...he was susceptible to taking the wrong advice from the wrong people at the wrong time.
Spot-on description of Henry III. These occasional sentences ...he was susceptible to taking the wrong advice from the wrong people at the wrong time.
Spot-on description of Henry III. These occasional sentences from author Dan Jones made this book a lively read, although given the subject matter, any re-telling of the illustrious Plantagenet family would probably not be on the boring side.
And let me plant my flag right now: I am a Plantagenet-ista. Loved this dynasty, from Henry II to Richard III. Not the selfish Tudors or the Teutonic Hanovers or the wilty Windsors for me. No Sir, I stand firmly behind the family of Edward Longshanks, Richard The Lionheart, and John Lackland. Damn you, Henry VII!
The book begins with the infamous White Ship disaster, which sent Henry I's heir and the next-in-line heir to the bottom of the sea. Since Henry had very likely been the murderer of his older brother William II, this was the old sins of the father revisited on the sons. In any case, the "Age of Shipwreck" had begun, as chaos ruled the land when Henry III passed away. At this point, we speed through the whole Stephen-or-Matilda as ruler to get to Henry II, the first Plantagenet King.
And yes, I always think of Mr. O'Toole when I read about Henry II.
This is where the wild ride starts, as Henry and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine created the devil's brood, out of which arise Richard I and John (who doesn't need a numeral after his name because there will never be another King John). Here the book does try a bit to give John some credit for something, but boooo-hisss-snarl, he really was the Darth Vader of his time.
Henry II came next, followed by the majestic Edward I, the Steve Jobs of his day. You want to rescue a country from its incompetent overseers? Produce kick-ass Edward. Exciting stuff.
I enjoyed the book, but I deeply disagree with the author's contention that Richard II was the end of the Plantagenets. Not! The Lancasters and Yorks were Plantas also, but I get the idea that the book should end with the downfall of another wonky family member (and so Jones can write separate books on that Roses thing). In fact, I found my knowledge of Richard II was not that good, so the last chapter was rather enlightening.
And yes, I think of Mr. Whishaw when I read about Richard II.
All in all, a very good book on an extraordinary family. The writing involved me and made history more accessible.
This is one of those books where my outlook differs from others. Actually, it really differs from others. For many children and teenagers growing up iThis is one of those books where my outlook differs from others. Actually, it really differs from others. For many children and teenagers growing up in the 1980s, this was THE book, much as the next generation had the Harry Potter books.
Alas, I just never became involved with the story and became rather bored by it all, which surprised me as I was one of the first purchasers (yup, I bought the hype). I have always liked the colour text, with the green and the red, and it is a very nicely formatted edition (not sure if later editions have that first edition look). I have wanted to like this book. Really. But, no. It somehow passed me by. Inevitably, I will meet another book person who will tell me how important this book was to them, and I always try to steer the conversation to other areas.
In Saint Petersburg, the icebreaker ship Krasin still survives. That sentence may not mean much to most folks, but for anyone interested in Arctic expIn Saint Petersburg, the icebreaker ship Krasin still survives. That sentence may not mean much to most folks, but for anyone interested in Arctic exploration, it's very important. It was the Krasin which came to the rescue of the survivors of the famous Italia airship crash. As the world flies by, an old ship remains a connection to the madness of the men who attempted feats of craziness in their quests to conquer the Arctic.
The book opens with the story of the doomed Franklin Expedition, a tale which never fails to amaze me. Setting forth from England in 1845, Sir John Franklin was a bit old in the tooth for such a strenuous voyage. He and his men vanished. After nine years of fruitless searching, the admiralty struck the missing men's names from the books, as though they were ghosts who had simply left for another country. When clues were finally found, it was revealed that Franklin's men had struggled to find their way south while dying from scurvy, lead poisoning, starvation, and frostbite. Most likely, the lead-poisoned food made the men insane, and murder and cannibalism can never be ruled out of the final struggle. So not cool.
