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Congregate if you dare

A NetGalley review of

The Congregation

by

Desiree Bombenon.

A congregation of the abused, strong in their determination to channel their emotional hurt into something positive –  for them – but in reality a destructive act of great consequences.

A story of just what lengths people will go when they have been hurt by those they trusted. From the child battered by a parent; to a child abused by a person in a position of trust suh as a priest or social worker; to a wife beaten on a regular absis by her abusive controlling husband; all will go to extreme lengths to demonstrate just how damaged they are by what has happened to them.

The legacy of such tragedy goes on echoing down the generations and the Roman Catholic Church still has not fully answered for its sins – or so those in the Congregation would attest.

In Chicago, there were a number of allegations of sexual and physical abuse in the RC church carried out by priets of varying ranks. So much so that  Andrew Greeley wrote The Priestly Sins (2004), a novel about a young priest from the Plains States who is exiled to an insane asylum and then to an academic life because he reports abuse that he has witnessed.

Fall from Grace is a 1993 novel by Father Greeley. It is a story of sin and corruption in leading Irish Catholic families in Chicago and the cover up of child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. [Wikipedia]

It is clear from records now released that the RC church including Jesuits and schools in Chicago hid the behaviour of priests such as  Donald McGuire and Daniel McCormack who are now convicted. So the setting was very important for this novel.

The other issue that drives tis story is the church’s stance on homosexuality. Apparently, it is OK to have such thoughts, but not to act on them.  Between 20 and 60 percent of all Catholic priests are gay, according to one estimate cited by Donald Cozzens in his book The Changing Face of the Priesthood. This is a higher percentage than in the general population and there has been much speculation that a gay lobby exists within the Vatican power brokers. Nevertheless, being known to be gay in the priesthood, is a recipe for blackmail and so we see in this story also.

These are both very important issues and either would have made for a great thriller by other authors, but this story lacks tension and insufficient complications and mis-directions to provide for a really satisfactory read. Thi is sad as the auhor has picked a great possibility but has not followed through. We found out the perpetrators too early and the hero/heroine had too little to do to unravel the plot.

So this is a light version of a conspiracy novel that would work for those not familiar for the genre and wanting an introduction but for me lacked depth.

 

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Bones, Bones, Bones again, and then more Bones!

NOT (!) a NetGalley Review but just book reviews for Kathy Reichs

Yes, I’ve just had a four-fold fest of Kathy Reichs.

I haven’t read her for a while and when I found a great second-hand bookshop and one of her books, I started reading paperbacks again…

I have read every Kathy Reichs book in sequence and was very glad to find that the paperback I had picked up was the next one on for me to read (even though I was now 4 behind!). I have never yet failed to be fascinated with Tempe  Brennan and her complicated emotional life, and horrified by her job and the dreadful crimes that are committed in these books.

Once I started with ‘Bones of the Lost’ I was hooked again and remembered why her books were best sellers (the TV series is not really related at all and I have given up thinking it ever might be). However I do have a very philosophical question to ask of the world of books – ‘Why, whenever I read a crime novel over my cereal in the morning, do I always come to the section about the grisly murder, horrible torture or morgue scenes, especially autopsies or dissections or descriptions of body parts found scattered and how the brain matter is splattered across walls?’  With all the gory details included and spelled out in full? Especially for a person such as me who hides their eyes when surgery comes on TV?

Watch Dem Bones on YouTube:

I loved all four of these books equally but the last book – Speaking in Bones –  is perhaps not as new in its ‘crime’ as the others. The outlawed priest and exorcisms and the ghastly outcomes are perhaps old territory as is the psychological illness of one of the main characters (I won’t say who,  as this will spoil it for you) and what happens as a result is again not new. I felt that this last read book lacked some of the tension of the previous ones and I did get rather annoyed with Tempe and her emotions and impulsive behaviour which, having lived through all that she had, you would have thought she had grown out of. Rather childish in many ways and her agonising got on my nerves a bit… but all’s well that ends well and she did survive for another story to be written about her!

So 4 star for all books again.

I look forward to the next one – perhaps next year?

