Monday, October 30, 2006

Bits and pieces, this and that!

I've been making a bit of an effort to catch up on my book posts because I keep on finding things that I want to post about but then think I shouldn't because I will mess up the posting order!!

If you recall I was participating in Sassymonkey's October Challenge. The three books I was going to read were Poison Study, The Silver Rose and The Observations, with a bonus of Exit Unicorns if I got to it. Well, I read Poison Study and The Silver Rose (review still to come on that one!), but I didn't get to The Observations or Exit Unicorns.

Kailana has proposed a November challenge to read books set in World War I or World War II in honour of Remembrance Day. I would like to do it but I am not sure if I am going to officially participate or not. I have plenty of books on my list that qualify. Maybe I will just set the challenge for one book - The Book Thief, although it will depend on whether the book comes in from the library or not as to whether I will read it in November or not. Edited to say that I might try and read Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes as well.

In other news....I changed over to Blogger Beta a couple of days ago - so far so good, except for having to sign in all the time!! Driving me crazy!

Did everyone see that Rachel McAdams is in talks to star as Clare in the movei of a Time Traveller's Wife? Sounds like a really good casting decision to me!

Angels by Marian Keyes

Marian Keyes's sixth novel is a truly captivating story about a marriage that's gone wrong and a sensible woman who suddenly just wants to let her hair down.

"We will shortly be landing at Los Angeles International Airport. Please ensure your seat is in the upright position, that you weigh less than a hundred pounds and that you have excellent teeth."

Unlike the rest of her family, Maggie Walsh has always done everything right. Sensibly. By the book. Until the day she leaves her husband and runs away to Hollywood, that is.

In LA the primping, preening and partying are non-stop and even the palm trees are skinny. Staying with her best friend, Emily, a struggling screenwriter, Maggie starts doing things she's never done before. Like wearing tights on her head, mixing with film stars - even pitching scripts to studios - and much, much more. Including meeting the mysterious Troy, a man so non-stick he's known as Human Teflon.

Follow Maggie on a journey of discovery, from suburbia to a suntan, taking in some heartache and lots of Martinis along the way, as she discovers what she really wants in life and why she really walked out on her marriage....

This is the third book in the series focussing on the Walsh sisters, following on from Rachel's Holiday.

This really is a trademark Marian Keyes. Her ability to take a situation that is neither entertaining or funny, and turn it into an extremely poignant story that is very entertaining.

Maggie and her husband Garv have had a couple of "setbacks" over the last couple of years, and have gradually drifted apart and stopped really talking to each other. When Maggie finds out that he may have been cheating she leaves him immediately, going to stay with her parents until her best friend Emily calls her and asks her to come and stay with her in LA. Emily is a writer, trying to sell her movie script and make ends meet in a town where appearance is everything. Suddenly Maggie is masquerading as Emily's assistant, accompanying Troy to showbiz parties, attending premieres, being regroomed from head to foot and generally just trying to forget about her real life.

Maggie is thrown into a world of parties and grooming, along the way starting to loosen up a bit and take the kind of risks that she would never have usually taken. When it turns out that one of her old boyfriend's is going to be in town, it brings up many memories for Maggie, including a huge plot twist that I never saw coming! I love it when an author can surprise me so completely!

As Maggie is spending her time with a variety of characters, she gradually comes to some realisations about why her marriage faltered, and to accept some of the responsibility, as distinct from taking the blame for things beyond her control.

One of the highlights of the book was when the Walsh family descended on LA en masse - Mum and Dad, Helen and Anna....very entertaining! The next book in the series is Anybody Out There? about Anna. I already have it sitting on my shelf ready to read!

Rating 4/5

Sunday, October 29, 2006


I am a bit of a fan of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, although I haven't read any for ages, and I really have been meaning too, but I am not sure that I would ever be as much as a fan as some others.

Click on the link to see pictures of a wedding cake that has been made based on Discworld.

What about you? Is anyone else so obsessed with a character, or a series of books that they would consider making a wedding cake for it, or some other odd tribute?

Into the Dreaming by Karen Marie Moning

Aspiring romance novelist Jane Sillee was completely in love with her fantasy man - the hot and strapping dark-haired Highlander who'd been coming to her in her dreams for years and inspired her sensual flights of literary fancy.

But it was more than her imagination that conjured up the brilliantly woven tapestry sporting the spitting image of her magnificently arrogant warrior. It was more than a dream that transported her to medieval Scotland to break an evil spell. And it was more than she could handle when she found herself wrapped in the muscular arms of Aeden MacKinnon, who had his won fantasies to fulfill.

This novella was originally published in the Tapestry anthology that also featured Lynn Kurland, Sherrilyn Kenyon and Madeline Hunter. It was recently rereleased as a kind of standalone novella and at only about 100 pages long it is a very quick read. I'm not really sure what I think of the format, and I'm not sure that I have seen too many others around in this format. As someone who came a bit later to this author, it is good to be able to easily locate this story that means that I have read most of what have been published. Just waiting for her latest, Darkfever, to come in at the library. Can't wait!!

As the first piece of writing that KMM had published, you can definitely see the bare bones of what became her really successful Highlander books. There is time travel, hot men in kilts, feisty virgin heroine, and the fae are there as well.

Well worth reading if you are a KMM fan!

Rating 4/5

Friday, October 27, 2006

Five Things About Me

I was tagged by C2 to do the Five Things meme that is going around so here goes:

1. I am pretty drained by my job at the moment. I think the time is coming to move along. I am however going to stay at least 6 months more so that I can get paid out my Long Service Leave when I do leave.

2. I'm not really a good Aussie. I don't like Vegemite, Russell Crowe, not real keen on Lamingtons, don't really get why we get a day off for a horse race! Not that I am complaining though. Means that I have a four day weekend this weekend. Wait...any excuse for a long weekend...that makes me a better Aussie than I thought.

3. I really, really need to lose weight. I keep on thinking about it, but haven't really done anything about it. Oh, I've tried just about every diet going, but not wholeheartedly, if I am being honest with myself.

4. I think I have a new hobby...just not sure how it happened! LOL!! I have gone and bought lots of paper and punches, ink and stamps to be able to start card making. Guess the only thing to do now is to actually make some!

5. I collect new groups and new blogs like there is no tomorrow. Usually they are related to books that I have read or reading in some way or another. Just can't help myself!

A Catch of Consequence by Diana Norman

Makepeace Burke, colonial tavern keeper, accepts an offer of marriage from the aristocrat she rescues from a rebellious mob, and sets sail for London.

As the second Lady Dapifer, Makepeace soon realises that English society will not easily accept an uneducated colonial.And the first Lady Dapifer, well-connected and refusing to acknowledge her divorce, proves to be an extremely dirty fighter once her silk gloves are off. But Makepeace, having been chased out of one town by prejudice and intolerance, is damned if she'll let that happen again.

Makepeace Burke and her collection of friends, from rescued waifs to Grub Street scribblers, from Northampton miners to prime ministers are irresistible characters. Diana Norman is an addictive discovery.

I first heard about this author when the girls at Dear Author blogged about a couple of her books. With historical fiction being one of my favourite genres, this book, with it's setting in Boston just before the start of the war between Britain and it's young colony, is right up my alley. Boston is full of unrest, and when innkeeper Makepeace Burke rescues a man from the waters of Boston Bay she is dismayed to find that he is an English Lord. The rebels that use her tavern as a meeting place will be less than pleased if they find out that she is harbouring him...not to mention the reaction of her future mother-in-law when she finds out that Makepeace had the man in her bedroom alone for a whole night. The fact that he was unconscious at the time is irrelevant. And then it is Sir Pip's turn to rescue Makepeace and her loved ones, and Makepeace finds herself not only married to him, but falling in love with the dashing Sir Pip, and on her way to make her mark in London society.