Yet the fierce rush to conquer the North Pole and to find the Northwest passage meant more men were to risk and lose their lives. Now that Commander Byrd's flight over the Pole is considered to be fraudulent, Umberto Nobile is possibly the very first man to have flown over Santa's home. When his blimp crashed, the stranded passengers were rescued by an airplane...which then crashed. The Russian icebreaker finally came along to pick up the survivors. There was also the story of Andrée's balloon. This Swedish expedition left for the North Pole in 1897 and they, too, vanished. When the bodies were finally found, thirty-three years later in 1930, the final days of these 'icemen' became revealed. It is now known that as they struggled to live, they lived almost exclusively by killing and eating polar bear meat. That meat harbored trichonosis, tiny parasitic worms which ate away at the starving men's muscles from within. Their film negatives survived the decades and show the crash of the balloon which would lead to their deaths.
The Arctic craze is always fascinating, yet some authors have made it incredibly boring. Not so Mick Conefrey, who describes the explorers, their travails, their tragedies, and their results with flair which makes for fast reading. Ironically enough, as climate change hits, the Arctic Ocean is more of a true ocean now, with less of the deadly ice. Those daring men in their daring air machines and sea ships would have had a much easier time of it. But then, we wouldn't have these memorable stories of courage and bizarre risk-taking.
Book Season = Winter (don't eat the polar bear)...more
On December 28, 1908, a massive 7.5 earthquake struck the area around Messina in Sicily. It was not a quick shake. The rocking continued for 40 secondOn December 28, 1908, a massive 7.5 earthquake struck the area around Messina in Sicily. It was not a quick shake. The rocking continued for 40 seconds. When it finally stopped, hardly a building was left standing. The 'lucky' survivors then had to run for their lives from a forty foot tsunami that bore down on them. Not much was left. The Calabria region of mainland Italy was also devastated and current estimates place the total number of victims at around 200,000.
While the 1755 Lisbon quake was of a greater magnitude, the 1908 Messina quake is still considered the most destructive European shaker, due to the higher density of population. Whole families were obliterated. Many bodies were never recovered, their bones still buried today. One of the results of this catastrophe was the massive migration of Sicilians and Calabrians to the United States of America. If you want to blame someone for the foundation of the Mafia in America, point your little Corleones at Mother Nature. It was her fault.
This well-made original edition was published just a few months later, in 1909, and it was a hot-seller. They didn't have Instagram in those days, so the combination of reporting and photographs made this the first explanation of what happened for the American audience, many of whom had relatives from the scorched area. The black-and-white stills are heartbreaking and the information is relayed with urgency. However, that's not the entire book. To fill it all out, there is also a section on the phenomena of earthquakes and volcanoes, as Sicily also had Mount Etna doing a bit of belching. Some now believe it was the 1908 eruption of Mount Vesuvius (my most favourite volcano) which triggered the eventual plate movement further south. Chilling.
A rare book, still in wonderful shape. As a reader who lives in Quake Country, I would like to remind everyone, again, about the capriciousness of Mama Natura. She has a tendency to surprise us with 5 AM quakes. Then, when the shaking finally stops, we have to look seaward to see if the waves are receding, because guess what's coming next! If you can survive all that...fire. At least, we don't have volcanoes. Sicily is so screwed.
I really enjoyed this read. Imaginative and oh so winterish, it came at the perfect time, on a rare gloomy California day. As the sky darkened, this tI really enjoyed this read. Imaginative and oh so winterish, it came at the perfect time, on a rare gloomy California day. As the sky darkened, this tale grabbed me and I forgot about everything else (including the ManU vs. Liverpool game). I'd say that's a pretty good way to countdown to Christmas.
Unlike most folks, I believe in fairyland. When the earth shakes here, and it shakes so often we don't always feel it, I know the Trolls are stomping around in their living quarters below. It's a given. If humans had more respect for the Trolls, we wouldn't have so many quakes. Well, that's what they say.
My only unhappiness with this read is that it ended far too quickly for my liking. Magic endures.
Christmas came early this year! A whole set of uncut Robert Louis Stevenson books. RLS! This is better than coffee ice cream, meat pies, and pecan rolChristmas came early this year! A whole set of uncut Robert Louis Stevenson books. RLS! This is better than coffee ice cream, meat pies, and pecan rolls. Shazam!
I have already reviewed the story itself here, so I will use this review for the actual physical book. As we increasingly turn to e-books in the current century, it is always a pleasure to hold a book which was made when printing presses were considered to be state-of-the-art and most folks couldn't even afford a book, let alone a set.
