Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Temeraire (His Majesty's Dragon) by Naomi Novik

Published under the name His Majesty's Dragon in the US this is the first book in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series. The book is called Temeraire in the UK and also here in Australia.

Set amid the turmoil of the Napoleonic Wars, Temeraire is a thrilling tale of one of the most dramatic chapters of European History with a brilliant veneer of bold fantasy.

As Napoleon's Grande Armee tears Europe apart, his vast armada threatens Britain. But the battles are not fought upon land and sea alone, for both sides have an air force. And the fiery death they rain down upon their enemies has little to do with gunpowder - it comes from the very guts of the beasts they are flying: dragons.

Weeks out of port at Madeira, a British vessel - the Reliant, commanded by Captain William Laurence - captures a French frigate. Within its hold lies a greater prize than the ship herself: a dragon egg. And it is close to hatching.

Young dragons must be put to harness immediately or they go feral, and once harnessed, the beast will accept no other master. When the newborn ignores his chosen rider and approaches Laurence instead, his life is changed forever.

But even more astonishing than the young dragonet - named Temeraire by Laurence - is the revelation that the egg was meant for the Emperor Napoleon himself...

I don't read a lot of fantasy, but this book was attractive to me for a couple of reasons. One is that it has been getting a lot of positive reviews, and the second is that it could almost be classified as historical fantasy. Novik has taken the events of the Napoleonic wars, and just tweaked them, by giving the combatant countries an air force, not made up of planes or balloons, but rather of dragons. One of the reasons I don't read a lot of fantasy is that I don't really enjoy the world building that sort of has to happen to establish the rules for the society, hierachy, social rules etc. By only having to tweak the world as we know it a little, it means that the story can get going a whole lot quicker and for me that is a bonus.

When Captain William Laurence engages in battle with a French warship, he is kind of surprise that the crew fights so fiercely given that they are practically starving, and there doesn't seem to be any great treasure or anything on board, until they come across a dragon egg...very close to hatching.

The thing with dragon's eggs is that they must be harnessed and bonded with their rider pretty much immediately because otherwise they will go feral or will not accept another handler - a waste of a terribly precious resource, particularly in these troubling days. It is therefore agreed that the officers on board will all draw lots to see who the unlucky handler is going to be. It is considered unlucky because to be a dragon handler pretty much means leaving life as you know it behind, to live in the dragon coverts where they are trained and cared for. Gone are the chances to be courted in society - where naval officers are welcomed in society, dragon handlers are pretty much shunned. Also gone is pretty much any chance of marriage, family, and gaining advancement and material wealth.

So when the dragon shuns the chosen handler and instead attaches himself to Laurence, he is quite upset but realises that he has no choice as a man of great honour but to do his duty for his country. And yet, as he gets to know the dragon he has chosen to name Temeraire, he finds that he enjoys his new life- including their many conversations about life, reading books together, hunting, and eventually when they are bought back to England for training, getting ready for their coming life together during their manoeuvres. One of my favourite conversation between the two was when the normally unflappable Laurence had to explain to Temeraire why the men from the dragon corps visit the nearby town to visit the local prostitutes...very funny. I did find Laurence's habit of calling his dragon "My Dear" a little affected but I got over it eventually!!

The thing with Temeraire is no one really knows what kind of dragon he is, and so they don't know what his special skill is. They know he is a Chinese dragon but that is about as far as it goes. With his superior speed and intelligence he is still a very valuable asset and when his weapon is revealed it is very key in the battle against those fiendishly clever French men under the rule of Napoleon.

The other interesting dynamic in the book is the relationship between the other flyers and Laurence. It is very unusual for someone to swap from the Navy to the Flying corps (and vice versa), and Laurence brings with him very different ideas of how his crew should be run. It is interesting to watch both the other flyers and Laurence begin to get an understanding and working together. One of the more interesting relationships is between Laurence and a female officer by the name of Roland. There is a good build up in the relationship, but I can't help but feel that the author backed away from building the relationship up completely - but maybe that is just the romance reader in me talking!! I hope to see this relationship develop further in the next books in the series.

The other day I was in one of our department stores looking longingly at the second book in the series. I think I am going to have to ask the library to see whether they will order this one and the third one in the series in for me.

As an added bonus there is a short story on the author's website which fits between the first and second books, and there is also a web game that Harper Collins UK put up to coincide with the release of this book in the UK.

Overall, a very enjoyable read.

Rating 4.5/5

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

July 1209: in Carcassonne a young girl is given a book said to contain the secret of the true Grail. Although Alais cannot understand the strange symbols hidden within, she knows that her destiny lies in protecting the secret of the labyrinth - a secret that stretches back thousands of years to Ancient Egypt....

July 2005: Alice Tanner stumbles upon two skeletons during an archaeological dig outside Carcassonne. Stepping into the tomb, Alice sets in motion a terrifying sequence of events that will lead her to realise that her destiny is inextricably tied up with the fate of the Cathars 800 years before.

Whenever I finish a book I try to choose something completely different genre or subject wise. I always also have more than one book in my handbag so that if I finish one then I can just start the next one, so when I finished Ceremony in Death, the next book in the bag was this one. Now you would think that if you go from a futuristic, police/suspense book to a historical, search for the grail type thriller they would be sufficiently different, but I have to admit that during the first few pages I was most surprised at the similarities.

The book opens with Dr Alice Tanner stumbling into what appears to be an altar that she has found in a cave whilst volunteering on a archeological dig in France. With ancient symbols and letters strategically placed, a couple of artefacts that have a mysterious labyrinth symbol, as well as two skeletons, there was a certain synchronicity regarding the likelihood that the skeletons were linked to some kind of rituals, reflecting some of the themes from Ceremony in Death.

From that point on, the two books parted ways. With two strands of storyline that gradually merged together towards the end of the novel there was a lot going on in this book. The first strand of the story was that of Alais - a newly married young woman who is a healer living in Carcassonne during the early 13th century. It turns out that her father was a keeper of a secret thousands of years old, and chief adviser to Viscount Trencavel. She was living during a dangerous time, when, in the only Crusade to be held on European soil, the French were building up to attack the city of Carcassonne and it's surrounds for it's support and acceptance of the heretical Cathar Christians and Jews. When her father entrusts her with his secret, she becomes guardian of one book of the Labyrinth trilogy, which in turn when all three parts are together, reveals the secret of the Holy Grail. Along the way she must successfully evade danger, both from the marauding Crusaders, and people closer to home, like her own jealous and manipulative sister Oriane. She must also work out whether she can trust the people around her, most especially her husband, Guilhelme.

In the more modern strand of the story, Alice Tanner has discovered a cave filled with symbols, most strikingly a labyrinth. What she doesn't know is that she may have revealed the secret location that has been searched for for years, to enable all three books of the trilogy to come together again, and for the power of the grail to be revealed. As soon as the location is revealed, Alice find herself being chased to obtain the information and the mysterious ring that she may or may not have. Not only are those who want to keep the secret trying to track her down, but also those who want to exploit the power of the Grail for their own purposes. In the end the decisions that Alice makes could very well cause the lives of her friends to be in danger, as well as herself.

Of course, given the type of book that this is, and the fact that it is a Holy Grail type story there have been inevitable comparisons to the Da Vinci Code, but I would think that there really only superficial similarities . Personally, I think that this was a better all round read than DVC, with the characters developed more fully, and more depth to the story. When I read DVC though, I just wanted to devour it in just one sitting, I was hooked so completely into the story. Given that this is a bigger book that was unlikely to happen, but also I was happier to read it over a couple of settings. The hook is still there but the pacing is better, with lots of action in both threads of the story, but time taken to develop the story and background. There was only one point in the novel towards the end where I felt like I was having details told to me as opposed to having them shown to me, but by that time I was so engaged in the story that I just wanted to get the various threads drawn together, and reach the conclusion.

With two strong female primary characters, a touch of magic, mysticism and romance, and a very interesting storyline, this was an entertaining read.

Just as an aside to this my interest was definitely grabbed by the mention of one of the more minor characters in this novel - Simon de Montford. At first, my heart was in my mouth thinking that the noble Simon introduced to me in Sharon Penman's Falls the Shadow was involved in this book, but it turns out that it was his father! Sometimes it can be a bit tricky keeping all these historical figures straight!

The other thing that this book really made me want to do was to go to Carcassonne. Looking at many of the pictures that are available on the net, it seemed that the walled city has been protected and was restored in the 1850's so it is still pretty much as it was, and is now listed in the World Heritage listings. Makes me want to go to France to visit now! Thanks goodness for cyber tourism!

