Sunday, 27 July 2014

2014 Reading Part 5

Yay! Another eight sets of pages perused and entertainment gained. The usual mix of old and new (to me) and a left-fielder that I saw by chance.

I started out with this one, the third in the Cousins War series by Philippa Gregory about the Wars of the Roses. After the White and Red Queens, this tells the story of the White Queen's mother, Jacquetta, descendant of a water nymph-cum-goddess. Whilst the other two books have told the same story from different viewpoints, this goes back in time a bit, ending pretty much just into the beginning of The White Queen storyline.

It tells the tale of a young girl's attempts to hide her small magic whilst all around her seem to want to exploit it. A great tale of the reign of Henry VI and the machinations of his French queen which threaten the safety of Jacquetta, her family and country.

And now to the serious stuff... The Five go off on holiday (it was ever so...) and stay with (shock! horror!) a real boy - not a girl who wants to be, but a real boy!!! I presume Enid Blyton must have overstocked on Aspirin or something, but anyway the young lad lives on the edge of a secret airfield and his older brother works as a test pilot. Thanks heavens, at last a FF book rooted in a more realistic everyday world... But what's this? The likeable brother has stolen a top secret plane!!! Time to put your goggles on Timmy! My money is on the butterfly collector! No, seriously... Dick, I've told you before about doing that, there's no place for that in this kind of book...

By gum it's all go! At the end of the last Sven Hassel memoir-based book Sven, Tiny and the French Foreign Legion chappie had been wounded and at the start of this they are flung into a cattle truck heading for hospital. Whilst at death's door they are still talking of tearing someone's buttocks off. I'm not a teenager any more so I might kick this series into touch... I'll stick with the Famous Five, at least they are likeable even if unbelievable...

Another second-hand market stall book from Robert Heinlein. I don't remember this from my Dad's collection but it tells the tale of two brothers who have typically teenage delusions of grandeur and a half-baked scheme to buy a space ship and trade stuff to make their fortunes without any knowledge of customs duties or customs as in culture on the planets they have chosen to trade to. A lot of his books tell the reader quite a bit about the type of world Robert Heinlein himself would have liked to live in. He would have hated today's namby-pamby, non-chastisement, selfish, risk-averse, blame-and-sue-others-for your-own-mistakes, care for criminals not for victims culture. And come to think of it...

The serious book for this time was one of Bill Bryson's forays into the history of the English language. This is serious with a load of fun built into it. Effortlessly entertaining, though with an obvious amount of effort that had to be put into it. I do admire Mr Bryson!

This had been languishing in my attic for thirty years and is one of Dennis Wheatley's one-off novels. Perhaps because of the old-fashioned name of the hero - Swithin Destime (changed to Larry for the 1930s film of the book when he was played by a young James Mason). The tale has military type Swithin cashiered for sloshing the dastardly Turkish Prince Ali who has tried to kiss a young girl - the cad! Luckily the young girl's father is a rich magnate and takes on Swithin, by now in love with afore-mentioned daughter, to spy for him in (oh what a coincidence!) Turkey.

Revolution is in the air and our lad Swith comes up against beautiful Russian spies and a eunuch from the old harem (there's no such thing as an ex-eunuch...) Will he prevail, will he unmask the conspirators? Will he win the girl? Well of course, but you'll have to read it to find out how! My Dad used to have the film on 16mm film stock and it was an absolute cracker. Originally called The Eunuch of Stamboul it was retitled The Spy in White for a 1940 re-release. I'd love to see it again but somehow doubt an imminent showing on Sky Movies...

I saw this on a cheap book stall and was intrigued enough to shell out for a copy. Apparently in the 1950s Ian Fleming went off on a funded trip around some of the world's most glamorous cities, writing articles about them for a newspaper. Here they are, with all the bits that the newspapers censored. Fleming was not the man to write about beaches and Premier Inns. He seeks out the gangsters, the gambling joints and tells you where to find (and how much to pay for) glamorous escorts - to dance with or whatever. The best bits are at the beginning as he flies east to Hong Kong and Macao. He finds Hawaii and New York a bit boring after those. Bear in mind that hotel (and escort) prices are the 1950s versions... Worth a read though as they describe a style of living beyond most of us and he meets some very interesting characters!

Ah yes, I couldn't resist, I love this series about the physician fellow at Cambridge University in the 1350s. Wow, it all kicks off in this one as Michaelhouse College elect a new Master who immediately turns despot and sacks almost everyone, spends vast amounts of money that he may not have on new build projects (sounds familiar?) and all at the same time as a series of murders set the academic and Cambridge town worlds at loggerheads. With the added inconvenience of a sister, determined to find him a wife, Matthew Bartholomew must help Brother Michael, the university Senior Proctor, solve the murders and survive a bee sting... Another dozen or so of these yet to read and I can't wait!

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