Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Salon: October Reading Reflections

I am pretty happy with my October reading! 16 books completed, some good reads, some were ebooks, and a couple were a bit outside my normal reading range. Wait until you see my post tomorrow of the books that I received during the month of October though. Despite a good reading month, my TBR got a lot bigger instead of smaller!

Here are my reads for October:

Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine 3/5
The Exile by Diana Gabaldon and Hoang Nguyen 4.5/5
The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett 3/5
Adrien English Mysteries by Josh Lanyon 4/5
The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by CW Gortner 4.5/5
The Accidental Mistress by Tracy Anne Warren 4/5
Gobsmacked by L B Gregg 4/5
Shelter Mountain by Robyn Carr 4.5/5
Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn 4.5/5
Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie 3.5/5
Ravishing in Red by Madeline Hunter 4/5
Seducing an Angel by Mary Balogh 3.5/5
The Princess Bride by William Goldman 4/5
The Sharing Knife: Horizon by Lois McMaster Bujold 4.5/5
The Passionate Brood by Margaret Campbell Barnes 4.5/5
The Cinderella Deal by Jennifer Crusie 4.5/5

I thought I would mention a couple of things. Gosbmacked was a m/m romance, and the Adrien English Mysteries are erotic mysteries featuring gay bookseller/amateur detective Adrien English. It is actually the first two books in the series, and I have the next couple waiting here to be read.

The Exile is the graphic novel version of the first half or so of the Outlander novel by Diana Gabaldon. I liked it a lot, but I do think it is a book for the existing fans, not necessarily for new fans of the series.

I was so pleased that I finished reading The Princess Bride because I decided to read it as part of a readalong hosted by Chrisbookarama. I have done attempted a couple of readalongs before but I tend to get lost along the way. For example, the first book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy is still sitting by the side of my bed despite the fact that I started a readalong early this year.

The book that I read for the Year of the Historical was the excellent Confessions of Catherine de Medici by CW Gortner and this book also counts as my final read for the French Historical Challenge as well.

The two books by Pratchett counted for the Terry Pratchett challenge.

As at the end of October, I have read 88 books of the 100 that I was aiming for in the Support Your Local Library challenge, so it looks like I will make that target.

There are still a number of challenges that I am not making a lot of progress on, but that doesn't mean that I won't be starting to think about next years challenges soon.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Weekend Cooking: Jamie Oliver's Baked French Potatoes

For last week's weekend cooking post I mentioned that I was going to a slow cooker dinner party, and that one of the side dishes we were going to be having was Jamie Oliver's Baked French Potatoes. A couple of people mentioned that they would like this recipe so I am obliging this week.

Whilst I don't eat potatoes anywhere near as often as I used to, they are very much comfort food. Growing up, we used to have mashed potatoes practically every night (sausages, mashed potatoes and peas is my mother's idea of a good meal, and we used to have that at least 3 times a week. On the other nights we might have chops, mashed potatoes and peas, or pie, mashed potatoes and peas. I am sure you are getting the general idea). These days I like to find potato recipe ideas, and I do love these layered potato dishes although the creamy ones are a little bit too high fat. I have no idea how this one works out, but there's no added milk or cream so I am going with it being a better option!

Jamie Oliver's Baked French Potatoes

 • 800g potatoes

• 400g medium onions

• 3 cloves of garlic

• a small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley

• olive oil

• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 1 chicken or vegetable stock cube, preferably organic

• 2 knobs of butter .
Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Peel and finely slice the potatoes. Peel, halve and finely slice the onions and garlic. Pick and finely chop the parsley leaves, discard the stalks

Pour a couple of lugs of olive oil into a large, hot pan with the garlic, parsley and onions. Slowly fry for 10 minutes, or until the onions are soft and lightly golden. Take off the heat and add a good pinch of salt and pepper

Mix the stock cube with 850ml of boiling water

In a large baking dish place a layer of potatoes, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and a layer of onions. Continue, repeating until you’ve used everything up, but try to finish with a layer of potatoes on top. Pour in the hot stock to just cover the top of the potatoes. Break up the butter and dot over the top

Rub some foil with olive oil, place it, oil-side down, over the dish and seal tightly. Place in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, then remove the foil, push the potatoes down and return to the oven for a further 20 to 40 minutes, or until golden and crisp.


You can see a step by step version of this recipe with pictures every step of the way at Jamie Oliver's website. I originally found it in Jamie's Ministry of Food cookbook. One of these days I will write more about this cookbook and the accompanying TV series in a Weekend Cooking post.

And just because I can, here we all are, about to tuck into dinner last Saturday night.

I am not entirely sure why, but we spent the whole night exclaiming OMG and bursting into the Usher song! A lot of chatting, a few drinks, good friends, and food. Sounds like a recipe for a good night, and it was!

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine

With a story as mesmerizing as it is chilling, Lady of Hay explores how Jo, a journalist investigating hypnotic regression, plunges into the life of Matilda, Lady of Hay-who lived eight hundred years earlier. As she learns of Matilda's unhappy marriage, her troubled love for Richard de Clare, and the brutal treatment she received from King John, it seems that Jo's past and present are hopelessly entwined. Centuries later, a story of secret passion and unspeakable treachery is about to begin again-and she has no choice but to brave both lives if she wants to shake the iron grip of history.

