To save precious centuries-old Arabic texts from Al Qaeda, a band of librarians in Timbuktu pulls off a brazen heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven.
In the 1980s, a young adventurer and collector for a government library, Abdel Kader Haidara, journeyed across the Sahara Desert and along the Niger River, tracking down and salvaging tens of thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts that had fallen into obscurity. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu tells the incredible story of how Haidara, a mild-mannered archivist and historian from the legendary city of Timbuktu, later became one of the world’s greatest and most brazen smugglers.
In 2012, thousands of Al Qaeda militants from northwest Africa seized control of most of Mali, including Timbuktu. They imposed Sharia law, chopped off the hands of accused thieves, stoned to death unmarried couples, and threatened to destroy the great manuscripts. As the militants tightened their control over Timbuktu, Haidara organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 350,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali.
Over the past twenty years, journalist Joshua Hammer visited Timbuktu numerous times and is uniquely qualified to tell the story of Haidara’s heroic and ultimately successful effort to outwit Al Qaeda and preserve Mali’s—and the world’s—literary patrimony. Hammer explores the city’s manuscript heritage and offers never-before-reported details about the militants’ march into northwest Africa. But above all, The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu is an inspiring account of the victory of art and literature over extremism.
“I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.” – Isaac Newton
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. — Abraham Lincoln
There are very few people who are going to look into the mirror and say, ‘That person I see is a savage monster;’ instead, they make up some construction that justifies what they do. — Noam Chomsky
“There is no denying that Hitler and Stalin are alive today… they are waiting for us to forget, because this is what makes possible the resurrection of these two monsters.” – Simon Wiesenthal
Isaac Newton. Arguably the greatest scientist who has ever lived, and some say the greatest who will ever live. Newton’s time was as unique as him – a time of great learning living alongside the darkness of ignorance, brutality and savage poverty – often encouraged by a church that held down the populace with the whip of superstition.
Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night: God said, “Let Newton be!” and all was light.
A brilliant scientist, without a doubt. But what could he have accomplished if he hadn’t spent thousands of hours, thousands of pages, on superstition?
* * *
Paul Marcus is a broken man. His wife and young daughter were murdered on the side of a dark, rainy road, Paul barely surviving a bullet and knife. His family slaughtered, he retreats from his work at the NSA. A brilliant mathematician and cryptographer, Paul leaves it all behind to spend time on his farm with his wife and daughter’s horses and the family dog Buddy. It is a quiet life, not truly fulfilling mentally, but he simply can’t force himself to return to his old life.
Suddenly, Paul finds himself forced back into the world. And all hell breaks loose. The newest Nobel Laureate in Medicine, he has no interest in accepting a prize he is being offered for decoding the portions of human DNA that controls a particular heart disease – a disease his daughter suffered. It didn’t save her – nothing could have, not when a bullet tore her life away. But the President of the United States is up for the Nobel Peace Prize, and it just wouldn’t look good for him if Paul refuses to accept the award.
Then he receives a telephone call that could change not only his own life, but the lives of every being on earth. Isaac Newton’s studies into the Bible have been found. But what do they mean? Are they the ramblings of a man so determined to find meaning where none exists that he is jousting at shadows? Or are the hundreds of thousands of words he wrote truly a window into the thoughts of god, and a warning of a coming Armageddon?
To be honest, I didn’t really think, once I figured out what the story was truly about, that I would be able to tolerate it, much less enjoy it. Was I ever completely and utterly wrong. 17 hours and 35 minutes of narration by Mikael Naramore and I was totally immersed in the story the whole time. Yes, parts of it made me smack my forehead and growl. The Bible was written by humans, rewritten and translated over and over through many languages – Hebrew, Greek, Roman, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, the list goes on and on, portions left out that didn’t conform to the church’s current thought processes, power struggles or intentions. Anything that might have been learned has long since been lost. But Newton was absolutely certain that the Bible was truly the word of god, and his findings would save the world.
Called to Jerusalem to interpret the papers and decode the work, he finds himself drawn into a world of intrigue, international espionage and murder, and shocking (horrifying) views into world politics and plots going back to the Nazi regime – and then further back to the 16th century. Plots that feed the fortunes of a select few families with intentions of ruling the world – and plans to destroy the very world that cradles us all. All. For. Money. Well, and power, we can’t forget power. Power beyond anything any rational human being could possibly realize.