Unfortunately, Sir Pip was in Boston trying to obtain a divorce from the first Lady Dapifer, a lady who is finding it very difficult to let go of her former husband, and his money, and she does her best to make as uncomfortable as possible for Makepeace. Well, actually, truth be told the first Lady Dapifer is pretty much a psycho bitch, especially at a time when Makepeace is at her lowest ebb. Luckily she has a quirky and loyal group of friends who are willing to support her, something that she needed after have to move on with her life after a terrible tragedy.

As Makepeace learns to live again, she finds herself in the tough and cold world of Northern England, having to start with very little and try to build a life for herself, always with an eye on vengeance against those who destroyed her life. It is however a fine line between gaining vengeance and allowing that unquenchable thirst for revenge to destroy her again.

I really liked Makepeace as a character. She was tough and resilient, noble and still vulnerable, loyal and direct. It could be said that she might be a little too modern, but to be honest it would only be marginally true, and it is such a minor flaw compared to the very many positive aspects to this book!

As we follow Makepeace as she transitions from innkeeper to society lady to businesswoman, I was completely drawn into her various worlds. When I was reading this book, I was very disappointed when I had to get off the train because it was my stop. I would have been happy to keep on riding the trains until I finished the book! Unfortunately, whilst my boss is a reader, I don't think even she would have appreciated that as a reason for me being late for work.

I have already got the next book in the series out from the library! Can't wait to get to it!

Rating 4.5/5

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Romancing Mr Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

The fourth book in the Bridgerton series, following on from An Offer from a Gentleman.

Penelope Featherington has secretly adored her best friend's brother for...well, it feels like forever. After half a lifetime of watching Colin Bridgerton from afar, she thinks she knows everything about him, until she stumbles across his deepest secret...and fears she doesn't know him at all.

Colin Bridgerton is tired of being thought nothing but an empty-headed charmer, tired of everyone's preoccupation with the notorious gossip columnist Lady Whistledown, who can't seem to publish an edition without mentioning him in the first paragraph. But when Colin returns to London from a trop aboard he discovers
notyhing in his life is quite the same — especially Penelope Featherington! The girl haunting his dreams. But when he discovers that Penelope has secrets of her own, this elusive bachelor must she his biggest threat — or his promise of a happy ending?

Penelope Featherington has been in love with Colin Bridgerton since she was 15 years old. And he knows that she exists at least..after all, he always used to dance with her at balls, oh, and there was that unfortunate incident where he declared quite loudly that he wasn't going to marry her (how mortifyingly embarrassing!). When Colin finally returns home after one of his many trips abroad, Penelope is thrilled, especially when it seems that after all these years, Penelope and Colin are actually going to really become friends...perhaps even more than friends. But before things can progress too much further, they both have secrets that need to be revealed, and dealt with, all the while hoping that the magnitude of the secrets are not going to destroy their fragile new relationship.

I really, really enjoyed this book, athough I did scratch my head a couple of of times trying to think if maybe I was reading the story out of order. I was somewhat intrigued at the secrets, particularly Penelope's. I can't say anything more because it would be a major spoiler for the whole series, but it did seem strange for this particular secret to be revealed at this point in the series. I would have thought that it would be somethign that needed to be kept a while longer.

Penelope was at times a fraction annoying, but Colin was charming and funny and sweet and handsome. I wouldn't have minded accepting a glass of lemonade from Colin at a ball...anything more than that would probably be bad ton!

There was plenty of clues as to what is going to happen in the next book in the series, without there being an overload of foreshadowing. Overall, very entertaining!

Rating 4.5/5

Monday, October 23, 2006

Friends, Lovers, Chocolate by Alexander McCall Smith

In this delightful second installment in Alexander McCall Smith's bestselling new detective series, the irrepressibly curious Isabel Dalhousie, editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, gets caught up in an affair of the heart - this one a transplant.

When Isabel's niece, Cat, asks Isabel to run her delicatessen while she attends a wedding in Italy, Isabel meets a man with a most interesting problem. He recently had a heart transplant and is suddenly plagued with memories of events that never happened to him. The situation appeals to Isabel as a philosophical question: Is the heart truly the seat of the soul? And it piques her insatiable curiosity: Could the memories by connected with the donor's demise? Of course, Grace - Isabel's no-nonsense housekeeper - and Isabel's friend Jamie think it is none of Isabel's business. Meanwhile, Cat brings home an Italian lothario, who, in accordance with all that Isabel knows about Italian lotharios, shouldn't be trusted....but, goodness, he is charming.

That makes two mysteries of the heart to be solved - just the thing for Isabel Dalhousie.
I am a big fan of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by this author, so when he started a new series featuring Isabel Dalhousie I was very excited to read it. I was however a little disappointed. The main character seemed a bit too intellectual, too pompous, too.....something. It has therefore taken me nearly a year to get around to picking up the second book.

This time I guess either my expectations weren't quite so high, or maybe the book was better. There were still the obligatory (or so it seems) mentions of opera and literature, lots of contemplation (what do you expect from a philosopher) and even a couple of laugh out loud moments, including one when Isabel asks a married woman who is having an affair with her friend what her husband does for a living, as well as an entertaining visit to a session with a medium.

I do think that maybe this character is a bit too highbrow for me. At times she mentioned WH Auden throughout the novel. I thought I was doing okay in knowing who she was talking about, but I couldn't figure out why there was no mention of trains. Eventually I realised that WH Auden is not Rev W Awdrey, author of the Thomas the Tank Engine stories! Whoops!

In this installment Isabel is occupied with matters of the heart - her own, her housekeeper Grace's, her nieces, her friend Jamie. The conundrum that Isabel faces in relation to her own heart is quite interesting. Is a young man her niece's age too young for her to be half in love with, and the moments of angst around this are very subtle and well written.

The other affair of the heart that is occupying her mind, is the question of whether the heart can hold memories. She meets a man who has been the recipient of a heart transplant, and since then he has been having memories about a man who he doesn't ever remember meeting, memories that cause him pain, and Isabel sets out to discover who this man is and why memories of him cause so much pain.

It amazes me how prolific Alexander McCall Smith is. Not only is he writing the Ladies Detective Agency series, this series, plus a couple of kids series, plus goodness knows what else. It always seems as though there is something new coming out.

BTW Doppelganger over at 50 Books has a link to a podcast that has an interview with Alexander McCall Smith - he has a voice you could listen to for hours!

Rating - A much better 4/5

Stolen by Kelley Armstrong

Elena Michaels is a wanted woman. She hasn't done anything wrong. Well, not recently, anyway. But ten years ago her lover turned her into a werewolf: the only female werewolf in the world, in fact.

And now, just as she's finally coming to terms with it all, a group of scientists learns of her existence. They're hunting her down, and Elena is about to run straight into their trap. But they haven't reckoned on Elena's adoptive family, her Pack, who will stop at nothing to get her back. They haven't reckoned on Elena herself, either, and that's a very big mistake.

When I first read Bitten, it took me a long while to get really drawn into the story, and in the end I enjoyed it, but I have to say that this book was so much better. Having read the synopsis from all of the book that are out in this series, I couldn't quite see how we were going to get from a completely werewolf centred story in Bitten, to a book about witches in Dime Store Magic, but it all makes perfect sense now and I am very much looking forward to reading it!

