Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Book Review

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffers and Annie Barrows
Dial Press Trade PB 2009
(large file picture)

This book is an Epistolary novel which means it consist of letters rather than a straight dramatic story.

Now I have read some reviews where the reviewers claim that the letters in this book were boring, the letters sent the reviewer to sleep, the letters jumped around and kept changing subject matter and other odd complaints.

Having read 84 Charing Cross Road, and now this wonderful little gem, I think I love Epistolary novels. I love these types of novels, because you get a real inside view to what the characters are thinking and feeling.

Most other dramatic novels just dont have the means to give you real emotions unless they are described second hand by another character and only what they see and hear from the first character who is emotional. So in a dramatic novel we get this >> Jane told him the truth. He was shocked and angry. After he left, Jane swore that she would not make that same mistake again.

As I have been told frequently on a favourite website >> Dont be shy, tell us how you really feel....

In a epistolary novel we would get the following >> Damn!! Damn!! Damn!! Did I really just open my big mouth and say that? God I can be so stupid. To tell him the truth so bluntly. He looks like he had no idea. That look he gave me - pure spite and malice. I guess he hates me now. And there he goes - stalking off as if he can't wait to get away. Well I guess I wont be making that mistake again.

Doesn't the personal first hand view give you a lot more more details and emotion about the situation?? I love it. Its easier to write as well. The established writers are always telling the newbie writes to write what you know - and they are right. It flows better when you write about something you have experienced.

Ok now, let's get back to the book.

First up, I really really enjoyed it.

I learnt heaps about the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands during WW2. Normally I dont read WW2 novels but this book had such an unusual angle, it was just so interesting to read.

Juliet Ashton is a writer from London, England. Her flat was bombed and destroyed during the London Blitz and she lost everything. She had survived the war by writing a series of columms in the newspaper called Izzy Bickerstaff (an assumed name). At the end of the war these columns had been gathered together and published in a book called Izzy Bickerstaff goes to War It was a bestseller book for Juliet and for her publisher Stephens and Stark.

Now Juliet is looking for a new topic to write about. Before her apartment was been bombed, Juliet has sold some of her old second hand books. One of them was called The Selected Essays of Elia by Charles Lamb. This book had somehow ended up on the island of Guernsey Island where it was claimed by a young man named Dawsey Adams. Inside the book Juliet had written her name and address. The address being the location of the bombed out flat.

Dawsey wrote to Juliet to say thank you for the book and to ask if she could by any chance find any other books by Charles Lamb that could be sent to him?

Thus began a correspondence between Juliet, Dawsey and various other Guernsey Island people. Juliet was intrigued about the literary society that had been invented one night to save a group of islanders from prison when they were caught by germans on the road one night being out after curfew.

Elizabeth was a fast talker and she said they were members of a literary society and had been having discussions about books while eating a potato peel pie. They had completely forgotten the time and were really sorry.

Juliets correspondence with the Guernsey Literary society continues and expands to include other members - talking about about the books they read and the german occupation.

Eventually Juliet travels to Guernsey Island and meets the society members in person. Juliet continues writing letters to her friends and to her publisher detailing her adventures, the people she meets and the traditions and customs she finds on the island. Juliet settles down on the island and gets married. To whom - well you will have to read this book to find out.

I read this book for the Bibliophilic Challenge.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Clue for the Puzzle Lady - Book Review

I reserved several books in this series from the library and brought them all home several days ago. So I read the first book in the series - A Clue of the Puzzle Lady.

I dont think I will be reviewing any more books in this series. Apart from all of the books pretty much following the same formula, I was shocked by the messages. It is just not done to have a heroine who drinks until they are drunk and smokes like a chimney. I personally do not drink or smoke and I dont like being around anyone who does smoke. I can handle being around a drinker as long as they are not too sloshed.

But Cora Felton is obviously an alcoholic even though that word is not mentioned at all. She drinks to excess to the point of being refused more drinks at the bar and she falls asleep in the same bar, not to mention she smokes like a chimney. And she frequently wakes up with hangovers. This gives out a bad message to readers.

While it is nice for the heroes and heroines to have their faults, I just think that these two faults together in the same person and mentioned as often as they are, is just not kosher. To make things worse this drunken smoker is also perpetuating a lie - in that she is claiming to be a real puzzle lady. Cora's picture is at the top of the crossword column in the newspapers every day. Her face is also on the TV ads. But she cannot solve a crossword puzzle to save her life. Cora's niece Sherry constructs and solves all the crosswords. For me that's three strikes against this series. I wont be reviewing any other books in this series.

A Clue for the Puzzle Lady
by Parnell Hall
Bantam Books 1999

Anyway the basics of this specific novel is that a runaway girl and a local woman are both found dead in the cemetery (at different times of course). The runaway girl has a piece of paper in her hand on which is written the following 4)D - LINE (5)

A police officer identifies it as a crossword clue >> 4 down, A word for LINE, 5 letters. So the chief of police gets in touch with the puzzle lady and asks for her help. After some discussion, Sherry and Cora decide that the answer seems to be QUEUE.

Two days later the second woman is found murdered in the cemetery. The puzzle on her body reads >> 14)A - Sheep (3) - the answer is EWE.

A third crossword puzzle is left in Cora's mail box - this one says >> 18) - Yes Vote (3) - the answer is AYE

Cora also makes a throw-away comment about how the clues could refer to the cemetery itself - 4 graves down and 5 graves across may be important. When this comment is followed, it pinpoints the grave of a young High school student named Barbara Burnside who was killed back in the 1950s in a car crash while she was drinking and driving.

While Cora works on trying to discover who the graveyard killer is, Sherry is getting to know the local newspaper reporter, Aaron Grant. Aaron receives a letter at the newspaper office. This letter says Stay Away from the Burnside case, which just makes Sherry more determined to find out what really happened. She talks to Barbara's boyfriend who does not co-operate. Sherry also speaks to the man who owned the car that the boyfriend borrowed to follow Barbara that night.

Sherry eventually discovers that the friend who owned the car did not actually give permission, and more to the point, he had the keys in his jacket pocket so when the boyfriend told him that he had borrowed (past tense) the car, the car owner wondered if the car had been hot wired.

Sherry eventually creates a case and speaks to the boyfriend about it. The boyfriend attemnps to kill Sherry but is prevented from doing so by the arrival of Aaron the reporter and the Chief of Police. It turns out that the boyfriend had been the person driving and when he crashed the car, he survived because he was wearing a seatbelt. Barbara had gone through the front windshield, hit her head against a rock and died. Both Barbara and the boyfriend had been drinking. The boyfriend had lied. Since the statute of limitations had long since run out, the boyfriend is arrested for assult on Sherry and for obstruction of justice - he had sent the threatening letter to Aaron.

Meanwhile Cora is cracking the cemetery murders. The police discover that the paper that the runaway girl was holding was NOT a crossword clue - it was the answer to a math test problem - specifically algebra. From this, Cora figures out who the murderer is, entices him to the cemetery and gets him to confess while he attempts to kill Cora. The chief of Police also arrives at an opportune moment to see, hear and arrest.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reading the OED - Book Review

Reading the OED
by Ammon Shea
Perigee Books 2008
Author Website
Way way back in the dim dark ages when I was in elementary school, we used to have to learn vocabulary words from a spelling book. The words were divided into 8 lists - each list of words (called levels) being harder than the one before. I remember getting to level 8 by age 10, but not being allowed to go to the next level which was Dictionary.

That may have something to do with me always reading during spelling tests and still getting 100%. I was so bored during spelling tests. Mr B, the teacher, would say the word, use it in a sentence and then say the word again - and then wait 5 minutes before going onto the next word. I usually had the word written down before he had said the word a second time. Then for the 5 minutes of silence I would read.

If Mr B honestly expected me to sit there for 5 minutes and twiddle my thumbs - he was seriously mistaken. He would frequently tell me to stop reading, but I never did - not during spelling tests anyway.

I am thinking now (more than 30 years later) that this is why he never promoted me up to dictionary level.

So speaking about dictionaries, now that I have read The Madman and the Professor, the men who created the Oxford English dictionary back in the mid 1800s, I guess the next thing to do, is to read the whole thing.

Gasp - it has 20 volumes!!!
Yes thats right.
But I cant read all that!!!
Tell you what...
Why you dont get someone to read it for you??

And thats exactly what I did. I got Ammon Shea to read the OED for me. He has read the full 20 volume set of the Oxford English Dictionary (1989 edition) so that I don't have to.

Ammon Shea has a dictionary collection. In fact he has several hundred different dictionaries on his bookshelves in his apartment. But that is not a world record. NO. The world record should belong to a woman in New York city named Madeline who has 20,0000 dictionaries!!!!!

Ammon describes the challenge he gave himself, to read all 20 volumes of the 1989 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

He began reading these books at home. But he kept getting distracted by the dictionaries on his bookshelf. So he found himself a place to read in the basement of the library at Hunter College (in NYC) - where there were only French and Music books - neither of which he could read so he could not be distracted. As he read he would note down the interesting words that he found and then write down his own understanding of what the word meant.

