Wednesday, June 28, 2006

City of Dreams by Beverly Swerling

In 1661 a brother and sister stagger off a small wooden ship after eleven perilous weeks at see to seek a new life in the rough and rowdy Dutch settlement of Nieuw Amsterdam. Lucas Turner is a barber surgeon, Sally Turner an apothecary. Both gifted healers, they are bound to each other by blood and necessity. But as their new lives unfold, betrayal and murder will make them deadly enemies.

In their struggle to survive in the New World, both make choices that will burden their descendants - dedicated physicians and surgeons, pirates and whoremasters - with a legacy of secrets and retribution. The is heritage will set cousin against cousin, physician against surgeon, and ultimately, patriot against Tory.

In a city where black slaves are burned alive on Wall Street, where James Madison and Thomas Jefferson walk The Broad Way arguing America's destiny, and one of the greatest hospitals in the world is born in a former shipwright's workshops by the East River, the fortunes of the Turner and Devreys families are inextricably entwined.

Their pride and ambition, their loves and their hates and their determination to live by their own rules will shape the future of medicine - and the becoming of the dream that is New York.

I actually finished this book about a week ago, came and created this post, and then left it in draft until now, so if I am a little vague, that will be why!

Subtitled A Novel of Nieuw Amsterdam and Early Manhattan, this is mainly the story of Lucas and Sarah Turner and their descendants. When Lucas and Sarah make the trip to the New World, they are looking for a new start where they will be free to live as they want to. For Lucas that means for him to operate as a surgeon and to have the opportunity to be able to try out some of his medical theories and for Sarah, that she can become an apothecary. When Lucas falls in love with a married woman, there are unexpected consequences that begins to impact the future of his family.

When Lucas agrees that Sarah can marry Jacob de Vries she is mortified, and thus begins a feud that will not only last the lifetime of Sarah and Lucas, but then escalate throughout the generations of their family... although it does have to be said that the next generations are happy to start feuds on their own.

The most interesting of their descendants is probably Jennet, who starts life as a young girl with a talent with the knife (as in surgery). It is however unthinkable for a woman to be a doctor in those days and so she takes to secretly innoculating people against smallpox and attempting to provide medical aid to those that she can in secret.

When she marries, her husband asks her to give it up, and she does so. When her husband returns from a journey as a shadow of his former self, she is transformed from a loving wife to a hard nosed business woman whose interests include several brothels. As she raises her son, her wealth increases, but really her focus is on destroying one of her relatives because of the way he treated her when they were younger.

Swerling takes us on a journey through the descendant's lives, and those of some of their slaves, servants and friends, whilst at the same time giving us glimpses into the life and times of Nieuw Amsterdam, or New York as the city became known as later, touching important events in the city's history without overwhelming with historical information.

I had seen this book recommended quite a few times as a book that fans of Diana Gabaldon would really enjoy, and I can see how those comparisons can be made. The differences between the two authors:

Swerling covers quite a long period of time in one book. This book starts in 1661 and ends in 1798. Can you imagine how many books Gabaldon would take to cover that same timeframe?

Swerling covers seven generations of the two families, instead of focusing just on the one or two generations.

Swerling is jumps in time between various sections throughout the book, and from generation to generation. She gives a sufficient amount of detail in relation to the key events that in the lives of her characters as opposed to dwelling on everyday life.

The similarities:

In the Outlander series, Gabaldon is just building up to the American Revolution and has her characters interacting with some of the main historical figures. Swerling also brings us a section of the story from that time, and there is also some interaction with historical people, although it is only part of the stories.

Swerling also likes to give us details relating to medical procedures, cures and experiments of the time. The main difference is that her characters are doing trial and error experiments from scratch, whereas Claire at least knew where to start with her knowledge from the 20th century.

I really enjoyed watching New York grow throughout the series, from a town that stretched a mile from the port, to a town where there are elegant brick buildings, and quite a sizeable town over 100 years later.

There are significant enough differences that anyone who doesn't like Gabaldon's work may enjoy this, whilst fans of the Outlander series will also likely enjoy it as well!

The first 130 pages or so of this book were exceptional, and whilst the rest of the book was still enjoyable it didn't quite maintain that high standard all the way through. If there was anything that I wasn't sure of it was of the last few pages, but I believe that there is a sequel out soon so maybe that will clarify things for me a bit more.

I really, really enjoyed this book, and will definitely be reading more of her work.

Rating 4.5/5

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A long night

There was much excitement here last night. The Socceroos going up against The Azzurri in the World Cup. my night.

8.30pm Arrive home after going out for dinner.

9.30pm Into bed to get some much needed pre game sleep. Read one chapter of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, and then attempt to sleep. Took a while but got there eventually.

12.25am Alarm goes off with 5 minutes before the game is due to start. Well actually, the game doesn't start for another half an hour. Darn! Could have slept for another half an hour.

12.45am Chocolate...that will help me stay awake.

12.52am Harry Kewell isn't just doubtful, he is on crutches!!

12.58am Transmission lost. Missed the first 90 seconds of the game because there were no pictures.

1.22am Couple of close calls, with magnificent saves by Mark Schwarzer, who should have played all the games in the tournament in the first place!

1.29am Off the couch - best chance yet to Scott Chipperfield

1.47am Half time...maybe water will help me stay awake, because the chocolate certainly didn't! If anything the chocolate made me feel a bit sick!

2.06am Italy down to 10 men. Come on Aussies!

2.14am Beginning to doubt that I can actually make it through to the end.

2.49am 93rd minute - Dodgy penalty awarded. I am standing in the lounge room, hands on my face and head just about praying that it isn't going to all go horribly wrong. Goal scored to Italy. Australia's World Cup dream is over.

2.55am You would think that that would mean back to bed, but no...I stay up a bit longer to listen to the post match commentary.

3.33am In bed, but still awake. Can't sleep!

6.18am Up again, and so overtired! Have to make it through the day now.

Well done Socceroos!!! This was only Australia's second World Cup Finals appearance. During this tournament we scored our first ever World Cup Final goals, had our first ever World Cup Finals win, and I think done immeasurable good for soccer in Australia!

Oh, and I also discovered that my handwriting is terrible to read when your write things down in the middle of the night!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig

The second book following on from The Secret History of the Pink Carnation .

Finding True Love Was Never So Dangerous

Two hundred years ago, secret documents so sensitive they could alter the course of history were stolen from a courier with the London War Office. A the scene of the crime, the victim was left with a curious note containing only a small black symbol pinned to his chest. Authorities were baffled. It took two centuries for a young American history student, Eloise Kelly, to uncover the missing pieces of the puzzle...

As Eloise reads from an old codebook, she discovers that the Black Tulip, the deadliest spy in Napoleon's arsenal, has returned to England with a
terrifying mission. Only a pair of star-crossed lovers stand in the way of the Black Tulip. But will stopping the Black Tulip's secret mission cost them their
lives or, even worse, their love?

It's funny you know...when I was rereading what I wrote about Secret History, it struck me as quite ironic that I wrote that the back cover blurb wasn't really accurate for that book, as I have to say the same thing again. Reading the blurb above, it makes it seem as though the missing documents were a key part of the story, and that Eloise was the first person to discover the true identity of the Black Tulip...which isn't exactly the way the book pans out.

Our hero from the previous book (Lord Richard Selwick aka ThePurple Gentian) has had to retire from active spy service given that his cover was blown. That actually suits him as he is now settled into married bliss with Amy. He is, however, keeping his hand in by running a spy school from his home.

