Friday, October 30, 2009

The Tiger Warrior - Book Review

The Tiger Warrior
By David Gibbins
Headline Publishing 2009

Another Jack Howard adventure story. This was a bit out of my league as it involved India, China and the remains of the army of Crassus, who lost a battle at Carrhae in 53 BC.

In 1879 Lieutenant John Howard, Royal Engineers, arrived at the Godavari river in southern India to survey the land for the British. He witnesses something unspeakable and then disappears.

In the present day, John Howard's great great grandson, Jack Howard is diving in the Red Sea and makes an astonishing discovery. What he finds leads him and his team to India and from there to Afghanistan, to Central Asia and finally to Western China.

There is a lot of history in this novel. David Gibbons, the author, has notes at the back. The following events mentioned in this novel are true, he says.

Crassus' last battle at Carrhae
Rampa Rebellion of 1879-81 in India

While the battle at Carrhae was real, the fate of the survivors as told in this novel is fiction.

The Rampa rebellion was explained in quite some detail, as there are a number of surviving british military journals giving details.

How these two events are connected is totally fictional, but it still makes a great story.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Thirteenth Tale - Book Review

The Thirteenth Tale
By Diane Setterfield
Originally published 2006
Anchor Books Canada 2007

Margaret Lea grew up in an antiquarian bookship. Her father owned and ran it. Margaret would spend hours reading these antiquarian books whenever she was not in school.

As I read the first chapter describing Margarets life, I was quite jealous. I do wish I had grown up in an antiquarian book shop in real life. Despite my fathers love for reading, which I inheritted from him, he was an accountant, not a book seller.

Anyway Marget is asked to be a biographer of a mysterious woam who is a well known writer. Her name is Vida Winter.

As Vida tells her story, Margaret eventually disocvers that Vida is not who she says she is.

Once upon a time there were twin daughters living up at the great house. Their names were Adeline and Emmeline. They lived with an old uncle and varuous housekeepers. Their mother was put into a psychiatric ward after the twins were born.

When the twins were 14 the great house burnt down and the twins disappeared. One bodyy was found in the ruins. It turns out to be a half sister of the twins and who looked just like them. Her name was Vida. Adeline changes her name to Vida and then takes care of Emmeline.

By the time Margaret arrives at the house to write Vida's biography, some 60 years have passed.

Vida refuses to say what happend to Adeline and Emmeline after they disappeared. Vida has published a book of short stories, There were 12 stories in it, but there should have been 13.

Margaret figures out who Vida really is and what happened to Emmeline. As a reward Margaret receives the manuscript of the 13th tale, just as Emmeline and Adeline (Vida) both die. Margaret chooses to not publish the 13th tale.

It was an interesting book, but I was rather disappointed that there was nothing more about antiquarian books after the first chapter.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet - Book Review

The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet
by Colleen McCullough
McArthur & Company

Everyone who has ever read good literature knows about the Bennets. That family from Pride and Prejudice with 5 daughters - Elizabeth, Jane, Mary, Lydia and Kitty.

The time is now 20 years after the end of P&P. Mrs Bennet has just died. And everyone gets together for the funeral.

Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy are still married. They have 5 children - Charles, Georgiana, Susan, Anne and Cathy. The Bennet Curse is what Darcy calls it. Their marriage is floundering because there are no more sons and the one son they do have, is not living up to Darcy's expectations. Darcy no longer visits Lizzie's bed.

Jane is still married to Charles Bingley. They have 8 living children (7 boys and 1 girl) but Jane has lost 4 other babies and she looks older than her years.

Lydia ia still Mrs George Wickam, but is now an alcoholic (in modern terms). George has been sent to various wars and lately to America - purely to keep him away from Lydia. Once again this is Darcy's doing.

Kitty had made the best marriage. She married Lord Menadew. She had a coming out season in London and was able to capture a Lord.

Caroline Bingley is still not married and she still lusts after Fitzwilliam Darcy.

And then there is Mary. The middle Bennet daughter. The one who was left to care for Mama Bennet after the other daughters all had their scandals and left home. Darcy has paid an allowance to Mary to care for Mrs Bennet for the last 17 years.

Mary has not be a docile daughter for all these years. No way. She has read every single book in the library. When she finally meets up with Elizabeth at their mothers funeral, she can see how tired Jane is from so many pregnancies. She makes a statement to Elizabeth that is shocking.

