Sunday, June 29, 2008

Book Awards Reading Challenge II

I was sitting here in my pyjamas on a Sunday morning thinking that I just didn't have enough reading challenges on the go (yes, that is tongue in cheek) when I stumbled across another challenge that I am going to join in on. This is the second year that this particular challenge has been running, but I didn't join in last year because I wasn't doing challenges at all this year. How things change!


  1. Read 10 award winners from August 1, 2008 through June 1, 2009.

  2. You must have at least FIVE different awards in your ten titles.

  3. Overlaps with other challenges are permitted.

  4. You don't have to post your choices right away, and your list can change at any time.

  5. 'Award winners' is loosely defined; make the challenge fit your needs, keeping in mind Rule #2.

  6. SIGN UP using Mr. Linky at the above link

  7. Have fun reading!

This challenge fits in nicely with several of my long term challenges which are to read the Booker, Pulitzer and Orange Prize winners, plus I would like to read some more Miles Franklin Award winners as well. I am not going to list the books at this stage though.

Friday, June 27, 2008

July Book Blowout

Mrs S from Blue Archipelago is hosting her very first reading challenge...and it's a good one that anyone can participate in! The rules are:
  • The rules are simple - read as many books as you can between July 1 and 31 - and then by August 7 post a list of all of the books you read on your blog. Reviews are not required to take part.
  • How do I join in the fun?You can sign up any time between today and July 14 - just because I’m a bit slow to announce this!
  • To join you need to post about the Book Blowout on your blog - and set yourself a target number of books you will try to read - go on challenge yourself!
  • Use the Mr Linky below to link to that post so we can all see how many books you’re taking on in the Blowout
  • Post a list of the books you managed to read by the deadline of August 7 to complete the challenge
This year I have been averaging between 15 and 17 books per month, so in order to try and stretch myself I am going to aim for 18 books read. We'll see how we go with that though.

There are a few other details about what to read etc in this post.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Challenges Update

This is my challenge update post for this week's Weekly Geeks.

Are you ready? I'm not sure I am but we will see how it goes! Bear in mind that I have managed to complete 3 challenges so far this year, so I won't be mentioning those again in this post.

Pub 08 Challenge

Of the books that I originally nominated for this challenge, I own both Daughter of York by Anne Easter Smith and Fire Study by Maria V Snyder, but I haven't started reading them yet.

I have Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland, The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin The Pyjama Girls of Lambert Square by Sara Donati and The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig out from the library at the moment. I will get to them in the next few weeks.

I have read People of the Book by Geraldine Brook, but not written the review yet, but have both read and reviewed The Crystal Skull by Manda Scott.

Romance Reading Challenge

Not much movement on this challenge recently. I have read two of the books that I nominated (Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan, Lessons of Desire by Madeline Hunter and Mine Til Midnight by Lisa Kleypas). I still need to read The Huntress by Susan Carroll and The Wild Hunt by Elizabeth Chadwick.

Chunkster Challenge

I have read (and reviewed) all of the books that I nominated for this challenge except for Wolf of the Plains by Conn Iggulden. I currently have this book out of the library so should get to it soon.

Pulitzer Project

Wow...haven't made any progress on this long term challenge. I have just requested The Known World because I am going to read something for this challenge soon.

The Complete Booker

I have managed to read a few books for this long term challenge. I need to have a look at my lists and request the next book from the library for this one.

The Orange Prize Project

I just finished a book for this project...just need to write the review!

100+ Reading Challenge

Today I read my 93rd book of the year, so I should be able to finish this challenge in the next 3 or 4 weeks tops!

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Of the six books I nominated for this challenge I have read four, plus one of the alternate books I listed. Now I just need to finish off some of the reviews! One of the books was the one that I read today, so it's still pretty fresh in my mind!

Heard It Through the Grapevine Challenge

I was quite surprised when I looked at the list of books that I nominated for this challenge and found that I had actually read one! I have the other two books out from the library at the moment, so will hopefully get to them soon!

Stephenie Meyer Mini Challenge

I am currently reading The Host, and I am no. 10 in the queue for Breaking Dawn at the library so I think I have this challenge pretty much under control.

Monday, June 23, 2008

EW Top 100 New Classics

Entertainment Weekly have come up with a list of the Top 100 New Classics where new classic is defined as anything published since 1983.

The ones I have read are in blue, and anything that I have here to read one day are in red.

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators' Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

Fun quiz

I wasn't going to post this quiz, but with a result like this, what choice did I have!

The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne Valente

A Book of Wonders for Grown-Up Readers

Every once in a great while a book comes along that reminds us of the magic spell that stories can
cast over us–to dazzle, entertain, and enlighten. Welcome to the Arabian Nights for our time–a lush and fantastical epic guaranteed to spirit you away from the very first page….

Secreted away in a garden, a lonely girl spins stories to warm a curious prince: peculiar feats and unspeakable fates that loop through each other and back again to meet in the tapestry of her voice. Inked on her eyelids, each twisting, tattooed tale is a piece in the puzzle of the girl’s own hidden history. And what tales she tells! Tales of shape-shifting witches and wild horsewomen, heron kings and beast princesses, snake gods, dog monks, and living stars–each story more strange and fantastic than the one that came before. From ill-tempered “mermaid” to fastidious Beast, nothing is ever quite what it seems in these ever-shifting tales–even, and especially, their teller. Adorned with illustrations by the legendary Michael Kaluta, Valente’s enchanting lyrical fantasy offers a breathtaking reinvention of the untold myths and dark fairy tales that shape our dreams. And just when you think you’ve come to the end, you realize the adventure has only begun….
Ever since I finished reading this book, I have been trying to think how exactly am I going to explain the structure of this book, which I have to say normally isn't my main question on finishing a book. Normally I would be thinking what will I say about the characters, or the plot for example, but this time it is the structure.

The best way I could think of is to try and explain it in terms of an old advert that used to be on TV (at least I think it was an advert). At the beginning of the story, there is a person looking out a window, but when the camera pans back it turns out that the window is painted onto a jug sitting on a table, and when the camera pans back again it turns out that the jug is in a painting, and then the painting is on the cover of a book, and the book is pictured on a TV, and the TV is on a movie screen. I hope as a description this gives you an idea of what I mean when I say that this book has a kind of cascading structure within it.

The story opens with a young prince who goes into the garden and meets a young girl. She is a young urchin who everyone within the palace ostracises, and he knows he isn't meant to talk to her, but when he does, she begins to tell him a fascinated story, and soon he is sneaking away to listen to the girl's stories whenever he can get free of his very strict and domineering sister.

As the initial story is told, we meet a character within that story who then begins to tell another story. Then, one of the characters begins to tell another story and so on. As a structure this does sound confusing, but it is testament to the author's skill that despite the incredibly challenging task she has set herself, the stories do not become jumbled or confused. Valente manages also to not only descend through the different layers of tales, but almost seamlessly ascend back through those same layers until we are back with the boy and the girl at the palace.