The Pink Carnation is still plying her trade in Paris, obtaining secret information and sending it home to England using a series of chatty letters to Lady Henrietta Selwick (sister of Lord Richard). What looks like gossip is in fact a complex series of codes that Henrietta then passes onto The War Office.

Miles Dorrington was a close personal friend of Richard (in fact has basically been a member of the family since he was a very young boy) and also employed at The War Office.

When the news comes through that there is a deadly new spy who has made their way to London, both Miles and Henrietta decide that they will track down the deadly Black Tulip.

There is a small problem though. All of a sudden they are both finding each other more and more attractive. Whilst Henrietta acknowledges her feelings, Miles is somewhat slower...very concerned about the fact that he is lusting after his best friend's sister, which apparently is just not done.

After both having numerous escapades and false leads, Miles and Henrietta both end up at a special spy weekend (the event is meant to appear as a house party) at her brother's home, where they are training their latest recruits, things don't quite go to plan. When it seems as though the Black Tulip has infiltrated the house, all of the potential spies are required to stay in the grounds of Selwick Hall, and in some ways, it is inevitable that Miles and Henrietta will be caught in a compromising situation.

There were times that I did just wish that Miles and Henrietta would just talk to each other, and things would have been a lot easier for them. As for Eloise, she spends the weekend at Selwick Hall, searching through the archives there for more evidence about The Pink Carnation and The Black Tulip, and the spy school that was convened there, but is she also succumbing to the charms of Colin Selwick? There's been no action on that stage yet, but it is building nicely!

Another fun, light read. The next book comes out later this year and has The Pink Carnation setting off for Ireland. I will definitely be getting hold of it when it comes out!

Rating 4/5

Friday, June 23, 2006

A Rose for the Crown by Anne Easter Smith

This book was Book of the Month for June over at Historical Fiction Forum. I haven't gotten around to May's book yet, so I thought I should probably read this month's book, and I am certainly glad that I did!




In A Rose for the Crown, we meet one of history's alleged villains through the eyes of a captivating new heroine -- the woman who was the mother of his illegitimate children, a woman who loved him for who he really was, no matter what the cost to herself.

As Kate Haute moves from her peasant roots to the luxurious palaces of England, her path is inextricably intertwined with that of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later King Richard III. Although they could never marry, their young passion grows into a love that sustains them through war, personal tragedy, and the dangerous heights of political triumph.

Anne Easter Smith's impeccable research provides the backbone of an engrossing and vibrant debut from a major new historical novelist.

Richard III is known as one of the most villainous kings of England, mainly because whilst in his care the two princes in the Tower, his nephews, disappeared without a trace. He was the last Plantagenet king, and had his throne taken from him by the first of the Tudor kings, Henry VII. He was portrayed in a negative way ever since the time of the Tudors, with Shakespeare especially getting in on the act. There are quite a few people out there who believe that this reputation is undeserved, and that he is a king that has had bad PR over the years. The author of this book is a member of the Richard III society and it is therefore inevitable that she would portray him in a mostly positive light, but hers is not the only one out there that portrays him in this way. One of the best books I have read with Richard III as subject is Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman...awesome book!

Before we come to know Richard, we firstly meet a young lady by the name of Kate Bywood, who is a lovely looking country lass, with the very bad habits of telling everyone what she thinks, and asking too many questions. We follow Kate for many years, getting to know her as she lives both at her family home, and then when she is given the opportunity to travel to Ightham Mote to become companion to a member of her family. She is married at quite a young age to a much older man, and widowed a short time later, making her an independent woman, with a regular income. Along the way we also meet some of the people that will become incredibly important to her, including Margaret Howard, wife of John Howard...a man on the rise within royal circles, and who eventually played a huge role in the reign of Richard III.

When it comes to be time for Kate to marry again she is delighted when she is to be married to George Haute, a very handsome young man, who is in service with the Howards. However, it becomes very clear early on that whilst Kate thinks she loves George, George's reasons for marriage are less honourable. Kate is resigned to another marriage that is less than fulfilling. Into her unhappy life comes the youngest brother of Edward IV, Richard of Gloucester, and there is an instant connection between them. As their paths occasionally cross, everything is building up to their inevitable relationship.

Young Richard of Gloucester is portrayed as a man who values loyalty more than anything, and who is valued for his own loyalty by his brother, something that is not always forthcoming in royal families (their brother, Duke of Clarence was executed for treason against Edward IV). For Richard and Kate, they cannot often be together, but when they are the time spent is precious, and even more so when Kate bears him two children. Richard is, however, a man of honour, and so when the time comes for him to marry for duty, they agree that their time as lovers has to end, but not before Kate once again finds herself with child.

Following the death of Edward, Richard is first appointed as regent to the young King Edward V, and then eventually is declared King in his own right. Kate's two older children are acknowledged by Richard and even taken into his own household by him and his wife Queen Anne, and Kate is separated by the social chasm between them as they begin their lives as young royals. She is not however ever separated from them emotionally.

The connection between Kate and Richard is a strong and loving one, and as Richard deals with the difficulties of being king, Kate is able to provide him with support in a way that no one else can, especially when his two young nephews are taken care of! She is also able to help out some of her closer friends and relatives as a result of her own influence with him.

So, what basis in fact is there? What is known is that Richard has at least two illegitimate children before his marriage that he acknowledged and had living in his own household. On the eve of his death it is thought that he acknowledged a third child as well. As to the identity of the mother(s), that is not known, so the author has taken some information found in the history records and woven her story around them. She suppposes that given that Richard was quite unusual in that he was completely faithful to his wife (quite the opposite of his older brother!), that it was likely that Richard had had such a loving relationship with someone that he was fulfilled in a way that no mistresses could compete with. How true that supposition is .... who knows, but it does make for a very solid and compelling read.

The author takes the facts that are known, along with details of daily lives across a cross section of society, and weaves them into a narrative that is compelling without being dry as some historical fiction can occasionally be.

An extremely satisfying and enjoyable read, and a recommended read to anyone interested in reading about the English royal history before Tudor times.

Rating 4.5/5

We're Through!!

Second we come!

It was a very strange ending to the game though. At least two handballs that weren't picked up. Suggestions of three yellow cards for one player, and when the end came I was dancing around my kitchen wondering if the game was really over!

Doesn't matter now really!

Now..after getting up at 5am to watch to work!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Round Robin by Jennifer Chiaverini

The second book in the Elm Creek Quilts series following after The Quilter's Apprentice.

Round Robin reunites readers with the Elm Creek Quilters in this poignant and heartwarming follow-up to The Quilter's Apprentice, Jennifer Chiaverini's acclaimed debut novel.

The Elm Creek Quilters have begun a round robin ... a quilt created by sewing concentric patchwork to a central block as it is passed around a circle of friends. Led by Sarah McClure, who came to Waterford, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Matt, a few years ago, the project is to be their gift to their beloved fellow quilter Sylvia Compson. But like the most delicate cross-stitch, their lives are held together by the most tenuous threads of happiness ... and they can unravel.

As each woman confronts a personal crisis, a painful truth, or a life-changing choice, the quilt serves as a symbol of the complex and enduring bonds between mothers and daughters, sisters and friends. In weaving together the harmonious, disparate pieces of their crazy-quilt lives, the Elm Creek Quilters come to realize that friendship is one of the most precious gifts we can give each other, and that love can strengthen understanding, lead to new beginnings, and illuminate our lives.

Once again, this was a very pleasant, and easy, read. With the events in this book happening two years after those in the first book in the series, we meet up with all of the Elm Creek Quilters. Sarah and Sylvia's dreams have been fulfilled and Elm Creek Manor is now a quilter's retreat. The other members of the group are helping out with teaching, and everything should be great...but not everything is perfect.

