Saturday, July 31, 2010

Weekend Cooking: Pumpkin

I've mentioned at least once that I was going to do a post about pumpkin's and that day has come!

You might ask why I wanted to do this. I think that as hard as we try, we often have preconceptions that countries with similar food cultures will use certain items in the same way as we do, and it is only when you start having conversations that you find out that it isn't necessarily true.

I remember when I first started interacting with people around the world on the internet having a conversation about pumpkin. There was a lady from Holland who basically said that pumpkins weren't really used as food at all. There were some people who would hollow them out and make lanterns around Halloween (although certainly not everyone) but not to actually eat, and then there were the people from America and Canada who had only tried pumpkin as a sweet dish (for example pumpkin pie). For me, pumpkin is predominantly a savoury ingredient which is usually used in soups, roast dinners, casseroles etc. There are some people in Australia who like to use them in pumpkin scones, but I haven't actually tried those myself.

So here are a couple of my favourite ways to use pumpkin, firstly in a soup, and then in a Moroccan style casserole. The second recipe was my winter recipe a couple of years ago, by which I mean I find a recipe and then make it multiple times in the season, and then move onto the next recipe. A couple of years ago, I think I served it every time someone came for dinner. Unfortunately for my sister and brother in law that meant they had it a few times, but oh well!

The first recipe is Pumpkin Soup with a Twist and I originally found it at The good thing is that this is designed to be cooked in a slow cooker so you can just put it on and forget about it for a few hours.

  • 3/4 medium sized butternut pumpkin, skin and seeds removed, chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1-1 1/2 teaspoons mild curry powder
  • salt and cracked black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup full cream
  • chilli powder to taste, if desired
      1. Place pumpkin, potatoes, onion, curry powder and stock in a large slow cooker. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for several hours until vegetables are tender.
      2. Turn off the heat and allow to cool. Using a food processor or stick blender, process until smooth.
      3. Stir through the cream and chilli powder (if desired). Warm the soup through again, season to taste and serve. 
      *Evaporated milk can be used rather than cream for lower fat.
      ** What we call butternut pumpkin is also known elsewhere as butternut squash.

      The second recipe is what was called Easy Moroccan Lamb Tagine, although technically I guess it is a casserole given that it isn't actually cooked in a tagine. I originally found this recipe in a Super Food Ideas magazine, but it can also be found on the website, and when I serve it I tend to serve with cous cous and steamed green vegies, especially if I have guests.

      • 2 tablespoons olive oil
      • 1kg lamb leg or lamb rump steak, trimmed, cut into 4cm pieces
      • 1 large brown onion, diced
      • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
      • 2 x 410g cans Ardmona Rich Thick  Moroccan Style chopped tomatoes with ginger and coriander
      • 600g kent pumpkin, peeled, deseeded, cut into 3cm pieces
      • 400g can chickpeas, drained, rinsed
      • 200g green beans, trimmed, cut into 4cm pieces fresh coriander leaves, to serve

      1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan or ovenproof casserole dish over medium-high heat. Add one-quarter of the lamb. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until browned. 
      2. Remove to a bowl. Repeat with remaining oil and lamb, adding more oil if necessary.
      3. Add onion to pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and pumpkin. Return lamb to pan. Increase heat to high and bring to the boil.
      4.  Remove from heat. Cover and place in oven. Cook for 1 hour or until meat is tender. Add chickpeas and beans. Cook for a further 15 minutes or until beans are tender. Spoon into bowls. Sprinkle with coriander. Serve.
        So there you have it. A couple of ways that I like to eat pumpkin.

        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.

        Thursday, July 29, 2010

        Currently Reading: The Hypnotist by M J Rose

        I am doing something a little bit out of the norm for me. I am reading the third book in a series first. Normally I am very much a stickler for reading a series in order, but I am assured that I will not notice it. We'll see I guess. Given that the Publisher's Weekly review says "special agent Lucian Glass of the FBI's Art Crime Team continues to pursue Malachai Samuels of the Phoenix Foundation as well as the list of Memory Tools (deep meditation aids that help people access past-life memories) that Malachai covets." I am not convinced.

