Monday, 25 January 2010

Queens Consort - Lisa Hilton

Although up until now The Lunchtime Book Review has mainly stuck to fiction, I do read a lot of non-fiction and one of my favourite subjects is history.  So I used my Christmas book tokens to buy some interesting-looking history books.
One of them was Queens Consort by Lisa Hilton, a book in which she goes through all the Queens of England in the medieaval period from Matilda of Flanders, who was the wife of William the Conquerore, through to Anne Neville, the wife of Richard III.
It is a fascinating insight into how the role of Queen Consort developed in England, what kind of power, influence and duties these women had, and the different characters and temperaments of the various Queens.
Many of these Queen Consorts were foreign princesses who were sent to marry a stranger in a foreign land, often at a very young age.  How much of their culture were they able to bring to the English Court?  How difficult was it for these young princesses to adapt to their new way of life and new position?
Queens Consort is a fascinating read and one that you can do in bite-sized chunks as  there is a separate section for each Queen.  It will sharpen up your knowledge of medieval English history, and I found that sometimes I needed to go and do some further background research if one of the events written about particularly interested me and I previously didn't know too much about it!
One for a packet of digestive biscuits and a large mug of strong tea!  More non-fiction will be coming your way - you have been warned!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

The Ghost Orchid - Carol Goodman

Ellis Brooks arrives at the great house of Bosco to write a novel based on the events surrounding a seance, several mysterious deaths, and the disappearance of a little girl in the late nineteenth century.  Bosco has been set up as a retreat for writers and artists and its ruined gardens which are famous for its many fountains that no longer work and broken statuary are being surveyed to see if they can be returned to their earlier magnificence.

But as Ellis delves deeper into the those events from the past, it is as if the past is coming alive again and that something or someone needs their story to be told.  Was Corinth Blackwell the medium who was brought to Bosco in order to contact Aurora Latham's dead children a fraud?  And what was her relationship with the master of the house, Milo Latham and the charismatic Tom Quinn?

As Ellis gets to grips with the horrific events that unfolded over those few days long-ago, the past seems to be affecting all of the artists who were working at Bosco - Nat the one-novel wonder, Bethesda the autobiograpy writer, Zalman the poet and David who is surveying the fountains and gardens to see if they can be restored.

A local legend of an Indian maiden who threw herself from a cliff after being betrayed by her lover seems to haunt the gardens and Aurora Latham's dead children make their prescence felt.  As Ellis's own love life becomes more complicated, can she unravel the mysteries of the past in time to save those living there in the present?  As the accidents pile up along with the winter snow, Bosco slowly reveals it secrets and the true extent of the tragedies that had once engulfed those residents of 1893.

The Ghost Orchid is written in the style of a Gothic romance/horror and is full of rich imagery and a strong sense of a crueller past, where children frequently died at an early age, pregnant woman were shunned and sometimes took their own lives and rich men could buy whatever they wanted.  It is also a story about finding your true self and how you can only run so far before you are forced to turn and look at who you really are.

One to read on a cold winter's night with a big mug of hot, sweet tea and some toasted tea cakes dripping with butter!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Greatest Lost Books

Have you ever wondered how many great books have been written that have been entirely lost to history? This great Hub by Arthur Windermere explores some of the truly great books that are known to have been in existence but have disappeared into the swirl of history.

Arthur Windermere talks about books and plays by Pletho, Cicero, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Heraclitus, Aeschylus and Melville that have been lost to us and are only know through snippets and references in other works of literature.

To read all of this fascinating Hub click here

Sunday, 3 January 2010

The Sign - Raymond Khoury

The Sign by Raymond Khoury is a fast moving thriller where the action moves from Antarctica to Egypt and then on to the United States. Gracie Logan is an up and coming journalist whose news team is investigating the splitting off of huge pieces of ice from cliffs of the Antarctic when they are the first to witness 'The Sign'; an amazing display of lights that moved, shimmered and changed before disappearing as mysteriously as it arrived. Is 'The Sign' a natural occurrence, has it been sent from aliens or is it a sign from God that all is not well with the planet? Not sure what to make of this amazing phenomenon, Gracie receives a call inviting them to Egypt, where an old priest who has been living as a recluse in a cave has been drawing the very same sign on the walls of the cave for several months.

