Saturday, May 31, 2008

Breaking Dawn cover

I was messing around tonight on Amazon when I saw that the cover for Breaking Dawn, the fourth book in the Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer, is now up

I've really loved all the other covers in this series, but this one is really plain and boring. Maybe the cover doesn't matter as much because they already know it is going to be a bestseller regardless??

The Game

I saw this over at Pea Soup and thought it looked like fun. Turned out to be a little bit of work, but the results look cool!

The concept:

a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd's mosaic maker.

The Questions:

1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One Word to describe you.
12. Your flickr name

Friday, May 30, 2008

Miss Wonderful by Loretta Chase

Alistair Carsington really, really wishes he didn't love women quite so much. To escape his worst impulses, he sets out for a place far from civilization: Derbyshire - in winter! There he hopes to kill two birds with one stone: avoid all temptation - and repay the friend who saved his life on the fields of Waterloo. But this noble aim drops him straight into opposition with Miss Mirabel Oldridge, a woman every bit as intelligent, obstinate, and devious as he - and maddeningly irresistible.

Mirabel Oldridge already has her hands full keeping her brilliant and aggravatingly eccentric father out of trouble. The last thing she needs is a stunningly attractive, oversensitive, and overbright aristocrat reminding her she has a heart - and not to mention a body he claims is so unstylishly clothed that undressing her is practically a civic duty.

Could the situation be any worse? And why does something so wrong feel so very wonderful?

Loretta Chase is one of those authors whose name is bandied around as a must read, particularly in relation to Lord of Scoundrels. I have read that book, but other than that my exposure to her writing has been rather limited having only read one novella. Having said that, I did go into this book with high expectations...but unfortunately I was a bit disappointed.

Alistair Carsington has a long history of getting himself into trouble where both women and money are concerned, and his parents have almost despaired of him finding a suitable bride. Behind a foppish facade and a sharp wit, Alistair hides the extent of the suffering that has haunted him since he returned from war. In order to help the man who saved his life, Alistair agrees to head to Derbyshire (in winter no less!) and try and get his plan to build canals approved by the locals.

Unfortunately for him, this plan brings him into direct opposition to Mirabel Oldridge. Her father is a brilliant horticulturist who struggles to see what is going on around him in the more mundane events of day to day life, so it is Mirabel who Alistair must deal with and she is determined that there should be no canal.

For the most part I did enjoy the humour in this book, although I do have to confess I did get a bit bored with all the jokes and emphasis on Alistair's penchant for fashionable clothing, his very fastidious appearance, and his shock at how terribly Mirabel dressed. Having said that I did love the final scene where they were getting married and both of them were a bit dishevelled having been unable to keep their hands off each other! (Highlight to read spoiler)

Whilst this wasn't the absolutely amazing book that I wanted to read, it was good, and as I sit here now thinking back to the book, I am almost tempted to borrow it again from the library to see if maybe, just maybe, I hadn't judged it a bit harshly when I read it the first time around!

This is the first book in the Carsington series. I have heard very good things about the later books in this series, but my normal library doesn't have them in. I have however just discovered that the library that I joined recently does have all the rest of the series, so I will be borrowing them from there.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Weekly Geeks #5

Guten Tag, Weekly Geeks! This week’s theme was suggested by Renay. She says, “I thought it would be cool to ask people to talk about other forms of story-telling.”

Click here to read more details and to find other Weekly Geeks posts.

Well, it has taken me a while, but I have finally come up with an answer to this weeks question! I wanted to be sure to participate this week because last week's post is still sitting in draft, and is not likely to see the light of day any time soon! That's one good thing about the format of Weekly Geeks - you don't have to participate every week!

I really wanted to talk about song as a form of storytelling. A lot of songs tell a story - some more clearly than others. Actually I guess that all songs are telling a story of some description but I do love a song where there is a whole train of thought that progresses logically through to tell us about an event or a relationship or whatever.

If you want to go old school there is Kenny Rogers, who has a number of story songs like Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town, The Gambler and The Coward of the County. Or how about Lucille?

You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille
With four hungry children and a crop in the field
I've had some bad times lived through some sad times
But this time your hurting won't heal
You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille.

I guess it doesn't hurt to love a bit of country if you like these types of songs, and Keith Urban is one of those artists that I could just listen to over and over and over again (and I do!)

Or how about something from the 80's? One of my favourite songs of all time is And We Danced by The Hooters. If I hear it on the radio I just have to turn it up a bit louder and I have been known to dance around the lounge room in the very early hours of the morning to this song!

She was a be-bop baby on a hard day's night
She was hangin' on Johnny, he was holdin' on tight
I could feel her coming from a mile away
There was no use talking, there was nothing to say
When the band began to play and play

And we danced like a wave on the ocean, romanced
We were liars in love and we danced
Swept away for a moment by chance
And we danced and danced danced

I met my be-bop baby at the Union Hall
She could dance all night and shake the paint off the walls
But when I saw her smile across a crowded room
Well I knew we'd have to leave the party soon
As the band began to play out of tune

And we danced like a wave on the ocean, romanced
We were liars in love and we danced
Swept away for a moment by chance
And we danced and danced danced

The endless beat, she's walkin' my way
Hear the music fade when she says
Are we getting too close, do we care to get closer
The room is spinning as she whispers my name

If you want to talk about story songs, it is hard to go past Bryan Adam's Summer of '69, where he talks one particularly memorable summer!

And just because this song contains one of my favourite song lines EVER, I give you Bon Jovi's Bed of Roses. I just love the line where he says 'With an iron clad fist, I wake up and french kiss the morning'.

The Lost Duke of Wyndham by Julia Quinn

A while ago, they had a Fly it Forward contest over at The Good, The Bad and The Unread, where you had a chance to win an ARC of The Lost Duke of Wyndham by Julia Quinn. I was lucky enough to win and so now having received the book on Monday night and finished it on Tuesday night, my review is now up over there.

I was very interested to see that the cover and the blurb for the next book in this duology is now up on Julia Quinn's website. I am really looking forward to reading it!

There went the bride...