Some times you start hearing things about an author and you think that you might like to read them. And then you hear more and upgrade to that opinion to definitely would like to read them. A bit later and you know that you HAVE to read them, and you fully expect that you are going to love reading their work.

Barbara Erskine is one of those authors for me. Over the years I have heard a few things about her books, this book in particular, and so when I was offered an ARC from Sourcebooks I jumped at the opportunity. Erskine's books contain so much that I love to read - historical fiction, time travel, a few spooky/gothic elements. The anticipation was huge. And normally when I get this vibe I am right.

But I was wrong this time, because I didn't love it at all, and I really struggled to read it.

The story opens with student Jo Clifford being hypnotised with a view to hypnotic regression. In the room is Sam Franklyn. Jo turns out to be a very good subject - too good in fact, and in the end the hypnotists agree that she should never be hypnotised again because she was just too susceptible to past life regression. So they tell her that the hypnotism didn't work and send her on her way.

Fast forward 15 years. Jo is now a hard hitting investigative journalist, who has been dating Sam's brother Nick for a while now. It is however a very on and off relationship and when the book opens it is off - for the most part anyway. Jo is writing an investigative article about hypnotism, and agrees to undertake hypnosis. Whilst under she starts manifesting the life of Matilda de Braose, a woman who lived in the 1200s, not realising that the turbulent love life of Matilda is being played out to the inevitable ending here in modern times.

What follows is at times interesting as Jo travels around England going to various sites that were important to Matilda, and each time using regression, sometimes accidental, to see more of Matilda's life, some times good, and some times not.

Generally when I read this kind of time slip novel I have a preference for the past life, and while that is true for this book it is only marginal. The fact of the matter, I didn't really like the people that filled either story. Then again, I haven't often heard or read much positive about King John I, so that wasn't necessarily unexpected, and Matilda was pretty much treated as you might expect a medieval woman to be. So whilst I didn't like the historical characters, they didn't exactly behave in ways that were unexpected. Historically, the details didn't feel too bad in terms of accuracy, but there were some relationships (for example, between Matilda and King John I) that were presented in a way that was fictional, and acknowledged as such in the authors notes, but if the reader was completely unfamiliar with this time they may come away with the wrong idea.

I didn't really expect the modern characters to be all pretty much unlikeable though. I am not sure if it was a reflection of the fact that the book was originally written in 1985 and maybe shows the different values of a different time (more the 'greed is good' world), but all the characters seem to be well off, self important, violent, jealous, casual drug users, and quite free in their sexual relationships.

I also felt that the motivations of one of the characters wasn't fully explained, especially seeing as the pretext seemed to be that he was inherently evil, but apparently no one saw it before the events of the book.

So I guess it remains to be seen if it is just this Barbara Erskine novel which I really didn't enjoy that much. I do have another one of her novels here. Not sure when I am going to read it though. I still kind of get the impression that I should like Barbara Erskine's novels, but this definitely wasn't a good one for me to start with.

Rating 3/5

Thursday, October 28, 2010

French Historical Challenge completed

I made it to the La Princesse level of the French Historicals Oh La La! Challenge!

What does that mean? It means that I read three books that were set some time in French history.

The three books I read were:

Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland
For the King by Catherine Delors
Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C W Gortner

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Library Loot: October 27 to November 2

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader 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!

The big library news for me this week is that I just joined two more libraries. In both cases, the reason for joining the library is so that I can borrow ebooks on my e-reader. I have borrowed one book from one library already, but for the second one I have to wait for my card to turn up in the post.

As a result of joining these libraries, I was thinking about how many libraries I have or have had memberships at here in Melbourne, and I was a little surprised to realise that it was up to six! At this rate I will joined all the ones in Melbourne in another 15 years or so!

Claire will have Mr Linky this week, so head on over to share your link.

Anyway, onto my loot for this week.

The Cinderella Deal by Jennifer Crusie
- This was the one standalone Jennifer Crusie book that I had never read before, so when I saw that this was available on e-book, I really couldn't resist!

 The Jewel of St Petersburg by Kate Furnivall - Reloot. This time I will read it. Hopefully!

A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James - First book in Eloisa James latest series.

The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn - Reloot. After reading Dark Road to Darjeeling and loving it, I was remindered that I still haven't read this standalone novel.

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong - I love all the Kelley Armstrong books that I have read, but I haven't managed to read any of her YA books!

His Favourite Mistress by Tracy Anne Warren  - The next book in the Mistress series.

Boy by U2 - A few weeks ago I borrowed U2's latest album in anticipation of going to their concert soon. I hadn't listened to this album either, so I will give it a go. I only just realised that this was their first album so it should be an interesting contrast to No Line on the Horizon.

Here's a montage of photos from the era set to I Will Follow, one of the songs on the album. They all look so young!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: The Sharing Knife: Horizon by Lois McMaster Bujold

My teaser this week comes from The Sharing Knife: Horizon, which is the fourth book in the very enjoyable Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold.

The teaser comes from page 89:
It had been so swift, Dag was barely certain what he'd sensed, but he dutifully positioned the halves on the table in front of him, edged them together the best he could, extended his ghost hand, closed his eyes, and found that strange level of perception, down and in, that he had first discovered while healing Hod. Paper, it seemed, was much like felted cloth, a mass of tiny threads all matted together - torn away from one another, now

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading. Head on over to find out all about it, and how to join in!