For one of the words that is mentioned - I found Ammons description to be funny and still cannot stop laughing whenever I read or think about it.

FARD (v) To paint the face with cosmetics so as to hide blemishes.
Ammon's comment >> I suspect there is a reason why noone ever gets up from the table and says "Excuse me while I go to the ladies' room and fard."

PALEOLATRY (n) Excessive reverence for that which is old.
My comment - I beleive I have demonstrated this paleolatry in this blog several times in expressing my love for antiquarian books.

PLINYISM (n) A statement or account of dubious correctness or accuracy, such as some (statements) found in the Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79).
Ammon's comment - This word was coined in 1702 by a man named Cotton Mather purely because he disliked Pliny's writing.

If you play Scrabble, there are perhaps 20 to 25 words starting with Q that do NOT have the U as the second letter. BUT you cannot use these non-Q-U words in the game as they are NOT in the official Scrabble dictionary.

Between the R's and the S's, Ammon and his girlfriend take a break and attend a 3 day conference run by the Dictionary Society of North America, taking place in Chicago.

The letter S stretches across 4 of the 20 volumes of the OED!!!

In the print version of the OED, at 25 pages long, the word SET is the largest entry.

The S-E words are the UN- words. This list is 451 pages long. Ammon says he is is bored after 50 pages and catatonic after 100 pages. SE means self-explanatory. Where if you know that UN means NOT, and from that you can work out that the entire word means NOT- whatever the word means.
I can think of one English word that I dont think fits this category. UNDERSTAND
Is there any such word as Derstand in the English language? I don't think so.

VALENTINE (V) To greet with song at mating time (usually said of birds)
Ammon's comment - When birds sing to attract a mate, it is called a Marvel of Nature. When a man does it, it is called grounds for a restraining order.

There is a word in the OED for everything - such as the little plastic tips at the end of shoelaces (aiglet). Did you know there is also a word for the cupping of your two hands together - for example to drink water or to hold sand on the beach?

YEPSEN (N) The amount that can be held in two hands cupped together, and also the two cupped hand themselves.
My comment - We call these cupped hands together begging as in Please sir, I want some more... (Oliver Twist 1968)

The very last word in the OED is.... ZYXT (V) to see.

OED website (requires subscription)

Further Reading. I think I will try and read some of these books. Ammon has read them all.

Simon Winchester who wrote The Professor and the Madman about the making of the OED. He also wrote a book called The Meaning of Everything which is a more detailed history of the OED but no less entertaining that the Professor/Madman.

Caught in the Web of Words - James Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary by Murray's granddaughter Elizabeth Murray.

Lost for Words - The Hidden History of the Oxford English Dictionary by Linda Mugglestone.

I read this book for the Bibliophilic Challenge.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Sanctuary - Book Review

The Sanctuary
by Raymond Khoury
Signet Books 2008

Myths, legends and speculations about the Count of St. Germain (born 1710) began to be widespread in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and continue today. They include beliefs that he is immortal, the Wandering Jew, an alchemist with the "Elixir of Life", a Rosicrucian, and that he prophesied the French Revolution.

The man going by the name of Marquis de Montferrat in Naples Italy in 1749 was attacked by Raimondo di Sangro. After a sword fight during which a house is set on fire, Montferrat escapes and disappears. Previous to this fire and sword fight, we meet the Count in his native Portugal as an Inquisitor and later in Paris where he finds the love of his life, by whom he has a son. In Paris, the count called himself the Count de St Germain.

Montferrat is looking for the missing pages to a special book - a book that was given to him by an old man in the dungeons of the inquisition in 1705. This book had an Ourobouros engraved on the tooled leather cover. This book had the clues to finding the elixir of immortality.

The Ouroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon swallowing its own tail and forming a circle.

On 2003 A US army unit attacks a house in Iraq where a man called the hakeem lives. The hakeem is spoken of, only with dread and terror. Down in the basement of this hosue is found a fully outfitted operating room, and many many jars filled with body parts and many pouches of blood. Behind the operating rooms are found cages with human bodies in them - bodies mostly of children.

The hakeem (doctor) is a westerner who kidnaps or buys children and does experiments on them. He is obsessed with finding the secret to immortality.

In 2006 Evelyn Bishop (an American archaeologist) is working on a dig in southern Lebanon when she is approached by a colleague she had once worked with in Iraq 30 yaesr previously. This Iraqi colleague (Farouk) has a set of polaroid photos of stolen artifacts that he is desperate to sell. Evelyn refuses to buy stolen artifacts.

You know me better than this Farouk, she says.

Farouk says there is one item that she might be interested in - a book with an snake on the cover. He shows Evelyn the photo of the book. Evelyn found the book in Iraq 30 years earlier and had begun to try and translate it from Arabic to English. She was helped by a man named Tom Webster, an American who was also interested in the book. The two of them became lovers, and then one day Tom disappeared. Evelyn was distraught to say the least - especially when she discovered that she was pregnant.

Evelyn's daughter Mia was born in Iraq but raised in USA by Evelyn's sister Adelaide, just outside of Boston. Mia would visit her mother on summer vacations in various digs throughout the middle east. She never knew her father. Mia has her PhD in genetics and is now a geneticist based in Beirut, Lebanon. Her job is to take blood samples from Lebanese men and try to discover who the Phoenicians were and where they came from.

On this day in 2006, Evelyn has arranged to meet Farouk at a certain spot in Beirut. She meets with Mia in Beirut before the meeting and then left her cell phone behind when she leaves to go to the meeting. Mia chases after Evelyn to return the cell phone. A few minutes later Mia sees her mother being kidnapped by some goons and shoved into a black car.

Mia goes to the police and her story is treated with routine placations. Kidnappings are common in Lebanon. But things get worse when the police disover that two Beirut police officers were killed at the same time. Mia is now being treated as a suspect and possible collaborator. Finally a US embassy official shows up. His name is Corben. He helps to get Mia out of the police station and back to her hotel.

From here on out, Mia is on the clock to find her mother.

Corben has an ulterior motive to find Evelyn. He wants to get the hakeem, the doctor doing the experiments. The trail had gone cold in Iraq 3 years earlier.

The hakeem had his goons have kidnapped Evelyn and Evelyn is now tortured in order disclose what she knows about the book with the ourobouros on the cover and about Tom Webster - the mysterious man she has not seen in 30 years.

The Ourobouros is a theme of continuity. It speaks to the cyclicality of nature, the endless circle of life (see The Lion King movie), death and rebirth, the primordial unity of all things.

While Mia is resting, Corben goes back to the embassy to update the ambassador. At the embassy he meets an American from the Haldane Institute - a private foundation in USA that funds Evelyn's archaeological digs. His name is Bill Kirkwood. Bill joins Corbin and Mia to help them find Evelyn.

With the hakeem's goons after them, Corben, Bill and Mia have to dodge bullets as they track the kidnappers to a remote village in Northern Kurdistan not far from the Turkish border.

There Mia learns a few things. That Bill Kirkwood is really Tom Webster, and that he is also her father, that Tom was really born in 1913, and that he was the grandson of the Marquis de Montferrat. Tom doesnt look a day over 40. He has been taking the elixir which slows down aging by a huge amount. The same elixir that the Hakeem has been so desperate to find.

Mia and To both learn that the Hakeem is a descendent of Raimondo di Sangro.

Evelyn too is being held at the village and she and Tom have a happy reunion.

The battle that occurs at the remote village leaves both Corben and the Hakeem dead.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

You have the right to remain puzzled - Book Review

I found another new mystery book series this week. I can't believe I have never seen or heard of any of these books over the last 10 years. I found this book at my local library.

The basic premise of this series is that Cora Felton, AKA the Puzzle Lady, cannot construct a crossword puzzle if her life depended on it. But noone knows that. Her niece, Sherry Carter, constructs them for her in secret. Cora hates puzzles, but loves solving crimes.

You have the right to remain puzzled
By Parnell Hall
Bantam Books 2006
Parnell Hall Website

What is a cruciverbalist?
A compiler or solver of crossword puzzles.

Mimi Dillinger asks Cora to create a small crossword puzzle to tell her husband about the fender bender she was in and to apologise. Sherry is not in any mood to create more than one crossword a day and so she peruses a book of crossword puzzles and chooses one to use. She changes the clues but leaves the layout exactly the same.

Mimi gives the crossword to her husband and apologises for crashing the car. Chuck Dillinger is not upset. Mimi is so grateful her husband is not angry, she sends the crossword to the local news paper and tells them the story. The newspaper prints the story and the puzzle.

Benny Southstreet, a smalltime crook and gambler, sees the puzzle in the paper and goes berserk. He goes to Cora's house and accuses her of plagiarism. Benny is found dead the next day and Cora is arrested for his murder.