Rating 4.5/5

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Red Lily by Nora Roberts

The third and final book in the In the Garden trilogy following on from on from Blue Dahlia and Black Rose.

Three women learn that the heart of their historic home holds a mystery of years gone by, as number-one bestselling author Nora Roberts brings her In the Garden trilogy to a captivating conclusion, following Blue Dahlia and Black Rose.

A Harper has always lived at Harper House, the centuries-old mansion just outside of Memphis. And for as long as anyone alive remembers, the ghostly Harper Bride has walked the halls, singing lullabies at night...

Hayley Phillips came to Memphis hoping for a new start, for herself and her unborn child. She wasn't looking for a handout from her distant cousin Roz, just a job at her thriving In the Garden nursery. What she found was a home surrounded by beauty and the best friends she's ever had-including Roz's son Harper. To Hayley's delight, her new daughter Lily has really taken to him. To Hayley's chagrin, she has begun to dream about Harper-as much more than a friend...

If Hayley gives in to her desire, she's afraid the foundation she's built with Harper will come tumbling down. Especially since she's begun to suspect that her feelings are no longer completely her own. Flashes of the past and erratic behavior make Hayley believe that the Harper Bride has found a way inside of her mind and body. It's time to put the Bride to rest once and for all, so Hayley can know her own heart again-and whether she's willing to risk it...

It is 3.50am, my eyes are falling out of my head, but it was so worth it to wrap up this trilogy from Nora Roberts. I love it when a book does that to you, when it is so good that you just can't put it down! staying up until 4am to finish a book probably isn't the smartest thing given that you still have to function later in the day! LOL!!

As this trilogy has progressed the story of the Harper Bride has become stronger and stronger, and in this book for me it was definitely the highlight. That doesn't mean to say that I didn't enjoy Harper and Hayley as a couple, but that my anticipation as to the discovery as to what actually happened to the ghost, Amelia, had been sufficiently tempted so that I just HAD to keep reading.

The interesting thing is that in relation to the ghost, her presence in the books, including how she manifested herself to the characters also grew as everyone got closer to the truth of her identity, and her role in the Harper family history, and I found her truly scary in this one. During this book she manifests herself by possessing Hayley, and the scenes where this happened were so well written - they were seamless, but you could feel the slide from where Hayley would be talking, to where it was Amelia talking so clearly - quite skillful, especially seeing as sometimes this change of viewpoint happened halfway during a sentence!

As for Hayley, I completely understand her concerns about undertaking a relationship with a man who she not only worked with, but she was friends with his mother, and living in his family home. I got the feeling though, especially throughout the last couple of books, that Harper had been the one who recognised very early on that he was developing feelings for Hayley, so it was something of a shorter build up in my opinion for Hayley.

Can I just say that I wouldn't mind a guy like Harper! Good with his hands, and knows how to treat a lady. Of course, it would be handy to not have to worry about the garden as well!!!

I did wonder though if things moved too fast for Hayley and Harper. Yes, in book time they had known each other for a couple of years, but once they did get together everything moved at break neck speed.

By finishing this book, I feel that I am saying goodbye to people that I have come to know, and in a way it is sad, but I am definitely looking forward to getting hold of Roberts' next trilogy. I guess you could say that I am rapidly becoming a fan, although because she has such a huge backlist it could take me a while to get through them all!!

Overall, an satisfying conclusion to a really good trilogy!

Rating 4/5

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Ceremony in Death by J D Robb

This is the 5th book in the In Death series, following on from Rapture in Death. Once again Kailana and I are doing a joint review of this one.

Conducting a top secret investigation into the death of a fellow police officer has Lieutenant Eve Dallas treading on dangerous ground. She must put professional ethics before personal loyalties. But when a dead body is placed outside her home, Eve takes the warning personally. With her husband, Roarke, watching her every move, Eve is drawn into the most dangerous case of her career. Every step she takes makes her question her own sense of right and wrong - and brings her closer to a confrontation with humanity's most seductive form of evil...

I actually finished this novel a week ago, started the post in draft...and then promptly forgot about it! Not quite sure what that says, other than the fact that I am forgetful! My comments are in black, and Kailana's are in blue.

Anyway, this book opens at the funeral of a fellow police office...a man who has seemingly died of natural causes in the prime of his life. When his granddaughter passes Eve a note to arrange a meeting, Eve starts to get suspicious about why. When the granddaughter ends up dead shortly after she talks to Eve and then another person is killed not long after talking to her as well, Eve is gradually drawn into a world where there are good and evil, witches and wiccans, power and sex, and ultimately danger and death for many people. It sounds like a good beginning, huh? A lot seems to happen in the opening pages, but I started this book, read the beginning and then put it aside for a while. I think Eve annoyed me in this book more than any other. I understand she is supposed to be tough and independent, but she does not back down at all in this book. Sometimes you just want to tell her it okay to believe in something. Her need to fight every thing gets a bit tiring from time to time. It hasn't been bad in others that I have read, but for some reason, she annoyed me in this book. Maybe because she breaks writing conventions and is not open-minded about what happens in this book at all.

It was obvious that there had been a lot of research done into the various practices and rituals of both the Wiccan's and the witches and I guess there were times during this novel when there was a hint of infodump, but for the most part it was well paced and interesting enough. In other words, zoning out periods.

There were a couple of stand out scenes in this book - I nearly cried my eyes out when Eve and Feeney had a falling out. I loved the fact that Eve is gradually realising that despite her terrible beginnings, it is possible for someone to build a family around them. I am not a "cry my eyes out" sort of person (no offense), but I agree that this was an interesting scene. By this point in the book I am getting over being annoyed with Eve's character and have started to once again enjoy the story. I think this is actually touching, with the argument, Eve's reaction to it, Roarke's reaction to it, and then the making up part.

The other interesting development for me in this story was the inclusion of Jamie, the younger brother of the young lady who is killed. He is an interesting character, with his ability with electronics, even being able to short circuit Roarke's security system. I wonder if he will continue to make appearance throughout the series, as there definitely would seem to be some scope for him to be included. He was an interesting character. You were never really sure what to make of him, but the kid has brains. If it wasn't for him, some very bad stuff might have not been prevented. He was determined to get the people that hurt his sister, which made for some interesting scenes. My favourite was when he broke into Roarke's yard, my there were some scenes as a result of that where you got to see other sides of Roarke.

Overall, I would say that whilst this wasn't the best of the series, it was still remarkably consistent in terms of it's quality. Not my favourite by her either, but enough that I will read more of the series. Every series has their slight faults, Robb is no exception. I must say though, was it just me, or does there seem to be even more sex scenes in this book than normal? I hope that doesn't become the norm...

Rating 4/5
Rating 3.5/5

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Passion for the Page

An Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn

The third book in the Bridgerton series, following on from The Viscount Who Loved Me.

Sophie Beckett never dreamed she'd be able to sneak into Lady Bridgerton's famed masquerade ball — or that "Prince Charming" would be waiting there for her! Though the daughter of an earl, Sophie has been relegated to the role of servant by her disdainful stepmother. But now, spinning in the strong arms of the debonair and devastatingly handsome Benedict Bridgerton, she feels like royalty. Alas, she knows all enchantments must end when the clock strikes midnight.

Who was that extraordinary woman? Ever since that magical night, a radiant vision in silver has blinded Benedict to the attractions of any other — except, perhaps, this alluring and oddly familiar beauty dressed in housemaid's garb whom he feels compelled to rescue from a most disagreeable situation. He has sworn to find and wed his mystery miss, but this breathtaking maid makes him weak with wanting her. Yet, if he offers her his heart, will Benedict sacrifice his only chance for a fairy tale love?

The first part of this book is ostensibly a retelling of the Cinderella fairytale story. All the factors are there - an evil stepmother and two stepsisters for whom our Cinders is basically a servant, a fairy god mother, a masquerade ball which Cinders has to leave from before the clock strikes midnight, a handsome hero who is transfixed by this unknown lady. She knows who he is, but he has no idea who she is, and for the next couple of years he is forever looking out for any lady who could be the mysterious lady from the masquerade.

Fast forward from the ball and Sophie is no longer the maid of her stepmother, but she is working in the country estate of a well-to-do family when she is nearly attacked by a group of young gentlemen. When Benedict saves her and takes her off to his own cottage not too far away, Sophie nurses him through an illness. As they spend time together Benedict recognises that he is attracted to Sophie, but he is still stuck on the idea of the mysterious lady from the ball. I just wanted to shout at Sophie to stop being silly and just tell him who she was for goodness sake.