        So here's the blurb for The Hypnotist:

        An FBI agent, tormented by a death he wasn't able to prevent, a crime he's never been able to solve and a love he's never forgotten, discovers that his true conflict resides not in his past, but in a…Past Life.

        Haunted by a twenty-year old murder of a beautiful young painter, Lucian Glass keeps his demons at bay through his fascinating work as a Special Agent with the FBI's Art Crime Team. Currently investigating a crazed art collector who has begun destroying prized masterworks, Glass is thrust into a bizarre hostage negotiation that takes him undercover at the Phoenix Foundation—dedicated to the science of past life study—where, in order to maintain his cover, he agrees to submit to the treatment of a hypnotist.

        Under hypnosis, Glass travels from ancient Greece to 19th century Persia, while the case takes him from New York to Paris and the movie capital of world. These journeys will change his very understanding of reality, lead him to question his own sanity and land him at the center of perhaps the most audacious art heist in history: the theft of a 1,500 year old sculpture from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

        International bestselling author M. J. Rose's The Hypnotist is her most mesmerizing novel yet. An adventure, a love story, a clash of cultures, a spiritual quest, it is above all a thrilling capstone to her unique Reincarnation novels, The Reincarnationist and The Memorist.

        Very early in the novel there are several famous paintings that are mentioned and that form part of what appears to be quite a complex plot. I am starting to see what role this particular thread of the plot will play, but I could be completely mistaken. I thought I might try to find some pictures of those paintings to share.

        The first is View of the Sea at Scheveningen by Vincent Van Gogh.

        The second is Beach at Pourville by Claude Monet:

        The third is Portrait of a Lady by Gustav Klimt

        I couldn't find the name of the fourth painting but it is described as pink roses, so I am hoping it is this one

        The final painting mentioned is View of St Tropez by Matisse. I couldn't find an image or a mention of that painting so instead I am sharing View of Collioure.

        In the book, the View of St Tropez is described in the following way:

        The exuberant brushstrokes, which appeared so primitive up close, created a luminous beach scene when viewed from a few feet away. It was brighter and louder than the Monet - there was more joy in this painting, less contemplation.

        This short trailer talks about the whole series. The more I think of it, the more I think I probably have started at the beginning of the series!

        Some people are so talented!

        Saw this at Leslie's and had to share.

        This is a trailer than a fan has made for a movie of The Hunger Games. Watching it though, it's hard to believe that this is a fan made trailer - it looks so awesome! I'd go and see this movie in a heart beat, if only it was being made!

        This trailer was made by TheHungryJabberJay

        Wednesday, July 28, 2010

        Library Loot: July 28 to August 3

         First things first!

        I have the great pleasure of announcing that the new co-host of Library Loot is .....

        Claire from The Captive Reader

        I will let Claire formally introduce herself next week and that will be when she will host Mr Linky for the first time. In the mean time I wanted to publicly say thank you to the other people who volunteered to co-host. I was pleasantly surprised to get so many volunteers and it was really hard to choose between everyone!

        Anyway, enough of the formalities.

        Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire 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 am very excited about the two books that are waiting to be picked up from the library in the next couple of days, but I guess I should talk about the books that I picked up this week first!

        Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich - The most recently released book in the Stephanie Plum series. I stopped buying the books at about book eleven in the series, and I don't regret that. I still like reading them, but not enough to actually want to consistently buy them.

        The Dead of the Night by John Marsden  - Book no. 2 in the Tomorrow series. I am really excited at the prospect of reading this one.

        The Black Pearl by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles - The next book in the Morland Dynasty series. This one is set in one of my favourite eras to read about - The Restoration court of Charles II.

        Duet by Kimberley Freeman - I remember looking at this book when it first came out, mainly because of the cover quote from Paullina Simons. I am not sure why I didn't pick it up. I was reminded about this author when Sarah from Reading the Past mentioned her upcoming US release. This was the book that was currently in, so I picked it up. It will also count for my Aussie Author challenge reads.

        Goddess of the Sea by P C Cast - Now that I am up to date with the House of Night series, I thought it was time to read some other P C Cast novels. This is the first in this series. I actually own the second or third book. Not sure why given that I normally only like to buy whole series.