What happens next becomes a jumble of misadventures, lies, diversions and confusion until Cora finally sorts it all out at a town hall meeting which she calls in order to uncover the real murderer.

This was a confusing book to read, but the town hall meeting chapter was excellent. Cora clearly explained what really happened.

Perhaps I should have started with a different book in the series. I have reserved some more books in this series from my local library.

Books in the Series

A Clue for the Puzzle Lady (1999)
Last Puzzle and Testament (2000)
Puzzled to Death (2001)
A Puzzle in a Pear Tree (2002)
With This Puzzle, I Thee Kill (2003)
And a Puzzle to Die on (2004)
Stalking the Puzzle Lady (2005)
You Have the Right to Remain Puzzled (2006)
The Sudoku Puzzle Murders (2008)
Dead Man's Puzzle (2009)
The Puzzle Lady vs. The Sudoku Lady (2010)



That was a huge sigh. I am in book heaven this week.

I found a new social network for bookworms and readers this week. It's called Goodreads. The site encourages you to catalogue all your books and then identify if you ARE currently reading them, HAVE read them or WANT to read them.

This site is similar to Shelfari and Library Things.

I tried Shelfari but it was too chunky and slow. But then it had just started when I signed up, and they were still working out the kinks and glitches. I even had a widget from Shelfari on this blog but they kept changing it so eventually I scrubbed it. That was about the time I stopped using Shelfari. You'll notice that the earlier posts on this blog concerning Shelfari are all dated 2007.

I still don't like the look of Library Things. Still way too much text for my liking and still no visual appeal. Plus they still charge you for more than 200 books. My credit card is not in a healthy condition right now.

Goodreads is totally free and the cover pictures looks great. In going through my books to add to my Goodreads catalogue, I have found at least 11 books with book marks in them that I have started at different times and have not finished. Now I feel compelled to finish reading them. There is also a new widget from Goodreads on this blog already. I am listed on Goodreads as Alexandria Historia - named after the Great Library of Alexandria and this blog.

On Goodreads even after being there for less than 1 week, I am already a librarian - which means I can edit book details and data, add new books, add book covers and new editions and so on. That's because their only restriction is to have 50 books listed. I had over 200 books listed at the time I applied to be a librarian. That was 24 hours afetr I signed up. I now have over 300 books catalogued.

To meet other people, you join groups which are essentially message boards. These groups are usually based on genres, authors, specific historical events, different places or specific time periods and so on. Some groups do not appear to be book related at all.

One group I signed up with is called A History of Royals. This group is - A place to talk about all royals from every corner of the world and from all moments in history, fiction or non-fiction; real or imaginary. Discuss everyone from Cleopatra to Marie Antoinette, from King Arthur to King Henry VIII to Queen Elizabeth II. Whatever and whomever you are fascinated by!

I like it!!! NO - I lOVE IT.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Cuckoo's Egg - Book Review

The Cuckoo's Nest
by Clifford Stoll
Pocket Books 1989 & 1990

This is one of the earliest and documented stories of cyber espionage. I have had a copy of this book since the early to mid 1990s and every now and then I get it out and read it again. Since I haven't blogged about it, I must not have read it since I started this blog, so it must be time to read it again. Which I just one day.

The entire text of this book (including both prologue/acknowledgements and epilogue/bibliography) has been uploaded to the internet. Its not a long book - my hard copy is just 350 pages.

But this story involves a world that I was never privy to. While I did have access to a computer during the 1980s and 1990s, I was never online during this time. I played my games in isolation.

I did not get online until after the internet explosion of 1995. This book talks about the internet as it was being created. The early networks, ARPA, MILNET, TYMNET, various US Military bases as well as other computer networks in the private sector both in USA and around the world.

If you remember the 1983 movie WARGAMES about a high school student David who broke into NORADs computer (named Joshua) and almost started WW3. The computer networks and methods he used to "play games" were similar to what Hunter was doing.

Anyway - back to the Cuckoo's Egg. In the beginning there was 75 cents missing!!!

75 cents of computer time and use, that NOONE was being billed for.
Cliff Stoll was given the job to bill someone for that 75 cents.
It didnt take him long - there was a new user on the system called Hunter.

But noone at the Livermore Berkeley Laboratory would admit to adding the user Hunter to the computer system. So Stoll decided to find out who did. It turns out the hacker gave himself super user status (what we now call administration status) and privileges and created the new account called Hunter for himself. This didnt take very long to discover either.

Giving oneself super-user status involves laying a cuckoo egg or uploading a small file or program into the system - which is then moved by the computer into the secure area. That was a bug (AKA a Gnu-Emacs hole) right there. The file should not have been moved into the secure area. The program then becomes a super user allowing the hacker free and open access to that computer and to the networks it is connected to.

Hunter still had to gain access to computers and he needed passwords. He would regularly copy the list of users and their encrypted passwords - something that only a super user can do. Stoll finally worked out that Hunter had a cracking program that went through the English dictionary and encrypted every single word and then compared that encryption with the list. When a match was found, that was the password and another user was compromised.

Hunter also did not create a whole heap of new users. NO, he used old accounts that were still valid, but which had not been used for at least a year. This way he did not trip any alarms by creating new unknown accounts. These old accounts SHOULD HAVE BEEN removed, when their owners left the facility, but they weren't. In some ways the facilities left themselves wide open to be hacked, but Hunter should also not have been doing what he was doing either.

Trying to find Hunter's physical location was the hard part. Stoll put a printer on the cable that Hunter would usually come in on, and was therefore able to print out every keystroke that Hunter typed. It took Stoll almost a year to track Hunter down over the networks and telephone lines all the way to Germany. Stoll's documentation were the boxes and boxes of print-outs plus his log books of daily activities.

Stoll tried to get the FBI, the CIA, the Air Force OSI and even the NSA all involved, but none of these agencies were willing to do anything about Hunter - for 2 reasons.
1 - because there was no money or classified secrets being stolen
2 - Hunter was not in the USA

Hunter was stealing....but he was stealing the non-classified secrets!!!

Hunter turned out to be a German hacker named Markus Hess, a member of a hackers club called Chaos Computer Club or CCC. Markus was being paid by the KGB to provide certain types of information. He was also doing this hacking for the challenge and to prove that the military networks were as just as lax about computer security as the rest of the computer networks.

Hess was eventually arrested and went to trial in 1990. Two other CCC club members were also on trial. A third club member committed suicide. Stoll testified against Hess. Hess was found guilty of espionage and was sentenced to a suspended prison sentence plus community service. No jail sentence.

This all happened over 1987 and 1988 - just months before the Berlin Wall fell and before Ceauşescu was shot.

There are very few books that I like to re-read over and over again.
This is one of them. Every 4 to 5 years I will re-read it.
A good way to learn about the creation and origins of the internet.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Digging for the past - Remarkable Creatures

Several years ago I purchased a book called the Dragon Seekers about fossil hunters in Dorset in Southern England. One of the major characters in the book was a woman called Mary Anning who had grown up going against the grain of 19th century English life. She was a fossil hunter. She looked for fossils on the beaches of Dorset and then would sell the fossils to scientists. She was one of the first dinosaur hunters in the world and she was a woman. She is credited with discovering the first ichthyosaur skeleton and the first two plesiosaur skeletons ever found.

Tracey Chevalier is not one of my favourite authors. She writes novels based on history and some of them are of historical times and people that I do like reading about. Other novels she writes are of people and times that I dont like reading about.

Tracy's last book was called Burning Bright - about the painter and poet William Blake. Not my cup of tea at all.

But Tracy's newest novel I DO want to read. Its about Mary Anning. It's called Remarkable Creatures and it was published around August of 2009. I have to find Remarkable Creatures and read it.

Thanks to Ragdoll for bringing this book and video to my attention.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Tomb of Zeus - Book Review

The Tomb of Zeus
by Barbara Cleverly
Bantam Dell/Random House 2007

Set in Heraklion, Crete in 1928, this is Laetitia Talbot's first job as a newly minted archaelogist. Just off the plane from London to Athens, Laetitia meets Charles St George Russell on the boat to Crete while she is dealing with a bout of sea-sickness. It turns out that it had been arranged for Laetitia (aka Letty) to stay with George's family as his father is the renowned archaeologist Theodore Russell.

Once back on land in Heraklion, Letty's seasickness subsides and she is driven (in George's Bugatti) to the Russell Villa. At dinner she mets her ex-beau William Gunning who left London rather suddenly the previous year with no explanation. Also at the first dinner Letty meets George's stepmother Phoebe. Letty cannot explain it, but the villa and the Russell family are unnerving. She feels something bad amongst these 3 family members.

A week after Letty's arrival, Phoebe takes her on a picnic and a tour of the Knossos site that had recently been discovered by Arthur Evans. Two of Phoebe's friends show up - Dr Harold Stoddart and his wife Olivia. After the picnic Phoebe collapses and is taken home by Dr Stoddart. Olivia and Letty cycle home.

