Saturday, December 31, 2005
The highlights for December were A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg, Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala and Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase.
I also really enjoyed the continued reading of the Chronicles of Narnia, particularly after going to see the movie!!
Overall I am pretty happy with my reading year in 2005! The best book I read was The Red Tent, I found many authors that I will continue to read and I think there was a pretty good mix of genres and styles. Hopefully that will continue in 2006.
Friday, December 30, 2005
Eustace Scrubb returns to Narnia along with his school mate Jillian Pole. Eustace previously visited Narnia in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader with his cousins Lucy and Edmund, where his adventures included being turned into a dragon, and he really wanted to go back so he is calling Aslan to let him back into Narnia, when suddenly his request is granted.
Before he knows it, Jill and Eustace are in Narnia and on a quest to find King Caspian's son Rilian who disappeared 10 years ago. Caspian is now and old man, and he has no heir, so Jill and Eustace are sent by Aslan to go and find him as he is being held captive. They are accompanied on their journey by a Marsh-Wiggle and encounter giants who like nothing better than man-pie on their great feast days. They also enter underground worlds where there is a great enchantment, and learn lessons about obedience and Aslan's power along the way.
This is probably my favourite so far after The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Here is a link to my previous posts about books from the Chronicles of Narnia series.
Rating 4.5 out of 5
Other blogger's thoughts:
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
After all my fuss about what is the correct order to read the Chronicles of Narnia in (see previous post here.) I then went an picked up the wrong book, so have just finished The Horse and His Boy when I should have been reading The Silver Chair! Oh well!! Reading the first line, I was convinced that I really should have read the books in chronological order..that as it was now it was definitely not the right order!! We'll see how it all fits in place once I have read The Silver Chair which is now my next read!
In The Horse and His Boy, Shasta has been raised as a fisherman's son, but basically worked as a in the land of Calormen. When he overhears his father planning to sell him off to become a slave he decides to run away and look for the magical land of Narnia. Along the way he meets up with a talking horse whose abbreviated name is Bree (we humans couldn't pronounce his whole name properly if we tried!) and Aravis and her talking horse Hwin. Their journey is fraught with danger esepcially as the treacherous Calormen are about to commit an act of war on Archenland, a close ally of Narnia.
Aslan makes several appearances in this novel, and this certainly is a very meaningful book. I can however see more in this book than I have in any of the others that I have read why Lewis gets into trouble for being racist and sexist in this series. The Calormen are all dark skinned whilst our hero, Shasta is in fact Archenland royalty and he is blond and fair skinned. The division between good and evil is very clearly delineated in this way.
My post regarding the previous Chronicle of Narnia that I read is here.
Rating 4 out of 5
Monday, December 26, 2005
As I have already blogged about the books that I read in November and December, I am just going to mention the highliights (or lowlights as the case may be for these two months!)
The list of November reads is here.
The Red Tent will probably qualify as the best read of this year for me! I don't imagine it will take me too long to want to reread that one!
I also started a couple of new series in November. Crocodile on the Sandbank is the first in the Amelia Peabody series of mysteries by Elizabeth Peters, and Bubbles Unbound by Sarah Strohmeyer is the first in the Bubbles Yablonsky series.
Last Chance Saloon by Marian Keyes is my favourite book by her so far!
Simply Unforgettable by Mary Balogh 4
The Wedding Survivor by Julia London 5
Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie 3
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt 4
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood 3
A Good Yarn by Debbie Macomber 4
My Friend Leonard by James Frey 5
Devil You Know by Liz Carlyle 4
Sweet Nothings by Catherine Anderson 3
The Secret River by Kate Grenville 4
Surrender to a Wicked Spy by Celeste Bradley 3
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell 4
Port Vila Blues by Garry Disher 3
Simply Unforgettable is the first in Mary Balogh's new Simply series that is derived from her Bedwyn series.
The Wedding Survivor is the first in the Thrillseekers Anonymous trilogy.
My Friend Leonard is the sequel to A Million Little Pieces, and is an excellent follow up.
The Handmaid's Tale was a very disturbing read.
Abby Knight, law school dropout and now flower shop owner has just had a really rough week when the novel opens, and now she has to face being responsible for the flowers at her cousin Jillian's wedding and try to pull off a really big display on the same day as the wedding at a really important client's house. Jillian has been engaged numerous times before, but this time it actually looks as though she is going to make it to the actual ceremony all things being well. However not all things are well. One of the groomsmen is missing, and before too long another one turns up dead. Jillian is distraught at the prospect of her wedding being cancelled and so turns to Abby to ask her to help investigate the murder. With one of her groomsmen and another in jail accused of his murder..what is a bride to do!
Throughout this book much is made of the fact that Abby has promised that she will not meddle anymore in dangerous situations, but once Jillian asks Abby to find out who killed the groomsman Punch, she has no choice but to say yes. She needs the flower order that goes along with the order to keep her fledgling business afloat. Abby is however constantly reminded about her promise by just about every quirky character in the book!
The one good thing about meddling is that if she gets in trouble, she can always call the sexy bar owner from down the road to help her out. Marco seems to be at Abby's beck and call all the time, rescuing her, advising her and generally just being available!
This book follows on directly from the first book in the Flower Shop Mystery series that started with Mum's the Word. I read Mum's the Word a while ago and enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to picking up this book. This one however didn't really match the first. It felt to me as though the author was trying too hard to be light and funny, and it didn't really work for me.
I will read the next book in the series (Dearly Depotted - clever title!) in the hope that it doesn't feel quite so forced, although I already have my doubts given that the next book opens the morning of Jillian's wedding, which basically means that Abby will be investigating her third murder in three weeks.
Small town America is a very dangerous place to live apparently.
Rating 3 out of 5
Sunday, December 25, 2005
One Night for Love by Mary Balogh (4 out of 5)
The Love Potion by Sandra Hill (5 out of 5)
Jillaroo by Rachael Treasure (3 out of 5)
A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh (4 out of 5)
Low Country by Anne Rivers Siddon (3 out of 5)
Something's Cooking by Joanne Pence (3 out of 5)
Holy Fools by Joanne Harris (3.5 out of 5)
Smoke in Mirrors by Jayne Anne Krentz (3 out of 5)
A Woman of Virtue by Liz Carlyle (4 out of 5)
Mum's the Word by Kate Collins (4 out of 5)
Sea Swept by Nora Roberts (5 out of 5)
Noble Intentions by Katie Macalister (5 out of 5)
Noble Destiny by Katie Macalister (2 out of 5)
Rising Tides by Nora Roberts (4.5 out of 5)
Slightly Sinful by Mary Balogh (3.5 out of 5)
Inner Harbor by Nora Roberts (4.5 out of 5)
Beauty Like the Night by Liz Carlyle (4 out of 5)
No True Gentleman by Liz Carlyle (5 out of 5)
The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber (3 out of 5)
A Deal with the Devil by Liz Carlyle (4 out of 5)
Chesapeake Blue by Nora Roberts (4 out of 5)
The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (4 out of 5)
Sea Swept, Rising Tides, Inner Harbour and Chesapeake Blue were my first ever books by Nora Roberts, and the Quinn brothers were a great place to start!
Noble Intentions and Noble Destiny are actually the first two books in a trilogy by Katie Macalister. The first one was laugh out loud funny...the second was just plain stupid! Haven't got to the third one yet because I have no idea what I am going to end up with. Hopefully it will be closer to the first one than the second.
This was the month that I discovered Liz Carlyle...now an autobuy for me. I just have to track down her first two books and a couple of anthologies and then I will have read everything!
The Subtle Knife is the second book in the His Dark Materials series.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
This was a book that has been pretty much hyped for me ever since I joined the girls at Historical Romance Chat. And it has to be said with good reason!! Yes I loved it Rosario!