Amelia Willoughby has been engaged to the Duke of Wyndham for as long as she can remember. Literally. A mere six months old when the contracts were signed, she has spent the rest of her life waiting. And waiting. And waiting...for Thomas Cavendish, the oh-so-lofty duke, to finally get around to marrying her. But as she watches him from afar, she has a sneaking suspicion that he never thinks about her at all...

It's true. He doesn't. Thomas rather likes having a fiancée—all the better to keep the husband-hunters at bay—and he does intend to marry her...eventually. But just when he begins to realize that his bride might be something more than convenient, Thomas’s world is rocked by the arrival of his long-lost cousin, who may or may not be the true Duke of Wyndham. And if Thomas is not the duke, then he’s not engaged to Amelia. Which is the cruelest joke of all, because this arrogant and illustrious duke has made the mistake of falling in love...with his own fiancée!

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the north of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill-workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction. In North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell skillfully fused individual feeling with social concern, and in Margaret Hale created one of the most original heroines of Victorian literature.

Earlier this year, I was introduced to the awesomeness that is the BBC mini-series version of North and South based on the book of the same name by Elizabeth Gaskell. After I had watched the DVD mini-series numerous times it occurred to me that I could, and probably should, read the book that it was based on. In due course, I went and purchased the book, but it then languished on my bookshelf for a while, until I realised that if I was going to lead a book-club discussion of it starting in June, then I really needed to read the darned book! And boy, am I glad that I did!

To give a very brief summary, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable existence as the daughter of country vicar when her father has a crisis of conscience and leaves the church. With no source of income, he moves his family to the northern industrial town of Milton where he is to teach and provide tutoring. One of his first students is mill owner John Thornton.

When Margaret and Thornton meet they tend to antagonise each other, with Margaret in particular being quite vehement in her dislike of Mr Thornton - a man who is not a gentleman in her eyes when she first meets him. Over time though, and through a series of rather dramatic events in the life of young Miss Hale and in the life of the town of Milton itself, she comes to see the very positive characteristics that 'these Milton men' possess. Poor Margaret has to deal with a lot throughout the course of this novel!

In many ways I think that this book was made easier to read by the fact that I had already watched the adaptation, particularly in the sections of the book where Higgins and the other mill-workers were speaking because Gaskell didn't shy away from using dialect that some may have found difficult to understand if they were being exposed to the story for the first time.

It was a real delight to find passages of dialogue that I recognised immediately where it was lifted straight from the pages of the book to the screen, and then it was equally as interesting to then rewatch the series and be able to quite clearly see which parts had been added by the scriptwriters and see what really added something to the story, what just added to the aesthetics because it looked really good, and also what was moved around or amended in the adaptation from word to screen.

One of the changes was in the ending of the book, and I have to say that for sheer romance the mini-series ending was superior, but the ending of the book was special as well, with a glimpse into how the two main characters would be able to share in mutual enjoyment and moments of humour as well as the fact that the ending in the book is probably more true to how a couple would behave at the time the book was set.

What the book was better at portraying than the mini-series was the build up in the emotions between our two principle characters, mainly because in a book you can get to know the inner thoughts and feelings which is much harder to do on screen. It definitely still happened on screen, but it was much more identifiable and palpable in the book.

If you didn't succumb to the North and South crusade that was happening earlier this year, I would encourage you to add the mini-series to your viewing schedule (and then come back and gush about how gorgeous John Thornton is), but if you don't want to watch it, then the book is definitely an entertaining read and is well worth the effort of reading. If I had to choose though, I would have to be honest and say watch the mini-series. The book was good, but the mini-series was superb!

What I have been thinking about since having seen this story in both the book and mini-series formats is what are my favourite scenes. The most obvious answer is the endings, but I must also say that the scene where Mr Thornton realises that 'it was her brother' also ranks right up there for me!

Given that I am talking about the mini-series you know that I really have no choice but to leave you with something to whet your appetite!

Having now read this book, and then rewatched the mini-series, I have now completed the Elizabeth Gaskell mini-challenge that I signed up for some time ago! I did mention a couple of posts ago that I was getting close to completion on some of the challenges that I had signed up for. This was one of those!

Stephenie Meyer mini-challenge

You know that I can't help myself when it comes to challenges don't you?

When I saw that Becky had put up another mini challenge, this time for Stephenie Meyer, I found it very difficult to resist, even though I have made it a bit harder for myself but having already read the three books that are out in the Twilight Saga already. There is still however The Host, and then Breaking Dawn to come before the challenge finishes up, so there are still options for me! All you have to do to complete the challenge is to read two of Meyer's books between 1 June 2008 and 30 January 2009. Becky also has a couple of other options available. You can get full details from the link above.

So when I went to the library tonight and one of the books I picked up was The Host, it seemed like the perfect time to sign up for the challenge!

I promise that I am actually working my way towards finishing some of these challenges. No...really I am!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Falcon at the Portal by Elizabeth Peters

As the 1911 archaeological season begins, Amelia and famille have arrived in Egypt for their annual excavation. While the reappearance Ramses' dreadful cousin Percy is to be lamented, the marriage of his best friend David to Amelia's niece Lia is a source of joy for everyone. But the bride has barely walked down the aisle before trouble begins stalking the family. First, David is accused of selling ancient Egyptian artifacts that are actually high-priced, almost undetectable fakes. Then, though this year's site appears ordinary enough - dull, really - some deadly surprises await the professional touch of Professor Radcliffe Emerson, the Father of Curses, holder of innumerable honorary degrees, scourge of the underworld, and the greatest Egyptologist of this or any other age.

But even as Amelia and company endeavor to clear David's name and expose the real culprit, worse crimes are surfacing. The first is the body of an American at the bottom of the Emerson's excavation shaft. Then, as accusations of drug dealing and moral misconduct start flying, the appearance of small child of mysterious antecedents sparks a crisis that threatens to tear the Emerson family apart. Meanwhile, as Amelia brings her brilliant powers of deduction to bear on all of this, someone is shooting bullets at her and coming awfully close.

