Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Library Loot

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and me that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

After last week's no loot edition, this week I have quite a large library loot! It's always interesting carrying such a large pile of books out of the library!

Here's my loot for this week:

Black Hills by Nora Roberts - It feels as though I have been waiting forever for this one to come in. Only have this one for two weeks and can't be renewed so hopefully I will get to it.

Bravo, Mr William Shakespeare by Marcia Williams

This is actually a picture book. I saw a mention of one of this author's other books on someone's blogs (sorry, can't remember who) and they said it was a scrapbook style look at history which I thought sounded quite interesting. My library didn't have the book they mentioned so I thought I would try this one and see if I like the style or not.

Children of the Storm by Elizabeth Peters.

The next book in the Amelia Peabody series.

Cool Stuff and How it Works 2.0 by John Woodcock and Chris Woodford

This was for my son. I am not 100% sure why we didn't use his library card instead of mine but never mind!

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

Having recently read the first two book in Helen Hollick's Pendragon's Banner trilogy, I have acquired an interest in Arthurian literature. Aarti has recommended this book as one place to start.

Dance of Seduction by Elle Kennedy

It always surprises me a little when my library has erotic romance on the shelves. This is a bit outside my comfort zone, which is perfect from a challenge that I am doing in a group I am in which encourages us to do just that.

Dance Upon the Air by Nora Roberts

Normally I don't pick up three books by the same author in one lot of loot but I did this week. I recently finished reading the Daughters of Ardmore trilogy, so it is time to start the next trilogy while I wait for the next new book to come in.

To Desire a Devil by Elizabeth Hoyt

Elizabeth Hoyt is normally an autobuy author for me, but I am a bit broke at the moment so when I saw it was on the catalogue I had to request it straight away. I will probably buy it a bit later

Lost Art of Gratitude by Alexander McCall Smith

The next Isabel Dalhousie novel.

The Outlander by Gil Adamson

Heard lots of good things about this one.

Remember When by Nora Roberts and J D Robb

This is the next In Death book. All this loot, but this is my only reloot!

Before I put up the Mr Linky, I just wanted to specially welcome Miss Moppet to Library Loot! She participated in Library Loot for the first time last week. And now, it is your turn to participate. Leave a link to your Library Loot post in Mr Linky, so we can all come and be a bit nosy and see what you picked up from your library this week.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - Painting Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

One of my favourite books that I read preblogging days was Jeanne Kalogridis' excellent The Borgia Bride. Over the last few months I have been eagerly anticipating reading her latest book, The Devil's Queen until I realised that some how I had never actually read her last book, which is published here under the title Painting Mona Lisa. I think it was called I, Mona Lisa in some other parts of the world.

My teaser comes from page 347:

My father sat, one shoulder pressed hard against the inner wall, his body slumped diagonally; he gingerly held one hand out to his side. The skin over his cheekbone was tight, violet, so puffed up that I could not see his eye. And his hand...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Library Loot - the no loot edition!

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and me that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!
I haven't actually been to the library in the last week. It's not that there aren't books to pick up, it's just that I have a bit of a guilty conscience because I have two overdue library books. Like most people I do my best to avoid overdue library books, but if I have started a book I don't like to retun it until I have finished. I am not too far from the end of those two books, but I don't think I will pick up my holds until Saturday probably.

Eva has the Mr Linky this week, so head over to share the loot you got from the library.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I've got a lot on...

There's a lot going on in my little corner of blogland! I'll start with something new, and then work my way up to a couple of reminders.

I guest posted over at The Written World as part of Kailana's ongoing guest blogger series, Music Mondays. I took the opportunity to focus on some of the acts that I saw at Sound Relief earlier this year. Head on over for some good Aussie music, including some Midnight Oil, and Crowded House.

Now for reminders!

Have you signed up for the Virtual Advent Tour yet? So far the turn out has been great, but we would love to have more people sharing their holiday moments with us all. Head over the Virtual Advent Tour for all the details on how to sign up. It's always been a lot of fun, and I am certain this year will be no exception.