Those Scribner sons did a mighty fine job with this volume. Red cloth with gold lettering and the type of paper one doesn't see anymore. This is a well-brought-up book, the kind you can introduce to others with pride. Gorgeous. The previous owner(s) took good care of this baby, and I hope to continue the tradition.
Book Season = Winter (it's a winter's tale)...more
Winter, 1941. Winston Churchill was on his way to meet the President of the United States.
He was going to spend Christmas at the White House. He wouldWinter, 1941. Winston Churchill was on his way to meet the President of the United States.
He was going to spend Christmas at the White House. He would not be stopped by a mere storm. He would not be stopped by a hurricane.
So begins the story of the Christmas meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt, where the two leaders of the free world partnered to establish the greatest military alliance in history. History and Christmas in one package, beautifully illustrated by the great Barry Moser.
I enjoyed the text and the illustrations, as Wood and Moser make almost as good a team as FDR and Winston. Adults should enjoy reading this to children at holiday time, and the little ones will love Moser's transparent watercolours.
Trust me to the bitter end.
Book Season = Winter (blood, toil, tears, and reindeer)...more
That phrase was the best part of this book for me. It stated immediate evil and drew me in, plus it kept me going when nothing The Wolves are Running!
That phrase was the best part of this book for me. It stated immediate evil and drew me in, plus it kept me going when nothing else made sense. This John Masefield tale is a Christmas favourite for many and seems to have influenced the Narnia saga. I would also dare to say that it has some elements that may have influenced the Harry Potter stories as well such as the young hero, railway stations, snow-filled villages, hot drinks, and magic.
Alas, when it was first read to me as a child in an Aussie school, I just didn't get it. But then, I didn't like listening to the C.S. Lewis stories either, so maybe I was one of those Wolves. To give Mr. Masefield the full benefit of the doubt, I purchased the nicely bound New York Review edition, hoping for more illumination. But, while I gained a little bit more appreciation, I remain under-whelmed by it all.
Young Kay still drove me crazy and I never knew when he was speaking to others or muttering to himself. This edition thankfully explains some of those issues by explaining that Masefield's original manuscript had never been corrected until now, which explains my original childhood bias. Long story short, the first publication of this book left several passages out, which the NYR edition fixes.
Time and Tide and Buttered Eggs wait for no man.
Summation of my personal view:
STARFALL - Loss of one star for driving me crazy (how did Peter suddenly appear at the end), lack of structure, and the sudden ending.
STAR-RISE - Addition of one star for imagination (just as a child would think), pagan memories, and untouched slang of the 1930s.
This title caught my eye because my mother spent time in a WWII prison camp and had to find her way home when the war ended. Because she had spent herThis title caught my eye because my mother spent time in a WWII prison camp and had to find her way home when the war ended. Because she had spent her childhood and teenage years walking and bicycling through Europe, she knew how to get back home, but she had to do so without food and with the fear of the rampaging Russians behind her. But really, what do you do? Where do you start? How do you manage without food or money or help? Who should be trusted? The relief at not being killed in camp gives way to the terror of lawless lands and the loss of a defined daily structure brings a whole new fear.
Before the war, Henriette Roosenburg was a middle-class Dutch girl with a passion for books and literature. After the Nazis took over the Netherlands, she joined the Dutch Resistance. The Germans caught her and sentenced her to death and she was sent to prison to await the final act. As she explains, there were four classes of prisoners in German jails:
1. The top class of prisoners were the nutbuckets (rapists and thieves). This group received extra privileges and good food and the opportunity to help run the camps.
2. The next class was composed of black marketeers, who also had enough to eat and could receive mail.
3. The third class was the political prisoner. This group was treated badly, but they at least had the right to get medical help.
4. The fourth and lowest class received no medical treatment and food was so scarce, most of these prisoners weighed less than 100 pounds. They lived in solitary confinement while awaiting execution. Roosenburg belonged to this group, also known as the Night and Fog People.
For the author, the walls came down in May of 1945, when she and her fellow cellmates discovered the Germans gone and the Russians unlocking cell doors. In the first tinge of excitement, each prisoner sang their national anthem, thrilled at the prospect of going home. Then they got the bad news: the Poles and Czechs could go home because they lived in the East. But the Russians refused to allow any liberated prisoners to make the trek to the West. Hope vanished for Roosenburg.