        The Darkest Room: A Novel by Johan Theorin - I added this to my TBR list after Kerrie asked her readers what the best crime fiction title they had read this year was and this book came up trumps. A couple of weeks later and it won the CWA International Dagger award. I am looking forward to immersing myself in another Swedish crime nove.

        Taste le Tour 2008 with Gabriele Gate - I posted a couple of Taste le Tour segments for my Weekend Cooking post last weekend. Not sure when I am going to get to watch this but I am going to try!

        What loot did you get from the library this week? Add your link to Mr Linky below, so we can all come and have a look at your loot.

        Tuesday, July 27, 2010

        Teaser Tuesday: Sourcery by Terry Pratchett

        We are in the middle of an election campaign at the moment. On August 21 we could have a change of government, or we could have the same government with our first elected female prime minister! Currently, Julia Gillard is our PM and so she is our first female PM, but she got the job by ousting the previous leader of the party.

        When I read a section in my current read, Sourcery by Terry Pratchett, on how the Archchancellor of the Unseen University got the job, I thought it might be a fun teaser, given our political environment at the moment. My teaser comes from page 14:
        A kind of spring had even come to the ancient University itself. Tonight would be the Eve of Small Gods, and a new Archchancellor would be elected.

        Well, not exactly elected, because wizards didn't have any truck with all this undignified voting business, and it was well known that archchancellors were selected by the will of the gods, and this year it was a pretty good bet that the gods would see their way clear to selecting old Virrid Wayzygoose, who was a decent old boy and had patiently waiting his turn for years.
        And then again from page 25:
        The higher levels of wizardry are a perilous place. Every wizard is trying to dislodge the wizards above him while stamping on the finger of those below; to say that wizards are healthily competitive by nature is like saying that piranhas are naturally a little peckish.

        And just because Terry Pratchett makes me laugh, and this isn't a political comment, here is another teaser from page 62:
        'Not much call for a barbarian hairdresser, I expect," said Rincewind. "I mean, no-one wants a shampoo-and-beheading."

        "It's just that every time I see a manicure set I get this terrible urge to lay about me with a double-handed cuticle knife. I mean sword," said Conina.

        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, July 26, 2010

        Mailbox Monday: July's acquisitions

        I was thinking that I talk a lot about the books that I pick up from the library when I do my Library Loot post each week, but I don't actually often talk about the books that I acquire in any other way. Therefore, I think that I might start doing Mailbox Monday every now and again, probably once a month and I will talk about the books I got over the preceding month. Here are the books that came into my house in July:

        The other Saturday night I went to a trivia night, and I won these three books as part of the raffle. I doubt I will read the Dr Phil ones, but never say never. I am more than happy to at least look at the pictures in the Patrick Swayze novel, assuming there are pictures. I actually haven't checked yet.

        Received from Helen Hollick. I already owned the first book in this trilogy so now it is completed.

        Review books for October. I am very excited by the Lady of Hay, which I have heard so many good things about. I also really enjoyed the last Ciji Ware book I read so that should be good too.

        I won this book from The Australian Literature Review

        Received for a blog tour.

        So there you have it. The books that I received over the last month. We'll see how many books I acquire over the next month!

        Mailbox Monday (hosted by The Printed Page) is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

        Sunday, July 25, 2010

        TSS: My reading peeves

        I am not sure how often I will do this because I am generally a pretty easy to please reader, but every now and again, my TSS post may well feature a commentary about the things that annoy me!

        For my first post though, I guess I will have to explain why it peeves me before I reveal my pet peeve.

        Do you have reading quirks? I do. Today's example of this is to do with when I put a book down. When I am reading on the train, I try, where possible to finish reading for the morning at a chapter break, or at the very least at one of those big breaks between paragraphs (whatever they are called). In other words it will be at a natural break in the text.

        When I am reading at home though, it is a little more complicated than that. Yes, I still put the book down at the end of a chapter, but wherever possible I will put the book down at the end of a chapter that is divisible by 5. So if it is chapter 13, I will push on to read 2 more chapters. If I am at the end of chapter 25 or 30 I feel very comfortable in putting the book down for the night. Why? I don't know. I don't even know when this particular trait started!

        All of which leads me to a problem when a book doesn't have any chapter breaks. How can I put it down if there are no chapter breaks, and yet at some point I really have to. At the moment I am reading The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer - no chapter breaks. Next book is Terry Pratchett's Sourcery. I don't think that I have noticed chapter breaks in any Terry Pratchett books. How can there be no chapters!

