Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Library Loot: June 30 to July 6

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and myself 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 have posted before about the expanding library service in my area, but I know that I am one of the lucky ones in that my library service isn't being constantly cut back. Just this week Holly from Book Binge posted about her library, and she linked to an article from The Huffington Post which gave some suggestions as to what people can do to help fight cuts in their local library systems. Given that there are some dedicated library lovers amongst us, I thought that the link might be of interest to some of you.
It is end of financial year today here, and for me that means lots of work, and having everything crossed that I have got everything right! It also means that I am not really reading as much as I would like, but that doesn't stop me from picking up more books from the library.

This week I picked up:

The Passage by Justin Cronin - There's been a lot of buzz about this book for a while now. Time to see what all the fuss is about. Lucky for me I am the first person to borrow this.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan - This is another brand new book. I read The Keep from this author a few years ago now and liked it, so hopefully I will like this one too.

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett - I haven't read any of the YA books by Terry Pratchett so I thought I would start with this one.

Sourcery by Terry Pratchett - This is the next book in the Discworld series for me. I was a little surprised that I had to get it as an Inter Library Loan. I might have to do this again for later books in the series too.

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: an Eclipse Novella by Stephenie Meyer - Wasn't intending to buy this, so from the library it is!

Eva will have Mr Linky today so head on over to share your link!

Edited to add Mr Linky! Sorry for the delay everyone.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: Fire by Kristin Cashore

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!

Earlier this year, I teased from  Kristin Cashore's debut novel Graceling. Now I am reading Fire, which is kind of a prequel, in that it is set in a nearby Kingdom to Graceling, but it is pretty much stand alone.

I am going to share a couple of teasers. The first comes from the beginning of Chapter 1 on page 17. I was going to do share this for Book Beginnings on Fridays which is hosted at Page Turners but then I had a dilemna because whilst this is the first two sentences of Chapter 1, there is quite a long prologue, which I have yet to find how it connects to the main story.

It did not surprise Fire that the man in the forest shot her. What surprised her was that he shot her by accident.
The other teaser comes from page 115:

Bathing in a cold lake posed some unforeseen challenges - like the little monster fish, for example, that swarmed around her when she dunked her hair, and the monster bugs that tried to eat her alive, and the need for a special guard of archers just in case of predators. But despite the production of it all, it was good to be clean.

I already know that I am looking forward to the next book from this author!

Monday, June 28, 2010


A few years ago now I read a book which I absolutely loved called The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly, the second book in the Rose trilogy. It is a Victorian saga style novel and it was one of my favourite reads of 2006.

The first book in the trilogy was called The Tea Rose and followed a young girl from a poor part of London as she forges her way through the tea business at the turn of end of the 19th century. The Winter Rose was once again set in the rough docks areas of London, and this time the main female character was a young doctor.

At the time of reading The Winter Rose, there was a release date on Amazon UK which from memory was 2007, and then it got changed to 2008, and then there was no release date, but finally, finally we have word from the author:

Wanted to let you know that I just turned in a first draft manuscript of The Wild Rose!

This third and final part of the Rose saga follows Seamie’s and Willa’s story, introduces a few new characters, and – of course! – brings back a few old ones.

"Finished" is a very relative word when talking about manuscripts. There will be a bit of backing and forthing first, between me and my editor, until we arrive at a final manuscript, and then proofreading and fact-checking. But The Wild Rose should be out in stores sometime during 2011. As soon as I have a firm publication date, I will post it in the calendar section of the Web site.

Thank you so much for all the encouraging emails you sent as I wrote this book, and for your patience!

I can already tell you that the third book, The Wild Rose, is going to be one of my most anticipated releases for next year!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

TSS: Footnotes

Have I mentioned lately that I am reading War and Peace at the moment? I may have done once or twice mainly because I am pretty pleased with myself for giving this a go!  I am not surprised that I am enjoying it, because I know that I liked Anna Karenina, but it still took a while to get to the point of wanting to read the next Tolstoy novel.

One of the things that I have been thinking about whilst reading it is the use of notes related to the text. Just recently I was also reading Mort by Terry Pratchett, who is a contemporary author who loves to use footnotes in his Discworld novels, as does another favourite novelist of mine, Jasper Fforde. Now to put Tolstoy, Pratchett and Fforde in the same post may seem like a bit of a stretch, but I am going to do it anyway.

In classics the use of notes, whether they be footnotes, or notes that are at the back of the book (what are they called when they are at the back of the book anyway?), is very prevalent. A lot of the time they are there to explain contextual points that the original audience would have already been familiar with and would have understood but that for the modern reader have been lost in the sands of time.