As the tension mounts Amelia and family have arrived in Egypt for the 1911 archaeological season—after the marriage of young Ramses' best friend David to Amelia's niece Lia. But trouble finds them immediately when David is accused of selling ancient artifacts. While Amelia and company try to clear his name and expose the real culprit, the body of an American is found at the bottom of their excavation shaft. As accusations of drug dealing and moral misconduct fly, a child of mysterious antecedents sparks a crisis that threatens to tear the family apart. Amelia brings her brilliant powers of deduction to bear, but someone is shooting bullets at her—and coming awfully close!Amelia and family have arrived in Egypt for the 1911 archaeological season—after the marriage of young Ramses' best friend David to Amelia's niece Lia. But trouble finds them immediately when David is accused of selling ancient artifacts. While Amelia and company try to clear his name and expose the real culprit, the body of an American is found at the bottom of their excavation shaft. As accusations of drug dealing and moral misconduct fly, a child of mysterious antecedents sparks a crisis that threatens to tear the family apart. Amelia brings her brilliant powers of deduction to bear, but someone is shooting bullets at her and coming awfully close!

As the tension mounts and accidents increase at the site, it becomes clear that the Land of the Pharaohs harbors more secrets than any tomb can hide, If Amelia doesn't expose a dangerous gallery of kills quickly, she may find herself the next candidate for burial.

Aaahh....there is nothing like an Amelia Peabody book to get the reading juices flowing. This book had it all - there was subterfuge, romance, multiple suspects, loss, spying, renegade family members. You name it, it will probably be part of it.

The book starts in England where Ramses' best friend David has just married his cousin Lia. There is a cloud hanging over the happy event though, as David has been named as being suspected of either selling stolen or fake artifacts. As David goes off blissfully unawares on his honeymoon, the rest of the Peabody clan are desperately trying to clear David's name.

On arrival in Egypt, they are soon reunited with old friends from previous books, but there is also more drama surrounding David as he is linked to both nationalistic causes and drug running. Is it possible that David has gone completely off the rails, despite the fact that Amelia and Emerson practically raised him.

The dig that the Emerson's have been allocated appears to be very boring indeed, although Amelia is delighted that she has a pyramid to explore! She is not quite so delighted when first she and then other members of her family find themselves being shot at. As the heat of an Egyptian desert dig builds, so does the pressure as bodies are discovered, and theories of what is going on are both developed and then discarded.

The mystery aspect of this book was good, although at times very busy with so many different aspects to keep in control and then to tie up at the end but Peters manages admirably.

For all of that, for me, this book is really about Ramses and a couple of the relationships in his life.


There were times in this book where my heart was literally in my mouth, just hoping and praying that Nefret would finally realise that Ramses is totally in love with her. There were hints, and then there finally a moment, that turned into a night, and the promise of future happiness. In true romance fashion though, the path to true love never runs smoothly and the romantic relationship between Nefret and Ramses is basically destroyed before it even got going due to a BIG misunderstanding. Nefret then reacts rather impulsively, leaving a heartbroken Ramses in her wake.

I also loved seeing both Ramses and Emerson interact with the little girl, Sennia, who is introduced into the series at this point. Reading the descriptions of Ramses and Emerson interacting with the girl, and then the cat Horus' attachment to her had me smiling as I read them - an outward sign of my inward delight of the character development that we are still seeing in these books despite the fact that this is the 11th book in the series.

I loved this part of the storyline...absolutely loved it, and very nearly went rushing off to the library to get the next book in the series. If I had it, I would have started it straight away, because I was so invested in what will happen, in what HAS to happen soon!

The strange thing about this whole part of this post, is that when I wrote my reviews of the Harper Connelly series, one of my main focuses was on the fact that I found it kind of off-putting that Harper got it together with Tolliver, who was her step brother. Despite the fact that it is a very similar familial connection (Nefret is Ramses adopted sister), there was none of that uncomfortableness in reading this storyline - only cheering and then subsequent despair as everything comes apart.

Maybe I should go to the library tomorrow night to get the next book in the series. The fact that I have a load of books due back before I that one would shouldn't matter should it. I HAVE to know what happens....and soon!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What Age Do You Act?

Saw this over at Darla's blog, and thought I would see how I go! At least I don't act older than I am ...right!

You Act Like You Are 22 Years Old

You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel like an adult, and you're optimistic about life.

You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

You're still figuring out your place in the world and how you want your life to shape up.

The world is full of possibilities, and you can't wait to explore many of them.

Two Amelia Peabody reviews

"Stay away from tomb Twenty-A!" says an ominous message delivered by an unseen hand. The year is 1903, the place is Cairo, and with the new century, everything is changing for Amelia Peabody - except her affinity for danger. Headed for an archaeological dig in the awesome Valley of the Kings, she hopes the desert will yield up its secrets. Instead it will produce a macabre puzzle of murder, passion, and cruel deceit.

Besides the warning about the tomb - which only makes it more intriguing to Amelia and her sexy if irascible husband, Emerson - Amelia finds Egypt spinning with demands that join like the threads of her destiny. A request for help comes from an old friend whose husband has fallen for a spiritualist...a plea arrives from an expatriate Civil War colonel with a pretty daughter threatened by an unknown enemy...and a special headache is bestowed by her son Ramses, grown from a precocious child to a teenager, who strikes out with his cousin David and Amelia's beautiful ward Nefret toward an adventure that could turn a mother's hair white...

Even though her famous premonitions are telling her that trouble lies ahead, Amelia dreams of a large cat, an Egyptian sign of good luck. And when tomb Twenty-A finally reveals its secret, Amelia will need all the luck she can garner, and her detective skills, to keep those dearest to her from death...or an equally undesirable fate.
There are a couple of things that are guaranteed when you pick up a Amelia Peabody novel - the first is that there is loads of fun in store. The second is murder and mystery under the Egyptian sun, and the third is lots of admiration for the ever irascible but oh so sexy Professor Radcliffe Emerson, affectionately known to the Egyptian people as 'Father of Curses'. Amelia always has to deal with the females they come into contact with who fall half in love with her husband. She always has to deal with the matter very graciously and tactfully - not necessarily this very forthright and plain-spoken character's forte it has to be said!