One of Elena's jobs in the Pack is to keep track of any news that might be making it into the public realms about werewolves, thereby making sure that no mutts are making a nuisance of themselves. When following a lead down, she meets two witches who set a trap to try and get Elena's attention, and thereby to be able to talk to the leader of the Pack (insert tv ad jingle here) Jeremy. The two witches are part of a coalition of paranormals (vampires, witches, shaman, half demons, amongst others) who are meeting to try and work out what to do about a common threat to all of them. Various individuals with paranormal tendencies have been disappearing - and it appears as though someone is trying to "research" their paranormal abilities.

Elena is one paranormal that the researchers really want to get hold of due to her unique position as the only female werewolf in the world. When she is captured and taken to the facility, she is put into a situation where she is regularly endangered, humiliated, and lonely. Elena doesn't lose faith though that her partner Clay will not do everything he can to save her, but she knows that she has to do whatever she can to help herself, and the other captives, including a very young witch named Savannah. As Elena fights to maintain her dignity and to obtain her freedom, the body count piles up big time. Lots of death in this book!

The author is really very clever, to bring all those different types of paranormals into the books this early in the story. To me it didn't feel like a forced attempt to broaden the width of the series, but a natural development, but it definitely has the effect of broadening the interest in the series, and more than likely extending the life of the series.

Whereas there was a strong focus on the relationship between Clay and Elena in Bitten, so that you could possibly have called it a paranormal romance, this book is definitely not a romance in my opinion. It is almost like the relationship between Clay and Elena is so settled now that they are ingrained in each other and therefore it is still part of the book, and still romantic, but just there in another way. This would be more horror/paranormal in my have no idea how surprising it is to me to be reading horror!

I was so eager to get the next book in this series, that I accidentally requested the fourth book in the series instead of the third one....whoops!

Rating 4.5/5

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Pirate Prince by Gaelen Foley

On a calm moonlit night, as the scent of jasmine and pine embraced the island of Ascension, the pirate prince Lazar di Fiori returns with lethal grace to avenge what was stolen from him: his kingdom, his birthright, his soul. . . .

Allegra Monteverdi, the daughter of Lazar's sworn enemy, proves an uncommonly powerful adversary. She throws herself on his mercy, her courage and beauty touching his cold, unforgiving heart. He agrees to spare the lives of her family--but only if Allegra sails away with him as his captive. For his quest for vengeance still burns fiercely, and he will settle for nothing less than Allegra's body and soul.

Alone at sea with this dark, intriguing man, moving between seduction and fear, Allegra gazes into eyes as deep and mysterious as the night and sees who this pirate really is. Lazar--the prince of her childhood dreams. Though he was rumored to be murdered years ago, she always believed someday he would return. But it will take more than her love for this pirate prince to bring peace to her beloved home. For Lazar must face the demons of his shattered past--if he is to forge the destiny that is theirs to claim. . . .

Not too long ago on someone's blog (and I am thinking it was either on Suisan's or Kristie's but I can't remember for sure!) the call went out for good pirate romances...and this book was mentioned.

If I had the energy I would do the rest of this post in pirate talk....but I'm too tired tonight, and besides our pirate, also known as Prince Lazar di Fiori didn't even have a pet parrot!

Lazar was just a young boy when he escaped from the massacre that killed the rest of his family, who happened to be the King and royal family of Ascension. Now he has returned to his homeland with vengeance on his mind. He is determined to get revenge on the man he blames for his family's destruction, and he has chosen his weapon well - his enemy's daughter Allegra. His plan doesn't quite work, and he ends up having to take her back to his ship as his captive, and as he makes his escape, his life is about to change dramatically.

It takes a while for Allegra to believe that Lazar is who he says he is, but once she does believe, she takes it upon herself to try and convince him that Ascension needs him, and that he will make a great King. She also begins to fall in love with the man that she knows wants to sleep with her, but who really is such a gentleman that he is willing to wait until she is ready to give herself to him! And as the feelings begin to grow between them, so does the despair, because if Lazar goes back to Ascension and claims his birthright, he can no longer be Allegra's due to a formal engagement that was negotiated many years before when he was still a young boy.

This book really has it all...not only is our hero a pirate, he is also a handsome prince. There are battles of wills between our hero and heroine, sea battles, land battles, daring escapades such as when Lazar has to go back to his nightmarish past to claim his ring so that he will be able prove his identity to the people of Ascension, hot sex and so much more!

If there is any criticism I would say that the ending was a bit rushed, but other than that I really enjoyed it! This was my first read by Gaelen Foley. I have already got the next book in this trilogy out, and I am very much looking forward to reading it. I also have to say that the author's website is really very good. Very easy to use, and lots of interesting titbits to be found there.

Well done darling, well done!! (Sorry, obscure Australian Idol reference there!!).

Rating 4.5/5

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Silver Rose by Susan Carroll

The third book in the Faire Isle trilogy, following on from The Dark Queen and The Courtesan.

From Brittany's fog-shrouded forests to the elegant dark heart of Paris's royal court, one woman must challenge a country's destiny-and her own dangerous fate.

France, 1585. She is the youngest and most powerful of the "Sisters of Faire Isle," women known far and wide for their extraordinary mystical abilities. Skilled in healing and able to forecast the future of those around her, Miri Cheney has returned to her ancestral home to take refuge from a land devastated by civil war-and to grieve for her family, driven to exile. But she cannot hide from the formidable new power threatening to seize control of France from the dread "Dark Queen," Catherine de Medici-a diabolical woman known only as the Silver Rose. Miri has no choice but to turn to the one man she distrusts as much as she desires: Simon Aristide, the charismatic witch-finder who is now himself the hunted, and who has reluctantly made an unholy pact with Catherine. Miri must defy throne and family to save all that she loves most-and command a future greater than she could ever imagine.

Vibrant with stunning historical detail, alive with characters as richly passionate as they are compelling, The Silver Rose is a sweeping, exquisitely wrought tale from a mesmerizing storyteller.

When the legendary witch hunter Simon Aristide, is becoming the hunted rather than the hunter, he turns to the one person who he would prefer not to - Miri Cheney. Miri was just a young girl living on the Faire Isle when he first met her, but he betrayed her and nearly caused her to be tried as a witch. Some years later he met her as a young lady in Paris, but he was well and truly entrenched in his role as witch hunter, and she was once again betrayed.

After many years of living in exile, Miri has returned to live on the Faire Isle, looking to recapture her lost happiness. For Miri, Simon was a young boy that she first came to love during an idyllic summer that nearly ended in tragedy. When he reappears asking for her assistance Miri is reluctant, especially once she understood that he was asking for her assistance in tracking down a witch.

Miri has always thought of herself, and others like her, as a wise woman, as opposed to a witch, and getting Simon to understand the difference was a big part of their journey, but in a way another part was having Simon find the man behind the witch hunter. The young boy with a happy family life, who survived in the face of tragedy, and who was taken in and taught to hate and fear. Ah...Simon. He would have to be write up there with the most tortured heroes every written..surely. Not only is the man terribly scarred, and missing an eye, but he really is a good man as well struggling to live with the way he had previously lived his life and the actual and emotional consequences of that life.

Miri was practically engaged to Wolf, a man who had been her loyal friend, for many years, but she had always held back from committing to him, and from allowing any kind of hanky panky. In a way I felt sorry for Wolf even though he was a bit of a womaniser. I liked him from the time we first met him in the second book in the trilogy, and I was really scared that something horrible was going to happen to him. It was certainly an interesting twist in the story for him during this book. The other really interesting twist was the identity of The Silver Rose!

This third book is definitely one that you will appreciate more if you have read the two books proceeding it in the series. I am not sure if there is going to be more books related to this one, but there certainly seems to be scope for it particularly in relation to Wolf who you may notice I have a certain tenderness for! I for one would certainly read any future books.