Today's post really is a question about how people read footnotes/annotations. I tend to put the bookmark at the page where the relevant notes for this section are so that I can easily flick back and forward and I read the note as soon as I see it mentioned the number annotating that there is a note in the text. Is this what other readers do as well, or do you read to the end of the paragraph and then go back and read the notes?

Do you prefer your notes to be at the back of the book or to be at the bottom of the page? For the translation I am reading of War and Peace there wasn't really an option to put the notes at the bottom of the page, because there is quite a lot of the text that was originally written in French, and a little bit of German, and it has been left as French and German in the translation, and therefore at the bottom of the page there is the English translation.

So how do Pratchett and Fforde fit into this discussion? Both of the authors like to have what I think of as almost asides in the footnotes. Some times in Pratchett's case they could be notes that go off on a tangent or just a funny comment.

I have often wondered how audiobooks deal with the footnotes. Is it different for the contemporary novelist than it is for the classics?

So, on this cool wintery Sunday (for me at least), let's talk footnotes.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Brothers of Gwynedd Part 2 - Dragon at Noonday

At the beginning of the summer (Northern Hemisphere season that is because it isn't particularly warm here at the moment), the Sourcebooks Summer Reading Club was announced. The book that we were going to be reading was The Brothers of Gwynedd by Edith Pargeter. It's fair to say that a fair proportion of the participants in the club really struggled with the first part of the book (myself included), but it seems that continued for most people with the second part of the book, and therefore the club was cancelled.

I might have been one of the few participants who was disappointed at this outcome, because as much as I struggled with the first part, I really enjoyed the second part of the book, so at this point I am planning to try and stick with the original time frames. We'll see how we go with that. The story was engaging, and I was disappointed when I had to put the book down a couple of times, because I would rather have been able to keep reading than to go to work.

Once again, I found myself thinking back to my reading Sharon Kay Penman’s Welsh trilogy a few years ago, with the events in this second part of the book equating with a lot of the storyline from Falls the Shadow. I am thinking that when I do finally finish this book, then a reread of the Welsh trilogy may be in order.

Part 2 of the Brothers of Gwynedd, which was originally published as a separate book under the title Dragon at Noonday, opens with Llewellyn returning to his lands in triumph. He is the head of a mostly unified Wales, with most of the major players having agreed to follow him. What followed was a period of relative prosperity and strengthening in Wales, helped in no small way by the fact that the attention of the English was not focused on their borders, but rather on internal strife.

Of course, the history of the relationship between Wales and England being as it is, even when things are peaceful it is never really all that calm, and for Llewellyn one of the worst things about this particular period of prosperity is the desertion from his ranks of one of his most important men, who also happened to be one of his relatives. On the flip side, it also meant a deepening respect and friendship between himself and Simon de Montfort, who at one point was the virtual leader of England during the baronial opposition to Henry III which is sometimes referred to as the Second Baron's War.

Rather than talk too much about what happened, I wanted to comment more on a couple of the characters, specifically the narrator Samson, and also Simon de Montfort.

It is always interesting when reading historical fiction to see what device authors use to get their fictional characters close to the action. Having Samson be a clerk who is a dab hand in a fight as well as having some religious background turns out to be very clever. By virtue of his occupation, Samson is able to be right in the action whether it be with Llewellyn, or as happens several times, by having Samson be temporarily seconded to Simon de Montfort's camp and by in the action I mean that he very well could be either confidante in his role as clerk or in the heat of battle.  The other advantage to having our narrator be a clerk, is that there are times when more background information can be shared through letter form, and it doesn't feel unnatural or out of place.

At the time that this book is set, King Henry III was being called to task by many of his lords for not living up to the agreements that he made in relation to the taxation and governance of the people. The leader of the rebels was Simon de Montfort who happened to be married to the King's sister. The relationship between the two men had started out in friendship, with Simon being one of Henry's son's godfathers, but it soon turned to animosity. Throw in some meddling from the church, and it seems like it was never going to end well.

One thing that I did find interesting is that in both this book and Falls the Shadow - again comparing to Sharon Kay Penman - the portrayal of Simon is so positive. In this book,  words that he are used to describe him include pure and saintly. An effort is made to admit that he does have failings, but for the most part it is obvious that the author really admires everything that Simon de Montfort stood for. He did do some amazing things, and is generally agreed to be one of the founders of modern parliamentary democracy, but I have also heard that there are some suggestions that there might be things to be less enamoured of, particularly in relation to the action he took part in whilst on crusade. However it is that he behaved in his time, I do find him a very interesting and dynamic character from history to read about, especially in the hands of excellent authors.

