Sunday, June 20, 2010

Nick Bunker, Making Haste from Babylon

I just downloaded this book onto my Kindle, but hope I can read it on the iPad! I had taken the book out of the library for the second time (to check something that I remembered) and decided it was well past time to get my own copy. The Kindle was to be for non-fiction, so it was perfect; except that for browsing it is so much easier to use the iPad.
That said, I must once again highly recommend this book! It is about the Pilgrims coming to America (although they don't get here until past the halfway mark of the book!) but not about the "pilgrims" - it is about the events that led to their coming, on both sides of the Atlantic. It also has numerous new sources/information and analysis that I think alot of geneologists and history buffs will be very enthusiast about. I was fascinated by the detail, although other reviewers seem to think this is distracting. (I devoured the book in April when I saw it in Chicago, then reread parts as a Library book, as I have Mayflower at home as well, plus several other history books. I then went to the Amazon site to purchase it, and saw quite a few reviews. Having been down the path of painstakingly creating an historical timeline, I understood both his excitement and the detail of this book, which some of the reviewers failed to see. This IS a book I would have liked to have had in my hands, my own copy. I am only too aware of my groaning bookshelves, as I seriously have to order a couple Kindle it was).
Bunker is to be commended for finding this information/fact checking/delving into ancient historical documents and giving us a better understanding of how our nation developed. This is not dry history! His writing style made the reading a pleasure. So many people have only a vague understanding of Thanksgiving, let alone Pilgrims, Puritans and economics! In this age of soundbytes, footnotes are forgotten. His are present, relevant and insightful. Read every one!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Erin Hart, Irish mystery series

I was introduced to a new author Erin Hart, partly because her books are Irish/celtic, partly because the latest one takes place in MN and partly because she has a beautiful way with language. I love this quote: The celts speak in riddles, hinting at things, leaving much to be understood (Poseidonius, Greek Ethanographer of 1st century BC).
These are the Nora Gavin (american pathologist) and Cormac Maguire (Irish archeologist) award winning series that take place primarily in bogs, in Ireland. Haunted Grounds was the first (2003) then Lake of Sorrows (2005) then False Mermaid (2010). The first novel is based on a true story (she first heard of in 1986 when visiting) of finding a severed head of a woman with red hair (probably from the 1650s Cromwell era) in 1955 - she was able to speak to the people involved! She wanted to create a story because so little could be learned of the girl. The haunting descriptions are theirs as well as family experience (her husband is Paddy Orien). "the past is not buried, but lives and breaths" - e.g. peat.
They really need to be read in order, but there's only three (and she is a slow writer, so you are lucky to catch up now!).

Her favourite authors are PD James, Dorothy Sayers, with Elizabeth George and Umbretto Eco in the mix. She would also like to take AS Byatt to lunch at WAFrost. She is currently reading Geraldine Brooks People of the Book as her next novel will involve an ancient manuscript! These remind me a bit of Sharyn McCrumb, whose appalachian series I adore (for Nora Bonesteel), with that local flavour, myth/folklore/historic detail. Some gothic suspense, similar to Mary Stewart (I always wished she had written more novels about the same people). And the chilling forensic details are reminscent of Kathy Reichs and Simon Beckett. Softer story, with rather tumultous love affair, maturing, but with issues.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Summer Beach Reads

Light summer reads are always in demand, especially when they relate to bibliophiles. A new series by Kate Carlisle: Homicide in Hardcover (2009), then If Books could kill (2010) are funny, witty, humourous while providing some interesting commentary on communes, book restoration, wine country, book dealers and general family politics.
Brooklyn Wainwright is a dedicated book restorer in San Francisco - you will find many personal details as the author has lived a lot of this life (see her website This is not the People of the Book (Geraldine Brooks), but there are a couple of passages where she is completely lost in her work and the beauty of ancient texts.
This can barely be classified as a celt read, except that the new 'love interest' is Derek Stone, an english security man, who she finds irresistable, as well as 'hot', to say nothing of his 'accent'. Yes, so much of this is farfetched (a Continental GT Bentley?), a teary reunion just before the murder, an unknown daughter, an inheritance of outrageous proportions, etc. First class tickets to the Edinburgh Book Festival (next book), where another of her fiances (she had three so far) is found murdered. .... Hardcover was nominated for an RT first mystery award. Praise from many other 'serial' authors is all positive.