        I know it is a small thing, but it seriously makes me struggle about when I can put a book down.

        Do you have any pet peeves which other people might not find annoying at all.  How about quirky reading habits?

        Saturday, July 24, 2010

        Paris in July/Weekend Cooking: Tour de France edition

        Tomorrow, the remaining riders who will have travelled 3642 kilometres will ride up the Champs-Elysees, and then presumably take a well earned break, having completed the 2010 Tour de France!

        I am an armchair participant in Le Tour. I love watching it, although I don't often see the end of any stages because it finishes about 2am here. I do often watch the pre show chats, and the beginning of the ride each day. I love watching the cyclists and trying to figure out the strategy, as well as what the heck is going on. For example, I know what the yellow jersey means, and I kind of get the King of the Mountain competition, but I have no idea how you win the polka dot jersey or many of the others! The other highlights for me as well though is the French scenery, particularly the chateuax and the historical information that is shared by the commentators.

        Before you start wondering if I have forgotten that this is a weekend cooking post, I really haven't. One of the things that happens every night before the start of the stage is that there is a segment called The Taste of the Tour, where the host, Gabriele Gate, talks about the specialities of the particular region where the tour is travelling through that day. He shares a recipe using some of those ingredients, as well as giving a recommendation as to the wine that would be best with that recipe.

        Gabriele Gate is one of the higher profile French chefs in Australia, in terms of media profile at least, and he has that gorgeous French accent going on. He has lived in Australia for over 30 years, and has cooked on many TV shows, as well as cook books and DVDs. I actually picked one of his DVDs up from the library today, so you may well hear more about him at some stage.

        So, in honour of the final stages of the Tour de France, here are a couple of the Taste Le Tour segments from a couple of years ago featuring Gabriele Gate. This one is for Lamb Casserole with Green Olives (only because I had lamb shanks for dinner, and whilst they were nice I am thinking this would be better) and the second is for Crayfish a la Parisienne because it features some talk about food and shopping in Paris.

        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.


        Paris in July is being co-hosted by Karen from Book Bath and Tamara from Thyme for Tea. Both of these bloggers share a love of all thing French and Parisian, and so they have combined to host a month long event to celebrate!

        Book Blogger Hop: July 23 to 26

        I don't always participate in the Book Blogger Hop, but I do often have a look at the blogs on the list. It really depends on whether or not I have time over the weekend to spend some time hopping from one blog to another as it isn't enough to post about the Hop, the idea is to spend time looking at other blogs!

        I was initially also a bit worried about the fact that the post would be the same every week as well, but over the last few weeks Jennifer has started asking questions which makes it a little bit different each week. This week's Jennifer asks us to talk about the book that we are currently reading.

        I am still reading, and enjoying, The Passage by Justin Cronin, but I have talked about that a couple of times already. The other book I am reading at the moment is The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer. Luckily it is short and I should be done with it soon. The only problem with it really is that it doesn't have any chapter breaks, which is one of my pet peeves for books! It upsets my reading patterns! I am planning to talk about this a little more in my Sunday Salon post tomorrow. Unfortunately, my next read is also from an author who doesn't seem to like chapter breaks either!

        Want to know more about the Hop. Here's some information, but for all the details head on over to

        In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and find new book-related blogs that we may be missing out on!  This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books!  It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed!  So, grab the logo, post about the Hop on your blog, and start HOPPING through the list of blogs that are posted in the Linky list !!

        Thursday, July 22, 2010

        Alphabet in Historical Fiction: O is The Oak Apple by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

        Actually O is also for the Other books I have read in the Morland Dynasty, as I have read the first four books now, but haven't reviewed any of them. So here are some mini reviews for the series so far, ending with the latest book I read, The Oak Apple.

        The Morland Dynasty is a series that is currently 32 books long, and follows one family through from the War of the Roses, until the 20th century. Along the way there is triumph and tragedy, war and peace, birth and death, and glimpses into major historical events through the eyes of the fictional Morlands.

        1434: the Wars of the Roses are the backdrop for the founding of the MORLAND DYNASTY.