Dain was an unhappy child who was deserted by his mother, and then packed off and all but disowned by his father. As a consequence, the main defence mechanisms he has learnt are to become the hardest person around, the most notorious rake. He also has a terrible self image, thinking that his dark, mediterranean looks are nothing but ugly, and that they go perfectly with his dark insides. When we first meet him, he is living in Paris, living a life of gambling, drinking and whoring along with a group of his rake friends.
Into this world comes Jessica Trent, trying to rescue her dimwitted brother who likes to be in this world, but is losing so much money that he is nearly bankrupting them. Jessica was orphaned when her parents were killed in a carriage crash, and was bought up be her eccentric grandmother. As a consequence she is more free spirited, and liberated than most young ladies. She has also turned down numerous offers of marriage with the hope of opening her own curio shop.
With neither of them admitting that they want each other, Dain and Jess are constantly playing games around each other. Jess locates a valuable Russian icon that she offers Dain if he expels her brother from his circle of friends, instead Dain draws him further. Dain tries to ruin her reputation by (gasp) removing her glove in a public place and caressing her bare skin, in a scene that was very touching (no pun intended). All of Paris is agog watching the beauty and the beast as they circle each other.
After being witnessed taking things too far in the garden during a ball, Jess' reputation is ruined, and Dain refuses to do the right thing and stand up for her reputation, so she shoots him in a very funny scene (if shooting someone can ever be funny!). After various negotiations, Dane eventually orders her to marry him. Once they are married Jess tries to reach through the hard exterior to the man underneath who she knows is not the beast that he, and everyone else, thinks he is. Watching Jess do this is so moving. A lot of the time whilst reading the second half I was close to tears as they both struggled to understand their own emotions and each other. Having said that, this book was also laugh out loud funny. The introduction of Dain's illegitimate son added additional strength to the story. Watching Dain try to figure out how to love a boy who was so like himself, when he couldn't like himself was beautifully done, and the associated storyline added pace and intrigue to the story.
This book was an excellent, excellent read, and is definitely one of my new favourites of the historical romance genre.
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende (4 out of 5)
Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie (4.5 out of 5)
The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde (3 out of 5)
Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende (4 out of 5)
Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie (4 out of 5)
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (4 out of 5)
A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught (4 out of 5)
Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale (4 out of 5)
Slightly Scandalous by Mary Balogh (4 out of 5)
Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (4 out of 5)
Faking It by Jennifer Crusie (5 out of 5)
The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Anna Brasheres (4 out of 5)
Slightly Tempted by Mary Balogh (4 out of 5)
Highlander in Love by Julia London (3 out of 5)
The Other Side of the Story by Marian Keyes (4 out of 5)
The Big Over Easy - it's not a Thursday Next book but it's entertaining enough.
Northern Lights is the first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy
Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich (4 out of 5)
March by Geraldine Brooks (4.5 out of 5)
Mistaken Identity by Lisa Scottoline (4 out of 5)
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (4 out of 5)
The Cajun Cowboy by Sandra Hill (3 out of 5)
Red Hot Cajun by Sandra Hill (4 out of 5)
Slightly Married by Mary Balogh (4 out of 5)
Thyme Out by Katie Fforde (4 out of 5)
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (4 out of 5)
Tell Me Lies by Jennifer Crusie (5 out of 5)
Highland Fling by Katie Fforde (3 out of 5)
Slightly Wicked by Mary Balogh (4 out of 5)
The Well by Elizabeth Jolley (1 out of 5)
March is the story of the father from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Really good!
The Well was, without doubt, the worst book I read this year!
Friday, December 23, 2005
The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket (3 out of 5)
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (5 out of 5)
The Rogue by Celeste Bradley (4 out of 5)
A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly (4 out of 5)
Queen's Ransom by Fiona Buckley (4 out of 5)
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (4 out of 5)
Warts and All - The Matthew Wales-King Story by Doug Robinson (3 out of 5)
Exile by Denise Mina (4 out of 5)
King Lear by William Shakespeare (3.5 out of 5)
Music and Silence by Rose Tremain (1 out of 5)
Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh (3.5 out of 5)
Sushi for Beginners by Marian Keyes (3 out of 5)
I listened to Middlesex on audiobook and the narrator was really, really good! Great story!!
Queen's Ransom is the third book in the Ursula Blanchard series of mysteries, set in the court of Queen Elizabeth I.
Exile is the second book in the Garnethill trilogy set in Glasgow.
Music and Silence is probably the second worst book I read this year, yet I should have loved it. The setting was the court of King Christian of Denmark in the 1600's..right up my alley, but I just couldn't read it.
Slightly Dangerous is the last book in the Bedwyn series but I read it first. I think I would have appreciated it much more if I had of read the series in order.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
The Exiled by Posie Graeme-Evans (4 out of 5)
Dragon's Lair by Sharon Penman (4 out of 5)
Men in Kilts by Katie Macalister (3 out of 5)
Garnethill by Denise Mina (4 out of 5/)
Ain't She Sweet by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (4 out of 5)
The Wedding Diaries by Linda Francis Lee (4 out of 5)
The Robsart Mystery by Fiona Buckley (3 out of 5)
The Prince of Darkness by Sharon Penman (4 out of 5)
The Riders by Tim Winton (4 out of 5)
Going Postal by Terry Pratchett (4 out of 5)
The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly (4 out of 5)
A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute (4 out of 5)
The Doublet Affair by Fiona Buckley (3 out of 5)
Garnethill is the first in the Garnethill trilogy. Very gripping murder mystery, where none of the niceties are observed.
The Robsart Mystery and The Doublet Affair are the first and second books respectively in the Ursula Blanchard series. Ursula is one of Queen Elizabeth I's lady's in waiting, but she also masquerades as a spy and detective at times.
Dragon's Lair and The Prince of Darkness are the third and fourth books in the Justin de Quincey series. Looking forward to the next book!
Hannah Swensen is back in her seventh mystery set in Lake Eden, Minnesota. It is the February, so cue lots of snow, heaters...and murder.
Hannah's business is in a bit of a slump. The gorgeous Quinn sisters have opened a bakery just across the street, and it seems as though the whole town has taken their loyalty with them across the road even thoug Hannah's baked goods taste much better than theirs. To make it worse, it still seems as that Shawna Lee Quinn is chasing after Mike Kingston, one of Hannah's regular dates, so they are rivals in love as well as business.
After Shawna Lee doesn't turn up to Hannah's partner Lisa's wedding, Hannah notices that the lights are on in the bakery across the road, so sets off to check if everything is okay. Lake Eden being the dangerous place that it is, Hannah finds Shawna Lee, but unfortunately a murderer has found her first! Hannah is an obvious suspect, although she quickly provides her alibi, and decides that it is her duty to investigate the murder.
I have read all the Hannah Swensen murders and whilst this was a welcome return to a full length mystery after Sugar Cookie Murder, this wasn't the best of Joanne Fluke's books. The murder investigatioin seemed a bit flat, and a bit obvious really, although there were a couple of interesting subplots.
Or maybe it is just that there is one thing that is really, really beginning to irritate me in relation to this series, and that is Hannah's love life. I understand that having our heroine dithering between two men makes for interesting reading, and almost like a hook to pick up the next book to see what happens next, but this has been going on for seven books now! And neither relationship appears to be progressing much, until right at the end of this book, but even that cliffhanger still doesn't resolve any issues. And there is much shock horror at the thought of any of the unmarried couples in the book sleeping together, so chances are that that isn't happening either!
The two men in question are as different as chalk and cheese. Norman is the town dentist, comfortable, safe, companiable, whilst Mike is the sexy town policeman who sets Hannah's heartrate sky high whenever she sees him. Sure they both have positives, but surely after a year or two of dating both of them, Hannah should be in a position to be able to choose which one she wants. Or maybe I just don't understand the American dating system.
