Friday, March 26, 2010

The Dakota Cipher - Book Review

The Dakota Cipher
by William Dietrich
Harper Collins 2009

This is book number 3 in the Ethan Gage series. The year is 1800.

In this Book Ethan Gage travels from France back to his homeland of United States of America.

Napoleon Bonaparte has ownership of Louisiana (which at this time stretches from New Orleans all the way up the Mississippi River, almost to the Great Lakes) and Ethan is tasked by Napoleon to survey the land of Louisana and decide what would be the best thing to do with it - have it settled by the french or sell it to the americans.

Ethan also meets with President Jefferson who is interested in mythology and he has heard stories of mammoths and elephants being in North America. Ethan must also find the elephants.

Ethans' third task is to help his friend Magnus Bloodhammer (from Norway) to find proof that the USA actually belongs to the Norwegians because the Vikings were there first.

Magnus and Ethan travel across the land by canoeing the rivers and walking across the Appalachian Mountains to Lake Erie and then by boat to the fortress called Detroit.

In Detroit, Ethan meets up with Aurora Somerset and her brother Lord Cecil Somerset, who are descended from british nobility. They were forced to leave Britain in a hurry due to a shocking scandal of some sort. They are out to find a source of great wealth and knowledge for their Egyptian Rite group - an offshoot of the old Egyptian mystery schools.

Ethan and Magnus travel with Aurora and Cecil by canoe up Lake Huron and along the northern coast of Lake Superior, all the way to Grand Portage in what is now Minnesota. Aurora makes many attempts to seduce Ethan and get him to tell her what he and Magnus are looking for.

At Grand Portage emotions come to a head, mostly over 2 Mandan Indian slave girls, who Marcus and Ethan try to rescue from their Dakota Indian captors. Ethan, Marcus, the two girls (Namida and Little Frog) and a fellow named Pierre, are all forced to head west on their own. But the Somersets are not far behind.

Along their route to the west, Magnus and Ethan find a rune stone - a stone with Norse runes carved on it - along with a date....1362. This is the proof that Magnus was looking for. Proof that the Vikings were in the Americas long before the British, the French and the Spanish, so the Norwegians really do have the right to claim the land.

After many weeks of travelling west, and having crossed the Red River of the North (that flows north to Lake Winnipeg and from there to the Hudson Bay), the group end up at the Sheyenne river in what is now North Dakota.

There they find Yggdrasil, the great tree of the Viking legends. It has an electric wire running down the middle. The tree is struck by lightening on a regular basis.

Inside this tree, Ethan and Magnus find Thors hammer and a sheet of gold with Latin writing on it. The words on this gold sheet include Thira, Og, Atlantis and Poseidon. The final battle for this tree and the gold sheet occurs. Cecil, Magnus, Namida and Little Frog all die. Only Aurora and Ethan escape with their lives - and that is only because Aurora chooses to not kill Ethan. She decides to follow him instead.

Some day, some time, some where, they WILL meet again.

Book 1 Ethan Gage Series
Book 2 Ethan Gage Series

Monday, March 22, 2010

Update on Mary Anning - Fossil Hunter

Several weeks ago I mentioned Mary Anning who was a fossil hunter in England on the mid 1800s. I also mentioned how I wanted to read Tracy Chevalier's novel, Remarkable Creatures, about Mary Anning and her fossil hunting discoveries. I do have Remarkable Creatures on reserve at the library but it still hasn't arrived yet.

Well I have just discovered another new book (due to be published next week - March 30) about Mary Anning. It's called CURIOSITY by Joan Thomas.

Award-winning novelist Joan Thomas blends fact and fiction, passion and science in this stunning novel set in 19th-century Lyme Regis, England.

More than 40 years before the publication of The Origin of Species, 12-year-old Mary Anning, a cabinet-maker's daughter, found the first intact skeleton of a prehistoric dolphin-like creature, and spent a year chipping it from the soft cliffs near Lyme Regis. This was only the first of many important discoveries made by this incredible woman, perhaps the most important paleontologist of her day.

Henry de la Beche was the son of a gentry family, owners of a slave-worked estate in Jamaica where he spent his childhood. As an adolescent back in England, he ran away from military college, and soon found himself living with his elegant, cynical mother in Lyme Regis, where he pursued his passion for drawing and painting the landscapes and fossils of the area. One morning on an expedition to see an extraordinary discovery — a giant fossil — he meets a young woman unlike anyone he has ever met…

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Time of My Life - Book Review

The Time of my Life
By Patrick Swayze & Lisa Niemi
Atria Books - Division of Simon & Schuster

We all know who Patrick Swayze was. He died of cancer last year at age 57.

