Pride, Predjudice, & Magic

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

“Mr Segundis wished to know, [...], why modern magicians were unable to work the magic they wrote about. In short, he wished to know, why was there no more magic done in England”.

Ah, but magic was done in England. It was done by two men, Mr. Norrell and Jonathan Strange. Reclusive and bookish Mr. Norrell was content to practice in obscurity until an amazing feat of magical prowess catapults him into celebrity overnight. Daring and innovative, Jonathan Strange soon outstrips his teacher Mr. Norrell gaining fame by performing wild and perilous magic against the armies of France in the service of the Duke of Wellington.

For magic is indeed returning to England, whether such a thing will be good or ill remains to be seen.

Once More Onto the Beach

Coward on the Beach by James Delingpole

 

“”But how much of it is actually true?’ This was invariably the first question publishers asked when I showed them the transcriptions of my grandfather’s taped war memoirs and I can hardly blame them. The number of actions in which Dick Coward claims to have participated does indeed almost beggar belief; the fact that he lived through them to tell the tale is, as he was fond of saying, a minor miracle”.

Dick Coward is a man out to prove his worth: to his father who has declared that the ancestral home shall go to whichever of his sons has “the better war”; to the love of his life, the gorgeous Gina, who is sure to marry him once he returns covered in glory; and to the officers and men of the 47 (Royal Marine) Commando that he isn’t some glory-hounding toff who got in because his father pulled the right strings. From the beaches of Normandy to the capture of Port-en-Bessin, Coward charges straight into battle and straight into trouble.

One By One

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Ten little Soldier Boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.

Nine little Soldier Boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.

Eight little Soldier Boys traveling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.

Seven little Soldier Boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.

Six little Soldier Boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.

Five little Soldier Boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were four.

Four little Soldier Boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.

Three little Soldier Boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.

Two little Soldier Boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.

One little Soldier Boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.

Ten strangers invited to a remote island. One by one they are murdered. The only clues a nursery rhyme and a secret each one of them would rather stay buried.

My Cup Doth Groweth Over

The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Make Up the World’s Great Drinks by Amy Stewart

 

“Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”

-Benjamin Franklin

Have you ever considered what’s inside the bottle you’ve just ordered to celebrate your wedding anniversary, the can you’re enjoying watching the big game with your friends on Sunday, or the glass placed in front of you by your friendly neighborhood bartender? You know the names: beer, wine, whiskey, vodka, tequila; but have you ever really considered what they’re made of?

The answer may just surprise you.

From agave to Zanzibar cloves, learn the surprising stories of the plants that are used to make the world’s most famous, and infamous drinks.

 

 

Fruit of the Poisoned Tree

The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin

 

It has been ten years since the Auspicious Incident that saw the end of the feared and famed Janissary Corp, the elite corps of soldiers that were the terror of the world (and the terror of their own people), and the Ottoman Empire is poised to join Europe in a new modern world. That is until a series of brutal murders threaten to undo all that Sultan Mahmud II has done. Surely these murders cannot be the work of the Janissary Corps, the corps power has been broken and its survivors scattered to the farthest corners of the Empire and beyond. There is only one man who could get to the bottom of this problem and do it quickly before the mighty city of Constantinople and the rest of the Empire are thrown into chaos. From the great Topkapi palace the voice of the sultan cries forth “Send for Yashim!”

Dasvidanya Cruel World

The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin

 

In May of 1876 there is no finer place to be alive than in Moscow. But, sadly, that is not the view held by everyone in this most splendid city of the Russian Empire. In an act of shocking destruction a young student kills himself in full view of the public promenading in the Alexander Gardens. Decadence and boredom say the police, but an act still curious enough to warrant some investigation. When a close friend of the young victim is suddenly murdered, in front of the officer investigating the suicide no less, it becomes clear that the young student’s tragic death is only the beginning. It is but the tip of a sinister conspiracy that is wound in a wicked web around the world.

Strangers in a Strange Land

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

 

On a steamship from Danzig bound for New York furniture maker Otto Rotfeld dies suddenly from appendicitis leaving, secreted among his luggage, a  golem commissioned from a dark kabbalistic sorcerer and intended to be Rotfeld’s wife.

In a shop in Lower Manhattan’s Little Syria an immigrant tinsmith attempts to repair an antique copper flask and accidentally releases a jinni  an ancient spirit trapped inside the flask by a Bedouin wizard over a thousand years ago.

Adrift in a new world that is as dangerous as it is wondrous the golem and the jinni must each find their own way to survive, to blend into cultures that would destroy them if their true natures were ever revealed.

A chance meeting ignites an unlikely friendship between the pair, but tragedy tests the bonds of friendship as soon as they are formed. The past, however, refuses to stay buried and dark figures from their respective pasts have also crossed the ocean. Will the friendship between the golem and the jinni be able to withstand the coming trouble or will their different natures throw them apart leaving them alone and vulnerable in a strange new world.