And what of the stories themselves? Well, they are a collection of fantastical folk lore type stories. There are princes who go on quests (as all handsome young princes seem to need to do), there are beautiful princesses who are locked in towers, or at least what you can see of them through the window is beautiful. It may well turn out that they are part bird, part horse, part pig in those parts that you can not see. There are stars that have fallen to earth, magical ships, there are people who turn into birds, there are bears who have been sentenced to live as men and skin traders who will take the skin of one creature and give it to another, for a price. And yet despite the different stories that are all jumbled up, and the many different types of characters and events, this is definitely a fun, albeit dark, read. Note that I didn't say easy read, because it is a book that you need to concentrate on, but the effort is certainly rewarded in the end.

It is hard to even choose a single story as a favourite as they are so interconnected, but I did enjoy the story of St Sigrid, and also the connected story Eyvind, the bear who becomes a man for love.

This was the final book I needed to read to complete Quest the Second as part of Carl's Once Upon a Time II challenge. Carl has a reputation of organising really great reading challenges, and it is well deserved! Thanks so much for hosting this one Carl. I really enjoyed the books that I read for it.

It was also one of the books that I nominated for the Heard It Through the Grapevine challenge!

Have you reviewed this book? If yes, leave a link in the comments and I will link to it.

Other Blogger's Thoughts:

Twisted Kingdom

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Weekly Geeks #9 - Challenges

I am a bad Weekly Geeker! Not only did I not do last week's challenge, I didn't do the week before either! I really must get some batteries so that I can check whether it is my camera or my battery recharger that isn't working! I know exactly what I want to take photos of. It's not very exciting - just bookshelves - but mainly because I want to do a before and after shot. I am determined that some time in the next few weeks I am going to be buying a new bookshelf so I want a before and after shot.

Last week's challenge was the Scavenger hunt which I really just didn't have time to do. I do like the idea of the scavenger hunt though, so I hope that there is another, maybe smaller, one another time!

This week’s theme is Challenges.

1. If you participate in any challenges, get organized! Update your lists, post about any you haven’t mentioned, add links of reviews to your lists if you do that, go to the challenge blog if there is one and post there, etc.

2. If you don’t participate in any challenges, then join one! There’s a good selection of possibilities over on my right hand sidebar (scroll down) where I list those I participate in. There’s also A Novel Challenge, a blog that keeps track of all sorts of reading challenges.

3. Towards the end of the week, write a wrap-up post about getting your challenges organized OR if you’re joining your first challenge, post about that any time during the week. Once you have your post up, come back and sign Mr Linky with the link to the specific post, not just to your blog.

Look for a post in the next few days!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Food favourites

It seems as though each winter I find a new recipe and that is my favourite for the next few months. That recipe is then dished up to everyone who comes to dinner, sometimes more than once! I don't really know why, but it doesn't seem to happen as much in summer.

At the moment I am can smell my new favourite cooking away in the slow cooker - Red Wine and Garlic Slow-Cooked Lamb Shanks...yum! A friend of mine is coming for lunch, and I think that I have friends coming for dinner one night next weekend so I will probably cook it again for them as well.

Last year it was Easy Lamb Tagine, but I haven't made that yet this winter. My sister and her hubby came over for dinner a few times last winter and after realising that I had cooked the same thing again, I was very apologetic! There were different people with them each time though, so it could have been worse I guess. Good job it tasted good. I really should make it again.

And what about those old favourites. I do have a couple of recipes that I wish I could remember where they were so that I could make them again. I have so many cooking magazines though that it would take me an hour to go through them to find the recipes I was looking for - especially if I kept on getting distracted by the pretty pictures....which I fully expect will happen!

Do you have a current favourite that you make when people come for dinner?

Maria V Snyder is in the house!

Woot, woot!

Actually, she's not in my house, she's being featured over at Zeek's today, and there is a chance to win a signed copy of one of her books! A couple of years ago I read Poison Study, and absolutely loved it. It is fantasy, but very accessible fantasy. I have several books that I consider giving to friends for gifts, and Poison Study is one of them!

Another exciting giveaway this weekend is over at Book Smugglers where they are having a weekend of Loretta Chase, and there's a chance to win copies of her newest book, Your Scandalous Ways.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Quest the Second complete

Today I finished reading In the Night Garden by Catherynne Valente which was the final book that I needed to read to complete the Once Upon a Time II challenge.

I'll be back over the weekend with the review, but tonight I am off to a birthday party. Truth be told I would like to be falling asleep on the couch, but some times it just doesn't work out that way.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ephemera duology (Sebastian and Belladonna) by Anne Bishop

As a passionate fan of the Black Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop, it is inevitable that I would want to check out her backlist. Whilst it is safe to say that neither the Ephemera duology or the House of Gaian trilogy achieved the same dizzying heights of the Black Jewels books, I did enjoy the story. I can't imagine how much pressure there is in trying to create a whole new story that wows all readers in the way that the Black Jewels trilogy has.

Long ago, to stop the onslaught of the Easter of the World, Ephemera was split into a dizzying number of strange and magical lands connected only by bridges that may take you where you truly belong, rather than where you had intended to go.

Now, with the Eater contained and virtually forgotten, the shifting worlds of Ephemera have been kept stable by the magic of the Landscapers. In one such land, where night reigns and demons dwell, the half-incubus Sebastian revels in dark delights. But in dreams she calls to him: a woman who wants only to be safe and loved-a woman he hungers for while knowing he may destroy her.

But a more devastating destiny awaits Sebastian, for in the quiet gardens of the Landscapers' School, evil is stirring. The prison of the Eater of the World has weakened - and Sebastian's realm may be the first to fall.

Intoxicating, erotic and intensely romantic, Sebastian is for those who know on which side of the heart - Light or Dark - their passions lie.

Okay, I am going to try and give a brief overview of the world that Bishop has created in this book. It definitely shares some elements with the other trilogies in that there are different lands that are connected and there is something that is endangering those connected lands. The lands are created by landscapers, and are connected by bridges. The people who live in these lands can cross to other parts of the lands by crossing over one of the bridges, and generally they will end up wherever their heart desired but there are times where they will end up somewhere else, which may bring them into contact with many dangerous creatures.

One of the lands is a place called The Den, which was created by the landscaper Glorianna. She is something of an outcast amongst the landscapers because she is much more powerful than many of the other landscapers in Ephemera. She created The Den so that her childhood friend and cousin Sebastian could have a place to live, for Sebastian is an incubus, and along with many other of society's unwanted characters, he lives in a place that is attractive to those who want to come and live out their fantasies in a discreet manner. Whilst Sebastian is happy in The Den, he longs to find the one woman that he is destined to love. He is also destined to find out the truth about his powers, most of which he has no idea that he has, let alone how to use them. Sebastian's friends amused me a lot - in particular his best friend who also is an incubus and who really wants to be able to find true love of his own.

At the Landscaper's School, the Eater of the World has long been loosed from his cage, and as It gradually creeps through the landscape It changes the landscapes, destroying the links to the other worlds, and destroying peoples lives by both killing them and just causing chaos and mistrust.