Below is an obituary for Patrick Swayze. Everything in this obituary is also in the book except that the book is from Patrick and Lisa's points of view.

There are also other stories in the book that go into more details. Patrick's ongoing knee injury, his alcoholism, his one year separation from his wife Lisa, why he and Lisa never had children, and how he coped (or didnt cope) with the fans and the paparazzi.

Swayze Obituary

Patrick Swayze was in his mid-thirties when he became an overnight sensation for his performance in the dance and romance movie Dirty Dancing (1987). In it he played the dance instructor Johnny Castle, and Jennifer Grey was his pupil, Baby. The film cost $5 million and was intended primarily for video, but it grossed more than $200 million worldwide and was one of the biggest hits of the year.

Swayze came from a dance background himself, though by the time he made the film his dancing career was almost over. He was afflicted with an old injury and needed further surgery during shooting. His physical problems and advancing years had motivated him to attempt to expand himself as an actor, and he had already appeared as part of Francis Ford Coppola’s Brat Pack ensemble in The Outsiders (1983), along with Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise — though Swayze was rather elderly for the label brat.

On the back of Dirty Dancing he was not short of offers for other starring roles. He made a couple of films that suggested he might slip back into obscurity as quickly as he had emerged from it. Then came his second blockbuster hit, the weepie romantic drama Ghost (1990), which was an even bigger hit than Dirty Dancing. Swayze was briefly ranked among Hollywood’s most bankable stars and was acclaimed in People magazine in the US as the sexiest man in the world (ie, the US).

Ghost was a cinema landmark, regularly included in polls of the most romantic films ever. Swayze, the hunky Texan good ole boy, played a New York banker who is murdered and comes back as the ghost of the title. The scene in which his former lover, played by Demi Moore, feels his presence while making a clay pot, with Unchained Melody dipping and soaring on the soundtrack, was one of the most memorable (and, in time, mocked) cinema moments of the decade.

Swayze’s character in Ghost seemed to crystallise the contradictions in him between the American footballer and the ballet dancer, tough but sensitive, hellraiser and loyal mate, and commentators might argue that Swayze himself embodied the contradictions within modern American Man, torn between traditional macho values and his place in a new world and new gender politics.

Swayze struggled with celebrity and with alcoholism. He tried determinedly to move on from the image of beefcake in a vest, appearing in several “independent” movies and notably exploiting and undermining his good looks and healthy image as a charming self-help guru, with a hidden stash of child porn, in the cult classic Donnie Darko (2001).

There were well-publicised incidents to underline his personal difficulties and setbacks, including one bizarre escapade in which he landed, and parked, his light aircraft in a housing estate in Arizona, after it seemingly developed a fault. There were suggestions that he was drunk, but his erratic behaviour was attributed to the fearsome experience and the sudden descent.

He remained married to his Texan teenage sweetheart, Lisa Niemi, and they worked together and lived together on a spread called Rancho Bizarro, 30 miles outside Los Angeles, surrounded by horses, chickens and hi-tech recording equipment.

Patrick Wayne Swayze was born in Houston, Texas, in 1952, one of four children. His mother, Patsy Swayze, was a successful choreographer and ran a ballet school, and his brother Don would also become an actor. He studied ballet from an early age but also excelled at sports and went to San Jacinto College, Houston, on a sports scholarship.

He was an accomplished gymnast, diver, athlete and American footballer, though football was responsible for the lingering knee injury that cut short his dancing career.

One of his first professional dancing and acting jobs was as Prince Charming in a Disney parade, which toured North and Central America. He attended Harkness and Joffrey ballet schools in New York, was principal dancer with the Eliot Feld company and appeared on Broadway with Joel Grey (Jennifer’s father) in the musical Goodtime Charley in 1975. That same year he married Niemi, whom he met when she was a 15-year-old dance student at his mother’s school.

He joined the long-running Broadway production of Grease in the lead role of Danny Zuko and made his film debut in 1979 in the roller-disco movie Shakedown, USA. He played a soldier dying of leukaemia in an episode of M*A*S*H in 1981 and began appearing fairly regularly in films, including The Outsiders, Uncommon Valor (1983), Grandview, USA (1984), on which he was also choreographer, and the silly Red Dawn (1984), in which the Soviet Union invades America, but a group of small-town teenagers reckon they can take them on.

It was a starring role as a Confederate officer in the Civil War mini-series North and South (1985) that established him as a dashing leading man, who could appeal to both men and women. Dirty Dancing accelerated the process, though it appealed largely to a female audience.

He played a dance instructor at a mountain resort in upstate New York in the 1960s, and Grey was the privileged girl, Baby, whom he teaches about dance, life and love.

