Monday, April 26, 2010

Book of Souls - Book Review

The Book of Souls
by Glenn Cooper
Harper Collins 2010

This book is a sequel to the Library of the Dead - a novel I reviewed in July last year.

Former FBI Special Agent Will Piper solved - and survived - the "Doomsday Killer" case . . . and his reward was a forced early retirement. Noone knew it, but one of the books was missing from the library. Piper has been retired for a year and now has a new wife and new baby son.

The book shows up at an auction in London and is sold for $200,000. Piper is reluctantly drawn into the search for the answers provided by this mysterious volume that's been lost for six centuries.

Piper finds a poem supposedly written by Shakesepeare. He travels to England to search for the clues that are mentioned in the poem. The answers to the clues explain Shakespeares inspiration and Nostradamus's prophecies.

Unknown to Piper, the library also shows that a large number of people will die in a catastrophe on a specific day in a specific country. This is fortune telling at its best. While Piper has been retired, his former employers have put a plan into action. A plan to step into the vaccum of the disaster and take control of a foreign country when the disaster happens.

Another excellent novel from this author with plenty of action, both physical and intellectual.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

And the Winner is......

My son's school has been holding raffles for various prizes over the last week. $2 bought you 10 tickets.

Every day for the last week, my son would come home and tell me that "I didn't win a prize today, mommy". With 200 kids in his school there was practically NO chance at all he would win a prize, even though he had 10 tickets.

He didnt seem to be too upset (which I am pleased about). He is mature enough at 7 years of age (almost 8), to know and accept that he may not win anything.

Today was the last day of draws - the draw was for the biggest prize.

Today my second grade son won the top prize

The top prize was a lovely gorgeous and very large Teddy Bear.

This bear is huge. It is even bigger than my son was, as a new born.

I can't beleive my son won the top prize in the school raffle.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The View from the Bridge - Book Review

The View from the Bridge
by Nicholas Meyer
Viking Books 2009

Nicholas Meyer, for those of you who don't know, is an American screenwriter. He wrote the novel of the 1976 movie The Seven Percent Solution. He also wrote parts of the screenplay for Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home (the one about the whales in San Francisco).

Nicholas Meyer is also a director. He directed Star Trek 2 - The Wrath of Khan, and Star Trek 6 - The Undiscovered Country.

This book is his memoir from his college days in Iowa up until 1991 when Star Trek 6 was released. There are also a few chapters covering the last 19 years, but the bulk of the book is about Meyers college education and his job as a film press agent in New York City up until Star Trek 6. Meyer also wrote a book - The Love Story story (the behind the scenes story of filming the 1970 movie Love Story). This book financed his trip to Hollywood.

Meyer also gives some behind the scenes details about the making of Star Trek 2 and Star Trek 6. Star Trek 2 covers 50 pages - 20% of the book but all very interesting.

If you like Star Trek as much as I do, you have to read this autobiography. It's not a long book - only 240 pages. I really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Lady and the Poet - Book Review

The Lady and the Poet
by Maeve Haran
St Martins Press 2009

There are very few real love stories from Englands Golden Era when Elizabeth was on the throne. This is probably the first one I have ever read about. I enjoyed this book so much that I stayed up until 2 AM reading it. I have not done that for a long time.

This is the fictionalised story of the true love affair between Lady Ann More (a distant relation of Thomas More) and the poet John Donne. Ann was 14 and John was 25 when they first met.

Ann More, fiery and spirited daughter of the Mores of Loseley House in Surrey, came to London destined for a life at the court of Queen Elizabeth and an advantageous marriage. There she encountered John Donne, the darkly attractive young poet who was secretary to her uncle, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal.

He was unlike any man she had ever met — angry, clever, witty — and in her eyes, insufferably arrogant and careless of women. Yet as they were thrown together Donne opened Ann’s eyes to a new world of passion, and sensuality.

But John Donne (who had a Catholic background in an age when it was deadly dangerous) was exactly the kind of man Ann's status-conscious father distrusted and despised.

This historical novel tells the story of the forbidden love between one of our most admired poets and a girl who dared to rebel against the conventions of her time.
They gave up everything to be together.

I require a book of love poems with Spring coming on. No Keats or Shelley. Send me poets who can make love without slobbering. Wyatt or Jonson or somebody. Use your own judgment. Just a nice book, preferably small enough to stick in a slacks pocket and take to Central Park.
Helene Hanff, 84 Charing Cross Road.

