Thursday, May 31, 2007

Paper or Plastic

This week's Booking Through Thursday questions:

* Do you read e-Books?
* If so, how? On your computer, or a PDA?
* Or are you a paper purist? Why?

I have only read a couple of e-Books. If I ever get around to buying an e-reader I can definitely see myself reading more, but on the odd occasion when I do read one it is a bit of a pain to sit at the computer to read. Having said that, I do have several unread ebooks saved at the moment! One of these days I will read them.

I have to admit that I do love books, so I don't think that ebooks will ever replace paper books for me!

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

In 1960's Nigeria, at the time of the vicious Nigeria-Biafra war, three characters are swept up in the rapidly unfolding political events. One is Ugwu, a young boy from a poor village, who is employed as a houseboy for a university lecturer. The other is a young middle-class woman, Olanna, who has come to live with the professor, abandoning her life of privilege in Lagos for a dusty university town and the idealism and charisma of her new lover. And the third is Richard, a tall, shy Englishman who is in thrall to Olanna's twin sister, a remote and enigmatic figure who refuses to belong to anyone.

When Olanna witnesses deeds of unimaginable horror in the outbreak of war, all of these characters are propelled into events that will putt them apart and bring them together in the most unexpected ways. As Nigerian troops advance and they run for their lives, their ideals are severely tested, as are their loyalties to one another. This extraordinary novel is about Africa itself; about moral responsibility, about the end of colonialism: about ethnic allegiances; about class and race; and about the ways in which love can complicate all of these things.

There have been several books by Nigerian authors that I have been tempted to read over the years including the debut novel by this author, called Purple Hibiscus, but I had never managed to get around to it! So, when I decided to read the long list nominees for the Orange Prize, this was the first book that I requested. And then Kailana and I were chatting about what books we shared on our TBR piles and we decided to buddy read this one!

For me, a big part of the reason for my interest in Nigerian literature is that my ex is half Nigerian and was raised in Lagos from the time he was 3 months old, and lived there until he was about 28. Whilst I wouldn't necessarily say that my relationship with him necessarily exposed me to the best parts of Nigerian culture, (I mainly got to meet his friends - all young men between the ages of 20 to 30, and for the most part they were interested in partying), the fact of the matter is that my son has a Nigerian-St Dominique-Australian heritage, and so a lot of the time I feel like I should be doing more to ensure that he understands his heritage. Right from the time my son was born, I was the one trying to push the ex into sharing language, heritage...even that there were other kids like him with a similar mixed heritage. Unfortunately, the ex never really got on board with this, and these days he doesn't even phone very often to say hello let alone to talk about anything like this. All that is a very long winded way for me to say that in some ways I feel a connection to the subject of this novel....without ever actually having been to Nigeria, or really having much interest in going to visit!! Of course, he is Yoruba, so the characters of this book would quite possibly be horrified at my idea of this sense of connection!

This book is separated into four parts. The first part is set in the early 1960's, the second in the late 1960's, with the pattern repeated for the third and fourth parts. In the first part, we meet our protagonists. Firstly we meet Ugwu, the shy young village boy who has come to the university town of Nsukka to become houseboy to the idealistic university professor Odenigbo. Then we meet Olanna, the daughter of a wealthy but, ultimately, corrupt Igbo businessman, who has decided to move in with Odenigbo, and there is Richard, who is in love with Olanna's twin sister Kainene. The early parts of the novel are filled with the zealousness of the intellectuals who want to see the Igbo tribes have a land of their own, full of the promise and the excitement of such a venture. And then in part 2 (set in 1967) we see the beginning of the war.

Not only have events changed the direction of the country of Nigeria, but within the personal lives of the characters much has changed. Ugwu is still houseboy, but he has now been educated and finds himself in the end helping assuming many roles - houseboy, babysitter, friend, confidante and even teacher in some parts of the book. Richard finds himself in the somewhat strange position of being a white man who speaks fluent Igbo and becomes involved in the war propaganda machine. However many of the key relationships in the book are now fractured, and it is only as the narrative returns once again to the early 1960s that we find out what caused those divides.

As the war continues on, we see many things through the eyes of the characters - death, destruction, rape, massacres - and the author does a fine job of giving just enough information to haunt the reader without being too overbearing with the details.

The other area where she has excelled is in showing the dichotomy of the situation in Nigeria at that time - the colonials had withdrawn to let the country men rule themselves but there were such levels of greed, mistrust and corruption that trouble was inevitable. The ethnic divides were just so strong particularly after some of the minority Igbo staged a coup, and then there were retaliatory massacres. And yet, as individuals there were friendships with people from other tribes that were able to survive all the violence - perhaps damaged, but still somewhat intact.

The double standards were not only in terms of the problems facing the nation as a whole. I remember thinking it quite ironic that even within the personal standards of the characters there was the hypocrisy. For example, at the first sign of trouble, Olanna's parents flee Nigeria to live in relative luxury in London, and return only when the trouble is over,and this happens more than once and for another small example. At one point Odenigbo is driving to Ugwu's home village:

The ride to his village was mostly silent. As they drove past some farms with rows and rows of corn and cassava like a neatly plaited hairstyle, Master said, "See? This is what our government should focus on. If we learn irrigation technology, we can feed this country easily. We can overcome this colonial dependence on imports."

And yet on arrival at his village he is offered pineapple:

Chioke shook Master's hands with both of hers. "Thank you, master. Deje!" She ran back inside and emerged with a small pineapple that she pressed into Master's hand.

"No, no," Master said, pushing the pineapple back. "Local pineapples are too acidic, they burn my mouth."

As we get to the last quarter of the book, the war is in full swing. Even those who are wealthy are feeling the effects of the blockades imposed by the Nigerian army, and the world looks on as millions starve, as innocent people are killed. And as the situation worsens our characters are bought together again, but not before the war claims parts of their soul, and perhaps more, forever.

Many of the details in this book were fascinating. It is not an easy to read book, and nor would I say it was something that you enjoy in a light and accessible way. It is a book to savour and to contemplate as you read. I will definitely be reading more from this author.

Rating 4/5

Other Bloggers reviews:

My Own Little Reading Room
Passion for the Page
Trish's Reading Nook

Monday, May 28, 2007

Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Bride McTierney has had it with men. They're cheating, self-centered, and never love her for who she is. But though she prides herself on being independent, deep down she still yearns for a knight in shining armor.

She just never expected her knight in shining armor to have a shiny coat of fur…

Deadly and tortured, Vane Kattalakis isn't what he seems. Most women lament that their boyfriends are dogs. In Bride's case, hers is a wolf. A Were-Hunter wolf. Wanted dead by his enemies, Vane isn't looking for a mate. But the Fates have marked Bride as his. Now he has three weeks to either convince Bride that the supernatural is real or he will spend the rest of his life neutered—something no self-respecting wolf can accept…

But how does a wolf convince a human to trust him with her life when his enemies are out to end his? In the world of the Were-Hunters, it really is dog-eat-dog. And only one alpha male can win.


Mmmm........Vane!! Sigh!

Bridie's a very lucky woman!

Rating: 4.5/5

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

In Cambridge, a child has been hideously murdered and other children have disappeared. The Jews, made scapegoats by the all-powerful Christian clergy, have been forced to retreat into the castle to avoid slaughter by angry townspeople.

Henry, King of England, is displeased. The Jews provide a large part of his revenue and therefore the real killer must be found, and quickly. A renowned investigator, Simon of Naples, is recruited and he arrives in town from the continent accompanied by an Arab and a young woman, Adelia Aguilar.

There are few female doctors in twelfth century Europe, but Adelia is one of them, having qualified at the great School of Medicine in Salerno. What's more, her speciality is the study of corpses; she is, in fact, a mistress of the art of death, a skill that must be concealed in case she's accused of witchcraft.

Adelia's investigation takes her deep into Cambridge, its castle and convents and in a medieval city teeming with life, Adelia makes friends and even finds romance. And, fatally, the attention of a murderer who is prepared to kill again.