It gave him not only a hit film, but the memorable, much-imitated line “Nobody puts Baby in a corner", and an international hit single with She’s Like the Wind, which he had co-written for Grandview, USA, though it was not used on that film.

Despite Dirty Dancing’s phenomenal success, he struggled a little with his next few films. Only Road House (1989), in which he played a bouncer, made much impression on audiences or critics. Hollywood experts never expected him to repeat the success of Dirty Dancing with Ghost, which opened in a summer of big-budget event movies. Swayze was the banker Sam Wheat, Demi Moore the artist Molly Jensen. He is killed by a mugger but finds he can still communicate with the world via a medium, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg).

The film gave him another memorable bit of dialogue — the word “Ditto”, which he uses when Moore’s character says she loves him.

His famous lines would be thrown back at him in one of the funniest of the series of cinema adverts for Orange mobile phones — “Nobody puts Swayze in a corner.”

In Point Break (1991) he played a character whose wide range of interests include Buddhism, surfing and crime, with Keanu Reeves as the FBI undercover agent out to bring him down. Swayze grew up as a Catholic, but later studied Buddhism and other religions. He pushed himself as an American doctor working in the slums of Calcutta in Roland Joffe’s City of Joy (1992), an early indication of his refusal to be typecast.

Years later he said: “I had been sucked into the blockbuster, box-office mentality and it was destroying my sense of purpose in life. The loneliness of fame was messing with my head. I made a conscious decision to break away from big films when I got alcohol out of my life.”

He played one of three drag queens on a cross-country trip in the comedy To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995), but was seriously injured when he fell from his horse during the filming of Letters from a Killer (1998). He was a US soldier trying to help Vietnamese refugees in Green Dragon (2001) and an Arkansas redneck in Waking Up in Reno (2002). In 2003 he co-starred with his wife in One Last Dance, an adaptation of a play they had written about ageing dancers. Niemi also directed it, but it did not get a cinema release.

Swayze never again scaled the heights of popularity he had enjoyed, or endured, with Dirty Dancing and Ghost. He did not turn his back completely on purely commercial projects — he played Allan Quatermain in a TV production of King Solomon’s Mines (2004), made a cameo appearance in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004) and voiced one of the characters in the Disney video The Fox and the Hound 2 (2006), but they were hardly blockbusters.

He also returned to the theatre. He joined the Broadway cast of Chicago as Billy Flynn in 2003 and spent four months in the West End of London as Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls in 2006. He continued to work steadily on a range of projects, while also breeding horses on his ranch, but in early 2008 he was found to be suffering from pancreatic cancer.

This year he starred in a TV series The Beast, about an FBI agent who is assigned a new partner, not knowing that he is a double agent. The show was cancelled due to Swayze’s illness.

Swayze is survived by his wife, Lisa Niemi, whom he married in 1975.

Patrick Swayze, actor, was born on August 18, 1952. He died of cancer on September 14, 2009, aged 57

This has a very detailed filmography.

Selected Filmography

The Outsiders (1983)
In the drama based on S.E. Hinton's popular novel, Swayze plays Dallas Winston, a father figure of sorts to a band of 1960s Tulsa street toughs. It's often thought of as the first Brat Pack movie, as it costars a litany of future stars, including Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, C. Thomas Howell, Tom Cruise and Diane Lane. Patrick Swayze played Darrel Curtis.

Red Dawn (1984)
Jed Eckert (Swayze) leads the Wolverines, an underground resistance movement in Michigan when the Soviet Union invades the United States in an alternate 1980s timeline. C. Thomas Howell and Charlie Sheen (pictured) and Jennifer Grey co-star.

North and South and North and South, Book II (1985 and 1986)
Orry Main (Swayze) a West Point Cadet from Charleston, S.C., and his classmate, George Hazard (James Read), negotiate a friendship across the Mason-Dixon line in ABC's miniseries and its sequel, based on the blockbuster novels by John Jakes.

Dirty Dancing (1987)
In this iconic 1980s film, Swayze plays Johnny Castle, a hardscrabble dancing instructor who teaches naive teen Baby Houseman (Jennifer Grey) how to dance — and assert herself as a young woman.

Road House (1989)
James Dalton (Swayze) is a philosophy-spouting bouncer whose attempts to clean up a violent nightclub in Jasper, Missouri, landing him in the hospital and in love — with co-star Kelly Lynch. Sam Elliott also co-stars as Dalton's mentor.

Ghost (1990)
Sam Wheat (Swayze), the recently departed husband of Molly (Demi Moore), communes with the living with the help of a wacky medium (Whoopi Goldberg) and one sexy pottery wheel in this romantic drama.