Also, don't forget that I am going to be hosting my very first reading challenge here at Reading Adventures. Do you enjoy reading Terry Pratchett's books, or perhaps you have heard about them, and think you would like them, but haven't yet tried them? Sign up for the Terry Pratchett 2010 challenge and join me in the fun!

I nearly forgot my blogiversary giveaway. You can win your choice of one of four books. Check out all the details here.

I wanted to finish with a blog challenge etiquette question. There's a challenge that I love participating in every year. At the beginning of this year there hadn't been a lot of noise about it being on  so I emailed the host and asked if they were hosting it again. I didn't hear back, and it did run, but in the last couple of weeks they have said that they are stepping away from blogging. So here's the deal. I am contemplating asking the host if I could take over the challenge for next year. Would you be offended if someone asked you that? Should I wait and see what happens in the next month or so? Should I just let it go and see if someone else picks it up? What say you?

Teaser Tuesday - Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Back in August, Book Smugglers hosted YA Appreciation month, and as part of that I posted a bit about my Young Adult reads at that time. I also asked for recommendations of both YAs with a historical setting, and YA books by Australian authors. One of the books that was recommended was Everything Beautiful by Australian author Simmone Howell and this week's teaser comes from page 11:

All year I'd been hurtling towards catastrophe. There was the thing with the bucket bong my almost failing mid-terms, my schizo MO - hugging Dad one day, railing at him the next - but the tipping point was when a group of us broke into the local pool for a spot of night-swimming.
So far it's been an interesting read, although there have been a couple of times when I have been pulled out of the story a little bit by either one of the things that happens or the terminology used. For example, at one point the main character talks about her 'mules'. I am getting on a bit age wise now, but I don't think that mules is a term that young people here in Australia would use for shoes. I certainly don't!

Don't forget to enter my blogiversary giveaway!

International Kindle Giveaway

I have been lusting after an ebook reader, any ebook reader, for a while now. Whilst there are a couple of readers available here in Australia, they are very expensive, and the fact is, it would be irresponsible of me to use my money on one at the moment, as much as I want one.

Have you heard about the International Kindle giveaway that is being held by Bibliofreak. There are up to 15 on offer, and yes, it is international, which is awesome!

In order to be in the draw you need to sign up to get your individual code. You can check out the details here. By signing up using my individual code, then I will get an extra entry into the draw, so please, sign up!

Maybe I can win one instead of having to buy one! And once you sign up, then you can spread the word and be in the draw as well!

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani

This week Historical Tapestry announced the start of a new challenge, the Alphabet in Historical Fiction. When I was trying to decide what I was going to post about for the letter A, I had a few options, but as soon as I realised that this book qualified, I knew this was it!

I read and really, really enjoyed this book a couple of years ago, and I know that there were quite a few other historical fiction readers around who also enjoyed it around that time, but it has been a while since I noticed this book being featured on any one's blog. It was such a good read that I just had to highlight it again. I did have a look to see if there was any news of a new book from this author, but I couldn't see anything.

This review has never been posted on my blog, although it was originally posted at Historical Tapestry in September 2007.
Once there was a girl who could make glorious carpets from wool tinted with the essence of orange safflowers and pomegranates

In Persia, in the seventeenth century, a young woman is forced to leave behind the life she knows and move to a new city. Her father's unexpected death has upended everything - her expectation of marriage, her plans for the future - and cast her and her mother upon the mercy of relatives in the fabled city of Isfahan.

Her uncle is a wealthy designer of carpets for the Shah's court, and the young woman is instantly drawn to his workshop. She takes in everything - the dyes, the yarns, the meanings of the thousand ancient patters - and quickly begins designing carpets herself. This is men's work, but her uncle recognizes both her passion and her talent and allows her secretly to cross that line.

But then a single disastrous, headstrong act threatens her very existence and casts her and her mother into an even more desperate situation. She is forced into an untenable form of marriage, a marriage contract renewable monthly, for a fee, to a wealthy businessman. Caught between forces she can barely comprehend, she knows only that she must act on her own, risking everything, or face a life lived at the whim of others.