One small note to the author though...please, please get a website so that your fans have some idea about what is coming up next! Having read and enjoyed this trilogy, I will definitely be trying to find whatever books I can of Susan Carroll's backlist. Anyone have any idea what she is working on now?

Rating 4.5/5

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Some time ago I posted asking the question, how much is too much to pay for a book. That initial post was in response to the fact that I hadn't been able to find a reasonably priced copy of The Wild Hunt by Elizabeth Chadwick! Yesterday I put in a bid on Ebay...and I won! I'm very excited!!

Fast forward a week, and the book has already arrived from England and it seems to be in really, really good condition! Now I just need to fit it into the reading schedule somewhere!!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

La Prisonniere: Twenty Years in a Desert Gaol by Malika Oufkir and Michele Fitoussi

This book is published under the title Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail in most countries, but the copy I read was a Canadian version, with the title La Prisonniere.

Malika Oufkir was born into a proud Berber family in 1953, the eldest daughter of the King of Morocco's closest aide. She was adopted by the king to be a companion to his little daughter, and at the royal court of Rabat, Malika grew up locked away in a golden cage, among the royal wives and concubines.

But when Malika was eighteen, in 1972, her father was arrested after an attempt to assassinate the king. General Oufkir was swiftly and summarily executed. Malika, her beautiful mother and her five younger brothers and sisters were seized and thrown into an isolated desert jail. For fifteen years, they had no contact with the outside world, and lived in increasingly barbaric and inhumane conditions.

Like a modern Scheherazade, Malika kept up the spirits of her younger siblings by telling them stories every night about an epic world of her own invention. Then, after fifteen endless years of imprisonment, the Oufkir children managed to dig a tunnel with their bare hands, and made an audacious escape. Although they were recaptured after five days, the ensuing public outrage resulted in house arrest rather than a return to prison. In 1996, Malika was finally permitted to leave Morocco to begin a new life in exile.

La Prisonniere is a heart-rending account of resilience in the face of extreme deprivation, of the courage and even humour with which one family faced their tormented fate. A shocking true story, it is hard to comprehend that it could have happened in our own times.

This book was the July or August book (I think - whichever month it was I am behind!) for one of the groups that I am in. Or more precisely, I probably skirt around the edges of this group now. I used to be fully involved in it, but I find myself not keeping up with all the reading that I need to do for all the different groups I have attached myself to, and this seems to be one that is going by the wayside.

As a read, this was very interesting. It was set in a country that I know very little about, with very different religious and cultural experience to my own, and thankfully much different life experiences to mine.

Malika Oufkir lived a very comfortable life - as a very young girl she was even adopted by the King of Morocco so that she could be a playmate for his young daughter. However, Malika's opulent lifestyle was very often tinged with loneliness as she missed her parents, and the brothers and sisters that she barely knew. Her early life is portrayed as a gilded prison.

When she was in her late teenage years her father lead a coup against the King, and was executed. As a result of his actions, the Oufkir family were all arrested and then transported to a variety of different prisons across the country - each feature terrible living conditions, incredible isolation. In some cases they were kept in their cells 24 hours a day, unable to see or touch there loved ones who were kept in separate cells, but they found ingenious ways to keep in communication with their family members, and to not let their spirits be defeated by their oppressors.

When several of the family escape after many, many years of incarceration, and manage to get their story out, things begin to change. The family is released from prison into house arrest, allowing for some freedom, but it is a hard adjustment for them to make, and then ultimately to freedom outside of Morocco. Her youngest brother was just 3 years old when he was imprisoned, so for him to come out into the world having been incarcerated for so many years, through his childhood, and teenage years, must have been terribly overwhelming.

As a life story Malika Oufkir's is certainly very dramatic, and very interesting to read, and for the most part it was very well written. There were occasional times through the book that felt a little stilted, but for the most part, it was quite good. I am also not sure how much of that "stiltedness" would come from the fact that the book was not only an autobiography, but it was also translated from French to English for publishing. I noted with interest that she has a new book out called Freedom: The Story of My Second Life, which I will definitely read if I can find it.

I think that writing an autobiography would actually be pretty hard - details that certain people find fascinating would bore others to tears, needs to be well written without being monotonous, need to portray your life story in a variety of shades in several ways. For example, whilst you are telling your story there would presumably still be parts of yourself that you want to keep private. Sorry, just random musings there!!

Rating 4/5

My dream library

A little while ago, Kailana asked an interesting question - what's your dream library?

Jennie linked to these pictures - why use words when pictures will do! As long as there is a comfy chair somewhere in one of the corners I will be happy!

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket

Dear Reader,

If you have just picked up this particular book, then it is not too late to put it back down. Like the previous books in A Series of Unfortunate Events, there is nothing to be found in these pages but misery, despair, and discomfort, and you still have time to choose something else to read.

Within the chapters of this story, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire encounter a darkened staircase, a red herring, some friends in a dire situation, three mysterious initials, a liar with an evil scheme, a secret passageway, and parsley soda.

I have sworn to write down these tales of the Baudelaire orphans so the general public will know each terrible thing that has happened to them, but if you decide to read something else instead, you will save yourself from a heapful of horror and woe.
With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket

I actually thought I would pick up this book in honour of the fact that the final book in the Lemony Snicket series was released on October 13. I was sent the first 9 books in the series ages ago, and every now and again I pick one up and read it. This is the sixth book in the series. The good thing is that each book is a fast and easy read.

The Baudelaire children are about to introduce their latest guardians - a very fashion conscious couple who live in a huge apartment on either the 46th or the 64th floor. Unfortunately for the children, elevators are out of fashion so every time they have to go back to their new home they have to climb all the way up the stairs. There are several examples throughout the book of the silliness of blindly following trends. Another amusing example was a dinner at the very fashionable Salmonella cafe, where everything, including dessert is made from Salmon! Reminded me of a VERY fishy lunch I had in Venice once!!

As always the wicked Count Olaf is never far away, and the Baudelaires have to find a way to expose him, thereby saving themselves from his clutches. They also need to find a way to save their friends The Quagmires who are also being held by Count Olaf in his nefarious plan to get hold of their fortunes.

I guess, to a certain extent, the pattern is set for this series of books in the first book - it is in the details that the author excels - providing us with incredibly unlikely situations for the children to get themselves out of. The one that that is likely is that each of the books will be a fun read.

Good for everyone...not only for kids!

Rating 3.5/5

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Seducing the Spy by Celeste Bradley

Elite spies, secret defenders of the king, The Royal Four are unsurpassed in courage, honor, and daring. Known to his brothers-in-arms as The Falcon, Lord Wyndham is the most secretive and aloof of the four. But when The Falcon meets the impetuous Lady Alicia, he discovers a soul mate whose hidden fire matches his own…

SEDUCING THE SPY - Lady Alicia Lawrence was cast out of polite society and branded a liar for a youthful mistake. When she overhears details of a conspiracy that could affect her country's fate, she turns to the one person who might believe her—Stanton Horne, Lord Wyndham. Posing as Wyndham's mistress in order to root out the enemy, Alicia is drawn into an uneasy partnership…and a wildly seductive liaison.

Lord Wyndham's uncanny ability to detect lies has made him a valuable member of the Royal Four, but in matters of romance it has proven a distinct liability. Alicia is the only woman whose thoughts he cannot read…and the only one whose sensual touch quenches every secret desire.

As the mission grows more dangerous and more personal, and each encounter with Alicia more fiery than the last, this daring spy must face his greatest challenge yet—learn to trust the passion in his heart…

I can't remember the exact order of which authors I read first when I came back to reading romance a couple of years ago, but Celeste Bradley was right up there. The first book I read by her was the first book in the Royal Four series, To Wed a Scandalous Spy, and then I went and devoured all of her books in the Liar's Club series.