Princess Bride Readalong - Milestone 4

I am not sure why, but as I sit down to write this post the song that has popped into my head and won't go away is My Way. I know it has been sung by numerous people over the years, but it is hard to go past Old Blues Eyes version, and that is the one that I have on a loop in my head!

Part of the reason for this is that Milestone 4 brings us to the end of the story of The Princess Bride itself. There is one more milestone, which is to read the first chapter of the long lost sequel to the book which is called Buttercup's Baby. Another reason is that it seems applicable to all of the characters and to the author too.

And what an ending, or more precisely, what a lack of an ending. To be honest I was a bit disappointed in some ways. The romantic in me wanted a happy ever after and to be honest, based on everything I had ever heard about the book/movie, that's what I expected. These days if we read the actual last line we would definitely apply the term cliffhanger to the ending! Either that or sequel bait, and yet it fits perfectly with the tone of the book, and I loved the idea of the father doing his own editing of the story as he reads the book to his young son, and that William Goldman believed for so long that was the ending, only realising as he came to do the abridgement that there was another ending.

There was a lot that happened in this part of the book! Fezzik and Inigo working as a team as they make their way through the tunnels that form the Zoo of Death, the dreadful treatment of Westley, a visit to Valerie and Miracle Max, the reunion, the wedding!

I thought that Valerie and Miracle Max were such delightful secondary characters! I loved the back and forth between them, and with the other characters:

"You see," Max explained as he pumped, "there's different kinds of dead: there's sort of dead, mostly dead and all dead."


"Sonny, don't you tell me what's worth while - true love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops. Everybody knows that."

I think it is the secondary characters like Max and Valerie that will be one of the standouts for me from the book. They didn't necessarily get a lot of page time, but these characters, and for example, the Queen, definitely left a big impression. Some of the bad guys were a bit cookie cutter bad guy for me, but I think that was rather the point.

I did like the use of a countdown technique to force the tension to rise for the reader as the reader hoped that Westley would get to the wedding in time, and still be alive enough.

And just because I alluded to it earlier in the post, here is Frank Sinatra singing My Way.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Alphabet in Historical Fiction: U is for Under a Blood Red Sky

I did have a couple of ideas for posts for the letter U in the Alphabet in Historical Fiction meme, but all of them were going to involve reposting! After completely missing the letter T, I wanted to make sure that I didn't miss another letter (until we get to the letter X - I have no idea what I am going to post for that yet!). This review was originally post in January 2009

Davinsky Labour Camp, Siberia, 1933: Sofia Morozova knows she has to escape. All that sustains her through the bitter cold, and hard labour are the stories told by her friend Anna, beguiling tales of a charmed upbringing in Petrograd - and of Anna's fervent love for a passionate revolutionary, Vasily. So when Anna falls gravely ill, Sofia makes a promise to escape the camp and find Vasily. But Russia, gripped by the iron fist of Communism, is no longer the country of her friend's childhood. Sofia's perilous search takes her from industrial factories to remote villages, where she discovers a web of secrecy and lies - and an overwhelming love that threatens her promise to Anna. But time is running out. And time, Sofia knows, is something neither she nor Anna has.
Just over a year ago I read Kate Furnivall's first book, The Russian Concubine, and totally enjoyed it. When I heard that the author had a new book out I was hoping for a sequel to that book. I didn't get it, although it is coming this year, but having now read this book, I am not all that disappointed.

Where The Russian Concubine featured Russian characters who lived in China during the turbulent 1920's, this book is set in Russia itself. Now I love reading anything set in Russia, but this is the first time I remember reading anything set during the Soviet era of the 1930s, where the populace is ruled by fear of being arrested for the slightest misdemeanours or connections, and sent to the prison camps often never to return.

Our main character Sofia has been thrown into the prison camps of Siberia. It is there that she meets Anna, a young woman who has also been imprisoned due to her connections with the aristocracy. Each day the women have to perform back breaking manual labour, getting by any way they can. Sofia realises that her friend cannot take much more of this, so is determined to escape and find Anna's childhood friend Vasily. Whilst Anna is terrified for Sofia's safety, she also believes that Vasily will help her if he can.

Sofia finds her way to the village where they believe Vasily is now living, only to be drawn into the collective farming environment where the state determines that absurdly high quotas must be reached, and that no one, no matter how starving they are, gets to keep anything for themselves. She finds herself drawn both into the town and to the people of the town, but she knows that ultimately her aim must be to get back and save Anna, if she is still alive.

There Sofia meets Mikael, a prominent man, who is raising his son alone. As Sofia must take on a new identity and avoid the attention of the authorities, others within the village wrestle with the distinction between duty to each other and duty to the Motherland, with potentially disastrous consequences for all of them.

There are lots of events in this book that are highly improbable, but such is Furnivall's story telling skill, that it doesn't matter all that much. If you want a book filled with high drama with romantic and some minor paranormal elements , and that will keep you reading until the wee hours of the morning, then this may well be a book that you will enjoy.