Sarah and her husband Matt are having a few issues, especially given that he is concerned that they have got no ongoing security. Sarah still has not resolved her issues with her mother, and when she makes an embarrassing faux pas on a national TV show, Sylvia invites Carol to come and stay with them in the hope of reconciling the two women. It's safe to say that the visit doesn't quite go to plan.

For Sylvia, she is reunited with an old friend, but is she open to the fact that he may want more than just friendship? After having a pretty series health scare, she is forced to reevaluate her relationships with the people around her, including her old friend Andrew.

Of the other women, college professor Gwen has to deal with the fact that her daughter Summer doesn't actually want to go to college, instead wanting to make her way through life working with their quilting friends, either at Elm Creek Manor or working for Bonnie in her shop.

Bonnie meanwhile suspects that her husband is having an internet romance with a younger woman, and for Dianne, she is relieved when her oldest son finally seems to have found an skateboarding. When her nosy neighbour complains about a skate ramp in her back yard, Dianne calls on her friends for support.

The most poignant of the stories for me this time was concerning Judy. She was a child of a relationship between a Vietnamese woman and a GI father. When she is contacted by a woman saying that she is her half sister, Judy has to decide whether she wants to establish a relationship with her new found family, and risk alienating her mother, or does she want to leave things lie. Along the way, she learns some lessons about the nature of truth, particularly as her biological father does not always seem to have told the truth, to any of the people in his life, about Judy and her mother.

If there was one thing I would say about this book, it is that all the loose ends were tied up sssooo fact everything fell in place almost too perfectly. Whilst that is great for the characters, I don't know that that is how things would really happened.

I was interested to see that on the author's website, she has a section showing what some of the quilts that are made during the books of the series would look like....a real bonus for someone like me that is NOT a quilter or crafty person at all! The Round Robin quilt made during this book is shown here.

Once again, an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours in the company of the women of the Elm Creek Quilting group.

Rating 4/5

Monday, June 19, 2006

My Scandalous Bride - Anthology

I can't remember why exactly had to get this now, but I think it is because I realised that once I read this there would only be one Celeste Bradley book that I hadn't read yet. Hers was the first novella that I read, but I will go through them one by one. I actually hadn't read any of the other authors at all.

Christina Dodd, "The Lady and the Tiger"
Laura Haver will stop at nothing to find out who killed her brother-even if it means posing as the wife of notorious rogue Keefe Leighton, the Earl of Hamilton. But things go too far when Keefe engages Laura in an artful game of seduction-a game that can have only one winner...

I am not sure what to make of this story. I really liked the premise until near the very end of the story. Keefe is a master spy who is trying to stop a French spy from giving away England's secrets. Laura is convinced that Keefe is a double crossing spy, and she is determined to unearth his secrets. So when she pretends to be his wife at the local inn, so that she can spy on him on his land, he decides to claim her as his own as he knows that no one in the inn will assist her against him.

Stephanie Laurens, "Melting Ice"
Once, Dyan St. Laurent Dare, Duke of Darke, dreamed of making Lady Fiona his bride. Now they're together again-at a scandalous dinner party where debauchery is the menu's main course. But will wedding bells ring after the guests get their just desserts

First thing...Dyan? It is an unusual name for sure! I am not sure whether one or both of these characters had been introduced in other books, but I didn't really feel as though I knew who Fiona was. Fiona and Dyan had shared a kiss many years ago, and Fiona, wanting a declaration of love, scared him off. As soon as they saw each other again the sparks were there, and when Dyan realises that Fiona has no idea that the dinner party she is attending is THAT kind of party, the obvious thing is that he be the one to debauch her instead of one of the other guests. Not too bad as a story!

Celeste Bradley, "Wedding Knight"
Alfred Knight will do anything to avoid a scandal-even marry a woman he barely knows. But his bride has a most titillating she'll share as soon as she conquers her temptation for the man she was never supposed to marry!
Having read and mostly enjoyed all of Celeste Bradley's books except for Fallen, this story was the reason why I got this book in the first place, and I wasn't disappointed. When she is on form, Celeste Bradley takes stories that you might well have read before and gives them a humour and a freshness that is really entertaining. Alfred Knight has found the perfect wife. She is quiet, will never embarrass him in public and will remain dutiful. It doesn't matter that he will never feel any great love for her. He just wants to get on with restoring his family's good name after all the terrible exploits of his mother. So when his perfect bride switches places with her twin sister, Alfred is a little surprised to feel such a strong attraction to her, and that she isn't the biddable miss he thought he was getting. The only thing that stretched a bit too far was the fact that Kitty is a really good knife thrower. Other than that, a good read.
Leslie LaFoy, "The Proposition"
Rennick St. James, the Earl of Parnell, has four days to seduce London's most popular widow into becoming his wife-or else she'll marry another man. It won't be easy...but Rennick has been lusting after the beguiling Julia Hamilton far too long to let her go now...
I had never even heard of this author before, let alone read anything by her, and for the most part I really liked her story. If there was one thing that bothered me, it's trying to work out whether a confirmed rake would wait around 13 years for the only woman that he ever truly loved, and if so, why would he be such an out and out rake during that time? Other than that the novella was entertaining.

Overall rating: 4/5

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Ole, ole!!!

Bring on the Brazilians!!

I'll be up at 2am to watch the Socceroos go round with the Brazilians! And then this will be me at work tomorrow!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Fool for Love by Eloisa James

The second book in the Duchess series, following on from Duchess in Love. Due to the way that the stories of several of the characters intertwine their way throughout the first two books this review will include some small spoilers for Duchess in Love, but I have done my best to limit them.

The Woman
Lady Henrietta Maclellan longs for the romantic swirl of a London season. But as a rusticating country maiden, she has always kept her sensuous nature firmly under wraps -- until she meets Simon Darby. Simon makes her want to whisper promises late at night, exchange kisses on a balcony, receive illicit love notes. So Henrietta lets her imagination soar and writes…

The Letter
A very steamy love letter that becomes shockingly public. Everyone supposes that he has written it to her, but the truth hardly matters in the face of the scandal to come if they don't marry at once. But nothing has quite prepared Henrietta for the pure sensuality of…

The Man
Simon has vowed he will never turn himself into a fool over a woman. So, while debutantes swoon as he disdainfully strides past the lovely ladies of the ton, he ignores them all…until Henrietta. Could it be possible that he has been the foolish one all along?

It's interesting to me to see how these first two books link together, and then to wonder how the final two books will link together again as well. In the first book of the series, the main story was that of Gina and Cam, but in the background there were Carola and her husband Tuppy, Helene and her estranged husband and then Esme who during the course of a house party decides to reunite with her husband in order to provide him with an heir. In the meantime though she submits to her desire for Sebastian. When her husband dies, she is left pregnant, but doesn't know which of the two men could be the father, which brings us to the events in this book, and our hero, Esme's husband's heir Simon Darby. It is obvious that Esme is the centrepiece of this series, especially seeing as Gina and Cam barely rate a mention in this book!

Simon is sceptical that Esme and his uncle had reunited and therefore is concerned that if the child is a boy, then the title may be passed onto another man's child. He therefore decides to decamp to Esme's estate to see if he can figure out what went on before his uncle's death. Unfortunately, he has rather recently become the guardian of his two young stepsisters and therefore he has to bring them with them. The two girls are...well...painful. I don't normally mind much when there is kids in a romance but these two are not cute and adorable. The elder girl, Josie, throws tantrums all the time, and her favourite line is that she is a poor, motherless child. Abigail, the younger girl, is apparently less than a year old, makes her presence known by throwing up at the most inopportune moments on a regular basis. The author in her note talks about her own daughter who continued to throw up regularly until she was about twelve months old. Whilst I don't doubt the veracity of the condition, I don't want to read about it!