        Power and prestige are the burning ambitions of the domineering, dour Yorkshireman Edward Morland. He sets out to secure his family's future by arranging a marriage between his son Robert, more poet than soldier, and Eleanor, a ward of the influential Beaufort family. Eleanor is appalled at having to marry a mere 'sheep-farmer', but despite her passion for Richard, Duke of York, she has to obey. Yet this apparently ill-matched union becomes both passionate and tender, and their life together promises prosperity and success - though all too often mangled with tragedy as they are embroiled in the civil strife which has divided families and set neighbour against neighbour.

        This remarkable marriage truly lays the foundations for the MORLAND DYNASTY.

        Eleanor Courtney may be an orphan with very little in the way of dowry, but that doesn't mean to say that she doesn't have high hopes for an excellent marriage. When she finds her husband is to be a sheep farmer, albeit a very large and prosperous sheep farmer,  from the North she isn't best pleased. Eleanor is nothing but pragmatic and she is determined that she and her husband are going to start a dynasty, and that their home, Morland Place, is going to become a show home, to be passed through the generations.

        The only thing that threatens the stability of these ambitions is the unrequited romantic leanings that Eleanor has towards Richard, Duke of York. With the War of the Roses raging, the Yorkist Morland's must do their part, and struggle to hold onto their growing business interests, including their new found connections to the cloth industry.

        Eleanor is a strong and dominating character both within her family, and in the pages of the book, but it is really the placement of the lesser characters within the well known events that provides the most interesting facets of the story.

        When we first found out about Eleanor's feelings for Richard, I just assumed that it was the future Richard III that we were talking about. It was only a bit later that I realised that it was a generation earlier, and Richard's father, that had captured her heart. I guess that assumption shows more about me than it did about the book. The events in this book cover from the mid 1430's to around the 1480's, when Richard III lost his kingdom to the usurper who we know now as Henry VII.

        One of the things that I have been glad of in all of the books in this series so far is that there is a family tree at the beginning of the book, as it is easy to occasionally get a lost as you try to keep track of all the children, grandchildren, and which cousin married which cousin.

        I originally read this for the Chunkster Challenge of 2009. Whilst it did qualify for that challenge, at 527 pages it didn't feel like a chunkster, and I breezed through it in 2 days.

        1501: the turbulence of Henry VIII's reign brings passion and pain to the Morlands as they achieve ever greater wealth and privilege.

        Paul, great grandson of Eleanor Morland, has inherited the Morland estates, and his own Amyas is set to be his heir. But Paul fathers a beloved illegitimate son, and bitter jealousy causes a destructive rift between the two half-brothers which will lead to death. Paul's niece, Nanette becomes a maid-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn, and at the court of Henry VIII she becomes embroiled in the King's bitter feud with Rome.

        Through birth and death, love and hatred, triumph and heartbreak, the Morlands continue proudly to claim their place amongst England's aristocracy.
        As I am sure she will do more and more, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles places the characters from the Morland family right in the midst of the action. There is a gap between the end of the last book, and the beginning of this one, and so we skip from the end of the War of the Roses, until we are firmly in the Tudor court.

        The major female character in this novel is Nanette, and it is she who gives us the greatest insight into life at the court of Henry VIII, when she is appointed as lady in waiting to Catherine of Aragon. She is also close friends with Anne Boleyn and Katherine Parr, and therefore we get to witness the rise and fall of the most infamous of Henry's queens, and the aftermath. The time at court is nicely balanced by the time that Nanette spends at home with her family, despite the fact that it features a highly unlikely and somewhat shocking relationship. In the end, love prevails, but that relationship, which I am not going to reveal, is probably the thing that I remember most from this whole book.

        The religious struggle that Henry becomes embroiled in is well covered in this book, with the opinions of the family split. I would say that this does seem to be something that the author does very well, both in this and  and in the future novels that I have read in the series.

        The head of the Morland family is Paul, and he does seem to be something of a cold fish. He is jealous of his brother, he is unable to show his own children affection, and in turn they become fierce rivals, with tragic consequences.

        The Princeling is the third volume in the Dynasty series which follows the fortunes of the Morlands, a Yorkshire wool family, from the Wars of the Roses to World War II. A story which began in The Founding and continued in The Dark Rose.