If I had to choose between this book and The Russian Concubine for a first time Furnivall reader then the latter would win, but this is still a very enjoyable read, about a time and place that I haven't read much about.

**** Please note that in some countries around the world, this book is published under the title The Red Scarf.****

Rating: 4 out of 5

Cross posted at Historical Tapestry

Sunday, October 24, 2010

TSS: Confession Time

The other day on Facebook I was very excited to see that one of my Kiwi friends had posted a link to a newspaper article confirming that there was big news when it comes to the casting of the upcoming Peter Jackson adaptation of The Hobbit.

If you have been reading along with my blog for a while you know that I might be just a little obsessed with Richard Armitage, so when I saw his named mentioned in the article I had to go and take a second look. The role of Bilbo has been filled by Martin Freeman, and more importantly Richard Armitage is going to play the role of Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the band of dwarves. My first reaction was that Richard Armitage is surely too tall to be a dwarf, and the second was that I think Martin Freeman is an excellent choice to play Bilbo. On further inspection you have to wonder whether that is a good thing for Freeman. I mean, in conjunction with a major role like this is awesome, but to be just told that in random conversation might not be so great.

Anyway, back to the point of my post, in the comments thread, someone was talking about the books of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and I said I had read The Hobbit three times, but I had never actually read Lord of the Rings (earlier this year I did start the LOTR readalong but the book is still sitting beside my bed), and that I had never seen the movies either. Cue the outrage - from comments that suggested we could no longer be friends, to "you call yourself a reader" type comments. When you add to this the fact that I had to admit last week that I had never seen the movie of The Princess Bride, it apparently shows that my cultural education is sadly, sadly lacking.

What if I had also admitted that I had never read Jane Austen, or Charlotte Bronte? Or that as a romance reader I have never read Nicholas Sparks, and have only seen two of the movies that have been adapted from his books.

Or how about the fact that I have never seen any of the Star Wars movies from beginning to end - not one of them. And quite frankly I don't feel the need to watch them given that I pretty much know what happens anyway.

I know that I should read more of the classics, and I will one day, but at this point in time I haven't. Not as convinced that I need to read Sparks, but never say never.

What shocking confession could you make about things you haven't seen or read? Enquiring minds want to know.

And yes, this is a gratuitous picture of Richard Armitage that I am including in the post for my your viewing pleasure.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Weekend Cooking: Girl's Night In Slow Cooker Night

This month the Cancer Council of Australia  are running a number of fund raising promotions, one of which is the Girls Night In. The idea is that you get a group of your friends together and have a great time, and donate the money you would have spent going out to the Cancer Council which supports people with cancer and research!

A group of my friends are getting together tonight for a Slow Cooker night, which means lots of food and drink! Part of the reason for having a slow cooker night was that I had given one to my friend as a housewarming gift, and she wanted to have a chance to use it!

One good thing is that I don't have to cook, but I was involved in choosing the recipes, so I thought I would share the two slow cooker recipes we are having. In addition to these, we are also having Jamie Oliver's French Potato bake and various vegetables, and apparently a Honeycomb Fool, which I am looking forward to trying as I haven't had it before.

The first recipe was one I originally saw on the now defunct blog Whipped Out, but they originally saw this recipe at Busy Mommy. If you check out the Busy Mommy blog, she actually has pictures up of the process, although her chicken is breast down, but the recipe is for breast up.

I have made this a few times now. The best thing is that my son loves mixing the herb mix and rubbing it into the chicken. I just have to make sure he hasn't missed any parts. The second best thing is that it is really easy to make and then just come back hours later to do the accompaniments!

Slow Cooker Chicken

1 chicken (3.5-4 lbs)
2 Tbsp Paprika
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
2 Tbsp garlic powder or 3 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Place all of your ingredients in a small bowl and stir in water by the teaspoon until a paste forms. Spray your slow cooker with cooking spray and place the chicken in, breast side up.

Coat the chicken inside and out with the paste. Cover and cook on low 6-7 hours or on high 3.5-4.5 hours. Make sure the thickest part of the thigh registers at 180 degrees.

The second recipe comes from a website that I have mentioned multiple times now, When my friend and I were looking for ideas about what to cook, we both saw this and thought it looked good so it went on the list. Apparently we may have had a bit of an issue in that the butcher gave us the wrong meat, but this is what we were supposed to be eating:

Slow Cooked Pork with Chorizo and Whitebeans

1.5kg-piece boneless pork leg, trussed

olive oil
2 sprigs rosemary
2 chorizo sausages, sliced
1/4 cup (60ml) chicken stock
400g can whitebeans (cannellini), rinsed and drained
1 apple, cut into wedges
steamed vegetables and crusty bread, to serve

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat and spray with oil spray. Rub the pork with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and cracked black pepper. Cook the pork, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate.

Place pork in the slow cooker along with the rosemary, chorizo and stock. Cover and cook according to the slow cooker manufacturers instructions (see note).

Twenty minutes before serving, stir in the whitebeans and apple. Cover and continue to cook. Transfer pork to a plate, cover and rest for 10 minutes, then slice and divide between serving plates along with the chorizo and whitebean mixture. Drizzle with cooking juices and serve with steamed vegetables and crusty bread.