Summer Beach Reads is also the next topic for prizes by the Friends' Bookstore/Blog (see their blog for details this week). AND there will be a reading contest, for adults, of any and all books read this summer. Yes, I am excluded, so you will have a chance to win... ;-)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

John Connolly, The Whisperers

Even the title has sent shivers straight down my spine. John Connolly has a new book coming out in July!! I can hardly wait. If you haven't read any, start with the beginning, keep all the lights on and prepare yourself for a wild ride. These really ARE thrillers, the writing is exceptional, the places and events all too real. The Whisperers (July 2010) continues the mystery series with PI Charlie Parker, in Maine. This is a series I prefer to read in order as the characters have history, which gradually unfold.
He manages to combine mystery/thriller/suspense with horror/supernatural in a very literary way (I see the Irish connection clearly). And if you have missed his children's books - they are simply excellent. Not necessarily for the faint of heart, but with a wicked sense of humour, a splash of realism and a sense of 'what if' that astounds. I re-read these, whereas I cannot the Parker series. (The realism will last my lifetime!)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Art of the Bookstore

There are a number of 'art' books lately - have been enjoying the Art of coversation (Catherine Blyth) although it is like 'preaching to the converted' for me. But just came across the Art of the Bookstore by Gibbs M Smith in one of my older Bas Bleu book catalogues. (I keep them to read through in case Imissed something the first time!) Smith was a publisher for 40 years and also an artist. This book has 40 of his vibrant oil paintings of independent booksellers, including City Lights in San Fran, Strand Book Store in NYC, Cottage Bookshop in Glen Arbor MI. Now I have to buy this book and visit each and every one (if I haven't already!). There are essays describing each store and its mission, and I hope some of the atmosphere that is in each painting. This looks like a charming book!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Glassblower of Murano Marina Fiorato

The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato (2008)
This is a debut novel, with a lot of personal detail (the author is also half-venetian and a graduate of Oxford University. So many of the details are perfect. The history is wonderful and it is a very romantic story. A double story, present day and in 1681 with an ancestor. He who 'defected' to Paris to create the mirrors of Versailles. Both stories are poignant, intriguing, interesting and page turners. All in all, a charming book. The reading group guide at the end of the paperback is also definitely worth reading, and adds more dimensions both to the author, the story and the history. Not the details of The Historian, The Plague Tales, The Owl Killers, but a great read for summer.

Soulless Gail Carriger

Soulless by Gail Carriger (2009)
An Alexia Tarabotti novel of the Parasol Protectorate
(the next is called Changeless, May 2010)
I haven't stopped laughing. Although I was just told the next book is already out and the last page is a cliffhanger (this to the tune of screams that how can she wait 6 months to know what happens?)
I especially loved that she acknowleged, with profound thanks, that her parents rewarded good behaviour with trips to the bookstore. Well done!
This was a combination of Amelia Peabody and Sookie Stackhouse (Elizabeth Peters and Charlaine Harris) with Amanda Quick thrown in for good measure.
Alexia is of course an English spinster, but she has no soul and an Italian father. But then she is attacked by a vampire, "breaking all standards of social etiquette." This is VICTORIAN England, complete with Queen, but vampires, werewolves, etc in London.
There is of course a love interest, Lord Maccon (appalling, messy, gorgeous, and of course a werewolf). This makes for unexpected social gatherings and courtship. The Woolsy Castle Alpha! ('But so rude! and that after eating my three best chickens.")
My first summer beach read, with its sequel the second! AND you never know where you are going to find 'bluestockings' - Alexia is labelled as one!