I am not sure if it is the books themselves, or whether it is more about me, but the journey through the series has been a bit up and down.

Okay......hold on a second. I just went to check if I had any reviews of the other Celeste Bradley books that I had read, and you know what? There was, and I wrote basically the same intro without even realising. Worth reading more than once? Probably not, so maybe I will just push on and talk about this book.

Lady Alicia Lawrence is a pariah in the ton - tarnished by a youthful indiscretion. When she overhears a plot involving the deadly Chimera, she rushes off to Lord Wyndham, Stanton Horne to enlist him to help foil the dastardly plot against the Crown. Between them, they decide that the best way for that too happen is for Alicia to identify the voices of the men that she heard speaking, because they were sure to be at the upcoming house party (okay, orgy) that the King will be attending. In order to smooth the path back into society, Alicia agrees to act as Stanton's mistress for the duration of the house party. In order to do that she gets to spend his money, buying an entire new wardrobe, renting a house, and basically to make it look as though she really is his mystery.

Once at the house party, Alicia is an immediate hit with all the gentlemen, and Stanton gets the first inkling that maybe this transaction isn't necessarily going to be as easy as he thought. The thing is that Stanton's special skill is that he can always read the people around them to see whether they are telling the truth or not...everyone except Alicia of course.

Over the course of the party, the couples from the previous books are reintroduced, and for the most part because of their roles within the Royal Four, it is a successful, and meaningful interjection into the book.

As the book builds towards it's climax, the tension rises, aided by a couple of side trips to Alicia's childhood home, and involving her sisters in the climactic final scenes.

Overall, this was a bit better than the last book in the series, much better than the one before that. There were still some things that left me scratching my head. For example, the identities of the Royal Four are supposed to be ultra secret - no one can know who they are, and yet Alicia went straight to him. Another example is in relation to Alicia's scandalous past. Whilst she explained what happened to her to Stanton, it was all a little too vague for my liking. I am also not 100 percent sure that this book stands alone too well, given how many characters from the earlier books appear, and the ongoing thread in relation to the dreaded enemy spy, The Chimera.

In a way I am sad to see this series end, and I would kind of like to see another Liar's Club book, but to be honest I would like to see something a little different from Celeste Bradley now. I guess one way to do that will be to track down the only book that she has written that I haven't read yet - Fallen.

Overall - a very entertaining read.

Rating 4/5

Friday, October 13, 2006

Poison Study by Maria V Snyder

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace -- and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust -- and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear . . .

I am trying to write this review a week after I finished the book...uh-oh! Let's see how we go!

First thing to state, is that I really, really enjoyed this book, really right from page one. Is that enough?? No?

Okay then. I can't remember where I first saw mention of this book, but I do know that I was attracted to it, from the cover, to the blurb from that first mention...and I wasn't disappointed.

From the the first moment when Yelena is given a "choice", a quick death by execution, or a potentially long and painful death by poisoning in her role as the food taster to the Commander of Ixia, the story that unwinds is revealed in layers. From Yelena's past, still haunting her today (in more ways than one!), to her relationships with others in the castle, to the revelations about the Commander and also with Valek, Chief of Security.

With adventure, a touch of romance, and a really clever storyline, this book is well worth a read. I am looking forward to getting hold of Magic Study, the next book in the trilogy that is already out now!

Rating 5/5

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Dirty Girls Social Club by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez

THE DIRTY GIRLS SOCIAL CLUB is sassy, funny, moving and smart, an unputdownable read. It is the story of six very different women who met at college in Boston and swore to be friends for the rest of their lives.

They call themselves the Dirty Girls Social Club. The only obvious thing they have in common is that they are all professional women and Latin American, but the real thing about them is that their lives tap into universal truths about women and sisterhood. There is Lauren, a journalist, who is used to getting what she wants and kicking ass when she doesn't, except when it comes to men...- Sara, wife of a corporate lawyer, upstanding member of the Jewish community, one of the best interior designers and party givers around, and seriously uptight...- Elizabeth, the beautiful co-host for a TV morning show and former runway model with a secret which will test the bonds of their friendship to the limit...- Rebecca, owner and founder of the most popular Hispanic woman's magazine in the market; nobody works the room like she does...- Amber, a rock singer waiting for her first big break, the spiritual one of the group...And then there is Usnavys, a big gal who is as showy as Libera They all feel perfectly licensed to tell each other what do and how to live their lives, and boy do they ever...

So this was the book that I thought I had lost on the train!!

I first heard of this book over at Book Bitches when they chose it at as Book of the Month in July. I am four months late! What can I say...I have had a lot of other books to read!

So there are 6 friends who met in college and have a strong bond between them. Each year they meet up a couple of times, for drinks, gossip and fun. And yet, despite the fact that they have been friends for years, and would consider themselves close, there are plenty of secrets between them.

In fact in many of the dialogue sequences it would almost seem that they don't necessarily like each other all that much, with all the sniping that goes on. And yet, when they all need each other their bond is strong and they are their for each other.

Each of them have their own secrets and issues. With chapters told from each characters perspective, we get to read their perceptions of each other, and to hear their stories from their own point of view. We see their lives as they make realisations about their own situations, and those of their friends - as they end relationships and marriages, as they fall in love, as their careers take off, as they change, as well kept secrets (both good and bad) are revealed, and as they struggle to define what it means to be Latina.

In many ways this book was an easy one to relate to, and yet in other ways it wasn't! As an Australian with a pretty common background (i.e basically my forefathers were from various corners in the UK), I don't think I have ever had to give much thought to what defines me as an Australian, yet these girls, with their backgrounds in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Columbia amongst other places, spent a lot time discussing what it meant to be Latina, and how to be Latina without losing their individual backgrounds.

Another way that I didn't really relate is that I really don't have a group of friends that I have been friends with for years that I catch up with regularly in the same way. I do have some friends who if I see them, they are always pleased to see me, and if I call them, they are pleased to hear from me, and many of them will say things like "I haven't heard from you in ages", to which my internal response is...what, don't you have dialling fingers? Anyway enough of that.

When I started reading this, I really thought that I wasn't really getting into it, but when it came to Saturday afternoon and it was the ONLY thing that I wanted to read, and then I couldn't find it, I guess it's fair to say that I was hooked. I did enjoy reading it, but I don't know that I will be going out of my way to track down more books by this author, mainly because I already know that there are no others by her in my library. If they happen to get any more by her in, and I notice it, I would read some more by her.

Overall, an enjoyable read that was funny and entertaining, and I am somewhat surprised to say, gave me some things to think about in terms of my own life!

Rating 4/5

Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik

When Britain intercepted a French ship and its precious cargo - an unhatched dragon's egg - Capt. Will Laurence of HMS Reliant unexpectedly became master and commander of the noble dragon he named Temeraire. As new recruits in Britain's Aerial Corps, man and dragon soon proved their mettle in daring combat against Bonaparte's invading forces.

Now China has discovered that its rare gift, intended for Napoleon, has fallen into British hands - and an angry Chinese delegation vows to reclaim the remarkable beast. But Laurence refuses to cooperate. Facing the gallows for his defiance, Laurence has no choice but to accompany Temeraire back to the Far East - a long voyage fraught with peril, intrigue, and the untold terrors of the deep. Yet once the pair reaches the court of the Chinese emperor, even more shocking discoveries and darker dangers await.