Helene Hanff read John Donne's sermons, not his poems.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ottawa allows Amazon warehouse into Canada

Last month I posted a story of how Amazon (the US based online Book sellers) wanted to build a warehouse in Canada and sell books in Canada - going up against the Chapters/Indigo chain and also against the independent bookshops.

Today it was announced that the Canadian federal government has agreed to allow Amazon to open a warehouse in Canada.

Ottawa allows Amazon warehouse in Canada.
Monday, April 12, 2010
By Sunny Freeman
Canadian Press

TORONTO - The federal government is allowing online book seller to build a warehouse in Canada in return for the U.S. company's promise to promote Canadian culture and to hire its first-ever Canadian employees.

The government said Monday it approved's plan for a "fulfilment centre" warehouse after reviewing the proposal under the Investment Canada Act. That law protects the bookselling business from foreign ownership because it is part of a cultural industry.

Canadian booksellers had opposed the warehouse proposal, saying it would harm the country's cultural industry.

The review began in January after Amazon proposed to open its first warehouse on Canadian soil and aimed to determine if the investment would be a "net benefit to Canada."

James Moore, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, said has shown its willingness to promote Canadian cultural products.

"Our government is committed to strengthening Canada's economy through all its sectors, especially arts and culture," Moore said in a statement. "Amazon has shown its willingness to promote Canadian cultural products, and we are pleased it is continuing to demonstrate this through this new investment."

Under the Investment Canada Act, foreign investment in book publishing and distribution has been limited to Canadian-controlled joint ventures.

The Canadian Booksellers Association has been vocal in its opposition to the warehouse, arguing it could set a precedent allowing "American Goliaths" to become a commanding presence in Canada.

But called the argument that a foreign owned retailer couldn't be trusted to promote Canadian culture "preposterous." As part of the deal, Amazon will invest more than $20 million, including $1.5 million for cultural events and awards and for promoting Canadian-authored books abroad. Amazon's commitment also includes adding Canadian jobs, improving service for Canadian consumers, and increasing the visibility of Canadian and French-language products on its Canadian website.

Paul Misener,'s vice-president for global public policy, said the company believes a local fulfilment centre will enable it to better serve Canadian customers as well as those in other countries who seek out Canadian books and cultural products.

" (the company's Canadian web portal) is enthusiastic to continue our long-time support of Canadian customers and culture, including continued support of cultural events and awards in Canada and the promotion of Canadian books internationally," he said.

The company will also establish dedicated staff to assist Canadian publishers and other suppliers of cultural products and make more Canadian content available on the Kindle e-reader. In addition, it is creating a summer internship program for Canadian university and college students.

Canada had been the only country in which Amazon sells books online, but did not have a distribution centre. Instead it used a third-party shipping service in Canada to get around the country's foreign investment rules.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Remarkable Creatures - Book Review

Remarkable Creatures
by Tracy Chevalier
Dutton Books 2010

As mentioned in previous posts, I have finally been able to read this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Along the coast of Southwest England is an area called the Jurassic Coast. It has been given this name for the many fossils found on these beaches. One of the towns along this coast is called Lyme Regis in Dorset.

The story begins around the year 1812. The southern English coast brims with fossils for those who can find them. From the moment she's struck by lightning as a baby, it is clear Mary Anning is marked for greatness. When she uncovers unknown dinosaur fossils in the cliffs near her home, she sets the scientific world alight, challenging ideas about the world's creation and stimulating debate over our origins.

In an arena dominated by men, however, Mary Anning is soon reduced to a serving role, facing prejudice from the academic community, vicious gossip from neighbours, and the heartbreak of forbidden love. Even nature is a threat, throwing bitter cold, storms, and landslips at her.

Luckily Mary finds an unlikely champion in prickly, intelligent Elizabeth Philpot, a middle-class spinster who is also fossil-obsessed. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty and barely suppressed envy. Despite their differences in age and background, Mary and Elizabeth discover that, in struggling for recognition, friendship is their strongest weapon.

Remarkable Creatures is Tracy Chevalier's stunning novel of how one woman's gift transcends class and gender to lead to some of the most important discoveries of the nineteenth century.

It is also said that Charles Darwin could not have written the Origins of Species if Mary Anning had not made her fossil discoveries.

I am proud that a large number of my ancestors came from the West Country, where the Jurassic Coast area is located. However they were not fossil hunters.