As far as characterisations go, I really liked Benedict, although there were times that I felt that the author introduced something about him to differentiate him from his brothers, but that that then wasn't really followed through all that well.

As for Sophie, I didn't really connect with her all that well, and thought that her reluctance to reveal her identity to firstly Benedict and then others was something that could definitely have been avoided.

Overall I didn't enjoy this as much as I enjoyed the previous book, but it wasn't too bad. I did love the little glimpses that we saw into the next book, which I already have from the library ready to read!

Rating 4/5

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Storyteller's Daughter by Saira Shah

Saira Shah grew up in Britain, but she was always told she came from somewhere else: a fairytale land of orchards and gardens, a place where even the water had magical qualities.

The country was Afghanistan, the storyteller her father and the tales were embellished with every telling. Then, at the age of twenty-one - with her father's tales as her guide - Saira set out to find the truth about her family's homeland.

Instead of finding a paradise, she was plunged into a country at war. It was the beginning of a journey spanning more than fifteen years. Whether extricating herself from an arranged marriage, walking through minefields with the mujahidin, or slipping clandestinely into the Taliban's Kabul, Saira learnt the bitter limits of the stories she loved. But, in the process, she discovered the reality of a country more complex and challenging than anything she could have imagined.

I don't read a lot of non-fiction but I do love to read books about other times, places and cultures. I know of a group where they are trying to go "Around the World in 80 books", and when this was their first book I was sufficiently interested to go and get it from the library and read along with them. There are several other books on their journey that I am hoping to read along with as well.

Saira Shah was been heavily involved with a couple of documentaries (Beneath the Veil and Unholy War) that went into Afghanistan and showed life as it really was in the Afghanistan that was ruled by the Taliban. These were not, however, her first journeys into this strife torn land. Her first harrowing journeys had been made years before by foot through the mountains during the time that the mujahadeen had been fighting against the Soviets.

As Saira travels into and out of Aghanistan, living in the volatile border town of Peshawar in Pakistan, she strives to try and work out her identity - is she an Afghanistani who has grown up in Britain, or is she British of Afghanistani heritage? Is she more Easterner than Westerner, and if so how can she make her life meaningful and help the women and children in her homeland. She is also trying to reconcile the men of the mujahadeen for whom honour means everything, with the same men who would sell Stinger missiles on to Iran, and for whom the fact that she questions them is more dishonourable than the actual deed itself.

There are moments of good humour within this book, so it is not all gloom of doom. There are times when it appears that the order of the stories is not quite right, and it sometimes seems like we have got a little off track, but for the most part this is quite an eye opening and entertaining look at the life of a woman who has taken quite amazing risks to bring the story of life in Afghanistan into our living rooms.

Because I don't normally read non-fiction, there were some questions that I did want more information on. For example, when she left Peshawar under threat of death for revealing some details that several sides of the conflict did not want revealed, how was she able to reestablish her life with her husband, is she still drawn to Afghanistan etc...but I think that that is because I like to have a happy ever after and know that the story is over. Having done a little googling, it seems that she has gone on to cover stories in more trouble spots including Gaza.

Overall, this was a very interesting read about a fascinating subject, and I am glad that I read it!

Rating 4/5

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

20 Things that Irritate Me Today

Tagged by Dev. When I first sat down to write this, it took me ages to think of them all. Of course after I went to bed I thought of at least half a dozen more, and then since then...well lets just say I could have written quite a lot more! So these are the things that annoyed me a couple of days ago.

1. Those little bits of skin or nail that grow on your finger. I had one that I pulled off about 10 hours ago. In the last hour or so my finger has started throbbing and gone red. Amazing how much it hurts!

2. Noisy train carriages - don't you know I am trying to read people!!

3. Reading a series of books out of order - hate it, hate it, hate it!

4. Being tired - by the time I work full time, be a single mum and try to have a life, I am pretty much always tired.

5. Being overweight - but feeling too tired most of the time to do anything about it. Can anyone say "vicious circle"?

6. Office politics - man, I can't start it when the drama starts building and everyone is bitching about such small, inconsequential things.

7. Narrow minded and obnoxious people - especially in web forums and the like. Isn't it amazing how often those things go together.

8. One sided friendships - When I lived in the UK I made some quite close friends. When I ring them every six months or so, they are always delighted to hear from me, and inevitably say something along the lines of "Why don't you ring more often?". Leaves me wondering what's up with their dialling fingers that they can't ever ring me! Of course, there are others that are the same here as well.

9. Late trains - normally I don't mind having to rely on public transport, but if the trains are all running on time, there is literally a minute's changeover between when one arrives and the other leaves. Really annoying when you pull into the station just in time to see the connection leave!

10. Mornings

11. Shopping - that's right...I don't like going shopping. Doesn't matter what kind of shopping it is...clothes, groceries. Only exception would be book shopping and I am not even doing that at the moment!

12. Grey hair - on my head that is...not so bad on other peoples head!

13. Being broke

14. Confrontation - I am really not good at it!

15. Corns on my little toe - it really hurts

16. Whiny people...oh wait..that's me!

17. Out of print books - Now I know that not all books can stay in print all the time, but why can't the ones that I want to get hold of always be available!

18. My mum - oh the stories I could tell....but I won't!

19. People who take steps to get out of paying child support - I work in payroll and there are always people who are trying to get out of paying the money they are supposed to pay for Child Support. Could be because I never see any of the money that I should get from the ex. Of course, when the amount he is supposed to pay is so insulting, it's not worth fighting for.

20. Weekday cooking - I love finding a recipe, buying all the ingredients, and then cooking something nice, but the Monday to Friday "what are we having for dinner" question is really, really annoying!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Black Rose by Nora Roberts

The second book in the In the Garden trilogy. The first book in the trilogy was Blue Dahlia. Please beware...there are spoilers for Blue Dahlia in this review.

Three women meet at a crossroads in their lives, each searching for new ways to grow-and find in each other the courage to take chances and embrace the future.

Roz is a woman of independent means who thought love was behind her, but when romance takes her by surprise; she won't allow anything to keep her from her second chance at happiness.

Black Rose takes up a couple of months after the events of Blue Dahlia. Stella and the kids are still living at Harper House with Roz, although with the wedding between Stella and Logan is coming up shortly so they will be moving out. Hayley is also still living at Harper House, getting used to life as a single mum to little Lily and so is the resident ghost, known only as the Harper Bride. In Blue Dahlia, Roz started the process of trying to find out who the Harper Bride was, and what happened to her, by contacting Dr Mitch Carnagie, a genealogist.

At the beginning of this book, Mitch is available to start his investigation, and so we have our two main characters for this novel. The main difference between this and most other romances is that our two central characters are both, shall we say mature adults. Both are in their forties, with grown children, and with marriages behind them. Mitch has been divorced once, and Roz both widowed and divorced in her previous two marriages. What having a hero and heroine of this age does mean is that there is no possibility of a sappy epilogue where there are three lovely little children running around and another one on the way. I guess that that doesn't happen as regularly in contemporaries as it does in historicals, but it wasn't an option at all here which makes a nice change.

The other thing is that Mitch and Roz are both well established and successful in their chosen careers, and have a strong sense of their own identities. Whilst they are both immediately attracted to each other, and are both interested in a relationship, you also get the feeling that it is the icing on the cake for them...not their entire focus in life. There is also no need for any conflict between the two of them...something that seems to be standard romance fodder. Instead the conflict finds the two of them and it is something that they work through together. The first source of this conflict is from the Harper Bride, the second is from Roz's slimy ex-husband Bryce.

As Mitch and Roz get closer and closer to each other, the Harper Bride makes her opposition known, including in a couple of really dangerous incidents. I loved that Roz, who was willing to let anyone know what she thought about things, was strong enough to even stand up to the Harper Bride. This whole section of the trilogy is building nicely to a climax in the final book in the trilogy.

I loved that from the very first scene in the book, the sense of Roz's strength and personality shown through very consistently, including her strong sense of family, which now includes both her boys, and her friends. A perfect example of her strength are the scenes involving her ex husband. As he tries to destroy Roz's reputation in the community, she is prepared to let things go, until he takes things a step too far, at which point she stands up for herself in a very funny scene where she humiliates him in front of his friends and colleagues at the country club. I also loved Mitch's ability to recognise his own weaknesses and strengths, and thought the relationship he had with his son was lovely. I did wonder where the author was going with the storyline when she started to introduce some of the details about Mitch's own demons. Where it would have been easy to take things a step too far and have Mitch wallowing in his past, instead it was presented, dealt with, and it was clear that Mitch was a man who was now comfortable in his own skin, whilst still being aware of his limitations.