Whilst I still enjoyed Peach Cobbler Murder, and will continue to read the series, please Ms Fluke, give us some resolution!
You can read my post about other books in this series here.
Rating 3.5 out of 5
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith (4 out of 5)
Cruel as the Grave by Sharon Penman (4 out of 5)
Metrogirl by Janet Evanovich (4 out of 5)
The Perfect Sinner by Will Davenport (3.5 out of 5)
Tall Dark and Cajun by Sandra Hill (4 out of 5)
The Care and Feeding of Pirates by Jennifer Ashley (4 out of 5)
The Girl at the Lion d'Or by Sebastian Faulks (3 out of 5)
Fudge Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke (4 out of 5)
The Borgia Bride by Jeanne Kalogridis (5 out of 5)
The Rocky Road to Romance by Janet Evanovich (4 out of 5)
Cruel as the Grave is the second Justin de Quincey mystery, set in the time of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard the Lionheart and his brother Prince John.
Fudge Cupcake Murder is one of the Hannah Swensen mysteries that I posted about here.
The Borgia Bride was by far the best read of the month. Set in the time of the infamous Borgias, Sancha is married into one of the stranger families going around!
Monday, December 19, 2005
For a book of less than 150 pages, Beasts of No Nation really packs quite a punch, yet it is a very simply told story.
Agu is a young boy who lives in an unnamed West African country torn apart by civil war. His village is massacred, including his father, but Uga survives. He is found by another boy solder and taken to the Commandant who gives him a choice - stay and fight or die. We never find out anything about what the civil war is about, or what any of the other soldier's motivation for fighting is, only that they are fighting against the government troops.
The book from that point on is about Agu dealing with what he has become and what he has to do in order to stop the sadistic Commandant from beating him or worse. His only friend is Strika, a fellow boy soldier who has not said a word since his own parents were brutally murdered. Agu's descent from a good church boy into a killer is tracked through his own thoughts as he tries to justify what he has been forced to do to survive.
"I am not bad boy. I am not bad boy. I am soldier and soldier is not bad if he is killing. I am telling this to myself because soldier is supposed to be killing, killing, killing. So if I am killing, then I am only doing what is right." (Page 23)
"All we are knowing is that, before the war we are children and now we are not." (Page 36)
The viewpoint of Agu is strengthened by the voice in which the novel is told, using a West African tinged English that feels authentic. Whilst it takes a couple of pages to get used to the language, it certainly strengthens the book, not diminishes it.
This is a book that I will still be thinking about in days to come.
Rating 4.5 out of 5
Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 5/5
The Odyssey by Homer 4.5/5
The Pirate Next Door by Jennifer Ashley 3/5
The Pretender by Celeste Bradley 5/5
Birth of Venus of Sarah Dunant 5/5
Wild Lavender by Belinda Alexandra 4/5
The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket 4/5
The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith 4/5
The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith 4/5
Antonio's Wife by Jacqueline de John 4/5
The Queen's Man by Sharon Penman 4/5
The Charmer by Celeste Bradley 3/5
The Impostor by Celeste Bradley 4/5
The Spy by Celeste Bradley 4/5
Love Overboard by Janet Evanovich 2/5
The Pirate Hunter by Jennifer Ashley 4/5
This was the month that I discovered Celeste Bradley and Jennifer Ashley. I had only read one Celeste Bradley prior to this month, but I soon made up for it!
Of Love and Other Demons - I really loved One Hundred Years of Solitude, although I don't think I would have enjoyed it quite as much without my Book Buddies! This one, I did on my own, and I still loved it! Looking forward to reading more.
The Odyssey - Read this for a BNU course and found it surprisingly accessible.
The Birth of Venus - great read, with a completely unexpected ending.
The Queen's Man - the first in the Justin de Quincy mysteries series that I really enjoy.
As at today, I have read 162 books this year. For a bit of fun I thought I would do a bit of a year in review to look back at the books that I enjoyed (and sometimes didn't!) during this year.
Don't know what happened in January. Only managed 3 reads!! My reads for January and February were:
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst 3/5
The Reckoning by Sharon Penman 5/5
The Virgin's Lover by Phillipa Gregory 3/5
The Shadow of the Wind Carlos Ruiz Zafon 5/5
To Wed a Scandalous Spy by Celeste Bradley 4/5
Full Blast by Janet Evanovich and Charlotte Hughes 3/5
Full Speed by Janet Evanovich and Charlotte Hughes 4/5
Full Tilt by Janet Evanovich and Charlotte Hughes 3/5
Katherine by Anya Seton 5/5
Highlander Unbound by Julia London 4/5
Highlander in Disguise by Julia London 4/5
The Honk and Holler Opening Soon by Billie Letts 3/5
The Line of Beauty won last year's Booker Prize. Whilst the language was beautiful, and deliberately reminiscent of Henry James, I guess the subject matter really wasn't all that interesting to me.
The Reckoning is the third book in the Welsh trilogy. All great books in themselves, and highly recommended, this was a fitting conclusion. The other two books in the trilogy are Here Be Dragons and Falls the Shadow.
The Shadow of the Wind is an awesome book, and the author seems so genial and funny. I did a BNU course for this book, and can't wait for the next one to come out!
Katherine by Anya Seton....an oldie but a goodie!!
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Re Jana and her family are marsh people who fish and build boats to make a living. Due to her mother's illness, they make the long trek into the desert to the land of the wanderers, who somewhat strangely are building a huge boat in the middle of the nowhere in preparation for a strange judgement that is supposed to be coming soon. Being wanderers, and people of the desert, they know very little about boat building so Re Jana's father is quickly engaged and provides his expert knowledge to the Builder and his sons. There are many people who are working on the huge boat, thinking that by participating on the building of the boat, they too will be saved when the time of judgement comes.
Re Jana herself has the gift of being able to find clean water, and healing hands that she uses to provide relief to the sons of the Builder, both very valuable skills. Soon she begins to fall in love with Ham, youngest son of Noah, and they start thinking of ways that Re Jana can be bought onto the ship when it is time.
The rains start, the waters rise, and the people realise that there was never any intention to take them onto the boat, that the cavernous hull is to be filled with animals and not people, and there are many scenes of desperation.
This is the dramatic story of the weeks and months that follow, as the rain transforms the earth and the people come to understand, and try to accept and live with the magnitude of the disaster. This is the story of one girl who stows away on the ark for love of Ham, Noah's son. This is her story of survival.
I have seen some reviews comparing this book to The Red Tent by Anita Diamond. I have to say that, having read The Red Tent not too long ago and loving it, for me there is no comparison.
I didn't feel that most of the characters were fully developed with the exception probably of Re Jana, her father and Ham. Some of the scenes were rather also rather simplistically developed, lacking depth and cohesion. Now this maybe because of the translation (Provoost is from Belgium) or it may be because the book is published as Young Adult fiction. I have read quite a bit of YA fiction this year, and they do seem to be simpler stories, but they still have a very readable quality to them.
I debated titling this post "Oh my goodness, I'm getting old" because it is completely surprising to me that this book can be classified as YA fiction. There are numerous references to sexual relations, both with women and men (including rape), references to drug taking, mercy killings, let alone the inevitable complete destruction of the world that comes with the telling of the story of Noah and his sons. Whilst the descriptions are not explicit, there is enough detail to realise what is going on. I realise that teenagers are not naive when it comes to these kinds of events, and that many teenages read books aimed at the adult market, but to have these kinds of scenes in a book that is published as Young Adult seems a little wrong to me. Maybe I am getting old and prudish, or just sounding like a mum because I am one, but I don't understand this.