The second book in the Temeraire series, following on from Temeraire (His Majesty's Dragon), this book opens with a delegation from the Chinese insisting that Temeraire should be returned to it's rightful owner. Laurence is insistent that he will not be separated from Temeraire, and vice versa, leading to a showdown with the government. Laurence is basically forced to accompany the Chinese delegation back to China - a trip that involves a voyage several months long.

Whilst sea faring adventures were part of the first book, it is certainly a much greater focus in this one, (much as I imagine Patrick O'Briens books would be) as the ship that Laurence and Temeraire are travelling on travels the route, calling in at slave ports in Africa, a newly captured port in South Africa amongst other places. Also dealt with is the differences between the members of the navy and the members of the Dragon corps, and the cultural differences between the Chinese and the English.

With Laurence and Temeraire facing danger from some of the more dangerous ship mates, creatures from the deep, illness and other challenges, when they finally arrive in China, it has to be a relief. And yet, they are not yet safe, for a variety of reasons. For both Laurence and Temeraire there is a surprise in store when they see how dragons are treated in China, particularly a dragon as rare and valuable as Temeraire. Finding themselves drawn into Chinese politics much more than they ever thought they would be, the time in China is also a time of education for the both of them.

Whilst the story itself is very entertaining, the only thing that I do wonder about, is that the author seems to approach topics that might be quite difficult to deal with, and then back away again. For example, when calling in at the slave trading port, Laurence explains slavery to Temeraire. It so happens that the captain of the ship comes from a pro slavery family, and Laurence is anti-slavery, so there is opportunity for conflict there. However, when Laurence is forced to think about the way that dragons are treated in England, in comparison with in China, there icorrelationllation between the slavery discussion, and it is kind of just glossed over. The other things that tend to be glossed over are some of the issues around relationships between the human characters of the books.

For all of that, the book is very entertaining, and if you like nautical themed books, this might be an interesting read of that nature, with a twist!!

Rating 4/5

P.S I am really behind on my reviews...coming up (when I get around to them) are posts on The Dirty Girls Social Club by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, Poison Study by Maria V Snyder, Seducing the Spy by Celeste Bradley and The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket).

Other Blogger's Thoughts:

Finding Wonderland

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

October Reading Challenge

Sassymonkey is having an October reading challenge. The challenge is to read three books that have been on your TBR list for some time. I have resisted the urge to do participate in some of the challenges going around, but I think I can meet this one!

My three books are:

The Silver Rose by Susan Carroll.
Poison Study by Maria V Snyder
The Observations by Jane Harris

I'm actually going to try and fit a fourth book in - Exit Unicorns by Cindy Brandner. I have been wanting to finish this for ages but just have never got around to it, so it seems like the perfect opportunity!

Oh, and in exciting news, by participating there was a chance of winning one of three books...and I won!!! So winging it's way to me shortly is When She was Queen by MG Vassanji. Yay!!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Quilter's Legacy by Jennifer Chiaverini

The fifth book in the Elm Creek Quilts series following on from The Runaway Quilt.

Readers of Jennifer Chiaverini's popular and engaging Elm Creek Quilts series are treated in each successive volume to storytelling that expertly weaves the joys and intricacies of history, quilting, and family ties. In The Quilter's Legacy, a daughter's search for her mother's treasured heirlooms illuminates life in Manhattan and rural Pennsylvania at the turn of the last century.

When precious heirloom quilts hand-stitched by her mother turn up missing from the attic of Elm Creek Manor, Sylvia Bergstrom Compson resolves to find them. From scant resources -- journal entries, receipts, and her own fading memories -- she pieces together clues, then queries quilting friends from around the world. When dozens of leads arrive via the Internet, Sylvia and her fiancé, Andrew, embark on a nationwide investigation of antiques shops and quilt museums.

Sylvia's quest leads her to unexpected places, where offers of assistance are not always what they seem. As the search continues, revelations surface about her mother, Eleanor Lockwood, who died in 1930, when Sylvia was only a child. Burdened with poor health and distant parents, Eleanor Lockwood defied her family by marrying for love. Far from her Manhattan home, she embraced her new life among the Bergstroms -- but although warmth and affection surrounded Eleanor at last, the Bergstroms could not escape the tragedies of their times.

As Sylvia recovers some of the missing quilts and accepts others as lost forever, she reflects on the woman her mother was and mourns the woman she never knew. For every daughter who has yearned to know the untold story of her mother's life, and for every mother who has longed to be heard, The Quilter's Legacy will resonate with heartfelt honesty as it reveals what tenuous connections bind the generations and celebrates the love that sustains them.

For the first time since I started reading this series I wasn't drawn into the book straight away! In fact I started to read it, put it down, and didn't pick it up for the next couple of months! When I finally did pick it up again, it once again took a little bit of time to become engaged in the book, but once I was there it was a good read.

Whereas in the last book, Chiaverini looked at the stories of Sylvia Bergstrom Compson's grandparents, this time she is a generation closer - focusing on Sylvia's mother story. Eleanor Lockwood was a sheltered young woman. Due to her ill health Eleanor's parents would not allow her to live life to the full, instead Eleanor believes that she is fated to live a life at home looking after her parents as they get older.

Using some of the major events of the early 1900's as touchstones (including the suffragette movement, World War I and the sinking of the Titanic), we meet the people who shaped Eleanor into the woman that she was.

Interwoven with the stories of Sylvia's mother is the story of Sylvia's search for the quilts that her mother had lovingly made, but that were sold or given away during Sylvia's time away from Elm Creek. The other plotline that is explored is the opposition of Andrew's family once Sylvia and Andrew's engagement is announced. I was glad to see that the author didn't wrap all the various plotlines up so neatly as to be predictable. I would say though that this book was a bit heavier on the amount of detail included about various quilts, designs and patterns. Whilst for quilters that read the series that may be interesting, personally I want to get on with the story, particularly the relationships between the various characters.

Overall, this wasn't as good as some of the earlier books in the series, particularly the last book, but once I was drawn into the story it was well worth the effort.

Rating 3.5/5

Saturday, October 07, 2006


I think I left my library book on the train on Friday. I didn't think I was particularly absorbed in it but I wanted to read some more today...and that was the only book I wanted to read! I looked at my TBR pile and didn't want any of those!!

Hopefully I can call Lost Property on Monday. If it's not there I am going to have to tear the house and the car apart looking for it!

Fast forward 3 hours.....I am now pretty sure that I took it back to the library by mistake this is now checked in, so I have had to put a request in so that I can get it back again and hopefully finish reading it!!! Oh my goodness, my head hurts!! LOL!!!

In other news, I planted some tomatoes, zucchini (courgettes) and strawberries last week, and they're not dead yet!! Yay!

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Taming of the Duke by Eloisa James

Eloisa James is Author of the Month in my Historical Romance group on Yahoo. This is the third book in the Essex sisters series following on from James, Eloisa - Kiss Me Annabel.

Imogen, Lady Maitland, has decided to dance on the wild side. After all, she's in the delicious position of being able to take a lover. A discreet male who knows just when to leave in the morning.

But Lady Maitland is still under the watchful eye of her former guardian, the wildly untamed Rafe, the Duke of Holbrook. He believes she is still in need of a "watchdog." She laughs at the idea that someone so insufferably lazy and devoted to drink can demand that she behave with propriety.

It's Rafe's long-lost brother, a man who looks precisely like the duke but with none of his degenerate edge, who interests Imogen. To Imogen, he's the shadow duke...the man who really should hold the title. But when Imogen agrees to accompany Gabe to a masquerade...whose masked eyes watch her with that intense look of desire? Who exactly is she dancing with? The duke or the shadow duke? Rafe...or Gabe?