By the time Letty gets home, she discovers Phoebe is dead - hanging by a noose in her closet. Naturally the family are called as are the police. Inspector Mariani opens an investigation.

The following week, Theo Russell gives Letty a small site to dig up on the slopes of Mount Juktas and sends her off. William Gunning goes along to help and there is also a small experienced team of local men who will do the digging.

The inquest into Phoebe's death determines that she committed suicide. Letty and William are sure that Phoebe did not kill herself. So they set about doing their own investigation. Along the way Letty's bad feelings towards William's abrupt departure from London the previous year, are dealt with and they fall in love.

On the dig, they find a Minoan tomb - Theo Russell is quite desperate for an exciting find. He thinks it is the legendary Tomb of Zeus and plans to write it up and claim the find as his. On further investigation by Letty and William, the body in the tomb is female and a second body they find stuffed into a box is male but of a young boy, not that of Zeus. The speculation is that they are of Aphrodite and Adonis.

The mystery surrounding the Russell family, as well as Phoebe's death, are also cleared up with surprising results.

I really enjoyed this book for the wonderful details it gave of life in Crete in the 1920s. The old fashioned customs of the people of Crete versus the 1920s "modern" thinking of the British.

Dick Francis has died

Dick Francis has died.

LONDON (AFP) - Prolific author Dick Francis, a former jockey whose thrillers rode high in best-selling lists for decades, has died at the age of 89, his family said Sunday.

He passed away at his Caribbean home in Grand Cayman from "old age", according to a statement released through his publicist.

His son, Felix, said he was "devastated" as he paid tribute to his "extraordinary" father, who produced 42 novels.

Francis specialised in plots based on the horse racing industry, drawing on his own experiences of winning more than 350 races.

Bibliomania - Bibliophilia - Bookworm

Bibliomania - Bibliophilia - Bookworm - Bibliography
What is the difference between these terms?

Bibliomania is a love of and for books. So are Bibliophily and Bookworm and Bibliography.

Well actually Wikipedia says that Bibliomania is an OBSESSION with books

Bibliomania is an obsessive–compulsive disorder involving the collecting or hoarding of books to the point where social relations or health are damaged. One of several psychological disorders associated with books, bibliomania is characterized by the collecting of books which have no use to the collector nor any great intrinsic value to a genuine book collector. The purchase of multiple copies of the same book and edition and the accumulation of books beyond possible capacity of use or enjoyment are frequent symptoms of bibliomania.

Bibliomania is not to be confused with Bibliophily, which is the usual love of books and is not considered a clinical psychological disorder.

Bibliophilia is the love of books. Accordingly a bibliophile is an individual who loves books, especially "for qualities of format." Bibliophilia is generally considered to be an incorrect usage; but some would merely call it a recent one. The practice of loving or collecting books is dubbed bibliophilism, and the adjective form of the term is bibliophilic. Also, a bibliophile may be a book collector.

A Bookworm loves books for their content, or otherwise loves reading.

A Bibliomanic doesnt collect books? Of course they do. They just collect any books they can lay their hands on. The Bibliophilic only collects books in certain areas of interest. The Bookworm collects books that they want to read (TBR = To Be Read) or have read.

There are two other terms not mentioned yet - Bibliography and Book Collecting.

Bibliography (from the Greek for "book writing"), as a practice, is the academic study of books as physical, cultural objects. In this sense, it is also known as bibliology. On the whole, bibliography is not concerned with the literary content of books, but rather the "bookness" of books.

Book Collecting is the collecting of books, including seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining whatever books are of interest to a given individual collector. The love of books is bibliophilia, and someone who loves to read, admire, and collect books is a bibliophile. Bibliophilia is sometimes called bibliomania but should not be confused with the obsessive-compulsive disorder by that name, which involves the excessive accumulation and hoarding of books. The term bookman, which once meant a studious or scholarly man, now means one who writes, edits, publishes, or sells books. A book dealer is one whose profession is the buying and reselling of rare or used books.

True book collecting is distinct from casual book ownership and the accumulation of books for reading. It can probably be said to have begun with the collections of illuminated manuscripts, both commissioned and second-hand, by the elites of Burgundy and France in particular, which became common in the 15th century.

With the advent of printing with movable type books became considerably cheaper, and book collecting received a particular impetus in England and elsewhere during the Reformation when many monastic libraries were broken up, and their contents often destroyed. There was an English antiquarian reaction to Henry VIII's dissolution of the Monasteries. The commissioners of Edward VI plundered and stripped university, college, and monastic libraries, so to save books from being destroyed, those who could began to collect them.

I dont much like the terms Bibliophilic or Bibliophily.
They are too close to -philia and that reminds me of pedophilia.
I prefer the title of Bookworm. I grew up being called a Bookworm.

I apologise for going on about this topic, but I have become MILDLY obsessed since I started doing the Bibliophilic Challenge.

I even found a Bibliomania Bookshelf index page at the Gutenberg Project and yesterday I read a couple of old books on the topic of books. Both were originally published in 1922.

And I have a Historia Books blog where I post interesting pictures of old books. While it has been quiet of late, I have now started posting to it again.

I Raised a Reader - Part 2

You know you raised a reader, when at bed time the previous night, your son asks to be allowed to stay up half an hour longer and READ IN BED!!!

Just like his mom did when she was a kid - and still does, I might add.

I may have to make up a new rule - make him go to bed earlier just to stay up longer to read. Does that make any sense?? He has to get his 10 hours of sleep every night.

Easier said than done, to try and get a 7 year old to go to bed earlier!!!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

A BookHunters Holiday - Book Review

The Book Hunters Holiday
Adventures with Books and Manuscripts
by A S W Rosenbach
The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts 1936

Upon thinking of the success of Chris at Book Hunters Holiday (with her Dante Catalogue), I am reminded that I have not yet read and reviewed the book I purchased after which Chris named her business.

I purchased this book, Bookhunters Holiday, back in late 2007.

I mentioned this purchase again on the day the book arrived, and then forgot about it, allowing the book to languish on my shelves.

Now would be a good time to read it - for the Bibliophilic challenge.
Like Charles Everitt and his book, Adventures of a Treasure Hunter, Rosenbach too wrote a series of stories related to books and manuscripts. None of them biographical.

If you want to read a biography of Simon Rosenbach (or Abraham Simon Wolf Rosenbach - his full name) you would need to find the very expensive biography called simply Rosenbach. It sits on the shelf at my local rare book shop here in Canada, waiting for someone who can afford to pay CAN$180 for the privilege of owning it. And it also sits on the shelf of some rare book shop in the USA priced at US$125 waiting for someone to buy it.

ROSENBACH a Biography. Wolf, Edwin 2nd and John F. Fleming. Cleveland and New York; (1960): The World Publishing Co., First Edition. Octavo. 616pp.,(2)pp.

While Rosenbach was a collector, he was widely considered the greatest antiquarian bookseller of the world had ever known - or so the catalogues say.

Anyway, back to the review. There are 9 chapters. The foreward notes that 6 of these articles (chapters) have been published in the Saturday Evening Post, one article (chapter) appeared in the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society and three of these articles (chapters) are appearing for the first time. The article titles are listed as follows.

Letters we Ought to Burn
Old Mystery Books
The Trail of Scarlet
Extra! Extra!
Mighty Women Book Hunters
The Libraries of the Presidents of the USA
Old Almanacs and Prognostications
Munchausen and Company
Earliest Christmas Books

Letters we Ought to Burn, is about letters (some love letters) from famous authors including Dickens, Thackerey, Benjamin Franklin, Keats, Oscar Wilde, Napoleon, Dr Samuel Johnson, Robbie Burns, Shelley, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Old Mystery books are the first books in the murder mystery genre. They originally started during the time of Shakespeare. Rosenbach was quite taken with these and loved collecting them - especially Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle.

The Trail of Scarlet is about the fictional detectives in the trail of the criminals of the murder mysteries. Rosenbach's favourite fictional detectives were;
C. Auguste Dupin (Edgar Allan Poe)
Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
Monsieur Lecoq (Émile Gaboriau)
Father Brown (G.K.Chesterton)
Sergeant Cuff (Wilkie Collins)

Extra! Extra! is about the Revolutionary War (and later) broadsides - announcing the news of the day - most often the battles fought during the war. These were large pieces of paper, attached to poles, walls, and hung up everywhere, as well as sold to the people so that everyone could read the news. The broadside is the fore runner to the modern newspaper. Some broadsides have survived, and when they are found, are now quite valuable.

The Mighty Women Book Hunters.
Diane de Poitiers and Gabrielle D'Estrees - the mistresses of King Henry 2nd of France. Diane's father was Jean de Poitiers, and he was a Bibliophile, so Dianne grew up amongst books. In 1558 (possibly at the behest of Diane) an ordinance was issued by Henry that every publisher should present a copy of each book he issued to the libraries of Blois and Fontainebleau.