Into Sebastian's world comes Lynnea. She is an innocent who is looking for a home, having been kicked out of her adopted family's home. As Sebastian tries to control his incubus urges, and those of his fellow demons, he also has to teach her how to survive in her new world.

In some ways, the relationship between Sebastian and Lynnea is somewhat cliched, particularly in Lynnea's wide eyed innocence in the face of all the depravities within The Den, but what does make the story interesting is the relationships that Sebastian, and to a lesser extent Lynnea, have with his aunt and her children, Glorianna, also known as the Belladonna, and Lee who plays a key role in keeping the worlds of the Ephemera together in his role as a Bridge.

It turns out that while Glorianna has created The Den for Sebastian, he now must face his father and his cronies to not only discover the true strength that Sebastian has, but also ultimately to save his home, and his links to everyone he loves.

In Sebastian, national bestselling and award-winning author Anne Bishop introduced a stunning new realm, a world of strange and magical landscapes connected only by bridges – bridges that may transport you where you truly belong, rather than where you wished to go. But only the magic of the Landscapers can protect this world from the entity determined to enshroud it in darkness...

One by one, the landscapes of Ephemera are falling into shadow. The Eater of the World is spreading its influence, tainting people's souls with doubts and fears, and feasting on their dark emotions. With each victory, the Eater comes closer to extinguishing Ephemera's Light.

Only Glorianna Belladonna possesses the ability to thwart the Eater's plans. But she has been branded a rogue, her talents and vast power feared and misunderstood. Determined to protect the lands under her care, Glorianna will stand alone against the Eater if she must – regardless of the cost to her body and soul.

But she is not alone. In dreams, a call has traveled throughout Ephemera: "Heart's hope lies within Belladonna." That call has traveled far from the landscapes Glorianna claims and reached Michael, a man with mysterious powers of his own. It awakens a fierce hunger within him to find the dark-haired sorceress he's dreamt of, over and over again – a beautiful woman named Belladonna.

As Michael and Glorianna's hearts call out to each other across the Landscapes, together they may offer Ephemera the very hope it needs...

The story of Ephemera continues in the second book of the duology. Glorianna is still ostracised from within the small community of landscapers that survived the destruction that The Eater of the World inflicted at the Landscaper's School. Most people within the worlds are terrified of the power that the Belladonna wields, and there are those who would go out of their way to try and destroy her once and for all. They believe her to be evil, so as she tries to destroy the Eater of the World, she must also battle to protect herself from her other animals.

For Glorianna herself, she has long accepted that her struggle will be a lonely one, that there is no man alive who would have her, given the potency of her powers, but the cries of her heart are being heard, and are being heard by Michael the Musician. He is being drawn to the dark haired beauty of his dreams, and must search until he finds her. The path of true love never does go smoothly, and this story is no exception. Michael has to make a choice, between saving the world by destroying The Eater of the World, and his beloved. He also has to try to look after his beleaguered sister - a young girl who seems to have magical powers, but yet is more than just a landscaper.

The development of the relationship between Glorianna and Michael is much more layered and complex than that of Sebastian and Lynnea in the earlier book, but both books suffered a little by the complexity of the world that Bishop tries to create. There was also a much better balance between the two characters. Where Sebastian was the jaded, seen it and done it all twice, character and Lynnea was the overly innocent and wide eyed character, Michael and Glorianna are more equals, both having experienced the more difficult side of having the powers they have, and the impacts on those people around them.

If I was asked which of the three series would be best to introduce readers to the writing of Anne Bishop, there is no doubt in my mind that it would be the fabulous Black Jewels trilogy. However, this duology was an entertaining enough distraction while we wait for the next book that Anne Bishop publishes. Luckily for me, I have a copy of Tangled Webs still here to read, which is part of what has now become the Black Jewels series. I was happy to see on her website recently that the next book in the series has it's cover, which you can see here.

This was one of the books that I nominated to read as part of the Once Upon a Time II Challenge.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Warlord by Elizabeth Vaughan

Lara of Xy and her Warlord, Keir of the Cat, have been through much together. Lara abandoned her lands and people for love of him. She adopted his ways and learned of his tribe. Together they have faced plague and insurgency -- and despite these struggles, they have known happiness and joy.

Now they face their most arduous task: Keir must take Lara into the Heart of the Plains, and introduce her as the Warprize to the warrior-priests. She must be tested--questioned, examined, watched--and must find favor with the warrior-priests and the tribe’s elders before they will confirm her as a true Warprize.

But in Lara's heart there are doubts--for what if she is found wanting? Will Keir give up everything he knows to be with his Warprize?
I am sooooo tired, and it's all Ana's fault!

Actually that's probably a little unfair, but only a little. In the last few days Ana has posted her reviews of the first two books in this series. As I was reading her review of Warprize, I was reminded that despite the fact that I really enjoyed the first two books in the series myself, I hadn't yet got around to reading the third and final book, Warlord. Forty five minutes of unpacking and repacking the bookcase (I really need a new bookcase!) and I had Warlord in my hands. I read a little bit of it on Saturday night, but it was really Sunday night that I lost lots of sleep - I just could not put the book down until I was finished...which happened to be well after 1am in the morning...on a school night!

I guess that it's pretty easy to tell that I enjoyed this book!

If Warprize is the story of Keir coming to Lara's homeland and claiming her, and Warsworn is the story of their journey towards Fireland and with each other, then this book is about Lara's struggle to be accepted as Warprize, because not only does she have to be claimed by Keir, there is also the not so small matter of being accept by the Elders Council.

Keir and Lara are separated as Lara travels to the Heart of the Plains where she must face the elders and answer their questions. This will be her last chance to return to her homeland, and be free of this situation that she was basically forced into if she wants to. Unfortunately though, some of the events of their journey have already reached the ears of the elders on the winds, and her welcome is far from warm. Lara must convince them of her suitability and her willingness to be the Warprize, and both Keir and Lara must try to figure out what will happen if she is not accepted, or if Keir is deemed to have failed in his role of Warlord. Along the way there is danger, discovery and romance.

I cannot tell you enough how much I enjoyed this whole series. I am definitely going to be reading more from this author! I come!

Bookworms Carnival - 12th Edition

Welcome to all those people who are visiting me as part of the 12th edition of the Bookworms Carnival! The carnival was hosted by Nymeth at Things Mean a Lot and the theme this month was Fairy Tales, and so my contribution is my review of Stardust by Neil Gaiman.

I was intending to do a review of a different book, but I ran out of time. Still, Stardust is definitely very fairy tale inspired tale!