As soon as I learned that the name Ariana Franklin was a pseudonym for Diana Norman, I added it to my TBR list! I did, however, have to wait a little while for it to come onto the library list but it did eventually! I was a bit worried that it wasn't going to because the first book written under this name (City of Shadows) still hasn't made it onto the catalogue! I am too impatient after reading this one...I've ordered it from The Book Depository (have I mentioned recently how much I love that is so much cheaper for me to buy books from there than it is to go into a bookstore here.)

A young boy is found murdered and because he was crucified before being found in the river, and now two more children are missing. The finger has been pointed at the Jews of Cambridge, the townspeople have revolted against them and now the Jews are sheltering in the castle. This situation doesn't make anyone happy - least of all the volatile King Henry II, who now not only has to feed all these people, but whose treasury is now falling woefully short of funds because the Jews are not paying him his share! Something must be done.

And so, at the behest of the King of Sicily, our main characters enter the story. He has agreed to send some investigators to help hopefully clear the name of the Cambridge Jews, to find out who the murderer really was, and to set matters to rights again. The group that is sent to England is an interesting one. There is Simon the Jew, Mansur the Saracen and a young female doctor by the name of Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar. Whilst a female doctor is not all that unusual in the medical schools of Salerno, it is unheard of in 12th century England, and steps have to be taken to make it appear as though Mansur is the doctor in order to ensure that there are no accusations of witchcraft. Even in Salerno Adelia is somewhat unusual though, because she is no ordinary doctor. She is a Mistress of the Art of Death, someone who looks at a body and tries to figure out how they died - performing an early kind of autopsy.

The book opens at a cracking pace, with all of the main characters, including our investigators, a prioress and a prior who never see eye to eye, a couple of crusader knights, the king's tax man all travelling together in convoy heading towards Cambridge. Unfortunately the prior has a very delicate problem. He is unable to urinate, and his bladder is in danger of bursting, so it is Adelia to the rescue, performing a very sensitive operation on the Prior, and thus ensuring that they have at least one person on their side once they get to Cambridge. Coincidentally, as the group arrive in the town, so the bodies of the other missing children turn up to, and so Adelia is able to commence her examinations.

It isn't long before the townspeople know that they have a new doctor in town, and so not only are the investigators required to try and determined how and why the children died, and who killed them, but also maintain the masquerade that Mansur is the doctor and Adelia is his assistant.

With the field of suspects narrowing, everyone is now in danger, and Adelia and her companions must decide who to trust, especially as she is feeling a growing attachment to one of the suspects, who is the King's tax man, Sir Rowley Picolt. The growing relationship between the two of them was deftly handled, without being completely cliched, and whilst the resolution may have been somewhat unusual and unlikely, it did suit the two characters involved.

With a great group of supporting characters, colourful descriptions of time and place, conflict between Church and state, between religions and between man and woman, there is a lot going on in this novel, but for the most part the author manages to keep all the threads in hand and neatly weaves them together for a very chilling showdown with the killer, and the resulting trials were very dramatic as well.

The characters that have been introduced in this book are certainly interesting and colourful, and would fit naturally in a series, so I was glad to hear that there is another Mistress book to come! No idea when it is coming..but just the fact that it is is enough for now!

Rating 4/5

The Leopard Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

The One Thing a Lady Must Never Do

Wealthy Lady Georgina Maitland doesn't want a husband, though she could use a good steward to run her estates. One look at Harry Pye, and Georgina knows she's not just dealing with a servant, but a man.

Is Fall in Love....

Harry has known many aristocrats-including one particular nobleman who is his sworn enemy. But Harry has never met a beautiful lady so independent, uninhibited, and eager to be in his arms.

With Her Servant

Still, it's impossible to conduct a discreet liaison when poisoned sheep, murdered villagers, and an enraged magistrate have the county in an uproar. Soon it's all Georgina can do to keep her head above water and Harry's out of the noose...without missing another night of love.

Having really enjoyed The Raven Prince, I ordered this book straight away, and as soon as I had a gap in between books that were due to go back to the library I picked it up, and really enjoyed it! I already know that I will be reading the third book in this question at all in my mind!

Harry Pye is the steward for one of Lady Georgina's estates. When they are travelling back from London together and are involved in a carriage accident, Georgina actually realises that Harry is more than just a land steward...he is in fact a very attractive man. And so we have the first inklings of a delicious cross class love story.

Georgina is quite unusual. She is an independent land owner, despite the fact that it is her brother who holds the family title. Whilst she can play the society lady when she needs to, it is as an independently minded lady that she decides that she does indeed want to pursue a dalliance with Harry. Whilst Harry and George don't forget that there is a major class difference between them, and it does form a major element of their angst, when it is just the two of them not worrying about what others will think of them it is a very equal relationship. It was interesting to see the various attitudes amongst Georgina's family once they found out!

I really liked both George and Harry, but most especially Harry. Not only was he handsome, with emerald green eyes, but he had a very dry sense of humour, and there was no doubt in my mind that when Harry fell, he fell hard for his lady. And the chemistry between the two of them was sizzling!

In the last book, the fairytale of The Raven Prince was told in small parts at the beginning of each chapter, but in this book the fairytale was shared between the two characters, with George telling Harry the story, which was a nice touch.

There were two subplots - the one about poisoned sheep, and one about the ruination of Georgina's younger sister. I'm not 100 percent sure about the second plot, but for the first half of the book I thought that the investigation into who was killing the sheep was relevant, particularly as it helped to explain why Harry had tried to get the job as the land steward there in the first place, and the development of Harry's additional relationships were nicely done as well.

I can't wait for The Serpent Prince to come out...but there is still a couple of months to be wait! This author is definitely one that I intend to read more of, even after this series ends!

Rating 4.5/5

The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

From one of America's most beloved authors, a tale of miracles and passion

Teresita is not an ordinary girl. Born of an illiterate, poor Indian mother, she knows little about her past or her future. She has no idea that her father is Don Tomas Urrea, the wild and rich owner of a vast ranch in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. She has no idea that Huila, the elderly healer who takes Teresita under her wing, knows secrets about her destiny. And she has no idea that soon all of Mexico will rise in revolution, crying out her name.

When Teresita is but a teenager, learning from Huila the way plants can cure the sick and prayer can move the earth, she discovers an even greater gift: she has the power to heal. Her touch, like warm honey, melts pain and suffering. But such a gift can be a burden, too. Before long, the Urrea ranch is crowded with pilgrims and with agents of a Mexican government wary of anything that might threaten its power.

A spectacular novel as grand as a western sunset The Hummingbird's daughter is the story of a girl coming to terms with her destiny, with the miraculous, and with the power of faith. It is the tale of a father discovering what true love is and a daughter recognizing that sometimes true love requires true sacrifice. Full of cowboys and outlaws, Indian warriors and cantina beauties, silly men who drink too much and desert women who in their dreams travel to the seashore. The Hummingbird's Daughter is Luis Urrea's majestic masterpiece, the story of one girl's life and the swollen heart of all Mexico.

This book was selected in a group that I was in where the idea was to travel around the world in 80 books - reading books set in a variety of different countries, and with various themes. Whilst I no longer read with the group very often, this book did sound very interesting, so I still decided to pick it up!

I'm not sure why but I have a bit of a review block on this one! It's definitely not because I didn't enjoy it because I did. It's just that I can't think what to say...perhaps because I finished it too long ago, but anyway should probably just write the darned thing because I said to myself that I wasn't going to write any more reviews until I had done this one, so now I have a big backlog!

Teresita is born to a poor young woman - a result of a liaison with Tomas Urrea, the good looking, and married, owner of the ranch. It isn't too long before Teresita's mother leaves her for good, left to survive in a hovel with her aunt who beats her and treats her horridly. Even with this treatment though, there is something special about Teresita, and it isn't long before she is spending time with the local medicine woman, Huila, learning many of the secrets of the earth, medicine and midwifery.

And really that would have been her life if something amazing hadn't happened to her. After being attacked she is left for dead, and does indeed seem to die, but she comes to life again after a couple of days, and is suddenly perceived as being a saint - able to perform miracles. The church proclaims her as a heretic, but that does not stop the people from coming. Her family's home is surrounded (by this time Tomas has accepted her as his daughter) by people looking for miracles. Because of some of her more liberal beliefs, the family comes to the attention of the government and so amongst all the people searching for miracles, there are also the revolutionaries who are attracted to her message, at first somewhat sceptically but eventually wholeheartedly, and then the government forces who are trying to put down the guerrilla war being fought against them. This volatile mix of people inevitably leads to trouble, but can the miracle working Teresita stop it from becoming a total tragedy?

