover their true heritage, embrace their faith, and learn what it means to make the ultimate sacrifice.

The Greatest Good by Craig N Hooper

“I lied to the police and was arrested at ten minutes to eight on an otherwise fine and sunny Southern California morning.”

Special Agent Garrison Chase is having a bad morning.  It is supposed to be his first day back on the job – protecting Stanley Tuchek, the California Governor’s son, no less – after a year’s suspension. But, instead, his house has been broken into, and he has been hauled in by the Long Beach police department for questioning. When he finally catches up with the governor’s son, the boy gets shot, and Chase starts to suspect this might all have something to do with his own murky black-ops past. 

When the shooter strikes again, and then even Stanley’s safe house is compromised, Chase realises that things are much more serious than they first appeared. It must be an inside job. He has to keep Stanley safe, and work out what’s going on. But who can he trust? For Chase, the stakes are as high as they can get. He has a custody hearing for his three-year-old son in a few days, and if he can’t figure this case out, he might never see his boy again.

Told in the first person narrative, this is a page-turner full of crooks, cops, corruption and high-octane action.  You'll be gripped from the very first sentence of this blockbuster thriller - I was.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Review - The Accident on the A35 by Graeme Macrae Burnett

The Accident on the A35: An Inspector Gorski Investigation
Events seemingly take place 22 years after those in "The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau" when we are first introduced to Gorski. Here a seemingly innocent road accident sparks the parallel investigations of Gorski and the victim's son, Raymond, to find the truth. All the while we are insinuated into the lives of both Gorski and Raymond.

The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau by Graeme Macrae BurnetHowever, I am in two minds about this - whilst atmospheric and haunting with a clever and skillful plot - it left me a little flat - it was if a whole chapter was missing.  I didn't think it was on par with that of "The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau" which was itself almost noirish.  This plot - a fiction within a fiction - was subtle, dark, with the plot skillfully twisting back and forth between past and present wherein a man accused of a crime he did not commit. pays for one he did a long time ago for which another paid the price.

In both instances, Burnett gives us the impression that these stories are semi-autobiographical - they are  cleverly written fake mystery novels revealing the truth about a fictional author. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Rules of a Medieval Library

Image result for medieval librariesFrom Medievalists:

When universities started to emerge in Europe during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, they soon also became the most important centres of knowledge on the continent. Their libraries would keep hundreds of books on their shelves, with many of the more important volumes actually chained to desks.

We have few details about how these libraries operated, but one document that sheds light on their operations and rules was created at the University of Angers in western France. Written in the year 1431, it was a kind of rubric to explain what type of rules existed for running the library, although they do not go into specific detail.

read more here @ Medievalists