Whilst all of these things bothered me and did hamper my appreciation of the book, I did mostly enjoy it.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Adam Black is back, but to say that things aren't all that great for him is a bit of an understatement. He meddled one too many times in human affairs and has managed to incur the wrath of Queen Aoibheal, Queen of the Tuatha de Danaan also known as the Fae. As punishment, the Queen has made him human, but unfortunately he is invisible to humans, or at least he thinks he is until he is sitting on a bench in Cincinnati and sees Gabrielle O'Callaghan watching him.
Gabrielle is the last in a line of Sidhe-seers - people who have always been able to see the fae. She is also a lonely and broke student, studying to become a lawyer whilst maintaining a job as an intern in a less than stellar law firm.
Adam Black has made appearances in previous books by Karen Marie Moning, where he has been portrayed as quite a negative presence, but in this book we meet the real Adam Black. He willingly admits that he is no angel, but he does live by his own code of conduct. Amongst his standards include rules that he will never force a woman to come to him, and he is loyal to the Queen.
Adam needs to contact the Queen to get her to reverse his state back to that of fae, but first he needs to escape from ruthless enemies who would love to kill Adam whilst he is in his human state. After meeting Gabrielle, Adam begins a slow and steady seduction, wining and dining her as only Adam Black knows how. Eventually though, it becomes a frantic race across time and place to get to where Adam can gain the attention of the Queen and save her from betrayal by those closest to her.
I have read all of Karen Marie Moning's books before this, and really enjoyed them. In fact I would go so far as to say that she was my first autobuy romance author, although I do still wait for the books to come out in paperback before I buy them. I also enjoyed this one, but not as much as I have some of the others, in particular Kiss of the Highlander and The Dark Highlander. Having said that, I actually preferred Gabrielle as a heroine, particularly to Gwen. She was smart and relatively grounded for a woman who sees fae wherever she goes.
However, after all the anticipation to read Adam's story, it was ultimately not as satisfying as I wanted it to be. I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was, but I think maybe the idea of Adam just taking whatever he wanted, whenever he needed it kind of irritated me...How many pairs of designer leather trousers does one man need after all..and also that there seemed to be a lot of information about the fae and sidhe-seers. Whilst this information was interesting and may even have been necessary, it isn't what keeps me engrossed in a story. Whatever it was, it meant that I wasn't fully engaged in the story, to the point that I actually had time to wonder about things like the mechanics of the sexual shenanigans and does anyone really look that great in leather trousers?
It was great to catch up with Drustan and Gwen, and Dageus and Chloe who play a pivotal role in this book, and to find out what they have been up to since we last met them.
Overall this wasn't the best book I've read from the author, although it was still enjoyable. I have already put a request in for the newest Highlander book by her, called Spell of the Highlander, so hopefully that won't take too long to come in at the library!
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Having read The Husband Test by Betina Krahn last month and thinking it was okay, I just couldn't help myself and had to read the rest of the trilogy! I wish I wasn't so pedantic about this, but I just can't help myself!! It worked out okay because I thought both The Wife Test and The Marriage Test were better than The Husband Test.
At the beginning of The Husband Test we find ourselves at the Convent of the Brides of Virtue, a convent where the daughters of impoverished or orphaned noblemen are sent in order to be prepared to marriage. Brides from the convent are highly valued, although a lot of the time the new bridegrooms find themselves in circumstances that do not necessarily allow them to choose their own brides. Enter Peril, Earl of Whitmore, nobleman of England whose lands are cursed and who needs a bride of great virtue to be able to lift the curse, and he needs her right now. The only problem is, he doesn't have the ready cash to be able to pay the dower price, so the Mother Superior decides to send a tester to check that Peril meets the requirements of a suitable husband for one of her coveted brides.
The Abbess decides to send the lovely and spirited Eloise, mainly to get her out from under her feet and from causing too much trouble. Eloise is a young woman with lots of ideas on how to improve things, often with disastrous results. Eloise is sent off to judge Peril, but soon find herself being far from impartial.
I quite enjoyed The Husband Test, although there were a couple of scenes that were just too silly for me to really enjoy. I also didn't quite fully engage with Peril and Eloise as a couple.
Not too long after reading The Husband Test I was at the library where I found both of the next books in the trilogy, and because of the aforementioned pedanticism (?) I decided that even though I hadn't loved THT, I had to read the sequels.
The Duke of Avalon has been captured by the King of England and has unfortunately got no funds in order to be able to pay his ransom. In a flash of brilliance, the Duke tells Edward that he actually has four, hitherto unrecognised, daughters and that he would be willing to marry them off to Edwards favoured nobles as part of his ransom.
Hugh of Sennet is duly sent off to collect the four brides and their chaperone. Hugh is a monkish man who's future was once clearly defined as being in the church, but with the death of his brothers he is now heir to his father's titles, albeit reluctantly.
Chloe of Guibray tricks her way into the entourage as the chaperone, and after various adventures finds herself at the court of King Edward having to devise some tests to decide which nobles to pair up with her brides. Of course she thinks that she will take the oldest, strangest and ugliest of the nobles, but it seems that fate has different ideas! Part of her reason for wanting to make this journey is to find out who she is as she was left at the convent with only one word that gives her any clues as to her true identity.
The Wife Test was a much more satisfactory read for me. Hugh starts off as being quite anti women, mainly due to erroneous teachings whilst undertaking his training, but gradually he begins to understand, and want Chloe more than he thought possible.
And finally I read The Marriage Test. The abbess of the convent has been spoilt for several years as young Julia of Childress has shown herself to be an amazing cook, and the Abbess is determined not to give her up for anything or anyone, no matter who they are. In order to do so, she is determined that Julia should take her Holy vows and soon. Unfortunately, Julia has other dreams. She wants a husband and a family, not a life in a convent.
Griffin de Grandaise has been born with an extremely heightened sense of smell, and therefore finds it difficult to be able to eat a lot of the food that he is served up, especially if there are any disgusting smells in the vicinity. Griffin hears about this amazing cook at the convent and sneaks in to see if the food can possibly be that good. Once he finds out that it is, he tries to gain the services of Julia from the Abbess.
After a great deal of negotiation it is agreed that Griffin can keep Julia for one year, on the condition that she is returned to the Abbey after that time with all of her virtues in tact. But with Julia determined to gain a husband, preferably Griffin, is that going to be possible.
This was a really fun read, and Krahn even managed to make medieval food sound enticing!
The Husband Test 3/5
The Wife Test 4/5
The Marriage Test 4/5
A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon - still there, although I am listening to it in the car on the way too and from work!
Lady of the Knight by Jackie Ivie - hasn't moved either
Destiny of the Light by Louise Cusack - no idea what this book is about, let alone where it came from!
Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
Slay it with Flowers by Kate Collins
Mr Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll - must, must, must read this soon and send it back to it's rightful owner!
The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons - Big Sigh!! Rereading this one.
In the Shadow of the Ark by Anne Provoost
For a comparison, here is the post from last month!
Saturday, December 10, 2005
I always tend to think that we have pretty boring Christmas (no snow etc etc) but then tonight I just realised that Carols by Candlelight (an Australian tradition) are probably not done in the same way anywhere else.
I just went to Carols by Candlelight in our area tonight. Most areas have one or more smaller events (the one tonight they estimated had about 5000 people in attendance) and then there is a big one in each of the major city where you could get 20000 or more people at.
When you go to Carols by Candlelight you take food and drink, friends and family, deckchairs and blankets and set up camp in effect. Tonight they had a couple of groups that performed before the actual carols portion began, but then as it gets towards dusk you start singing lots of carols. There might be solo performances, band performances. Tonight they even had a Story of Christmas parade with live donkeys and candles. Then it gets dark and everyone has their candles alight and it looks great!
At the larger events Santa will show up, although he didn't tonight because this one was put on by the churches in the area.
Overall it was very enjoyable..not too cold, in fact I think I got a little sunburnt!