My plan now will be to pick up the third book at the beginning of next month and see what happens next, both in relation to Llewellyn and his family, in the relationship between England and Wales, and also in Samson's personal life. I am looking forward to it.

If I was to rate this second part, Dragon at Noonday, I would give it 4.5 out of 5, which is quite a contrast to the 3.5 out of 5 I gave the first part.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Library Loot: June 23 to 29

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and myself 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 been reading many library books in the last week. I have been mainly reading two books that I own. I am sure that this decision is going to come back and haunt me later, but oh well. It wouldn't be the first, or hundred and first, time that I have had to reloot!

Here are the books I borrowed from the library this week:

Red Dust by Fleur McDonald - I have seen this author on Twitter. I haven't read a novel with an Australian rural setting for ages, so I thought I would give her a go. This book will count for the Aussie Author Challenge.

The Kingdom of Ohio by Mathew Flaming - This is a book I requested so that I could move forward on the Amy Einhorn challenge.

Tempting Evil by Keri Arthur - This is another Aussie author. I have read the first couple of books in this series so it is probably time to read the next one. (Reloot)

The Confession of Catherine de Medici by CW Gortner - This is one of the more highly anticipated releases for me this year. I was number 1 on the request list so that means a brand new book! Love it when that happens.

Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts - Another brand new book. This is the third in the Bride Quartet. I am looking forward to being able to curl up with this one night and just reading from beginning to end, and then closing the book with a sigh. That's the plan anyway!

So what loot did you get this week? Share the link to your Library Loot post in Mr Linky so we can all drop by and take a look.

Attention: Terry Pratchett fans and challenge participants

Have you heard about Terry Pratchett's Discworld Cup?

It is a tournament which is trying to determine what the best Discworld novel is as decided by us, the Discworld Fans. It is up to the quarter final stage now, but you can still vote!

Head on over to to cast your vote in the remaining rounds!

Props to Book Gazing who mentioned it in their post earlier in the week!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: War and Peace by Tolstoy

At the moment I am reading three books. One is For the King by Catherine Delors which I teased from last week. One of the others is Mort by Terry Pratchett which I quoted from quite extensively over the weekend, and that leaves War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.

I thought I would quote from the book itself, but then I am going to also quote from the introductory notes as well, because I thought there was a very interesting passage there. So I am only about half way through Part 1 at the moment, and I wanted to quote from a section I have read already, so here is my quote from page 60:

Pierre arrived just before dinner and sat awkwardly in the middle of the drawing room, in the first armchair he happened upon, getting in everyone's way. The countess wanted to get him to talk, but he looked around naively through his spectacles, as if searching for someone, and gave monosyllabic answers to all the countess's questions. He was an inconvenience and was the only one not to notice it. The majority of the guests, knowing his story with the bear, looked curiously at this big, fat, and placid man, wondering how such a clumsy and shy fellow could perform such a stunt with a policeman.

The two sentences I wanted to share from the Introduction come from page xiii. It is part of an article that Tolstoy wrote that was originally published in the Russian Archive magazine in 1868 entitled A Few Words Apropos of the Book War and Peace, and is a response to the question "What is War and Peace?"

It is not a novel, still less an epic poem, still less a historical chronicle. War and Peace is what the author wanted and was able to express, in the form in which it is expressed.

I love that second sentence - War and Peace is what the author wanted and was able to express, in the form in which it is expressed. I wonder how many authors can say that these days.

There's every chance that you might see more teasers from this book over the next few weeks.

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

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Cottage by the Sea by Ciji Ware

One woman, one man, one fate for both...

A remote cottage on the wild coast of Cornwall sounded to Blythe Barton Stowe like the perfect escape from the pain and humiliation of events in far off Hollywood that had ended her marriage, her career, and all but destroyed her self-esteem. But soon she seems to be reliving a centuries-old tragedy, and the handsome owner of the shabby manor house on the hill appears vitally entwined in her destiny. As they unearth one shocking family secret after another, Blythe is forced to conclude that her intriguing neighbour is more than just an impecunious British gentleman bent on saving his ancestral home. And the impeccably honourable Lucas Teague begins to see Blythe as a lifeline in an otherwise bleak existence.
But is the unbridled attraction they're experiencing a dangerous distraction, or could it be strong enough to transcend the insurmountable complexities of time and place...?