Point Break (1991)
As Bodhi, the leader of a gang of surfers, Swayze taught Keanu Reeves, who played undercover FBI agent Johnny Utah, the dudespeak that later made him a star.

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995)
Drag queen Vida Bohemme (yes, Swayze) and her cohorts Chi-Chi Rodriguez (John Leguizamo) and Noxeema Jones (Wesley Snipes) break down in a podunk town on a cross-country road trip, where they teach lessons of tolerance and make things all the more fabulous for their presence.

Donnie Darko (2001)
In a dramatic departure from his romantic and action roles, Swayze plays Jim Cunningham, a motivational speaker with a cache of child pornography in his basement in this time-space-continuum-bending head-tripper.

The Beast (2009)
This A&E series, which ran for one season, will be remembered as the show that Swayze, as rule-bending FBI agent Charles Barker, continued to work on even after his pancreatic-cancer diagnosis. Travis Fimmel co-stars as Ellis Dove, Barker's unwitting partner.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The 5 Greatest Warriors - Book Review

The 5 Greatest Warriors
by Matthew Reilly
Simon and Schuster 2010
Authors website

This is the final book in the Jack West trilogy by Matthew Reilly that started in The 7 Deadly Wonders and continued in The 6 Sacred Stones (which I reviewed last year).

Captain Jack West and his team have to find 6 diamonds (pillars) and 6 vertices (inverted pyramids). These diamonds and vertices are scattered throughout the Earth and hidden underground, making them harder to find. Each inverted pyramid is hanging over an abyss which means death if anyone falls into it. To make matters worse, there are deadlines. If the diamonds are not placed into the tips of the vertices on the right dates and in the right order, then the world will be torn to pieces and destroyed. If the pillars are put into place, then they start up some Machine that will prevent the Earth from being destroyed.

In the 6 Sacred Stones, Jack and his team have successfully found and placed the first pillar into its correct vertice. Unfortunately at the time Jack is trying to place the second pillar into the second pyramid, he is hanging upside down, attempting to place the pillar (it is an inverted pyramid after all) and trying to fight off an enemy at the same time.

Jack is able to insert the pillar into place, but then the 2 men lose their grip and fall into the abyss. Thats where the 6 Sacred Stones ends.

The 5 Greatest Warriors opens with Jack and the enemy falling into the abyss. Jack survives. The enemy does not.

When Jack is rescued, he and his team must do their research (just the sort of thing I would love to have done) and find out where the 3rd pillar and vertice are and anything else about the remaining pillars and vertices. Together these will activate some great planetary machine to help ave the planet.

Jack and his team represent the smaller nations who wish to prevent the larger nations from grabbing all the power for themselves.

There are several enemies also out to get the power from the Machine. One enemy is Jacks father, Jack West senior (code named Wolf) who represents the Caldwell Group (shades of the Carlyle group that really does exist) which represents USA, China and Saudi Arabia. Other enemies are the European royal families - specifically the Russian (and yes there is one survivor) and British royal families, and Japan.

The 6 Sacred Stones was a lot of history and research and not as much action. This book - The 5 Greatest Warriors - is all action as the teams race to find the last 4 vertices and pillars and save the Earth.

You may be asking who the 5 greatest warriors actually were? Four of these names are famous names in world history. These men were the holders of the pillars at various times in history. The tombs of these men are places from which to start looking for the pillars.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy birthday to BiblioHistoria

Finally I remembered!!!
Today is St Patrick's day - never mind that the parades were on the weekend.
And St Patrick's Day means Bibliohistoria's Birthday!!!!

Happy Birthday to me
This blog is now three!!

BiblioHistoria Blog is now officially 3 years old!!!

And this is the very first blog post I ever posted - An introduction to me and my books - exactly 3 years ago today.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Lost Labyrinth - Book Review

The Lost Labyrinth
by Will Adams
Harper Collins 2009

This book is the third adventure of Daniel Knox and his fiance Gaille. This book was somewhat extreme and tries to cash in on current world events. If you remember during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, the country of Georgia (in the Caucasus Mountains north of Armenia and Iran) was at war with Russia over the status of break-away republic South Ossetia.

Georgia and South Ossetia have always had an uneasy relationship. The current armed conflict has its roots in a dispute that goes back almost one hundred years.

During the night of August 7, 2008, coinciding with the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, Georgia's president Saakashvili ordered an all-out military attack on Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia. The aerial bombardments and ground attacks were largely directed against civilian targets including residential areas, hospitals and the university. The provincial capital Tskhinvali was destroyed.

What does this have to do with this specific book? Plenty. Will Adams has used the Georgia Mafia as the villains of his latest adventure.