In the author note to this book, the author talks about how this book took him nearly twenty years to research and write, and you can really tell it was a labour of love. The main character was actually his great aunt, so the book is a combination of loving homage to an amazing character, part Mexican history (predominantly set in the late 1890's), part magical realism, part study of the Yaquis and other native tribes of Mexico.

I did struggle at first to get into this book. The tone and language took a little while to get used to, but by the end I was totally engrossed. The author was very good at balancing the various elements with healthy doses of humour. One of my favourite characters was Tomas - a man who could not seem to help himself, until he fell completely in love with the daughter of the local shopkeeper, Gabby, much to his wife's chagrin, but he had such charm, that he managed to come to arrangement with both his wife and his mistress. Normally that would not be something that I would like in a character but he was very entertaining - a man driven to distraction by his loves, his family, and then by the events surrounding his unruly daughter!

I haven't read much about Mexico, so for me this was a pretty much completely new setting, and I really enjoyed it.

Rating: 4.5/5

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Parlez Vous?

I've been thinking about doing the Booking Through Thursday thing for ages, so here it is!

I had an idea for a BTT question when I was taking a peek at one of my bookcases yesterday and spotted my old copy of the Aeneid in Latin sitting there. Maybe this question has already been done—but if not… Do you have any foreign language books and if so can you (still) read them?

I don't own any foreign language books, and even if I did, I wouldn't be able to read them! I did one year of Japanese in early high school, and can still count to ten and say good morning but that is about it. I did 3 years of French in high school and can't remember much more than that! It's a bit sad really!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Why didn't I do this earlier?

I downloaded Firefox tonight!

I have no idea why I didn't do this earlier! I think I am a convert already.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier

No. 13 Hercules Buildings, Lambeth, 1792. Poet, artist and printer William Blake - local eccentric and political radical - works anonymously amidst the raucous din of a teeming, jittery London. Across the Channel, revolution is imploding in France. Nearby, the renowned Astley's Circul is rehearsing its upcoming show, and next door the Kellaway family, recently arrived from the countryside, is moving in. Maggie Butterfield, the streetwise daughter of a local rogue, is looking for trouble - or at least a friend. When she and young Jem Kellaway are drawn into Blake's spell, the change meting of three unusual souls sets the stage for an impassioned journey. Jem and Maggie spark the imagination of the poet, influencing one of the greatest and most mystical works in English literature, Songs of Innocence and of Experience.

Burning Bright evokes the full pageantry of Georgian London; its circus spectacles, mustard factories, pubs and bawdy songs, the grandeur of Westminster Abbey and the secrets of Cut-Throat Lane. Behind these lie the greater movements of an era: the influence of a nearby revolution, the mustering of forces loyal to the Crown, and the agonies of being an independent thinker in an age suspicious of dissent.

As she did in the bestselling Girl With a Pearl Earring, Chevalier brilliantly captures an era and a sense of place, at the same time deftly evoing an artist's vision. Overflowing with energy, enterprise, and the power of creation, Burning Bright brings us a vivid story of the unpredictable, exhilarating passage toward adulthood.

Is it bad blogging to quote oneself? When I read Falling Angels by this author, this was my opening paragraph:

The only other Tracy Chevalier book I have read was Girl with a Pearl Earring, which I absolutely loved! When I read that one I picked it up with the intention of just reading the first couple of pages. Two and a half hours later, I had finished it and was blown away. This book never really grabbed my attention in the same way, although it was an entertaining enough read.

and I have to say that my feelings about this one are pretty much the same! Once again I wasn't dragged into the story, when I really, really wanted to have another one of those experiences where time just flies by, and everything around you doesn't matter at all!

I think that my first issue with this book is that there is an element of trying too hard to recreate the feel that made GWAPE such a huge hit. Instead of the painter, we have the poet William Blake, supposedly finding inspiration from a couple of young kids who are coming of age. Whilst I don't have any qualms with this as an approach, it kind of falls down when Blake is nothing more than a secondary character in the first two thirds of the book. If anything, the main character aside from the two teenagers, Maggie and Jem, for the first part of the book is Philip Astley, the larger than life circus owner, who provides the Kellaway family with the impetus to move to London, a home and employment, as well as entertainment. It is only in the last third of the book that Blake comes more to the fore, mainly in the role of political radical, in a time when it was dangerous to think outside of the square.

If anything, part of the issue I have with this book is that the author tried to cram so much into it. Without even thinking too long about it there are several themes that come to mind: coming of age (of Maggie, Jem and his sister Maisie), first love, political freedom or lack thereof, the effect of the industrial age on living conditions (specifically when Maggie is forced to get a job firstly at the mustard factory and then at the vinegar factory), the effects of grief and loss on the Kellaway family. In addition to these, Chevalier touches on the opulence of the lives of the haves compared to the have nots, the plight of young girls who go astray, the after effects of a violent attack, and also touching on a romantic note, not forgetting how to make Dorsetshire buttons and Windsor chairs! She also went to great lengths to portray London of 1792 with the grimy Thames, the dangerous and dodgy characters, the harlots, the glory of Westminster Abbey. London is in a way one of the characters.

Too much going on!

I realise I haven't focussed much on what actually happened in the book. Part of the reason for that is that for the most part it feels almost as though the storyline skims across the surface of what could have been a much deeper book.

All of this may make it sound as though I really disliked this book. I didn't. There were some really good elements to the book. It's just that it is like dreams unfulfilled - the capacity was there for something really good, but it just didn't eventuate.

I still have two more Chevalier books to read, and I will get to them eventually, but I will be trying hard to not raise my expectations too much before I start them.

Rating 3.5/5

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Pillars of the World by Anne Bishop

The trees whisper of Danger...

The youngest in a long line of witches, Ari senses that things are changing - changing for the worse. For generations, her kin have tended the Old Places, keeping the land safe and fertile. But with the Summer Moon, the mood of her neighbours has soured. And Ari is no longer safe.

The Fae have long ignored what occurs in the mortal world, passing through on their shadowy roads only long enough to amuse themselves. But the roads are slowly disappearing, leaving the Fae Clans isolated and alone.

Where harmony between the spiritual and the natural has always reigned, a dissonant chord now rings in the ears of both Fae and mortal. When murmurs of a witch-hunt hum through the town, some begin to wonder if the different omens are notes in the same tune.

And all they have to guide them is a passing reference to something called The Pillars of the World...

After reading the Black Jewel trilogy by Anne Bishop and absolutely loving it, I was always going to read more from this author, but I will admit to a degree of apprehension. What happens if a new series isn't as compelling or interesting as the very hard to top BJ trilogy. Luckily, for me at least, it wasn't really an issue! I know that there are others around who were disappointed in this new trilogy, but I really did enjoy this first book in the series.

Whilst there are some shared ideas in this series and the BJ trilogy (for example the idea of linked worlds), I found the world building in this book much less intrusive in this novel than in the first BJ book. At the end of Daughter of the Blood, I had to confess that I was still trying to figure the worlds out, but there was no such trouble with this book!

Ari is our main female character, and she is a witch who lives in one of the Old Places, protecting the earth and renewing it to enhance the world around it. In the process, the witches like Ari also protects the roads to Tir Alainn, the world where the Fae live. As an evil Inquisitor successfully kills off more and more of the witches, the roads to Tir Alainn are disappearing, and the Fae don't know why.

Ari is tricked into accepting a love spell that says that she must offer a treat to the man of her choice and then give herself too him for a prescribed period. When Ari meets one of the Fae leaders, Lucien the Lightbearer) she becomes his lover, much to the consternation of both Neall and his cousin. Neall is upset because he has secretly loved Ari for a long time, and hopes to marry her and take her back to the land that he has kept secret from his family ever since they took him in as an orphan. His cousin is was just determined to own Ari and is determined to gain his revenge against her for not accepting his attention!