So anyway, when Simon meets Henrietta he can't believe that no-one else has snapped her up and married her before now, and given the attraction between them, and the fact that his mind has turned to marriage is a bonus. After being caught kissing Henrietta up against a carriage in public, Simon does the honourable thing and proposes marriage to her stepmother. However, she strongly suggests that Henrietta should not get married because with her disability of a weak hip, she would not be able to stand the rigours of the marriage bed, and would likely die from the perils of childbirth, as did her mother who shared her weakness of the hip.

Instead of accepting this as her fate, Henrietta arranges a plan with Esme where a letter that she wrote to herself pretending it was from Simon is read in a public dinner party, meaning that she is thoroughly compromised and there really was no choice but for Simon to marry Henrietta. Esme comes to the rescue with a contraceptive device that means that the lovebirds can have a normal relationship... thank goodness!

In the meantime, Esme has a new gardener who she is more familiar with than she should be, and the next book is set up to be her story. I can't wait to read it!

In terms of the characters, I didn't really feel as though I connected with Simon in particular. He was portrayed as a very fashionable man about town, with lace collars and sleeves, a man who is happy to be seen in salmon coloured breeches. Turns out he is the chief importer of lace into London, and whilst he is a bit of fop, he is also a very manly man! As for Henrietta...well, I am bit in two minds about her as well. Whilst she didn't just accept that she should be an unmarried woman which is admirable, her reaction in a couple of situations was verging on hysterical for want of a better word.

The fact of the matter is, that for me, I suspect that this book really is just the build up to the main course, which is Esme and Sebastian's story!

Rating 3.5/5

Friday, June 16, 2006

Somewhere I'll Find You by Lisa Kleypas

All London is at Julia Wentworth's feet. The beautiful, enchanting actress is the toast of the theater world—and anything she desires is hers for the asking. But the incomparable leading lady guards a devastating secret: a mystery husband whom she does not know, dares not mention. . .and cannot love.

For years Damon Savage has been searching for the stranger his unscrupulous parents wed him to without his consent. Wanting no more than to be legally rid of the foolish chit, Damon is shocked to discover his "bride" is the exquisite stage performer whom he intended to make his mistress! But though his wife by law, Julia will never truly be Damon's—until he conquers her fears, his formidable rivals. . .and the stellar lady's proud, independent heart.

Hmmm...what to say? What to say?

As I work my way through Lisa Kleypas' backlist I am sure that I am going to find books that were more miss than hit....and this was kind of one of them. Or perhaps it would be fair to say that this book just isn't as good as her others. It's still pretty good but it isn't exceptional.

Is it okay if I leave it at that? I mean, they had terrible childhoods, as soon as they meet again they know there is a strong attraction between them, they of course sleep together, she is of course a virgin and of course, they end up living happily ever after.

The one thing that did grab my attention is the character of Logan, Julia's theatre manager and fellow actor. I really want to read his story and see how someone can break through his cold exterior and rival the passion he feels for his theatre.

This book wasn't Lisa Kleypas at her best. Onto the next one!

Rating 3/5

The Quilter's Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini

After moving with her husband, Matt, to the small college town of Waterford, Pennsylvania, Sarah McClure struggles to find a fulfilling job. In the meantime, she agrees to help seventy-five-year-old Sylvia Compson prepare her family estate, Elm Creek Manor, for sale. As part of her compensation, Sarah is taught how to quilt by this cantankerous elderly woman, who is a master of the craft.

During their lessons, Mrs. Compson reveals how her family was torn apart by tragedy, jealousy, and betrayal, and her stories force Sarah to face uncomfortable truths about her own alienation from her widowed mother. As their friendship deepens, Mrs. Compson confides in Sarah the truth about why she wants to sell Elm Creek Manor. In turn, Sarah seeks a way to bring life and joy back to the estate so Mrs. Compson can keep her home-and Sarah can keep her cherished friend. The Quilter's Apprentice teaches deep lessons about family, friendship, and sisterhood, and about creating a life as you would a quilt: with time, love, and patience, piecing the miscellaneous and mismatched scraps into a beautiful

I'll start this post by saying that I am not a craft person at all. I did learn how to sew, knit and crochet when I was young but it really does not do anything for me now. I would much rather read a book or be on the net. I don't however mind reading about other people doing craft, especially as they tend to also be stories around female friendship (well all three books that I have read that fit in this category anyway!)

This book was a very easy read. In fact I read all 270 pages in about two and a half hours. Sarah and Matt McClure have recently moved to Waterford after Matt lost his job. For a while Sarah worked full time, and Matt made do with odd jobs, but eventually they decided to move somewhere where Matt could find a job, and now it is Sarah who is on the unemployment merry-go-round, and her self esteem is suffering as a result.

When she meets crotchety Mrs Compson, she can imagine nothing worse than working with her, but as a temporary measure she agrees to do so in exchange for quilting lessons. Sarah also joins a quilting group, and as she begins to make friends in her new home she realises that there are definite undercurrents in the town, some related to problems that go back 50 years.

Can she help repair the broken relationships, save Mrs Compson's home and find something meaningful for her to do herself.

Whilst this is a very easy read, and is definitely aimed at a warm fuzzies kind of audience this book was not sickly sweet!

A good read all round. I will definitely be reading more of this series!

Rating 4/5

Thursday, June 15, 2006

My Dream of You by Nuala O'Faolain

From the Back Cover:

When Kathleen de Burca, her life in crisis, returns to her native Ireland, she is in search of the truth behind the story of a love so passionate it burnt its way through barriers of class and culture. In so doing, she not only travels back to the Ireland of the 1850s and into the heart of a tragic love story, but also starts to examine her own troubled past. Then, finding a love of her own, Kathleen faces a choice which could changer her life profoundly, and discovers just how powerful the human heart is...

I was reading this book for a group read and thought it sounded quite good, and in the end it was, but it wasn't an easy read for me. In fact, if I hadn't been reading with the group I probably would have put it down and not picked it up again. It's not that it was a Did Not Finish book really. I would have intended to pick it up again but not really ever got around to it! But then, about 140 pages in suddenly I was hooked and I had to know what happened next! It could be that I just wasn't in the mood for it before that day, but I am not sure.

The main characters is an Irish woman by the name of Kathleen de Burca who has lived in London for over 20 years, makes her living as a travel writer. She has never married, and her closest friends are her work colleagues Jimmy and Alex. Jimmy is a gay travel writer and Alex is her boss who has plenty of surprising secrets of his own. When Jimmy drops dead of a heart attack, Kathleen's life is plunged into crisis, and she decides that it is time for her to change her current lifestyle which involves travelling around the world and sleeping with strangers somewhat indiscriminately.

She decides that she might write a book about the events surrounding a divorce that happened in Ireland in the 1850's and so goes back to Ireland to research what she can about the people involved in the case. She had not been back to Ireland since she left, not even for the funerals of her parents. Whilst there she reconnects with the remaining members of her family, realising along the way that she really doesn't know them at all, as well as making new friends as she researches her story.

There are several different strands to this story. There is the story of Richard and Marianne Talbot, the couple obtaining a divorce in sensational circumstances. Marianne is supposed to have been having a long standing and passionate affair with the head groom, and was being divorced because of that. Another aspect is the effect of the potato famine on the people of Ireland, both during and in the aftermath.