The world of medieval Persia comes alive in this luminous novel, from its dazzling architecture to its bustling markets with their baskets of spices and breathtaking turquoise-and-gold rugs. With spellbinding Persian tales and prose as radiant as the city of Isfahan, The Blood of Flowers is the remarkable adventure of one woman choosing a life - against all odds - on the strength of her own hands, mind and will.

Sometimes it is a real breath of fresh air to read about an unusual time and place, especially when the story is also well written and interesting! The setting for this book in 17th century Persia, during the time of Shah Abbas, and features a young girl who is trying to make her way into the male dominated world of carpet making.

The author was very skilled at weaving together both the story of the girl, but also details about the techniques used in the designing of carpets, in the selection of the colours to make the carpets, and the precision required by the carpet knotters. There are also several old Persian tales that have been interwoven into the narrative, used to illustrate and to guide our young heroine.

When one of the town elders brings back the almanac for the year, the small country town is interested to see what is destined for their lives - for marriages, births, the harvest etc. For one young girl in particular she is interested to hear what is going to come as she is now of a marriageable age. This year is an unusual one though. There has been a comet in the night sky, and everyone knows that that means bad luck. For the small but happy family, that ominous sign comes to eventuality when her father dies, leaving her and her mother to fend for themselves. After running out of resources, including those that were meant to be her dowry, the two head to the big city to request assistance from the brother of the husband and father.

Once in the city, the pair become basically house servants, but the young girl gets to visit the great carpet market making workshop owned by the Shah, which is run by her uncle, and gradually her uncle begins to teach her many of the secrets of the process, including design, colour selection and knotting with the most luxurious of threads.

After being caught acting rashly more than once, the young girl is contracted with a sigheh - a renewable marriage contract, that everyone involved in has agreed to keep this secret. The end result of this is given that there is now no dowry left, the girl is being forced to give away the only thing she has left of any value - her virginity. It takes a long time for our heroine to get used to the ways of her husband and to learn the secret of wifely enjoyment, and there are several times throughout the story that her mother is worried that the sigheh will not be renewed, which means that the contracted price won't be paid. It is quite an interesting contrast. By day the girl is a servant, subject to her aunt's somewhat nasty treatment, using every spare minute she has to learn to make carpets. By night, she is a wife, albeit subject to her husband's whims.

Life then offers a choice - to continue as things are, or to take a chance at having a different and more independent life. There are many lessons to be learned, and many of them are painful. There are times when things get much worse before they get better, but our girl's spirit is strong, and she is willing to learn the lessons that life is teaching her!

This book took 9 years to write, and you can tell that for the author this was a labour of love! It took me a couple of days to read it, and it was a joy to read! Filled with the colour and allure of different cultures and times, this is a really good read. I definitely hope to read more by this author!

Rating 4.5/5

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Busy blogging day

I am not quite sure how I managed it, but I actually had three bloggy events launching today! Not only did I post the announcement of the Terry Pratchett 2010 Challenge, but today is also the day that we launch the 2009 Virtual Advent Tour, and the day that we launched the Alphabet in Historical Fiction over at Historical Tapestry.

Over the last 3 years Kailana from The Written World and I have been cohosting the Advent Blog tours where we ask people to share their Christmas memories, recipes, traditions etc with us all. This year, we are doing it a little bit differently in that we have set up a separate blog for sign ups, buttons, and the daily posts talking about where the stops will be! We hope that lots of you decide to sign up and join in on the fun this year. If you would like to have a look at some of the posts in previous years, you will be able to find some links here.

We also launched our first challenge over at Historical Tapestry - the Alphabet in Historical Fiction. Alex has once again done a stellar job with the button for this. The idea is to write blog posts which corresponds to the letter of the alphabet that we are up to! It could be a book that you are currently reading, or one that you have read a long time ago. The book title, author, main character could be your subject or perhaps a famous person from history, or a location where a famous event took place. We are hopeful that this might be something that other members of the historical fiction blogging community might like to participate in! Click on the link above for full details!