So for the first part of the book, the relationship between Ari and Lucien is the focus, and mainly concentrates on the different expectations that they each have, both because they are male and female, but also because she is a witch and he Fae. Lucien's fellow Fae are also interested in Ari, because normally they try to stay away from witches, but as they come to know her, they also find some clues that suggest the only way to save their world is to find The Pillars of the World. Perhaps Ari can help?

All of a sudden though, the relationship focus changes from being Ari and Lucien to being Ari and Neall, who it turns out may not be all that he seems, but the enemies that Ari has made amongst the town people are turning against her, and it won't be long before the Inquisitor's find her, and destroy her.

The most interesting characters in the book were definitely the Fae and the little people who also make appearances throughout the story, generally helping Ari and keeping an eye on her. Ari was in some ways kind of bland. There was lots of focus on the Wiccan teaching and at times that felt a bit laborious until it actually became time for Ari to show her true power. Neall was also a bit bland but at least that makes them a good match...right?

This was an enjoyable read, and I look forward to reading more in this series, especially if the Fae are going to be the central characters.

Rating 4/5

Saturday, May 19, 2007

More series I forgot!

Thrillseekers Anonymous series by Julia London - I am waiting impatiently for the third book in that trilogy to come out later this year!

Debbie MacComber's Blossom Street series - nice stories, so I will probably try and read the third book when it comes out

Brotherhood of the Sword series and Lords of Avalon series by Kinley MacGregor

Still have to read the third book in the trilogy by Posie Graham-Evans

I have the second book (City of Glory) from Beverly Swerling which follows the characters from City of Dreams

Anne Easter Smith has confirmed that there are going to be three more books in her series about The War of the Roses.

I forgot Harry Potter as well!! How could I forget Harry?

Jen reminded me about Philippa Gregory's Tudor series. I know I thought about having them in the list but somehow it slipped through! I still have The Boleyn Inheritance here to read!'s worse than I thought!

Reading series!

I've mentioned before that I am somewhat of a slave to a series and trilogies. If I am going to read a book that is part of a series then I have to start at the beginning. If I knowingly read a book that is say number 3 in a series, it really does my head in! And if I start a series, then the probability is high that I will keep reading the series!

I don't really know why but I was sitting here this morning, and suddenly I wondered how many series am I reading at the moment. And I am shocked...shocked I tell you, but how many series I am currently reading. I have broken them into two groups - the first group are the series that I am currently reading where the next book in the series is currently published. The second group will be series where I am waiting, in most cases impatiently, for the next book to come out!

I am sure that there are some that I have forgotten. I should also note that I haven't included any series where I own the books but haven't started it yet, or those series where I have finished one book and have no intention of reading any further.

So here is the list of series that I am currently reading where the next book, and sometimes more, has already been published:

Bridgertons by Julia Quinn - one more and then the spin off anthologies to read of this one!
Weather Wardens by Rachel Caine - Next book is book 4 which is Windfall
Dark Hunters by Sherrilyn Kenyon - Up to the Stroke of Midnight anthology story
In Death by J D Robb - Next book is Witness in Death
Tir Alainin trilogy by Anne Bishop - Have Shadows and Light here to read sooon
Harper Connelly series by Charlaine Harris - Grave Surprise is on order at the library
Sookie Stackhouse by Charlaine Harris - Picked up All Together Dead a few days ago.
Josephine B trilogy by Sandra Gulland - Have the second book here to read
Vicky Bliss series by Elizabeth Peters - This is one series where I read the second book first. Now have the first book here to read.
Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters - Up to The Hippopotamus Tree
Elm Creek Quilts by Jennifer Chiaverini - Only a couple more to go in this series I think.
Rose Hunters trilogy by Connie Brockway - have the second book here to read soon.
Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood - Up to the fourth book in the series
Dreaming the Eagle series by Manda Scott - need to read the second one of these books
Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Royal Brotherhood series by Sabrina Jeffries - Just started reading the third book.
Psy series by Nalini Singh - Must get to Visions of Heat soon.
Makepeace Burke novels by Diana Norman - I bought the third book in the series because I couldn't get it from the I just have to read it!
Elizabeth I mysteries by Karen Harper - I am not sure if I am going to be able to find the rest of the books in this series!
Flower Shop Mysteries by Kate Collins - Need to read book 4
Hannah Swensen mysteries by Joanne Fluke - I read up to book 6 or 7.
Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong - Dime Store Magic is up next
Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket - Up to book 7 I think!
Travelling Pants by Anna Brashares - I have the fourth book here to read
Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer - I wish New Moon would hurry up and come in. It's been on order for ages.
His Dark Materials by Phillip Pulman - really need to read the third book in this series!

Series where I am waiting for the next book to be published:

Elizabeth Hoyt's Prince series
Black Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop
Cate Madigan by Janet Evanovich and Leanne Banks
Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig
Bubbles Yablonksy by Sarah Strohmeyer
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith
Simply series by Mary Balogh
Walsh sisters by Marian Keyes
Temeraire by Naomi Novik
Black Dagger Brotherhood by J R Ward
Gardella Chronicles by Colleen Gleason
Rebel Angels by Libba Bray
Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich
Markus Didius Falco series by Lindsey Davis
Fever series by Karen Marie Moning
The Dawn Stag series by Jules Watson
Into the Wilderness series by Sara Donati
Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
Alex Barnaby series by Janet Evanovich
Ursula Blanchard series by Fiona Buckley
Study series by Maria V Snyder
Faire Isle Trilogy by Susan Carroll
Nursery Crimes by Jasper Fforde
Thursday Next by Jasper Fforde

Just a few then! How about you? How many series are you reading?

Editted to add.....OH my goodness! I can't believe I forgot Jennifer Donnelly! I love her books, and can't wait for The Wild Rose to come out next year! Stand by for more late additions to the list!

And the Garnethill trilogy by Denise Mina - one of these days I will read the third book in the series!

Hot Stuff by Janet Evanovich and Leanne Banks

Dear Reader,Cate Madigan isn't asking for trouble. Her wacky Irish family is constantly playing matchmaker for her with men who leave much to be desired. All she wants is peace and quiet and a nice place to live while she saves her money from tending bar in a lively Boston pub. Okay, so what if her roommate is a cross-dressing lounge singer named Marty Longfellow? In exchange for cheap rent, all she has to do is take care of his plants and collect his mail when he's out of town. And then . . . Marty disappears. At the same time, a bullmastiff named Beast shows up with instructions from Marty to take care of him. Can Cate handle this 120-pound bundle of joy who wants to devour everything in sight? Ex-cop Kellen McBride has decided to make Cate's bar his nightly hang-out. But is he just there for the beer? Or does he have an ulterior motive for getting close to Cate? When Cate comes home to a ransacked apartment, she realizes Kellen knows more than he's saying. Problem is, he's turning up the heat in her life - in more ways than one. Soon Cate finds herself in deep trouble with mysterious stalkers, a lovesick would-be boyfriend named Patrick Pugg, two friends who are looking for love, and the very sexy, possibly dangerous Kellen McBride. The south side of Boston has never been wilder....Happy Listening!Janet and Leanne

Another book....another start to a new series! Another collaboration from Janet Evanovich, this time with Leanne Banks, who I have never read before. In comparison to the early books in the Full Series, this was a much better beginning....but it's still not up there with the Plum books! Then again I am beginning to wonder if I should just read only the Plum books and be done with it!

In this book, we meet Cate Madigan. She is a bartender, who is also studying to be a teacher, oh and she makes fantastic cakes for fun! She shares an apartment with cross-dressing entertainer Marty Longfellow. He lives his life, and she just shares his place, so when he starts to be threatened and then disappears altogether she has no clue as to why. Around the same time as all this happens, Cate meets Kellen McBride and sparks fly. Before she knows it, he has been for dinner with her crazy family at Plums...erm, I mean Madigans, but is he on the up and up?

There is plenty of trademark Evanovich here - the big dog, the crazy family, the odd characters, murder and mayhem etc. I don't know what Banks' trademarks are so I have no idea whether or not any of them are in the book or not!