In this book though, Emerson has a little competition, coming from quarters close to home. His son Ramses is growing up rapidly, as is his best friend David, and I have to say that I am happy to read about any of the three of them. Ramses in particular is growing into a very dashing, principled and fine young man - a welcome development from his precociousness of a few of the earlier books. I am definitely looking forward to watching him as he grows up over the next couple of books.

One of the other good things about this book is that instead of only seeing events from Amelia's point of view as we have done previously, there has now been the introduction of other points of view, mainly in the form of Manuscript H. The authorship of the manuscript is somewhat veiled, but it tells the events in the book from the point of view of the younger Peabody's, and also allows us to look at Amelia through another person's eyes - an interesting experience to say the least.

From what I can tell, this is the first book where Ramses feelings for Nefret are revealed, but I know that it is going to be a long time before this particular thread of the storyline is way or another.

For me at least the mystery took a backseat in this book - not because it was boring or bad or anything like that, but more because the developments between our main characters was much more interesting and the other events in the book really just seemed to provide the framework for the more important, longer term developments in the novel.

Another very enjoyable Amelia Peabody mystery!

The prospects for the 1907 archaeological season in Egypt seem fairly dull to Amelia Peabody. Despite her adored husband's brilliant reputation in his field, his dashing-yet-less-than-diplomatic behavior has Professor Radcliffe Emerson ignominiously demoted to examining only the most boring tombs in the Valley of the Kings -- mere leftovers, really. All the Peabody Emersons profess stiff upper lips and intend to make the best of a bad situation, but this year the legendary land of the pharoahs will yield more than priceless artifacts for the Emerson expedition. For the desert guards even deeper mysteries that are wrapped in greed -- and sealed by murder.

In a seedy section of Cairo, the youngest members of the expedition purchase a mint-condition papyrus of the famed Book of the Dead, the collection of magical spells and prayers designed to ward off the perils of the underworld and lead the deceased into everlasting life. But for as long as there have been graves, there have also been grave robbers -- as well as those who believe tomb violators risk the wrath of gods like Thoth, the little baboon who protects the scales used to weigh such precious commodities as hearts and souls.

Besides facing the ire of ancient deities, their adventure into antiquity also puts Amelia and company in the sights of Sethos, the charismatically compelling but elusive Master Criminal whose bold villainies have defied the authorities in sever countries. In truth, Amelia needn't have worried: this season is about to turn from dull to deadly. Soon, she will need all her remarkable skills of detection and deduction to untangle a web woven of criminals and cults, stolen treasures and fallen women -- all the while under the unblinking eye of a ruthless, remorseless killer.

Poor Emerson! After yet more bad words between M. Prospero and him, the Peabody's are relegated to the poor archaeological sites, where they expect to find nothing of interest. Of course, being the true professional that he is, he is still determined to do the best he can. It is, however, incredibly difficult to concentrate solely on the task at hand, when once again his family get mixed up in trying to solve crimes and mysteries.

The books starts off on an interesting note, with Amelia sort of becoming involved in the suffragette movement, It quickly becomes clear however that a rally was merely a cover for a dastardly plan to steal ancient artifacts from a wealthy collector's home, and the whole Peabody becomes involved in trying to work out who the mastermind could possibly be - I mean it couldn't possibly be the Master Criminal...could it?

There is an element of preachiness in this episode of the series - with a large amount of focus being spent on women's issues. Nefret becomes involved with a clinic to try and help poor women who require medical assistance, and with teaching Egyptian women to read.

Once again we get to see more than we have in previous books through the use of Manuscript H, which I mentioned above. One of the things that having this alternate point of view does, is enable the reader to know of events that the main characters do not, mainly because Amelia and Emerson are trying to shield the 'children', and the 'children' try to keep what they have been doing from coming to the attention of the parents so that they do not worry themselves unnecessarily.

The mystery was again fun, and I love the buildup in the relationships in this book, especially the twist in the end of this book, which has characters reviewing their own beliefs in terms of equality of the races and to having to live what they have been saying for a very long time. When Amelia is forced to stop and think about her reactions to unexpected news, then it can only be a good thing for the series, as so often she tends to go racing of without worrying too much about the consequences.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Lessons of Desire by Madeline Hunter

Handsome, suave, and carnal as the devil, Lord Elliot Rothwell awaits readers in Lessons of Desire, bestselling author Madeline Hunter’s latest book in the Rothwell series and her most provocative novel to date. A man used to getting what he wants, Elliot is every woman’s most secret fantasy in the living flesh. He first appears beneath her prison window as her savior—a sinfully attractive man whose charm and connections have ensured her release from an unjust arrest. But author and publisher Phaedra Blair quickly learns that the price of her “freedom” is to be virtually bound to her irresistible rescuer. For Elliot Rothman didn’t come solely on a mission of goodwill. He came to extract a promise that Phaedra won’t publish a slanderous manuscript that could destroy his family’s name, and he’s not above bribery, threats, or bedding her to get his way. And with each erotic encounter raising the stakes between them, Elliot discovers he’s ever more reluctant to lose this sensual game…or the one woman who’s every bit his match.
One of the common things that you hear from romance fans is that we want to read something different. Having read this book, I think that maybe we THINK we want something different...but we really don't.

The thing is that this book does have different in spades - the heroine is an advocate of free love meaning that there is no simpering virgin here. Another example of different is that at least half of the book is set in Italy travelling from places like Naples, Pompeii and Positano.

So how did those differences work for me? The setting did work. I definitely found the setting fresh although the reasons for moving from Naples and from Positano were a bit contrived.

Having the heroine be Phaedra really didn't work for me though. First the heck do you pronounce that name. Phaedra Blair was basically shunned by society because she has chosen to live a very different lifestyle to most people in the ton. She is an advocate of free love, a woman who chooses to have 'friends' who are lovers, and very definitely does not believe in marriage. She also chooses to dress in a very strange way, avoiding current fashion. Every time she talked about free love I couldn't help but think of 1960's hippies which is a long way from the setting that we are given in the book.

