Sunday, March 28, 2010

Book Review Blog Carnival No.40

Welcome to the fortieth edition of the Book Review Blog Carnival. We have twenty one entries in this edition.

The Book Review Blog Carnival has a new Facebook fan page. You can keep up with announcements, upcoming carnivals and carnival news by becoming a fan. My hope is that both readers and participating bloggers will become fans. Trying to keep a mailing list of those who have participated and want to be apprised of carnival happenings has proven to be a herculean task. By using Facebook, you will be able to self manage your participation.

Submissions for upcoming carnivals can be made, as always, at our page on The next edition will be published on April 11th at I Read . . . .

If you would like to be a carnival host on your blog, pleas contact me at the email address in the sidebar of this blog.

Children's Books

Zoe Toft, at Playing by the book, listens to a recording of the original score by Sergei Prokofiev while reading Peter and the Wolf retold and illustrated by Ian Beck.

Crime Fiction

KerrieS at Mysteries in Paradise brings us The Water's Edge by Norwegian author Karin Fossum., in which the Quuen of Nordic crime fiction tackles some tough issues.

Leaving Norway, KerrieS takes us to Botswana with A Carrion Death by Michael Stanley. This is Mr. Stanley's debut novel. Oh my, Michael Stanley is a they - Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip.

Missy Frye, who suffers from the Incurable Disease of Writing reviews Deliver Us From Evil by Robin Caroll. "A beautiful yet tough woman working in a beautiful yet tough setting, Brannon Callahan is a search and rescue helicopter pilot for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Strong faith and a decorated history of service have kept her one step ahead of on-the-job dangers, but there’s no precedent for what’s about to happen. After a blizzard takes down a small plane carrying U.S. Marshal Roark Holland (already haunted by a recent tragedy), Brannon must save him in more ways than one and safeguard the donor heart he’s transporting to a government witness on the edge of death. Otherwise the largest child trafficking ring in history—with shocking links from Thailand to Tennessee—will slip further away into darkness along the Appalachian Trail."

Fëanor reviews no less than fourteen crime novels, mostly written by European authors, in a post he calls Crime First Month at his blog, JUST A MON.


Jim Murdoch wrote in installments about Too Many Magpies by Elizabeth Baines, on his blog, The Truth About Lies. Either the woman in the book who is having an affair with a man with bad teeth, or Jim Murdoch himself, is unstuck in time, like Billy Pilgrim.

Sumana, who is going to host our next carnival at her blog, I READ.... reviews Brick Lane by Monica Ali, a novel set in Bangladesh, which seems exotic to me but is near her home in Bengal.

Laurie Bluedorn, of Trivium Pursuit, read Bob, Son of Battle, a story aboot a wee dog and a wee laddie and a wee Scotsman, which is a bit of a tear jerker, at least in the part that Laurie quoted, and all written in dialect.

Jim, at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity just read the classic Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edin Lefevre , a novel about early twentieth century Wall Street.

Siobhan Curiouswas given Roberto Bolaño's The Skating Rink as a gift. She found it a difficult and rewarding read. See why at her blog, Classroom as Microcosm.

Elena reviews Crime and Punishment by Feyodor Dostoyevsky, or Why You Shouldn’t Smack Grandmas With Axes, at Russianize This.

Courage in Patience by Beth Fehlbaum is a novel about surviving child sexual abuse, and a must read, according to Adam at ZenTactics News Page.

Jim Murdoch writes about Herbert Morgan Waidson's translation of the 1842 novella, The Black Spider by Jeremias Gotthelf, at The Truth About Lies.

Adnan Khalid at Eddy Straight From The Heart, read Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho, which begins "I begin with the name of Allah, the most merciful. Once Upon a Time there was a prostitute...".

Science Fiction

Elizabeth, of Imaginary Lands is nostalgic for the Star Trek Enterprise TV series and has reviewed a number of books written about the characters in that series, including Star Trek Enterprise: Last Full Measure.

Shannon Christman, The Minority Thinker doesn't like the ending of Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde . It is a book about a future distopia which bans most technology but retains eBay's feedback system and Fcebook's friending process. Chilling idea.

