Saturday, January 18, 2020

An Ancient Mayan Book Oldest In The Americas

From MitĂș:
Archeologists uncovered an astronomy book from the Mayan civilization and the 900-year-old book is considered the oldest book written in the Americas.

After decades of research, experts concluded in 2016 that a book they found years ago, in fact, is a 900-year-old authentic astronomy guide from the Mayan period. The book is called the Grolier Codex, and archaeologists say this is the oldest book found in the Americas.

The 10-page book is said to be an insightful guide into astronomy and how the Mayans kept track of the sun and the planets. It was their early forms of calendar-keeping.

read more here @ MitĂș

'Didda - The Warrior Queen of Kashmir' by Ashish Kaul

From a legendary woman warrior Queen of Kashmir to the only living legend the world has, life came full circle for Ashish Kaul as the mega star of the millennium Amitabh Bachchan unveiled his bestseller "Didda - The Warrior Queen of Kashmir".

"It was extremely overwhelming to have Amit Ji' do the honours despite his extremely busy schedule and year long prior commitments. Didda - The Warrior Queen of Kashmir is the greatest daughter of India who guarded undivided India for 44 years. It was only natural for me to request time from India's greatest son. History has been unkind to women who yield tremendous power, Didda too was erased from history because men could not accept her genius. Amit ji's support is a milestone in my endeavor of bring forth the forgotten glory of the legendary women of Kashmir," said Kaul.

Related imageIt was not just her bravery but her extraordinary ability to overcome challenges despite her disability that makes Didda a truly all round role model for women of the world, he added.

read more here @ Morung Express

Arthur Conan Doyle - More Than Detective Novels

 (Wessex)The Washington Post: Beyond the Sherlock Holmes tales, there’s “The White Company” and “Sir Nigel.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, however, could never quite understand why his detective stories excited such hoopla. While grateful for the pots of cash they brought in, he firmly believed that his name would live in literary history because of his two deeply researched historical novels, “The White Company” (1891) and “Sir Nigel” (1906). 

 (Dover)The first and more famous is available this month in an exemplary annotated edition by Doug Elliott and Roy Pilot, while the second is arguably an even better written, more thrilling swashbuckler.

Set in the 14th century during what we now call the Hundred Years’ War, both books celebrate the chivalric ideals of honor, courtesy, physical prowess and patriotism. Conan Doyle himself viewed these courtly and martial virtues as sacrosanct.

Apart from the complete the collection of Sherlock Holmes, I also have Conan Doyle's "Tales of Pirates and Blue Water" and a copy of 'The White Company"

Review – Vikings: a history of the Northmen

Current Archaeology - review by Carly Hilts: In his introduction, W B Bartlett denies he is making any attempt to write a ‘definitive history’ of the great sweep of the Viking Age. Instead, his aim is simply to explore some of the key events and figures involved. But, despite this modest framing, he has achieved a wide-ranging and very informative overview of this eventful period of history – and an interesting read, too.

Above all, this is a useful work of reference, and a solid introduction to a subject as complex as it is fascinating. The only slightly strange note comes from a concluding discussion of whether, in the context of their violent times, the Vikings should be considered ‘evil’ – a surprising sentiment in what is otherwise a pretty even-handed overview of the period.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Review: To Crown A King by Raedene Jeannette Melin

48733390. sy475 Synopsis: Scotland, 1295. The kingdom is on the verge of rebellion. John Balliol wears the crown, but even his powerful Comyn kin cannot break King Edward of England’s insatiable desire to conquer the northern realm.

For Christina Bruce, neither man is worthy of being called King of Scots. Born into the influential Bruce family, the only noble house to rival the Comyns, she is expected to obey her father and side with England. But when a chance meeting with an outlaw named William Wallace brings her into the conflict, she risks everything to get what she wants most – freedom.

To Crown A King is the empowering tale of Christina Bruce and her struggle between family loyalty and Scottish freedom. Discover her untold story and follow along as she takes her destined place in history.

Firstly, I would suggest having some sort of pre-knowledge of the period in order to keep track of the characters in this fictional account of Cristina de Brus at the time of the Scottish Wars of Independence in the 13th century.

Late 13th century Scotland was a period of increased turmoil both politically and economically. The Scottish throne was left vacant with the death of the young Margaret, Maid of Norway. In the ensuing scramble to secure a successor to the Scottish throne, there was, at one stage, no few than 14 potential "competitors" or "claimants" - the most notably being from the families of de Brus (Bruce), Comyn, Balliol. This is where things get a bit tricky - Kind Edward I of England was approached as a kind of referee in the matter - he willingly accepted on the grounds that he should be regent or suzerain during this period, and then put forth his own candidate! Homage was paid, oaths were sworn and retracted, alliances made and unmade, all of this leading to what is now known as the First Scottish War of Independence.