Phaedra Blair goes to Italy to try and found out the truth about her mother's last days. Her mother was a very famous woman. She spent years with Phaedra's father without ever marrying him, but something happens in her last years of life that causes her downhill slide, and eventually her death. One of the clues that Phaedra has is a beautiful ancient cameo that supposedly came from Pompeii.

Elliot follows Phaedra to Italy because she holds the publishing rights to her father's memoirs, and inside those memoirs is an allegation made about his father that the Rothwells want to keep out of the public realm.

When they first meet Elliot has to rescue Phaedra from a situation where she has come to the attention of the local authorities. He has to rescue her again in another town when she is accused of witchcraft, and this time the rescue includes marriage vows, that both Elliot and Phaedra hope they will be able to get out of when they return back to England.

I felt like I was being bashed over the head repeatedly with the free love thing, and also with the possessiveness of Elliot - I can't remember how many times the word 'mine' was mentioned throughout this novel. He did temper this possessiveness many times, which means that he was a bearable character.

I guess that one thing that I have to confess is that when I read Rules of Seduction at the beginning of last year, I did wonder if our heroine, Phaedra, was destined to hook up with Christian, Lord Easterbrook. Instead, she ends up with his younger brother, Elliot. Lord Easterbrook's book is the one that I really, really want, but it seems as though it won't be out until next year some time!

I really loved Rules of Seduction. It was the first book I read last year, the first time I had read Madeline Hunter, and I was blown away. If this had of been the first book I read from this author, then I think it would have been fair to assume that I wouldn't have read more. As it is, I have read the excerpt for the next book in this series, Secrets of Surrender which came out a few days ago, and I am looking forward to reading it!

This book was one of the books that I nominated to read as part of the Romance Reading Challenge.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Commonwealth Writers Prize Winners

I posted earlier about the longlist and shortlist for this prize, so I should probably post about the winners too really!

The winner for Overall Best Book was Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes, which apparently has been published in Australia under the title of Someone Knows My Name. Why do publishers change book names in different countries? It is very confusing.

The Overall Best First Book prize was awarded to Tahmima Anam of Bangladesh for A Golden Age.

My library has A Golden Age, but no sign of Hill's book under either title!


When I sat down at the computer today, I was thinking that it felt as though I hadn't written a review for days! Turns out, it is more like weeks (with the last review I wrote having been published on May 8)! I promise I do have lots of reviews either started or half written, but just haven't got to finishing them off yet.

Actually, I don't really know what is up with me this last week. I haven't even managed to write my Booking Through Thursday post (even though I knew what I wanted to post), I didn't do Weekly Geeks, and I haven't really said anything at all on the blog! I have still been reading a bit though. Not as much as usual, but enough I guess.

What I have been busy doing is keeping the Georgette Heyer Season going over at Historical Tapestry, and this afternoon I have indulged myself by watching the first two episodes of North and South again....sigh.

Maybe later I will get around to finishing a review post off. Note I said maybe though! Now I should probably go and cook dinner.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Look what I got today

Remember when I won the caption contest at Rosina Lippi's website. The prize was $150 Amazon voucher. I took ages to put my order in, but today I got the first part. The second part is on its way as well, but today I received:

Hot by Julia Harper - I've loved reading her historicals under the name of Elizabeth Hoyt, so I'll give this one a go even though it is a contemporary romance and I don't really read a lot of them.

The Courtesan by Diane Haeger - I've had this on my TBR list for ages.

Fire Study by Maria V Snyder - I really enjoyed the first two books in this trilogy, and I have been waiting for the third one to be released here, but then I just got too impatient, so I ordered it instead.

Grimspace by Ann Aguirre - There was lots of hype about this book when I was contemplating which books to buy.

Glass Houses by Rachel Caine
- I've read all the Weather Warden books that have been published, so time to read the other series that this author writes.

Monday, May 19, 2008

For my viewing pleasure

I have watched two movies in as many days this week...quite unusual really!

Not only have I been able to watch a couple of DVDs, I also got the full cinema experience, as devised by my son! Both nights he has selected the movie that I was to watch, made tickets complete with little clues as to what it is that I will be watching, lit the candles for just the right ambience, and provided me with a drink! And it is far more comfortable to lie down on the couch to watch a movie than it is to sit in the chairs at the real cinemas for the same length of time!

I'm not sure but I suspect that I will be going to the cinema in my lounge room again tomorrow night!

Book Giveaway!

Details of how you can win copies of some Georgette Heyer books are now up over at Historical Tapestry!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Are you a Georgette Heyer Fan?

Over at Historical Tapestry we are having a Georgette Heyer Season. There will be reviews, general posts, and a giveaway (the details of which will be up later).

If you are a Georgette Heyer fan, and would like to participate or just read along, please head over to Historical Tapestry for more details. We would love to get some guest posts from you!

Manual Labour Redux

This week's Booking Through Thursday question (Late again!)

Following up last week’s question about reading writing/grammar guides, this week, we’re expanding the question….

Scenario: You’ve just bought some complicated gadget home . . . do you read the accompanying documentation? Or not?

Do you ever read manuals?

How-to books?

Self-help guides?

Anything at all?

I do read the manuals, usually after I have first attempted to do it myself! I do have to say though, the most recent user manuals that I have tried to use were anything but user friendly! Even the ones that rely on pictures to give the instructions tend to be pretty darned confusing!

I do love looking through cookbooks and recipe magazines, so that could be considered How-To books I guess, and I have several diet books which I read through occasionally. They could be considered Self Help right? One of these days I will do something more than just read them though, and actually put a plan into action!

They like me...they really like me!

Thanks J. Kaye!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bookworms Carnival - 11th Edition

While there may have been 11 editions of the Bookworms Carnival, this is actually only the first or second time I have participated! (I thought I had participated once before, but I am not 100% certain of that!)

The Carnival was being hosted by Scott this month, and the theme was Urban Fantasy.

It was a little bit of a surprise to me to find that I had read quite a few books that fell into this genre, because I don't normally count myself as a fantasy reader.

In the end, for my submission, I chose to put up a link of all the Kelley Armstrong books I have read so far, which are all part of the excellent Otherworld series.