Most slow cookers will cook your meal in 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low, but this varies depending on the brand of your slow cooker. Refer to your slow cooker instruction manual for the manufacturer’s individual cooking time recommendations.

If you don't have a slow cooker, cook in a casserole dish with lid on or a baking pan covered in foil. The oven temperature should be on a low heat (130°C ), cook meal for 2-3 hours, or until meat falls off fork when tested. Extra liquid may be needed, baste regularly.

So now I am off to put on something pink, go and enjoy good company and good food, whilst raising money for a really worthwhile cause!

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Currently Reading: Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie

It has been a long time since we have had a Jennifer Crusie book. Yes, she has done collaborations with all kinds of people, but for pure Jennifer Crusie, the last one was Bet Me which was released in 2004.

Here's the blurb:

The New York Times bestselling author of Bet Me, Tell Me Lies and Welcome to Temptation delivers her long-awaited novel

Andie Miller is ready to move on in life. She wants to marry her fiancé and leave behind everything in her past, especially her ex-husband, North Archer. But when Andie tries to gain closure with him, he asks one final favor of her before they go their separate ways forever. A very distant cousin of his has died and left North as the guardian of two orphans who have driven out three nannies already, and things are getting worse. He needs a very special person to take care of the situation and he knows Andie can handle anything.

When Andie meets the two children she quickly realizes things are much worse than she feared. The place is a mess, the children, Carter and Alice, aren’t your average delinquents, and the creepy old house where they live is being run by the worst housekeeper since Mrs. Danvers. What’s worse, Andie’s fiancé thinks this is all a plan by North to get Andie back, and he may be right. Andie’s dreams have been haunted by North since she arrived at the old house. And that’s not the only haunting.

What follows is a hilarious adventure in exorcism, including a self-doubting parapsychologist, an annoyed medium, her Tarot-card reading mother, an avenging ex-mother-inlaw, and, of course, her jealous fiancé. And just when she thinks things couldn’t get more complicated, North shows up on the doorstep making her wonder if maybe this time things could be different between them.

If Andie can just get rid of all the guests and ghosts, she’s pretty sure she can save the kids, and herself, from the past. But fate might just have another thing in mind…

A very important part of this book seems to be music and on her website Jennifer Crusie shares the soundtrack to the book. There are references to early 90s music and also to music from the early 80s. Andie and North's song was Somebody's Baby by Jackson Browne, which I must confess I didn't recall. Here it is from Youtube.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Princess Bride Readalong - Milestone 3

The Princess Bride readalong continues, and this week we were to read the sixth chapter of the book. As we are getting towards the end of the book, things should be coming towards the conclusion, and yet somewhat curiously, not a lot happened in this chapter. Things happened, but really there was a lot of repetitiveness and didn't really move things forward all that quickly.

What I did finish the chapter contemplating was how dark this chapter was. The author(s) use a very light language to describe very dark actions. We have murder plots, torture and deception amongst other things.

I was reminded that Goldman is not the only one to use this kind of tactic when it comes to these dark themes. Many of our nursery rhymes and children's songs have darker meanings than you would think if you didn't know about them.

For example, Ring a Ring O' Rosy is supposed to reference the Black Plague. It was commonly believed that sneezing was a sign that you were going to die, hence the all fall down (dead)

Ring a Ring O' Roses,
A pocketful of posies,
Atishoo! Atishoo!
We all fall down!

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary refers to either Mary, Queen of Scots or Queen Mary (Tudor) with silver bells and cockle shells referring to torture tools if it is Bloody Mary!

Mary, Mary quite contrary
How does your garden grow,
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row

I am sure that there are other nursery rhymes whose macabre beginnings have been lost over the years. Do you know of any?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Library Loot: October 20 to 26

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader 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!

Claire is still not feeling well, so I am hosting Mr Linky again this week! Once again, I hope she is feeling better soon!

Here's my loot this week:

Mr Rosenblum's List by Natasha Solomons - I think this is the second time I have borrowed this book. I have heard such good things about it, so I hope that I get to read it this time.

The Third Day, the Frost by John Marsden - The next book in the Tomorrow series.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan - This is another reloot. I was recently listened to a podcast where they talked about how much they enjoyed this book so I put it back on request.

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett - The next book in the Discworld YA series.

Started Early, Took my Dog by Kate Atkinson - This is the latest book in the Jackson Brodie series by Kate Atkinson. I hadn't heard much about it until suddently it was out!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn

I am thoroughly enjoying my read of this, the fourth book in the Lady Julia Grey series of mysteries by Deanna Raybourn. I am sure that the people on the train must have been looking at me somewhat quizzically this afternoon as I was grinning madly while reading away! I am already looking forward to the next one!

My teaser comes from page 11:

Within minutes the porters had fished me out and restored me to dry land where I was both piqued and relieved to find that my little peccadillo had caused my siblings so much mirth they were clasped in each other's arms, stilll wiping their eyes.

"I hope you find it amusing when I die of some dread disease," I hissed at them, tipping the water from my hat.
Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading. Head on over to find out all about it, and how to join in!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Autobuy music

Whilst I have any number of authors that I consider auto-buy, or at the very least seriously contemplate auto-buy, but I can't say the same about music. I probably only buy a couple of CDs every year, but there is on artist that I can guarantee I will buy if he has a new album out.