I have been thinking a lot about time travel and time slip novels lately, mainly because there are some novels that I love that fall into this category. There are certain locations that seem to be prime settings for this kind of novel. I am not sure if it is due to a mystical reputation, the weather, or a rich historical setting, or what it is exactly but places like Ireland, Scotland and Cornwall seem to foster the kind of environment which is perfect for timeslip novels in particular.

In this case, the setting is Cornwall, although the story starts in Hollywood. Blythe Barton is one half of a successful Hollywood partnership. She was the production designer, her British husband Christopher was a seriously hot producer who has just won an Oscar and together they made critically and popularly successful movies. That is until he betrays her in one of the most callous ways possible.

When the book opens, Blythe and Christopher are finalising their divorce in a sea of paparazzi and publicity. All Blythe wants to do is escape. She could have gone back home to Wyoming but it no longer feels home to her after the death of her grandmother. Instead she rents an isolated cottage on cliff overlooking the sea in Cornwall. She had always intended to research the possibility that her own family originally came from the area, but hadn't seem to have been time before now.

Her landlord  is handsome Lucas Teague, owner of the nearby stately home, Barton Hall. He is somewhat the impoverished landed gentry. Maybe impoverished is a little strong, but he is trying to come up with a way of saving his house as he is finding it difficult to keep up to date with taxes and with keeping the place maintained. He is therefore very pleased to have a paying tenant, especially when Blythe decides to extend the lease for the whole summer. When she comes up with a plan to turn the estate into a nursery business, the two of them go into partnership. Their attraction is mutual, but both of them carry a lot of emotional baggage with them, not to mention that there are the added complictions of Lucas's son and a very attractive godmother who seems to be more than just a friend.

Normally when I read a timeslip novel it is the historical story which keeps me most interested, but in this book I was more interested in the current story. The main reason for this is that I find the historical stuff a little too contrived... a little too try hard in some ways.

Whilst looking at the family tree in Lucas's home, she finds that there is an ancestor who bears her name who was also married to a Christopher. She is all the more surprised when she suddenly finds herself back in time seeing the events through the first Blythe's eyes. Where modern Blythe has been betrayed by those closest to her, historical Blythe is very much the betrayer. She is the betrothed of Christopher (known as Kit). It is a marriage that has been engineered by his father to ensure that the two land holdings that are adjacent to each other can be joined together both for future generations, but also because it will enable the much easier undertaking of smuggling operations. She is however in love (or at least lust) with Kit's much more charismatic and handsome younger brother.

I suspect the historical Blythe is meant to be seen as a spirited young woman who does whatever she can to get her own way, even if that means disgracing herself in the name of love, but in some ways she comes off instead as quite selfish. She certainly doesn't have the ability to be able to discern which of the people who surround her truly care for her. When the younger brother is sent into exile due to their terrible behaviour, Blythe thinks that she has the upper hand with her husband and that she will be able to keep her family home, but Kit has gone from a man who cherishes his wife to one who seeks the ultimate revenge.

I did like that through witnessing the events of the past, modern Blythe was able to get some perspective and healing from her own troubles, particularly when her ex husband turns up unexpectedly with a hidden agenda.

For the most part I enjoyed this read. Certainly I enjoyed the first few chapters enough to have requested the other book that my library has by this author before I had even finished the book. Normally I don't request the next book until I have finished the one that I was reading. By the time I got to the end, there were however a couple of things that didn't quite work for me.

The first thing I found a little odd was that the flashbacks weren't chronological. I guess there is no rule that says that they have to be, but if they weren't going to be then I wanted a reason why they weren't. Maybe I just didn't see that. The second actually related to the attempts at explanations that were given. As I mentioned before, places like Cornwall seem to me to have an aura of other worldliness so I didn't necessarily need to have the author work so hard at trying to bring a logical explanation of events. Some explanation was necessary for sure, but there were a few patches in the book where we were treated to long winded discussions which seemed to be a chance to regurgitate what the author had learned.

The final misstep for me was when the author was trying to make the connections between historical Blythe and modern Blythe's family, particularly in moving the action away from Cornwall which for me was so central to the success of the whole timeslip occurences.

This book was originally released in the late 1990s and so had been reviewed and updated, presumably with references to new technologies, and I thought that was pretty well done.

I really enjoyed all the references to Daphne du Maurier's books scattered throughout the pages, and I found myself wanting to pick up some of her books after I finished this one. It might still happen soon.

I guess to summarise, I enjoyed this one, but for different reasons than I would normally enjoy a time slip/time travel novel.

Thanks to Sourcebooks for sending me a review copy of this book.