The other strands of the novel focus on Kathleen, as she tries to gain understanding of her life, and why she has acted the way she has, including her failed or difficult relationships: filial, romantic and in her friendships. In her first passionate relationship as a young woman, Kathleen makes poor decisions that end up leading to the relationship failing, and after that point it is almost as though Kathleen has closed herself off from love, rather accepting sex as a shabby substitute.

So when she meets a man named Shay one afternoon, there is passion, there is love, but is she prepared to accept what it is that he has to offer, or is she now strong enough to move forward with her life and to find fulfillment from other avenues.

Apart from the fact that it took me a long time to get into the early parts of this book, it was an entertaining, well written and engrossing read. However, I will have to mark down for that beginning!

Rating 3.5/5

Monday, June 12, 2006

It's Time!!

I'll be staying up late tonight to watch the Socceroos do their thing against Japan!! Our first World Cup game in 32 years, and only the second time ever we have made the World Cup finals!

Go the Aussies!


Yes, that's right!! I have just finished my 100th book of the far!

My reading resolutions for this year were to read 200 books. It would appear that I am ahead of schedule! Yay!

My other resolutions were to read at least 25 of the books that I already owned at the end of last year and to read a wide range of genres.I am up to 12 on the first count so not too far off of target either. I've realised though that the reading of a wide range of genres wasn't exactly a specific target but I guess I am not doing all that badly there!! So far this year I have read 34 new to me authors, so all round it seems to be all good!!

As long as my reading continues as it has been shouldn't be a problem to reach the end of year targets I set myself.

Immortal in Death by J D Robb

This is the third book in the In Death series, following on from Glory in Death. Just for something a little different, Kailana (from The Written World) and I decided to do a joint review. Apart from the fact that when I read romance, she reads fantasy, most of the time we have very similar tastes in our reading. We also tend to push our next reads on each other, so have been reading books simultaneously (or at least starting them simultaneously!!) but this time we got our act together and both finished the book at around the same time!!

Kailana's thoughts are going to be written in blue, whilst my thoughts will be in black! First, about the book:
It is 2058, New York City. Lieutenant Eve Dallas uncovers a world where technology can create beauty and youth, but passion and greed can destroy them.

She was one of the most sought-after women in the world. A top model who would stop at nothing to get what she wanted -even another woman's man. And now she's dead, the victim of a brutal murder.

Police lieutenant Eve Dallas puts her life on the line to take the case when suspicion falls on her best friend, the other woman in the fatal love triangle. Beneath the fa├žade of glamour, Eve finds that the world of high fashion thrives on an all-consuming obsession with youth and fame-one that leads her from the lights of the runway to the dark underworld of New York City, where drugs can fulfill any desire, for a price.
I am happily working my way through this series slowly, and in this, the third book in the series, I was pleased to see that this time Roarke was not a suspect!! Mainly because we could not have the perspective groom in jail on the wedding day! Or because people like him too much to keep having to bite their nails, and hope that Eve leaves the poor man alone.

This time Eve is called in to investigate the death of one of her weasels, someone who is willing to give her information about what is happening on the streets.

Not long after, there is a seemingly unconnected death of a beautiful, high profile model, Pandora. She has a power that has gotten her to the top, a love of the high life and a poster girl for the one-night stand. She comes across as glamourous, but Eve quickly learns that there is more to her than meets the eye, especially when it seems as though her best friend Mavis is the prime suspect and Eve is called in as a friend and the primary investigator. When Mavis finds the body of Pandora, a beautiful woman who no one really likes, it seems inevitable that the clues will all point towards her - a classic set up. One of those predictable scenarios found in the most gripping cop novels.

When Eve has no choice but to arrest Mavis, she has to deal with her feelings in relation to betraying one of her few true friends, or as Roarke points out, her family. But Eve is a determined cop and with her battling it out for her friend, we know that justice will be served.

All of this is going on whilst Eve is trying to get ready for her wedding to Roarke. Roarke is taking care of most of the details, but there are a couple of things that Eve is determined to choose herself, and pay for herself, including the wedding dress… and all the things that her designer, Leonardo, seems to think that she needs. Since Leonardo is the one that connects Pandora and Mavis, being lovers to both of them, he turns out to be important to the novel in more ways than one.

As more bodies turn up that are brutalized in the same horrific manner, it becomes clear that there is a connection. It appears to be a new illegal drug, that is actually poisoning the addict slowly. A drug that is that is very pricey to produce because one of the ingredients is only available off-planet. Before destroying the user, though, it makes them appear and feel younger and sexier - definitely attractive to the masses, especially if they don't know about the side effects! Good for the significant other too because it offers a heightened sex drive! Watch out for the mood swings that follow, though.

In this novel, Lieutenant Dallas gets Officer Peabody added to her office, and we get to know the wise cracking officer who seems to be quite a good foil to Eve's apparent seriousness and troubled self, until you get under her stiff, cop-like exterior once you get to know her. We also begin to understand the relationship between Roarke and his butler, Summerset, when in a rare moment Roarke reveals an aspect of his ‘shady’ past to a very troubled Eve. If that is not enough deep psychological dealing for you, it is also the novel that Eve finally figures out the past that she has tried to forget for over twenty years, and then deal with the emotion that stirs up.

As far as the villain goes, as soon as he came onto the scene I didn't like him, but it didn't really seem as though we were really provided with all that many clues to point at him until all was revealed right at the end! But everyone knows that it is better to be in the dark than have the mystery solved in the first two pages. The whole fun of a Robb novel is the fact that there are usually twists and turns at every flip of the page.

My rating 4/5
Kailana's rating 3.5/5

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Sookie Stackhouse is a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. She's quiet, she keeps to herself, and doesn't get out much. Not because she's not pretty. She is. It's just that, well, Sookie has this sort of "disability." She can read minds. And that doesn't make her too dateable. And then along comes Bill. He's tall, dark, handsome - and Sookie can't hear a word he's thinking. He's exactly the type of guy she's been waiting for all her life...

but Bill has a disability of his own: He's a vampire with a bad reputation. he hangs with a seriously creepy crowd, all suspected of - big surprise - murder. And when one of Sookie's coworkers is killed, she fears she's next....

My first EVER vampire book, although this seems to be a bit of a cross between vampire and cozy murder mystery so I am not sure that everyone would count it as a true vampire story but that's okay!

Sookie Stackhouse lives a pretty quiet life, not really by choice, but because she can hear the thoughts of everyone around her and that gets to be quite overwhelming! Usually she tries to block everyone's thoughts but even that is pretty tiring so she does her work and then spends her time with the grandmother that she lives with, and the brother that she doesn't necessarily always get along with! That is, until she meets Bill. Bill is different because, well, she can't hear any of his thoughts. Bill is also a vampire who is looking to return to the hometown that he lived in a couple of hundred years.

Things are changing for vampires. They are grudgingly being accepted by most of the community (even appearing on Oprah), and they are protected by the law, but that doesn't mean that everyone accepts them. As Sookie gets to know Bill, she also gets to meet some of the crowd that he hangs around with, and they aren't all quite as civilised as Bill!!

When one of Sookie's coworkers is found dead, there are several suspects. When another girl is killed, suspicion is more strongly focused on two people close to Sookie - Bill and her brother Jason.

Quicker than you can say "I Vant to Suck Your Blood" the bodies are stacking up and Sookie is being targeted by the murderer. She has to find out who the murderer is before she becomes a victim herself.

Whilst I did really enjoy this book, I did have a couple of issues with it. The first is that when one of the people closest to Sookie is murdered, she is pretty much over it in a couple of chapters. The other is that if this is supposed to be a murder mystery then Sookie doesn't really seem all that focused on finding the killer. She does, but it is almost as though she is caught unawares until he is finally upon her, trying once again to kill her. It would seem that being able to read people's minds would make it easy to solve a murder mystery but it seems that some people are harder to read than other, including Sam, Sookie's boss who is another person in Sookie's life who is not quite what he seems!