Friday, June 13, 2008

More on Charles de Lint's Newford series

So after my little rant about there not being an reading order for this series, I saw that Tanabata from In Spring It Is The Dawn had left a link to the FAQ at Charles de Lint's website which says the following:

The books have all been written in such a way that you should be able to pick up any one and get a full and complete story. However, characters do reoccur, off center stage as it were, and their stories do follow a sequence. The best place to start is the collection Dreams Underfoot. From there they go pretty much in this order:

The Dreaming Place
A Whisper To A Scream (originally credited to "Samuel M. Key")
I'll Be Watching You (originally credited to "Samuel M. Key")
Memory And Dream
The Ivory And The Horn
Someplace To Be Flying
Moonlight And Vines
Forests Of The Heart
The Onion Girl
Seven Wild Sisters (also available in Tapping the Dream Tree)
Tapping the Dream Tree
Spirits in the Wires
Medicine Road
The Blue Girl
Make a Joyful Noise (chapbook)
The Hour Before Dawn (collection)
Old Man Crow (chapbook)
Little (Grrl) Lost (novel)
Promises to Keep (short novel)
Dingo (short novel, forthcoming)

The Dreaming Place and The Blue Girl are YA novels. A Whisper To A Scream and I'll Be Watching You are, respectively, a horror novel and a thriller; they're darker fare than the other Newford books and aren't really that integral to the underlying, ongoing backstory that takes place off center stage in so many of the books and stories.

I swear I looked at his website...I really did. And it was inevitable that I would have started halfway through the series. Now I am off to the library website to see which ones I can and can't get hold of.

The other issue is that of course the library doesn't have the whole collections. It is missing book numbers 3 and 4, 6 to 8, 12 and 13, 15, 17 to 20 and 22. Ah well. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it!

The Onion Girl by Charles de Lint

In novel after novel, and story after story, Charles de Lint has brought an entire imaginary North American city to vivid life. Newford: where magic lights dark streets; where myths walk clothed in modern shapes; where a broad cast of extraordinary and affecting people work to keep the whole world turning.

At the center of all the entwined lives in Newford stands a young artist named Jilly Coppercorn, with her tangled hair, her paint-splattered jeans, a smile perpetually on her lips, Jilly, whose paintings capture the hidden beings that dwell in the city's shadows. Now, at last, de Lint tells Jilly's own story...for behind the painter's fey charm lies a dark secret and a past she's labored to forget. And that past is coming to claim her now.

"I'm the onion girl," Jilly Coppercorn says. "Pull back the layers of my life, and you won't find anything at the core. Just a broken child. A hollow girl." She's very, very good at running. But life has just forced Jilly to stop.

There's a fair chance that if you read the first paragraph of this review and then move on, you are going to think that I didn't enjoy this book at all but I really did! I am however starting with a mini-rant about the Newford books! How can there not be a recommended reading order for these books. It was obvious in the story that there were people who were friends with Jilly whose stories had already been told. If there is one thing I cannot stand then it is reading a series out of order...and yes I am a bit anal about it! So the fact that there isn't a beginning, a middle and an end (even if it hasn't yet been written) just really does my head in! I am pretty sure I am not alone in needing to read series in I? Anyway...moving on.

As I have only previously read one Charles de Lint book in my pre blogging days (The Little Country), and one short story in the Excalibur anthology it is fair to say that my exposure to the work of this author is limited. He is someone whose books I see around the place, and think, yes I really should read some more of his books but it just hasn't really happened yet. What prompted me to finally pick up another de Lint book? It was chosen as a book club read at my online reading group. I ended up reading it a bit late for the discussion, but I am glad that I picked it up even though I didn't get it read on time.

In this book, we are (re)introduced to Jilly Coppercorn. She is at the centre of extensive group of friends who live in Newford and in many ways is the glue that holds that group together. She is an artist who paints, amongst other things, the other world or the dreamlands, and yet she has never been able to get to that other world herself like many of her friends can.

One night, Jilly is hit by a car and is left in a coma. When she awakes she is paralysed down one side, her painting side, and is distraught. The one good thing is that now she can go to the other world as often as she wants just by going to sleep for in the other world she is not the broken girl, and yet, she still is emotionally. Jilly has worked hard to build up her life in Newford, and become a different person from the young girl of her past, cutting all ties to her family and friends and to the events that shaped her.

Even when she travels in the other world though, she is made aware of her need to heal emotionally, to become whole. Her friends are worried that she may well succumb to the lure of the dreamlands where she can still climb trees and run. Her friends are also worried about not only the hit and run that put Jilly in hospital, but also an unexplained break in at her apartment where many of Jilly's dreamland paintings were destroyed, and then some really strange sitings of Jilly. Can all these events be linked?

At the same time as we are reading Jilly's story, we are also meeting another character - a very emotionally disturbed young woman by the name of Raylene. We learn of her past, and the decisions that she has made. It is clear very early on that there is a connection between these two characters, but de Lint does a great job of drawing out the exposure of that link.

In itself, this book has a powerful message to tell, or at least it did for me. Both Jilly and Raylene came from a desperately bad childhood situation and both were heading down a similar path, and yet, through the power of making better decisions, and accepting help and friendship, ended up in very different places, mentally, physically and socially. There were times that I really disliked Raylene as a character, and yet de Lint managed to give her story enough balance so that there were other times when my heart was breaking for a young girl who just never seemed to catch a break.

Another aspect of Jilly's storyline that I found interesting was the fact that despite the way that she had managed to become a very upbeat and positive person, there was still definitely a journey to be undertaken to enable her to be able to have a relationship with a significant other. The emotional journey for her was as important, if not more important, than her physical healing, and in many ways those two aspects were co dependant.

Along the journey that this story takes us on we meet many fantastical creatures - people who appear normal in the Newford world and yet are half dog, half man in the dreamlands, characters who need people to believe in them in order to be real, or else they will just fade away, fae, unicorns. A really interesting mix of creatures and characters.

Given the types of issues our characters go through in this book (child abuse, prostitution, drugs, crime, death) it would not have been surprising if it was a depressing book, but it really wasn't. There was definitely a hopefulness and a positive energy that was present when the cover was closed for the last time.

I will be reading more of de Lint's Newford series, just as soon as I can figure out what order I want to read them in!

As well as being a book club book, it was also one of the books that I nominated to read as part of Carl's Once Upon a Time II challenge.

Have you reviewed this book? If yes, please leave a comment with a link to your review and I will link to your blog.

Other Blogger's Thoughts:

Things Mean a Lot

The Written World
Rhinoa's Ramblings

The Errant Earl by Marlene Suson

Alienated from his family, Stephen Kendall had fought for Wellington, but now he had to return home, for he had unexpectedly inherited his father's earldom. tired, dispirited and upset to find the estate in poor heart, Stephen knew he had yet another hurdle to face - his wife. Maneouvered by his father into marriage with their neighbour's daughter, Laura Milford, but in love with another woman, Stephen has badly botched their wedding night, and for six years man and wife had not communicated. What was in store for him...?

This is really a non-review book post for one main reason - I can't remember a thing about this book! Normally I am fine with remembering most of the main facts in a book even a couple of months after reading it. With this book....nothing! Even reading the blurb doesn't jog any memories!

This book was one that I chose after Marlene Suson was chosen as Author of the Month over at Historical Romance Chat. She wasn't an author that I had heard of before, and when my library only had one of her book in the catalogue, there wasn't much choice in terms of what to read by her.

My problem with this book now is that I can't remember a lot about it. To be fair, it is a while since I read it, but on the flipside I actually only gave it a 3 at the time when I read it and that was straight after I finished it. I think it is fair to say that I was underwhelmed by it.