I was completely enthralled by the amount of research that went into this book. It was, in a word, amazingly well researched and thought out. History, politics, finance, it’s all there, and all captivating. I could rattle on and on, but I will leave it for you to find for yourself. Well worth all 17 hours 36 minutes!
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. Highly recommended if you are prepared to open your mind to it.
O waste of lost, in the hot mazes, lost, among bright stars on this weary, unbright cinder, lost! Remembering speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door. Where? When?
O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.” – ― Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel
Jesus’ mother said, “They have no more wine.” Jesus replied, “Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.” “This was the first miracle of Jesus and it was performed to reveal his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.” (John 2:3-5) and (John 2:11)
I have a rule for books that purport to be based upon historical events and places. Teach me something new, something I didn’t know and yet will be fascinated enough to research on my own. If this sort of book doesn’t have me highlighting on nearly every page, I get bored. The Cana Mystery delivered.
Based upon the Christian story of The Lost Jars of Cana, the story is a rollicking adventure tale, steeped in Middle Eastern and Christian Church beliefs, carried out across a landscape both understood, such as Harvard and Boston, to the city of Tabgha, the city where the story of Jesus and the multiplication of loaves and fishes supposedly occurred. The jars themselves, the items that sit at the centre of this whirlwind, thrilling story are supposed to be the jars Jesus requested to be filled with water, which he then changed to wine for a wedding party. Saving the jars from an evil man and transporting them across a hostile and brutal land is the largest part of the story, and the descriptive power of the story does not disappoint.
As a non-Christian, I was hesitant to start this book, fearing the science and politics of the lands and the history would be unbelievable. Surprisingly, I found the book realistically portrayed – it is a ‘Christian’ book, but not overwhelmingly superstitious, something I found pleasant.
Overall, a good thriller with a strong thread of history and some good information on areas and happenings I enjoyed learning about.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.
For me, I always wonder what’s worse: an emotional betrayal or a physical betrayal? That’s a really tough call. – Hilarie Burton
In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility. – Eleanor Roosevelt
Oh, Owl. You just can’t win, can you? One rule. Just one stupid rule. Don’t mess with the supernatural. Of course, if she could identify the supernatural, well, that rule would be a whole lot easier to follow. And maybe she wouldn’t have vampires chasing her all over the world in a vendetta for that one, silly mistake. You know, the one where she opened up the box she stole for a client. A client she didn’t know was a vampire. A box that just happened to hold an ancient vampire. Well, what do you expect when you tell a professional thief not to open the beautiful box before delivering it? There has to be something ‘interesting’ in there, right? And Owl is nothing if not curious.
Now, things just keep getting more and more ‘interesting’ – well, if you subscribe to that apocryphal ideology “May you live in interesting times”. And, sure enough, Owl’s life is about to get really, really interesting. The vampires are bad enough, but an ancient Japanese Red Dragon? Come on, you gotta be kidding me! Uh. Nope.
Her new job is to track down a scroll for said dragon – a scroll stolen more than 2,000 years ago, with no idea of where it went, or who took it. Meh. Gotta be an easy chore for a famous archeological thief, right?
With everyone and their goons chasing her around the world, from the US to Tokyo, Bali to Las Vegas, Owl scrambles to find the scroll before a very secretive, and very violent, competitor find it first. But what is really going on? Who are her enemies, and who are her friends? The answer to that may be quite different than what she thinks – and maybe the supernaturals are not whom they seem to be – in both good ways and bad.
Owl is a damaged character. Her default reaction to, well, everything is to break and run for the hills. Sure, it can save your backside to run away. But sometimes, you are just running further into the fire. And sometimes, the people you believe you know are not the people you thought they were at all. For good, or for bad. And Owl needs to learn the difference, quickly, if she wants to live, and to grow into something more than a child in a grownup world. Owl definitely needs to grow as a person, and as a character. She isn’t perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. But, to be honest, that is what I like about her. She is damaged, frightened, and immature, but even in this first book you see her begin, just a bit, to grow. I look forward to watching her development over what I hope are several books. The storyline is interesting, the characters, while your usual supernatural grouping, are sharply and quirkily written. And Captain, her Egyptian Mau ‘battle cat’? Completely AWESOME!! I would read the stories just for him! Overall, I look forward to more.