Be sure to check out the Carnival page, as there are some really interesting sounding reads. I am looking forward to participating in future Bookworm Carnivals as well.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Weekly Geeks #3 - Childhood books

This week’s theme comes from Samantha, who suggested that one week we all write about our fond memories of childhood books.

You could approach this several ways. I’ll probably list my favorite childhood books with maybe a paragraph about each book: why I loved it, how old I was when I read it, where I got the book, etc. You could also just pick one childhood favorite and review it as you would any other book. Or, if you’re fast, you could make up a meme other weekly geeks might like to use. It’ll be interesting to see how everyone personalizes this theme. Don’t forget to come back and leave a link to the post in your comment once you’ve written your post. No wrap-up post this week; just the one childhood books post.

When trying to decide how to approach this week's post, I debated about a few different things, but in the end have decided to focus on four different examples!

The first is my first chunkster....or at least I thought so at the time. I remember being in grade 1 or 2 and being so proud of myself because I had read this huge thick book (yes, I loved them even back then!). Having listened to the book with my son not all that long ago, I think it is probably fair to say that there was very big writing in the book, but still...size matters! The book was Wind in the Willows. Funnily enough, the videos for Wind in the Willows have long been my grandmother's favourites, so perhaps a love for Toad, Mole, Ratty and Badger has been passed down through the blood.

I think I have mentioned the second and third books here before, and they are Enid Blyton and the Trixie Belden books. I cannot tell you how much I used to love some of Enid Blyton's books. Not for me the tales of the Famous Five (although I did still like them), but I was captivated by the books like The Magic Faraway Tree books where the land at the top of the tree changed every few days, and you had to ride a big cushion down the big slide in the middle of the tree. The other books I loved by this author was The Wishing Chair books. Can you tell that I used to read to escape reality. Actually I have not so long ago been accused of still reading to escape reality, but that's a whole other post!

As I got older, I then became interested in the Trixie Belden mysteries. I had basically the whole set and I used to love reading their stories, and taking part in the adventures that Trixie and Marty, Brian and Honey, Jim and their other friends and family used to get involved in. My favourite was Jim....what a guy! I guess I still have a soft spot for him.

I also had this thing that I used to do with these books where I tried to give the words in these books a value by assigning a value to each letter and then adding it all up. Good job this is already a post about weekly geeks, otherwise you would all be geeky is she...making up maths games out of words in a book! I am sure if you were to find one of these books there would be pencil marks on it from where I was playing my game!

The fourth example is The Hobbit. When it came to schoolwork, give me Maths or English, or Social Studies and I did quite well, but the subject where I REALLY struggled was Art...couldn't stand it! So the fact that I loved the title page that I did for my book report on The Hobbit really stands out in my mind!

Two bits and pieces posts in a week

A couple of firsts that I am very excited about to share with you all!

Firstly, over at Reading the Past, Sarah has the first picture I have seen of the cover for Sharon Kay Penman's next book, The Devil's Brood, which is due out in October!

The second first is the first review I have seen of the new book by Carlos Ruiz Zafon which has appeared over at Omnivoracious. The book is only out in Spanish at this time, but the review definitely sounds promise. This is one book that I will definitely be buying when it finally is released in English!

The third first is that I have been awarded a "You Colour my World" blog award from The Colour Jane. Thanks!

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Not really over anyone in particular, but other than that the sentiment is right.

A little of this and a little of that!

I have a few different things I wanted to post about, so this is going to be a post with several different things in it.

First, Rosina Lippi/Sara Donati has a new excerpt up for book six of the Into the Wilderness series. This series is one of my favourites and I am very much looking forward to the new book when it comes out!

Speaking of excerpts, Jennifer Crusie has posted the whole first chapter of Dogs and Goddesses, her upcoming collaboration with Lani Diane Rich and Anne Stuart. Whilst I prefer her non-collaboration books it is fair to say that I will be reading this one when it comes out!

The second thing is that I got a blog award from Teddy Rose at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time. I'd like to thank my parents, my sister, my friends, my agent...wait..I don't have an agent.

In the spirit of sharing, I would like to pass this award onto Ana from Aneca's World, in recognition of all her hard work on Historical Tapestry, and because she is a great person!

The second person who I would like to award this to is Dewey from Hidden Side of a Leaf. Now Dewey may be surprised to get this from me because we haven't interacted personally all that often, but she always is really active in trying to build up our little bookish corner of the blogosphere with lots of fun ideas! I don't always participate, but I do always admire her energy and her ideas. Great job Dewey.

Speaking of Dewey and her great ideas, we needed to do a follow up post about this week's Weekly Geeks idea, which was to spread the link love around by sharing our links to book reviews that we had in common with other bloggers.

Initially, I was reluctant to undertake this one, because I was worried about how much extra time this would take on an ongoing basis. When I thought about it a bit more, I decided to go ahead with it because, whilst there was definitely a lot of time spent on it this week find book reviews in common and leaving comments and the like, going forward it should actually be pretty manageable I think. What I have also spent more time on this week is reading more new blogs in Bloglines, as I find more and more book bloggers who are also participants in Weekly Geeks!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Two Keys to the Kingdom reviews

Arthur Penhaligon is supposed to be in bed - after all it's only 12 hours since he saved the world. But there's no time to rest. Grim Tuesday has laid claim to the Lower House and the First Key, and now his misshapen servants are repossessing Arthur's world and plunging it into financial disaster. To stop them, Arthur must venture back into the House - that surreal, unpredictable realm where he almost met his death.

With companions old and new, Arthur embarks on a heart-stopping adventure that will take him from the dismal Pit of the Far Reaches, all the way to the heart of a sun and back. Racing furiously against time, Arthur must find the second piece of the Will, claim the Second Key and save both his own world and the House from the destructive greed of Grim Tuesday.
After being pleasantly surprised by the first book in this series (Mister Monday), I very quickly borrowed this next book in the Keys to the Kingdom series, anxious to pick up where the story left off.

I have to confess though, that I was a little less enamoured with this book. It felt much darker, like Arthur was in much more danger than he was in the first book, although when I think back it is likely that they were on a par. Normally a bit of a darkness in a book doesn't bother me but I guess my foremost thought in relation to these books is that they are YA books, and as such, I expect that my son will be interested in reading these books, or ones similar, in the not too distant future.