As I is a better start to the series than either the Full series or the Alex Barnaby series, so I will keep borrowing it from the library if there are more books written!

Rating 3.5/5

Other Blogger Thoughts:

Romance Rookie

Friday, May 18, 2007

Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris

I have what you might call a strange job: I find dead people. I can sense the final location of a person who's passed, and share their very last moment. The way I see it, I'm providing a service to the dead while bringing some closure to the living - but I'm used to most people treating me like a blood-sucking leech. I couldn't do it alone - that's why my step-brother Tolliver travels with me, as my manager and, sometimes, bodyguard. It's an unpredictable work schedule: we live out of hotels, ready to hit the road at any time. Because for the living it's always urgent - even if the dead can wait forever...

Harper and Tolliver and experts at getting in, getting paid, and then getting out of town fast - because the people who hire Harper have a funny habit of not really wanting to know what she has to tell them. At first, the little Ozarks town of Sarne seems like no exception. A teenage girl has gone missing, and Harper knows almost immediately that this girl is dead. But the secrets of her death - and the secrets of the town - are deep enough that even Harper's special ability can't uncover them. With hostility welling up all around them, she and Tolliver would like nothing better than to be on their way. But then another woman is murdered. And the killer's not finished yet.....

This is the first book in the Harper Connelly series of books which feature a woman who can locate bodies of dead people and can tell how they died. She only gained this ability after she was struck by lightening when she was a teenager. Now, she is a freelancer - if you want to find a body, give her a call, and if you are prepared to pay, then she will find the body for you. Part of the problem is though that whilst people SAY that they want you to find the body, that isn't necessarily really the case.

Travelling with Harper across the country, providing both a management style service and bodyguard service, is her step brother Tolly. When they arrive in the small town of Sarne, the intention is to find the body, finish the job, and get out of there as soon as possible. But when the answer that Harper gives is not quite the answer that people wanted to hear, then things start getting messy for Harper and Tolly as they begin to realise that there are many levels of complexity in the relationships between many of the town's people. Harper is at least pleased to give some peace to a couple of people, including the mother of the dead girl.

Pleased to be finally out of town, they find themselves having to go back when the mother is also killed, and now they are suspects. With some allies within the local police, but more enemies, Harper and Tolly need to figure out who did it and why before they find themselves in jail, or worse still...dead!

Harper's condition certainly is an interesting starting point for a murder mystery, and I am sure that there is plenty of scope for interesting mysteries in the future.

I did find the relationship between Harper and Tolly somewhat unusual. Whilst they were both intimate with others, there was almost a sense of possessiveness or perhaps it is an undertone of unfulfilled sexual desire between them that, depending on how things are handled in future books, could be a bit squicky, but having now read quite a few books by Harris, I am sure that she can be trusted not to go anywhere too disturbing!

Overall, this is an okay start to the series, with a lot of promise for future books. I have already heard from a few places that the second book in the series is now I just have to wait for it to come in at the library.

Rating: 3.5/5

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Upcoming book alert!

To borrow a phrase from Sybil.......


An anonymous commenter on Kailana's blog left a little more info about the upcoming release from Susan Carroll, called The Huntress!

I am so getting this book when it comes out! You can check out the details here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Just needed some inspiration!

What I actually need to do is make a stockpile of cards that I can adapt for messages like Hi, Enjoy and Have a good day!

I am sending a book to an online friend who has just come home from living in Korea, so just needed to whip up something quick to send with the book. Not bad for a very quick effort.

These are the same bottletop stickers that I used for my sister's birthday card. I've got two more lots of them to use. I know when I am going to use one, but I want to move away from using it on black when I do make that card!

Excalibur anthology

The Sword of Legend

One sword. The true sword. EXCALIBUR. Forged from magic and courage, it bears the power of heroes and kings. its nature is unique, but its forms are legion. It can appear...has appeared...will appear, anywhere, at any time, in a thousand hands in a thousand guises. For Excalibur is the force that protects the souls of Good's guardians, and changes the courses of destinies...

Legends of the Sword

Tales of the history and manifestations of Excalibur throughout time, gathered by three of the most experienced anthologists in the field and featuring: Esther M Friesner, Owl Goingback, Jody Lynn Nye, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Judith Tarr, Susan Shwartz, and many more.

My main reason for picking up this anthology is that there is a short story in it by Diana Gabaldon that I have never read before, so when I saw it at the library months ago I picked it up automatically. Then it sat here and I didn't read it, and in the end I took it back. Then one day I was checking the online catalogue, and found that this library had it as well so I borrowed it again. Now it is due back again, can't be extended anymore and I am determined that I am going to read it before I take it back again!

Because there are nearly 30 authors who have contributed either a short story or a poem to the anthology I am just going to list the authors and the title of their contribution below, and may include a short sentence or two of my thoughts.

The Question of the Sword by Jane Yolen - Poem

The God-Sword by Diana L Paxson - a story about the protector of the sword in late Roman times

Lassorio by Eric Lustbader - set 100 years after the death of King Arthur in bleak times. About the power of the sword to heal and change destinies.

Controlling the Sword by Kristine Kathryn Rusch - set around Regency times, about a young man of the ton who has been injured in one of the major battles. He comes home believing that he is the heir of his brother's estate, and therefore has become a Lord, but all that changes when he finds out that his brother had married in secret and had a child, and that he is now the guardian. The sword above the mantel of the family home has a curse - anyone not able to control it will be crippled for the rest of his days. So what happens when the boy touches it.

Surgeon's Steel by Diana Gabaldon - Jamie lies injured after a battle and Claire has to defend him using his sword from scavengers. His hand has been injured again and Claire has to perform surgery on him. What I haven't quite figured out in my mind is exactly where this story was set in terms of the Outlander books - whether it has already happened before we get to A Breath of Snow and Ashes, or if it is still to happen. Part of the reason it is confusing to me is because it talks about the surgery, and it is something that I don't remember being mentioned in the other books. It was nice to get a new little glimpse into Jamie and Claire's world though! After asking a few questions around the place it turns out that the events in this story, actually happen after the close of the last Outlander book which was A Breath of Snow and Ashes

Prayer of the Knight of the Sword by Nancy Holder - a young Crusader finds a young lady who is distressed on the streets of Jerusalem and despite King Richard's edict that none of the infidels is to be spared saves her life. He comes to the notice of the four Queens and becomes the Knight of the Sword. Really liked this one.

Echoes of the One Sword by T. Winter-Damon - poem

Grass Dance by Owl Goingback - set in the Vietnam war and featuring a Native American soldier, whose young brother at home is disabled.

All We Know of Heaven by Peter Crowther - A young boy whose mother has been critically injured in a car accident gets his first exposure to the story of King Arthur and Excalibur.

Passing by Charles de Lint - One of the other authors I have previously read, this story was not at all what I was expecting. A journalist becomes involved with a lesbian community, and meets a woman who claims to be a modern day Lady of the Sword. In order for the Lady to be set free, her sword has to be sheathed in someone willingly.

Nights of the Round Table by Lawrence Schimel - poem

Here There Be Dragons? by Marion Zimmer Bradley - a magician arrives at a pub, and is asked by the townspeople to go into the strange world beyond their world. The magician must decide what action to take when he meets a mystical creature.

Goldie, Lox, and the Three Excalibearers by Esther M Friesner - What happens when Merlin and Morgan Le Fey go searching for the latest Lady of the Sword in a Brooklyn delicatessen. Very amusing story! I was so engrossed in it that I missed my train station and had to go to the next stop and catch the train back again! Not often that that happens to me!

Silver, Stone, and Steel by Judith Tarr - a story that traces the very origins of the sword, back to the time of the death of Jesus Christ. Tarr is the other author that I have read previously

St. Paul's Churchyard, New Year's Day by Richard Lee Byers - a young squire is searching for a new sword for his foster brother and knight, when he comes across the legendary sword and has to decide whether to try to remove it from the stone or not.

The Other Scabbard by Brad Linaweaver - Where there is Excalibur, there must be the Anti-Excalibur, although Merlin is one of the few who knows of the existence of the second sword.

