Friday, May 28, 2010

Sherlock Holmes

The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, tales of murder, madness and obsession. By David Grann (2010).

Find the book just for the Sherlock Holmes story. Wonderful details, interesting stories (uneven book though with the variety of stories(12)/writing). Truly was fascinated by Holmes, Green, Doyle and the obsessive nature of so many people involved with Sherlock! I was saddened that Sherlock drove Jeremy Brett to pyschiatric treatment though - I still think he is the definitive Holmes.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Rhapsody in Green Beverly Nichols

The Garden wit and wisdom of Beverly Nichols ed by Roy C Dicks. (2009)
"welcome hilarity to the all-too-serious literature of gardening" NYTimes.
"master of hyperbolic understatement"
Drawings by William McLaren (and these are a charming part of the book!)

"One doesn't read gardening advertisements in moments of cooler judgment. One reads them in an ecstasy of unquestioning faith. That is why everybody should buy shares in seed firms"

It is too short a book! 128 pages of delight, of memories, of enchanting descriptions laced with wry wit. You keep turning the pages for the plant details, the lovely word photographs and the skewered individuals/gardeners!
I also have to email quotes to various people: Neil for the heathers, Gail for English Gardens, Janet to thank her for this delightful christmas present and to share with her garden, Ursula as she will enjoy the wit, Anita....the list becomes dozens of people!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

BBC News, Elliott Prize

The BBC just announced the short list for the Desmond Elliott Prize, which includes Ali Smith's Girl with Glass Feet. This was a magical, well written tale that I read, recommended by Gail Harris. It is not expected to win, but please read!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ariana Franklin

One day later and I just finished reading Grave Goods, the next (third) book in the Mistress of the Art of Death, the electrifying story of Adelia Aguilar in the reign of Henry II. Her child is four years old, she is still in love with her Bishop, learning/ understanding the cost of love, defying the constraints of church and state, and struggling to stay alive in wicked times. I loved the element of King Arthur in this tale, the holy place of Glastonbury, the description of Wells, places I know so dear. There is always terror in her novels, the beheadings, the traps, the thievery, the rapes, plunder and pillage. Just living in those times (I itch with every flea, bedbug and mite).
Then discovered she has written a number of other books under her name of Diana Norman, wife of Barry Norman, which rings bells as the wonderful film critic for the BBC! So I don't have to just read these novels, I can hunt for her other, earlier works.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ariana Franklin, Mistress of the Art of Death series

I just finished reading The Serpent's Tale, which I was thrilled to discover was a sequel to the Mistress of the Art of Death (Ariana Franklin). And then when I looked up the author discovered that there are TWO more in this series and can't wait to read the rest. The intricate characters, more so with continuation through time and historical events, the accuracy of medieval English life, gritty, horrific, seemingly endless frozen mud, the food (ghastly to outrageous) which compares with the class. The outrages of court, church and society (Adelia struggling to be accepted at a doctor, in a land that will not even allow her to think, mere woman that she is) and the men who so underestimate her. But her thoughts are fascinating, her machinations to stay alive, and live with herself, her child, with her everchanging beliefs and humanity.
I am on the lookout for the Grave Goods and A murderous procession. Rather bloody brilliant.
This reminds me of the Medicus series, such that I will have to tell another friend to read this too.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Anne Perry, The Sheen on the Silk

Anne Perry, The Sheen on the Silk
This is an interesting book, similar to the Ariana Franklin books I have just finished reading. It is however all Perry - intricate plot, complex characters, intrigue, incredible detail and wonderful historic setting. Constantinople and Constantine 1100s. A girl who masquerades as a physician to restore her twin brother's name/reputation. A girl with a complicated past, uncertain present and nearly no future. Constantine is equally fascinating, leaving one wondering if he did indeed realise how corrupt he had become, and the implications of his power designs. And all those lost souls.

Friday, May 7, 2010

David Hume

Today is the birthday (May 7, 1711) of Scottish Philosopher David Hume, born in Edinburgh.

One of Hume's important contributions was his philosophy, which was presented in his book "A Treatise of Human Nature (1739) and still a college textbook of Introductory Philosophy classes. (although please note that it was a failed publication!).

David Hume said "reading and sauntering and lounging and dosing, which I call thinking, is my supreme Happiness". I loved the line that he was a great cook but a better eater!

I have been reading quite a bit about his colleague Adam Smith lately, he of the economics fame during the Enlightenment phase. (esp PJ O'Rourke's On the wealth of nations, and James Buchan The Authentic Adam Smith). I started Buchan's Crowded with Genius, Edinburgh's Englightenment a couple of years ago. It is excellent, and interesting to read too. And has opened up more historical nonfiction books (and biography) for me to peruse.

Still trying to figure out why this will not cut and paste from the Note I wrote on the facebook site. sigh.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Canadian Authors

I have been asked (quite often) who are my favourite authors (in a particular genre).
So here are a list of some of the Canadians! It is quite humbling to know how many authors I have missed, yet to read, will never get to.
Margaret Atwood Payback (and so much more)
Roberston Davies Deptford Trilogy, Rebel Angels (and everything)
Alistair McLeod No Great Mischief plus every short story
Gil Adamson the Outlander
Dave Duncan science fiction start with the Guilded Chain
Thomas Costain history
Don Coles Forests of Medieval Worlds (poetry)
WP Kinsella Shoeless Joe
Robert Service wonderful poetry
Lucy Maud Montgomery Anne of Green Gables
Ralph Connor Man from Glengarry
William Gibson Neuromancer
Grey Owl
Graeme Gibson
Carol Shields Stone Diary, Bio of Jane Austen
Paul Quarrington Whale Music
Greg Wilson Children's books and programming tomes

As you can see there are many more. Enjoy, send me YOUR favourites.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Vanora Bennett, The Queen's lover

I just finished reading the new Vanora Bennett: The Queen's lover. This is about pre-tudor England, Henry V. The story revolves around Catherine de Valois (daughter of Charles VI) - who is raised to be Queen (similar to many other Catherines). She is married to Henry as part of a treaty, and fulfils her duty. She camps with him (with mud mud and more mud) on his campaign trail through France, then arrives into England, with 'cold mud'. The descriptions of her travels, meeting various people, her inner thoughts .... are fascinating. Watching her mature, and go through the cycles that all women do (how is it your mother is always right?) and seeing the whole picture, while grasping at love too. AND the first six Henry's were NOT Tudors, but her second son, with Owain (this Queen's lover) has a son who becomes Henry VII, first tudor king of England.
I would love to have Bennett write the sequel - e.g. what happens during the War of the Roses, her thoughts on the beheading of Owain, and Henry's victory (Catherine and Owain's grandson) over all of them.
It was always convoluted history, but it is FASCINATING in Bennett's writing hands. AND Owain was Welsh, hence the celt connection.