The basic story is this. Ilya Nergadze is running for presidency of Georgia in the upcoming elections. The Nergadze family are into drugs and gun running and other mafia type activities. Ilya wants to have some kind of respectability and he thinks being President will give him the respectability that he craves.

One thing Ilya wants to do is to find the Golden Fleece (that Jason and the Argonauts stole from Georgia millenia ago) and other ancient Georgia treasures and bring them back to Georgia. He beleives that this will help him get the respectability he is looking for.

Twenty years after vanishing without a trace, French archaeologist Roland Petitier makes a dramatic reappearance at a major Athens archaeological conference, promising an astonishing find - the legendary Golden Fleece. This claim is based on several ancient clay seals with the ancient greek words for golden and fleece on them. But before Petitier can give his talk, he's found dead in a hotel room.

An out-of-control greek policeman attacks and beats up Petitier's onetime protege Augustin Pascal, putting him into intensive care. The Greeks later accuse Augustin of Petitier's murder. Only Augustin's two closest friends, Daniel Knox and Gaille Bonnard can prove his innocence.

However, rumours of the fleece's rediscovery have spread, and the Georgian Mafia in the form of the Nergadze family, is determined to get it first. Ilya Nergadze sends his psychopathic grandson Mikhail to Athens with orders to bring back the fleece. Mikhail quickly becomes convinced that Dan Knox has it, and slowly moves in for the kill.

There are three searches going on in this book - and in my opinion, they dont exactly tie in very well together.

The search for the Mysteries of Elysium
The search for the Golden Fleece stolen by Jason and the Argonauts from Georgia
The search for Atlantis

I did like the explanations for the location of Atlantis in this novel - they were well thought out and logical and the research tied together Platos dialogues with the geography and history of the Mediterranean.

I did not like the torture that Mikhail Nergadze inflicted on one character and another character was killed for absolutely no reason at all (that I can see) other than Mikhail loves to kill people.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Amazon Dot Com has applied to invade Canada

Booksellers fighting Amazon's Canadian bid
Tue Mar 9, 2010
By Etan Vlessing
Yahoo News

TORONTO (Hollywood Reporter) - Fearing an apparent assault by on Canadian culture, the Canadian Booksellers Association is urging the federal government to block the U.S. Internet retailer from establishing a physical presence north of the border. has applied to the Heritage department for permission to establish its own fulfillment business here after using Canada Post for product delivery since 2002 to serve a Canadian version of its U.S. website,

But the local booksellers told Ottawa that allowing Amazon to operate on Canadian soil would contravene the Investment Canada Act, which requires book publishing and other cultural industries to comply with national cultural policies and benefit the Canadian economy.

"Individual Canadian booksellers have traditionally played a key role in ensuring the promotion of Canadian authors and Canadian culture. These are values that no American retailer could ever purport to understand or promote," CBA president Stephen Cribar said in a March 8 letter to federal Heritage minister James Moore.

Cribar urged Moore to place "reasonable limits on American domination of our book market" and to reject's current application.

Ottawa in 2002 ruled that the Investment Canada Act did not apply to, despite existing laws aiming at protecting the Canadian book industry from foreign competition, as long as it operated without a physical presence in the country.

The latest application has placed Ottawa in a bind as its cultural protectionist policies paradoxically allow the U.S. Internet retailer to freely sell books, e-books and other digital products to Canadians, as long as it (Amazon) does not establish offices or warehouses north of the border.

Allowing to establish a new business in Canada, while opposed by local booksellers, would enable Ottawa to place conditions on the U.S. online retailer's business here. Ottawa will rule on the application in the coming months.

From CBA

CBA Urges Canadian Heritage to Reject’s Application to Establish a New Business in Canada.

Canadian Booksellers Association (CBA) has written to the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, asking his government to reject’s application to establish a new cultural business in Canada. Copies of CBA’s letter have also been sent to the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada and the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry.

CBA contends that allowing Amazon to operate a business within Canada would contravene the Investment Canada Act which requires that foreign investments in the book publishing and distribution sector be compatible with national cultural policies and be of net benefit to Canada and the Canadian-controlled sector.

CBA President Stephen Cribar argues that Amazon’s entry into Canada would detrimentally affect the country’s independent businesses and cultural industries: “Individual Canadian booksellers have traditionally played a key role in ensuring the promotion of Canadian authors and Canadian culture. These are values that no American retailer could ever purport to understand or promote.”

CBA urges the Canadian government and the Department of Canadian Heritage to continue its support of our unique cultural perspective by placing reasonable limits on American domination of our book market and rejecting’s current application.