One thing I did wonder about was the character of Jane that was introduced in this book. It will be interesting to see what role she has to play in the culmination of this story. Jane is a relative who was working for Roz's cranky old aunt. As Roz assists Jane to escape from the crotchety old lady, it would seem that there is more to come for this character.

As usual, this is a well written romance, featuring well drawn and likeable characters. I can't wait to get Red Lily and read the culmination of both the mystery surrounding the Harper Bride as well as what appears to be a budding relationship between Hayley and Roz's son Harper.

Rating 4/5

In other news.......

Well..I know how many books you can request at the library at any one time now....20!

Found out when I went to request a book and the library very politely said "Don't you think you have enough requests already, you greedy cow!".

Now I have been suitably chastened I will have to wait until I can pick a couple of books up before I can request anything else.

Of course, I haven't quite figured out how many books I can have out at any one time yet!

I did ask today about Interlibrary Loans, and the librarian gave me a couple of forms to complete to request books. I thought about asking for the whole pad of forms, but thought it may have been pushing my luck a bit much. The next question is....which ones shall I ask for??

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

It's 1895 and, after the death of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma finds her reception a chilly one. She's not completely alone, though...she's being followed by a mysterious young man, sent to warn her to close her mind against the visions.

It's at Spence that Gemma's power to attract the supernatural unfolds, as she becomes entangled with the school's most powerful girls and discovers her mother's connection to a shadowy, timeless group called The Order. Her destiny awaits...if only Gemma can believe in it.

When Gemma's mother dies after there were harsh words spoken between them, Gemma finds herself at Spence, an English boarding school whose main aim is to produce young ladies who will be prized catches during the season, and find worth husbands. Feeling incredibly lonely and ostracized, Gemma struggles to make friends and to make sense of the strange visions that she has had. As events spiral out of control, can Gemma and her friends make the correct decisions to maintain both their friendship, and their lives.

I wish I could remember where I first saw this book, so that I could thank the person who bought it to my attention. What a little gem of a book! With a tone that is moody and atmospheric, almost gothic and so fitting! The last book that I remember reading that conveyed this kind of sense of impending events was the Australian classic "Picnic at Hanging Rock".

With interesting locales (both in India and then at Spence school), the world that Gemma (and the reader) is introduced to following the tragic death of her mother is one where anything can happen, both good and bad, and is an interesting look at the consequences of getting what you think you want.

And yet, as gloomy as that may sound, there were sections of fun, delight fantasy and growing friendship between the girls. In some ways this book could be a gothic/fantasy/historical version of the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants books. Both explore friendship and a growing sense of self, and are marketed as Young Adult books, although I was a little surprised at a couple of the scenes that were in this one, as I felt that it might be pushing the YA label a bit far!

The sequel to this book is already out - called "Rebel Angels", I will definitely be looking out for it to continue the adventures of Gemma and her friends.

Rating 4.5/5

Other Blogger's Thoughts:

Leafing Through Life
Things Mean a Lot

Slave to Sensation - A blogging experiment

I am participating in a blogging experiment hosted at To enter the contest, put up this blurb, image, and trackback and you are entered to win the following prize package.

$200 Amazon gift certificate
Signed copy of Slave to Sensation
New Zealand goodies chosen by Singh
ARC of Christine Feehan's October 31 release: Conspiracy Game

You can read about the experiment here and you can download the code that you need to participate here.

Nalini Singh
Berkley / September 2006

Welcome to a future where emotion is a crime and powers of the mind clash brutally against those of the heart.

Sascha Duncan is one of the Psy, a psychic race that has cut off its emotions in an effort to prevent murderous insanity. Those who feel are punished by having their brains wiped clean, their personalities and memories destroyed.

Lucas Hunter is a Changeling, a shapeshifter who craves sensation, lives for touch. When their separate worlds collide in the serial murders of Changeling women, Lucas and Sascha must remain bound to their identities…or sacrifice everything for a taste of darkest temptation.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Top 100

I've seen this at quite a few blogs, and decided that just for fun I would do it.

These are the top 100 from an AAR poll in 2004. The ones that I have read are in red, and the ones that I have on my TBR list are in purple.

1. Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
2. Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale
3. Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie

4. As You Desire by Connie Brockway
5. Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie This has been on the TBR forever
6. Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
7. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
8. Over the Edge by Suzanne Brockmann
9. All Through the Night by Connie Brockway
10. Sea Swept by Nora Roberts
11. It Had to be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
12. A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh
13. Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer
14. The Proposition by Judith Ivory
15. A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught
16. Ravished by Amanda Quick
17. Frederica by Georgette Heyer
18. Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand by Carla Kelly
19. MacKenzie's Mountain by Linda Howard
20. Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard
21. The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
22. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
23. The Bride by Julie Garwood
24. Devil's Bride by Stephanie Laurens
25. To Have and to Hold by Patricia Gaffney
26. Born in Fire by Nora Roberts
27. Winter Garden by Adele Ashworth
28. Gone Too Far by Suzanne Brockmann
29. The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn
30. Saving Grace by Julie Garwood
31. My Dearest Enemy by Connie Brockway
32. In the Midnight Rain by Barbara Samuel
33. The Windflower by Laura London
34. Naked in Death by J.D. Robb
35. Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught
36. Nobody's Baby but Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
37. A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux
38. Paradise by Judith McNaught
39. The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale
40. Dream Man by Linda Howard
41. Out of Control by Suzanne Brockmann
42. Silk and Shadows by Mary Jo Putney
43. See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson
44. Shattered Rainbows by Mary Jo Putney
45. Thunder and Roses by Mary Jo Putney
46. The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
47. Heart Throb by Suzanne Brockmann
48. For My Lady's Heart by Laura Kinsale
49. Honor's Splendor by Julie Garwood
50. Lord Carew's Bride by Mary Balogh
51. Untie my Heart by Judith Ivory
52. Dream a Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
53. The Secret by Julie Garwood
54. This is All I Ask by Lynn Kurland
55. Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh
56. One Perfect Rose by Mary Jo Putney
57. To Love and to Cherish by Patricia Gaffney
58. Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
59. Heaven, Texas by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

60. Venetia by Georgette Heyer
61. Daughter of the Game by Tracy Grant
62. The Prize by Julie Garwood
63. Reforming Lord Ragsdale by Carla Kelly
64. Prince Joe by Suzanne Brockmann
65. The Notorious Rake by Mary Balogh
66. Heartless by Mary Balogh
67. Son of the Morning by Linda Howard
68. Sleeping Beauty by Judith Ivory
69. Where Dreams Begin by Lisa Kleypas
70. The Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer
71. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
72. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegar

73. With This Ring by Carla Kelly
74. The Lion's Lady by Julie Garwood
75. The Rake by Mary Jo Putney
76. Fallen from Grace by Laura Leone
77. Always to Remember by Lorraine Heath
78. Castles by Julie Garwood
79. One Good Turn by Carla Kelly
80. Chesapeake Blue by Nora Roberts
81. By Arrangement by Madeline Hunter
82. Perfect by Judith McNaught
83. My Darling Caroline by Adele Ashworth
84. The Defiant Hero by Suzanne Brockmann
85. The Unsung Hero by Suzanne Brockmann
86. Guilty Pleasures by Laura Lee Guhrke
87. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
88. Kill and Tell by Linda Howard
89. After the Night by Linda Howard
90. More than a Mistress by Mary Balogh
91. Born in Ice by Nora Roberts
92. Miss Wonderful by Loretta Chase
93. The Charm School by Susan Wiggs
94. Scoundrel by Elizabeth Elliott
95. How to Marry a Marquis by Julia Quinn
96. Angel Rogue by Mary Jo Putney
97. Trust Me by Jayne Ann Krentz
98. Dancing on the Wind by Mary Jo Putney
99. Once and Always by Judith McNaught
100. This Heart of Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Well....19 read and 13 on the TBR list....that's pretty, well poor, I guess! LOL!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris

The fourth book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, following on from Club Dead.

Sookie Stackhouse is a small-town cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. She's pretty. She does her job well. She keeps to herself and has only a few close friends because not everyone appreciates Sookie's gift. She can read minds. Not exactly every man's idea of date bait. Unless they're undead. Vampires and the like can be tough to read - just the kind of guy Sookie's been looking for.