"I know I am not supposed to be aware of such things, Lizzie, but can't someone tell brother Charles to plug it with a cork??"

"Mary!! How do you know of such things, How can you be so indelicate?" exclaims Lizzie in shock.

"I know because I have read every book in the library, and I am tired of delicacy about subjects that lie so close to our female fates." is Mary's reply.

This is the first sign of Mary being independent. Fitzwilliam tries to have Mary come live at Pemberley as a proper spinster of their class should. Mary refuses and makes her own plans. Mary has become enamoured of a person named Argus who writes letters to the newspapers about the social inequalities between the upper and lower classes.

Mary decide to write a book about the poor people and the best way to know about the poor, is to go out and live like a poor person. So Mary sets out on a trip by stage coach (not the post mail which is for the upper class). She is leered at and groped by men and gets lost of the hills of Darbyshire. When she refuses one too many men, she is hit over the head by one man and then abducted by another man. She is then forced to be his scribe and to write down his thoughts on religion. He has a following of young children, who disappear when they turn 12 or 13.

For 2 months the family search for her - most of this searching is done by Ned Summers - a half black man (his mother was from Jamaica) and a very close friend of Darcy's. Darcy too has secrets, secrets he has never told Lizzie in 20 years of marriage.

Finally Mary is able to escape from her captor and is eventually found and rescued. The Bennets decide to start up an orphanage for these children who have no idea where they come from and therefore have no home parish to go to.

Lizzie and Fitzwilliam beging talking and Lizzie explains why she no longer allows Fitz into her bed. She felt that he raped her on their wedding night. What to him was passion, to her was rape (although she did not use that word). She said it was by force. She would lay there as a statue while he did his business. This went on for the next 10 years until he stopped visiting.

Fitzwilliam is devastated about how his actions were perceived. He promises to show Lizzie how good love can really be. At age 50, his passions are no longer uncontrollable as they used to be when he was 30.

There are 2 deaths within the Bennet family. One is a Bennet daughter. The other is Ned Summers. Finally all the secrets are coming out.

Oh and Mary (by now only 36) finds her true love and gets married as well. She gives birth to a healthy boy. Lizzie too has another child (at age 41) - finally a second son.

I really really enjoyed this book. I love Mary. I too am a middle child and I too an somewhat independent. I love how Mary tries her best to be independent in that day and age (early 1800s) but how she is used and abused just because it is assumed, by the men, that women have no brains and are good for nothing except making babies. Even in the 21st century, men still think this way about women.

GRR that makes me so MAD!!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Visit to the Dentist

For those of you who remember my sons emergency trip to the hospital last year when he had an abcess in his tooth, and how much he screamed when the tooth was removed with a pair of pliers....well this month he went back to the dentists again.

In September he began complaining of sore teeth again. This time I made an appointment with a pediatric dentist and the difference was unbelievable. This time my son had 3 visits to the dentists in late September and early October. He is now 7 years old - and it is 18 months after the hospital stay.

The first visit was for x-rays, cleaning and polishing. My son behaved beautifully. The second visit he had to get 2 cavities on one side filled, He screamed non-stop for the whole 40 minutes. I had to help hold down his hands so he would not push the dentists or the assistants hands away.

The third week we went back to get fillings for the other side and he behaved like an angel. It was incredible. He lay there quietly, hands on his tummy and did exactly what he was told. I had kept drumming into him all week that this next visit was exactly the same as the last one so he now knows what to expect. And he did.

The dentist asked - what is your secret. My son replied - I know what to expect now.

Once again there was a down side to these visits. My sons teeth have grown in rather crowded and haphazard way, and some of the teeth have not come down as they should, So he will need orthodontist work eventually to space his teeth out properly so that there is room for those missing teeth to grow into the right places.

I hope he will not need "railroad tracks". I dont think he will be able to accept those on his teeth. His teeth are pretty sensitive already. The dentist said there was a wire that could be wrapped around the back teeth to hold them in place to allow space for the missing teeth to grow in. This is the cheapest temporary method - around $400.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Firebrand - Book Review

by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Penguin Books 2009

I have only read one book by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Mists of Avalon. I think I read this book in the mid 1980s - around 25 years ago. I cannot rememebr what it is about. The point is that I have never read any of her other books since that first one. Until now.

I have just finished reading Firebrand. It is a modern retelling of the Trojan war, based on the Illiad and the Odyssey. It is also written as if it is from Kassandra's point of view. Princess Kassandra, who was a prophetess, was also the daughter of King Priam of Troy.