Having said that, I did enjoy this book, and will be reading more of the series. It is certainly a change of pace from the other books that I have been reading. Can't wait to read more about the vampires, shape shifters and other creatures that live in Sookie Stackhouse's small time Louisiana.

Rating 4/5

Other Blogger's Thoughts:

Lous Pages

A Reader's Respite
Melissa's Bookshelf

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son, an account of himself and his forebears. Ames is the son of an Iowan preacher and the grandson of a minister who, as a young man in Maine, saw a vision of Christ bound in chains and came west to Kansas to fight for abolition: He "preached men into the Civil War," then, at age fifty, became a chaplain in the Union Army, losing his right eye in battle. Reverend Ames writes to his son about the tension between his father--an ardent pacifist--and his grandfather, whose pistol and bloody shirts, concealed in an army blanket, may be relics from the fight between the abolitionists and those settlers who wanted to vote Kansas into the union as a slave state. And he tells a story of the sacred bonds between fathers and sons, which are tested in his tender and strained relationship with his namesake, John Ames Boughton, his best friend's wayward son.

This is also the tale of another remarkable vision--not a corporeal vision of God but the vision of life as a wondrously strange creation. It tells how wisdom was forged in Ames's soul during his solitary life, and how history lives through generations, pervasively present even when betrayed and forgotten.

Winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, this book is not a book that you read if you want fast moving action. Ostensibly a letter to his young son, it is also a study of the faith of John Ames, particularly in the context of the relationships he had with his family, his parishioners, his best friend, and his namesake who is the rebellious younger son of his friend.

I particularly enjoyed reading of the struggles as John Ames tried to learn how to communicate with his namesake Jack Boughton. Jack is a man who never fitted in anywhere, even in his own family, and the persistence between the two to try and get to understand each other.

The writing is beautiful, and I am sure will touch many people, but for me, I think that this was not the kind of book that I needed to read at this particular moment. It was just too introspective I guess. There were magical moments scattered throughout though. An incident that happened in the late 1800's involving a horse getting stuck in a collapsing tunnel had me laughing out loud on the train, and the ending had me tearing up, once again on the train!

The reason why I read this book now is because it is this month's book in a group I read in. It's interesting looking at the dynamics of the group and seeing who enjoyed it compared to those who didn't. The discussion with this particular book tends to make the reading experience for me! So the rating below reflects my own personal reaction - I might review it later once others add their interpretation and I get extra insights!!

Rating 3.5/5

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Extreme Bachelor by Julia London

The second book in the Thrillseekers Anonymous trilogy by Julia London.

Living on the edge is nothing to the men who started Thrillseekers Anonymous, a members-only adventure service that caters to the rich and famous. But "extreme sports" takes on a whole new meaning when one of them falls off the edge - into true love...

A former CIA operative, Michael Raney loves that his new gig as stunt coordinator combines the two things he likes most in the world - extreme sports and lots of beautiful actresses. He has earned his reputation as the Extreme Bachelor honestly...but when one of the actresses on a new feature film turns out to be the only woman he could never forget, Hollywood's notorious heartbreaker will have to mend his ways and risk it all to win the one who got away.

Leah Klein hasn't seen Michael in five years, but she hasn't forgotten a single moment she spent with him. His entreaty to return to what they had is tempting - but his extreme past not only tarnishes what could be a new beginning, it's also dangerous...extremely dangerous...

Having really enjoyed Wedding Survivor when it came out, I have been eagerly anticipating this book for months, and I have to say that I wasn't really disappointed! I love the way that Julia London writes her contemporaries. I haven't read all of her historicals, but the ones I have read haven't really blown me away. I do have her latest historical here to read at some point though!

I also really enjoy the fact that this is a more hero focussed series that normal, even if some of the things are a bit....well, extreme!

Michael Raney is a well known man about town, and his town is Hollywood baby!! He's dated more than his fair share of starlets and actresses, but he hasn't really ever come close to commitment..well not since Leah. However his job got in the way there. Leah was never really sure what he did, but it turns out that he was actually a CIA operative.

When Leah and Michael are reunited on the set of a movie, Leah is less than pleased. When he dumped her 5 years previously, her world had fallen apart, and her career, and her love life, have never really recovered. When Michael sees her, he knows that it is his chance to get her back and live with the only woman he ever loved. For Leah though, the story about working for the CIA is a bit too hard to believe, and it is only when his past catches up with him that she REALLY believes it! Also getting in the way, Michael's womanising reputation.

I liked Leah, and thought that the emails back and forth to her friend Lucy about her bridesmaid's dresses were a good touch, and liked Michael as well, but I liked Eli from The Wedding Survivor more! Michael's desire to get back with Leah was well portrayed, especially the way he remembered even the little things about their time together.

I was hooked on this book from the beginning of the book, until about two thirds of the way through when the story arc with the inept former enemy was a bit of a stretch, but not as much of a stretch as the ending! Without giving too much away, the fact that Leah and Michael were still struggling with communication right near the end of the book kind of distracted me!

There's a new TV show on Australian TV which investigates those things that you really want to know like what's the best hangover cure, does chocolate cause pimples (no thank goodness!! Must be some of the other rubbish that I eat then!), and are you affected by lack of sleep. I have to say Thank You Julia London, for causing my reflexes to drop by 15% and my overall performance to slow down for at least a couple of days!

I am looking forward to the last book in the trilogy! Overall, this was an enjoyable read, but it loses a bit in the rating because of the ending!

Rating 4/5

Monday, June 05, 2006

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

This was the Bookclub book for May over at The Book Bitches. I finished it a little late because I was listening to it, and because I am catching the train to work these days and reading books, I no longer get through the audiobooks I have anywhere near as quickly!

Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening -- until a band of gun-wielding terrorists breaks in through the air-conditioning vents and takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different countries and continents become compatriots.
Without the demands of the world to shape their days, life on the inside becomes more beautiful than anything they had ever known before. At once riveting and impassioned, the narrative becomes a moving exploration of how people communicate when music is the only common language. Friendship, compassion, and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion and cannot be stopped.

You know...the blurb on this one tells enough to make it interesting!

The main characters in this novel are Roxanne Coss (the opera singer), Mister Hosakawa (the opera fan), Gen (his interpreter) and Carmen (one of the terrorists), however there are several other characters that take a turn in the spotlight.

Whilst the pace of this book is ponderous at times, the writing is beautiful, and you can feel the book moving to an inevitably crashing crescendo. The hostage situation has been ongoing for many months, and whilst for the people within the compound that life has settled into a pleasant routine with music and football as part of the life they have become accustomed to, as far as the world outside is concerned the situation cannot continue.

If there was one thing that I didn't like it was the Epilogue, which certainly tied up a couple of loose ends, but in a way that was almost against the flow of the relationships that happened throughout the rest of the book.

If you are looking for a book to meander through, then this could be one for you!

Rating 3.5/5

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas

The third book in Lisa Kleypas' Bow Street Runners trilogy, following on from Lady Sophia's Lover

What is the price of love?

Nick Gentry is reputed to be the most skillful lover in all England. Known for solving delicate situations, he is hired to seek out Miss Charlotte Howard. He believes his
mission will be easily accomplished — but that was before he met the lady in

For instead of a willful female, he discovers one in desperate circumstances, hiding from a man who would destroy her very soul. So Nick shockingly offers her a very different kind of proposition — one he has never offered before.

He asks her to be his bride.