That artist is Keith Urban, and I was thrilled to learn that there is a new single out now, and that it is only a month or so until the new album is out. Of course, that also leads to tour announcements, and hopefully this time his concert here in Melbourne won't clash with major family events like the last one did!

Here's the new single, which I have replayed several times today. By putting it here, I can easily locate it whenever I want to listen to it!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

TSS: Adventures of an e-reader reader

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had bought an e-reader. I have used it a bit more now, so I thought it might be a good idea to have a bit more of a look at my reactions to the e-reader experience, albeit a bit tongue in cheek.

Here are the advantages so far:

1. Reading on the train - When you are forced to stand for some or all of your homeward bound train journey, it can be awkward to read a book, especially at that moment when the ride is a bit bumpy and you need to turn the page. Letting go of the pole, turning the page and then finding your grip again can be a little problematic! Not so with the Sony Touch e-reader because you can hold the device and turn the page with the button with the thumb, leaving you free to hold on for dear life.

2. Reading on the train (ii) - It doesn't matter what you are reading, whether it be a very staid classic, or the steamiest erotica novel, you don't have to worry about what the cover looks like because your fellow passenger would have to be paying marked attention to be able to tell exactly what you are reading!

3. Reading in bed - One of the reasons I put off buying an e-reader was because I couldn't imaging curling up in bed holding an e-reader, but it is actually better, especially in winter. When you are reading a book in winter, one hand gets really really cold because it is outside the covers holding the book and the other gets a bit cold from turning the page. With the e-reader, only one hand has to get cold!

4. Changing text size - The other day I went out at lunch time and somewhat forgetfully left my glasses on my desk. Normally that would mean that I just wouldn't read because my eyes would get sore, but with the e-reader, just change the text size and voila! I can see without glasses! Of course it does mean that you have to turn the page more regularly!

This to this at the click of a button!

5. Contests - Over the years I have won quite a few e-books in contests, with every intention of reading them, but it was always too hard on the computer. I have finally started reading these books.

6. Freebies - If you keep an eye out there are a bunch of freebies around available to download, from short stories by favourite authors, to books by new to you authors. This includes some fab options available through NetGalley.

7. Prestige - I have been showing off my toy to lots of my reader friends, and they have all been super impressed. The non-readers are probably a bit sick of hearing about it.

8. Buying books - I deliberately made the decision not to get a reader that I could connect to the internet and buy books instantaneously because I wanted that buffer between when I started thinking I might want a book to the point where I actually purchased the book. I am not sure that buffer is sufficient because I have bought a heap of books this month, and not only e-books. At this stage I definitely don't see e-books completely replacing paper books, but definitely providing another option.

9. Keeping the charge - So far I have only charged up my e-reader once, but that wasn't because it needed it. It was still around three quarters full, but I wanted to transfer some books so I plugged it in and left it in for a while.

There are some disadvantages:

1. Reading on the train - I am a bit nosy, and like to take a quick look at what other people are reading. If everyone starts using an e-reader I am not going to be able to do that anymore!

2. Author signings - I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I went to an author event. Whilst it was fun showing off my new gadget to the friend I went with, it became obvious that the e-reader is likely not going to cut it when it comes to getting your book signed. I did see someone suggest that you could get the model I have signed using the notes facility and stylus included but it's not quite the same! Besides, I haven't really played with the notes and stylus just yet.

3. Reading the last page - I have long been one of those readers who at some point or another will skip to the end of the book just to see what happens on the last couple of pages. I know it isn't impossible with an e-reader, but it is certainly more difficult.

If I get a little more serious for the remainder, I honestly have thoroughly loved my e-reader experience so far.

There are definitely still issues that need to be resolved, but I am sure that will happen in due course. One of the most frustrating at this time has been the regional rights issue. For example, a couple of weeks ago I had decided exactly which book was going to be the first ebook that I actually purchased. When I went to a specific site, I couldn't find the book when I searched. I mentioned this on Twitter, and one of my lovely fellow bloggers tried searching for the same book and came up with a link. She lives in Japan, and could buy the book, but as an Australian reader I can not. These difficulties seem to be especially relevant to new releases.

Once I have actually purchased a book though, I haven't had trouble transferring to my computer and then to the ereader itself, which I know can be a bit problematic. Fingers crossed it stays working.

Before I started seriously looking for an e-reader, I used to glaze over at the plethora of blog posts about e-readers etc. Now I am thinking I should have paid a bit more attention because I am not sure that I understand DRM, let alone why so many people strip it from their ebook purchases.

Bernadette from Reactions to Reading has also written expanding on her experiences of being a newbie e-reader user recently.

So far I am more than happy with my decision to purchase a Sony Touch e-reader, and I really can't see that changing any time soon.

And now I am going to spend the rest of my Sunday afternoon snuggled under the blankets with my ereader!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Currently Reading: Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn

This morning I started reading the latest instalment in the Lady Julia Grey series. I hadn't forgotten how much I like the books, but I had forgotten how amusing they are.

In a way, they are reminding me more and more of the Amelia Peabody mysteries in that they are funny, very sexy (but all the action happens behind closed doors), strong characters, and the lead male character, Nicholas Brisbane is very charismatic.