The Glassblower of Murano - Book Review

The Glassblower of Murano
by Marina Fiorato
Beautiful Books (UK) 2008
St Martins Press (USA) 2009
Author's website
Author's blog

I fell in love with mosaics and glassblowing many years ago when I first began reading the history of Constantinople. These were fascinating careers involving the arts outside of painting. Mosaics are my favourite but glassblowing comes a close second and there have been no stories about female glassblowers - until now.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is set in Venice, one of my all time favourite cities (others being Constantinople and Alexandria). Nora Manin has the blood of the glassblowers running in her veins. Her mother is English and her father was Bruno Manin, a Venetian, who died of a heart attack when Nora was just a child.

Nora was born in Venice but raised in England by her mother. Elinor was an art historian. Thus Nora grows up being drawn to glass blowing although she has no idea why. After her marriage breaks down, Nora decides to find her roots and she moves to Venice where she gets a job as a glassblower apprentice on the island of Murano.

Ms Fiorato (the author) does follow the correct immigration process, (which has been a huge nit pick for me in other reviews) and this adds to the story. In Nora's struggles to get through the legal paperwork, she finds the man of her dreams - Alessandro Bardalino.

In Venice we follow Nora as she learns more about glassblowing and as she searches for the story of her ancestor, Corradino Manin. He was also a glassblower on Murano in the 1500s and his speciality was making mirrors. The glassblowers in Venice were virtually kept as prisoners on Murano Island - they could not leave without permission of the ruling Council of Ten. The reason for this was to keep the glass blowers trade a secret in Europe, and to create a monopoly on the sale of glass mirrors and other glass items.

Corradino had an illegitimate daughter and in order to keep his daughter safe, Corradino did the unthinkable - he faked his death and traveled to France, where he passed his knowledge of glass making and blowing to the French, by creating the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

The story switches between past and present, between Corradino and Nora, as Nora tries to find out what happened to Corradino and if he really was a traitor to Venice. A thoroughly enjoyable story.

Marina Fiorato is half-Venetian. She was born in Manchester and raised in the Yorkshire Dales. She is a history graduate of Oxford University and the University of Venice, where she specialized in the study of Shakespeare’s plays as an historical source. After University she studied art and since worked as an illustrator, actress and film reviewer. She also designed tour visuals for rock bands including U2 and the Rolling Stones. She was married on the Grand Canal in Venice and lives in North London with her husband, son and daughter.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Paris Vendetta - Book Review

The Paris Vendetta
by Steve Berry
Random House 2009

This is a long post and includes politics.

The main story is how Napoelon Bonaparte discovered a secret and then hid it where noone could find it. Also during WW2, how the nazi's found a treasure and hid that as well.

Lord Graham Ashby (a British millionaire) has spent years chasing clues and finally finds the Nazi treasure in Corsica. He is also investigating another treasure rumoured to be one that Napoleon found in Egypt.

But Ashby is not above killing anyone who gets in his way. Two years previously he had ordered a man to be killed and the man was killed in Mexico city along with several other innocent people. One of those innocents was a young man from the Danish embassy named Cai Thorvaldsen. His father is Henrik Thorvaldsen, a Danish millionaire and Cotton Malone's friend.

Henrik has grieved his son and then spent 2 years looking for the man who ordered the killings. He is bound and determined to kill Ashby with his own hands.

It turns out that Ashby is in dire straits, almost bankrupt and desperate to find a large cache of treasure to pay his debts. One of the things he has done is to be invited to join the Paris Club - which is a small group of millionaires - who want to increase their wealth without having to pay any taxes. Finding this treasure that Napoleon is rumoured to have found is one means of achieving their goal.

Henrik Thorvaldsen infiltrates the Paris Club by telling the leader (Eliza LaRocque) that Ashby is a security risk. Thorvaldsen indicates that Ashby is desperate for money and is not being discreet about how he gets it. Henrik has also asked Cotton to help find and apprehend Ashby.

This adventure follows the movements and adventures of Ashby, Thorvaldsen, Malone, and Eliza Larocque as they attempt to find this treasure in their bid to either start or prevent WW3 from breaking out.

The main message behind this story is how the entire world is presently controlled by the rich (called neocons) and how the majority of taxpayers (the rank and file) are nothing but slaves to the rich.

Don't beleive me?

Read this and confirm that it has not already happened.

It was long ago realised, even by ancient monarchs, that their subjects would not tolerate in peace that which they would willingly accept in war. This concept is particularly true today, in modern democracies.

Napoleon realized that war is good for society. Like nothing else, it mobilized his best thinkers to think better. He discovered that scientists were more creative when a threat was real. Manufacturing became moer innovative and productive, the people more obedient. He discovered that the citizenry, if threatened, would allow just about any violation from government, so long as they were protected. People will only tolerate so much.