Hope's Edge by Daniel H Scheltema - poem

The Waking Dream by J M Morgan - A young man, confined to a wheelchair, is given the chance to experience walking, running, riding a horse and loving a beautiful woman. But is it real or not?

The Scout, the Slugger and the Stripper by Randy Miller - The sword in this case is a baseball bat. A jaded talent scout comes across a young baseballer who is going to go all the way...unless he gets distracted by the beautiful woman he has become entangled with.

The Weapon by Ardath Mayhar - A shopping centre architect is excavating a new site when they come across a magical sword, and he is then transported back in time to a different era.

The Sword in the Net by Brad Strickland - Merlin is a computer, the Roundtable is a modem and Arthur is a computer hacker!

Once and Future by Terry Tappouni - poem

Once and Future by Mercedes Lackey - Sacked dock worker Michael O'Murphy wakes up with the mother of all hangovers, and a sword sharing his bed. Now he just has to work out what happened! And if the signs are right and he is one of the chosen, can the stumbling block of his less than salubrious past be surpassed? Mercedes Lackey is an author that I have been meaning to read for a while, and this story was not what I was suspecting at all!

Sword Practice by Jody Lynn Nye - A 12 year old Arthur has to learn to be wise, both when he is wearing Excalibur, and when he is acting on his own as the new High King, especially when he has to pass judgement on some of the kings who now swear their allegiance to him.

Where Bestowed by Susan Dexter - One of Arthur's knights named Kernan tries to dredge the lake to see if he can find the sword Excalibur. The outcome is a complete change of his life circumstances.

Demon Sword by Bill Fawcett - What if Morgana was the good guy and Arthur was the evil guy. She must try to get hold of the sword that gives him power...any way she can.

Troubled Waters by Susan Shwartz - Lancelot's foster mother who is a Lady of the Lake, grieves when she hear about all that is going on in the point of trying to take matters into her own hands, even though that will cause her to become the enemy of Morgana.

Literary Cubism Saves the Universe by Joe Haldeman - poem

Duty by Gary Gygax - Told from the perspective of Excalibur itself, as if it had a personality of it's own.

The Epilogue of the Sword by Darrell Schweitzer - A monk is drawn to perform miracles, and to reveal his true identity. He must then decide what his future holds - being a king, or becoming more committed to the church.

Of these authors I have only read 3 before so it was a good way to get exposure to new authors. There are a couple that I will definitely try again. I probably should have tried to spread these short stories out over a longer period, but for the most part they were entertaining. Won't be too bothered if I don't read about another character called Arthur for a while though!

Rating 3.5/5

The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier

"I have no wish to play the pontificating fool, pretending that I've suddenly come up with the answers to all life's questions. Quite that contrary, I began this book as an exploration, an exercise in self-questing. In other words, I wanted to find out, as I looked back at a long and complicated life, with many twists and turns, how well I've done at measuring up to the values I myself have set." —Sidney Poitier

In this luminous memoir, a true American icon looks back on his celebrated life and career. His body of work is arguably the most morally significant in cinematic history, and the power and influence of that work are indicative of the character of the man behind the many storied roles. Sidney Poitier here explores these elements of character and personal values to take his own measure—as a man, as a husband and a father, and as an actor.

Poitier credits his parents and his childhood on tiny Cat Island in the Bahamas for equipping him with the unflinching sense of right and wrong and of self-worth that he has never surrendered and that have dramatically shaped his world. "In the kind of place where I grew up," recalls Poitier, "what's coming at you is the sound of the sea and the smell of the wind and momma's voice and the voice of your dad and the craziness of your brothers and sisters...and that's it." Without television, radio, and material distractions to obscure what matters most, he could enjoy the simple things, endure the long commitments, and find true meaning in his life.

Poitier was uncompromising as he pursued a personal and public life that would honor his upbringing and the invaluable legacy of his parents. Just a few years after his introduction to indoor plumbing and the automobile, Poitier broke racial barrier after racial barrier to launch a pioneering acting career. Committed to the notion that what one does for a living articulates to who one is, Poitier played only forceful and affecting characters who said something positive, useful, and lasting about the human condition.

Here is Poitier's own introspective look at what has informed his performances and his life. Poitier explores the nature of sacrifice and commitment, price and humility, rage and forgiveness, and paying the price for artistic integrity. What emerges is a picture of a man in the face of limits—his own and the world's. A triumph of the spirit, The Measure of a Man captures the essential Poitier.

My journey toward blogging pretty much started with joining Oprah's Book Club, and that is where I originally 'met' Kailana, and so it is somewhat apt that we do a joint review of this book, which was an Oprah pick earlier this year. Kailana's thoughts are in black and mine are in blue. It took a while for me to read this book because I am not really of the generation which was a big Sidney Poitier fan, so I read it because I have read most of the Oprah books over the years. It was also fitting to finally buddy review an Oprah book with Marg.

I will start off by saying that Sidney Poitier stars in one of my favourite movies ever, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner....yes, the original version, not the Ashton Kutcher version, but other than the fact that he was generally regarded as one of the major Hollywood stars during the 60s I didn't really know all that much about him. I had heard of Sidney Poitier before, but I have never seen any of his movies before. One of these days I will have to because I have of course heard of his movies before. Most of my knowledge of him comes from my grandmother and mother who both were happy to see me reading his memoir.

In some ways this book wasn't actually what I expected. I think I expected more of a traditional autobiography following a chronological order, but instead this book was more a series of reflections on some of the issues that people face in life. One of the major focuses of the book was racism, and the discrimination that Poitier faced throughout his career, and also the opposition that he faced as a man who was seen to be typecast as a good guy, and not necessarily someone who fought against the racist Hollywood system. I thought it was interesting to hear what Poitier went through to get where he is. It is really an amazing story, even if we know that it would have had to been hard considering the time that he grew up in. Growing up in a white, middle-class home, it is always helpful to see other sides of the picture and to know what other people had to get through to become the people that they are today.

Along the way there was also reflections on the current generation of kids who need everything now, particularly material goods, and on near death experiences that he had.

In terms of the writing style, there were occasions throughout this book where I could just hear the voice of Sidney Poitier, with his distinct accent, coming through on the pages. It wasn't however consistent, and there were definitely other times when that voice was indistinct. I was interested to see how he sees the society today, though.
We are from very different generations and from different societies, so it is always interesting to see what society is like from a different point of view. I do think that I would have liked this book more if I really knew who Poitier is, because while I have heard him talk, it is not enough that I heard his accent in my head while reading it. I did reflect on how he talks about his education and how he went for years with little education and yet was able to write such a reflective book.

After reading books like this, I am reminded that I really should read more non of these days! I have actually been reading a reasonable amount of non-fiction lately, so this just adds to the ranks.

Marg's Rating 4/5
Kailana's Rating 3.5/5

Monday, May 14, 2007

Catching up!'s been a while since I posted, but I guess that is because I haven't really been doing much card making! Still been buying up big equipment wise, and still have a wish list, but not making much! I do think about making things though. I actually need to make a Thank You card in the next few days...maybe posting tonight will help my inspiration to kick in....or my motivation at the very least!

The biggest piece of equipment that I bought was a heat gun for embossing...haven't even taken it out of the box yet though! How slack is that?

Since the last time I posted we have had two classes, so I thought that I should post those at the very least.

The first one was the Easter class, and the focus was on using glitter. I made this card for my son, but then ended up leaving it behind when we went away so maybe he will get it next year.

We also made a bookmark using the same technique. I would like to make more bookmarks but I will have to buy a laminator, so I will wait to see when they come on sale and get one then! Unfortunately I couldn't get a very good scan of this, but you'll get the idea! Where ever you see the white lines there is actually glitter there.

Actually the class where we did this was pretty disappointing in terms of learning new things. The teacher is pregnant and has just gone back to full time work so doesn't have the time to focus on this stuff...and you could tell. Fortunately, there is someone else who she can hand onto and we did some good stuff in her first class.