From the very first page to the very last page, I was completely absorbed in this book. Nothing goes as planned, even though there really isn't a set plan. Just get home. She doesn't really discuss her work as part of the resistance, so ego is left at the door. After reading this, my admiration for my mother went even higher.
These are NOT the Christmas Books of Ebenezer Scrooge and other volumes which put the winter holiday on the map. These are the annual holiday-themed sThese are NOT the Christmas Books of Ebenezer Scrooge and other volumes which put the winter holiday on the map. These are the annual holiday-themed stories Dickens published in his Household Words journal. These stories made Mr. Dickens the prophet of home life. He brought imagination into the winter homes and told his readers that comfort, a cozy fire under the hearth, spiced wine, and a good story made home-staying worthwhile.
...there are strings in the human heart which must never be sounded by another, and drinks that I make myself are those strings in mine.
In this collection of his Christmas tales, Dickens combined goodwill with tales of shipwrecks and orphans and traditions. There aren't any ghosts of Christmas past nor the haunted recollections of doomed men. Instead, the reader gets a poverty-stricken man relating his "castle in the air" or a narrator describing the various country inns of Yorkshire, "haunted by the ghost of a tremendous pie".
The stories I liked best were the maritime tales of The Wreck Of The Golden Mary and The Perils Of Certain English Prisoners. Reading of adventures on the high seas when the weather outside your own home is cold is always worthwhile.
...a right little island, a tight little island, a bright little island, a show-fight little island...
Not every story whammed me and I probably do love his actual books of Christmas season more (mostly because of the haunted tales), but these were a worthwhile read. Family, friends, rituals.
Book Season = Winter (a glass of Smoking Bishop) ...more
Published in 1987, five years after Grace Kelly's death, this book may have been more of a shocker than it is now. Up to her death, Kelly's image wasPublished in 1987, five years after Grace Kelly's death, this book may have been more of a shocker than it is now. Up to her death, Kelly's image was of an ice princess with high morals. As this book revealed, the truth was otherwise, but it really is more of a 'whatever', as it seems the author wanted to make a mountain out of a molehill.
Grace Kelly was the daughter of Jack Kelly, a hardworking Irish-American who raised himself to become one of the most powerful men in Philadelphia. He didn't seem to have much love for his shy daughter, preferring his other children. The father's comments throughout Grace's life confirm that he never felt she was the best and ended up surprised that she not only became a movie star and award-winning actress but also, you know, a fairy-tale princess.
James Spada reveals her affairs with Bing Crosby, William Holden, Gary Cooper, Oleg Cassini just about everyone, which must have been devastating to discover in the 1980s. All in all, he decides she must have been a very lonely and miserable woman who fought with her two strong-willed daughters in the last years of her life. There are many interviews with other people (aka 'hearsay') which he uses to confirm this, so as a reader I really couldn't sit there and say, yup, that be the truth when it may not have been.
I learned more than I ever knew about Grace Kelly which isn't saying much as I didn't know anything about her, apart from her appearances in High Society and To Catch A Thief. Those two films summarized my entire Grace Kelly catalogue. Her life as Monaco royalty is chronicled here, too, and the gist of the message is that she missed making movies. Or something like that.
Standard celebrity tell-all bio written-after-a-celebrity-is-dead. Okay. But no Hitchcockian fireworks.
Most memoirs and biographies are usually perfect for the summer. You can sit by a beach and dip into the self ramblings without having to interrupt yoMost memoirs and biographies are usually perfect for the summer. You can sit by a beach and dip into the self ramblings without having to interrupt your sand count. But this is a book of a different grade, mainly because it's the autobiography of Ken Russell, so the cold days of winter will suffice. Ken Russell's ramblings require a fireplace and the safety of four walls.
The Bronx reminds me of the Gaza Stip.
There are memories of his childhood and his unusual take on men who like to dance. But mostly, there are his tales of movie sets and travel and dealing with high-octane actors. Russell was the least conventional of the British directors and his words reflect that picture. He is also hounded by fans who actually believe his films are for real to the point of obsession.
The men who have invited me to wrestle nude in front of a log fire are legion.