There was also an obscure connection to the last books I finished which were the first two Adrien English mysteries by Josh Lanyon. They are mysteries featuring a gay bookseller and wannabe mystery writer. The connection - both reference the Shakespeare play Titus Andronicus!

Opening Paragraph:

"I thought there would be camels," I protested. "I thought there would be pink marble palaces and dusty deserts and strings of camels to ride. Instead there is this." I waved a hand toward the motley collection of bullocks, donkeys and one rather bored-looking elephant that had carried us from Darjeeling town. I did not look at the river. We were meant to cross it, but one glance had decided me firmly against it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Library Loot: October 13 to 19

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader 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 didn't bring a lot home from the library this week, which in a way is quite lucky seeing as I didn't get many library books read either! I am getting right up near the maximum number of books out again. I just can't seem to help myself.

The books that I got were:

Outback by Aaron Fletcher - This is going to be the first group read at the Sweeping Sagas group at Goodreads. It sounds exactly like a book that I will love!

Comrades by Dominic Knight - This is the second novel from an Australian comedian.I liked the first book, so hopefully this one will be as good.

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner - Feels like I have been waiting ages for this last book in the Thief series. This is a brand new book, so it is especially nice to get that new book feeling without the new book price.

Claire should be hosting Library Loot this week, but she is not feeling well, so I am doing it instead! Hope you feel better soon Claire.

Share your loot by adding your link to Mr Linky below:

Songs that should be played more on the radio

Every morning my alarm is the radio. Some times I get up and go and mess around on the computer in the main room, but lately I have been using the laptop in bed, and still listening to the radio.

As soon as I heard this song I tried to think how long it must have been since I last heard it, and my very vague answer is years, and yet it is a cool song.

I was interested to see that this video was originally banned, and that Sophie B Hawkins had other songs. I am pretty sure this is the only song of hers that made any impression here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by CW Gortner

This week my teaser comes from page 104 of the so far very good The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by CW Gortner:

Less than a year after Francois's death, I couldn't venture outside my apartments without encountering her and Henri's entwined initials everywhere, sprouting on tapestries and eaves like mushrooms after a raid. God forbid Diane ever desired something of mine, for hard-pressed would I be to defend it.
In my readathon mini-challenge post, I mentioned that I have in the past been compelled to spend time searching for images online relating to Russia, Scotland and Tuscany for example, but I should have mentioned France as well. I spent ages at one point looking at Carcassonne, and another place that I have enjoyed looking at online is the Loire Valley, particularly some of the absolutely gorgeous chateaus that are scattered through. This is another reason why I like watching the Tour de France as well!

One of the gorgeous chateaus that I would love to visit one day is connected with Catherine de Medici and the Diane mentioned in my teaser and that is Chenonceau! This image is from the official website for the chateau.

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading. Head on over to find out all about it, and how to join in!

Princess Bride Readalong: Rats

This week is the second week of the Princess Bride readalong being hosted by Chrisbookarama.

In my post last week, I mentioned that I was half expecting to find a character something like Reepicheep from the Narnia novels to come bounding into the storyline. It seems like I have been having a ratty kind of week, because not only did ROUS (Rodents of Unusual Size for the uninitiated) appear in the story (nothing like Reepicheep unfortunately) but I was also reading Terry Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents which was chock full of walking, talking, thinking rats!

For everything that I heard about this book/movie before I started reading the book, the character I had heard the most quotes from, or the most about, was Inigo Montoya, and in the fifth chapter of the novel we get to meet Inigo, along with his co-horts, Fezzik and Vizzini. Each of them got to face off against the man in black who follows them up the Cliffs of Insanity. Who is that masked man?

For the trio of characters we get to meet in Chapter 5, we learn not only of their strengths, but also their motivations and how it was that they came to be sailing towards the Cliffs of Insanity trailed not only by the man in black but also by the flotilla of ships that Prince Humperdink has gathered together.

First we meet Inigo. For years now I have been hearing the name Inigo Montoya mentioned in relation to this book. I know that Mandy Patinkin played the role in the movie despite the fact that I hadn't read the book or seen the movie. We find out about Inigo and his sword making father, and we learn of Inigo's determination to become more than a sword fighter master - he is beyond that level. He is a wizard in swordsmanship, and he has worked to achieve that level in order to be able to take revenge against the six fingered man who killed his father.

Secondly we meet the giant Fezzik. Weighing 85 pounds as a one year old, and continuing to grow and develop his strength over many years, Fezzik's family quickly worked out how to use their son's size and strength to their own advantage by putting him into the prize fighting circuit. They travelled the world forcing their son to fight against much older and more experience fighters. Fezzik isn't necessarily the brightest spark, although he does love rhymes, and he is much more sensitive than you would normally give a prize fighting giant credit for!

And then there is Vizzini, the brains of the outfit. There is probably not much that I can say about Vizzini that he couldn't say much better himself:

There are no words to contain all my wisdom. I am so cunning, crafty and clever, so filled with deceit, guile and chicanery, such a knave, so shrewd, cagey as well as calculating, as diabolical as I am vulpine, as tricky as I am untrustworthy....well, I told you there were not words invented yet to explain how great my brain is, but let me put it this way: the world is several million years old and several billion people have at one time or another trod upon it but I, Vizzini the Sicilian, am, speaking with pure candor and modesty, the slickest, sleekest, sliest and wiliest fellow who has yet come down the pike. 