The book, for me, was a quick read - there was very little by way of political, personal or geographical detail. Whilst attracted to the premise of focusing on a rarely explored period in Scottish history and bringing to the fore one of the less-known Bruce women, I really felt no connection with the character of Cristina

The story, such as it was, was bland and all together devoid of anything that could really identify this period - and apart from some later mentions of William Wallace - this could have been written about anywhere and nowhere, or quite simply have been made up completely. The tale ends shortly after Wallace's execution - and I could not decide if this is a single story or was to be part of something more. And likewise could not determine if it's target audience was adults or young adults.

For me, author Nigel Tranter covers this period in much better detail and narrative.

January Book Bargains - Part II

So another book sale just happened to be on this weekend, so I did a drive by and stopped in.

Managed to pick up these offerings:

I also managed to pick up a 1944 paperback copy of Graham Greene's "A Gun For Sale" - it was in okay condition - a little bit of damage to the cover but otherwise in good nick for its age - I couldn't resist anyway - my cover looks like this one below - and had a price tag of 1'6.

Image result for graham greene a gun for sale

Sunday, January 5, 2020

January Book Bargains

Well, great start to the new year with the annual Lions book sale - held over two days on the first weekend in January.

Saturday's bargains - in addition to those three piles on the floor - included: The Foodtaster by Peter Elbling and Undiscovered Ocean: From Marco Polo to Francis Drake by Anthony Dean.

I went again on Sunday, and picked up the following two piles.

No bad for $2 each!  Bit of a crime theme running through but I do love a good murder mystery!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Review: The Land Beyond the Sea by Sharon Kay Penman

31568110Synopsis: 1172. The Kingdom of Jerusalem, also known as 'Outremer', the land beyond the sea. Outremer was a young realm, one baptized in blood when the men of the First Crusade captured Jerusalem from the Saracens in 1099. Those crusaders who stayed had to adapt to an utterly new world, a land of blazing heat and exotic customs and enemies who were also neighbors.

Balian d'Ibelin had long enjoyed a relationship of mutual respect with Saladin. But Saladin was set upon taking Jerusalem by storm, seeing it as a blood debt, retribution for the massacre in 1099. Defeating Saladin would have been a challenge for any king, but while Baldwin IV was intelligent, educated, charismatic, courageous, and dedicated to the welfare and protection of his people, he was also doomed by his affliction with leprosy. However, he fought his disease as fiercely as he fought the Saracens, though, and when he learned that Saladin was planning to invade Outremer, he won a remarkable victory over a much larger Saracen army at Montisgard in 1177; Saladin himself barely escaped capture. Balian took part in that battle, too, for he was loyal to his young, dying king. Eventually, Balian's finest hour would come, for he convinced Saladin to accept a peaceful surrender . . .

This is my style of book - my favourite period in history - characters I am well familiar with - an author whose works I love. What more could I want! 

This is the fictional account of the reign of Baldwin IV of Jerusalem - also known as the Leper King. Baldwin's reign coincided with the period that fell in between the Second and the Third Crusades, and encompassed such events as the fall of Edessa, the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin, the defeat of the Crusader King at the Battle of Hattin, and the lead up to the Siege of Acre.

Baldwin succeeded his father when aged 13yo. Despite the young king’s extraordinary fortitude, his precarious health necessitated continuous regencies and created a problem of succession until his sister Sibylla bore a son, the future Baldwin V, to William of Montferrat. Sibylla's subsequent marriage in 1180 to Guy de Lusignan, a newcomer to the East and brother of Amalric, accentuated existing rivalries between the barons. A kind of “court party”—centring around the queen mother, Agnes of Courtenay, her daughter Sibylla, and Agnes’s brother, Joscelin III of Edessa, and now including the Lusignans—was often opposed by another group comprising mostly the so-called native barons—old families, notably the Ibelins, Reginald of Sidon, and Raymond III of Tripoli. In addition to these internal problems, the kingdom was the most isolated ever. Urgent appeals to the West and the efforts of Pope Alexander III had brought little response.

Baldwin IV died in March 1185, leaving, according to previous agreement, Raymond of Tripoli as regent for the child king Baldwin V. But when Baldwin V died in 1186, the court party outmaneuvered the other barons and, disregarding succession arrangements that had been formally drawn up, hastily crowned Sibylla. She in an extraordinary turn of events, crowned her husband, Guy of Lusignan. Such was the political status of the Crusader States.