Maybe it isn't the darkness that bothers me at all - after all, all three of these books that I have read now have a degree of darkness within them. Perhaps it is more that the pacing of the book was a bit off. One cannot help but admire Nix's very active imagination when it comes to the characters who inhabit the world inside the House, but during this novel there were, for me, times when the narrative dragged, before suddenly picking up the pace and setting off in a break neck speed in a quest to have Arthur claim the second Key, and the second part of The Will.

Arthur has only been back in Earth for twelve hours, when he receives a call on the special telephone telling him that he is required back in the House. Whilst Arthur has claimed dominionship over the Lower House by defeating Mister Monday in the first book, that also means that he has inherited all the responsibilities of Mister Monday, including all his debts and Grim Tuesday has decided that it is time for Arthur to pay. Unfortunately, Grim Tuesday is not only limiting himself to the world of the House, but also is also making claims in Arthur's world, so suddenly not only does he need to save the day again within the House, he has to do it in time to save his family, friends and indeed the world from financial ruin.

I guess in summary I would say that this wasn't a bad read, but it's not the best in the series in my opinion.

Other Blogger's Thoughts:

Books and Other Thoughts

Arthur Penhaligon has a broken leg and a bad attack of asthma, but there's no time for recovery. Drowned Wednesday has sent a ship to pluck him from the safety of his bed, miles from any ocean, and sail him back to the House.

From hospital room to the high seas, Arthur must battle pirates, storms, monsters made of Nothing and a vast beast that can't stop eating. Arthur struggles to unravel the mystery of the Architect's disappearance, and the plotting of the Trustees. For the sake of all that dwell in the Secondary realms, he must discover the third part of the Will and claim the Third Key.

But first...can Arthur trust the Raised Rats? Where are Leaf and Suzy? And how will he survive life aboard ship on the treacherous Border Sea?

Drowned Wednesday is the third book in the Keys to the Kingdom series.
If I was a bit disappointed in Grim Tuesday, it is fair to say that I was delighted with this instalment in the Keys to the Kingdom series.

The book opens with Arthur in hospital again, having suffered another asthma attack and a broken leg. He has received an invitation from Lady Wednesday to come for tea, so despite the fact that in earth time he has only been back for a short time, he knows to expect that he will be going back into the House some time soon. What he doesn't know is how.

Unfortunately, the how happens whilst he is being visited by his good friend Leaf, and suddenly the two youngsters find themselves adrift on the Border Sea with only his hospital bed as a raft. When Leaf is accidentally taken aboard the ship that was supposed to take Arthur to Lady Wednesday, Arthur has to try and figure out a way to get to his tea, find Leaf and then get her back to his own world. Along the way, Arthur inadvertently causes some of the dreaded pirate Feverfew's treasure to be stolen, in the process making him a mortal enemy.

Part of the charm of this story for me was that a lot of the action was set in and around boats and ships, thereby allowing the introduction of many fun characters like the tattooed doctor whose tattoos displayed a different scene on his face depending on how he was feeling, and who helped Arthur with a cast that is made out of a crab's exoskeleton for his broken leg. There were also the Raised rats who can communicate instantaneously throughout the secondary realms but using their two way bottles, and Wednesday's Dawn who is most at home underneath the sea.

When it turns out that Lady Wednesday has been cursed, and so now she is actually a huge whale, Arthur's tea date seems destined to be anything but friendly. Now he needs to find the third part of the Will, free Leaf, defeat Feverfew and get back home.

There is an interesting twist in the end of this novel, which makes me want to read the next one sooner rather than later!

One thing that does have to be said at some point is that this is not a series that you can start half way through. The world building that is done within this novel if very much building onto what we already knew from the first books, and many of the same characters make appearances, or at least are mentioned.

Drowned Wednesday is one of the books that I nominated to read as part of the Once Upon a Time II Challenge!

Other blogger's thoughts:

Books and Other Thoughts

If you have read and reviewed either of these books, please let me know and I will put your link in this post.

Manual Labour

This week's Booking Through Thursday question:

Writing guides, grammar books, punctuation how-tos . . . do you read them? Not read them? How many writing books, grammar books, dictionaries–if any–do you have in your library?

Well this is an easy answer! None! If I want to use a dictionary I go online, and I don't have any writing books or grammar books at all!

In other news, I joined another library today. Back in March my work moved into a new premises, and it just so happens that there is a second hand bookstore about 50 metres away, and there is a library about 4 or 500 metres away. So far I have resisted going into the second hand bookstore.

As it so happens, I have been looking at the library's online catalogue and it turns out that they have a few books that I really want to read but that I can't get through my normal library. I will still continue with my normal one as the main one, but for the odd book I am intending to use this new one. So that makes a total of four libraries that I am a member of, but I really don't go to two of them anymore because they are too far away.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A Place Beyond Courage by Elizabeth Chadwick

The 1130s mark the twilight years of the long, peaceful reign of King Henry, son of William of Normandy. Yet it seems his legacy will not uphold that peace. For who will succeed him? His daughter Matilda, ex-Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, his nephew Stephen, or even his infant grandson Henry? It's an uneasy time for those vying for position at court. An unease that turns into fear when Henry dies without naming his heir.

For John FitzGilbert, the king's Marshal, the normal jostling for position and favour takes on a new urgency. Along with many other nobles, he swears allegiance to Stephen but he has enemies at court and soon his position becomes untenable and he must either join the Empress Matilda's faction or lose all. He cannot even take succour from his marriage. His wife, the pliant, pious Aline, is no match for a man renowned for his looks, energy and fearlessness and she struggles to cope in the storms unleashed upon them by civil war, especially when John is badly wounded in a fight with opposing forces.

John recovers and realises that to protect his lands and his heirs, his only option is to divorce Aline and take a new wife - Sybilla, sister of his enemy, Patrick of Salisbury. It's a strategic move, but is swiftly becomes something more, for Sybilla is quick, intelligent and possesses all the joy and vibrancy lacking in his first wife.