Graphic Novels

Max Nolan reviews xxxHolic #1 on his blog, Let's review comics!. I was a bit worried about the title at first, but xxx apparently doesn't have the same connotation in Japanese.

Emm, at Addicted to Media, says that Fool’s Gold by The Dearne High is a revelation about the potential of graphic novels and of high school students.


I reviewed Ian Mortimer's The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England right here on this blog. I thought that it was a shame that Mortimer didn't include any hints how to get to medieval England. It's a bit misleading, in my opinion. I had my bags packed.

Self Improvement

Fred Grazton presents what at first seems to be a parody of self help books, The Lazy Way to Success at Your Best Library. I've been doing that all my life, with mixed results. It would appear that Fred is the author of this book. Reviewing your own work, eh? I don't think Fred is as lazy as he lets on.

Other Stuff

Mari Partyka blogs about listening to audio books on her iPod while running, in Reading My Way to an Ultramarathon at Bookworm with a View. Mari is not lazy at all.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Robert Harris

Comspirata is the second book in a trilogy on the life of the famous Roman orator, Cicero. The first volume, Imperium, was a kind of 75BC John Grisham courtroom drama. Conspirata is more of a Tom Clancy thriller. Cicero has just begun his year as Roman Consul when the book begins, when he discovers a vast right wing conspiracy, led by prominent members of the Roman Senate, who are planning to murder him and destroy the Roman republic, in order to despoil it for their own gain. Julius Caesar is the shadowy puppet master behind this conspiracy, planning to pick up the pieces and rule the world.

Harris weaves real historical events and people through his story of Cicero's manoeuvrings to save the republic from these enemies within. The cynical manipulation of public opinion through which the conspirators try to overthrow Cicero and destroy the republic is an object lesson for our own republic. In our own time there are a number of issues over which people attempt to appeal to emotion, distort the truth and gain power over us. I leave it to you to decide which issues and what people.

Cicero's only weapons against them are words. He has made his reputation as an orator , and he uses his skills, logic and the truth to, temporarily, overcome his enemies. His downfall in the end is due to his own pride and weakness, which causes him to compromise his principles. The book ends as Cicero is leaving Rome, to go into exile, imposed on him through the worst sort of demagoguery, by then newly elected Tribune, Clodius.

There will be a third volume in the Cicero series, once again written in the voice of Tiro, Cicero's slave and secretary. I am anxiously awaiting it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England

A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century
Ian Mortimer

The best thing about this book is it's enticing title. I was rather hoping for some instructions that would help me actually get to the fourteenth century, alas. After reading it, I would just as soon not visit such a dangerous time and place. The black death and all that - not to mention a considerable amount of gratuitous violence. I'd be safer walking around East St. Louis at night.

Ian Mortimer is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and has written biographies of Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, Edward III and Henry IV. Presumably he is related to the Earl, and to Edmund Mortimer, who plotted with Henry Percy to dethrone Henry IV and was immortalized as a bit part in Shakespeare's history play. Falstaff got better press, though.

If I did manage to get myself to fourteenth century England, perhaps with the help of Michael Crichton (who had an interesting, but somewhat problematical way of getting to medieval France in his novel Timeline), I would be sure to have brought along a copy of this book. Mortimer provides detailed information about every aspect of fourteenth century English life, from the social hierarchy to proper bathroom etiquette. It is proper to hold a conversation while sitting in a multi-hole latrine but one must wait to be spoken to first if sharing with someone of higher status.

The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England would be invaluable to a historical novelist interested in writing about the period. A tremendous amount of research is done. It's just waiting for a good plot.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

39th Book Review Blog Carnival

The Book Review Blog Carnival, 39th edition, is now available at Bart's Bookshelf. Stop by and say hello.

A new edition of the carnival is posted every other Sunday. If you review books on your blog you can participate by submitting a link to a book review at our submission page at

As the Carnival Barker, I am always looking for blogs to host a carnival edition. Please email be at the address in the sidebar of this blog if you are a book reviewer, have a blog, and would like to be a carnival host.