Rating 4/5

Sunday, June 20, 2010

TSS/Currently Reading: Book Pricing or Why I love the Book Depository

One of the truths about being a book lover in Australia is that books here are expensive, so I thought it would be interesting to do a comparison of the price for a specific book. This post is also doubling up as a Currently Reading post, because I did actually start reading this book on Friday. Yes, I am 2% of the way through War and Peace by Tolstoy! I signed up for the Classics Circuit (White Nights on the Neva: Imperial Russian Literature tour)and my post is due on 15 July 2010, although I was very clear when signing up that it was more likely to be a progress post rather than a review as such.

Originally I borrowed the book from the library, but then I realised that there was no way I would be able to get through it and read other books as well, so I decided to buy it.

So my comparison basis for this exercise was that it was the same translator, and I was only looking at the paperback copy of the novel. All the sources are also the online stores, I haven't actually moved from my chair to do this comparison. The cover on the left is the US cover and the one on the right is the UK cover. All prices are in Australian dollars, and were based on the exchange rate the day that I did the comparisons (so may have changed a little since then).

Book Depository UK $17.01 (free postage)
Book Depository US $23.84 (free postage)

Borders Australia (US version) $30.95 (free postage)
Borders Australia (UK version) $23.95 (free postage)
Dymocks (UK Version) $29.95 (plus $6.50 postage)
Angus and Robertson (US Version) $40.95 (plus $6.00 postage) $16.03 (plus $11.94 postage)

One other thing that probably needs to be taken into consideration is that fact that ordering online means that you can't have that instant gratification. There are still days when I will go to the book store and buy a book, but generally I will either get it from the library or I will order it from overseas.The shipping cost for Amazon was for Standard International Shipping (averages 18-32 days), but there are faster shipping options available but they cost more. In my experience I generally get orders from the UK Book Depository within a week or so of ordering.

The final factor is that often there are books that I see mentioned around blogs that I really want to read, that just never make it into the stores here, so by buying from overseas means that I get access to a lot of those books.

It seems ridiculous really that it costs me significantly more to buy from an Australian bookstore than it does to buy a book from the UK or the US, but that's the way it has consistently proven to be for this Australian book buyer. I would love to be supporting Aussie business, but when the prices are not really even competitive it is hard to do that.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Weekend Cooking: Curtis Stone and Coles

Curtis Stone is a name that may be familiar to those of you who live outside Australia. He has done some cookery shows both in the UK and the US (currently on a show called Take Home Chef), has appeared on Oprah and he was also in the most recent series of Celebrity Apprentice. At one point he even made it onto a Sexiest Man Alive list. I appreciate a man who can cook as much as the next girl!

He originally comes from Melbourne, and got his start in TV on a show called Surfing the Menu. Most recently he has been involved with one of our major supermarket chains promoting easy and tasty meals for families. Some of them are supposed to be achievable on a budget of less than $10, which is always good too.

Last weekend I tried my second recipe from this series, so I thought I would share those two recipes from Curtis, just out of interest.

The first recipe we tried a few weeks ago was Fettucine Bolognese. Like many other people bolognese is a favourite in our house. If ever I can't get the boy to eat then cook bolognese and he will be coming back for seconds. However, I know that I have cooked it from scratch maybe 20 years ago, but most of the time I cheat and use a jar. The idea of cooking from scratch was a little intimidating,  but in the end it was actually pretty easy, and very tasty. I do have to say though this is a recipe that doesn't reheat all that well.

Fettucine Bolognese

  • 2 tbsp olive oil, (from pantry)
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 250 g Portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 500 g mince
  • 400 g whole peeled Italian tomatoes
  • 350 g  fettuccine pasta
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper, (from pantry)

1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan. Add the beef mince, season with salt and pepper and stir to break up the lumps. Cook for 5-7 mins over high heat until browned. Add the onion and cook for 2 mins then add the garlic, carrots and mushrooms, cook for 2 mins until just softened. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 30 mins.

2. Cook the fettuccine according to packet directions.

3. Toss fettuccine with sauce in fettuccine cooking pan. Mix in basil.

The second recipe we tried from the series was Chicken and Leek Pie, and I have to say that I really, really liked this one. Unfortunately the boy wasn't quite so keen. In fact, that is a recurring them in our cooking adventures at the moment. He loves to help cook whatever it is that we are making - the chopping, the stirring, reading the recipe and getting it all together - he just won't eat it! Very frustrating, especially as I would quite happily make this over and over. You could make this a mid week meal as well by buying pre cooked chicken and shredding that and therefore reducing the preparation time right down.I didn't use the sesame seeds, and if I do make it again I might throw in some mushrooms or sweet corn or something.