There is another recent novel about Mary Anning available as well. Curiosity. I have this on reserve at the library.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Barbary Pirates - Book Review

The Barbary Pirates
by William Dietrich
Harper Collins 2010

This is the continuing saga of Ethan Gage. At the end of the Dakota Cipher, Ethan had barely escaped from his home country of the United States with his life. He had lost all his friends and still has one implacable enemy - Aurora Somerset. The year is now 1802.

At the beginning of this book, Ethan is back in Paris, France. He is determined to find his first love, Astiza, the Egyptian/Greek girl he first met in Egypt. Ethan sends out several letters to Egypt and Jerusalem enquiring of her whereabouts. While he waits for replies to his letters, he is persuaded to show the city of Paris to 3 savants - French zoologist Georges Cuvier, English geologist William Smith and American inventor Robert Fulton.

At the Palais Royale - the home of brothels, bordellos and pleasure houses - the 4 men are tempted to enter a bordello which becomes a trap. They are engaged in a battle against arabs. Someone starts a fire and as the 4 attempt to escape, they are arrested by the french gendarme. Later they are brought before Napoleon where the First Consul has a rather strange conversation. Napoleon speaks of various ancient legends including the Little Red Man, Og, Thira and Atlantis.

One of these legends mentions a devastating weapon that the ancient greeks had used to destroy their enemies. Napoleon wants Ethan to find this weapon so that the French can use it against their enemies. There is one clue - the greek island of Thira. Gage and his savant friends are blackmailed into doing this under the guise of an archaelogical expedition.

So the 4 men set out for Greece via Venice and the Aegean Sea. They are chased in Venice and are persuaded to seek safety aboard a ship owned by a Turk called Hamidou Dragut who agrees to take them to the island of Thera (aka Santorini)

On Thera, the men meet the Greek independence leader Ioannis Kapodistrias who leads them to a church, Agia Theodosia, The Compromise of the Cannon. With more Turks chasing them, the men climb into a sarcophagus crypt to hide. When they continue breathing, they find the release mechanism that opens the bottom of the crypt and without warning the men drop and then roll downhill a long way - for several seconds at least.

Keeping in mind that Thera is an extinct volcano, the 4 men are now inside the volcano. They follow the path downwards and eventually end up at a buried city with buildings and beautiful, colourful murals painted on the walls. One of the murals shows ships at sea with a ray of light emanating from one ship, setting other ships on fire. Fulton mentions the burning mirrors, an ancient legend about Archimedes who created a large lens or mirror that reflected the sunlight to destroy the Roman ships that were laying seige to the Greek city of Syracuse in 212 BCE.

The men also find a parchment hidden in the walls of another mural. THey continue following the lava tubes and eventually find them selves in a cave on the south side of the island of Thera with Hamidou's ship just off the coast.

Back on Hamidou's boat, Gage demands to be returned to Venice, but it is sometime later before they realsie that the boat is actually going south, not north. The men are tied up and left in the cellar. When the ship slows and stops, the men are taken top side where they meet Aurora Somerset who has another ship tied up along side.

The men are taken to Tripoli where they are auctioned off in the slave markets and are sold to Yusef Karamanli the ruler of Tripoli. The 3 savants are jailed while Gage meets up with Karamanli, Aurora and also with Astiza (who is now part of Karamanli's harem) along with her son Horus.

Gage is flabbergasted to learn that he is now a father - Horus being 2 years old. The 3 savants are set free and allowed to sail to Toulon in Provence. Gage and Horus are taken by ship to Syracuse on the island of Sicily. Astiza is left behind in the royal harem as a hostage. In Syracuse they search for and find the ancient mirror - the location of said mirror being a map on the parchment that Gage had found back in the buried city on Thera. Aurora, Hamidou, Gage and little Harry (as Horus is now called) and the crews place the mirror on board a ship for the journey back to Tripoli.

On the return journey Gage is dumped overboard and left for dead. He is picked up by a American ship heading for Malta. The 3 savants are also on board this ship having been picked up in Toulon. They have a submarine - Fultons invention - and make a plan on rescuing Astiza and Horus and destroying the mirror.

They sail into Tripoli unseen by submarine, rescue Astiza and Horus and release all the other prisoners. In the chaos of escaping prisoners, Aurora is killed, the mirror is destroyed and our heroes escape back to the submarine and calmly sail out of Tripoli harbour.

They are later picked up by the american ship and taken to Malta where the American navy is based. Gage proposes marriage to Astiza who accepts and Gage finally has his family.