Whilst I liked this book, I have to admit that I started reading the book with a pretty fixed idea that I wouldn't love it, based on everything that happened when the book came out.

The basic of the story is that Imogen is widowed, living at the home of the Duke of Holbrook who was her protector (she was his ward so I guess that is what you would call him) prior to her marriage. Imogen sets her mind on having an affair with the Dukes illegitimate brother who also lives there. The brother is not interested, but the Duke is so he meets her in disguise.


The issue that came about when the book was released was...when did Imogen know which brother she was canoodling with. On her website the author has a spoiler trail which is supposed to help us see exactly when Imogen knew that it was the Duke, and she also wrote an extra chapter...but to me it wasn't really clear in the book, and it was kind of icky....she's messing around with one man, and thinking it was the other, until the Duke proposes and she says yes.

*****End Spoiler*****

The extra chapter on the author's site really helped, but my question is though - should it have been necessary. Surely the book should stand alone without there needing to be additional explanation on the author website?

The other thing was that there was a completely unnecessary epilogue in this one! Why do so many books have them when it really isn't necessary!

I guess the reason why I think that the epilogue was unnecessary is when you read the first chapter of Pleasure for Pleasure (the next book in this series) that she has up as an excerpt on her site, the first scene in that book is Rafe and Imogen's wedding! Why not just do an epilogue for the whole series at the end of Pleasure for Pleasure!

On the whole I enjoy Eloisa James's writing style, but sometimes she does things that are just not quite right. For example, in the next book, it appears as though Josie (so young she is not even out in society yet) ends up with Mayne. It maybe a few years down the track...or it may not be, but it seems to me that there is going to be quite a large difference in ages between the two of them. I guess I probably should not try to second guess but should just wait and see.

As for the characters, I had a bit of baggage as far as Imogen was concerned...I didn't really like her in the other books in the series, and that carried over into this book. Rafe was okay...a bit too easily in my opinion, but that is probably more about me than the writing.

There were some genuine moments of pleasure in this book - the scenes where Rafe and Imogen were sneaking off to the village to see the baudy singer and a play were extremely entertaining! I also liked the secondary romance between Rafe's brother and Gillian, who was engaged to Imogen's first husband before she eloped with him.

Overall, a patchy read. I know that I went in with preconceptions, and I will probably go into the next one with preconceptions as well, but not too bad in the end!

Rating 3.5/5

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sarah by Marek Halter

The first novel in a dazzling new trilogy about the women of the Old Testament by internationally bestselling author Marek Halter.

The story of Sarah--and of history itself--begins in the cradle of civilization: the Sumerian city-state of Ur, a land of desert heat, towering gardens, and immense wealth. The daughter of a powerful lord, Sarah is raised in great luxury, but balks at the arranged marriage her father has planned for her.

The groom is handsome and a nobleman, but on their wedding day, Sarah panics and impulsively flees to the vast, empty marshes outside the city walls. There she meets a young man, Abram, a member of a nomadic tribe of outsiders. Drawn to this exotic stranger, Sarah spends the night with him, but reluctantly returns to her father's house. But on her return, still desperate to avoid another wedding, she drinks a poisonous potion that will make her barren and thus unfit for marriage.

Many years later, Abram's people return to Ur, and he discovers that the lost, rebellious girl from the marsh has been transformed into the most splendid and revered woman in Sumeria--the high priestess of the goddess Ishtar. But the memory of their night together has always haunted Sarah, and she gives up her exalted life to join Abram's tribe and follow the one true God, an invisible deity who speaks only to Abram. It is then that her journey truly begins--a journey that holds the key to her remarkable destiny as the mother of nations.

From the great ziggurat of Ishtar and the fertile valleys of Canaan to the bedchamber of the mighty Pharaoh himself, Sarah's story reveals an ancient world full of beauty, intrigue, and miracles.

Last year, one of my favourite reads was The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. Shortly afterwards I read another novel with a biblical theme (In the Shadow of the Ark), which I thought was average, and I was then a bit reluctant to read any more biblical fiction because I didn't want to have any more average experiences.

I can't remember where I first saw this one mentioned (might have been on my Amazon recommends list but I am not really sure), I was definitely interested, and gradually over the last couple of months my interest has been steadily growing until finally I got the book from the library.

This book tells the story of Sarah, the eventual wife of Abraham. When we first meet Sarai she is a young girl, on the verge of womanhood. We get to see the ceremonies that the author thinks a young girl might have been subjected to as she becomes a woman. At the first sign of her blood, the time has come for her to be married off to the man that he has chosen for her. Sarai balks at this choice and runs away as before the ceremony can be completed, and she meets a young man, Abram. Because he is from the nomadic tribes, there is no way he can be an acceptable husband for her, but he has found his way into her heart. When they are separated, Sarai takes steps that are very nearly tragic.

The next phase of the book deals with Sarai's life as a priestess of the goddess Ishtar, with more details on ceremonies. She is the most beautiful of the priestesses and is about to be granted the highest of honours when Abram reappears in her life, and has to choose between life as an exulted priestess or as the wife of a nomadic man who lives in tents.

As Sarai makes her choice, her earlier actions come back to haunt her, and as Sarai becomes older she despairs of ever having her dream fulfilled, despite the promises of Abram's God, and especially as the trials of their marriage are an increasingly heavy burden.

This story is at once a familiar tale, and yet the author manages to make the tale that he has built around the Bible story both fresh and interesting. There is a lot of detail about the every day life of both the citizens of Ur, the nomadic people, life in Egypt, as well as some pretty steamy content at times.

I guess I know that the author has me interested in the story when I pull out the dust covered Bible in my house and read the relevant chapters! Overall an interesting retelling of a well known story.

Rating 4/5

Book Bags

Saw this on the Powells Book Blog.

How cool!! Which one would you choose?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

I originally started reading this book for a group that is going around the world in 80 books. I seemed to have fallen completely behind schedule, but I still finished this off! I already had it on my TBR list after seeing it on someone's blog (sorry, but I can't remember whose it was!)

Lily is haunted by memories-of who she once was, and of a person, long gone, who defined her existence. She has nothing but time now, as she recounts the tale of Snow Flower, and asks the gods for forgiveness.

In nineteenth-century China, when wives and daughters were foot-bound and lived in almost total seclusion, the women in one remote Hunan county developed their own secret code for communication: nu shu ("women's writing"). Some girls were paired with laotongs, "old sames," in emotional matches that lasted throughout their lives.

They painted letters on fans, embroidered messages on handkerchiefs, and composed stories, thereby reaching out of their isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.

With the arrival of a silk fan on which Snow Flower has composed for Lily a poem of introduction in nu shu, their friendship is sealed and they become "old sames" at the tender age of seven. As the years pass, through famine and rebellion, they reflect upon their arranged marriages, loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their lifelong friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a brilliantly realistic journey back to an era of Chinese history that is as deeply moving as it is sorrowful.

With the period detail and deep resonance of Memoirs of a Geisha, this lyrical and emotionally charged novel delves into one of the most mysterious of human relationships: female friendship.

I really enjoyed this read. Set in a remote corner of China in the 1800s, we are given a glimpse into the lives of several different stratas of society - the humble farmer, a comfortably well off family that rents out the fields to the farmers around him, the socially unacceptable life of a butcher and the fading and disgraced aristocrats.

At the age of 7 Lily and Snow Flower were deemed to be "old sames' - signing a contract that says that they will be the closest of friends for all their lives. For Lily, Snow Flower is an exotic young girl, coming from a wealthy family and always wearing beautiful clothes, and yet, when the customary times for visiting each other, Snow Flower always visits Lily's family, never the other way around. For Snow Flower, her time at Lily's house is a chance for her to learn some of the basics of running a home, in anticipation of her marriage.