Chicken and Leek Pie

· 4 chicken thighs
· salt and freshly ground pepper
· 1 tsp olive oil
· 2 tbsp butter
· 1 onion, finely diced
· 1 leek, cut in half lengthwise and then into 1cm strips
· 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
· ¼ cup plain flour
· 1 cup chicken stock,
· ¼ cup thickened cream
· ½ tbsp tarragon
· 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
· 1 egg, beaten with tbsp milk to glaze pastry
· sesame seeds, garnish

1. Preheat oven to 200º. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Place on large baking tray and roast for 15 minutes. Turn and roast for a further 15 minutes until cooked and golden brown. Set aside to cool slightly and reduce oven temp to 180º. Reserve the pan juices. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into large chunks and place in a bowl. Discard sinew, bones and skin.

2. Melt butter in large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and leeks and sauté for 5 minutes or until tender but not browned. Stir in mustard, then flour and cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in chicken stock, cream and pan juices. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until sauce thickens. Stir in shredded chicken, tarragon and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool, then refrigerate.

3. To assemble the pie, spoon the chicken mixture into a baking dish. Drape thawed puff pastry over the baking dish and press firmly around the rim to seal. Cut slits into the top, brush with egg and milk wash and garnish with sesame seeds. Bake in oven for 50 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Set aside to cool slightly before serving.

Images from

Friday, June 18, 2010

Currently Reading: Mort by Terry Pratchett

I love reading Terry Pratchett books, but over the years I haven't done that regularly enough. That is one of the reasons why I felt the need to start the Terry Pratchett Challenge, which I have then managed to not do any updates on! I have every intention of doing so, I promise!

If this was a Teaser Tuesday post then I would struggle to choose just two lines because there are so many fun ideas that are clamouring to be shared. This is not only in the actual text, but also in the footnotes.

I thought for my Currently Reading post today, I would share just a few of the quotes that I have come across in the first 40 or so pages of this book.

Pratchett's descriptions can by funny, such as this example when he is describing the major town on Discworld:

So let's just say that Ankh-Morpork is as full of life as an old cheese on a hot day, as loud as a curse in a cathedral, as bright as on oil slick, as colourful as a bruise and as full of activity, industry, bustle and sheer exuberant busyness as a dead dog on a termite mound.

but sometimes his language use is poetic and beautiful as well:

Death nodded, and reined in the horse. It stood on the air, the great circular panorama of the Disc glittering below it. Here and there a city was an orange glow; in the warm seas nearer the Rim there was a hint of phosphorescence. In some of the deep valleys the trapped daylight of the Disc, which is slow and slightly heavy was evaporating like silver steam.

But it was outshone by the glow that rose towards the stars from the Rim itself. Vast streamers of light shimmered and glittered across the night. Great golden walls surrounded the world.

"It's beautiful", said Mort softly. "What is it?"


"Is it like this every night?"


"Doesn't anyone know?"



Death leaned over the saddle and looked down at the kingdoms of the world.


Of the Pratchett characters I have read so far, I have to say that Death is my favourite! This is a Death that gets upset when people kill kittens, who likes a good curry and always speaks in capitals. His endeavours to be somewhat human but never quite getting it right are entertaining, from creating his own personal garden:
Death's garden was big, neat and well-tended. It was also very, very black. The grass was black. The flowers were black. Black apples gleamed among the black leaves of a black apple tree. Even the air looked inky.

After a while Mort thought he could see - no, he couldn't possibly imagine he could see...different colours of black.

That's to say, not simply very dark tones of red and green and whatever, but real shades of black. A whole spectrum of colours, all different, and all - well, black.
to the fact he rides a real horse called Binky:

It is a fact that although the Death of the Discworld is, in his own words, an ANTHROPOMORPHIC PERSONIFICATION, he long ago gave up using the traditional skeletal horses, because of the bother of having to stop all the time to wire bits back on.

and even tries to wink:

Something like a small supernova flared for a moment in the depths of his eyesockets. It dawned on Mort that, with some embarrassment and complete lack of expertise, Death was trying to wink.

Some times this is just the kind of read that I need, so now I am going off to read some more!

Challenges Update

I have recently finished a couple of challenges, and so wanted to do the wrap up posts for them.