As the world is whipped into a frenzy by what is meant by 'The Sign', Gracie and her team travel to Egypt to meet with the saintly Father Jerome. But the appearance of another sign over the arctic and then over the head of Father Jerome on the roof of the monastery makes it very dangerous for them to stay at the ancient Coptic monastery as a large mob gathers outside the walls. They need to get Father Jerome away to safety; somewhere where his presence will not trigger religious riots and he will be safe.

Meanwhile back in the United States Matt Sherwood learns that his beloved brother Danny might not be dead after all, and that he might still be being held captive somewhere. On a crusade to find the truth and his brother, he realises that he has gotten on the wrong side of some very powerful people. He has to go on the run after he was set up as the murderer of one of his brother's associates, and teams up with another of his brother's old friends, Jabba, after saving his life from the thugs who are after them.

As Gracie starts to realise that all is not as it seems regarding Father Jerome and 'The Sign' and Matt begins to work out what Danny was working on and which powerful people he is dealing with the danger both for them and the world grows. They learn that a dream of idealism to create a better, greener world has been hi-jacked for the sake of personal power and that it is beginning to unfold and unravel.

A thriller based on one man's desire to save the world and shock it into a cleaner, greener way of living. Matt Sherwood is an all-action hero; a one-time bad boy come good. His physical prowess and ability to take out large amounts of armed, trained men strained my credulity at times, but it is rollicking, fast-moving story. And I don't think you need me to tell you where the love interest happens! Fix an organic avocado and prawn salad and sip a nice glass of organic white wine with this one!

The Library of Shadows - Mikkel Birkegaard

The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard is an unusual thriller set in Denmark and Egypt. Jon Campelli is a lawyer leading a professionally busy if somewhat emotionally sterile life in Copenhagen. His mother has been dead for many years and his bookseller father, Luca, refuses any contact with him. Jon's career star is in the ascendant when he hears the shattering news that his father has died and he is drawn into the strange and shadowy world of the Libri di Luca,the book shop that he has inherited from his father.

He is drawn into the strange and mysterious world of the Lectors; those rare and talented people who can influence other people's feelings and thoughts when they are reading, and who can even charge books with a special energy just by reading from them. The Transmitters can manipulate a listener's experience when they are reading aloud and influence how they are responding to the text and affect their emotions and ideas about the story they are hearing, while the Receivers can tune into what is being read by someone and amplify and distort the feelings and thoughts that they have whilst reading. A Transmitter and Receiver who work well together can be a formidable combination. Jon is also introduced to the disturbing theory that his father did not after all die of a heart attack but was some how murdered.

The Transmitters and Receivers used to be united in one Society, but now they are split apart and are very wary and distrustful of each other. Jon agrees to investigate his father's death and at the same time is given a new client to work with at his law firm; the slippery, evasive businessman Remer. As Jon get to work on his investigations with the help of his father's business associate Iversen and a beautiful Receiver that his father mentored called Katherina, he tries to bring the Transmitters and Receivers together, but this fragile trust is broken when the Lectors begin to die in mysterious circumstances.

As the plot thickens and the elusive Remer seems to show an unusual interest in the Libri di Luca, Jon turns to one of his clients for help. Mehmet is an Internet nerd who make his living from winning prizes in online competitions and helps Jon hack into computers and emails to extract the information they need.

Will Jon be able to find out who is behind the murders before another Lector dies tragically? Will he and Katherina be able to resist their growing attraction for each other? And will they realise in time the plans that Remer has that could change the course of history?

The action is both physical and cerebral and the idea of the Lectors is fascinating. Settle down with a Danish Open Sandwich and a big mug of beer for a thought-provoking read!