Maybe that's why, when she comes across a naked vampire on the road home from work, she doesn't just drive on by. Turns out he hasn't a clue as to who he is, but Sookie does. It's Eric, still as scary and sexy - and dead - as the day she first met him. But now that he has amnesia, Eric is sweet, vulnerable, and in need of Sookie's help - because whoever took his memory now wants his life. Sookie's investigation into why leads straight into a dangerous battle among witches, vampires, and werewolves. But there could be a greater danger to Sookie's heart - because the kinder, gentler Eric is very difficult to resist...

Sookie's New Year's resolution was to stay away from vampires. Should be easy right? After all, her ex-boyfriend Bill has gone to Peru so she has no need to have anything to do with any of his vampire buddies. Except when she comes across Eric running naked down a road, apparently unaware of who he is, he is pretty hard to resist. It turns out he has lost his memory, and the people who put the curse on him are pretty intent on tracking him down so that they can finish him off once and for all. Not long after Eric turns up, Sookie's brother Jason goes missing, so between looking for him, and trying to keep Eric hidden, her New Year's resolution has gone out the window. It certainly doesn't help that Eric is still sexy as, and to top it off he is kind and vulnerable....yum! I wouldn't be saying no either, just quietly, and I don't know about Sookie, but I was definitely thinking "Bill.....Bill who?" a lot of the time through this book!

With more and more supernaturals being unveiled and time running out, Sookie is drawn into a supernatural battle between witches, were-creatures (including the very sexy Alcide who we met in the last book), fairies, vampires and the local wiccan community, Sookie is just hoping that she doesn't get too badly beaten up.

When I finished the last book I was really hoping that Sookie would end up with Alcide. They had such great chemistry, and he seemed like a really great guy...well, for a werewolf anyway! It wasn't to be in this book, but one of the major obstacles is out of the way for the future if that is the way the author decides to go!

With more supernatural men find Sookie attractive, and her own conflicted feelings about some of them, it all looks like interesting times ahead for Sookie.

Rating 4/5

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas

The third book in the Wallflower series following on from It Happened One Autumn......finally!

A devil's bargain

Easily the shyest Wallflower, Evangeline Jenner stands to become the wealthiest, once her inheritance comes due. Because she must first escape the clutches of her unscrupulous relatives, Evie has approached the rake Viscount St. Vincent with a most outrageous proposition: marriage!

Sebastian's reputation is so dangerous that thirty seconds alone with him will ruin any maiden's good name. Still, this bewitching chit appeared, unchaperoned, on his doorstep to offer her hand. Certainly an aristocrat with a fine eye for beauty could do far worse.

But Evie's proposal comes with a condition: no lovemaking after their wedding night. She will never become just another of the dashing libertine's callously discarded broken hearts -- which means Sebastian will simply have to work harder at his seductions...or perhaps surrender his own heart for the very first time in the name of true love.

After putting my name down on the list at the library months ago, I FINALLY got Devil in Winter a couple of days, and yesterday I read it in one go! What a book!! I'm sure that everyone has read at least 3 reviews by now so I am going to keep it brief and just talk about what I did and didn't like...yes, there was something I didn't like and I'll start with that.

****Beware for spoilers throughout!****

The main thing I didn't like was the suspense subplot which led to the climax to the book. Evie and Sebastian were put through the ringer in this book, and not in the interactions with each other...mainly from outside sources. With Evie being almost kidnapped by her horrible family, Sebastian taking a bullet for her, and then Evie nearly being murdered in the climax, there were times when the focus on Evie and Sebastian was lost.

Now for the good things! Sebastian. Do I need to say more?

Well, okay then I will. I loved him, and loved the progression that we saw in this book - from desperate jaded rake, to attentive travelling companion, to determined businessman, to celibate man, to devoted husband, and along the way he even managed to be apologetic to Westcliff and Lilian. Lilian isn't my favourite of the Wallflowers but I did like the fact that despite the fact that she hated Sebastian, she was there for Evie when she needed her. I was glad when peace was made between Westcliff and Sebastian. A lot of the time when a determined rake has been reformed we only see that in the relationship with the heroine but in this case we saw that Sebastian was able to rebuild relationships with others in his life as well.

As for Evie, I thought it was fantastic when she forced Sebastian to lose his bet - so playful and sensuous...poor man never stood a chance. I also loved the way that she gradually became more confident in herself with Sebastian's help. I don't believe for a minute that if she had of just smiled at him that Sebastian would have been attracted to her, despite the fact that he said he would have! I think it took a desperate act to get his attention, and Evie had the strength and the backbone to be able to do it! Her devotion when he was injured was also really good...although it is nothing that hasn't been seen before. In fact...that is probably something that I would say about this book. I don't think that there was anything really new in the storyline, but like Liz Carlyle, Lisa Kleypas is such a strong writer that even the biggest cliches are forgiveable because they are so well written.

I loved the little cameo from Derek Craven - a very nice touch! ('s just a mention of Derek..not an actual appearance!) And I can't wait to read Cam Rohan's book - he sounds delicious. I understand that whilst it did look as though Cam was being set up to be the hero in Daisy's books that is not in fact the case, but that he will have his own book. Can't wait!

I am only at number 4 on the list for Scandal in Spring, so hopefully it won't be too long before I get hold of that.

Rating 4.5/5

Smitten by Janet Evanovich

Single mom Lizabeth Kane isn't exactly carpenter material -- she's never picked up a hammer in her life. But she desperately needs the construction job that builder Matt Hallahan is offering. And even though he knows trouble is ahead, Matt can't refuse Lizbeth's irresistible smile.

Matt Hallahan isn't exactly relationship material -- he has always been too busy working on other people's houses to make a home of his own. And even though she knows better, Lizabeth can't stop thinking about the rugged carpenter.

Is the relationship Matt and Lizabeth are building solid -- or more like a house of cards?

Another of the rereleased series romances that Janet Evanovich wrote years ago, and yet again with this one, you can tell. Having looked back at the reviews I have done of these rereleases, the main things that all three of them have in common is that the romance between the two main characters develops at breakneck speed. Within a couple of days of meeting, Matt is thinking about settling down, having never even thought of it before. Another thing is that compared to many of today's other romances, the books feel like the bare bones of the story.

Lizabeth bought a run down house the day after her divorce, and now has to get a job because otherwise she will not be able to make her mortgage payments. There was no mention of how she was planning to meet the payments in the first place. Once she gets the job with Matt, her Aunt Elsie comes to stay for the summer to look after her two boys. Aunt Elsie was apparently a prototype for Grandma Mazur from the Plum books, and she was a lot of fun.

There was at least one plotline that was a bit contrived, and that was in relation to a naked stalker who kept on coming and showing himself to Lizabeth. That was the catalyst for Matt to come and protect her, and in the end an explanation was offered as to who the stalker was and why, but it felt really contrived and not really satisfactory.

Overall though, if you want a quick romance to read and then move on from this was pretty good, and certainly better than some of the other rereleases.

Rating 4/5

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Tidal Poole by Karen Harper

The Tidal Poole opens as Elizabeth's triumphant procession to Westminster Palace is marred by the brutal murder of a high-born, high-living lady of the court. Abetted by her irresistible band of loyal retainers, the young queen is soon spearheading a sub rosa investigation of the crime - an investigation that leads inexorably to a sinister plot against Elizabeth herself.

Climaxing in a midnight voyage through the murderous tidal pools swirling under London Bridge and highlighting a magnificent queen in the first full flush of her power, it is essential reading for lovers of romantic mystery, history, and regal adventure.

The second book in the Queen Elizabeth I mysteries, following on from The Poyson Garden, this book starts with the coronation of Elizabeth as Queen of England, and the subsequent parade through the streets of London. Throughout the crowds, there are some of her own favourite people, including in Arundel House, her close friends John and Bella Harrington and their family and her cousin Lady Frances Brandon Grey Stokes and her family. During the parade, Bella's sister is murdered, and it is first thought to be a crime of passion, but it eventually seems that there is much more to the murder, and that it might strike a lot closer to Elizabeth than it seems. It also then becomes clear that Elizabeth has to be careful who she can trust - even those who she has long standing connections with can sometimes not be trusted! With only two weeks until Parliament is due to open, Elizabeth and her friends need to solve the mystery... and quickly.