The Book Review Blog Carnival now has a Facebook fan page! Become a fan by following this link:

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pompeii and Imperium

Two books by Robert Harris

Robert Harris is an English gentleman, which, of course means that he is fascinated with ancient Rome. In preparation for reading his newest book Conspirata I checked out his first two Roman novels, Pompeii and Imperium. Harris has also written an alternate history novel, Fatherland, some thrillers and some books of real, non fiction, history.
Pompeii, not surprisingly, has to do with the eruption of Vesuvius and the destruction of the city of Pompeii. Harris peoples his book with both fictional and historical characters. His protagonist, Marcus Attilius Primus is a hydraulic engineer, or an "Aquarius" as he is titled. He has an adventure suitable for Indiana Jones in the process of repairing the Aqua Augusta, the aqueduct which waters Pompeii, Neapolis and other towns in the area. In the process he uncovers corruption in the local government, not to mention a murder, learns that Vesuvius is about to erupt,and finds a love interest in the daughter of the ex-slave who serves as the villain. Pliny the Elder who was Naval commander in the area at the time figures prominently in the book. His nephew, Pliny the Younger makes a cameo appearance, as a callow youth and the Emperor Vespasian plays a part off stage.

Imperium is the first volume in a proposed trilogy on the life of Cicero. (The new book Conspirata is the second) Imperium is a John Grisham like courtroom drama, featuring Cicero as the up and coming young lawyer who beats the more experienced and wily older man in an important case. It is also a historical novel that attempts to document the early career of this important Roman statesman. The story is narrated by Cicero's slave and secretary, Tiro, a real person, who is believed to have actually written a biography of the great man, which has been lost. Other real people, including Julius Caesar, and the famous generals Pompey and Crassus play roles in this novel.

I found subtle references to the controversy over climate change in Pompeii and even more subtle comments of the invasion of Iraq in Imperium. Harris uses the Roman Empire as a mirror to hold up against contemporary society. He does it in a way that the reader doesn't have to notice if one does not want to. For the record, Pliny the Elder is a climate change skeptic.

Monday, March 1, 2010

God's Secretaries

The Making of the King James Bible
Adam Nicholson

Adam Nicholson is the fifth Baron Carnoc, which might give him some cred in explaining the inner machinations of Jacobean politics into which he delves in this book, which is about much more than just biblical scholarship in the early seventeenth century. God's Secretaries ranges far in it's opening chapter, to the death of Elizabeth, who Nicholson says was an unpopular, and almost broke, queen at the end of her reign, to the rise of the "puritan" strain of English religion and to the clever way that James I played he various parties against one another to create and preserve the United Kingdom. Incidentally, the original title was Baronet Carnoc, Carnoc being some godforsaken place, possible near J.K. Rowling's castle, in Scotland. This title was sold to on of Nicholson's ancestors by James I in a clever money raising scheme. The Nicholsons became full fledged barons in 1916, courtesy of the first world war and Sir Arthur Nicholson, 11th Baronet and Permanent Undersecretary in the Foreign Office. I'm not sure what a Baronet is, a Baron in toe shoes, maybe?

According to God's Secretaries, James was in a bit of a pickle when he ascended to the English throne on the death of Elizabeth. He had this wonderful invention, the Church of England, created by Henry VIII, which made him the head of the church as well as the state. Other European monarchs were subject to interference in their affairs by the Pope and/or the bishops of the churches in their countries. God trumps the King every time.

Henry had created this marvelous church where he was both king and pope. But, if it was possible to create a new church other people could do the same, and in England, "Puritan" churches had sprung up, churches which taught that every person could read the Bible for themselves and needed no religious authority higher than the elders of their own congregation. Worse, some members and clergy in the Church of England leaned toward their revolutionary notions. James was used to these people because he had been born and raised as the king of Scotland, where the Presbyterian faith made him, as king, just another member of the church, no better than anyone else. James really preferred being the top dog.

In God's Secretaries Nicholson explores how James used the writing of a new standard English translation of the Bible to reinforce his authority over both church and state and, at the same time, temporarily quieted the political strife caused by the religious split between the Church of England and the "Puritans." It didn't last long, of course.

Amazingly, the King James Bible was written by a committee, a big committee with lots of subcommittees. There were both Bishops and Puritans on those subcommittees. Somehow, they found a way to work together and create what has been called the greatest work of prose in the English Language.

Maybe Congress should read this book.