I'm sure that this has been done before, but it seems like such a strange concept to me that I feel the need to ponder it a bit more. I don't understand what the authors stand to gain if their normal writing name is not connected to the project. If the project is successful then there will be no follow on affect or reader loyalty development for the actual author. The only reason I know about this is because Jennifer Ashley, author of a few pirate romances that I have read in the past, has said on her website that she is writing the second book in the series about Anne Boleyn. I have not however been able to track down who the other authors are.
I guess it is almost the opposite of those authors who write books under more than one name. For example, Elizabeth Peters (author of the Amelia Peabody books) is actually Barbara Mertz (who publishes non fiction Egyptology books under her real name) but also publishes romantic suspense under the name Barbara Michaels!
Confused? Me too!!
The second book in the Amelia Peabody series after Crocodile on the Sandbank, the opening finds Amelia and Emerson in England, both feeling confined and unfulfilled (Amelia in her role as house wife and mother, and Emerson in his as a university lecturer) and hoping for excitement. They watch with interest a story developing in Egypt about the death of Lord Baskerville, who was involved in the excavation of a tomb prior to his untimely death. The newspapers are reporting it as a natural death, however Amelia knows that it must be murder. Before too long, the widow of Lord Baskerville is at the door, asking Emerson to continue with the work that her husband had begun.
Amelia and Emerson head off to Egypt (sans their son Ramses) and before too long they find murder and mayhem, along with numerous interesting archeological finds! In a mystery with more twists and turns than..well.. a very twisty, turny thing, there is danger and intrigue galore.
This is only the second book in the series I have read (there are currently 17 in the series), but I do enjoy them immensely! Amelia is such a forceful but still endearing character who knows far better than anyone else about just about everything! The only thing that really bothered me about this book was their willingness to leave their son behind, with nary a backwards glance. I know that in the future books in the series this doesn't happen, which will be a relief to me personally.
In this installment we also get to meet Bastet the cat, and I look forward to hearing more about its adventures in the next books!
Next time I am at the library I will definitely be looking out for The Mummy Case.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
The latest of Philippa Gregory's Tudor novels to be released, The Constant Princess concentrates on the early life of Katherine of Aragon, the first of Henry VIII's wives. I have to say that it was so refreshing to read a novel about this time in history that wasn't about all the usual suspects. For example Elizabeth I doesn't even get a mention, although Henry VIII does, and there is even a brief cameo by Anne Boleyn towards the end of the novel.
I learnt so many new things from this novel. I hadn't really ever paid a lot of attention to the backgrounds of Henry's wives other than Anne Boleyn so it was a big surprise to me to learn that Katherine was actually the daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain...the same Isabella and Ferdinand who financed Christopher Columbus' journeys to the New World and instituted the Spanish Inquisition.
The description of Katherine's early life in the Alhambra Palace was beautifully described, and made me want to pack my bags to go to Spain to see the places mentioned. I love it when a book does that to me..even though I can't just pack up and go!
We see Katherine in her early life, then as she gets used to marriage with Arthur, dealing with her subsequent widowhood, and waiting to see if she will be married to Henry or not. In effect we watch her mature from being a girl to a woman, all the while remaining a princess of England and Spain.
If I had one criticism of this book, it was that the ending felt very rushed, however having thought about this for a couple of days, maybe the idea behind that was to show Katherine at one of her points of greatest triumphs, and then at one of the lowest points in her life as a kind of contrast. Most fans of English history and historical fiction already know what happens to Katherine, and the end of this book leads quite nicely into the beginning of The Other Boleyn Girl as well.
Gregory writes in a very readable style, and for the most part, manages the changes between first and third person narrative employed in this book quite smoothly. There are however a couple of changes that weren't quite as smooth as they could have been.
Overall, an enjoyable read! I am already looking forward to the next Tudor novel from Philippa Gregory, to be titled The Last Boleyn. This book should be out next November.
Other Bloggers Thoughts:
The Bookworm - Naida
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Lettice Knollys is a person from history who I was initially introduced to in Philippa Gregory's book, The Virgin's Lover. She is perhaps a footnote in history, but in this book she is brought back into prominence as the woman who married Robert Dudley, long considered to be the love of Queen Elizabeth I's life, and apparently one of the greatest, and best looking men of his generation. The picture below is of Dudley, so we can each judge our thoughts on this one!
This book starts with Lettice coming to court alongside her mother Catherine Knollys, and becoming one of Queen Elizabeth's ladies, sharing confidences and entertaining the queen with her quick wit. Lettice was however one of the most attractive women at court, something that the vain queen did not like having to compete against so before long she was married off to Walter Devereux and sent off to the country.
Eventually Lettice returned to court and in due course caught the eye of Robert Dudley (Earl of Leicester amongst other titles) and the two begin a risky clandestine affair. No matter that Lettice's husband might catch them but what would happen should the Queen find out.
Lettice is once again sent from the court to her country house, and there is plenty of speculation that the Queen may have had some idea of what is going on and wants to have no rival for Robert's affection.
Before too long, Lettice's husband is dead and there are accusatory fingers pointing towards Robert Dudley, who has previously been accused of murdering his former wife. Then Dudley and Lettice are married in secret, and when the Queen finds out they are both banished from court. Dudley is soon forgiven but Lettice is excluded from Court by the furious Queen, who calls her the She-Wolf.
Whilst a little dry at the time, this book is a fascinating look at the rivalry between two confident, strong women and their battle to win and keep the love of the same man. Lettice often tries to decipher if Dudley loves Elizabeth or just her crown, and sees the fact that he married her as a personal victory.
In later life, Elizabeth chose Lettice's son Robert Essex as one of her favourites, and the lives of Elizabeth and Lettice are further entwined with devestating results.
This was a highly entertaining read, and well worth the effort that it took to track down this book that was originally published in the 1970's.
This is one of the many pseudonyms of the prolific historical fiction author Eleanor Hibbert, who also wrote as Jean Plaidy and Philippa Carr amongst other names.
There is a lot of information on the net about Robert Dudley in particular including here
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Today I met up with 8 people from my online group at www.Paullinasimons.com.
It's not the first time I have met up with someone I have met online but it is the first time I have met a group of people!
We met in the cafe at Borders - the logic behind that being that if people felt uncomfortable that there was always the bookstore to go and look through. In the end the only reason why we went anywhere near the bookshelves were to get out different versions of Paullina's books to check the covers!
Overall it was a fun day, and I am sure that we will be doing it again!
Thursday, December 01, 2005
The premise for this sounded so good. A couple of months after her adventures in Bubbles Unbound, Bubbles Yablonsky is pressed into service to investigate the death of her friend Janice's Uncle Elwood. He had been killed the night that Janice left town (and then vanished completely) rather than marry Mickey Zinkler. Bubbles' search for Janice, who was suspect numero uno takes her to Amish country, and Bubbles goes undercover, alternating between being Amish woman Sally Hansen, and herself while also investigating a case involving two young Amish boys who had been arrested for driving a stolen car.
Basically, it turns out that Amish country is actually a hot bed of criminal activity - murder, drugs, blackmail, dodgy property deals and more.
Whilst there were still some entertaining moments, they were patchy...and felt almost as though the author was trying too hard. A lot of the characters that we met in Bubbles Unbound were here - sexy Steve Stiletto, Bubbles' daughter Jane (who has a new boyfriend whose name is G), her mother Lulu and her friend Genevieve and lots of fun new characters. Overall this book was okay, but may have suffered from trying to maintain a frantic momentum from the first book. It wasn't however terrible, and I still will read more Bubbles Yablonsky books.
You can read my entry regarding Bubbles Unbound here.
I don't usually read themed books, especially not Christmas books, but I picked this one up for a group that I read with over at the Oprah Bookclubs.
