Monday, January 27, 2014

Master and Commander

Master and Commander  (Aubrey-Maturin #1)
by Patrick O'Brian

This, the first in the splendid series of Jack Aubrey novels, establishes the friendship between Captain Aubrey, R.N., and Stephen Maturin, ship's surgeon and intelligence agent, against a thrilling backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. Details of a life aboard a man-of-war are faultless rendered: the conversational idiom of the officers in the ward room and the men on the lower deck, the food, the floggings, the mysteries of the wind and the rigging, and the roar of broadsides as the great ships close in battle. It is the dawn of the nineteenth century; Britain is at war with Napoleon's France. When Jack Aubrey, a young lieutenant in Nelson's navy, is promoted to captain, he inherits command of HMS Sophie, an old, slow brig unlikely to make his fortune. But Captain Aubrey is a brave and gifted seaman, his thirst for adventure and victory immense. With the aid of his friend Stephen Maturin, ship's surgeon and secret intelligence agent, Aubrey and his crew engage in one thrilling battle after another, their journey culminating in a stunning clash with a mighty Spanish frigate against whose guns and manpower the tiny Sophie is hopelessly outmatched.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Conquest of New Spain

The Conquest of New Spain 
by Bernal Diaz del Castillo

 "The History of the Conquest of New Spain is a subject in which great interest is felt at the present day, and the English public will hail these memoirs, which contain the only true and complete account of that important transaction. The author of this original and charming production, to which he justly gives the title of 'The True History of the Conquest of New Spain,' was himself one of the Conquistadores; one who not only witnessed the transactions which he relates, but who also performed a glorious part in them; a soldier who, for impartiality and veracity, perhaps never had his equal. His account is acknowledged to be the only one on which we can place reliance, and it has been the magazine from which the most eloquent of the Spanish writers on the same subject, as well as those of other countries, have borrowed their best materials. Some historians have even transcribed whole pages, but have not had sufficient honesty to acknowledge it. The author, while living, was never rewarded for the great services he had rendered his country, and it is remarkable that, after his death, his very memoirs were pillaged by court historians, to raise a literary monument to themselves."

Friday, January 10, 2014

Journey to the River Sea

Journey to the River Sea
 by Eva Ibbotson

Journey to the River Sea is an adventure novel for children written by Eva Ibbotson and published by MacMillan in 2001. It is set mainly in Brazil early in the twentieth century and conveys the author's vision of the Amazon River.

 It was a finalist for all of the major British children's literary award, winning the Smarties Prize, ages 9–11, and garnering an unusual commendation as runner-up for the Guardian Award. Anne Fine, British Children's Laureate (2001–2003) and one of three former winners on the Guardian panel, wrote that "we all fell on Eva Ibbotson's perfectly judged, brilliantly light to read, civilised Journey To The River Sea, in which we are shown how, as one of the characters reminds us, 'Children must lead big lives... if it is in them to do so.' Oh, please let her write another book as fine as this, because, in any other year, we would have handed her the prize without a thought."

 Maia is an orphan living in the Mayfair Academy for Young Ladies in England. However, word comes from Mr. Murray, a lawyer and her guardian, that he has found her relatives who are willing to take her in, called the Carters. Along with a governess, Miss Minton, Maia goes by sea to Manaus, Brazil. On the ship, she meets a boy named Clovis King, who is traveling with his adoptive parents. He wishes to go back to England, to his foster mother, but the Goodleys (the acting troupe) won't let him. Maia promises that she will go and see his play once in Brazil.

Friday, January 3, 2014


by Robert Louis Stevenson

Kidnapped is a historical fiction adventure novel by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. Written as a "boys' novel" and first published in the magazine Young Folks from May to July 1886, the novel has attracted the praise and admiration of writers as diverse as Henry James, Jorge Luis Borges, and Seamus Heaney. A sequel, Catriona, was published in 1893. As historical fiction, it is set around 18th-century Scottish events, notably the "Appin Murder", which occurred near Ballachulish in 1752 in the aftermath of the Jacobite Rising. Many of the characters, and one of the principals, Alan Breck Stewart, were real people. The political situation of the time is portrayed from different viewpoints, and the Scottish Highlanders are treated sympathetically.