Terry Pratchett 2010 Challenge

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you will probably be aware that I am something of a sucker for reading challenges. One thing I have never done though is hosted a challenge but all that is about to change!

I mentioned in my blogiversary post that I was going to be hosting my first ever challenge, so now it is time to reveal the details!

I have been reading Terry Pratchett for years. I have distinct memories of being on a bus in Adelaide more than 15 years ago and having other passengers looking at me very strangely because I was laughing at loud at something I had read in a Pratchett novel. I read a number of his books and then stopped, I think mainly because I went off travelling and stopped reading full stop. I always intended to come back to them.

Over the last few years I have read a couple of Discworld novels, but not as many as I would have liked. As far back as March 2007 I blogged about the possibility of reading the Discworld series in its entirety, but it never happened. You know that means just one thing! Time for a Terry Pratchett reading challenge!

The challenge will start from 1 December 2009 and run through to 30 November 2010. There are several different levels of participation for you to choose from:

1-3 books - Cashier at Ankh-Morpork Mint
4-5 books - Guard of the City Watch
6-8 books - Academic at the Unseen University
9-10 books - Member of Granny Weatherwax's Coven
10-12 books - Death's Apprentice

You can either be reading the books for the first time, rereading, or even watching the TV adaptations if you like! As long as everyone has fun I will be happy! Please also do not feel limited to only reading the Discworld books as any books by Terry Pratchett will count for this challenge.

For a full list of the Discworld books in publication order, check out this page on the author's website for his page at Fantastic Fiction. The number of books either written by Terry Pratchett or about his work is a bit mind boggling really.

Each month, I will put a Mr Linky up so that you can link your reviews or Pratchett posts if you want to do more general posts say on individual characters, places, events etc.

To sign up just leave a comment on this post with a link to your intro post if you do one. I look forward to seeing what people post about over the next 12 months.

Special thanks to McVane for the fantastic button

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pleasant Saturday Afternoon

I was feeling a bit flat earlier this afternoon, so a friend came around and we managed to cheer each other up! First we went for a walk, and then we compensated for that by eating chocolate and drinking champagne and playing music!

One song we listened to numerous times was Little Lion Man by Mumford and Sons, which I am just loving at the moment, so I thought I would share. Hopefully others will enjoy it as much as I do.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Giveaway books: Sophia's Secret by Susanna Kearsley

As I announced in my blogiversary post, I am giving away a book. The winner will get to choose from their choice of four books, one of which is this book. In order to showcase those books, my plan is to do a post highlighting each of them! I have started with this book, Sophia's Secret by Susanna Kearsley, not only because I loved it, but also because I happen to have already written a review of it! Originally this book was released under the title The Winter Sea, which is the title of the copy I read, but it is the same book!

If you are interested in winning this book, leave a comment on my blogiversary post saying so, and don't forget to leave an email address so that I can contact you! Otherwise, Sophia's Secret, is being released next year by Sourcebooks so keep an eye out for it.

The past won't let you forget...

When bestselling author Carrie McClelland visits the ruins of Slains Castle in Scotland to research her new book, she is unprepared for the magnetic pull the local area has on her. Enchanted by the stark and beautiful Scottish landscape, she rents an old stone cottage near the windswept ruins and decides to set her new historical novel at the castle itself.

History has all but forgotten the spring of 1708, when an invasion fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Steward in Scotland to reclaim his crown. Realising one of her own ancestors, Sophia Paterson lived around the same time. Carrie creates a fictional life for Sophia and places her at Slains to be a narrator for the events leading to the Jacobite uprising. It is a time seething with political unrest and there is no shortage of spies and clandestine meetings at Slains. Soon, the characters in her book come alive with almost frightening intensity and Carrie is shocked when she learns that Sophia was indeed a resident at the castle at the time. When further coincidences confirm her fiction is closer to fact, Carrie realises that this story is not entirely her own. As Sophia's memories draw Carrie more deeply into the intrigue of 1708, she comes to understand that a hitherto unrealised bond with her ancestor is providing her with an immediate window in to the true events of the time - and the two women have more in common than one might think.