Oswald T Campbell had a poor start to life, and it hasn't really ever got much better. He was abandoned at an orphanage when just a few days old. Oswald was the next name on the orphanage's list, and, as there was a can of Campbell's Tomato Soup nearby he was given the name Campbell, and his middle initial is T for Campbell.
When we meet Oswald he is in his doctor's office being told that he should get his affairs in order as this is likely to be his last Christmas, and that it would be beneficial for his health if he moved away from cold and draughty Chicago to warmer climes. The doctor has an old pamphlet for a health spa in Lost River, Alabama. Given that getting his affairs in order means giving away a few things, Oswald decides that he might as well go to Alabama, and once he is there, life begins to change for him.
Along the way we meet the ladies of Lost River, along with the shopkeeper who keeps a Redbird in his shop, the postman who delivers the mail by boat, and Patsy, a young girl who is in need of medical attention. We also meet a much better Oswald.
This book was magical. It reminded me in tone of The Five People You Meet in Heaven. In some ways it felt like a fairy tale...there being an innocence around the characters and the storyline.
I haven't read any Fannie Flagg books before, but I have added her to my list of authors to read more of in due course.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Because I only started blogging half way through this month, I thought I would publish my list of reads for November. Shouldn't need to do this in future though!!
Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters 4.5/5
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis 4.5/5
One Little Sin by Liz Carlyle 3.5/5
To Ruin a Queen by Fiona Buckley 3.5/5
The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith 3.5/5
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant 5/5
The Husband Test by Betina Krahn 3/5
Sugar Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke 2.5/5
Prince Caspian by CS Lewis 3.5/5
Dreamland by Kevin Baker 3.5/5
The Dragon and the Jewel by Virginia Henley 3/5
Bread and Chocolate by Philippa Gregory 4/5
Bubbles Unbound by Sarah Strohmeyer 4/5
Last Chance Saloon by Marian Keyes 4.5/5
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis 4/5
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Edmund and Lucy return to Narnia, this time accompanied by their annoying cousin Eustace. They are drawn into the Narnian world through a painting of a boat on the wall of the bedroom where they are staying with Eustace's parents because their own parents have gone off to America with Susan.
Once they are rescued from the water, they find that on the boat is none other than Prince Caspian who is going off to find out what happened to seven Lords who went off on an adventure many years ago and never returned.
Along the way, Caspian and the children discover new and magical lands. Eustace is turned into a dragon, they find a magical stream where everything that touches the water turns to gold, and several other exciting lands.
This was a very exciting adventure, and I look forward to continuing my journey into Narnia in the next book.
You can see my previous posts in relation to the Chronicles of Narnia here.
Saturday, November 26, 2005
This is the third Marian Keyes book I have read this year and I think it is my favourite. For the record the others were Sushi for Beginners and The Other Side of the Story.
Three thirtyish friends who grew up in rural Ireland are now living in London. All seem to be successful and yet they aren't all happy. Tara is a computer programmer who lives with an emotionally stunted Yorkshireman, Katherine is an accountant in an advertising agency who doesn't seem to know how to be intimate with anyone. Fintan works in fashion and seems to be the only one who is happy. He has a job he loves and lives with his boyfriend Sandro.
The book opens when they are meeting up for a boozy lunch to celebrate Tara's 31st birthday, and then proceeds to follow their lives for an eventful year. Not long after the lunch Fintan finds out that he has cancer, and at one of his worst points he asks the girls to do things for themselves that will make them happy. For Tara, this means leaving her emotionally abusive boyfriend Thomas and for Katherine, who is called Ice Queen by her colleagues at work, this means letting down some barriers and allowing herself to get close to someone, to let a man into her life! For both of them though, they couldn't think of anything worse to be asked to do. Tara is terrified of being left alone, and Katherine is terrified of not being left alone!
Also threading through the story, are the exploits of Lorcan Larkin, fading actor who was famous in Ireland and set off to conquer the world, but then ended up being a has been in both the US and the UK..well, more precisely a never was! Lorcan's tale almost intersects with the girls at various points in the story. At first I didn't get why Lorcan's story was even there but all was revealed by the end of the book.
One of the things that I like about Marian Keyes books is that whilst they are laugh out loud funny, they do deal with serious issues, and deal with them well. She is also not afraid to not have a happy ending for all of her characters.
I am becoming a fan of Marian Keyes work, and will definitely be reading more from her in the future.
Other Blogger's Thoughts:
Friday, November 25, 2005
There are only a couple of drawbacks to listening to a book. The worst part is if you are really getting into a book, you can't flick to the back to see how it ends up...and sometimes you just really want to know.
Another drawback is if the book is abridged...really don't like abridged books. It's like having a sandwich without any filling!! I listened to A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley earlier this year and there was nothing at all to indicate that it was an abridgement anywhere on the box or the tapes. As I was listening to it, I kept on thinking that the story seemed really choppy but didn't really think much more of it. I finally got to the end of the tapes and then they mentioned that it was an abridged version. Whilst I enjoyed what I heard I suspect that I missed out on the whole experience and I will therefore probably have to read the book eventually anyway!
The narrator also makes a huge difference to the enjoyment experience. The narrator on Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, The Red Tent by Anita Diamant and a couple of other books have been really, really excellent but there are others that really didn't do anything for me!!
The weird thing about listening to books is that I can do it in the car...but I really struggle when I try to listen to them at any other time. At the moment I am trying to listen to The Last Chance Saloon by Marian Keyes because I REALLY want to know what is going to happen and yet I can't really concentrate on it as I cruise the net, and yet if I was driving there would be no issue whatsoever. Weird!!
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Take one less than successful hairdresser who has been trying for years to find another career until she decided that journalism was the way to go, add a bit of murder, a bit a mayhem, some crazy supporting characters, a sexy man and what have you got....Bubbles Yablonsky in Bubbles Unbound!
You could have been forgiven for thinking that I may have been talking about Stephanie Plum. It would have been understandable, especially seeing as the character of Bubbles was apparently thought up at Janet Evanovich's kitchen table and on the front cover of the version I had from the library was a blurb "in the fabulous tradition of Janet Evanovich". However, having now finished this book, I would say that Bubbles is a strong enough character to stand up on her own and hold her head high.
Bubbles has had quite an exciting day...she has just helped talk a former teacher out of jumping of the top of a bridge and is on her way to bail her mother out after she has been arrested for walking too far away from a shop wearing a $3000 dress. Accompanied by gorgeous hunk cameraman Steve Stilletto, they are taking a short cut across the park when they come across a body. Not far away, one of the most influential women in Lehigh is sitting in the drivers seat of a Range Rover. What is the woman's connection to the body, and what is her connection to a 10 year old murder that was called a suicide by the town police? Bubbles faces all sorts of danger as she tries to uncover the facts surrounding one of the most influential families in town, making enemies of them along the way.
Some of the other colourful characters include Bubbles daughter Jane who changes her hair colour every day, her ex husband Dan...I mean Chip, her mother LuLu and her friend Genevieve who team up to provide Bubbles with security, her offsider Doris and lots of others.
There are also several little beauty tips that Bubbles shares with us along the way!
There are currently four more books in this series and I will definitely be reading through them in due course!
Monday, November 21, 2005
I have previously read and enjoyed several books by Philippa Gregory, so when I saw this collection of short stories at the library on audio book, I just had to pick it up and listen to it.
The collection of stories were varied, with only one historical setting. Some were whimsical, some heart rending, some surprising. All in all a good mix!!
The short stories were:
Bread and Chocolate - a brother from a monastery is discovered by the producers of a TV food show. He is brought on to make bread, and one of his co presenters is a wildly sensuous TV cook who makes a wicked chocolate cake.
Coo-ee - A guest lecturer on a cruise through the Aegean meets a larger than life Yorkshire lady who leaves quite an impression.
The Favour - The only one of the short stories set in historical times, a young girl rejects her suitor on the day of a jousting tournament, and then has to deal with the consequences when he is fatally injured.