There is death,destruction, devastation, waste, but war has always existed. War works. Mans greatest technological achievements have come as a result of war. Look at the second world war. We learned to split the atom and fly in space, not to mention countless advances in electronics, science, medicine, engineering.

The idea would be to create an alternative enemy. A threat, either real or perceived, against which society rallies to defend itself. Mass destruction by nuclear weapons for example. That was what the cold war was all about. Neither side ever did much to the other, but both sides spent billions and billions in preparation. Government flourished during the cold war. The american federal system expanded to unprecedented levels. Western civilization escalated to new heights from 1950 to 1990. Man made it to the Moon thanks to the cold war.

Again look at America. In the 1950s it allowed the trampling of its First Amendment when the threat of encroaching communism was thought real. Free speech became unimportant when compared with the imagined danger of the soviet union. Even more recently, after the attacks of September 11th (2001), laws were passed that, at any other time Americans would have found repulsive. The patriot act suppressed liberties and invaded privacies on an unprecedented level. Surveillance laws curbed civil liberties and restricted established freedoms. Identification laws came into being that, previously americans had found repugnant. But the people allowed these violations so that they would be safe - or at least perceive themselves to be safe.

A credible external threat equals expanded political and economic power - as long as the threat remains credible.

Any threat would have to be containable. To scare the people into obeying - and then extract profit from their fear. Thankfully in todays world, a credible enemy already exists and has already galvanized public sentiment.


Still don't beleive me?

How about this.

Back in the year 1947, the House Select Committee began an investigation into the Motion Picture Industry. Ostensibly the goal was to ferret out communists working in the film industry. But in actuality the US Government was concerned that Hollywood was no longer as blindly supportive of government policy as it had been only a few years earlier at the height of WW2. In particular, J. Edgar Hoover had long held the opinion that the entertainment industry should be the propaganda arm for the government in peace time as well as war.

However, as WW2 had ended, the defense establishment had lobbied for the creation of a "Cold" war against the Soviet Union, a war not actually to be fought, but constantly to be prepared for at huge cost to the taxpayers. This cost was the visible manifestation of the "Military Industrial Complex" President Eisenhower referred to in his farewell address, and many in Hollywood openly wondered just why so much more money had to be thrown into the war machine during a time of peace, and more to the point, just why we were supposed to be so afraid of the communists.


Of course, what was really involved was money. War is good for business. Business had been great during WW2 and the newly created "Cold War" was just a way to keep business good. The Military Industrial Complex NEEDED Hollywood to demonize the Soviets. Otherwise, too many people were going to ask why we were being told to be so afraid of them, and few in the government had a really convincing answer for that question. So, in order to perpetuate the Cold War, those in Hollywood who might sympathize with the designated villains had to be removed; their ruined lives a small price to pay for unending access to the taxpayers' wallets.

But that was then and this is now.

Once again vast sums of money are being spent on a war, this time a hot one and getting hotter. Once again parties with a vested interest are out to smear and destroy anyone who dares ask if the wars are worth the sacrifice of our young people (not to mention the money), indeed if there really is any point at all to the wars aside from justifying the flow of money to defense contractors.

But the Soviet Union has gone out of business. The word "communist" doesn't carry the same psychological impact it used to, so the war hawk smear squad has come up with a new one, "Anti-Semite." Like "Communist", "Anti-Semite" is used to ruin the lives of people who have not actually done anything wrong other than to challenge the war profiteers. It is a new word for an old trick, and I am amazed that they are still playing the same old game, but I guess the FBI can always find some dumb-assed idiot to fall for it and do their dirty work of wrecking a career for them.

Of course, it really isn't that new a word. Oddly enough, Charles Lindbergh the famous aviator commented in a speech in Des Moines in 1941...

Our theaters soon became filled with plays portraying the glory of war. Newsreels lost all semblance of objectivity. Newspapers and magazines began to lose advertising if they carried anti-war articles. A smear campaign was instituted against individuals who opposed intervention. The terms "fifth columnist," "traitor," "Nazi," "anti-Semitic" were thrown ceaselessly at any one who dared to suggest that it was not to the best interests of the United States to enter the war. Men lost their jobs if they were frankly anti-war. Many others dared no longer speak.

Today we are seeing once again the heavy hand of the war profiteers trying to reshape the film industry into a tool to propagandize the public into a high war-fever such that they will gladly trade their own blood for gold to line the pockets of the defense establishment. And those individuals who have the courage to speak out are attacked, and once again they are smeared to silence them. In the 1940s it was "Communist", today it is "Anti-Semite", but aside from the particular label used, the methods, goals, and morality are little changed from the days of Joseph McCarthy.