This fifth chapter was very long, even with the significant abridgements that Goldman was keen to stress that he had taken out. With the structure the way it was though there were short sections within the chapter where we learnt about the three characters, plus their action with the man in black, and then the final scenes where we find out who the man in black is and what he wants with Buttercup.

If there is one character who I am having a little trouble warming up to it is Buttercup. At this stage it seems that her main merit is her beauty, and I am definitely not impressed with the choices that she made at the end of this chapter. I am sure though that she will redeem herself in due course!

So far I am having a lot of fun with this readalong. The thought did cross my mind tonight that maybe I should buy the book, and what the heck, might as well buy the movie straight away too, as I am pretty sure I am going to love it when I do eventually watch it!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Currently Reading: The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by CW Gortner

Catherine de Medici is one of those characters from history who seems to have ended up with a pretty bad reputation. I have definitely seen her portrayed more as one of the bad guys in the fiction I have read. For example, she was the very scary and evil queen in Susan Carroll's excellent Faire Isle novels (I really need to read the last couple of those!)

I am looking forward to seeing what C W Gortner does with her in the course of his book. I thoroughly enjoyed his last book on Juana the Mad, so I have high hopes for this one too.

Opening Line: I am not a sentimental woman.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dewey's Readathon: The Wrap-up

I feel a bit cheeky doing a wrap up post because quite frankly this hasn't been the best readathon for me. Better than April when I ended up not doing anything, but not by much!

My excuses - the time zones are a bit inconvenient, it was a gorgeous spring day here and it was a family members birthday so we spent most of the day outside indulging in retail therapy and sunshine.

I did manage to get up to date in Princess Bride Readalong, read a few pages of The Amazing Maurice and I not only started, but also finished The Exile by Diana Gabaldon.

I hosted a mini-challenge and had such a great time doing so! Thank you again to everyone who participated.

I spent quite a bit of time cheerleading, visiting everyone I was allocated, and also I think I managed to visit all my mini-challenge participants.

As usual I also spent a fair bit of time on Twitter. If I had to sum up my readathon experience in just one sentence it would probably be "lots of sunshine, not much reading, but heaps of fun!

And now it is time to go to bed!

Dewey's readathon: Mini-challenge winners

Thank you to everyone who participated in my Armchair Travelling mini-challenge. If I haven't been to comment on your post yet, I will do so before the end of the event!

Now, I am happy to announce the winner of the main prize!

Trisha from Eclectic/Eccentric

who wanted to visit the steampunk/paranormal world that Gail Carriger's book Soulless is set in.

Brandileigh from Blkosiner's Book Blog and  Erin from Erin Reads both win a set of 2 handmade travel themed bookmarks!

If all the winner's can email me their postal addresses, and Trisha the details of which book she would like, I will get the prizes on the way!

Dewey's Readathon: I'm up!


So Sunday is here, and it is time to get reading and cheering! I actually got a little bit of reading done, so I have at least met two of my objectives that I specified in my initial readathon post. I read up to the current goal for the Princess Bride and started The Exile.

Now to go and have a look at the posts from the participants in my mini-challenge, do a bit of cheering and then get a couple of hours reading time in.

It's going to be a gorgeous spring day here, and it is a family member's birthday so we we are going out to take advantage of the sunshine and have some lunch but after that I should be able to get some full scale reading in.

Dewey's Readathon Mini-Challenge: Armchair Travelling

Welcome to my Armchair Travelling mini-challenge as part of this weekend's Dewey's Readathon.

My love of being taken to different places through reading started as a very young child, when my favourite Enid Blyton books were The Adventures of the Wishing Chair and The Magic Faraway Tree. In the Faraway Tree, the children climb to the top meeting a variety of characters who live in the tree, and when they get to the very top there is often a different land to explore. That sense of adventure through reading inspired my blog name and description, and now the look of my blog.

As an adult, I love to read books that make me want to visit new places. These days I can't afford to travel much, so when I read a book like that, I am limited to cyber travelling which involves searching the net for images of locations mentioned in the book, and seeing the major sites of those cities or countries.

For example, when I read The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons, I can't tell you how long I spent looking at images from St Petersburg. From the statue of The Bronze Horseman, to the Field of Mars,from The Hermitage to St Isaacs Cathedral, from The Summer Palace to many, many more sites.

Over the years I have spent time armchair travelling to places like Scotland, Charleston, New York, Tuscany and so many more.

The Challenge:

My challenge to you (if you choose to accept it) is to write a post sharing some of the sites from your books, or some facts about the place where your books are set. It could be books that you are reading for readathon, or books you have read recently, or some of your favourite books ever.

In conjunction with this mini challenge I am offering up a prize to the participants. The winner will receive a book of their choice from The Book Depository and some travel themed bookmarks. I will also send some bookmarks to a couple of runners up as well.

The bookmarks may (or may not) look similar to the examples below (only because I am still making them!).

To enter this mini-challenge, leave the link to your post in Mr Linky below. The winner will be chosen using As long as Book Depository ships to you, then you are eligible to win the main prize, and I am happy to send bookmarks to anywhere.