Stardust: Being a Romance Within the Realms of Faerie by Neil Gaiman

One of the things about borrowing books from the library is that you never know which edition of a book you are going to get. I must confessed that when I requested Stardust, I definitely wasn't expecting to get a picture book sized book, and I had to go back to the online bookstores to check whether that was normal or not, but it seems that I just managed to get an illustrated version (published by DC Comics) as opposed to the straight written version. Of course, then it took me ages to find a picture of the actual cover that I had. I hate it when I can't post exactly the same cover.

Neil Gaiman is one of those authors who I have seen raved about at various places are blogland, and I have been tempted to read him for a long time, particularly as I started reading more fantasy. Having said that, this is the first time I have ever read Gaiman, but it won't be the last time.

The story opens in the very early days of Queen Victoria's reign, when we meet a young man by the name of Dunstan Thorn, who lived in the village of Wall. Near the village of Wall, there is a wall that is guarded to prevent people from crossing over into the neighbouring faerie lands.
Once every nine years, there is a market held at Wall, where all types of folk come to trade goods and meet. When Dunstan goes to the market he meets a beautiful young woman, and has a tryst with her, despite the fact that he is promised to another woman. Dunstan goes on to marry his betrothed and settle down, but then months later a baby is left on the doorstep with a name tag saying Tristan Thorn.

Whilst there is a bit of time taken to set up the above storyline, the book really is about Tristan and his adventure. When he is a teenager, he is in love with Miss Victoria Forester, as are most of the other young men in town. When out walking one evening with Miss Forester, they see a falling star, and Tristan promises "For a kiss, and the pledge of your hand...I would bring you that fallen star", and so begins Tristan's journey, as he crosses into the faerie lands in search of the fallen star.

When he finds the star, who unfortunately has broken her leg in the fall, he binds himself to her with an unbreakable silver chain, thus earning her scorn, but after various incidents involving others who are also searching for the star for their own nefarious purposes, they come to respect and like each other and they find themselves bound together, not by a physical chain, but by a much stronger invisible bond. Along the way they meet unicorns, witches, are changed into other creatures and spend time on a flying ship.

Eventually, we find out about Tristan's true identity and his destiny, that the star, whose name is Yvaine, shares with him, but not before he comes face to face with Victoria once again.

Whilst I really enjoyed the fairy tale like story, I have to admit that it took me ages to read this book. Part of the reason was because of the size of the book. It really wasn't a convenient size to hold whilst lying in bed, which is where I was reading this book most of the time. The other distraction was the imagery in the book which was really detailed and really added an extra dimension to the story.

The story itself was lovely, and I am definitely going to see whether I can track down a DVD of the movie so that I can see how it translated to the big screen. I must confess that when I first saw the trailer of the movie, and they were talking about one of the main characters being a fallen star I was a bit puzzled as to what that all meant, but now having read the book, I can definitely see how it was done in the book, and I am looking forward to seeing the movie's portrayal.

If you have read the story in a normal novel format, or perhaps have seen the movie (or both), then I don't think you would be disappointed if you tracked down this version of the book that includes the artwork by Charles Vess and read the book again.

This is one of the books that I nominated to read as part of Carl's Once Upon a Time II Challenge. I only have one more book left to read for this challenge. I also have several reviews to write before the challenge finishes next week, so I really should just hurry up and get on with it!

Have you reviewed this book? If yes, please leave a comment with a link to your review and I will link to your blog.

Other Blogger's Thoughts:

Bookworms and Tea Lovers
Trish's Reading Nook
Passion for the Page
Sophisticated Dorkiness

Thursday, June 12, 2008


I haven't done a Booking Through Thursday for a few weeks. Here is this week's question:

A combo of two suggestions by: Heidi and by litlove

Have you ever been a member of a book club? How did your group choose (ot, if you haven’t been, what do you think is the best way to choose) the next book and who would lead discussion?

Do you feel more or less likely to appreciate books if you are obliged to read them for book groups rather than choosing them of your own free will? Does knowing they are going to be read as part of a group affect the reading experience?

I have been a part of a number of different book clubs over the years. One was a face to face book club, and another couple were online clubs. Generally the book clubs choices have been decided democratically. Everyone brings a number of suggestions to the table, and then everyone votes/discusses which ones they would like to read.

I have to say that being part of a book club has generally enriched my reading experience of a book. For example, for a long time I was a member of a number of reading groups over at Oprah's Book Clubs. Firstly, there are books that I would probably have never read, if it was left to just me, that I read with Oprah. I also think that I enjoyed reading some of those books far more than I would have had I just read them by myself. I am thinking specifically of books like One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy that I just don't think I would have picked up, let alone loved as much as I did without the discussion that went along with reading those books as part of a group. I haven't read along with the last few choices, but I do always keep an eye on whatever her new books are, just in case there is something really interesting coming up!

A few years ago I was also part of a face to face group. Whilst I enjoyed it while I was going I don't think I got as much out of it as I did for the online groups, because there was an hour to discuss a book, whereas with the online group, you could talk daily about where you were up to, ask questions etc.

These days I am an active member of one online bookclub group, and keep an eye on another with the intention of participating. The reason I say that about the second group is that often the books for each month are chosen either too late for me to fit into the reading schedule for the next month, or the books aren't easily accessible here in Australia.

The other group that I am a member of is called Genre Stew, and is a combination of book club and group that chats about books, if you get the difference. With this group we get a fairly eclectic list of books that are voted on months in advance, and there are pretty good discussions of the books that are being read. In terms of leading the discussions, whoever suggested the book in the first place gets to lead the discussion, and therefore for this month's discussion, I am leading! Newcomers are always welcome! Books that are going to be coming up over the next few months are:

  • Jun 10-North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Jul 10-Jack Maggs by Peter Carey
  • Aug 10-The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
  • Sep 10-Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry
  • Oct 10-The Birth House by Amy McKay
  • Nov 10-World Without End by Ken Follett
Interestingly enough, both of these groups are offshoots of Oprah groups, and so I have been chatting about books and sharing my life with some of these people for a number of years now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Kids are expensive!

Kids are expensive. Medications are expensive. Combine those two facts and what do you have....expense!

The alternate title for this post could be No More Nutella For Me! The first time I noticed that the boy had a problem with hazelnuts was when I had been eating Nutella (straight out of the jar...I love that stuff!) and then I kissed him and his lips all puffed up.

I took a day off work today as I had to take my son to the allergy specialist at the hospital to have him confirm what we already knew - he is allergic to hazelnuts. He also advised that he is allergic to pecans and walnuts. He's not allergic to peanuts but it is probably safest to avoid all nuts in case there is anything else.

The doctor prescribed some epi-pens if there is an extreme reaction if he does eat some by accident, and then to use anti histamines if there is a mild reaction. I took one of the Epi-pens to the school, and was thinking that I would have to be carrying the other one around with us wherever we go, but now the before and after school care program wants their own, and therefore I have to wait for a call back from the doctor to tell me whether he can prescribe another one at the reduced prescription cost, or if I am going to have to pay full price (over $100) for a third pen.