Penman's story focuses on one of the many extraordinary real-life characters of this period - Balian de Ibelin, Lord of Ramla - whose family was one of the most prominent in the Crusader Kingdom. She also breathes new life into many others, especially Agnes de Courtenay, who was often hard done by many past historians.

Fans and history buffs will appreciate the Epilogue and the Author's Notes at the end.

The Crusader period is fast becoming the new setting for many a work of historical fiction. And if the reader is interested, I would suggest following up the authors listed below:

see also my following blog posts:

Review: Black 13 by Adam Hamdy

Black 13 (Scott Pearce, #1)Synopsis: Black 13 is the brilliant first novel in the Scott Pearce series from Adam Hamdy. 

In this addictive and fast-paced thriller, ex-MI6 officer Pearce is about to show us that in a world where there is no loyalty to the nation state; where governments, the military and intelligence agencies are being outmanoeuvred at every step; it’s time to burn the espionage rule book. Watch Pearce light the fire!

Pre-review (posted 23.12.19 - barely halfway through): I haven't even finished this - and HOLY CRAP ... what a roller-coaster ride this is already! One of the best action thrillers I have read in a long while and I'm only half way through! 

Well, now I have finished it (24.12.19), and what can I say but what a read! My thoughts above, when only halfway through, are still applicable - even more so. The characters, the story, the descriptiveness, the action sequences (and there are plenty of those) - I felt every heartbeat, sat there breathless through every nail-biting escapade, winced at every punch thrown and every bullet spent. 

We already know this is going to be a series so no spoiler alert there - but for a while you wonder .... is this man made of kevlar ... by the end of it, I can hear the words ... "we can rebuild him" ... 

Now for a spoiler alert: this is no fairy tale; there is violence and a lot of it; so if you are easily offended, turn away now. If you want one of the best thrillers around, read on!

Review: Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

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Synopsis: Years ago, bookseller and mystery aficionado Malcolm Kershaw compiled a list of the genre’s most unsolvable murders, those that are almost impossible to crack—which he titled “Eight Perfect Murders”.

But no one is more surprised than Mal, now the owner of the Old Devils Bookstore in Boston, when an FBI agent comes knocking on his door one snowy day in February. She’s looking for information about a series of unsolved murders that look eerily similar to the killings on Mal’s old list. And the FBI agent isn’t the only one interested in this bookseller who spends almost every night at home reading. There is killer is out there, watching his every move—a diabolical threat who knows way too much about Mal’s personal history, especially the secrets he’s never told anyone, even his recently deceased wife.

To protect himself, Mal begins looking into possible suspects . . . and sees a killer in everyone around him. But Mal doesn’t count on the investigation leaving a trail of death in its wake. Suddenly, a series of shocking twists leaves more victims dead—and the noose around Mal’s neck grows so tight he might never escape.

This is a must read for all crime aficionados.

Firstly, you will find yourselves making a mental list to re-read all of the books mentioned; secondly, you will find a plot with many twists and turns, as if lifted straight from the pages of said books; and finally, you will find yourself googling to see if "... only the names have been changed, etc etc" is really applicable (as per the author's opening note).

I have not read Swanson before .. most certainly will now. This one's a keeper!

This was also published as Rules for Perfect Murders.

Review: Murder at the Villa Byzantine by RT Raichev

9290192Synopsis: When a birthday party for one of their Hampstead neighbors turns deadly, Antonia Darcy and Major Hugh Payne end up investigating the murder of one of Melisande Chevret's other guests. The aging actress becomes a natural suspect, as the victim was her love rival. But after the first murder, a second takes place at the Villa Byzantine. The owner of the house is royal biographer Tancred Vane, who swears he is innocent. And surely Catherine Hope, an elderly lady helping him with his research, can have nothing to do with it. A damning piece of evidence points to the victim's daughter--but why would that a teenage girl have a dainty silk handkerchief bearing her monogram? And would she drop it so conveniently beside her mother's body? As the questions mount, Antonia Darcy and Major Payne search desperately for answers.

This is one in a series - Country House Crime Mystery Series - and it appears later in said series - though I did not realise it at first when I picked up a hardback copy second hand. I just liked the cover, the title, and of course, one of the character's name.

This is a perfectly acceptable cosy mystery with crime solving couple Major Hugh Payne and detective fiction author Antonia, as they are drawn into a local murder. I had this on my shelf for a few weeks before deciding that - as I am on holidays and the sun was out - I would sit outside on the decking and read a few pages. So engrossed was I that I am sun-burnt!

Pay attention as there are a couple of moments when the story is told from the first person narrative - which is not prevalent throughout the bulk of the story - but it worked okay. Most mystery readers will get a sense of where the story is heading .... to a point .... no spoiler alert here! Read on before being led astray yet again!

An enjoyable read despite the pains of sunburn!