Mesmerising and rich in historical detail, The Winter Sea is a haunting tale of two women's experiences of love and personal betrayal in two different times.

Every now and again you are lucky enough to pick up a book that fits your reading tastes perfectly. For me, this was one of those times. Within the first two pages I knew that I was going to love this book. The big question was could the enjoyment be maintained all the way to the end, and the answer was a resounding yes.

Carrie McLelland is a best selling historical fiction author. When the story opens she has been living in France trying to research a little known character in history (to most of us anyway) who was involved in some of the early Jacobite attempts to restore the Stuarts to the Scottish throne. She is however struggling a little. On her way to visit her agent in Scotland she finds herself drawn to an old castle ruin called Slains.

As a result of the visit, Carrie decides to make two significant changes. The first is to add a fictional female character to her book to give her a different perspective through which to view the events as they unfolded. She decides to name this character after one of her own family members that lived around the same time.

The second is to relocate to the small town near the castle, and to live in a rustic cottage there whilst she writes. This is not really unusual for Carrie as she lives a some what nomadic life style, moving from place to place in order to enable her to research the stories she is writing.

As soon as she is there, the story really picks up momentum. At first Carrie thinks that she is only dreaming her story, but as more and more things happen, and she is able to discover that her ancestor really was there, she realises that it is more than a dream, more like having shared memories. As she learns more about the events that happened during the events of 1708, the present begins to eerily echo the past.

In the past, Sophia is a young orphan who has been sent to stay with distant relatives at Slains after the death of her guardian. Little does she know when she arrives there that her influential family members are Jacobite sympathisers who are playing a direct role in a plan to bring King James to Scotland to try to reclaim his throne, and to stop the Union between England and Scotland. Among those who visit her new home are two men - one a captain in the navy and the other an outlaw sent to Scotland to drum up support for the cause.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this novel was the fact that it was set in the earlier events of the Jacobite uprisings. Through my reading of other books and more famous incidents in history, I was relatively aware of the events that led up to the carnage at Culloden, and I vaguely knew that that wasn't the first attempt to bring the Stuarts back to the throne, but I really didn't know much more than that.

In her own life, Carrie soon feels comfortable in the town with the assistance of her landlord and his two sons who have very different temperaments. If I had to choose which of the romantic story lines I enjoyed more, I would say it was Carrie's story but I am not going to say not much more than that so that if you do choose to read this book you will discover it for yourself.

Normally if I am reading a book which has these two different time frames it will be the historical setting that I am most anxious to revisit, but with this book I was as engrossed in both settings. When I was with Sophia in 1708 I found myself wondering about Carrie, and when I was with Carrie I was wondering what Sophia was getting up to!

The ending is possibly a little too convenient, but not enough to impact my enjoyment. It isn't often that I do this, but I am seriously considering buying this book. Normally if I read a library book I don't go out and buy it, but I suspect that this is going to be a book that I might want to immerse myself in more than once.

I hope that I have been able to convey just how much I loved this book. I had not previously read any Susanna Kearsley, but you can be guaranteed that I will be reading more, and I will be making every attempt to read everything on her back list and looking out for anything coming out in the future as well.

Please note that in some places this book is published under the title Sophia's Secret. This book was also nominated for the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year 2009 which was eventually won by East of the Sun by Julia Gregson which I really enjoyed as well.

It is not very often that I give a book full marks, but I have no hesitation in rating this book as a 5/5 read. Loved it, loved it, loved it!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's my blogiversary!

Today marks four years since I started this blog! You'd think I would be better at it by now wouldn't you! LOL!

Over the last three years, we have had the low key I-won't-mention-it blogiversary and a couple of retrospective blogiversary posts. This year is different though! We might call it the Party blogiversary!

Let's see. What do we need for a party? Gifts? I can do that. Announcements? I can do that too!

I'll start with gifts. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to do this because of the events of the last few days, but I have decided that I am just going to do it and worry about the costs later! Do what? Why have a giveaway of course!