 

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Margate by the Sea: an unexpected delight

We went to Margate to visit the new(ish, 2011) Turner Art Gallery and the Grayson Perry exhibition.

We were slightly disappointed by its architecture – not the shape but the colour – dull grey. Apparently when opened it was coloured by banners but not now and whilst the sun was shining – quite remarkable for this end of summer this year, we could envisage it being very dull indeed on a wet grey day by the sea.85-turner-contemporary

It is positioned right at one end of the huge series of bays that form the Margate sea front. By the harbour wall of what was once Meregate a small fishing village . it has been inhabited since probably pre-historic times and certainly the Romans lived there but constant invasions made life difficult during the 8th, 9th and 10th century.

Margate is situated on the coast of the Isle of Thanet, which of course, hasn’t been an island for a long time. But it was still an island when the Romans lived there and a bridge wasn’t built until the 1400s. In the 1700s you could still reach it by ferry, but the channel silted up and Reculver is now on dry(ish) land. The land still needs to be defended against the sea trying to gain its channel back and so there are sea defences all along the coastline.

Margate – which is on the outer edge and thus faces the English Channel, was part of the Cinque Ports through the control of Dover, but became independent from their control in 1857.

It is claimed to be one of, if not the first, coastal resort for sea bathing which greatly changed its status from a fishing (smuggling) harbour to a fashionable bathing town bringing with it not only boats carrying traffic down river from London but eventually also the railway. Turner lived in Margate for some years coming down by boat from London and then leaving by boat to cross the channel from there. Very convenient – and thus the Turner Gallery was built here.isle of thanet

However, after the flush of post war holidays in seaside resorts within Britain and then the holiday camps of Butlins  and Pontins etc decline in the 1970s, when cheap Spanish holidays came in for the masses, Margate declined.

I went to this area of coastline often as a child staying at Broadstairs, just along from Margate in a bed and breakfast establishment of which there were huge numbers. These high terraced houses are now in sad repair but, since 2011 and the Turner Gallery, some are being bought up and refurbished and becoming boutique hotels such as the Crescent Victoria where we stayed, just along from the Gallery.

The Isle of Thanet has a most amazing coastline. It is really all sand and yet more sand. Great depth of beaches that are shallow in slope so good for kiddie play which is why the area was so popular when I was a child. And now there is a seawater pool in the middle of one beach for safe swimming.

Margate is tatty round the edges but has some interesting areas around the Old Town where they seem to specialise in vintage clothes and furniture. We found two really nice places to eat – Harbour Café which did the most amazing chips; and the Ambrette which is a modern Indian – even does roast Sunday lunches with venison and other exotic meats. However, rather lacking in vegetarian food which was a shame. Still good reviews from the meat eaters – even some suggesting it is worth a Michelin Star!

And then of course there is the Shell Grotto. No visit to Margate is complete without a visit to this very interesting but unexplained and without know history, underground cavern.shell-grotto

Stories about when it was created range from the Phonoecians in very early history (yes they did trade with the UK) as a religious place – with an altar at the far end of these underground passageways. Or a Folly of course. Or something else entirely.

What is certain is that all the shells apart from 4 are English, it has been around a few hundred years and has been open since the 19th century to the public, and the shells have been added, altered etc at different times but some are clearly very old. Many of the patterns are symbolic eg A Tree of Life; A Corn Goddess; A Ganesha; A skeleton; A Perseus and so on….

Spooky as it is all underground and quite large – 104 feet.

What is a really nice thing to have is the Viking Trail. This is coastal path for bikes and pedestrians which is very smooth and wide and goes all around the island’s coast passing through Ramsgate and Broadstairs and Reculver too. It is 25 miles in length so you can run a marathon if you wish – but the one running when we were there did a figure of 8 and came back to its start!viking trail

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Voodoo or Vodou or is it Vodu?