        The Princeling is set in the adventurous reign of Elizabeth I. The Catholic Morlands are threatened by the upsurge of Protestantism and are forced to seek new spheres of influence, through marriage.

        John, heir to Morland Place, rides north to bring back the daughter of Black Will Percy, the Borderland cattle lord. But proud Mary will not have him, and John stays in Redesdale, to live the strange, savage life of the Borders, and learn through blood and battle how to win her heart.

        Lettice, the second Morland, enters the court of Mary, Queen of Scots and weds the harsh, ambitious Lord Robert Hamilton. In a hostile world of treachery and tragedy, the wolfish lord teaches her how to survive and triumph.

        In The Princeling, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, with her sweeping style and authoritatively researched background, has written another powerful chapter in the history of the mighty Morland Dynasty, which grows to encompass three great estates - in Yorkshire, Northumberland and Scotland.
        Having survived the courts of Henry VIII our story moves forward into the Elizabethan era. Once again, love and marriage play a significant part in this novel. Paul and Nanette are back, with the latter once again taking her place at Court. This time it is the court of Elizabeth I, daughter of the woman who was once Nanette's close confidante and friend.

        Paul is trying to expand the influence of the Morland family and so marriages are sought, with John trying to wed the daughter of Black Will Percy, and Lettice sent to the court of Mary, Queen of Scots. I have to say that Mary Percy was one of my favourite characters in this novel in that she was different from most female characters in the novel with her skills in fighting and hunting, possibly a little bit anachronistic, but oh so much fun.

        Not all of the characters that we meet are fun to read about, and there are a fair share of unlikeable characters, but the book is once again very readable.
        The Oak Apple is the fourth volume in the Dynasty series which follows the fortunes of the Morlands, a Yorkshire wool family, from the Wars of the Rose to World War II.

        The Oak Apple is set in the reign of Charles I, when England has prospered under long years of peace. But peace is suddenly and violently shattered by the advent of brutal civil war between King and Parliament.

        Edmund Morland seeks to steer a middle course between the opposing factions, but the family is split when his eldest son Richard, brings home a Puritan bride, while his second son Kit, rides to join Prince Rupert and the dashing Royalist cavalry.

        As bitterness and disillusionment replace the early fervour, the war grinds on, severing husband from wife, brother from brother, and Edmund struggles grimly to preserve the Morland fortune intact, estranged from his sons, alienated at last, even from his beloved wife Mary.

        A blazing panorama of love and death, grief and triumph, The Oak Apple sees the Morlands at war, struggling for the survival of their loyalties, and their values.

        I have written before about how much I enjoy reading about Charles II, particularly his return to the English throne, but I can't remember reading anything about the events that led up to his exile to Europe, and the battles that his father, Charles I had with Parliament that led to the English Civil War. This book covers many of those events.

        Edmund Morland is a throwback to earlier generations. Once again a seemingly cold man is at the head of the family, and once again, it is rivalries between brothers, and other family members, that sets in motion a series of events that once started seem to gain momentum of their own.  His eldest son Richard feels like he has been deprived of the same opportunities as his young brother Kit. When it is time for him to take his chance to attend Oxford, the last thing that anyone expects is that Richard will come back to Morland Place with a strictly Puritan bride. With the high

        Edmund is conscious that his main aim has to be to preserve Morland Place for future generations, and so he treads a fine line by trying to keep in good both with the Royalists and the Roundheads. Those decisions leave no one satisfied, especially not his children and their spouses,  and drive a wedge between him and one of the few people who understand him, his devout wife Mary Esther.

        Like previous heads of the family, Edmund also has his eye firmly on the expansion of the Morland landholdings, and this time his eye is on the New World. Conscious that in order to provide all of his children with land he would have to break up the current holdings, he sends one of his younger sons, who has married one of his cousins, to the new colonies of America where life is much harder than they expected.

        The most fascinating character for me was one that I only recall hearing about in passing - Prince Rupert of the Rhine. He was viewed as one of the most dashing and for a long time, the most successful, of the King's Cavaliers. It was at one of his first defeats that the Morland's toll was highest.