And he knows that this will be much more than a union in name only. For he senses what Charlotte does not yet know — that her appetite for sensuality matches his own. But what Nick learns surprises him. For while London's most notorious lover might claim Charlotte's body, he quickly discovers it will take much more than passion to win her love.

I had no phone line for a few days this week, therefore couldn't come back and post my review as soon as I normally would...and I am behind in my reviews as well. I actually finished this a week ago, so it is a bit of a stretch to remember what I was going to say.

Given the blurb above, it sounds as though Nick Gentry is a real rake, and yet, the prologue makes it clear that whilst Nick might have been a man with a criminal past, and has his own deep dark secrets, the one thing that he is not is a man with a chequered sexual past. He has however been thoroughly schooled by Gemma Bradshaw, a madam with a heart of gold who I first read about in Suddenly You. Thinking about it though, this book might have been published before Suddenly You, so maybe it really is the other way round. Oh well...I first read about her in Suddenly You!

After being forced to become a Bow Street Runner, Nick has spent the last couple of years becoming one of the best Runner's there has ever been. He has also been taking on private jobs, and his latest one is to search for Miss Charlotte Howard. He has been hired to do this by the man that Charlotte has practically been betrothed to since she was a very young girl. Her parents agreed to the match in exchange for money and for schooling for Charlotte, during which time Lord Radnor has tried to shape and control the young girl into his idea of the perfect woman.

When he finds Charlotte at the estate of Marcus, Lord Westcliff, (who in turn is the hero from the second of the current series of Wallflower book It Happened One Autumn), he is relieved that his two month search is over, but what he does not count on is an attraction to his quarry. He also finds out that Lottie is terrified of Lord Radnor and eventually finds himself offering marriage. That of course is not the end of the matter as far as Lord Radnor is concerned, and once he finds out that the man he sent to return Lottie to him has taken her as his own, there will of course be consequences.

However even before that, Lottie must find ways of breaking through the hard outer shell that protects the man inside. Her task is made all that much harder when Nick is told that he is no longer required as a runner, and that it is time that he steps forward and takes the title that is rightfully his - something that Nick has no interest in doing!

This was a delightful read as we gradually see Nick lower his barriers to Lottie, as he tutors her in the art of sex, as he learns about love, and as he understands that his life is going to be different from now on.

One thing about names though....I really did not like the fact that the heroine was called Lottie! Don't really know why, but it just isn't a name that I can imagine someone screaming out in the middle of a passionate embrace! Oh Lottie! Nup.

It had been suggested around the place that Nick Gentry gives Derek Craven a run for his money in the 'Who is Lisa Kleypas' hottest hero' race! And I would agree with that, but I do think that Derek would win by a short half head - photo finish required!

An entertaining read. Then again, it is a Kleypas!

Rating 4/5

Don't Look Down by Jennifer Cruisie and Bob Mayer

This is my read for the June TBR challenge, which for this month was to read a book from your TBR pile that was recommended by someone you “know” (another blogger, author, friend, family member) or got a lot of buzz and that’s why you bought it but it’s still on your TBR pile. This book had a LOT of prerelease buzz on the internet.

New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Crusie teams up with USA Today bestselling author Bob Mayer to write a sizzling, high-octane romantic adventure about a straight-talking woman and a straight-shooting man…

Lucy Armstrong is a director of television commercials who's just been recruited to finish a four-day action movie shoot. But she arrives on the set to discover that the directing staff has quit, the make-up artist is suicidal, the stars are egomaniacs, the stunt director is her ex-husband, and the lead actor has just acquired as an advisor a Green Beret who has the aggravating habit of always being right.

Green Beret Captain JT Wilder had thought that hiring on as a military consultant for a movie star was a good deal: easy money and easier starlets. Instead he has to babysit a bumbling comedian, dodge low-flying helicopters, and resist his attraction to a director who bears a distracting resemblance to Wonder Woman. Then the CIA calls and he realizes that somebody is taking “shooting a movie” much too literally.

Full of suspense and humor, non-stop action and fast-paced dialogue, Don't Look Down is the perfect blend of male and female, adventure and romance, Mayer and Crusie.

Title: Don't Look Down

Author: Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

Year published: 2006

Why did you get this book? Crusie is a relatively new author to me, and I have been glomming her books this year. Given the prerelease hype there was no way I was not going to get hold of this book eventually.

Do you like the cover? Yes. I did lose the ta-da effect of the camouflage cover under the jacket because this was a library book and therefore had been covered for it's protection.

Did you enjoy the book? Mostly. It wasn't exceptional, but it wasn't terrible either.

Was the author new to you and would you read something by this author again? I've read Jenny Crusie before, but I have not read any Bob Mayer (or any of his alter-egos) books previously.

Are you keeping it or passing it on? It's a library book so keeping it isn't really a consideration, but if it wasn't I would probably pass on it.

Anything else?I do enjoy reading the He Wrote She Wrote blog most of the time. It is often hysterically funny..something that didn't happen all that much in the book. Will I read the next book collaboration between these two...absolutely. The basis is there for an excellent story. Just need to work through a few of the kinks - like a four day story where they are going to have a HEA!

Rating: 3.5/5


Courtesy of the two Ja(y)nes over at

You Might Be a Fan Girl If

. . .You own more than one copy of a book

No, but I am really thinking about buying a second set of a series of books because I really like the pretty new covers!

. . .You have emailed or mailed a gushing letter of praise to an author.


. . .You belong to and participate in discussion at an author’s website or listserv.

Is it worse if you moderate at one? I am also a member of several others as well.

. . .You have voted in a contest as the behest of an author.

Just once.

. . .You have rearranged an author’s books at a store to give her greater visual exposure. (RFG)

Do people really do this..that's a no from me!

. . .You have given “conversion” packages of an authors’ works to another reader.

I haven't given packages but I have strongly recommended quite a few books to quite a lot of people

. . .You have written fan fiction based upon an author’s works.

Nope. Requires too much thought!

. . .You have given a 5 star review at just to counter negative ratings. (RFG)

Nope, although I have pressed the No button on the "Is this review helpful" a few times.

. . .You have named yourself after a favorite character, such as Mrs. Wolf MacKenzie. (RFG)

Um no. Mrs Jamie Fraser....hmm, maybe... Mrs Alexander Barrington. No. No.

. . .You see an author’s book at the store but refuse to buy it because it could hurt the author’s bestseller numbers or you buy it and go back and buy a second copy on the release date. (RFG)

If I see it and I want it, I buy it. I wouldn't have the foggiest of how that would affect numbers or anything like that.

. . .You know the street date of an author’s books and what it means.

Yes. And do I get out there and hassle the bookstore as to when I can expect to get my copy. Yes. Doesn't that just make me eager?

. . .You have reported a store for violating a street date. (RFG)

No. I'd be too damned please to have got my copy to worry about that!

. . .You have pretended to be more than one person commenting on someone’s blog in defense of your favorite author. (RFG) takes me long enough to get round the blogroll already without having to log in and be someone else!

RFG is an indicator of Rabid Fan Girl behaviour

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Return of the Warrior by Kinley MacGregor

The next book in the Brotherhood of the Sword series after A Dark Champion.

Fearless men, their allegiance is to each other, to the oppressed, and to the secret society known as the Brotherhood of the Sword -- and they must never surrender to the passionate yearnings of their noble hearts.

Fiercely devoted to her people and her land, Queen Adara refuses to let a power-mad usurper steal her crown. But the only way to protect what is hers is to seek out the man she married in childhood.