The only irritating thing throughout this book was that Elizabeth had caught a cold, and she kept it all the way through the book....and there were numerous references to it! Well, too many references in my opinion anyway!

This was a good second book in the series. The action was fast, there were lots of new characters to meet that I suspect will carry forward into future books, as Elizabeth gathers a group of trusted people around her, including the usual people like Cecil and Dudley, but also including some common people like Ned Topside (her fool), Meg Milligrew (her herbalist) and Jenks, who works in her stables.

Part of the subplot in both books so far are to determine who exactly Meg Milligrew is. In the first book in the series, she has no idea who she really is, but in this second book Meg does discover her identity, but does not recover her memory. When she discovers that she is actually married and from a Catholic family opposed to Elizabeth, she has to decide where her loyalties lie. I am sure that this thread will also continue through the next couple of books at least as well.

With another 7 books in the series to read, I am sure that it will continue to develop going forward.

Rating 4/5

Monday, August 14, 2006

To the Tower Born by Robin Maxwell

This book was Book of the Month for August over at Historical Fiction Forum.

Debated for more than five centuries, the disappearance of the young princes Edward and Richard from the Tower of London in 1483 has stirred the imaginations of numerous writers from Shakespeare to Josephine Tey and posited the question: Was Richard III the boys' murderer, or was he not? In a captivating novel rich in mystery, color, and historical lore, Robin Maxwell offers a new, controversial perspective on this tantalizing enigma.

The events are witnessed through the eyes of quick-witted Nell Caxton, only daughter of the first English printer, William Caxton, and Nell's dearest friend, "Bessie," daughter of the King of England, sister to the little princes, and founding
ancestress of the Tudor dynasty.

With great bravery and heart, the two friends navigate this dark and dangerous medieval landscape in which the king's death sets off a battle among the most scheming, ambitious, and murderous men and women of their age, who will stop at nothing to possess the throne of England.

Hot on the heels of The Daughter of Time, this book offers another perspective on what happened to the little princes in the Tower. Were they murdered by Richard III? If not, what happened to them, and who made it happen?

Nell and Bessie are best friends. Nell's father, William Caxton was the first English printer, and therefore had a lot of royal patronage. By situating his shop within the walls of Westminster, it is therefore made plausible that his only daughter Nell would become close friend of the York princess, Elizabeth, who eventually becomes the wife of Henry Tudor (Henry VII) and therefore mother of Henry VIII.

The story of what happened during the final tumultuous years of the York dynasty is being told to a young Prince Harry by his mother and Nell. Harry's older brother Arthur has just died, and Bessie is beside herself with grief. Nell forces her way into the palace in direct disobedience to Margaret Beaufort, the King's mother, and when Harry also sneaks in to his mother's room, the two women begin reminiscing. Covering the death of Edward IV, and some of the reign of Richard III, the girls tell of the story of the times, up until some time towards the end of the Richard's reign, and also of their loves.

There are several problems with this novel. When a book starts out with an event that appears to be completely unrelated to any other event in the book, it is probably not a great sign, but still I kept reading. The main issues that I had with this book are around the number of coincidences and the modernism of the characters. On numerous occasions either Nell or Bessie just happened to be in a position to overhear one of the meeting between someone plotting an uprising or revolt, or they just happened to be able to sneak into the Tower thanks to all the friends that worked on the gates and promised not to reveal their presence.

With the girls able to come and go just about anywhere, and then Nell being offered a position as the tutor to Edward, Prince of Wales, and then as secretary to Margaret Beaufort, it felt at times as though the author was trying to capture a modern audience at the expense of historical authenticity. There are plenty of other examples as well -for example when a romantic relationship develops between Nell and Anthony Rivers, her father is fine with it, despite the fact that Lord Rivers is already married. It has to be said that it appears that the author is a big fan of Anthony Rivers, to an extent I have never seen before in books about this time period.

So, did I enjoy this book?'s "kind of" for an answer? I liked her theory as to who was behind the disappearance of the young princes from the Tower - it made a lot of sense, however she didn't really follow through with what actually happened. It was almost as though the author realised that she was right up to her allocated 300 pages, and bam...that's it. Thanks so much for coming! And then right at the very end, there was just a few lines that tried to tell what Nell and Bessie were up to as at the end of the current time that just had me incredulous - hard to say much more without spoiling completely!

If I was to mark just on enjoyment, I would probably give a lower mark, but I am going to rate this book 3 out of 5, simply because it was a new and quite interesting solution to an old question.

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn

The second book in the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn, following on from The Duke and I.

1814 promises to be another eventful season, but not, This Author believes, for Anthony Bridgerton, London's most elusive bachelor, who has shown no indication that he plans to marry. And in all truth, why should he? When it comes to playing the consummate rake, nobody does it better...

Lady Whistledown's Society Papers, April 1814

But this time the gossip columnists have it wrong. Anthony Bridgerton hasn't just decided to marry, he's even chosen a wife! The only obstacle is his intended's older sister, Kate Sheffield, the most meddlesome woman ever to grace a London ballroom. The spirited schemer is driving Anthony mad with her determination to stop the betrothal, but when he closes his eyes at night, Kate's the woman haunting his increasingly erotic dreams...

Contrary to popular belief, Kate is quite sure that reformed rakes to not make the best husbands, and Anthony Bridgerton is the most wicked rogue of them all. Kate's determined to protect her sister, but she fears her own heart is vulnerable. And when Anthony's lips touch hers, she's suddenly afraid she might not be able to resist the reprehensible rake herself...

When Anthony Bridgerton decides to get married, it is a very simple matter. He simply found out who was considered the jewel of the season and that is the woman he would married. Simple...right? Well, it would have been except that the sister of the lady in question is determined that Anthony Bridgerton not marry her sister because she is determined that her sister should marry a man who would make her happy, not a notorious rake like Bridgerton.

So when they feel an attraction to each other they are both horrified, but as they gradually get to know each other their attraction grows. When they are found in a compromising situation, Anthony shocks the ton by marrying Miss Sheffield....the wrong Miss everyone was expecting that he would marry Edwina Sheffield and not Kate Sheffield.

I really, really enjoyed this book! Julia Quinn managed to take a well worn plot and make it quite fresh. The compromising situation that Anthony and Kate were caught in was very entertaining, as was the family game of Pall-Mall that the two sisters participated in with the Bridgertons.

I liked both Kate and Anthony - Kate was strong and loyal, determined and yet when she had to face her fears she was definitely vulnerable, and it was really nice to see Anthony's caring side coming out there. When Anthony decided to get married, he was determined that it would be to a woman that he was attracted to, and that he liked but there was no way he was going to fall in love, so watching him do just that and trying to deal with it was a very enjoyable read.

I thought that this was a much more enjoyable book than The Duke and I. I have already been to the library to get the next book in the series!

I do have a question though. How did a non-rake fall in love in Regency times? It does seem as though one has to be a rake to actually be worthy of falling in love. Woe for the good man who hasn't been gambling and whoring for years!

Rating 4.5/5

Other Blogger's Thoughts:

Bookworms and Tea Lovers

Sunday, August 13, 2006

How much is too much?

I really want to start reading Elizabeth Chadwick's backlist. As you may know if you read my blog regularly I don't really like reading series out of order so I thought I would start at the beginning, which is, as far as I can tell, The Wild Hunt.

Whilst my library has got the two books that follow this one, it doesn't have The Wild Hunt, so I thought I would have a look on Ebay to see if it is available. Which it is....if you are happy to pay $125 for it, and about $20 postage to get it from the UK. That is WAAYYY out of my price range for a book!

So my quandary now is whether I just start reading the series at book number 2...or skip this series altogether and move onto Children of Destiny.

How much is too much for you to pay for a book? What's the most that you have paid for a book?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts

Trying to escape the ghosts of the past, young widow Stella Rothschild, along with her two energetic little boys, has moved back to her roots in southern Tennessee-and into her new life at Harper House and In the Garden nursery. She isn't intimidated by the house-nor its mistress, local legend Roz Harper. Despite a reputation for being difficult, Roz has been nothing but kind to Stella, offering her a comfortable new place to live and a challenging new job as manager of the flourishing nursery. As Stella settles comfortably into her new life, she finds a nurturing friendship with Roz and with expectant mother Hayley. And she discovers a fierce attraction with ruggedly handsome landscaper Logan Kitridge

But someone isn't happy about the budding romance...the Harper Bride. As the women dig into the history of Harper House, they discover that grief and rage have kept the Bride's spirit alive long past her death. And now, she will do anything to destroy the passion that Logan and Stella share...