If there is a difference today it is that the American people are better educated. No longer dependent on the state schools, or controlled media, the public understands the tactics used to silence those who speak out. As a result, those who speak out are more and more not only accorded the sympathetic ear that their message deserves, but the effects of the smearing are far less ruinous than in times past.

Thus, when we see people like Charlie Sheen, Willie Nelson, Sean Penn, and Marion Cotillard speak out and survive, it sends a message that it is now permissible to speak out. This is not to say that there are not risks. Rosie O'Donnell lost her spot on "The View", but the majority of Americans understand exactly why, and understand that Rosie sacrificed a great deal trying to get the truth out. Rosie is and will be remembered as a hero for truth long after her co-hosts on "The View" are properly forgotten.

In contrast, of course, we look back at those who aided the "Commie" witch-hunts of the 1940s with deserved contempt. No doubt many aided Hoover purely to rid themselves of competition, and then tried to lull themselves to sleep with the idea that in some way they had actually done something good for the nation by wrecking their neighbors' careers. I have no doubt strong liquor played a role in this grossest of self-deception. But if the informants and smear artists of the 1940s are remembered in a poor light, that should serve as a reminder to the informants and smear artists of today. It does not matter what you do with the rest of your life, aiding the new version of McCarthyism is how history will remember you. While people like Charlie Sheen, Willie Nelson, Sean Penn, and Marion Cotillard (and to step out of entertainment, former President Jimmy Carter) will be remembered and honored for their courage, history will lump the smear artists together with Stalin's "Useful idiots", little more than no-talent opportunists for whom ratting out someone was the fastest path to advancement.

They say that history repeats itself, and indeed that is the major thing wrong with history. We are seeing history repeat itself again. We have been down this path before, in the 1940s. Whether the word is "Communist" or "Anti-Semite", Hollywood is making the same mistake all over again. And Hollywood will have to live with that image in the coming decades.

McCarthyism is back

Fake Terror - the Road to War and Dictatorship

The Secret Life of Bees - Book Review

The Secret Life of Bees
by Sue Monk Kidd
Originally Published by Penguin 2003
This edition published by Penguin 2008
Movie released 2008

An excellent book. I have not yet seen the movie, but now I do want to find the DVD and watch it. I love coming of age movies.

This is the story of Lily Owens, a teenager on a peach farm in South Carolina in 1964. Lily's mother died when she was young and her father is abusive. Lily has been raised by the black housekeeper, Rosaleen. One day Rosaleen gets beaten up by some white men while she is going into town to register to vote. Lily decides that she must save Rosaleen, so she breaks Rosaleen out of jail and they skip town. They end up in Tiburon, South Carolina. Lily choses this town on the basis of a picture she found in her dead mothers belongings. It turns out to be the perfect place for Lily to find the truth about her mother and to find herself.

There is plenty of tension and conflict - this is the time of the civil rights movement when the blacks have finally won the right to vote, and the right to attend desegregated schools. What is unusal is for a white girl to be living with a family of black women, even if they are all bee keepers and honey sellers.

This was an excellent story and I read it in just 3 hours. I really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Used and Rare - Book Review

Used and Rare
by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone
St Martins Press 1997

In the early 1990s Nancy and Lawrence Goldstone were both working long hours on Wall Street in New York City.

Nancy had given birth to their daughter Emily (born roughly around 1991) and the frantic pace of their jobs meant that Emily was being raised by babysitters.

So Lawrence and Nancy made a decision - to get out of the rat race and go somewhere less driven. So they quit their fast-paced jobs and moved to Massachusetts, where Nancy and Lawrence began writing books.

Nancy's first book was called Trading Up (Surviving Success as a Trader on Wall Street) - In this hilarious, no-holds-barred account of Wall Street, Nancy Goldstone tells of the series of coincidences and sheer luck that landed her, her trading position, how she managed to succeed in the job. and the pressures and demands of the crazy world of high finance that led her to quit.
NB - I must try and find this book to read.

I have previously read and reviewed the second and third books in the Goldstone book trilogy. Slightly Chipped and Warmly Inscribed. Now I have finally located and read the first book - which tells the story of how the Goldstones became book collectors.

In 1994, Nancy tracked down a ten-dollar copy of War and Peace in order to win a birthday bet with Larry. What started as a last resort on the quest for a cheap gift soon became an addiction. Over the next three years they haunted every used and rare bookshop between New York and Boston that they could find, from dingy, dust-filled barns to elegant Park Avenue galleries.

Starting small on cheap, out-of-print used books, their addiction soon graduated to first editions and, finally, to three-quarter morocco, custom-bound antiquarian classics that they could not afford. Along the way, they gained an education in books - and in people - that we can all savor.

I read this book for the Bibliophilic challenge.