However, both Sybilla and John are about to be tested to the limit. As the fight for England's crown continues, John's castle at Newbury becomes pivotal, and in order to buy the time that is needed he is forced to make a terrible sacrifice...

Before I read this book, I knew three things about John Marshal. The first was that he was father of William Marshal, a man I had read about, and swooned over, in two earlier Elizabeth Chadwick novels (The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion). The second was that he suffered a terrible injury at Cherwell when he was caught in a burning abbey, and a piece of lead melted onto his face causing permanent disfigurement and the loss of sight in his left eye. The third thing that I knew was that when William was four years, John was forced to give him to King Stephen as a hostage, and John famously said to Stephen that he didn't care if he killed William as he had the anvils and hammer to create more children (roughly paraphrasing of course).

To be honest, because of the third of those things listed above, I was a little surprised to hear that Elizabeth Chadwick had written a book where the main character was John Marshal, because I couldn't really imagine how she would go about making John easy to relate to, when it appeared as though he was quite unfeeling and callous as a man. I am very pleased to say that she succeeded!

This book is predominately set during the very troubled times in the mid 1100s when the war between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda caused great upheaval and destruction across England. When Matilda's father, King Henry, died without naming an heir, there were many lords who bridled at the thought of being ruled over by a woman and therefore sided with the dead King's nephew, Stephen. Still others believed that it was King Henry's wish for his daughter to follow in his footsteps, and thus began a twenty year period of war when the countryside was ravaged.

This same period is covered extensively in Sharon Kay Penman's book, When Christ and His Saints Slept, and having that background certainly aided in my enjoyment of this book. Where Penman's focused heavily on what was happening personally with Stephen and Matilda, many of those same events are on the peripherals of the narrative of this book, except where the events directly touched on John Marshal's life.

John was the loyal Marshal of King Henry - the man responsible for making sure that there was order in court, for the procurement of supplies, horses, etc amongst other things - a man with his finger on the pulse of court life. When Henry died, he also filled that role for Stephen as well. However, there were many at court who were not overly fond of John, and his neighbours were also coveting his lands and were determined to take them, whatever the cost.

In order to preserve his life, and his possessions, John has to take the extraordinary step of swapping sides, and becomes part of Matilda's retinue. What follows are a series of skirmishes, battles and sieges, culminating with the siege at Newbury where John so famously denied his feelings for his son.

Lest you think that this is a book just of battles, Chadwick also gives us glimpses into John's two marriages. The first is to Aline, a somewhat timid and pious woman, who wants nothing more than to have John by her side, and to do her duty. She is a woman who is very obviously not up to the job of being wife to the Royal Marshal, with all the entertaining, and responsibilities that go along with that post. I did feel for Aline as she struggled within her marriage and home, but also for John as he realises that this marriage is one that cannot continue for both of their sakes.

Then, we see his marriage to Sybilla, a partnership that started out as a way to stop an escalating enmity with her brother, Patrick of Salisbury, one of John's neighbours. Where Aline was timid, Sybilla is bold and intelligent, with an ability to charm the people around her from the dairy maids, to those from the highest stations in the land.

Chadwick's portrayal of John Marshal is by no means of a saint who has been portrayed unfairly through the ages. There is no doubting his courage, his competence in his role, let alone his ambition and determination. He is a totally three dimensional character - warts and all.

Similarly, the authors skill in conveying the details of life and times of the twelfth century, from the dresses, food, smells and tastes is exceptional.

One thing to be aware of is that the author has to cram twenty years worth of events into just over 500 pages, so it is crucial to keep an eye on the dates at the beginning of each chapter to keep some kind of perspective in terms of time elapsed.

This is the third Elizabeth Chadwick book that I have read and really enjoyed. Now I just need to start working my way through the rest of her back list!

It is a great shame that this author's books are so difficult to get hold of in the US. It is well worth going to the effort of locating them. I highly recommend Book Depository. It is a UK based online bookstore but as you get free postage to many countries around the world it is a very economical way to buy books!

This book is one that I had listed as part of the books that I was intending to read for the Chunkster Challenge.

Cross posted at Historical Tapestry

Other Blogger's Thoughts:

A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore

Passages to the Past

Edited to Add: Don't forget, if you have reviewed this book and would like me to link to your review, leave me a comment with your link, and I will add it in.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Weekly Geeks #2

After the success of the first week of Weekly Geeks, here is the background for this week's challenge:

The theme for Week 2 is something I borrowed (yes, she said it was ok!) from Darla at Books and Other Thoughts. She says in her sidebar that if she reviews a book that you’ve reviewed, you can email her and she’ll link to it in her review. I love this idea for three reasons.

1. As a blog reader, I like that I can have my review linked in someone else’s blog.

2. As a blog reader, I like that if I’m interested in a book Darla writes about, there will be other reviews linked at the bottom of the page, so I can get other viewpoints. You can see how this works here.

3. As a blog writer, when I review a book, I often remember that I read someone else’s review at some point, but whose? And when? With Darla’s method, people tell her about their reviews, and she can see what they had to say about a book that is still fresh in her mind.

And now, for a summarised version of this challenge. For a full version click here.

1. Decide if this is a policy that you would like to adopt, and let people know.
2. Visit other Weekly Geeks and give them links of books that you have reviewed that you have in common
3. Write about your experience
4. Keep reminding your readers about this new policy.

I have to admit that at first I thought that this was not for me, particularly seeing as there are hundreds of books reviews here on this blog now. However, then I thought about it a bit more and figured that it couldn't actually hurt going forward.

If you want to see an index for all the books that I have reviewed here, then just click on the Reading Adventures Index link at the top of the second column (or here to make life easier for now). The index is sorted alphabetically by author, so hopefully you might be able to find some of your favourites there.

Leave a comment, either on this post, or the actual review, and I will add your links to the bottom of my posts. Going forward I will try to remember to ask people to leave their links in the comments and then I will add them to my reviews.

Baby steps

Took a first step today on something that I should have probably done years ago.

Making the phone call was harder than I thought it would be...but also easier than I thought it would be, given that I have been thinking about it for several months now.

Next step in about 10 days time.


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