I received Owl and the Japanese Circus from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. If you enjoy my reviews, please let me know by clicking “Yes, this review was helpful” on Amazon! Thank you.
I will be working on editing all day today, but I wanted to give you something to think about while I am gone for a bit. The Pinterest posts below touched me, heart and soul. I hope they will also garner your interest, and give you something to think about. Women are pretty darn wonderful – and they get no respect. . . and Native Tribes? Well, we know what happened there.
This is a gift, it comes with a price
Who is the lamb, and who is the knife? – Florence & The Machine, Rabbit Heart
“This belonged to my sister-in-law,” Prometheus explained. “Pandora.”
A lump formed in my throat. “As in Pandora’s box?”
Prometheus shook his head. “I don’t know how this box business got started. It was never a box. It was a pithos, a storage jar. I suppose Pandora’s pithos doesn’t have the same ring to it.” ― Rick Riordan, The Last Olympian
You see what we do to each other over the slightest differences in religion or politics? We beat each other up over baseball games. We’ll kill over the wrong-colored bandana. What would we do faced with the Fangborn? – Adam Nichols, Seven Kinds of Hell
One thing you must know about this book before walking into the story is this – you hold in your hand not some simple, See Jane Run, Run Jane Run novel. If you are looking for minimal world building, simplistic answers, and only two or three characters with clear-cut goals, this book isn’t for you. It is so far out of the “let’s just do mindless entertainment” wheelhouse you can’t even see it from the top of the Pharos Lighthouse. Instead, this is a book of complexities. Of unknown alliances, political convolutions, archeological mysteries, and xenophobic hatreds worthy of any Shakespearian play. Families destroy one another, blood is spilled, and there is avarice, sociopathy, vigilantism, viciousness, and political infighting enough to fulfill any Roman Senate chamber. No, if your idea of a good book is simplicity, walk away now.
Ah, but if you are like me – if you long for convolutions, for amazing world-building, a plethora of characters with both known and unknown agendas, a modern storyline with tentacles reaching back to the beginnings of time, a deep understanding of the history, archeology and stories of the cradles of civilization, rejoice, my friend! For Dana Cameron’s words will reach out to you, grab your mind and inject it with adrenaline, force you to pay attention, to learn, and to madly mark up whole paragraphs in order that you might research the lands and stories she portrays. It. Was. AWESOME!!!
Of course, the idea that there are creatures in this world, those who call themselves the Fangborn, calls to my love of all things fantasy. And Ms. Cameron’s concepts of fantastical creatures are not simplistic either. “Vampires” harken back to the snake goddesses of Knossos and Minoa rather than being the more Germanic wall crawlers popular in modern literature. There is no disturbing of the laws of physics as werewolves retain their mass when changed, and, gratefully, their clothes! Rather than burning in the sun, these vampires crave the sunshine, as do their snake cousins, and use their fangs to heal, and their powers of mind control to protect. Very different than what one normally would expect – but then, Ms. Cameron also makes grand use of various animal entities from history, from the Egyptian Anubis to the Greek Medusa.
A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history. – Mahatma Gandhi
History is about to change, worlds are set to collide, and humans are, of course, acting like humans – and not exactly in a good way. No, you will not learn who all the characters are and what their alliances are in this volume of the story. Who exactly are the Fangborn who first approach Zoe? Who, or what, is Download and from where do his powers spring? Is Adam really to be trusted, or merely a mercenary, willing to change sides on a whim? More importantly, exactly who and what was Zoe’s father – and apparently more importantly, her mother? The book ends with the answers in Zoe’s hands, in a thin, coffee stained folder. Is it the truth? Is it a lie? Only time will tell. Well, and the next volume, should help of course! Pack of Strays comes out on April 15, 2014 (only a few days away, Hooray!) and my finger was hot on the preorder button. Shh, don’t tell anyone, but no matter what book is next on my spreadsheet, that one gets moved to the top!
I received this book from Justin Golenbock at 47North and Netgalley in return for a realistic review. All comments are my own and reflect my own interests. I want to thank Justin for this marvelous opportunity and look forward to reading the next book in the series!