There are four books that I have read this year that I have rated as being 5/5 reads, books that I have absolutely adored, so I will give the winner their choice of book from the following:

Over the next four days I will do a post with the synopsis of each book (who knows, maybe even a review) to help you choose.

The winner will also receive a handmade bookmark. I love painting these ladies, and so have a couple of examples here, but if you would like a different colour dress, the please just let me know and I will make it for you in whatever colour you would like. A couple of runners up will also receive one of the bookmarks. I will probably put up a chart in the next couple of days so you can see the colour choices, and tell you about my sad obsession with Twinkling H2Os, which is the ink that I used to colour them.

The giveaway will close on November 25, and is open world wide, as long as Book Depository ships to you. Just leave a comment on this post saying which book you would like to win. Please also make sure that your email address is either in your profile, or in your comment so that I can contact yoiu if you are the winner.

Is that it? Well, no, it isn't actually.

I am also incredibly pleased to announce that I have decided to host a reading challenge. For years, I have been intending to go back to the beginning and read my way through Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. Despite my best intentions, it just hasn't happened, so now I am challenging myself, and whoever else would like to participate to read some Pratchett during 2010. The sign up post will go up in a couple of days, but in the meantime, here's a sneak peak at the fabulous button that was created for me by Maili as a result of my cry for help the other day!

Finally, I thought I would also quickly mention that it is just a few days until Kailana and I unveil this year's Virtual Advent Tour. We have had lots of fun doing this for the last couple of years, and I really hope that lots of people join in again this year! The proper announcement will be up shortly, so keep watching this space!

So there you have it. A book giveaway, some book marks, a challenge and an upcoming event! Sounds like a pretty busy blogiversary to me!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Library Loot

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and me that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!
This week's Mr Linky is at the bottom of this post.

Before I go to far with my loot for this week, I just wanted to give a big shout out to Delicatezeal from Curiosities who participated in Library Loot for the first time last week!

I already knew when I posted last week that I had quite a few items waiting to be picked up. I was a bit worried that I would have more before the week was out, but it turned out that that was all I had. I was a bit busy on the weekend, and then with the drama of this week, I still haven't actually taken them out of the library bag, which doesn't really suggest that I will get to read them any time soon really!

Here's my loot for this week:

Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford - I saw this book around a bit last year and added it to my TBR list straight away. I am not sure what prompted me to request it now, but I am looking forward to it.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel - I have already had this book out from the library once, but I really want to read it!

Graceling by Kristin Cashore - I first became interested in this book a while ago, but it was only as I saw really great reviews for the follow up that I thought about seeing if my library had either book!

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters - I haven't read any Sarah Waters yet, but I am pretty sure I am going to enjoy her work!

Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland - Yes again!

Shadow of the King by Helen Hollick - the third and final book in the Pendragon's Banner trilogy.

Angelique in Revolt by Sergeanne Golon - this is reloot as well, but I do want to read it, so hopefully this time I will!

Europe on a Shoestring - As much as I wish this book was for me, it's really not. I borrowed this for a friend. I am trying to convince her that she needs to join the library for herself but we will see what happens on that front!

So, how about you? What loot did you get this week?

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

We will remember them

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week my teaser comes from page 101 of Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning. I am just starting this book tonight, so hopefully it will be good.Because I like the sentiment I've used the whole paragraph and not just two sentences.

There are moments in my life when I feel like I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be, doing exacty what I'm supposed to do. I pay attention to them. They're my cosmic landmarks, letting me know I'm on the right path. Now that I'm older and can look back and see where I missed a turn here and there, and know the price I paid for those oversights, I try to look sharper at the present.

Help for the graphically challenged?

I am looking for someone to make a challenge button. Can anyone help...please?

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson

Reserved, honourable Mr Malik. You wouldn't notice him in a Nairobi street - except, perhaps, to comment on his carefully sculpted comb-over - but beneath his unprepossessing exterior lie a warm heart and a secret passion. Not even his friends at the Asadi Club know it, but Mr Malik is head-over-heels in love with the leader of the Tuesday-morning bird walk of the East African Ornithological Society, Rose Mbikwa.