Total cost so far today - well over $350 when you include the cost of visiting the specialist, the car parking, the cost of both types of medication, lunch and other expenses, and it will be more if I have to pay full price for another Epi-pen. I rang the doctor to check as soon as I got home, but they haven't come back to me with an answer yet.

Of course, I am glad to know once and for all and to have a strategy in place to deal with this issue, but I am glad that I don't have any huge bills due this week!

Two Knight Miscellany reviews - Lord of Ice and Lady of Desire

Damien Knight, the earl of Winterley, is proud, aloof, and tormented by memories of war. Though living in seclusion, he is named guardian to a fellow officer’s ward. Instead of the young homeless waif he was expecting, however, Miranda FitzHubert is a stunning, passionate beauty who invades his sanctuary and forces him back into society. Struggling to maintain honor and self-control, Damien now faces an even greater threat: desire.

A bold, free spirit, Miranda has witnessed the darkest depths of Damien’s soul–and has seen his desperate need for love. But before she can thaw his unyielding heart, she must endure a terrifying nightmare of her own. . . .

After absolutely loving Lord of Fire, I was pretty confident that I would like Lord of Ice. After all, we had already been introduced to Damien, and already knew that he had issues to deal with relating to his time fighting against Napoleon.

Knowing that tortured heroes are one of my favourite types of heroes, I was all set to adore this book, but then I started reading and found that if this book had a promising hero, it also unfortunately had one of my least favourite types of heroines - the young, just out of the school room heroine. Having said that, this certainly was still an enjoyable read, but I would have much preferred an older and wiser heroine for the lovely Damien.

The book opens with Damien being informed of the death of one of his close friends. He had apparently been murdered, and Damien had promised to look after his friend's niece should anything happen to him. Damien is insistent on doing the right thing and therefore journeys to the ward's school to inform her of her uncle's death.

The night before going to meet his new ward, he ventures out to watch a performance on stage and is enchanted by the young actress on stage. Little does he know, the woman on stage is the girl who is now his ward, and should have been taken out of the horrible school environment that she was in a long time ago.

Damien is insistent that he will find Miranda a husband, but finds it increasingly difficult to even contemplate such a thing as his own feelings for Miranda grow. Along the way he has to deal with the remaining members of her estranged family, who would like nothing more than to get hold of Miranda and her fortune.

Miranda also seems to be a target of some one else with far more sinister motives than just getting hold of her fortune, as she has not one or two but three 'accidents' that could in all honestly have been fatal. As Damien draws on the resources available to both himself and his brother (including some rather shady characters from the criminal underbelly of London), there is a desperate race to find out who could be targeting the young lady, and also a race for Miranda to find a way through Damien's barriers in time to save him from his own demons.

There is a lot going on in this book. There is not only the burgeoning relationship, and the threat to Miranda's life, but also Damien needs to figure out who murdered his friend and why, save some orphans from the horrible school that Miranda had been left in for years, neglected by everyone who should have been protecting her.

I did like this book. If I had to choose between the twins though, I would have to say that my heart belongs to Lucien! It would likely to have been a much closer competition if the heroine in Damien's book was not just out of the schoolroom!

Lady Jacinda Knight is the daughter of a notorious woman. Her mother - Georgiana, the Duchess of Hawkscliffe - had scandalised society with her affairs, earning her the moniker of the Hawkscliffe Harlot. All her life Jacinda has been aware that the eyes of the ton are upon her - waiting for her to follow in her disgraced mother's footsteps.

Now - faced with the prospect of an arranged marriage - Jacinda may well be about to prove her critics right. Running from her fate, Jacinda finds herself alone on a dangerous street face-to-face with Billy Blade, the notorious leader of a band of thieves. Jacinda is dangerously attracted to the handsome, mysterious rogue and only just escapes the experience with her reputation intact.

But Billy is no ordinary criminal. Years before he had turned his back on his tyrannical father, the Earl of Rackford. But Jacinda makes him contemplate the unthinkable - returning to the civilized world to reclaim his title.
Having matched off the three elder brothers, it is now the turn of Miss Jacinda Knight to get her happily ever after.

After reading the first few pages of this book I was a little concerned that I was not going to be able to enjoy this book. We meet the beautiful Miss Knight as she has made her way to a coach house in a less than savoury part of London. She is running away from an arranged marriage, and is determined that she is going to escape to Paris...alone. Whilst at the coaching house, she flashes her cash a little too openly (and we won't mention the diamond necklace that she is wearing), and is quickly seen as an easy mark by a young thief. Not content with having been robbed, Jacinda chases after the thief into one of the little lanes nearby (can anyone say TSTL??), and soon finds herself having to hide as the lane becomes the setting for a fight to the death between two rival gangs. Anyway, Jacinda is discovered lurking behind some crates by one of the gang leaders, who goes under the name of Billy Blade. Given that she has just witnessed the fight Billy feels that he has no choice but to escort her back to his home.

Billy is immediately attracted to the young lady, and they share a passionate encounter, which wouldn't be a problem really until Billy realises exactly who the young society lady is that he has been improper with. Once he knows who she is, he quickly takes steps to return her to her brothers, assuring them that whilst he has kissed her, he did so before he knew who she was!

Of course, Jacinda has no clue who Billy 'really is' either. She is attracted to the wild young gang leader, and she is sure that this attraction must be as a result of the bad example that she got from her mother. After all, all of society is just waiting for Jacinda to put a foot wrong, just like her mother. After being banished to the country because of her actions, Jacinda fixes upon a plan where she can be free to do as she wants. She just needs to find an old man to marry, and then wait for him to die, and then she can be a merry widow - the perfect solution to her problems.

In the meantime though, Billy's crimes are about to catch up with him, and it is only be revealing his true identity that he escapes with his life. It is from this point that the novel changes a little, and becomes a more standard kind of romance, where there is an unpolished young man who is being tutored by a society miss. However, whilst everyone believes that Billy has truly reformed, he has found a way to get revenge against those who have crossed him.

I loved Billy, well as much as one can love a gang leader who has sent more than a few people on their way to their grave. I loved getting to know him, and finding out how it was exactly that he ended up leaving his childhood home, and the journey that took him to the top of the gangland tree. I loved that his heart was set on Jacinda from very early on, and that he was patiently building the intensity of his pursuit of her. From a very rocky start, Jacinda ended up growing on me, although there were a couple of eye-rolling moments throughout the book when it came to her actions.

I can definitely see why this Knight Miscellany series has been so successful. I've already picked up the next book in the series from the library and I am definitely looking forward to reading it, and the rest of the books in this series.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Mr Perfect by Linda Howard

What would make the perfect man?

That's the delicious topic heating up the proceedings at a certain table of professional women at their favorite restaurant, Ernie's, tonight: Mr. Perfect. What qualities would he have? Would he be tall, dark, and handsome? Caring and warmhearted -- or will just muscular do? Jaine Bright and her three girlfriends start off with the basics -- he'd be faithful and reliable, the responsible type, with a great sense of humor.