I thoroughly enjoyed Russell's musings. Life for him was an adventure, one which he could stylize and put to the music of the great composers. Take shelter.
The packaging of this little hardcover book is rather nice...purple cloth cover with an inlet picture of a medieval townscape. So, of course, I purchaThe packaging of this little hardcover book is rather nice...purple cloth cover with an inlet picture of a medieval townscape. So, of course, I purchased it. I'm a sucker for good covers.
As you live, you find yourself among a community of fellows-or so you believe.
This is a first novel, one combining magic and proto-realism. Past and present. The real and the unreal. It's a bit of a mindbender, that's for sure. Politics and the subversion of the creative mind come to the forefront, in a roly-poly fashion.
This is the natural course of things, that we rein in our energies, defer to the agencies of others and, for the sake of the common good, hew to a common course.
I liked the journal style of narration and the take on modern humanity. It's the type of book meant for a programmer sitting in a cubicle in a vast fortress of an office.
You really can't go wrong with a Folio Society book. Gorgeously bound, they are the benevolent giants who graciously accept their place at the top ofYou really can't go wrong with a Folio Society book. Gorgeously bound, they are the benevolent giants who graciously accept their place at the top of the bookshelves. Other books may have the stories and resolve but the Folio bunch have the beauty.
So it is with this coffee-table book, a hefty tome which could break toes if dropped. The Folio Society has chosen their Top 100 all-time paintings and then provided an entire left-side page to explain the selection and the meaning of each masterpiece. The right-side is devoted to full colour plates of the paintings, which can make reading difficult given the eyecandy.
Maybe I am not very human. What I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house. (Edward Hopper)
I liked the way the book was laid out, fully chronological so the reader can see how painting progressed through the ages. It took me a while to complete the book because each page was lovingly viewed on the right side, then read on the left. The text is formatted so that the first few paragraphs explain the subject of the artwork, followed by why the artist painted it and then a history of ownership. In case the reader wants to learn more about a particular artist (I certainly did), there is a biography section at the end of the book.
My only complaint, which is really more like a midge, is that only one painting per artist is allowed. So, technically it really isn't the 100 Greatest Paintings because the love has to be spread around. Goya, Hopper, Picasso...limited to one each (and no Mona Lisa). A big book perfect for a drizzly day sitting inside with a cup of cocoa.
This book caught my eye a few years ago, because of the look on the cat's face on the front cover. Those eyes, those whiskers, that look of sheer supeThis book caught my eye a few years ago, because of the look on the cat's face on the front cover. Those eyes, those whiskers, that look of sheer superiority. Yup, that's a feline. While I don't believe the words "good" and "cat" should ever be in the same sentence, I nevertheless snatched up this volume to read about a legendary cat doctor, who was a feline specialist before the current cat-yoga/cat-internet/cat-everything began.
To a cat, human beings are an inferior, servile race, always to be kept in their places, with occasional rewards if they perform well. To love a cat is uphill work, and therefore very rewarding.
'Uphill' is an understatement. One really needs to create a salesforce-type CRM system, based on a cat's moods, food-of-the-hour, sun location, bedding changes, and time of the year. If I had the time, I would create such an app. In the meantime, one has this wonderful collection of stories told by Louis J. Camuti, who was the first veterinarian to devote a practice solely to cats. In New York City, no less! As a child, he was sick at home with fever when a stove accident started filling his house with gas. His cat jumped on his chest to waken him. At that point, he decided he would become a cat doctor when he grew to be an adult. Sweet.
Mr. Camuti tells some marvelous tales, remembrances of the adventures he would face every day as he made his round of house calls. There are celebrity memories and some wacky escapades...wacky being an adjective any cat owner would use at least once to describe feline relationships. Camuti was also one of the first specialists to advise against buying kittens from breeders, a stance which put him years ahead of his time.
Let's face it - if you are going to get a kitten from a pet shop or a breeder you are running the risk of getting a sick animal.
This is a book I will probably re-read in the future, preferably on a rainy day when The Cat and I are both stuck in the house. Just one year after this publication, the elderly doctor was dead, but thankfully his love of the feline race lives on in his words.
As I write this, Creampuff the Cricket Killer is in Full Indifference Mode.