I have never been able to read the Iliad and the Odyssey in the original translations. The language was just too old fashioned. But this book follows the story in modern english and I really enjoyed it. Yes this is a chunky book (600 pages) but it is well worth the read.

The characters are written so that you cannot help but be become involved with them. We follow Kassandra through her life until she is roughly aged 23. The Trojan war actually began after Kassandra's brother Paris stole his bride (Helen of Sparta) from her husband Menelaus.

If you want to know what really happened in Troy, over 3000 years ago, then this is the book to read. I could not put it down.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Q & A - Book Review

Q & A
By Vikas Swarup
Simon and Schuster 2005

For those of you who dont recognise the title - this is the book on which the movie Slumdog Millionaire is based.

The questions from the TV series in this book are different from the movie, but the basic storyline is the same.

Also the book does not have Raj on a long search for his lost lady love as the movie does. In the book, Raj is saving money just to get out of the slums.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Losing my Virginity - Book Review

Losing my Virginity
By Richard Branson - The Autobiography
Virgin Books 1998
Reprinted 2003

This is everything you ever wanted to know about Richard Branson, written in his own words, about how he grew up to become a millionaire. Richard started his rise to fame and riches at age 16 when he started a student magazine in London, England. He thought life was a chalenge and loved taking risks.

He goes into some detail of the Virgin Airways and how British Airways (BA)constantly badmouthed Virgin airlines to anyone who would listen.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Lost Symbol - Book Review

The Lost Symbol
Dan Brown
Doubleday September 2009

Well I purchased my copy this week - I got 40% off the original retail price which I thought is was very a good deal. I stayed up to 2 oclock this morning reading this latest Robert Langdon adventure. This novel takes place in Washington DC.

Peter Solomon is the director of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. He is an old friend of Robert Langdons and on this day he calls his old friend Robert Langdon (who lives in Boston) and asks him to come to DC to deliver a lecture for a function, because the original speaker has fallen ill. Robert is also asked to bring the package with him that Solomon had asked him to look after many years earlier.

When Robert arrives in DC he is taken to the Capitol Building and manages to arrives at the National Statuary Hall right on 7 pm. Instead of finding a crowd gathered to hear his lecture, there is noone there. Robert then receives a mysterious phone call from the man who claims to have kidnapped Peter Solomon. Shortly after, a scream is heard from the Capitol Rotunda.

On the floor in the middle of the Rotunda is a ghastly item. A bloody hand and forearm, wearing a masonic ring, stuck on a wooden stake so that the hand is pointing upward. On the fingers are tattoed some small symbols.

Robert recognises the symbol and the meaning of the hand. The Hand of the Mysteries is an invitation to take a journey to discover the sacred wisdom and greatest secrets of the ages.

And so the journey begins. Robert has 12 hours to find Peter Solomon before the madman kills him. In return the madman wants to know the answers - what are the greatest secrets of the freemasons. Robert has help and hindrance from the CIA in the form of the Director of the Office of Security. He must travel around the city of washington DC to find the clues. Robert's visits take him down into the depths of the Capitol, to the George Washington Masonic Memorial, to the Botanic Gardens, to the Washington National Cathedral and to the House of the Temple.

The gist of the novel is that the mind is much more powerful than we think.
Everyone has heard the saying that we only use 10% of our brains.
So what is the other 90% used for?
Well this book will answer that question. I guarantee it!!!

I thoughly enjoyed this novel for the new knowledge I learned - both of freemason history and what the human brain is truely capable of doing - if we just believe.

The main and official book website
The Lost Symbol in Australia
The Lost Symbol in UK
The Lost Symbol map of Washington DC
Dan Brown Video Interviews
Noetic science
Freemasonry and The Lost Symbol

The Key of Solomon was supposed to be the original title of the next book according to Dan Brown himself. So why is the story now completely different?

Sighs of relief are likely still rising from Vatican City (this month). Masonic lodges in Europe and North America, on the other hand, could be excused for feeling a little twitchy. They’ve just been caught in the eye of a literary storm by bestselling storyteller Dan Brown. Book Review - Canada

Noetic sciences are explorations into the nature and potentials of consciousness using multiple ways of knowing—including intuition, feeling, reason, and the senses. Noetic sciences explore the "inner cosmos" of the mind (consciousness, soul, spirit) and how it relates to the "outer cosmos" of the physical world. (see noetic link above)