After a couple of years of being by herself after the death of her husband, Stella decides to move to Tennessee so that she can be closer to her father and her stepmother. Having made the big move, the book opens with her attending an interview with Roz Harper, who is the owner of the In the Garden nursery. As an added bonus, Stella and her family get to live in magnificent Harper House, a home that has been in the Harper family for generations. Of course, there are stories that are hidden within the house, but one of the biggest one is the identity of the Harper Bride ghost. Over the years, the Harper Bride has been almost a guard over the family that have lived in the house, particularly the children. When Stella starts to fall in love with Logan Kitridge, the ghost starts to behave in strange ways...the question is why?

I haven't read that many Nora Roberts books yet (especially considering how many she has written), but of the ones that I have read I have come to realise that what she seems to do best, is to take normal people, in normal situations and then bring them together and write very touching and real romances, and this story is no exception. Stella is a woman who is passionate about her family and her career, who is strong and determined and who wants to do the right thing by those around her. The sparks and the tension between Stella and Logan was very well written and realistic (even if he did go on about her hair a bit too much).

Also very much in evidence in this book is the dynamic between the three main female characters, and it is clear that their friendship will be one of the ties that binds this trilogy together.

With a good romance, just a hint of the supernatural, and a great friendship storyline, this book manages to not only have different threads to it, but Nora Roberts has managed to do it without any one part of the book feeling less polished or less developed than the others.

I am really looking forward to reading the other books in this series, and have already been to the library to pick up Black Rose.

Rating 4.5/5

Other Bloggers Thoughts:

The Bookworm - Naida

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Elena Michaels is your regular twenty-first-century girl: self-assured, smart and fighting fit. She also just happens to be the only female werewolf in the world.

It has some good points. When she walks down a dark alleyway, she's the scary one. But now her Pack - the one she abandoned so that she could live a normal life - are in trouble, and they need her help. Is she willing to risk her life to help the ex-lover who betrayed her by turning her into a werewolf in the first place? And, more to the point, does she have a choice?

Having not read any paranormal books before starting to read The Sookie Stackhouse books not too long ago, I now realise that they are like eating a fresh green salad - tasty, healthy and mostly satisfying, but there are actually paranormal books out there that are like huge T-bone steaks - something you can really get your teeth into and rip to shreds with your razor sharp teeth. And yes, there is definitely a place for both types of meal!

Bitten is definitely steak - there's blood and gore, complex plot lines and relationships and ultimately takes a little while to digest.

Elena has been trying to live her life as a normal human. She lives with her boyfriend Philip, who has NO idea that she is actually a werewolf. In order to meet the demands of her nature, she sneaks about at night, taking long runs, not realising how much she misses true nature and hunting.

When the pack that she left behind summons her for assistance, she knows that it must be for a good reason, so she returns to Stonehaven, and there has to deal with her ex, Clay...the man who turned her, and with whom she has a very complicated relationship. When other pack members start turning up dead, the Pack realises that they are in for the fight of their lives and that they must work together in order to survive.

I was kind of torn at times about whether I was enjoying this book or not. I really liked the time that the author took to develop her world - explaining the hierachy and the history of the pack, and why the mutts who appear to be attacking the Pack would be doing so. Having said that though, there were times particularly in the first 150 pages or so where I was getting a little frustrated with the length of time that was spent describing the Change that Elena went through each time that she transformed from human to werewolf. I thought that the scenes that were written from a werewolf point of view were very well written, although I have to admit that I did cringe over the ease and lack of guilt that there was relating to the killing of humans. I thought it was very interesting that the author chose to bring new blood into the werewolf strain by turning human killers into werewolves - certainly made it easy to dislike the mutts (werewolves who are not part of the Pack). Without those new werewolves I have to admit that I did feel a little sorry at first for the mutts because the Pack is all controlling and the other werewolves who are not Pack have to make do as best they could.

What else....I really liked Elena as a heroine. She was smart and strong, yet fragile and emotionally exposed, particularly when it came to Clay and also as she tried to figure out whether or not she could truly live in the human world and keep her true nature hidden. In the early stages of the book I was a bit worried that with Elena being the only female werewolf that we would have a situation where she was actually going to be having sex with the other wolves as well, but it seems as though there was just a bit of rough housing with some of the other younger werewolves. I was happy with that because I did like Elena and Clay together - their relationship seemed like the ultimate in animal attraction, and I was sure that Clay did really love her, and yet I don't think that I ever really got to understand Clay. His background was explained, his connection and his role within the Pack was clear, and yet I don't think that I understood why he decided to turn Elena into a werewolf, with all that meant. There was some explanation, but I guess it just wasn't enough for me.

This book took a while to get going for me, but once it did, I was completely drawn into the world of Stonehaven and the werewolves, so much so I nearly missed my train stop, and was extremely disappointed when I had to put it down with only 30 pages to go once I did make it in to work!

With Stolen on the request list at the library, I will definitely be reading more of the Otherworld series by this author.

Rating 4/5

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Last Camel Died at Noon by Elizabeth Peters

The acclaimed author of Naked Once More and Deeds of the Disturber presents a marvellous new novel, starring her most popular heroine, Amelia Peabody, the 19th century Egyptologist.

Amelia and her dashing husband Emerson set off for a promising archaeological site in the Sudan, only to be unwillingly drawn into the search for an African explorer and his young bride, gone missing for twelve years.

Barely surviving the rigours of the desert, the deaths of their camels, and the abandonment of their guides, they suddenly find themselves prisoners in the midst of a lost city and civilization. Amelia and Emerson must make the most of this explosive situation, accumulating archaeological coups while doing their best to rescue the innocent...and themselves.

Dear reader (or so Amelia would begin if she were the one writing this review!). It's probably not an overstatement to say that this is rapidly becoming one of my favourite series, and this sixth entry in the series is definitely very entertaining. The books are chock full of adventure and humour, and in this one we even have a different location...a lost civilization in the Sudan.

Amelia and Emerson are approached by strangers, they are told the remarkable story that the well known explorer Willoughby Forth, who was thought to be have killed 12 years ago, is actually alive in the Sudan. When they are asked to help find him and his young wife, they are not going to get involved...but Amelia and Emerson being who they are, they soon find themselves embroiled in the mystery!

Along the way, Amelia nearly dies, Ramses disappears, a new King is crowned in a secret civilization, a mystery is solved and a key character is introduced to the series. I think that this may well be one of my favourites so far. We are taken into a secret city hidden in the mountains of Sudan, and the descriptions of the secret world and it's traditions are so vivid that you really do feel as though you are there with them.

The other thing that was really well done in this book was the identity of the bad guys - there were two brothers and the question of which of them was the friend and which was the foe was kept going until about three quarters of the way through the book and maintained in a quite convincing way! There were as many twists and turns in this novel as there were in the tunnels that led to the secret chambers described in the book!

Amelia continues to get all steamed up at the mere thought of her loving husband and their sense of fun and togetherness is very endearing - of course, the less said about that kind of thing the better (they are after all living in the Victorian age!).

A very entertaining 4.5/5

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Full Scoop by Janet Evanovich and Charlotte Hughes

Dear Reader:

There's a whole lot of trouble going on in Beaumont, South Carolina. According to resident psychic-slash-astrologer, Destiny Moultrie, Mercury's in retrograde; Venus is in the seventh house, and the combination has turned Cupid wacko! Chaos rules as tempers flare and lust runs rampant. Newlyweds Max Holt and Jamie Swift-Holt are trying to make a baby, but their recently purchased antebellum mansion is under renovation and filled with feuding contractors. Vera has a crush on her new mailman, and is bent on looking ten years younger. Destiny is marked for marriage by the changing planets, and she's running for her life as the local redneck and bait shop owner is determined to make her his. Meanwhile, local pediatrician Maggie Davenport has considerably bigger problems now that her wild-girl past has caught up in the form of ex-boyfriend and jailbird who just flew the coop—and is determined to track her and her daughter down. If he doesn't expose her secrets, there's a good chance Jamie's editor, intent on getting the Full Scoop, will. Fortunately, FBI agent Zack Madden is on hand for protection; but the new danger is the wild attraction he and Maggie share. Fleas the hound dog is experiencing his first crush on Maggie's adorable and alluring…um…pygmy goat? Add to that an Elvis convention and a local root doctor and hoodoo practitioner who decides it's time she take charge; only to have one of her spells backfire, and you've got a gut-busting, laugh-out-loud story we hope you won't forget!