The first challenge is the Once Upon a Time which I actually finished about nearly a month ago, but I don't think I have posted about yet. The books that I read for this challenge were:

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
Tangled Webs by Anne Bishop
When Twilight Burns by Colleen Gleason
The Fury by L J Smith

The second challenge that I have completed a couple of days ago is the Pub 2010 Challenge. The aim of this challenge is to read 10 books that are being published in 2010. Actually, now that I am getting this post together, I realise that I actually finished the challenge a while ago now, but because I can't count, I have now read 12 books for this challenge! Oh well.

The books that I read for this challenge are:

Lessons in French by Laura Kinsale
Roses by Leila Meacham
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham
Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff
The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
The Endless Forest by Sara Donati
Within the Hollow Crown by Margaret Campbell Barnes
To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick
Uncertain Magic by Laura Kinsale
A Cottage by the Sea by Ciji Ware
The Making of a Duchess by Shana Galen

The other challenge that I finished today is the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge. I was actually all ready to declare that I had finished this challenge about 6 weeks ago, when I realised that I had only read 12 of the required 20 books, so I am not sure what I was thinking there. The books I read for this challenge were:

The Night They Stormed Eureka by Jackie French
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Leonardo's Swans by Karen Essex
Roses by Leila Meacham
The Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willig
Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland
The Champion by Elizabeth Chadwick
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark
The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham
Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff
The King's Favorite by Susan Holloway Scott
The Endless Forest by Sara Donati
Within the Hollow Crown by Margaret Campbell Barnes
Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati
To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton
Emma Vol 3 by Kaoru Mori
The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey

Finally, I am going to make my participation in the Amy Einhorn perpetual challenge official. I don't usually follow specific imprints of books, but I have enjoyed the two that I have already read (The Postmistress and The Help) so I will give this challenge a go, which is being hosted over at Beth Fish Reads

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Currently Reading: For the King by Catherine Delors

I have been thinking about ways I can share reactions and thoughts about a book without necessarily writing a review, so I am thinking that I might start writing a few "Currently Reading" posts. They will mostly be commentary on things like book trailers, or covers, with the synopsis or random thoughts. Who knows really, could be anything. Don't worry, there still will be some reviews!

For my first post I wanted to share the cover for Catherine Delors upcoming release For the King (coming out on July 8). When I first saw the cover for this book online, I liked it, but it was when I saw the actually cover, that I realised just how gorgeous it is. This is because when you look at the whole cover you can see the clever way that the picture wraps around the spine on the dust jacket.

Catherine Delors just posted on her blog showing the whole dust jacket, so you can see the whole image, and also how the colour on the back of the book reflects the colour of the dress on the front. Click on the link above for a larger version of the picture below.

Kudos to the cover designer of this book!

For a taste of what this book is about, here is the book trailer:

The Making of a Duchess by Shana Galen

A very dangerous attraction...

Julian Harcourt, duc de Valere, is more than willing to marry the lovely young lady his mother has chosen. Little does he know, she's been sent to prove him a spy and a traitor.

And an even more dangerous secret...

Sarah Smith's mission is to find out whether the Duc's trips to the Continent are as innocent as he claims, but the way he looks at her is far from innocent...

Their risky game of cat and mouse propels them from the ballrooms of London to the prisons of Paris, and into a fragile love that may not survive their deceptions.

Have you ever read a book where the idea was just so much better than the actual experience of reading it? This is one of those books for me.

I really, really loved the set up of this book, and was completely blown away by the first chapter (which really was a prologue) which was involving, exciting and heart breaking. Our hero, Julien Harcourt, duc de Valere, lives in London. He is a French nobleman who has escaped from the French Revolution with his mother and started a new life in England.  His family did not however escape unscathed from the Revolution. Not only was his family's wealth lost, but his father was killed, and it was thought that his two younger brothers were also. Whilst Julien is accepted by the ton, he is also somewhat outside the narrow rules that govern behaviour within the ton, and so he has worked very hard to build up the family wealth again, providing shelter for his English born mother.  Julien has never however given up hope that perhaps some of his family has escaped their supposed, and so is in constant contact with France, and has on occasion travelled there.

It is this contact that brings Julien to the attention of the British government, and in turn brings Miss Sarah Smith into his life. Sarah is governess to the children of a high ranking government agent and at short notice she is given an ultimatum: accept the role of spying on the Duc by infiltrating his household or lose your position. Sarah has never known any family and spent all her formative years in an orphanage and so feels she has no choice but to accept the role or risk being on the streets, no matter how ill equipped she may be. She is to pretend to be Madamoiselle Serafina Artois, daughter of family friends of the Valere who supposedly escaped the troubles and is now coming to England to marry Julien as she is his mother's choice of bride for her handsome son.