Theories about Men - Having been the perfect wife for many years, Stephanie finds that her husband has been having an affair and gets to put her theories about men to the test. You can read this story on Philippa Gregory's website Click here
Lady Emily's Swim - What goes through the mind of spritely Lady Emily as she completes her regular 20 lap swim. You might be surprised!! I was!
The If Game - A married newsreader plays the if game with a colleague - If you were my mistress, we would be incredibly happy, if I got a job in London we could live together during the week. Problem is, he can't seem to stop playing the If game.
The Conjuring Trick
The Wave Machine - One of the highlights for me. A young girl is sent to stay with her artist uncle for the summer. They spend most of the summer looking for the Wave Machine that powers the ocean waves.
The Magic Box - A pregnant photographer whose husband has previously been unfaithful has given up much of her former life. Then, she comes to own a very special old camera, housed in a beautiful box.
The Garden - A repressed housewife gets revenge over her overly controlling husband.
The Last Swan - A young girl joins a sychronised swimming team and goes off to the national championships.
The Bimbo - A bimbo comes to work in a London office...but could she be smarter than she looks.
The Playmate - A plain young woman, who has always been overshadowed by her glamorous mother is reunited with the one person she has always valued for loving her for herself.
Going Down River - a scientist has spent nearly a year with a formerly undocumented tribe. As he nears the time to return home he shares his thoughts in a diary form for us.
The Other Woman - A wronged wife takes step to find out about the other woman, and ends up getting closer than she intended.
The Visitor - A yuppy couple who live in a minimalistic apartment in London recieve an unexpected visitor for the holiday season, who causes mayhem in their lives.
Catching the Bus - A young girl's mother has been saving for years to send one of her children to the local comprehensive school to give them a chance to get a better life.
Overall this was a really enjoyable read, and it was great to read stories from Philippa Gregory that weren't so focussed on the past - particularly on Tudor times!
This book is a romance novelist's take on the love story between Simon de Montford, Earl of Leicester, and Eleanor Plantagenet, beloved sister of Henry II. These are the same characters from Sharon Penman's Falls the Shadow which I read and loved last year. (Falls the Shadow is the second book in the Welsh Trilogy that starts with Here Be Dragons and concludes with The Reckoning).
The main reason why I wanted to read this book is to see how the two different types of authors treated the same story. Bearing in mind that I read the Penman last year and may have forgotten some of the details, I have to say that the two authors agreed on most of the historical facts, but in Henley's book, I'm surprised that there was any time to go off to war with all the frolicking and debauchery that was going on between the knights and the maidens, and Simon and Eleanor.
Eleanor was married off at a very young age (i.e 9 years old) to one of the most influential men in England (William Marshall). Before she was 17 years old she was a widow, and she had made a vow of celibacy and was considering becoming a nun. Then she meets the handsome, virile Simon de Montford and things change!! Before too long, Eleanor and Simon were married in secret and the first of their children arrived. Simon then fell out of favour with the King and was exiled to Europe, and Eleanor accompanied him. Then, he was back in favour with King Henry, returning to England in triumph after having been involved in crusade type trips to The Holy Land. Henry's court was however not a terribly happy place to be, with lots of favouritism being shown to the Queen's family, and lots of disgruntled English nobles agitating for reform and control over the King's spending habits. Simon finds himself as one of the leaders of the opposition about to go off into battle against the King (his brother in law)...and this is where The Dragon and The Jewel finishes.
It is a shame that this is where The Dragon and The Jewel leaves off, because a lot of what happened after the Battle of Lewes was extremely interesting. Simon effectively became ruler of England for a couple of years, until eventually Henry's son Edward wrested control back. In the meantime, Simon set in place several reforms which could be seen to have links with out modern systems of Parliament.
In both accounts, Simon is portrayed as being extremely chivalrous, honest, fair, respected and loved - a man of great integrity. Simon and Eleanor are depicted as having a passionate and lifelong love for each other, and story is considered as one of the most romantic stories of their time.
As an aside, I had heard a lot of things about how hot Virginia Henley's books were but a lot of the sexy scenes didn't really do a lot for me.
Overall, I preferred Sharon Penman's book for both the historical story and the relationship developments, but Virginia Henley's book was a fun read of a story that I was already familiar with. There were also some things described in Henley's book that I am not sure could ever have happened. Might be time for a reread of Penman's book to refresh myself!
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Set in a time of great social change, New York around 1910, this book should have been fantastic. The setting was interesting, the time was interesting, the characters were varied, and the book was, well to be blunt...hard work. If I hadn't been reading this with a group I would have put this book down with every intention of picking it up again, but then never quite getting around to it!!
It's not that I didn't like this book. I really love it when a book drags you in so far that real life is a distraction, and there were several times with this story that I felt as though that was just about to happen, but then the author would reintroduce a previous character and change the storyline to one of the many subplots, and I would be left waiting for that moment to come.
The main settings for this book were in the amusement parks of Coney Island, a collection of rides, freak shows, animal shows that we wouldn't even think of putting on today. As an example, one of the "shows" was an everchanging display of premature babies in their humidicribs, put on display as they fought for their very life. The other main setting was the tenements of New York where the mobsters and gangs ran everything, including the politicians.
Among the main characters are Esther, a machinist in the factories who is slowly getting immersed in the union, fighting for reasonable working conditions, Gyp the Blood, a man who breaks the backs of others for $2 bets, Kid Twist who starts off the book as one of Gyp's henchmen, along the way getting on his bad side, and therefore having to hide out in Coney Island with Trick the Dwarf after having saved Trick from being one of Gyp's victims. When we first meet Trick he is living in the Elephant Hotel, based on a real hotel that was built in the shape of an elephant in Coney Island. During the course of the book Trick has become a self styled mayor of a built to scale town for dwarfs, living there with his queen, Mad Carlotta. Tim Sullivan who is a Tammany Hall politicians with plenty of demons of his own. We even have a subplot featuring the famous psychiatrists Jung and Freud, although I am still not entirely sure why they needed to be there (just another subplot by chance?).
The major plots revolve around the strikes of the early 1900's that eventually gave the people in the textile industries of New York the right to work only 56 hours a week, the major fire that occurred at the Triangle Shirtwaist company, killing 156 women, children and men in less than an hour, the murder Beanie Rosenthal and the following police corruption enquiries, along with the fire that destroyed Dreamland. All of these events really happened, although the author has taken some literary licence with the dates that these events occurred.
All in all, I was left unsatisfied, and feeling as though I had worked so hard to get through this book that I needed to go and have a rest afterward! Now, off to read something a little lighter!
Thursday, November 17, 2005
For example, not too long ago I read Something's Cooking by Joanne Pence, the first book in her Angie Amalfi series. The book wasn't a bad read so I thought that I would follow through on reading the series. Umm...maybe not. The library had the first book in the series and then all the others except the second, fifth and tenth books, and neither of the other two libraries any of the books in the series at all! So far I haven't gone onto read more of this series because I just can't without reading book number two, and I am not all that keen on ordering it in from the US!
Example number two - I really enjoy the Ursula Blanchard mysteries by Fiona Buckley. The same library as above had books 2,5, 6, 7 and 8. Another library has books 2 and 8, and the other has 1, 2, 3,5 and 6. No one has book 4. I ended up ordering that in from America, and then donating it once I read it to the first library! They better darn well keep it is all that I can say!!
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Australia is playing Uruguay tonight for a place in next year's World Cup. It is 1 all in the tie, second period of extra time, looking like it is going to penalties. If we win it will be only the second time we have made the World Cup, with the first time being in 1974.
Too hard to watch!!
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
The first of those was Jasper Fforde's The Big Over Easy. I had so loved the Thursday Next stories, and was so excited when this was due to be out. I made the person in the bookstore go and get it from out the back before it had even been shelved, but then when I read it a couple of weeks later, it was good, but it wasn't great.