The Offering

by Desiree Bombenon

Voodoo or Vodou or is it Vodu? A syncretic religion which combines various thought and belief systems with different schools of thought on practice. It has spirits and gods and blood sacrifices – maybe or maybe not.big_bad_voodoo_by_exphrasis-d489rid

This novel is set on the Big island of Hawaii with a veritable TV cast of Hawaii-Mapcharacters – a naive and vulnerable teenager; a family split with a new boyfriend who was the father’s cop partner; a ‘mad’ villain looking to cleanse himself through a religious sacrifice; some billionaires who double as private investigators; and a gut instinct – which helps find the real path to the villain.

It has it all. And would make a great TV series if you could believe in the storyline.

To me, there was just too much and very reminiscent of the TV series with Jennifer and Jonathan Hart. [See more at: http://coffeetimeromance.com/CoffeeThoughts/13-private-detective-couples-in-books-and-film/#sthash.XqKdNetB.dpuf] or Macmillan and Wife.

A NetGalley Review

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Denbots rock

A Netgalley Review

Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

By

Becky Chambers

Denbots rock… I bet you never need to go to the dentist – no toothaches, no fillings, no abscesses.. just white shiny teeth – and you wouldn’t have to ‘bribe’ kids to clean their teeth with toothbrushes that flash coloured lights or the little timers I’ve just bought my grand-children.

I found this to be a really imaginative piece of  sci-fi with some great Aliens. Not just their names but also time was spent imaging on what they looked like, what their different characters might be, their attitudes, cultures and food.

I especially liked the not-lizard Sissix  (Aandrisk) with her complicated  sex and family life; Dr Chef (Grum) who combined cooking with medicine using food as medication from sweetness for comfort to herbal concoctions for hang-overs, sadness and general health. The Grum have different sexes at different times of their life too and he was currently male having passed through his female and motherhood period.

Then there was the  AI Lovey – in joke here – named after Ada Lovelace – geeks would be aware of course of her.ada

Ada was a Mathematician, and considered to be the first Computer Programmer living 1815–1852. Yes, a woman wrote the first computer program! She was the daughter of Lord Byron of infamy, and her father was actually married to her mother and so she was legitimate. And very well educated. She was taught the sciences in order, according to her mother, to prevent her becoming like her father… She became a friend of Charles Babbage (Difference Engine as seen in the Science Museum) and her work on the programming of this machine was actually published in 1843 but she ‘cheated’ but only giving her initials and thus the journal was unaware she was female.320px-Babbage_Difference_Engine

 

 

 

 

 

Babbage’s Difference Engine [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Difference_engine#/media/File:Babbage_Difference_Engine.jpg] was a calculator but one that was never ever finished (until built by the Science Museum) because Babbage had thought of a better engine yet – the Analytical Engine, which could be considered a general purpose computer. This Engine was to use punch cards as per the weaving Jacquard loom. And could undertake 3 different types of actions. It was a brilliant concept and the first ‘real’ computers actually used punch cards as I well remember from university days – does this date me? Probably but I was taught programming using these cards and I had a summer job translating accounts onto punch cards too…

Back to the book. The Geeks who were of course the Techies and their craziness is well known to those of us who have worked in computing – geeks tend to be very individualistic and dressed with little regard to fashion, weather or even cleanliness – to see them in a suit is a rare bird indeed.

The Aeluons were lovely too and the idea of not having voice boxes is a natural extension of sign language and skin adaptations and their rainbow colouring was universally acknowledged as being beautiful.

I thought the Gaian cult too was interesting that all the souls were tied to Earth and that they had become survivalists as I am not sure that is what Gaia is really about – Gaia after all is the planet itself and all that it is – a living system which I guess is where the souls being tied comes in, but Gaia is really a self-regulating system – which could include the death of all humans if it means the life of the planet.

I compared this to the enhanced humanity cult where they bred children in gestation chambers based on what they anticipated the adult requirement for them would be in terms of traits ad capabilities. Such a cold idea.. but then we have seen the idea of breeding for genetic traits coming up time and again in our human history and even now, we hear about people using artificial insemination so that they ensure  the right sex of the child.

And the one thing I really want to take away from this book are the Denbots. They rock!

 

5 stars for originality and good style, I wanted to find out how it all ended and just kept on reading…

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