While I loved the set up for Julien, and can only remember reading one other romance which had any hint of this type of character, I felt that the character of Sarah was less successful. Whilst I sort of liked Sarah, I was as unconvinced at her ability to be able to pull off this ruse as she was, and often thought that she was putting herself into unnecessary and unlikely situations to be able to drag the story forward.

There was certainly plenty of drama in the story. From a governess pretending to be a spy, to a Duc who may or may not have been a traitor, trips into some of the seedier parts of London that are often not mentioned in historical romances (or if they are it is in relation to a do-gooder doing charity work there),  to a perilous trip to Paris where aristocrats were still very much in danger, to a daring rescue and unlikely revelation regarding identities and the bad guys at the end, there should have been enough to make this a captivating story. In the end I don't think I was captivated as such. Maybe interested is a better way of putting it.

It took me a few days of thinking of the right word to describe my reaction, and in the end I came up with the word skimming. It felt as though the action moved from one point to the next propelled by unlikely plot twists and scenarios with the reader just skimming along with them. I wanted more depth, and more emotion, and to be more invested with our main couple. If anything I preferred the sections where Julien was moving his cause forward despite Sarah's actions (for example in Paris) whereas generally a romance should be about the two halves that come together to make a whole.

The set up for the next two books in the Sons of the Revolution trilogy is started up in this novel, and they sound exactly like something I would enjoy reading, so while I didn't necessarily love this book, I haven't yet given up on Shana Galen.

Her next book, The Making of a Gentleman, sounds as though it features my favourite type of hero - those dark, tortured men whose scars are often more than just physical and is due out in October of this year

Thanks to Sourcebooks for the review copy.

Rating 3.5/5

For other opinions:

Gossamer Obsessions
Readin' and Dreamin'

Edited to add: You can win a copy of this book if you are interested over at Hist-Fic Chick.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Library Loot: June 16 to 22

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and myself 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 area I live in is one of the fastest growing areas in my city, and so along with that comes more infrastructure, including new libraries. There was a new library opened about 15 minutes away from me last year, and now there is news of another new one which will be open about 7 minutes away from my house. One of the awesome things about that is that they are stocking the library with all new items - more than $1 million worth of new books, DVDs, CDs etc. Depending on the opening hours I am definitely thinking that the new branch will become my home branch, rather than going to the one I currently go to.

Eva has Mr Linky this week. Here's the loot that I got!

The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson - Reloot.

Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman - Ended up taking this one back already as I won a copy from Savvy Verse and With and it arrived.

The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley - Read it, teased from it, loved it. Now need to borrow the next book that my library has access too. Of course, then I realised that I actually have owned it for more than six months so I could have read it ages ago!

La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith - Reloot. I actually had no intention of borrowing this book from the library tonight, but I ended up engaging in conversation with the librarian who recommended it. She was so enthusiastic that she was going to put it on hold for me there and then, but then she checked the catalogue so she went off to get it for me! Hope I like it.

Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith - Another reloot.

Burned by PC Cast and Kristin Cast - Next book in the House of Night series.

Gale Force by Rachel Caine - Reloot. This is the book that I thought I had lost, but then hadn't. Let's hope the same thing doesn't happen this time.

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness - Follow up to The Knife of Never Letting Go which ended on a massive cliffhanger.

Be sure to head on over and share your library finds for this week.

Would you like to know the story behind this picture?

If you would, head on over to Stacy's Place on Earth, where I have been answering a few questions about myself!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Double Teaser Tuesday

This week I thought I would share two teasers. One is from a book that I just started, and the other is from a book that I just finished, and really enjoyed.

The first teaser comes from page 138 of For the King by Catherine Delors. This book centres around a failed assassination attempt against Napoleon Bonaparte in Paris in 1800. I have to say this cover looks good, but in real life it is absolutely gorgeous, with the woman in the dress wrapping around the spine of the book. So pretty!

It is about time, Madame Coudert, for you to realize that what you want, or don't want, doesn't matter in the least." His voice was down to a hiss now. "I am asking you to something for the cause, and I fully expect you to comply."

The second teaser comes from The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley which I finished earlier today. This is the third book I have read from this author, and they have all been excellent so far, including this one!  I need to get hold of her entire back list so that I can have them here for whenever I need to fall into a book and lose myself in her world.

The teaser comes from page 242:

" Well you do choose your moments, don't you? I mean, we're practically standing on a drunken man, and my students are just round the corner, and Peter could be back at any minute..."

"Just experimenting."

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


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