Next up...A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon. Oh, the anticipation, the longing, the outright excitement - a new Jamie and Claire book. I bought it the first day I saw it, at full price, even though if I could have waited a couple of more days I would have saved around $12. I have struggled through the first hundred pages and haven't picked it up in weeks. When I read the original Outlander books I devoured them, taking me only a couple of days to finish each one. I have just got the CD's of ABOSAA, so I will listen to them on the commute to and from work..once I have finished the ones I got from the library that is!
Example number 3 - The Summer Garden by Paullina Simons. Another case of me nagging every single bookshop employee about when was this book going to be in the shops. I bought it two weeks ago, lovingly put it in pride of place on the bookshelf......and haven't picked it up since. I know I will love it when I do get to it, but I don't know when that is going to be. I need to finish Dreamland first, then read My Enemy the Queen because I can't extend it from the library again, read more Chronicles of Narnia for the BNU course I am doing, and then maybe, just maybe I will have time. Then again, I am meant to be rereading the first book in this trilogy, The Bronze Horseman again in December or January...maybe I should wait until after that?
The next book I am eagerly waiting for is The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory. Should be out here in Australia in early December. I am just hoping that I won't hyperventilate with excitement when that one comes out as well, and then put myself off of it!
Monday, November 14, 2005
LWW will, I guess, always be the most popular of these books but I really quite enjoyed Prince Caspian as well, and will be reading the next book in the series soon. I have also started rereading LWW with my son, and we will definitely be going to see the movie when it comes out here. Everything I have seen from the movie looks absolutely fantastic.
My one problem with the whole Chronicles of Narnia thing is the reading order question. There are some that believe that the books that should be read in chronological order of the events as they happen in Narnia - with the order therefore being:
- The Magician's Nephew
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
- The Horse and His Boy
- Prince Caspian
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
- The Silver Chair
- The Last Battle
Others believe that the reading order should be the order the books were written in:
- The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
- Prince Caspian
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
- The Silver Chair
- The Horse and His Boy
- The Magician's Nephew
- The Last Battle
There are plenty of people in both camps, but the problem for me is...I just want to know which way is RIGHT! Reading a series out of order just about drives me crazy (call me pedantic if you like) but when there is no right order...Argh!!!! At least everyone agrees on what the last book in the series should be!!
As for me, I am going with published order, simply because that's the way it was written.
Rating for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe 4.5/5
Rating for Prince Caspian 3.5/5
Sunday, November 13, 2005
I just finished reading Sugar Cookie Murder which is the sixth book in the Hannah Swensen mysteries. The books in the series are Chocolate Cookie Murder, Strawberry Shortcake Murder, Blueberry Muffin Murder, Lemon Meringue Pie Murder, Fudge Cupcake Murder and then Sugar Cookie Murder. The latest book in the series is Peach Cobbler Murder which I hope to get to soon.
Sugar Cookie Murder is the first time that I have been disappointed by one of these books. I knew going into it that really it was a holiday novella, padded out with about 50 recipes, but I still expected that the mystery itself would be tight. It wasn't, and a lot of the time it felt to me that the author was just trying to get the names of all the recipes that were included in the back of the book mentioned in the story.
I will go and get Peach Cobbler Murder from the library, and will no doubt enjoy it as I have enjoyed all the others. One thing though...I really hope that the author does something to resolve the boyfriend situation for Hannah. There are solid, dependable Norman the dentist and sexy policeman Mike. It feels to me as though Hannah has been dithering about which of them to choose for over a year now...too long. Choose one and get on with it!! Just my opinion of course!
Saturday, November 12, 2005
I just finished listening to this on audio book yesterday and I have to say that it is one of the best books I have read (or should I say listened to) this year!!
The Red Tent is the story of Jacob's daughter Dinah. She is mentioned in Genesis in the Bible and in Chapter 34 we are told the story of what happened to her. What Anita Diamant has done is filled in the outlines as provided in the Old Testament, telling stories of what it was like growing up as the only daughter of Jacob, of her life with her mothers, what it was like to practice as a midwife in those times. In the Bible, once we here of the events as they occurred at Shechem we hear no more, and here Diamant takes Dinah on an adventure that leads Dinah to live in Egypt.
The story as written by Diamant is touching, and surprising, and gives plenty of thought provoking suggestions of how life was lived in ancient times. The use of the household gods throughout the story surprised me a lot, but I can see how Diamant builds on what we have been told in the Bible and taken her story to this point from those references. I was so interested in this story I did find myself referring back to the Old Testament to try and work out which parts of the story were directly from there, and which parts were enhancements.
Edit: My full review can be found
Other Blogger's Thoughts:
In answer to someone else I was surprised to find that there are numerous books by the side of the bed that I intend to read next. The fact that there are about seven of them may prove somewhat difficult to achieve this task!! That also doesn't count the books in piles in other places around the house!!
The books I currently have by the side of the bed are Sugar Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke, Prince Caspian by CS Lewis, Mr Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll, A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon, My Enemy the Queen by Victoria Holt, Dreamland by Kevin Baker and Lady of the Knight by Jackie Ivie.
Maybe I should just get on and read instead of messing around on here!!
Saturday, January 01, 2005
- A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore
- A Reader's Respite
- A Striped Armchair
- A Work in Progress
- An Adventure in Reading
- At Home with a Good Book and the Cat
- Beth Fish Reads
- Bonnie's Books
- Bookfoolery and Babble
- Bookgirl's Nightstand
- Carla Nayland Historical Fiction
- Catherine Delors - Versaille and More
- Damned Scribbling Women
- Deanna Raybourn
- Devourer of Books
- Diana Gabaldon - Voyages of the Artemis
- Dragon Flowers and Books
- Elizabeth Chadwick - Living the History
- Fashionista Piranha
- Fresh Ink Books
- Historical Boys: Historical Fiction for Men and Women
- Kylee's Journal
- Le Canape
- Literary Lolita
- Lynn Irwin Stewart
- Maggie Reads
- Maw Books
- Michelle Moran - History Buff
- Misadventures of Moppet
- Musings of a Bookish Kitty
- Mysteries in Paradise
- Oklahoma Booklady
- Passages to the Past
- Peeking Between the Pages
- Raging Bibliomania
- Reading the Past
- Rhinoa's Ramblings
- Rosina Lippi/Sara Donati - Storytelling
- Sam's Book blog
- Sassymonkey Reads
- Saving My Sanity
- Semicolon Blog
- So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
- Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-a-holic
- Susan Higginbotham - Medieval Woman:
- Tales of a Capricious Reader
- Tanzanite's Shelf and Stuff
- The Library Ladder
- The Literate Housewife
- The Printed Page
- The Reading Spot
- The Written World
- Things Mean a Lot
- Wandeca Reads
- You Can Never Have Too Many Books
- Aneca's World
- Angie's Romance Reviews (and Trades)
- Book Binge
- Book Thingo
- Breezing Through
- csquared's all around blog
- Dear Author
- Flight Into Fantasy
- I Just Finished Reading
- In My Books
- Jennifer Crusie - Argh Ink
- Julia's Book Corner
- Karen Knows Best
- My Two Cents
- Natuschan - Books, Books and More Books
- Nobody Asked Me
- Nocturnal Wonderings
- Nose in a Book
- Novel Reads
- Occasional Opines
- Old Bitey
- Ramblings on Romance
- Reading is Sexy
- Renee Reads Romance
- Romancing the Blog
- Rosario's Reading Journal
- Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books
- Stacy's Place on Earth
- Sula's Space
- The Book Smugglers
- The Good, The Bad and The Unread
- The Romance Bookworm
- The Thrillionth Page
- The Way I See It
- Thrifty Reader
- Wandeca Reads