It's just another wild ride in the town we love to write about, and the character's we can't get enough of. So kick off your shoes, sit back, and enjoy a FULL SCOOP of fun, adventure, and romance.

Janet and Charlotte

Having quite enjoyed Full Bloom I was a bit apprehensive about reading this book, mainly because my enjoyment of this series has varied from pretty good to pretty bad (particularly in the early books in the series) with a few stops in between. I have to admit that it during the first part of this book I thought that I had another not so good one on my hands, but in the end it turned out to be pretty good.

The back cover blurb pretty much covers the book so I am not going to say much more. It is a pretty much standard romance storyline - heroine is in danger, FBI hero moves in to protect her and they fall in love.

I am not sure why but the first half of the book felt a lot less enjoyable to me. Maybe it was just because you kind of expect that there would be less establishment of characters required in a series book, but the truth is that we had never even known that Maggie existed as far as I can recall from the earlier books in the series. It is understandable that we never knew Zack before he is an outsider.

Quite a few of the characters from the previous books are back - Jamie and Max, Vera and Destiny amongst them. Although it has to be said that Max in particular has nothing more than a cameo role, and there was barely even a mention (if any now I think of it) of Maggie and Wes from the previous book in the series. It would appear however from the resolution to this novel, that Zack in particular will make appearances in future books of the series.

Since moving the focus away from solely being on Jamie and Max, and instead allowing other people from the town of Beaufort to step up to the plate, the series has definitely become stronger and more entertaining. I'm not sure that I'm willing to reconsider buying any future books in the series...yet, but I don't think I am that far off.

Overall...a mostly positive experience this time around, but not enough to make me completely convinced that the next one will be a winner as well!

Rating 4/5

Monday, August 07, 2006

Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant lies in a hospital bed with a broken leg. To alleviate his boredom, a friend brings him a pile of pictures: photographs, prints, engravings, and clippings. Among the more engrossing images is the portrait of King Richard III. Studying the benign face, he asks himself how such a sensitive-appearing soul could have been the infamous murderer of his own nephews. With the help of the British Museum and an American scholar, Grant reconsiders 500-year-old evidence pertaining to one of the most intriguing murder mysteries of all time. Josephine Tey's answer to who really killed the two princes in the Tower of London has provoked controversy ever since its publication in 1951.

The Daughter of Time is actually the fifth book in a series of six mysteries that feature Inspector Grant. Normally the fact that I was reading a book from a series out of order would really freak me out, however, it didn't this time, mainly because I didn't find out until after I finished it!

With the first book in the series being published in 1929 and this one published in 1951, it is actually a pretty old book, and yet for the most part it does not feel dated at all. There are the occasional things which are, for example the Inspector smoking in his hospital bed, a little bit of the language (calling gangsters wideboys)...oh, and the fact that there was no internet to assist with the research, but overall the story is so well written that it holds up for today's reader without too many problems.

The story is that Inspector Grant is stuck in hospital after falling through a trap door with a broken leg (presumably in the book before this), and so he is in hospital laying flat on his back for weeks ( maybe it is a little dated. My sister recently broke her kneecap and was out of hospital in two days). Nearly driven round the twist with boredom, one of his friends goes and gets some portraits of historical figures that are connected to unsolved mysteries of the past to see whether that kind of mental exercise will help cheer him up. After discarding some pretty famous names like Perkin Warbeck and Lucrezia Borgia, Grant spies a portrait of Richard III. Priding himself as a man who is able to be a good judge of character based solely on a face, Grant finds himself wondering how a man who looks like Richard III has been portrayed through the years as one of the most evil kings of England ever.

So Grant, with the able assistance of a young American researcher by the name of Brent Carradine, sets out to track down contemporary accounts of Richard III to try and found out what the man was really liked. Having discovered that most of the famous accounts were either hearsay or written by Richard's enemies, Grant decides to use the skills that he has gained at Scotland Yard to in effect investigate Richard and see whether he could possibly be guilty of the things that he has been accused of doing over the years, including murdering his own two nephews in order to gain the crown for himself.

He starts with a series of questions. For example, where was Richard when he found out that his older brother King Edward IV had died? What did he do when he heard? Were his actions consistent with those of a man who had gaining the throne for himself as his foremost concern? Using the same approach for many of the other key figures, by following through some of the key events from history and investigating logically, Grant comes up with some quite interesting theories as to what really happened all those years ago.

I have to admit that I am quite partial to a story about Richard III. This interest started when I read Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman, and has continued through The Seventh Son by Reay Tannahill, and most recently, A Rose for the Crown. For some reason I do always end up reading novels that are very pro Richard, and this one is no exception, although this one does come up with a different answer to that age old question - if Richard didn't kill the princes in the tower...then who did!

In terms of the style of the novel, it is an interesting mix - more like a case study than your traditional historical fiction novel. Whilst I would guess that the book would qualify as a historical mystery, it is interesting to note that the author didn't take us back in time, and feel the need to share the smells, dresses and rituals of the time, but rather gives us an analytical look back at a particular character, and a particular series of events that were pretty crucial to English history. It is an unusual way of writing the book, but it works.

One interesting thing that I found, was that Miss Tey put a reference to the Inspector going to watch one of the plays that she had written under her other pen name of Gordon Taviot. Normally when I read that kind of thing, for example when an author writes themselves into the story, I find it kind of jarring. It did amuse me to think that kind of thing was happening all those years ago as well. There is nothing new under the sun...apparently!!

A very entertaining read of a book that is probably as close to a historical fiction classic that you can get, and well worth trying to get hold of! I have every intention of reading more from this author.

Rating 4.5/5

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Watermelon by Marian Keyes

February the fifteenth is a very special day for me. It is the day I gave birth to my first child. It is also the day my husband left me...I can only assume the two events weren't entirely unrelated.

Claire has everything she ever wanted: a husband she adores, a great apartment, a good job. Then, on the day she gives birth to their first baby, James informs her that he's leaving her. Claire is left with a newborn daughter, a broken heart, and a postpartum body that she can hardly bear to look at.

She decides to go home to Dublin. And there, sheltered by the love of a quirky family, she gets better. So much so, in fact, that when James slithers back into her life, he's in for a bit of a surprise.

Having read several Marian Keyes books and enjoyed them, with Last Chance Saloon being my favourite, I wanted to go back to the beginning and read the Walsh sisters books in order, starting with Watermelon.

It is interesting to read this book after some of the others because I think it is possible to see the development of Keyes through the different styles. Marian Keyes excels at writing chicklit novels that aren't afraid to deal with hard issues, whether it be infidelity as in here, or depression, rejection or whatever the issues is, and she manages to do it with style and humour. It has to be said though that in this book the humour and the tone are much darker than in some of the other books that I have read, with maybe a hint of desperation. My personal opinion is that Keyes has learnt over time to write a better balanced book, and better paced between the highs and lows of the storyline.

In this book, Claire Webster gives birth to her beautiful baby daughter, only to be told shortly afterwards that her husband James is leaving her for another woman. Claire had no clue that this was coming and falls completely to pieces, ending up going home to her parents house in Dublin. After completely losing the plot for a while, she gradually begins to rebuild her life and her self esteem. But the question is...will James come back into her life and destroy her fragile self esteem, or will Claire managed to hold on to what she has built around her.

It has to be said that James is a complete bastard. Absolutely, completely manipulative and horrible - maybe even to the point of being a caricature. Claire seems lovely, and lets just say there is a too good to be true character that is just scrummy.

If I have any major criticism of this novel it is the time frame. Unfortunately I can't explain this without spoiling so .....

********Spoiler Alert On*********

Claire gives birth, goes back to Ireland, collapses in an alcohol induced stupor
(all pretty much understandable), but within the space of six weeks she has met a really nice guy and has sex with him. Within another couple of weeks she has contemplated a reunion with James, decided that she doesn't love him at all anymore. All of this happens at a completely breakneck pace. Of course, I could just be jealous that I couldn't done it, and still haven't met anyone new after, well let's just say a long time, but this isn't really supposed to be about me!

*********Spoiler Alert Off*********

During the last few chapters the closing events of the books cover a longer time span, but crammed into only a few pages, leaving it feeling rushed.

Overall, this was an entertaining read, although personally I think there was some problems with pacing. I will be reading more of the Walsh sisters though, as this was a promising start to their stories, with kookie and interesting characters, as well as an interesting family dynamic that will come into play in future books I am sure!

Rating 3.5/5