        One of the more memorable Morland characters for me from this book will be Kit, who is the second son of Edmund. When he returns home from Oxford, he is a dashing young man, and he is quickly smitten with his beautiful cousin Hero, not at all concerned about the limp that so many others cannot see beyond. When the war starts he enlists with the Royalists, and finds himself in close proximity with Prince Rupert at battle after battle and skirmish after skirmish.

        The portrayal of the initial enthusiasm, which in time changes to a battle weariness that infects his whole attitude was very moving, and left me hoping that some how he would find a way back to his young family.

        One of the things about this book, as easily as Harrod-Eagles introduces new characters, she is equally not afraid to kill of minor and major characters. At times this is heart breaking to read, but also helps to give the books a grittiness and realism that is not necessarily always present in novels.

        Just a quick note on the cover that I have used above. When I do a review I like to use the actual cover that I had, but I looked for ages online to find an image of this one, without success. In the end I had to scan it in to be able to use it. Probably shows how long this book has been in my library system more than anything!

        So there we have it. Brief reviews of the first four books in the Morland series. Now I just have to keep up with them as I read each book. I have already requested The Black Pearl, the fifth book in the series, from my library. I am looking forward to reacquainting myself with the Morlands.

        By the way, Sourcebooks is in the process of rereleasing the early books in the Morland series (and I hope that they will continue to do so). If you are looking for them, then here are the covers of the first three books that have already been reissued.

        Wednesday, July 21, 2010

        Library Loot: 21 to 27 July

        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!

        This is the last time that I will be able to post the above blurb, as Eva has decided to stand down as co-host of this meme. This decision saddens me a little given that I treasure the friendship that I have with Eva which was definitely enhanced by co-hosting, but I do understand why she has made the decision she has made.

        What does Eva's decision mean for the future of Library Loot? It means that I am looking for a new co-host! So what does co-hosting require. It means that you will need to ensure that you have a Library Loot post up every second week on a Wednesday, and that you will need to have a Mr Linky account, so that you can put one of those up for people to sign up to. The basic Mr Linky accounts are free, so there is no financial implications. Apart from that, I like to try and visit all the participants every week and leave a comment, but that is really it in terms of commitment.

        Are you interested? If yes, send me an email at ozdiamondlil at gmail dot com, and we will go from there.

        This week I finally made it to the library so have a few Loot items to share.

        The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier - Reading Ciji Ware's Cottage by the Sea made me want to read another du Maurier, so I picked this one up. I have only read Rebecca before and really liked that one, so I am looking forward to reading more.

        Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris - Next book in the Sookie Stackhouse series. Something a bit strange happened with this one. The sticker on the front of the book says that it is a two week book, but when it was checked out they gave me a month to read it.

        Married by Morning by Lisa Kleypas - Next book in the Hathaway series. This is Leo and Marks' book and I am really looking forward to reading this one.

        Zack by Cheyenne McCray - I was feeling in the mood for something a little sexier. I don't necessarily read a lot of these kinds of books, so we will see what happens with this one.

        Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley - My quest to read everything by Susanna Kearsley continues!

        Don't forget to leave your link in Mr Linky so that we can all come and check out the loot you got as well!

        You may have seen this already, but I thought it was too fun not to share as part of this week's Library Loot post. We don't even have these ads here in Australia, but thanks to the internet, we too get to share the awesomeness that is Old Spice Man.

        Tuesday, July 20, 2010

        Teaser Tuesday: The Passage by Justin Cronin

        I ended up inadvertently having a couple of blogging free days over the weekend. Suddenly had a lack of inspiration, but I already have ideas for my weekend posts so maybe I just need a mini break or something. Of course, the lack of blogging time could be directly related to the fact that I wasn't home much.

        Last week I shared the opening lines of The Passage by Justin Cronin for the Book Beginnings on Friday meme. I did get to read for awhile, but I am still reading it, so I thought that I would share more from the book for Teaser Tuesday. So far, I am enjoying this book a lot. One of the things that I am finding though is that as soon as I think I have figured out what is going on, then something changes. That's not a bad thing, just an observation.

        My teaser comes from page 246:

        When daybreak found him he would be no more. Amy, he thought as the stars began to fall, everywhere and all around; and he tried to fill his mind with just her name, his daughter's name, to help him from his life.

        Amy, Amy, Amy.

        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!


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