The focus in this one was punching, although you probably won't be able to tell that from the pictures! The first thing that she had us make were these cute little gift boxes...well hers were cute but so fiddly to make. Mine are a little deformed! But I still have the template so one of these days I can have another go and see if I can get the lids on properly! When the leader made hers they all sat together beautifully and then she had some punched flowers stuck on the top. Here are mine:

She also had three cards for us to make but in the end I only got to make two because the boxes took so long. The first was a Mother's Day card. One cool thing was that I finally got to use the sticker maker I bought when I went to the craft show a couple of months ago! Worked a treat.

The last card I made could have been a Mother's Day card as well, but in the end I made it into a Happy Birthday one. It hasn't photographed very well because there were lots of shimmering bits on this card. The pink was torn along the edge to give it a less than perfect seem if you like, and then the punched flowers were added along the seem. I liked this one and it was pretty simple. I could do something similar again I am sure.

Next class is not this Friday night but the one after, and it will be the new girl teaching again. I look forward to seeing what she has us doing this time!

The Deception of the Emerald Ring by Lauren Willig

Emerald rings aren't all they are cracked up to be....

Eloise Kelly has gotten into quite a bit of trouble since she's been spying on the Pink Carnation and the Black Tulip - two of the deadliest spies to saunter the streets of nineteenth-century England and France. Not only has been unearthing secrets that will change the course of history, she's been dallying with Colin Selwick - great-nephew of Mrs Selwick-Alderly, the keeper of important hidden documents - looking for a romantic adventure of her own.

Little does she know there's another fierce heroine running headlong into history...

It's 1803 England, and Letty Alsworthy awakens in the middle of the night to discover that her sister, Mary, is about to make the very grave mistake of eloping with Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe (second in command of the League of the Purple Gentian). In an attempt to save the family name, Letty tries to break up the midnight assignation - only to find herself accidentally carried off in her sister's place. The ensuing scandal forces Letty and Geoff into a hasty marriage - and just as hastily, Geoff disappears on their wedding night, under orders to hurry to Ireland and help the Pink Carnation squash a ring of Irish rebels led by the Black Tulip. Not to be outdone by her husband, Letty steals away on a ship bound for the Emerald Isle, armed and ready to fight for her integrity, and learn a thing or two about espionage - never imagining that she might learn a few things about love on the way...

After the intensity of the last couple of reads, something a bit light was in order, and one of the Pink Carnation books by Lauren Willig fitted the bill perfectly....that and the fact that it was due back at the library!!

The first two books in the series, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and The Masque of the Black Tulip very much set the tone for this book, which really continues two stories in two different time lines.

In the first time line we have a chick lit style story where young American Eloise Kelly is living in London, whilst she is working on her dissertation which proposes that in addition to the more well known Scarlet Pimpernel and Purple Gentian, there was another spy called the Pink Carnation. For the chapters that focus on Eloise, the main topic is her love life, and more specifically her infatuation, for want of a better word, with Colin Selwick.

The book is stronger when the narrative concentrates on the events of the past. This time, the Pink Carnation has been sent to Ireland to quash a rebellion that is brewing which appears to be backed by old enemy Napoleon. After a botched elopement where Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe ends up engaged to the wrong Alsworthy sister, and a hasty wedding, he too is off to Ireland. Unfortunately for his new bride, Letty, he chose to run off on their wedding night, choosing to believe that she has manipulated matters to try and destroy his happiness. Letty has never one to let sleeping dogs lie (case in point - interrupting the elopement in the first place), and so she follows her errant husband to Ireland, very nearly causing the mission to fail.

For the most part I enjoyed the relationship between Geoffrey and Letty. In many ways Geoffrey was a reluctant spy/hero. Whilst he loved his work in the league and the War Office, he would have been content to do his desk job instead of actually being out in the field - especially when his wife keeps on getting in the way! I did, however, think that the relationship between Letty and Geoffrey didn't really build up all that well - there was lots of angst and then it seemed all too suddenly they were in love, and then the book was over!

So whilst this one probably wasn't as good as the first two books in the series, there were still lots of fun elements in this book in both time settings, and I will definitely read the next book in the series.

Rating 3.5/5

Edited to add: A quick check of the author's website reveals that the next book in the series is going to be called The Seduction of the Crimson Rose and is going to be out in February 2008 - looking forward to it!

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A searing, post apocalyptic novel destined to become Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece.

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, “each the other’s world entire,” are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.

I'm pretty sure that I have mentioned here before that I used to be a regular over in the Oprah book clubs, and I know several people who are now bloggers from those groups. Reading with those groups gave me a much greater understanding of books like One Hundred Years of Solitude. Now when a new Oprah book is announced I add it to my TBR list, with the intention of joining in on the discussions on the boards. With the announcement of The Road by Cormac McCarthy, I did get around to reading it, but I never did really get around to discussing on the boards.

Reading this book wasn't easy. Given the whole post apocalyptic setting, the environment is bleak, the story itself is bleak, the language is sparse. Despite the fact that it is never clear what happened to the world, it is clear that it was an event that affected both men and the natural world.

A man and his young son are travelling the road, trying to walk to the coast where they hope to find something different. There is very little interaction between the pair and other humans, mainly because it is difficult to trust anyone. There are gangs of armed people who will pretty much kill anyone they some cases as a way to provide food. The man is always very wary whenever there are signs of humans, even if the person is travelling by themselves, always teaching his young son that you have to be careful who you trust.

The man tells the boy that he is carrying the light and that they are the good guys, and the young boy struggles to understand how they can be carrying the light when they are guilty of many of the things that the father says the bad people do.

As they travel along the road, close to suffering starvation, the father despairs of how to provide for his son, especially as they both suffer illness. Each time they come to a town or isolated home, a search is done through the houses and shops to see what others who have been there before them may have left behind, luckily stumbling on a couple of caches of food that help sustain them.

Upon reaching the coast though...they basically find nothing, and they will have to keep travelling.

It is a bleak story, full of griminess and at times hopelessness, but it is definitely well written, and I can definitely see why the book won the Pulitzer. The relationship between the father and the son is complex, but also compelling in its depth and closeness.

I am not sure that reading this book has inspired me to go and read more by McCarthy, although I am sure I will get to him again eventually!

Rating 4/5

Other Bloggers Thoughts:

My Own Little Reading Room
The Inside Cover
Things Mean A Lot
In Search of Giants
Books and Needlepoint

Sunday, May 13, 2007


A huge congratulations to Kailana who graduates from University on Sunday! Well done!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Red Leaves by Thomas H Cook

Eric Moore has reason to be happy. He has a prosperous business, a comfortable home, a stable family life in a quiet town. Then, on an ordinary night, his teenage son Keith is asked to babysit Amy Giordano, the eight-year-old daughter of a neighbouring family. The next morning Amy is missing.

Suddenly Eric is one of the stricken parents he has seen on television, professing faith in his child's innocence. As the police investigation increasingly focuses on Keith, Eric must counsel his on, find him a lawyer, protect him from the community's growing suspicion.

Except that Eric is not so sure his son is innocent....

I know that this must have happened to other people. You are talking to your friend/acquaintance/coworker and because they know you are a reader they say "Oh, I read this really great book recently". You reply and ask the normal stuff - title, author and genre, and before you know it they have offered to lend it to you. You give some vague response because it's not normally the kind of book that you read, but before you know it, you've borrowed their book! Can you tell that I am much more comfortable being the book pimper than being the book pimpee?

This book is really not the sort of book that I read. Not because I have any great aversion to psychological mystery thriller style books, but just because if I had to choose between a historical fiction novel/romance/YA book and a thriller I would choose the non thriller just about every time.

After a few weeks...or maybe a bit longer...and a few questions like "Are you enjoying the book yet?" I finally got around to it...and it was good. Different from my usual reading material, but still good.

Whilst this book is also about a young girl's disappearance and the young boy who comes under suspicion, it is more about the disintegration of a family as it comes under intense pressure from both internal and external sources, about the secrets that come to haunt a family, no matter how well hidden people think that they are.

The characters are well written, and Eric in particular, is believable as he starts to doubt everything in his life - his son, his wife, his brother, his parents. The fact that he learns the value of those he loves only after the terrible events outlined in the book is in itself a tragedy.