A proud, tormented warrior, Christian of Acre owes allegiance only to the mysterious Brotherhood -- and has no wish to be king over anyone but himself. Now a bold and beautiful stranger has appeared in his rooms, tempting him with an irresistible seduction and demanding he accompany her back to their kingdoms ... or, at the very least, provide her with an heir to her throne. Though he cannot abandon the brave regal lady to her enemies, Christian dares not give in to his traitorous body's desires. Yet how can he deny the passion that is rightfully his and the ecstasy that awaits him in Adara's kiss?

Another enjoyable entry in the Brotherhood of the Sword series, this time with the story of The Abbott. A man who provided spiritual comfort to the prisoners during their time of captivity, even though he apparently no longer has any faith of his own (is this even possible??). Like other men of The Brotherhood, Christian believes that it his fate to live alone, wandering from place to place, meeting the needs of other members of the Brotherhood, providing assistance in any way possible, but without giving any real thought to what his own needs are.

Christian is a prince, heir to a throne which has been usurped by a man of exceedingly questionable morals and values...a man who it seems has been trying to kill Christian for quite some time to be rid of the threat of a return to his rightful throne. He believes he was betrothed as a young boy when in actuality he was married, but he has given this matter no further thought to his supposed betrothed, that is until she turns up naked in his room one night advising him that he is her husband, and she offering herself to him either to fulfill that role, or at the very least to impregnate her to provide a legitimate heir to the throne and remove the threat to her own rule by the same man who is ruling Christian's country.

After inadvertently leading his enemies to him, Christian and Adara escape, along with her fool Lutian, and are heading to the sanctuary offered by other members of the Brotherhood, when they are once again attacked. This time they are saved by The Phantom (no not the comic book hero...another member of the Brotherhood) but Christian is injured severely. At first Christian is insistent that he has no desire at all to be either husband or king to Adara, but as time passes and circumstances continue to draw them together, gradually Christian begins to find himself unable to resist Adara's charms.

As a hero, Christian was okay - he was no Sin or Stryder or even Simon, but you did feel his struggle as he tried to work out how to keep both his vows to his Brotherhood but to have a chance at happiness. Adara was a strong but lonely woman, who had the burdens of Queenship in addition to trying to chase her dreams of a happy and fulfilling marriage full of love.

I have to say I admire the ability of the men of the Brotherhood who seem to have an unfailing ability to have sex even when they have been severely wounded. It seems to be some sort of trial that they all have to go through in order to gain some form of happiness!!

Another interesting development in this book is the fact that the countries that Christian and Adara are royalty of are made up countries, moving the action away from Scotland, England and France that have featured in the other books. I am not exactly sure that I like this as a development as it feels a bit like it is moving away from the historical context, but I guess I can live with it!

From the epilogue it appears that The Phantom's book is next, and I do look forward to it! The book I am most looking forward to the most is that of The Scot (who I presume is the missing MacAllister brother from Taming the Scotsman and the other Macallister brother books).

Guess I just have to sit and wait now.

Rating 3.5/5

Friday, June 02, 2006

Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir

Alison Weir, our pre-eminent popular historian, has now fulfilled a life's ambition to write historical fiction. She has chosen as her subject the bravest, most sympathetic and wronged heroine of Tudor England, Lady Jane Grey.

Lady Jane Grey was born into times of extreme danger. Child of a scheming father and a ruthless mother, for whom she was merely a pawn in a dynastic power game with the highest stakes, she lived a live in thrall to political machinations and lethal religious fervour.

Jane's astonishing and essentially tragic story was played out during one of the most momentous periods of English history. As a great-niece of Henry VIII, and the cousin of Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, she grew up to realise that she could never throw off the chains of her destiny. Her honesty, intelligence and strength of
character carry the reader through all the vicious twists of Tudor power politics, to her nine-day reign and its unbearably poignant conclusion.

Alison Weir is the author of numerous non-fiction books, but Innocent Traitor is her first fiction book. She has taken the story of the Nine Day Queen - Lady Jane Grey, and given us the details of her childhood, her relationship with her parents, her introduction to court, and then the machinations behind trying to put Jane on the throne following the death of Henry VIII's son, King Edward. We are also given an insight into Jane as a very enthusiastic and somewhat dogmatic Protestant during a time of huge religious upheaval in 16th century England.

Daughter of Frances Brandon, the sister of Henry VII, Lady Jane Grey had what can only be portrayed as a miserable childhood right from birth, when her parents were very disappointed that she was not a boy. Frances was an extremely strict mother, who punished Jane excessively for even the most minor of infractions. In reality, whilst her parents were well matched in their own marriage, it appeared that they were really only concerned by what they could gain out of marrying Jane off. Right from her earliest days, Jane was raised with an eye to being an extremely accomplished, and therefore marriageable, young lady. I am sure that the Grey's were not the only court families who viewed their daughters in this way, but the portrayal given in the book emphasises the coldness of Frances Brandon in particular.

As Jane grows, she is introduced to court, and she becomes particularly attached to Queen Katherine Parr. Indeed, after Henry's death, and Queen Katherine' s marriage to Thomas Seymour, Jane goes to live with Queen Katherine, and for once in her short life, seems happy. Even then though, the reason for these living arrangements is related to trying to arrange a glittering marriage for Jane (with of course rewards galore for both her parents, and Thomas Seymour who is trying to make the arrangements).

As King Edward gets closer and closer to death, the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing continues, with the end result that Jane is married to the son of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland and eventually declared a reluctant queen. Her reign lasted just nine days, and she was deserted by those that had put her into the role and left to the mercy of Queen Mary I.

I have to admit that I have never read any of Alison Weir's non-fiction books, so when I started reading this book it wasn't from the perspective of seeing how a historian fared in the change from non fiction to historical fiction, it was from the perspective of a completely new to me author. It has to be said that she certainly challenged herself.

This whole book is written from first person point of view. My major issue with this book is the fact that it isn't just from one or two people's POV - rather we have at least nine different views....that's a lot of head hopping. Granted that a couple of those are only for a few paragraphs, and even the with those people who we do get to know quite well, there are times where an we have a couple of paragraphs from one point of view and then we move onto the next perspective. More than once I had to go back a page or two to find out once again who was providing the narrative to be sure that I was understanding what I was reading in the correct context.

Maybe she decided to write from first person POV because third person could have been perceived as being too similar as writing non-fiction in terms of the detached viewpoint. Who knows. Personally, I felt as though there were at least three or four unnecessary narrators. Yes, they all added something to the narrative about what was happening but there may well have been other ways of achieving the dissemination of the same information.

Weir has taken the known facts, even the strange ones that seem implausible (for example, the way that Queen Katherine Parr's warrant for arrest was found and given to her, eventually meaning that Henry did not carry through with it) and then filled them out admirably, giving us a very interesting portrait of the life and times of Lady Jane Grey. It is shocking to me at times to realise how young many of these young people were when they were found guilty of treasonable offences, and executed - such a young age to be considered mature enough to be such a threat to the monarchy.

Whilst I did have issues with the first person points of view, this was still an entertaining read, and I am glad to have taken the time to read it.

Rating 4/5

Thursday, June 01, 2006

I love my library.....

Regular visitors will know that I love my libraries, but I found out something on my last visit which has got me thinking. It turns out that my main library doesn't really like romance. Yes they have romance novels but, as I overheard last night, they do not BUY any. Whatever ones they do get is only because someone has donated them. Explains why there are some pretty big gaps in their collection, like some Kleypas books and the like.

I wonder how many other genres are the same as this?

In other news, my tendency to put lots of books on request is beginning to cause problems. I just picked up five books last night, and now another two have come in, and I am reserve no. 1 on another three or four. This could all go horribly wrong!!