But as the conversation picks up momentum, so do the quartet's requirements for Mr. Perfect -- and they write down a tongue-in-cheek checklist that's both funny and racy. The next thing they know, the List, as it has come to be called, spreads like wildfire throughout their company and sizzles along e-mail lines. And it doesn't stop there: the List becomes an overnight sensation, grabbing the interest of local newspapers and television coverage. No one expected this avalanche of attention for something that began as a joke among friends. And the joke turns deadly serious when one of the four women is murdered...

The prime suspect in the case is the victim's boyfriend, who was one of a number of men who found the List sexist and offensive. But an impenetrable alibi gets him off the hook. Now, with the help of Jaine's neighbor, an unpredictable police detective, the puzzle must be solved -- and time is running out as a deadly stalker targets the three remaining friends. Now, knowing whom to trust and whom to love is a matter of survival -- as the dream of Mr. Perfect becomes a chilling nightmare.

Putting her "trademark darkly sensual style" (Booklist) into high gear, New York Times bestselling author Linda Howard creates a tour de force of passion and suspense in this electrifying new page-turner, and proves that appearances can be deceiving -- and deadly.

There are authors around that your friends try to gently encourage you to read...or not so gently as the case may be. In the Historical Romance Chat group I am in, one of these authors has been Jayne Ann Krentz, who I must say I haven't had a lot of luck with, although to be fair I haven't read the books that have been recommended. Another of those authors has been Linda Howard, and this time I did listen and get the book that everyone had been suggesting, and it was definitely a good suggestion!

At Friday night drinks Jaine Bright and her three friends set about creating a list to define Mr Perfect. Of course he has to be faithful, and honest amongst others, and yes, sorry to say it but size definitely matters. Unfortunately one of the four girls shows a co-worker the list, and from there it spreads throughout the office, and then to the internet and TV bringing Jaine and her friends a certain notoriety. It also brings them to the attention of a man who is very, very upset, and is willing and able to kill.

Jaine has a history of bad luck in relationships, and she doesn't see that changing any time soon. And definitely not with the neanderthal who is living next door. She is convinced that he must be some kind of career criminal. He drives a noisy hotted up car, comes home at all hours of the night, looks incredibly dangerous except for when he is wandering around his kitchen in the nude when he just looks dangerously sexy.

Jaine being Jaine she goes out to confront him about his inconsiderate behaviour, only to find that he is the very antithesis of what she thinks he is - he is actually a cop. Lucky for Jaine, because as her friends are being picked off by a killer, she is going to need every ounce of protection she can get from Sam Donovan, and they are both hoping that they can figure out who the killer is before any more of her friends are hurt, or Jaine herself.

I really enjoyed the repartee between the Sam and Jaine. I would be pretty happy to put up with a hot next door neighbour like Sam, even if he did have a noisy car etc etc. Instead I have a truck driver who leaves home at 5.50am every morning, and is not hot and is very married! Never mind...a girl can hope can't she!

I actually read this book ages ago, and whilst I really enjoyed it, I have no idea which Linda Howard book to pick up next. Anyone have any recommendations?

No Humans Involved by Kelley Armstrong

In her acclaimed Women of the Otherworld series, bestselling author Kelley Armstrong creates a present day in which humans unwittingly coexist with werewolves, witches, and other supernatural beings. Now, in this spellbinding new novel, a beautiful necromancer who can see ghosts must come to terms with her power—and with an evil she never thought possible.

It’s the most anticipated reality television event of the season: three spiritualists gathered together in one house to raise the ghost of Marilyn Monroe. For celebrity medium Jaime Vegas, it is to be her swan song—one last publicity blast for a celebrity on the wrong side of forty. But unlike her colleagues, who are more show than substance, Jaime is the real thing.

Reluctant to upstage her fellow spiritualists, Jaime tries to suppress her talents, as she has done her entire life. But there is something lurking in the maze of gardens behind the house: a spirit without a voice. And it won’t let go until somehow Jaime hears its terrible story. For the first time in her life, Jaime Vegas understands what humans mean when they say they are haunted. Distraught, Jaime looks to fellow supernatural Jeremy Danvers for help.

As the touches and whispers from the garden grow more frantic, Jaime and Jeremy embark on an investigation into a Los Angeles underworld of black magic and ritual sacrifice. When events culminate in a psychic showdown, Jaime must use the darkest power she has to defeat a shocking enemy—one whose malicious force comes from the last realm she expected. . . .

In a world whose surface resembles our own, Kelley Armstrong delivers a stunning alternate reality, one where beings of the imagination live, love, and fight a never-ending battle between good and evil.
It comes as a bit of a surprise to me, as this feeling has kind of just snuck up on me a little, but I think that Kelley Armstrong may well be one of my favourite authors. In some of the earlier books, I felt as though I had forgotten that I enjoyed her books, so I learned all over again how much I enjoyed them. I don't think I had that feeling this time, because I really hadn't forgotten, and despite the very dark subject matter, I really enjoyed this one too.

My main reason for enjoying this is definitely the development of the relationship between Jaime Vegas and Jeremy Danvers. Jaime is a forty something celebrity necromancer, who is trying to catch a break so that she can get her own TV show. Jeremy is the alpha of a werewolf pack. Whilst he is older than Jaime, it's not that squicky because werewolves age much slower than humans and therefore he is from all appearances in his late 40s. So, there is your first point of difference in this book - an older couple!

Jaime has agreed to take part in a celebrity reality TV show, featuring two other clairvoyant type characters who also both want to get their Hollywood break. The aim of the show - to find out who killed Marilyn Monroe. Unfortunately for Jaime, there are some other ghosts who want her attention, and soon she becomes involved in an investigation into what appears to be a group of humans who are experimenting with human sacrifice (most specifically child sacrifice) as a way of powering their spellcasting. I do think that this book, and Broken have been a lot darker than some of the earlier books in the series, but Armstrong manages to balance that darkness against the other plot elements within the book, with the result being that it is not overwhelmingly dark or dismal.

Luckily Jaime is not alone in investigating. There is assistance from Eve and Kris (who featured in the book Haunted), Hope, and later in the book Karl (from the novella Chaotic ), although for Jaime this is a double edged sword type of assistance, because she really wants to be self sufficient in the supernatural world and doesn't want to always be rescued or protected by someone else. The most important person she wants to impress is Jeremy. She has had feelings for him for going on four years, and with him coming to visit her is Los Angeles, and assisting her, she is beginning to think that there could be hope of something more with him or perhaps she is just thinking this way because it is what she wants to see. Let's just say the chemistry between these two was smokin' hot!

We also got to know Jeremy a lot better in this book. In previous books he has always been the alpha, the one always in control, and sometimes a little aloof and reserved, but in this book he has moments of sharing with Jaime his thoughts about what it is like to be the alpha, and his thoughts about the future.

All in all, this was another enjoyable entry in this fantastic series.

Other Blogger's Thoughts:

Rhinoa's Ramblings
Romance Rookie

**Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with your link, and I will add it to my review.**

Giveaway Reminder!