Keith returns home late from a night of baby sitting. The next morning there is a phone call from Amy's distraught father asking if anything unusual had happened last night or if he knew where Amy was. Before long, the police are involved and they are questioning both Keith and Eric about the events of the night. When the story that is given to the police is not quite the truth, Eric starts to think about his son and how he interacts with the people around him, about his almost loner like lifestyle, and starts to wonder if maybe it is more than just a normal teenage boy's moodiness.

Thinking about his son's teenage years inevitably leads Eric to thinking about his own teenage years, which were less than perfect in themselves as his family was torn apart by the death of his younger sister, the bankruptcy of the family, and the death of his own mother. As he contemplates his own teenage years, things come to light that had been hidden for many years - secrets and lies - and Eric wonders what secrets and lies are hidden within his relationship with his wife and son. As he begins looking at his life with his new understanding, he begins to see things that are maybe not as they should be, but the question is whether he is now interpreting the signs correctly or not.

A warning for those of you who do sneak a look at the ending of a book before you get there. If you are tempted to do that with this book (and I know that I am not alone in doing this sometimes)...please don't. There is a huge twist in the ending of this book and it would change your reading experience for sure.

I am glad that I did read this book, and was able to pass it back to my coworker and say "Thanks, I enjoyed it!'. After all, one of the good things about getting recommendations is being exposed to new authors, styles and genres. I may even go and look for more books by this author! Anything is possible.

Rating: 4/5

Which Discworld Character are you?

I saw this over on Kate's Book Blog, and being a long time Discworld fan, even though I don't read them very often any more, I thought that I would give it a go!

You scored as Carrot Ironfounderson. You are Captain Carrot Ironfounderson of the City Watch in the greatest city on the Disc – Ankh-Morprok! A truly good natured, honest guy, who knows everyone, and is liked by all. Technically a dwarf, but only by adoption. You’d rather not be reminded that you are the true heir to the throne, but that does explain why people naturally follow your orders…

Which Discworld Character are you like (with pics)
created with

How about you?

Help Wanted

Two or three days ago, someone somewhere had a post up about pirate romances. I left a comment there, but now for the life of me I can't remember where it was. Anyone remember where it was?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Valley of Silence by Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts presents the electrifying conclusion to her powerful new trilogy. In the kingdom of Geall, the scholarly Moira has taken up the sword of her people. As queen, she must prepare her subjects for the greatest battle they will ever fight - against an enemy more powerful than any they have seen. For Lilith, the most powerful vampire in the world, has followed the circle of six through time to Geall. Moira also has a personal score to settle. Vampires killed her mother - and she is ready to exact her revenge. But there is one vampire to who she would trust her soul....

The final book in the Circle trilogy following on from Morrigan's Cross and Dance of the Gods, and ultimately the conclusion in the battle between the Circle of six and Lilith, the vampiress driven by greed or ambition to rule the world.

It's taken me a while, but I finally got around to read the concluding book in this trilogy a week or so ago, and I really did enjoy it. The six are now in Geall, making preparations for the final battle, where the fate of the world rests in their hands. Whilst Moira is helping to prepare her people for battle, she is also distracted by the feelings that she has for Cian, who is a vampire himself. Complicating their relationship is that Cian will live forever, or until he is staked in the chest, whilst Moira is very definitely mortal, and this is where the most conflict comes from.

I have seen written in a couple of places that these three books really read like one long 1000 page book, and I have to say that I agree with that sentiment. Within each book, including this one, there is a romance, but really the build up to the romance between Cian and Moira started in the previous books and without that build up would have felt quite rushed. The other thing that developed nicely through the whole three books was the relationships between the six - the friendships between the girls, the relationship between the wizard Hoyt and Cian....well all of the non romantic relationships really. Even with all the ominous tension in the book as the build up continued, it was great to see that there was room for humour with the story - for example when Larkin punches Cian - not the smartest thing to do to a vampire one would think!

There were some very creepy moments within this book in particular - and even the strange relationships between Lilith and her followers was explored quite fully - especially her relationship to Davey, the little boy vampire that she has adopted as her own.

In the end, the resolution was well done, and all three books were good to read - maybe not as good as some of the other Nora Roberts books I have read, but still very readable. Nora Roberts' first foray into the full world of paranormal romance was a good one, and if she writes more I will be sure to read them!

Rating 4/5

Other Blogger's Thoughts:

Passion for the Page

Around the blogs

Sarah over at Reading the Past is in search of historically accurate romance titles in a few different eras. If you think you can help out, be sure to leave a comment on her post at the link above!

Jennie from Jennie's B(ook)log has a link up to a very funny video. As someone who is technologically challenged, this probably would have been my reaction as well!

Blue Stalking Readerhas an interview up with Jennifer Egan, who is the author of The Keep. I read The Keep earlier this year and quite enjoyed it so it was interesting to read the interview.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B by Sandra Gulland

You will be unhappily wed.
You will be widowed.
You will be queen

To the fourteen year old Rose, eldest daughter of a poor plantation landlord, the fortuneteller's prophecy is both thrilling and laughable. Poorly educated and without a dowry, it seems unlikely that she will find any husband - much less a king. But history tells a different tale, for Rose not only marries into a wealthy aristocratic family, she survives the French Revolution, outlives her first husband and is one day known as Josephine Bonaparte.

In this beautifully crafted novel, Sandra Gulland pulls back the veil of history to reveal an extraordinary life. From her simple childhood on the French island of Martinique to her first heady experience in French revolutionary Paris and her unhappy marriage to the unfaithful Alexandre, Rose's destiny lives with a man determined to rule all of France, determined to make her Queen.

The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B is the first book in the incredible trilogy inspired by the life of Josephine Bonaparte.

On the odd occasion that I have read books that are in diary format, particularly historical fiction, they haven't necessarily worked for me, so if I had of realised that this was the format of this book, I probably wouldn't have picked it up. This is, however, one of those books where the diary format really, really works.

We meet the legendary Josephine Bonaparte when she is Rose, a young planter's daughter who lives in Martinique. She visits a fortune teller who tells her that she will be married unhappily, she will be a widow, and she will be a queen - all very unlikely given that she is uneducated, and from a poor family. Following tragedy within her family she is however betrothed to a man she has never met before and therefore has to make the trip to France - a country in uproar.

She marries Alexandre, Vicomte de Beaurharnais, and eventually provides him with two children, but the marriage is an unhappy one, and he is unfaithful to her many times. Eventually they undertake a legal separation, but there are many custody issues, particularly around their son, Eugene.

All of this takes place against a background of revolution, and eventually Josephine has to try and walk the fine line between being a revolutionary (necessary if one wants to keep one's head intact), but still being loyal and doing all she can to save her aristocratic friends. As Alexandre becomes more and more important in government, Rose finds herself under more and more scrutiny because she is still his wife, and when the tide turns against Alexandre they both find themselves in Carmes prison. Even during such a worrying time as that, Alexandre and Rose still find ways to torment each other, until finally Alexandre's name is on the list - which means that he is on his way to meet Madame Guillotine. Rose's name is also called, but she is deemed too sick to be killed, and luckily, through her influential friends, she is released, thus narrowly avoiding the same fate as her husband.

Once out of prison, life in post revolutionary Paris begins, and Rose, now a widow, becomes the mistress of several men. Whilst never rich, she does have influence, and does seem to fraternise with many men who form part of the new government. It is through these men that she meets Napoleon. At first, she is unimpressed, but as he pursues her, she eventually begins to see some advantages to being linked with this man.

This book is the first book in a trilogy, and focuses mainly on Rose's life prior to meeting Napoleon. He only appears in the last few chapters of the book, presumably as a kind of teaser for the next book in the series. And if that was the intention then it definitely works, because I have already requested the next book in the series.

Gulland is very successful at giving some idea of what life must have been like for people in France during this turbulent time - never knowing whether or not your neighbour that you have known for years might be the one person who will turn you in for disloyalty, not knowing if each time you see your friends may be the last time you see them, struggling to provide food and education to your children.

Through it all Rose manages to maintain her dignity, humour and grace. Overall, this was a very entertaining read, about a very interesting woman who lived in very turbulent times, and is still remembered today.

Rating: 4.5/5

Other Blogger's Thoughts:;

Kylee's Book blog


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