Going into the details of the rituals relating to foot binding, to the friendship ceremonies, to the marriage ceremonies and the traditions surrounding the changes in a woman's life after she is married, there was plenty of scope for infodump in this book, and yet, the author manages to convey details regarding these events in such a way as to provide the information, but within the structure of the story.

Most of all, this book is a look at the changing nature of a friendship between two women, particularly during the later days of their lives as one of the women grows into a role of leadership in her family and the other gets closer and closer to the edges of society. There were many moving moments, particularly as one of the characters realises that she was the one with the issues, and not the other way around!

A moving and entertaining read, featuring a time and place that I know very little about.

One thing that I did learn from this, or rather had reinforced to me, is that I am really, really bad at reading to a schedule. For the group the book was broken into four sections. I was late finishing the first section, in front on the section section, and then so far behind for the last two sections that it isn't funny!

Rating 4/5

Other Bloggers Thoughts:

The Bookworm - Naida
Some Reads

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Another review link

Here is a link to Vengeance in Death. I am going to catch up soon so that my posting isn't so all over the place!!

Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

This is the fifth book in the Southern Vampire series, following on from Dead to the World

Sookie Stackhouse is a cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. She's pretty and well manner and has only a few close friends - which isn't surprising, since not many people can appreciate Sookie's abilities as a mind reader. It's not a quality that has the guys beating down her door - unless they're vampires, werewolves, or other supernatural beings. And now some of them aren't just friendly - they're family.

When Sookie sees her brother Jason's eyes start to change, she knows he's about to turn into a were-panther for the first time - a transformation he embraces more readily than most shapeshifters she's known. But her concern for her brother becomes cold fear when a sniper sets his deadly sights on the local changeling population - and Jason's new panther brethren suspect he may be the shooter.

Now, Sookie has until the next full moon to find out who's behind the attacks - unless the killer decides to find her first.... I am probably going to sound a bit grumpy with this review. I really did enjoy this book but the thing I am beginning to find is that the books are basically rehashed each time!

The main storyline is that someone has been shooting shapeshifters including Sam, Sookie's boss. The local shifter community suspects Jason, Sookie brother. In order to help out and have some protection, Sam (who is half in love with Sookie) asks Sookie to approach Eric (the local vampire sheriff who can't remember what went on with Sookie in the last book but would really love to because he can't stop thinking about her) to give him a vampire to work the bar where Sookie works. Charles dresses like a pirate and soon is charming all the locals!

As in the other books Sookie gets injured, her house nearly burns down, Bill (her ex-boyfriend who would really like to get back with her) tries to come to the rescue as does Alcide (who even suggests to Sookie that he would like to have a permanent relationship with her, even going so far as to include her in the process to choose a new pack leader).

With just about every supernatural man half in love with Sookie, including the leader of the local were-panther community, things are a little predictable, but still entertaining, and because I am a series junkie I will still read the next one!

Rating 4/5

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander

This was the book of the month for September over at Historical Fiction Forum - a welcome change from the usual selections which tend to always feature English royalty. As much as I love reading about those, it is nice to expand the horizons a little bit!

Though the events are almost a century old, the imprisonment and execution of Tsar Nicholas and his family still hold an aura of mystery that fascinates. In haunting prose, Robert Alexander retells the story through the eyes of Leonka, on the kitchen boy to the Romanovs, who claims to be the last living witness to the family's brutal execution. Mysteriously spared by the Bolsheviks, the boy vanished into the bloody tides of the Russian Revolution. Now, through Alexander's conjuring, he reemerges to tell his story. What did the young boy see in those last days of the Imperial Family? Does he have answers to long-standing questions about secret letters smuggled to the Tsar, thirty-eight pounds of missing tsarist jewels, and why the bodies of two Romanov children are missing from the secret grave discovered in 1991?
This book is only about 200 pages long but for it's diminutive size it certainly was a captivating read.

It is told from the perspective of an old man telling his grand daughter the story of his life. The story he weaves in an extraordinary one. As a young boy, he was the kitchen boy assigned to the Romanov family. When the Romanovs were imprisoned at the Ipatiev house in Siberia, the kitchen boy Leonka was one of the few personal servants who were allowed to continue to serve the Tsar and his family.

Through the eyes of Leonka, we witness the last few days of the Royal family through several incidents, most notably when it seems as though they might be rescued as indicated in secret notes smuggled in to them. As the Tsarina and her daughters frantically try to hide the family jewels in case they are able to escape.

Incredibly, on the day that the Tsar, his family and his personal attendants are all killed, Leonka has been set free, thus saving his life. But for Leonka this has not necessarily been a blessing, for having snuck back to the house and been witness to the infamous events that followed, he is the last living witness, even able to give some clue as to what happened to the bodies of two of the Romanov children that were missing when the family's grave was finally discovered in 1991.

I really enjoyed the insight into the final days of the Tsar and his family...certainly a terrible incident in the long and turbulent history of Russia. There was a really interesting twist at the end of the book which I liked, although the author may have taken it just a fraction too far!

There is a really good website for this book as well, that can be found here.

Overall, an entertaining read!

Rating 4/5

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Trust Me On This by Jennifer Crusie

As I start this review it is 11.23pm on 1 October, but given that this is the book that I was going to read for the September TBR challenge, I am going to say that I completed the challenge, because surely it is still September somewhere in the world (buggered if I can find where though!) Am I clutching at straws? Okay, fine then....I didn't meet the TBR challenge for September...I'm on the Wall of Shame for sure!! LOL!!

The challenge for September was to read a category book or to read a book from a series. Actually I probably could have qualified the series one nine times over in the last month!

"I bet that smile gets you everything you want...."

As soon as Alec Prentice spotted the spicy brunette in red silk, he vowed that the tempting con woman would not escape him! Dennie Banks was prepared to do anything to get her story, even flirt her way into the arms of a man who promised to help—but when the feisty reporter dared him to kiss her, his mouth scorched hers with wildfire yearning. Could two passionate partners in crime get their man and each other?

In a deliciously fast-paced and funny romance, Jennifer Crusie proves without a doubt that everyone's guilty of something—and it might just be love! Drawn into a reckless charade by a man whose dangerous charm was hard to resist,could she uncover his mysteries without surrendering her own?

Title: Trust Me on This

Author: Jennifer Crusie

Year published: 1997

Why did you get this book? I only started reading Jennifer Crusie's books last year, and really enjoyed them. Since July last year I have read all of her books, with the exception of three - Sizzle, Cinderella Man and this one. I therefore got this book because I am trying to catch up on her backlist!

Do you like the cover? What's not to like - Purple dress, big hair, clinch.....lovely!

Did you enjoy the book? Yes

Was the author new to you and would you read something by this author again? No the author is not new to me, and yes I will definitely be trying to track down those elusive books by her. Actually it is exciting to note that Jenny Crusie has quite a few new things coming up soon - the first being a novella in the Santa Baby anthology that is soon to be released.

Are you keeping it or passing it on? For a change this wasn't a library book, so this time I am keeping it!

Anything else? I really enjoyed this. Yes, it was rushed in terms of the time line, but I liked the humour, and the set up. I liked the fact that there were in effect two parallel romances going on through this novel, with the second one featuring Alec's aunt. The only part of the plot that didn't feel as though it was resolved properly was about the conman and his girlfriend, but given that the book was only just over 200 pages long I am prepared to let that one go! I am not disappointed that I sought this one out. Now I just need to find the other two books of Crusie's that I haven't read and I will be set!

Rating 4/5