With Mr Malik hesitantly plans how he will ask Rose to the annual Hunt ball, flashy Harry Kahn arrives in town and makes it clear that he too has Rose in his sights. When Mr Malik blurts out his feelings at the club a wager is set - whoever sees the most birds in a week will ask Rose to the ball.

With boats, planes and guides to get him to the choicest birdwatching spots in Kenya, Harry Khan's soon noting down everything from peral-breasted swallows to spur-winged plovers. But Mr Malik's not so easily beaten and with unorthodox methods and far-flung adventures of his own, he's determined to stay in the game.

Some time ago I read a couple of reviews for this book, and I definitely remember leaving a comment on at least one review. I wish I could remember whose blog it was but I can't. If I could, I would like to thank them for introducing me to this delightful little book! It was an added bonus to find out that the author, whilst English by birth, has been living in Australia for many years. We quite regularly claim people born in other countries as our own, so yay, I read an Aussie author! Go me!

I was going to try and talk a little bit about the book before I started making the almost inevitable comparisons to Alexander McCall Smith's No 1 Ladies Detective Agency books, but I find that I really can't because the pace, and the style are quite similar. I would point out though, that this is no copy cat type situation like we see so often in book trends (for example, can anyone say altered Austen works that we have loads of at the moment).

So let's look at the differences and similarities. At first glance, the setting is similar, but that is a somewhat superficial similarity given that the AMS books take place in Botswana in southern Africa, and this book takes place in Kenya on the eastern coast of Africa. For me the AMS books have a very laid back pace, a lovely mellow tone to them. Whilst in this book the pacing was similar, the humour was a bit earthy, more bitey if you know what I mean (as an example, there was quite a long section where the men of the club were discussing how many times people fart in a day and a scene where one of the minor characters was duped into taking his clothes off). Whereas I smile contentedly at an AMS book, in this one I laughed out loud several times!

Where the main character in the Ladies Detective Agency books is an African lady of traditional build, our main character in this book is a funny little balding man with a 'carefully sculpted combover' of Indian descent who lives in Nairobi. Where there is a lot of focus on the loss of traditional African values in the AMS books, here we are almost looking at the ex pat experience, the individual communities that develop within a city and the cross culture relationships.

Enough of the comparisons. What about the story?

Our story opens when we meet Mr Malik as he attends the Tuesday morning bird walk run by the East African Ornithologial Society, and led by the lovely Rose Mbikwa. Mr Malik is a widower who has been in love with Rose for quite some time. She was a young white lady who came to Africa, fell in love with a Kenyan and stayed, even after she was widowed in suspicious circumstances. Mr Malik is trying to gather up the courage to ask Rose to attend the Hunt Ball with him, but he soon feels as though he has no chance when flashy Harry Khan turns up at the bird walk. Harry had tormented our man through school and so when Harry announces that he is going to ask Rose to the ball, Mr Malik was sure that his chance was pretty much gone. When he says as much his colleagues at the Asadi club come up with a bet. Whoever sees the most birds in a week get to ask Rose to the ball.

With Harry able to access planes, boats and other transport to get him to all the best bird watching spots in Kenya, Mr Malik didn't seem to have much of a chance at all. His chances are further diminished when he has car trouble, and his notebook is stolen. 

At first glance, there is nothing much all that interesting about Mr Malik, but the author skilfully builds layers into his character, slowly revealing the compassionate, charitable, clever man underneath the unprepossessing exterior. It is a delight to discover each new truth about Mr Malik.

At 200 pages, this is not a long book by any stretch of the imagination. It would be a perfect change of pace book to read between heavier novels. The narrator  is an unnamed third person, kind of an all seeing, all knowing character. Whilst this is not necessarily a point of view that I regularly read, for the most part the technique was used well in this book. There were a couple of moments where I was left wondering why this different voice was telling the tale, but for the most part it added to the story, not impeded.