Diane's personal collection included such books as Serveto's edition of Ptolemy's Geography published at Lyons in 1541, and Christopher Plantin's France Antarctique published in Antwerp in 1558.

Louise de Savoie, Duvhess de Angouleme (mother of Francois I) was one of the first French women to form an important collection of books. Her books included;
Life of St Jerome
The Triumphs of Virtues
Boccaccios Lives of Noble Ladies
Epistles of Ovid or Examples of Letters Suitable for a Lady to Write to her Husband

Queen Isabella of Spain was also a book lover. One book she owned was a manuscript called Le Livre de la Chasse by Gaston de Foix (aka Phebus) written in 1387.

Catherine de Medici inherited some well known books from her ancestors, and brought them to France with her. She was not afraid to steal any books she wanted. One book she obtained was La Cyropedie de Xenophon, printed at Lyons by Jean de Tourbes in 1555.

Other well known Women French Bibliophiles included Catherine's daughter Marguerite de Valois, Anne of Austria, Madame de Pompadour, Madame de Montespan, Queen Marie-Antoinette, Madame de Verrue (born 1670).

English Bibliophiles include several of Henry 8ths wives - Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Parr - also Henry's daughters Mary Tudor and Queen Elizabeth 1st, not to mention Elizabeths cousin Mary Queen of Scots. Mary Sidney Countess of Pembroke can also be counted amongst that group.

Americans Amy Lowell, Mrs Norton Quncy Pope, Miss Richardson Currer and Mrs Edward S, Harkness.

I always thought it strange that no wife of any American President has been a book collector. Rosenbach commented.

Libraries of the Presidents of the USA.
Several Presidents were real book lovers and collectors. The first 3 - George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson.
Washington had volumes by Shakespeare, Swift, Smollett, Goldsmith, Addison, Sterne, Fielding, Cervantes. Also titles of Tom Jones, Pope's Works, Smollets Humphrey Clinker, Voltaire's Letters, Gulliver's Travels, Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and a copy of Doctor Samuel Johnson's Dictionary in 2 large volumes published in London in 1786.
John Adams had on of the largest libraries in the Colonies. He collected Voltaire, Cervantes and Shakespeare. He also had Plato's Works in 3 volumes published in Paris in 1629, theorks of Aristotle published in Paris in 1629, as well as early editions of Bacon, Cardinal Bembo, Diderot, John Locke, Isaac Newton and others.
Thomas Jefferson had books on art, literature, religion, architechture, philosophy, chemistry, husbandry, classics and almost every subject.
Jefferson's library of over 7000 volumes was purchadsed by the government in 1815 and removed from Monticello and housed in the new Library of Congress. In 1851 the LOC suffered a fire, and two thirds of Jeffersons book were destroyed.
The 4th, 5th and 6th Presidents (Madison, Monroe and John Quincy Adams) were also book collectors. But they collected mostly Americana, and mostly books and pamphlets about themslves and their Presidencies. Most of the later Presidents also had libraries during their terms as President.

Old Almanacs and Prognostications - Alternatively called the Farmers Almanacs and Weather forecasts.

Then there are the Poor Richards Almanacs written by Benjamin Franklin. Benjamin Franklin began publishing Poor Richard's Almanack on December 28, 1732, and would go on to publish it for 25 years, bringing him much economic success and popularity.

Munchausen and Company - Liars and the Lies they told in Books.

Earliest Christmas Books - Books with Christmas recipes and carols, hymns and songs therein.

Apologies for the long post. I read this book for the Bibliophilic Challenge.

Now I have to find and purchase or read Rosenbach's first book - Books and Bidders published in 1927.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Bibliomaniac's Prayer

The Bibliomaniac's Prayer
Eugene Field (1850-1895)

Keep me, I pray, in wisdom's way
That I may truths eternal seek;
I need protecting care to-day,--
My purse is light, my flesh is weak.

So banish from my erring heart
All baleful appetites and hints
Of Satan's fascinating art,
Of first editions, and of prints.

Direct me in some godly walk
Which leads away from bookish strife,
That I with pious deed and talk
May extra-illustrate my life.

But if, O Lord, it pleaseth Thee
To keep me in temptation's way,
I humbly ask that I may be
Most notably beset to-day;

Let my temptation be a book,
Which I shall purchase, hold, and keep,
Whereon when other men shall look,
They 'll wail to know I got it cheap.

Oh, let it such a volume be
As in rare copperplates abounds,
Large paper, clean, and fair to see,
Uncut, unique, unknown to Lowndes.

Note - William Thomas Lowndes (d. 1843), famous English bibliographer.

Online text copyright © 2009, Ian Lancashire (the Department of English) and the University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: The Poems of Eugene Field, Complete Edition (Toronto: McClelland and Goodchild, 1910): 22-23. ROBA PS 1665 A2 1910.
From Eugene Field, A Little Book of Western Verse (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1896).
First publication date: 1896


Some of Eugene's Fields other poems including Wynken, Blynken and Nod

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dante Catalogue

Chris from BookHunters Holiday's Dante catalogue arrived in the post today.

It took just one week from California, USA to Ontario, Canada and crossing a border as well - I call that pretty fast!!!

It is a big catalogue - the size is bigger than I was expecting. It also feels nicer having it in my hands, rather than reading it online.

I actually found it easier to read the entire blurb about the Disney Dante Comics with a catalogue in my hands, than I did trying to read it online. Scroll down to item 56, pages 34 and 35 for the comics. (PDF)

$1000 for 50+ year old comics? YIKES!!!

Thank you Chris for all your hard work, and I hope you are able to sell every item!!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Blogging is for old folk

How many of my readers are under the age of 20? Under 30? Under 40?
I wont ask about the under 50's because thats my age group. LOL

The reason I ask this is because an article came out last week that said that young people are no longer blogging - but the oldies are continuing to blog and even starting new blogs.

The younger generation prefers to use the social networking sites like Facebook, My Space and Twittering.

Why? Because its hip (everyone is doing it), it's a lot faster that blogging (tweet only allows 140 words) and it allows you to stay up to date. And young people dont really like reading long posts either.

While I do have a facebook account, I dont use it for socializing. Well not really. I do comment occasionally on friends posts and photos.

But mostly I use Facebook for the games and applications. That is why I actually signed up for Facebook. I do not use Twitter at all.

Blogging is actually a quite involved form of self-expression. It takes a lot of time and effort.

I cant deny that. It does take effort to write a review, but when I get a comment, it was worth it.

And I do prefer to use my "long form" blog (that means this blog) to keep you informed of the books I read. I have been blogging now for almost 3 years and I dont plan on stopping any time soon. I cant let all that hard work go to waste.

The Adventures of a Treasure Hunter - Book Review

The Adventures of a Treasure Hunter
A Rare Bookman in Search of American History
By Charles P. Everitt
Originally published by Little Brown & Company 1951
Reprinted by Meyerbooks, Illinos, 1987
Full Text of this Book for you to Read
Booksellers who specialized in Americana 1993

There was a letter printed in the Fine Books and Collectors magazine with an anecdotal story of this book.

I am pleased to add a footnote to Kurt Zimmerman’s article, “Armchair Adventures: Ten Classic Accounts of American Book Collecting,” which appears in the November/December issue (#30) of your magazine. For those who do not insist on reading it in the first edition, The Adventures of a Treasure Hunter: A Rare Bookman in Search of American History by Charles P. Everitt is available in a trade paperback edition. I published the reprint in 1987, with an introduction by Jack Matthews. Everitt’s book was actually ghostwritten by Barrows Mussey, a book publisher and collector, who, in a letter to me, explained how the book was written: “My contract with [the publisher] Little, Brown included all the bourbon Charlie Everitt could drink, and in the course of writing I actually bought two or three cases of Old Grandad. It was a relatively moral arrangement, because I, being a rum drinker, did not take more than a glass an evening of the private stock, for sociability.” Everitt’s book was published after his death in 1950 and was a selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club at the time.

David Meyer
Meyerbooks, Publisher
Glenwood, Illinois


As for reading it - well I found it to be a very readable book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

There are not a lot of personal details about Charles P Everitt. He came from Orange County in NY, having been raised on a farm, which he left when he was 17 to go work in the book trade. That was in 1890. He mentions having one son named Tom. His wife was Elizabeth Thompson Everitt.

I learned a lot about different things, such as Americana, the early days of US history such as the Revolution, and Exploration of the West, Dr ASW Rosenbach whom Charlie called Rosy, and many many names of Collectors, Librarians and Book Dealers (the vast majority whom I have never heard of) from the first half of the 20th century. A number of authors are mentioned as well.

I also learned that Nathaniel Hawthorne did not write The Last of the Mohicans - which I had originally stated in my previous post about the Secrets of Lost Things (now corrected). James Fenimore Cooper wrote The Last of the Mohicans. Hawthorne wrote short stories, a few novels I never heard of and something called Fanshawe. Everitt told a story of once purchasing a copy of Fanshawe as part of a collection, and selling it for $350.

Another ancedote tells of the Baptist Publication Society looking for a copy of the book Fanny Hill (R18). When the Society called Everitt and asked if he knew how to find a copy, Everitt said he did not. The last man who did know (how to find a copy) got 2 years in jail.

Everitt made regular trips to London, England looking for books. He mentioned Marks and Cohen in this book. As you know, Marks and Company is the setting of the well known book by Helene Hanff - 84 Charing Cross Road - and later the movie of the same name. Everitt mentions a number of other London book sellers as well.

But I am not telling you anything that you cannot read for yourself, The entire book has been archived online for your reading pleasure and enjoyment.

This is not a linear story of Charles's life. Rather it is a collection of stories and anecdotes about book deals he made over 60 years as a book dealer, stretching from 1890 to 1950.

Charles Everitt was born in 1871 and died in March 1951.

I read this book for the Bibliophilic Challenge.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Secret of Lost Things - Book Review

The Secret of Lost Things
by Sheridan Hay
Doubleday 2006

I have been wanting to read this book for quite some time so I reserved it at the library and have been finally able to read it. This novel is as much a story about the love of books as it is about one girl's coming of age.

Rosemary leaves Tasmania (in Australia) and moves to New York city after her mother dies, and starts working in the Arcade, a second hand bookshop. There is NO MENTION made of her immigration status whatsoever. One cannot just move to a new country and work. I should know.

One must be educated and skilled to qualify for either immigrate or a work permit. Rosemary has no skills so she would not qualify to immigrate, nor would she qualify for a work permit.

How convenient that fiction authors dont have to mention embarrassing details like this. To someone like me who is well versed in immigration details, it is a GLARING mistake.

I had no idea that the main character Rosemary, was so sheltered and naive. Was I really like that when I was 18? Well, yes, I was like that. I had crushes on the local boys. But I certainly knew enough to never try to kiss them, although I did ask one fellow that I had a crush on, to my High School prom.

Rosemary's naivety did annoy me during this novel, but not so much that I could not continue reading to see what happened in the shop.

Rosemary has a crush on Oscar Jarno who is in charge of the Non Fiction section of the book shop. Oscar is gay and prefers men. Rosemary knows this intellectually but still thinks she can get Oscar to love her as well. When she and Oscar have a meal together at a diner, she kisses him, and he rejects her. Thats when her eyes are opened and she stops being naive.

At the same time the Albino Walter Geist, who works in the basement checking all the books that come in from sales and the public and who pays the sellers, has a crush on Rosemary because Rosemary is the only person who will even talk to Geist.

Robert Mitchell on the 4th Floor handles the rare books and is supposed to be told about any rare books that come in.

Arthur looks after the art and photography sections of the bookshop. He loves looking at photos of nudes. He calls them art and that is why he can look at them. That is not all he does when he looks at these photos.

Jack and Bruno are the bouncers - they throw the thieves out. They also arrange and rearrange the paperback books at the front of the shop.

Pearl handles the cash register. She is taking hormones to undergo a sex change from male to female.

And George Pike is the manager of the entire shop.He has his little stand a few steps above the floor, where he too prices the more valuable books and oversees the shop floor and everyone on it.

The Lost Things referred to in the title is a novel supposedly written by Herman Melville (Moby Dick) in 1852. The question is - was the novel ever published? The publishers warehouse burnt down in 1853. The story of the novel is mentioned in several letters by Melville to Nathaniel Hawthorne (Fanshawe) in 1852. The main character was referred to as Agatha.

Geist is an albino, and as such, he is legally blind. He has Rosemary read him a letter about a lost novel. The writer of this letter is offering the manuscript to be sold through the bookship for commission. Rosemary tells Oscar about the letter and together Rosemary and Oscar spend time at the library doing some research. Rosemary is assigned to read the book of letters written by Melville to Hawthorne. She finds the first mentions in the letters, of the story about Agatha.

Geist too is trying to find out more about this lost novel. He has colleagues on whom he can call. One of them is Samuel Metcalfe - the librarian to James Peabody - one of the most well known book collectors and richest men in the USA.

Things come to a head in the last week of the year (between Xmas and New Years) when Geist is given a manuscript he claims is the lost story of Agatha (now called the Isle of the Cross). He steals money from the shop to pay for the manuscript. Geist wants to give the manuscript to Rosemary. When Oscar lays his hands on the manuscript and opens it, it is obviously a fake, and the pages are scattered acros the floor. In a struggle between Geist and Oscar, one man dies.

Some weeks later Rosemary leaves the shop and takes up a new job as an editing intern with a publishing company.

I read this book for the Bibliophilic Challenge.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Raising a Reader - Book Review

Raising a Reader
by Jennie Nash
St Martins Press 2003

I thought that since I have raised a reader, I would read this book and see how I compared against Ms Nash. It is not a long book. But it has been sitting on my TBR pile since I purchased it back in 2007.

Jennie Nash turned out to be quite concerned about making very sure that her two daughters were reading well, even before they started school. Her first daughter had no problems doing this. Her second daughter was somewhat slower at picking up the art of reading, and Mrs Nash was frantic.

Despite being told by the school principal that it was OK for kids to not be reading until grade 2 and even grade 3, Jennie Nash still felt like a failed mother if her daughter was not reading by the time she entered second grade.

In my opinion, I dont think she helped her second daughter to become a comfortable reader by the books she (Jennie) chose. For some reason Jennie prefers to have her daughters learn to love language - the melodic flow of the words and rhythm and so on. So she read them the good quality books, including Newberry award winners.

Well thats fine for her, but she absolutely refused to allow her daughters to read the "popular" books" except for the older daughter who insisted on going through a stage of reading the book adaptations of Disney movies. Jennie hated reading those. So Jennie was often reading books that her daughters had not asked for.

I, on the other hand, have never read anything BUT the "popular" books to my son. I read what he wants. Most of the time he has wanted books based on his favourite TV shows. For a long time this meant Pokemon books. So I read Pokemon books. I learnt a lot about Pokemon. For the last 2 years I have been reading Captain Underpants books - over and over again. Jennie Nash hates the Captain Underpants books. I do try and squeeze a Robert Munsch book in, when I can - to save my sanity. My son likes them too.

The book he was reading on the sidewalk this morning was a Club Penguin book. He has a few of those. Mostly comics so they are harder for me to read. Because half the comic strip has no words and you have to look at the boxes to see the actions. My son is in Grade 2 and I was not worried at all. Because I know that he is reading.

Then last month my son told me about a new book series he wants me to read to him. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid. There are 4 books in the series and his school library has all 4 of them on the shelves. So this weekend I plan to go out and find these books and purchase one (for now) At $12 each, these are a bit more expensive than the other books. On the other hand they are over 200 pages so thats value for money.

I read this book for the Bibliophilic Challenge.

Yes - I raised a reader!!!

I wish I had taken my camera to show you the proof that I did raise a reader.

My son is 7 years old - almost 8. At school yesterday he received a new book from the Scholastic brochure and all the way home yesterday, he was reading it as he walked along the sidewalk. This morning he insisted on taking this same new book to school and again he was walking slowly along the sidewalk reading this new book on our way to school.

He looked exactly like me when I was a kid. I too walked with my head down reading a book as I walked along the footpath (they dont call them sidewalks where I come from).

YES I have done something right - I RAISED a reader!!!

I am just so thrilled!!!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Terminal Freeze - Book Review

Terminal Freeze
by Lincoln Child
Anchor Books 2009

Alaska's Federal Wilderness Zone - two hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle. One of the most remote places on Earth. But for a group of scientists sponsored by a major media conglomerate, an expedition to the Zone represents the opportunity of a lifetime to study the effects of global warming.

The expedition changes suddenly on a routine foray into a glacial ice cave, where the group makes an astonishing find: an ancient animal encased in solid ice. It appears to be some kind of giant cat, possibly a saber-toothed tiger. When their discovery is reported back, their parent company quickly plans the ultimate spectacle - the animal will be cut from the ice, thawed, and revealed on live television.

Ignoring the dire warnings of a local Eskimo group (and a native legend forecasting doom for anyone who disturbs this mythic creature), the scientists make one more horrifying discovery: the beast is no cat, it's an ancient killing machine. And it may not be dead.

The creature is cut from the ice and transported to a vault at the base. Within hours the vault is empty with just a round hole chewed in the floor.

Then the killing starts - 3 people are killed before the creature can be stopped, and there is only one way to stop it.

LINCOLN CHILD is the coauthor, with Douglas Preston, of Relic, Reliquary, The Book of the Dead, The Dance of Death, The Cabinet of Curiosities, and other bestsellers starring Detective Pendergast. Lincoln Child lives with his wife and daughter in Morristown, New Jersey.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Low Profile - Book Review

Low Profile - A Life in the World of Books
by Frank Herrmann
Oak Knoll books 2002

Low Profile is the autobiography of Frank Herrmann, author, publisher, one-time director of Sotheby's and founder of Bloomsbury Book Auctions.

Herrmann was born in Germany in 1928. In 1937 his jewish family emigrated to the UK where Frank grew up. He attended Westminster school while the school was not in London. During the war the school spent most of the war in Surrey, Devonshire and Herefordshire. After the war, he attended Oxford University reading chemistry but dropped out when he discovered that he didn't really like chemistry and formulae. He preferred literature and words. So he got a job as a typographer with Faber books.

Frank Herrmann's biography offers a tantalizing, behind-the-scenes look into the hidden worlds of Herrmann's life and his various careers. Beginning with his early years as a book designer at Faber (publishers of TS Eliot), the author then shares the times when he had the good fortune to work for firms who published Evelyn Waugh, Ernest Shepard (illustrator of A A Milnes's books), Beatrice Potter, the children's authors of Miffy and Babar, as well as Mrs. Beeton and a host of other famous figures in the writing world.

Herrmann continues his story describing his stormy career as a Sotheby's director and then becoming the founder of his own publishing company and antiquarian book auction house. This well written text is illustrated with many rare photographs of the "movers and shakers" of the British publishing world.

I purchased this book from a rare book shop for one of my birthdays sometime in the last few years and it has sat on my TBR pile ever since. I decided that this Bibliophilic Challenge was a good time to read it. I had been reluctant to start reading it, as I thought it was going to be boring.

Guess what. It was NOT boring. I really enjoyed it. A lot more than I thought I would.

While I was in Hospital I had read another one of my books on the TBR pile. This one was about Sotheby's the auction house - called Sotheby's, Bidding for Class by Robert Lacey. There was not one mention in that entire book, of Frank Herrmann as a director of Sotheby's, as head of Sotheby's European operations and as the official biographer of Sotheby's.

Herman wrote several books - the most noteable being Sotheby's-Portrait of an Auction House, The English as Collectors, and the childrens book All about the Giant Alexander.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dante Catalogue - by Bookhunters Holiday

I dont usually do this but for once I will break my own rule. This post is to specifically mention my friends new Dante catalogue for anyone who might be interested in purchasing a Dante book or two.

Chris owns the online book sellers shop Book Hunters Holiday and she has spent 3 years collecting, researching and writing up her Dante catalogue. Finally it is finished.

Catalogue - PDF

Monday, February 1, 2010

New Source of Ancient Books

As I mentioned in the Book of Secrets review (and in other posts) I love ancient books. I would love to be the one to find a new old book (if that makes sense) and research it and write a paper on it.

So this weekend while I was surfing the web looking for some interesting news about ancient books, I came across a mention of manuscripts coming out of Timbuktu. Now I have been fascinated by Timbuktu for a very long time, ever since I learned that 600 years ago Timbuktu had a famous university and was the foremost seat of learning in medieval West Africa.

What I did not know at that time, was that Timbuktu also had thousands and thousands of manuscripts.

So over this weekend just finished, I made a new blog - about the Lost Ancient Books of Timbuktu.

There is tons of information out there about Timbuktu, some of it as recent as January 2010, and some of it written or filmed in the last 3 years.

These ancient manuscripts were written in Arabic, and I know nothing of that language. However there are teams intent on preserving, translating and digitising these manuscripts and eventually uploading them to the internet so that the world can read them.

I hope you enjoy reading my Timbuktu blog, as much as I had fun making it. I will add any new information I find to the blog as it becomes available, but for now there is plenty up there to whet the appetite.

The Book of Secrets - Book Review

The Book of Secrets
by Tom Harper
Arrow Books 2009

For those of you who have read this blog over the last 3 years will know that I love ancient books. I have this fantasy of writing a novel about finding a famous lost ancient book that will change the world, or at least change history.

Well someone recently wrote that novel and I just finished reading it.
Please note - this is a LONG review.

The Book of Secrets is an excellent novel. While it does (like most books about history) go back and forth from present to past, it does so very smoothly. The storylines are both linear and are kept straight in both timelines by using the third person for the present and the first person for the past, thus making it easier to know what time you are reading about.

I have complained in previous reviews about choppy changes between present and past. Not in this book!!! For any future authors who like to travel between past and present, read this book and learn how the master does it.

Gillian used to work at the Cloisters in New York City - part of the famous Metropolitan Museum. Nick has been out of touch with Gillian for several months until the day he gets a webcam video and a file from her. The webcam video shows her fighting for her life in what looks like a hotel room, and being captured by unknown people. The file is a picture with a brief message attached - use this, the bear is key, help me, theyre coming. On her social network page (like facebook only the name of the site is never mentioned) is a message - Gillian is in mortal peril.

Nick decides to find Gillian. He starts at the Cloisters and speaks to Emily about Gillian and the picture file. She says she will find out. Then he gets a phone call from his roommate Bret who tells him to get home fast and to buzz him when he returns to the apartment.

Outside his apartment, Nick thinks about the strange request to Buzz Bret. So Nick use his laptop and the apartment wi-fi to check out the apartment through the webcam on Brets computer inside the the apartment. He sees Bret tied to a chair and a strange man in the apartment obviously waiting for him.

The kid next door comes out of his apartment and starts talking to Nick. On the laptop, Nick sees the strange man kill Bret and then shoot bullets through the door. Nick races for the stairs and gets to the roof. The bad man shows up shortly after and then leaves.

The police show up and Nick is questioned by Detective Royce. Nick goes to the police station where he is interrogated. He is the number one suspect for the murder of Bret.

After leaving the police station Nick gets a call from Emily at the Cloisters. She wants to meet him and talk about the picture and about Gillian. When they meet, she tells him that the picture, could be very valuable if it is real. It is a medieval playing card, one made by the Master of Playing Cards, but this card (eight of beasts) is not listed in the bibliography.

Nick asks how valuable the card might be.
$10,000 to $100,000 maybe, says Emily.
Worth killing over? Nick mumbles
What? asks Emily.
My roommate was killed last night and I think it was because of this card, Nick explains.

Emily tells Nick that the Cloisters sent Gillian to Paris - to an auction house. Nick calls the auction house and they explain that yes Gillian worked there briefly, but she disappeared two weeks before and has not been seen or heard from since.

Nick contacts another computer savvy friend and ask the friend to look at the picture file. The file is encrypted, it has a password. So Nick has to find the right encryption program, and then find the password.

The NYPD then call Nick and and request that he return to the station and "bring a friend". Nick takes a lawyer friend along and learns that yes the kid did hear the shooting while Nick was outside of the apartment. That is his only alibi. An 8 year old kid.

However the police still want to arrest him for the murder of his roommate Bret as the fanatastical story of a strange man waiting, and seeing the apartment though a webcam is somewhat unbeliveable. (The police are not very computer literate) As a compromise the police and the lawyer agree that Nick will hand over his passport because he is now a flight risk - he may skip to Paris. Nick goes back to the apartment with the lawyer. He finds his passport which is given to the police. He also finds and keeps his wallet.

While the clue to the password is the bear is key, Nick does not find the password until he takes a closer look at a picture of Gillian in his apartment. She is wearing a Brown University sweatshirt. The mascot of Brown University is Bruno the bear. Bruno is the right password. An address pops up.

177 rue de Rivoli
Boite 628

The lawyer calls Nick and says the kid has changed his story - that maybe he did not see Nick in the hallway when the gun went off. Maybe it was just before or just after the gun went off. The lawyer explains that the police now want to arrest Nick for murder.

Nick gets a call from Emily. She is terrified and in hiding in the bathrooms at the public library because she is being followed. Nick goes to the 5th avenue (and 42nd street) branch of the NYC Library and finds Emily. Back at Emily's apartment the door is open and the apartment has been ransacked and searched.

At a restaurant across the street, Nick says the playing card is like a virus - everything it touches, dies...first Gillian, then Bret and now Emily. Nick explains that his credit card has been cancelled, his roommate killed, his passport confiscated, and he is about to be arrested for murder. All because of that card.

Nick explains that there is also the Paris address. Emily decides that she will come with Nick. She purchases two plane tickets to Paris. Nick still has his british passport - the one that was in his wallet. His mother was british and the passport allowed him to work in Germany for several years without the hassle of a work permit. All perfectly legal.

In Paris the address turns out to be a bank. They open another safety deposit box there to establish their credentials, and then open box 628. Inside the box is an envelope. The two go to a hotel where they open it. A real original medieval playing card, a SIM microchip and a BnF card.

The card is genuine - the first of these cards to be discovered in a century - exclaims Emily who is very excited.
The BnF is for the Bibliotheque Nationale de France - only one of the best and most famous libraries in the world.
The SIM chip is from a cellphone.

Emily goes to the bibliotheque nationale and finds the books that Gillian was looking at, since she is using Gillians card. While she is there, some bad men try to abduct her. It's a good thing Emily had a can of pepper spray in her purse.

Nick takes the SIM chip at a payphone in the subway and finds records of 3 phone calls on it. He notes the numbers and names and then at an internet cafe, finds the addresses. One call was to someone named Simon, one was to a taxi cab company and one was to a respected particle physicist working at the Institut Georges Sagnac, just outside Paris.

Emily and Nick go to see the physicist. He denies ever having met Gillian. When they leave he mutters somthing to Emily. Not all the marks on the card are ink.

Nick calls Simon and discovers that he is the same person that Nick had spoken with from the auction house several days previously. Simon asks to meet them. He tells them the story of what Gillian did in the last days before she disappeared.

She and Simon had gone to an old house where they were to look at a collection of books and see what the conditions were and decide if they were good enough to be put up for auction. They discovered books and manuscripts - many old and totally unknown medieval mansuscripts - meaning that these had been in the family for many years and noone had ever seen them, let alone written about them.

Gillian apparently also discovered a medieval playing card from a book in this collection, which she pocketed. In academia, you must publish or perish. Gillian probably thought she could research and write about this card and establish her reputation as a serious historian.

Gillian disappeared 3 days after she and Simon had seen the collection and had it moved to Paris. That had been 3 weeks before.

At the taxi cab company, Nick learns that Gillian had taken the cab to the Gare de l'Est

Simon, Nick and Emily drive to Brussels to see the book. They remove it from its hermetically sealed containment before three thugs break in and try to take the book. Nick and Emily grab the book and steal a car and drive to Leige where they find an old professor of Emily's. The book turns out to be a bestiary. The front of the book says Written by the hand of Libellus and illuminated by Master Francis. He also made another book of beasts using a new art of writing.... Libellus is latin for little book. Master Francis refers to St Francis who had an affinity with animals.
On the page Emily discovers the new art of writing, hard point.

Hard point is where you write with a pen that has no ink. Kind of like making impressions in the paper. Have you ever written a note on the top paper of a pad, ripped that paper off and then seen the impression of your note on the next page? That's hard point writing. The comment continues ...which is hidden in the sayings of the kings of Israel.

Emily explains that the book called the Sayings of the Kings of Israel is a lost book mentioned in the Bible. She also says that the (handwritten) bestiary alone is valuable as it can definitely be attributed to the Master of Playing Cards.

Emily begins thinking out loud. Gillian must have known something we don't. She found the bestiary and the card inside it - either of which would be a major discovery - but she didn't tell anyone, not even Simon. Then she locked the card in a bank vault and put the book into the deep freeze (in Brussels) and disappeared. Presumably to look for the other bestiary. She knew something, something that made the other book even more valuable than this book.

Later that night when Emily and Nick are in their hotel room in Strasbourg, they see a news item on the TV about how the professor was shot and killed in his house in Leige, and how the police were now looking for the driver of the car that had visited him that morning. Once again Nick checks Gillians social chat page and sees there is a new message.

Are you safe? Did you find it? Please call me. I have a new number.
(posted by Olaf)

(aside - purely coincidental that my birth country is used)

Nick checks their webpage and finds the number. He calls long distance to NZ and asks for Olaf, only to be told to Stop calling us. I have told you three times that there is no Olaf here.

The next morning Nick and Emily leave town. They dont know where to go but they have to get out of Strasbourg. Outside the hotel, they are attacked yet again. Someone tries to take Emily's purse. They are not successful and are chased off. Nick chases one thug to a dead end street where he rips up a piece of paper. Nick and Emily scrabble around on the street trying to find all the bits of paper.

Now they have something to do. Nick contacts his friend back home again and asks for a safe place to do some scanning and digitising and also for a secure link to the FBI computer. Nick freelances for the FBI. They are directed to Karlsruhe just across the border in Germany.

At the technical college on Karlsruhe, they met Sabina who takes them to a computer outlet. The pieces are scanned into the computer. A special program is copied from the FBI computer in order to put the pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle. Since access tot he FBI computer is through a game, Nick and his friend discover that they must fight off some bad guys who want to disrupt the download and find Nick. They do not succeed. Nick gets the program downloaded and logs out. Then the computer rearranges the pieces into its millions of permutations to find something that makes sense. It takes 2 hours.

Emily - I know what Gillian found

The picture shows an ox with an unusually long tail.

Emily - What you are potentially looking at, is the first or second book ever printed.
Nick - The first book ever printed where?
Emily - First ever printed ever. To be precise the first ever printed with moveable type
Nick - Gutenberg??
Emily - Exactly

Gutenberg is credited with the invention of practical movable type. He made metal moulds, by the use of dies, into which he could pour hot liquid metal, in order to produce separate letters as the same shape as those written by hand. These letters were similar, more readable, and more durable than wooden blocks.

Such letters could be arranged and rearranged many times as the printer wished to create different pages from the same letters.

Gutenberg also introduced the use of printing press to press the type against paper. For this he used a hand press used in his times by wine industry. Ink was rolled over the raised surfaces of the hand-set letters held within a wooden frame, and the frame was then pressed against the paper. The press enabled sharp impressions on both sides of a sheet of paper and many repetitions. After a page was printed, the type could be reused for printing other pages.

The ink used by Gutenberg was also a new development. It was not really ink at all, more like a varnish or oil paint. Unlike writing-ink it is oil-based, not based on water. Water-based ink would simply run off the metal types whereas the thick, viscous oil-based varnish sticks to them. Gutenberg's printer's ink was distinctive in having a glittering surface. This is because of its high level of metal content, in particular copper, lead and titanium. It also contains sulphur.

Shortly after this, Nick is thinking about numbers. I have a new number, wwwjerseypaints dot co dot NZ. He suddenly realizes what the phone number is - the IP of the web address. He converts the URL to an IP which creates a phone number complete with German area code and this time Nick sucessfully speaks to Olaf. Olaf tells them to come to Mainz. He doesnt know where Gillian is now, but he knows where she was going.

In Mainz Nick and Emily meet Olaf in a church. Olaf is in a wheelchair. He tells them that just after the second world war, he became a historian and found a letter written by Johann Fust, Gutenbergs' business & financial partner. Now if you had gone to Mainz 500 years ago, noone knew Gutenberg. Gutenberg printed just one book. Fust and his son Peter Schoeffer printed 130 books. Everyone knew Fust.

The letter Fust wrote, was a complaint to the Catholic Church written in the late 1400s stating that one book had been stolen from him by thugs. After WW2, Olaf was warned by another thug to hand over the letter and all copies, translations and notes, and to never speak of this again.

Ten years later Olaf wrote a small footnote about Fust in a book he was writing. The book contract was cancelled, all copies of the book were pulped and the publisher was sued. Olaf was in a car accident which killed his wife and left him in a wheelchair.

The footnote said simply - We must consider the possibility that some books from Johann Fusts' collection, may have been confiscated, perhaps to the so-called Devils Library.

Some of the advanced copies of the book did survive. Gillian found one and contacted Olaf wanting to know more about the Bibliotheca Diabolorum, the Devils Library. She later found a reference to the Devils Library in the Mainz state archives, and then hid the evidence.

Nick and Emily also go to the Mainz archives, where eventually they find the right box of books. One reference is to Liber Bonasi. Emily translates this to Bonnacon. The picture of the ox is actually a Bonnacon. Then they finally hit pay dirt - another hardpoint reference - Bib Diab Portus Gelidus. Portus Gelidus turns out to be a small town on the Rhone river called Oberwinter.

While Nick and Emily are at the archives, Olaf is killed by more thugs for telling people about the Devils Library.

Nick and Emily travel to Oberwinter to investigate. There is an old monastery, now called a castle, in the hills above the village, and which privately owned. They climb up to the castle and are able to get inside. There they find Gillian locked up. She shows them the Devils Library - a library packed with forbidden books - the books that the Catholic Church works hard to suppress. Pretty much all the books about the black arts are here, says Gillian.

More thugs show up and the library goes up in flames but not before the three of them all get to look at the second bestiality book. This book was printed on the same printing press as the Gutenberg Bible, and was possibly the first real book ever printed with the Bible being the second book ever printed. (The first bestiality book had been hand written, not printed).

At the end of the book, the NYPD arrived to chase down Gillian. They were after Gillian all along as she was a thief - which is why she was forced to leave the Cloisters. They had hoped that Nick would lead the Interpol Art Squad to Gillian.

There is a comment from the book that I think is very fitting and probably true. The only things to come out of Italy are the catholic church and the mafia and they frequently end up working together.

In between the chapters of Nick and Emily's journey to find Gillian, are chapters about the life of Johannes Gutenberg. These chapters tell the story of his time as a gold smith apprentice and as a copyist. We also learn about Gutenbergs life as he struggled with inventing a new kind of press with moveable type. We also learn how the various business partners were part of Gutenbergs life. These chapters were were written in the first person, making it much easier to tell whose story I was reading at any time.

I read this for the Relic Novels challenge as Nick and Emily started off searching for a person and ended up searching for and finding a very valuable book. I enjoyed this novel very much.

I apologise for the very long review but so much was happening.