Just a quick reminder that it is nearly time to draw the winners for our giveaways over at Historical Tapestry. If you are interested in winning a copy of a Georgette Heyer book there are two contests running at the moment.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Weekly Geeks #7 - Photo Week

The idea for Weekly Geeks this week (#6) was to catch up on reviews, so how did I go? Well, I wrote one, and started another. Not exactly a huge success! Having said that, it has been a really busy week this week!

The theme for this week is Photos.

1. Decide what to illustrate and start taking photos: Most of you are book bloggers, so you may want to post photos of your favorite reading spot, your TBR pile(s), your local book store, your favorite librarian, your child reading, etc. You may want to post several photos of a certain topic (like all nine of your kids reading!) or a mixed bag of photos that are unrelated except that they’re bookish. Or you may want to post just one photo, it’s up to you. If you have a different type of blog, post photos of whatever you think is suitable.

2. Create a post of your photos.

3. Don’t forget! Also link in your post to another participant’s WG photo post. Weekly Geeks is a community thing, remember! If you’re one of the first finished, of course, you may have to add your link later. See if you can find someone you don’t normally read to link to.

4. Once your post is up, come back and leave a link to that specific post (not just your regular blog url) in the Mr Linky at the bottom of this post.

To be honest I am not sure if I can do this one. I haven't decided if there is something wrong with my camera or just with the battery recharger, but I haven't been able to take photos for a while now. I must try and figure it out, because I do want to take some photos of the cards I have been making to post on my poor neglected card making blog! We'll see!

123 Meme

Clare from Confession of a Book Addict has tagged me for the 123 meme. I've done this a few times now but I don't really mind doing it again, as long as I have different books near me, which luckily this time I do!

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

The book nearest to me is The Spanish Bride by Georgette Heyer.

"Speaking for myself, I never point bayonets at girls I mean to rape," said Harry.

"Pechero! malvodo!" Juana cried, pummelling him, but bubbling over with laughter.

Harry grabbed at her wrists.

This time I am going to tag Jane from Colour Me Jane, Li from Me and My Books, Kylee from Kylee's Book Blog
and whoever else would like to play along!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Just like having a birthday!

Today I got the second half of my Amazon order, so I had a nice box full of books to open! Then I went to my letter box, and there was another package in their with a couple of books I had ordered in it, and then I went to the library and there were seven books waiting to be picked up from there as well. I have books everywhere all around me, and I am as happy as .... a bookworm surrounded by books!

In the Amazon box there was:

Hugh and Bess by Susan Higginbotham
- Susan, I really do intend to read both your first book and this book...I promise!

Key Lime Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke
- I have been reading this series for a while now, and whilst I have been a bit disappointed in the last couple I am hopeful that this one will be a return to form.

Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris
- Having read all of the Sookie Stackhouse books (except for the latest one but I am no. 1 in the queue at the library for that one) and the Harper Connelly books, it was time to give a new series a go.

Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill
- I actually ordered this for a book club discussion that started on May 10. Whoops!

Lady of the Roses by Sandra Worth
- I haven't actually read the other Sandra Worth books that I own, but I do love the sound of her books!

Yorkshire by Lynne Connolly
- I have had these books on my TBR list for a while now.

The Romanovs: The Final Chapter by Robert Massie
- I have been reading a bit on the Romanovs over the last few years, particularly Robert Alexander's excellent books, so I figured it was time to attemps some non-fiction about them.

The other parcel had Lover Enshrined by JR Ward and Secrets of Surrender by Madeline Hunter in it.

From the library I picked up the following books. I am particularly excited by the first three on the list because I have been waiting an eternity for them to come onto the library catalogue!

  • Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland
  • Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig
  • The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin
  • Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey
  • Charming the Highlander by Janet Chapman
  • Devil Takes a Bride by Gaelen Foley
  • The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quin

***It's probably a bit cheeky of me to give this post the above title, because it is my birthday! In addition to having lots of books arrive all at once, I also bought myself a copy of PS I Love You (the movie), some new jeans and a new top, some new pyjamas, and got given a Borders gift card and a new stereo. Now I just have to figure out how to connect the stereo up!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Orange Prize Winner

The winner of the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction is Rose Tremain, for the book The Road Home. The winner of the Award for New Writers is Joanna Kavenna for Inglorious!

I have only attempted to read two books by Rose Tremain. One was a collection of short stories, The Darkness of Wallis Simpson, which I didn't mind, but the other book that attempted to read by her was one that I should have enjoyed because of the subject matter, but I ended up giving up less than half way through, something that I very rarely do!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

Kit Tyler is marked by suspicion and disapproval from the moment she arrives on the shores of Connecticut in 1687, far from her beloved home on the island of Barbados. Her unconventional background and high-spirited ways immediately clash with the Puritannical lifestyle of her uncle's household, and she despairs of ever truly fitting in. When Kit meets Hannah Tupper, she is sure she has found a friend at last. But the locals believe that the old woman is a witch, and witches must be burned.
I have to confess that I don't remember even hearing about this book until it was Book of the Month for February over at Book Bitches. Obviously, I am a bit behind, but I guess that is what happens when I have to continually juggle due dates for all of the library books I have out I wasn't going to give it a go, but I am so glad that I did, because this book had me completely enthralled, to the point where I didn't want to read certain bits because I was afraid of what was going to happen, but then again I didn't really want to put it down either!

The novel begins on board the ship that is bringing young Kit Tyler to a new life with her aunt and uncle who follow the Puritan lifestyle. That lifestyle is a stark contrast to the life that she was used to in the tropical climes of Barbados, where she lived in luxury with her overspending grandfather. When he dies she has no choice but to seek a new life. Even whilst still on the boat, Kit stands out, and creates an enemy for herself when she dives into the water to swim after a young girl's doll. Straight away, she comes under suspicion because everyone knows that only witches float.

When Kit arrives in her new town, she struggles to fit in both within her family and the town. She does however attract the attention of one of the more eligible young men in town, but even their courtship is stilted and somewhat sterile. It is only when Kit befriends an old Quaker woman, Hannah Tupper who lives out near Blackbird Pond, that Kit truly finds friendship, but at what cost? In an era of superstition and fear, Hannah has longed been branded a witch.

The edition that I read was a Collins Modern Classics and has an afterword by Jane Yolen where she says:

It amazes me how much of a story is told in such a compressed amount of pages. For a modern historical novel, The Witch of Blackbird Pond is quite short. At the time it was written, most children's novels were deemed necessarily short. But think how much is crammed into it: a girl's quest; a historical lesson about some of the things that finally led to the American Revolution; information about sailing ships, weaving, colonial cooking, clothing, religious matters of the day, colonial punishments and the drudgery of Puritan daily life. Plus romance, loss, suspicion, anger, fear secrets, friendships and a sense of belonging - to a land, a family, a love and to one's own self. I have to marvel at that compression, the compact poetry of it, and wish that more writers today had that kind of precision and ability to be so beautifully concise.

I couldn't agree more! I thoroughly enjoyed this trip back through time to colonial Connecticut, and I was definitely moved throughout the novel. I believe that this book won The Newbery Award back in 1958, and despite the length of time that has passed since it was first published, the strength of the writing and the story have not been diminished or aged at all.


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