The end of the book gives a tidy resolution, but I would love to revisit the characters in a future read. There is a delicious little hook about one of Mr Malik's nicknames from school that I would love to know the answer of where it came from! I think I read somewhere that Nicholas Drayson is working on a sequel. I will definitely be going out of my way to read it!

If you enjoy reading the Ladies Detective Agency novels then give this one a go. If you haven't read them, then I would still recommend this book for those times when you just want a short, enjoyable and fun read!

Rating 4.5/5

Monday, November 09, 2009

Not happy Jan!

Every now and again an advert will strike such a chord with the public that they become part of the national language. For Aussies, one example of this is the phrase 'not happy Jan'.

This phrase has been around for many years. As far as I understand, the ad first appeared on TV while I was living overseas, but it is replayed every couple of years and is still amusing.

The phrase pretty much describes me today! I had to ring up this morning to find out whether the police were coming out. They were too busy to come out yesterday afternoon, and I had to decide whether to go to work or not. Then the locksmith could come today, but the glazier probably couldn't, so he is now coming at 8am tomorrow, which means that I will have to go into work late.

I am having issues getting my heater and air conditioner to work properly so I ended up having an argument with the person on the phone at the company that installed it for me, as he kept on telling me to press buttons that I didn't have. Have to wait for them to call me back on that one but I am not holding my breath. Later in the day I had a power problem which took a while to be resolved, and then I went to Centrelink (our version of social security) to do some things and ended up being told to go home and do them on the internet.

To top it all off, I rang one tradesman to give me a quote to get the roller door on my garage fixed. A while ago it got damaged (I may know how, but I am not telling!) but my friendly visitors pushed the door in more to get into the garage. I rang this morning and they said they couldn't come out for a couple of days which was disappointing given that I was home today, but understandable. Then they rang and said that they could come today, so I agreed that about 7pm would be fine. At 8pm I rang and asked if they were coming, and I got told that they were 10 minutes away. It is now 9.30pm, and there is no sign of them. Guess that means that they don't need my business!

The good news of the day is that the police managed to get 8 sets of clean prints, so hopefully there will be something there, the locks are all fixed, and during my electrical problem I got a little bit of reading done!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Well, I did have a good weekend....

I had a fabulous weekend away, and then, well, then I got home.

It appears that I have yet again had unwelcome visitors in my home. I now have a broken lock on my back security screen, plus a broken window in my son's room. This goes with the broken lock on my front door from a few weeks ago. Not sure if I mentioned this when it happened or not.

Nothing stolen as far as I can tell, which again, makes me think it is kids, especially seeing as whoever was here had time to sit around and have a couple of drinks out of my fridge and leave the empty containers lying around on my kitchen counter.

Waiting for the police to arrive now because this is now the fourth or fifth incident in the last six months.

When I spoke to the police earlier they suggested that it sounded like stalkerish behaviour and asked if I have an unrequited love anywhere! If that was the case all they would have to do is knock on the door rather than do damage all the time.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Library Loot

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and me that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!
This week's Mr Linky is at the bottom of this post.

I feel like a bit of a fraud with my library loot this week, not because I haven't borrowed anything, but because I know that there are already 7(!) items waiting to be picked up. I won't get to the library now until Monday or Tuesday so they will be in next week's loot, but still.

The items I did borrow this week were:

Crazy Love by Michael Buble

Last week I borrowed my first CD from the library, and this week I have another. I think I have two more on request so expect to see at least a couple more CDs over the next couple of weeks.

Love at First Bite anthology

Over the last couple of years I have been working my way through Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series. When I got to the novella that is in this book, my library didn't have the anthology so I went past it. Now, finally, they have it in, so I will go back to this story before reading the next book. Getting closer to Acheron!

The Winding Ways Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini

Reloot! I am determined to read this book this time!

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Another reloot, but I think I have only had this one out a couple of times so far. There have been big wraps around blogland for this book, so it would be nice to see what all the fuss is about!

Before I put up the Mr Linky, I just wanted to give a special welcome to Library Chicken who participated in Library Loot for the first time last week. With a blog name like that, it would seem to be a perfect meme!

Sign up with your loot by putting a link to your Library Loot post here: