Monday, January 31, 2011

Mailbox Monday: January acquisitions

I'd like to think that I am being a little restrained when it comes to new acquisitions, but I think that I may be a bit delusional. Here are the books that I aquired during January:

Ekaterinburg by Helen Rappaport  - It's been quite a few years since I read something about the Romanovs. Lisa from ANZ Litlovers was kind enough to send this one my way.

Queenmaker, Wisdom's Daughter and Delilah by India Edghill - Won from

I am the Chosen King by Helen Hollick (for review) - Have enjoyed all the other books I have read from Helen Hollick so looking forward to this one!

Staying at Daisy's by Jill Mansell (for review) - It has been far too long since I read a book by Jill Mansell.

Pale Rose of England by Sandra Worth (from the author)

The Warrior's Apprentice and The Mountains of Mourning by Lois McMaster Bujold - Having finished the Sharing Knife series a while ago, I wanted to read more and was planning to start the Miles Vorkosigan series. I think these are the first two books although it is a bit unclear from what I can tell.

Forgotten by Cat Patrick - this was a lovely surprise when I met a friend for coffee not too long ago.

The Tudor Secret by C W Gortner (from the author) - so pleased to get hold of this book!

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran (from the author) - Yay! New Michelle Moran.

Secret of the Sands by Sara Sheridan (from the author)

The Vampire Voss by Colleen Gleason
- I was very restrained this month and this is the only book that I requested from Netgalley!

Mailbox Monday is on tour and for January it is being hosted at Rose City Reader. Head over there to share your links, or to see what everyone else has posted about this week.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Salon: Diana Norman/Ariana Franklin

Summer has arrived in Melbourne with a vengeance today. It is hot, hot, hot! So hot that just trying to come up with topics for my Sunday Salon was too hard for my overheated brain.

I actually had pretty much decided that I wasn't going to do a post but then I was on Twitter when @coffeebookchick from Coffee and a Book Chick mentioned that she had heard the news that British mystery writer Ariana Franklin had passed away last week. Ariana Franklin is the author of the medieval mystery series featuring Adelia Aguilar as a female Mistress of the Art of Death (basically a coroner).

I first started reading this author, not in her medieval crime series I mentioned above, but in her earlier straight historical fiction novels that were published under her real name Diana Norman.

Of the novels published under the name of Diana Norman I have only read her Makepeace Burke trilogy that started with A Catch of Consequence. It features a plucky young woman who rescues and then falls in love with an English Lord. She moves to England at a time when England and America are at war, and thus is an outsider, not helped by the fact that Makepeace goes into trade, further ostracising herself. What follows is a life of adventure and hard work, and the whole trilogy was an excellent read.

I had every intention of reading more of her historical novels, which are now sadly out of print, and I thought I had it all under control because my library had quite a few of them on the shelves. Unfortunately though, they have now been taken off of the library catalogue. I really think that they should have to check with me before they take books out of circulation, just in case they might be books that I want to read at some point, Many of her earlier novels are now very rare and when they do become available are very expensive but I am going to have to keep an eye out for them because I have heard that they are excellent

With the first book published under the name Ariana Franklin, there seemed to be a new and greater appreciation for Norman's, or should I say, Franklin's writing abilities, and the series was popular. Now I guess the questions are is there another book started that could bring the series to conclusion, or is that it for Adelia and Rowley and the others in a cast of unusual characters that populated 12th century England. I must confess that there are some series that I read that I am a little bit afraid that the author is going to not be able to finish the series off in the way that they intended to do so.

Here is a list of the titles published (with links to my review where applicable)

Diana Norman

Fitzempress' Law (1980)
King of the Last Days (1981)
The Morning Gift (1985)
Daughter of Lir (1988)
Pirate Queen (1991)
The Vizard Mask (1994)
Shores of Darkness (1996)
Blood Royal (1998)
A Catch of Consequence (2002)
Taking Liberties (2003)
The Sparks Fly Upward (2006)

Ariana Franklin

City of Shadows (2006)

The Mistress of the Art of Death (2007)
The Serpent's Tale (2008)aka The Death Maze
Relics of the Dead (2009) aka Grave Goods
A Murderous Procession (2010)aka The Assassin's Prayer

Diana Norman leaves behind her husband, prominent UK movie critic Barry Norman, two daughters and lots of fans.

Farewell to a favourite author.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Throw a Prawn on the barbie

This week it was Australia Day and so it seems like a great time to talk barbecues, and particularly prawns. This was prompted by the fact that a couple of weeks ago I watched the episodes of Oprah where she came to Australia. In the first part where she was touring around, she went to the Great Barrier reef and was dropped on an island and Curtis Stone cooked for her and some of her travelling audience! They started with seafood, and Curtis mentioned throwing a shrimp on the barbie. Now first of all, Curtis should know better - it was a prawn, and secondly I wouldn't have minded getting my hands on those prawns because quite frankly they were huge!

And that prompted me to think that I haven't posted my favourite prawns on the barbecue recipe for at least a year, and certainly not as part of Weekend Cooking, and so today's post was born!

I've made this recipe quite a few times now - only difference is that I use prawn cutlets (no heads), and some times I use lemons instead of lime because they aren't always easy to find in the shops.

Low-fat barbecued prawns with lime, chilli & coriander

Preparation Time

20 minutes
Cooking Time

25 minutes

Ingredients (serves 4)

* 2 tbs fresh lemon juice
* 1 tbs fish sauce
* 2 tsp olive oil
* 4 kaffir lime leaves, deveined, finely shredded crossways
* 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
* 3 small fresh red chillies, deseeded, chopped
* Salt & freshly ground black pepper
* 1kg (about 12) large green king prawns, peeled leaving head and tail intact, deveined
* 2 tbs roughly chopped fresh coriander
* Lemon wedges, to serve (optional)


1. Combine the lemon juice, fish sauce, oil, lime leaves, garlic and chillies in a large ceramic or glass bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Add the prawns and toss gently until the prawns are coated in the marinade. Cover and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to marinate.
3. Heat a barbecue grill or chargrill on high. Cook the prawns in batches of 3-4 on preheated grill (depending on available space), brushing with the marinade, for 2-3 minutes each side or until they change colour, curl and shells are browned. Place the cooked prawns on a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm while cooking the remaining prawns.
4. Place the prawns on serving plates, sprinkle with the coriander and serve immediately with the lemon wedges if desired.

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.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Library Loot: January 26 to February 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!

I am a few hours late putting up my Library Loot post this week as I made a last minute decision to head down to the fireworks display that was being held at my local beach. It's only the second year they have had a local display for Australia Day, but I don't think it will be the last time that I go because it wasn't too shabby!

The loot that I got this week:

Inside Out by Maria V Snyder - I got a bit over excited when I was browsing Netgalley a few weeks ago and noticed the follow up book to this book, Outside In. Only problem is that I hadn't read this one yet, so I needed to read this one asap!

Clara and Mr Tiffany by Susan Vreeland - I have thoroughly enjoyed the other Susan Vreeland books I have read, so when I saw that this new book from her had already been added to the catalogue I had to borrow it straight away.

From Notting Hill with Love ... Actually by Ali McNamara - Just the title of this one makes it sound like a fun read!

And Then He Kissed Her by Laura Lee Guhrke - After reading the two latest releases from this author, I want to go back and try some of her earlier books.

So what loot did you get this week? Share you Library Loot link in Mr Linky below:

Australia Day 2011

The second verse of this poem is really the one that is the one that is most well known, but I thought I would share the whole poem in honour of Australia Day this year.

My Country by Dorothy Mackellar

The love of field and coppice
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance,
Brown streams and soft, dim skies
I know, but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!

The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops,
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us
We see the cattle die
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze ...

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand
though Earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Double Teaser Tuesday

This week for Teaser Tuesday I thought I would share two teasers - one from the book I just finished, and the other from the book I just started.

The first teaser comes from A Little Friendly Advice by Siobhan Vivian. I first heard of this author over at Persnickety Snark. This wasn't the book that Adele was recommending, but it was the only one my author had.

My teaser comes from page 105:

But Beth said that journals are sometimes like photo albums. People don't put in the ugly pictures. They just keep the ones where they look pretty and happy.

The second teaser comes from page 18 of The Search by Nora Roberts. It's been a while since I have read one of her romantic suspense novels, although I have read quite a few of her contemporary romance novels in the last few months. It always is a treat to read one of her novels, especially seeing as she is so prolific in terms of the number of books that she writes, and the different styles, and yet the quality is always pretty good.
The other two of her three kids stood on the covered front porch, tails wagging, feet dancing. One of the best things about dogs, to Fiona's mind, was their absolute joy in welcoming you home, whether you'd been gone for five minutes or five days. There lay unconditional and boundless love.

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!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Salon: Podcasts

Once upon a time I used to listen to music at work. I would take my CDs in to work and put them on the computer so that I could listen to them, sometimes whole albums at a time, sometimes on random, sometimes with the ear phones in, and other times out loud so that my co workers can hear.

All that changed a few months ago when I discovered podcasts. Now instead of listening to music all day, I listen to people talk about books and history, for the most part anyway. I get to hear about books and authors I probably wouldn't have necessarily read about, or discussion about prizes, background to novels and so much more

For today I thought I would share some of the podcasts that I do enjoy.


BBC History Magazine
Stuff You Missed in History Class
Witness - short podcasts where witnesses of historical events talk
A History of the World in 100 Objects - this finished last year but the podcasts are still available and they are fascinating. Looking at events through history through objects that are held in the British Museum

Radio shows and other media

Books and Authors - BBC show hosted by Mariella Frostrup (who also hosts SkyUK The Book Show which I have been watching quite a bit recently)
Guardian Books
NPR Books
The Book Show - our public broadcaster (ABC) book show
World Book Club - BBC World discussion about a specific book each month

Bloggers and podcasters

Galactic Suburbia - three Aussie women who podcast about speculative fiction, news and general chat. Lots of fun!
Books on the Nightstand
The Writer and the Critic  - this is a relatively new Australian podcast, but you can really tell that the two hosts have been friends for ages. There's a really fun vibe between them!

So there you have just some of the podcasts I listen to on a regular basis. 

Are there are any that I don't have listed here that you listen to that I should check out? Do you like listening to podcasts?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Salad days

Not that you can necessarily tell from the weather but it is currently the middle of summer here, and summer generally means salad.

Now I am not going to say that at my age I am still blaming my mother for the fact that I don't eat a lot of salad, but I do think that eating her idea of a salad is why salad really isn't my favourite type of food. I will eat it, and I do make a better salad than she ever did, but still, give me a menu and ask me to choose between hot vegies and salad and it will be hot vegies every time (not that she cooked those well either, but still).

Growing up, if we were having salad for dinner, what that meant was that you got some iceberg lettuce (never any other variety) and bunged the leaves down on a plate just like that, then a couple of slices of tomato and maybe some cucumber, a couple of pieces of beetroot and then a slice of processed cheese slices (never real cheese) and voila, you have a salad.


Lately I have been thinking about trying out some new salad ideas, maybe some salads that incorporated warm meat or something like that, but so far I haven't had anything jump out and say try me!

This week I decided that rather than just thinking about it, I needed to just try something new. I knew that when we ate it, we would be having it with Moroccan spiced lamb, so a couscous salad seemed to be the logical step, so this is the recipe that we tried this week. I have to say, we liked it a lot!

I know which one I think looks more appetising!

Couscous Salad
  • 200g couscous
  • 200ml chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber, seeds removed, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 yellow capsicum, seeds removed, diced (known as peppers in some places)
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, seeds removed, diced
  • 2 tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tbs hummus (optional)


  1. Place the couscous in a large bowl. Place the stock and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan, bring to just boiling point, then pour over the couscous. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes.
  2. Fluff couscous with a fork and season with salt and pepper. When couscous is completely cold, stir in the cucumber, onion, capsicum, tomato and parsley.
  3. In a separate small bowl, combine the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice and hummus, add to the couscous and stir until well combined

*Recipe and image from

Like I mentioned before, I do want to find some new salad ideas but I am finding all my usual sources for recipes a bit overwhelming in terms of the number of recipes to look at, so I am putting the call out to all my fellow Weekend Cookers. Do you have a salad that your family loves to eat, whether it be an accompaniment or one of those salads that is a full meal in itself? In theory, I am trying to be good again, so healthy would be good too.

A couple of small provisos - my oven has broken so can't require oven cooking, and secondly we have a nut allergy in my house, so nothing that relies on nuts

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, January 20, 2011

Wedding of the Year by Laura Lee Guhrke

Abandoned at the altar…

Lady Beatrix Danbury has always known she would marry William Mallory. She’d loved him forever, and she’d never doubted he loved her, too. But when she made him choose between their life together and his lifelong dream, Will chose the latter, and left two weeks before their wedding.

Return of the duke…

Will has no illusions that Beatrix will welcome him back with open arms, but six years has not diminished his love or his desire for her. The only problem is that she’s about to marry someone else. Someone safe and predictable… the complete opposite of Will. But can he stop the wedding of the season and win Beatrix back, or is it just too late?

Like so many other readers and bloggers, I have a long list of authors who I have never read, but who I think I would probably like. Before I read this book, and the sequel to it, Laura Lee Guhrke was on that list. As a historical romance author, she had been highly recommended to me in the past by people whose opinion I really respected. The main reason why I hadn't actually read her before was to do with the fact that I really, really dislike reading a series out of order. Of the series that had been recommended to me, my library only had the third and fourth book.

When I got my ereader, one of the first things I did was joined Netgalley, and when I saw Laura Lee Guhrke listed with the first and second books of a new series, what else was I going to do but request them both! And then when I went interstate, these were the first two books that I read on the flight using said ereader!

All of that is a very long introduction as to why I read this book! What about what is between the covers of the book?

Lady Beatrix Danbury is looking forward to her wedding in just a few weeks. Her fiance Aidan may be a bit rigid, and there might not be a great passion between them, but Beatrix at least knows that there will be no scandal attached this time, for this isn't the first time that Beatrix has been just about to get married. Six years previously she was going to marry William Mallory, the man she had always loved, the man who she had been getting into adventures with since she was just a young girl, the man of her dreams. The only problem was that whilst William wanted desperately to marry Beatrix, he also had other dreams, dreams involving living in Egypt and pursuing his passionate interest in archeology. A few weeks before  the wedding the couple realise that whilst their basic dream of being together is the same, their ideas of how they would spend their time together are very different and completely incompatible. William leaves behind his family responsibilities, and heads to Egypt without Beatrix and she is left to pick up the pieces of her life and face the scandal.

Six years later, William is back, mainly to obtain more financing, but also to claim Beatrix. He may have been away for all that time, but he has never forgotten her and believes that their love was so strong that she must still love him as well.

There were a number of things that I really enjoyed about this novel. The first is the setting. When Beatrix and Will are reacquainted it is in the most unfortunate of circumstances. She is driving her motorcar and she runs him over. Yes, this is a historical novel, and yes, I said motor car. For the setting is in the Edwardian era and it provided a fascinating backdrop to the novel, mainly because of the social and technological changes that were taking place at that time. Whilst there were still strict rules around what was acceptable behaviour in society, it was almost as though the world was changing so quickly, that there was no way for the two parts of the world to not clash in some way.

Whilst Beatrix is being quite safe socially in now marrying Aidan, Duke of Trathen, she is in other ways considered quite scandalous in that she didn't follow the traditions associated with mourning when her beloved father died, she drives one of those terrible motor cars at dizzying speeds of up to 37 miles per hour, she drinks champagne and walks barefoot on the beach. Scandalous! The visual in my mind as the author described Beatrix driving along in her Daimler, wearing her driving goggles, Turkish trousers and driving coat was so enchanting. At one stage, I was on Twitter and someone mentioned that the heroine in the book she was reading just put on her driving goggles, and I knew instantly that they were reading this book. When we see so many historical romances with the same settings, same plots etc all the time, that individuality alone should make giving this book a go worth while.

I am not really sure why we don't see why more romances that are written using settings like this. I have seen mentioned before that is because we know that WWI and the 1918 influenza pandemic is coming and so we don't like the thought of the happy ever after that our characters have achieved may be shortlived, but to be honest, that doesn't worry me all that much. Once we leave the pages of any romance - historical, contemporary or paranormal - we just have to assume that the happily ever after lasts a long time. After all, there are plenty of things that could go wrong at any time. Being a romance couple it most likely won't, but it could.

Another thing I really enjoyed in this book was the dialogue between Beatrix and Will. There was a really good snap to the dialogue between the two, and to me it was obvious that they both had unresolved feelings towards each other. I loved that Will was always the one who was coaxing the more naturally cautious Beatrix to take risks, to trust him to give her new adventures whilst still keeping her safe! Much was made of the fact that Will left Beatrix to go to Egypt, but I thought that he put a fair case forward as to why he felt as though she had abandoned him as well. As two much younger people they may not have communicated effectively, but there was no doubting their compatibility. Perhaps now that time has passed there may be different ways to resolve some of these issues?

So I liked the setting, the dialogue, the characters. Sounds like a winning book all round doesn't it? Well, yes and no, because what really, really let this book down was the ending. It was rushed, and the resolution left Beatrix acting out of character in my opinion. I guess that it was supposed to be romantic, but it just didn't quite work for this reader. Oh, and the other thing that didn't work for me - the cover! Doesn't seem to fit the story at all. Just as well I was reading it on my ereader on the plane.

I have already read the follow up book to this one, and now I am definitely going back to the library catalogue and seeing if they have added any other Laura Lee Guhrke books so that I can read more.

Thanks to Netgalley for the e-ARC.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Library Loot: January 19 to 25

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!

Libraries made the news this week, not for the book that was returned 30 years late or anything like that, but rather because of the actions of a group of library members in Milton Keynes in the UK. One of their library branches is threatened with closure and so the library members protested by checking out every single book in the library! Yes, even those obscure books that no one ever actually reads!

Also in the news, the #savelibraries campaign on Twitter. When @MarDixon asked people to fill in the blank of the statement "Libraries are important because...", she couldn't see that the hashtag would very quickly trend around the world, and that authors like Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood amongst many, many others would fill in the blanks! To see just some of the tweets, click here.

I have mentioned before that I am lucky in that I live in an area where the library system is being expanded (there is a new branch being opened 10 minutes from home this year), but I am very conscious that there are many other library systems in the world where that isn't the case!

I supported my library this week by taking out the following items:

Tale of the Blue Bird by Nii Ayikwei Parkes - I read a review of this over at A Striped Armchair, and it sounds like something I would like to read. I was a bit surprised when it was available so I snapped it up straight away!

Children of the Storm by Elizabeth Peters - I was reminiscing the other day about how much I enjoy this series, when I suddenly realised that I haven't actually read one of these books for ages!

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami - I don't think I have actually done my sign up post yet, but I am planning on participating in the Murakami challenge this year. At this stage it will only be at the 1 book read level, but who knows, it could well be more!

The Black Pearl by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles - This time, I am definitely going to read this book!

Angelique in Love by Sergeanne Golon - When I started reading this series my library had all the books. Now they have taken them out of the catalogue so I had to get this one through inter library loan.

You can share your Library Loot over at Claire's blog this week!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik

I had been waiting for this book for ages, not only because I thoroughly enjoy the series generally and there had been a big gap between new books, but also because this book is set in Colonial Australia, with dragons! It has been out for a while now and I am finally getting around to reading it. I am not very far into the book, and the jury is out so far as to what I think of it so far at least.

My teaser comes from page 60-61:

He felt himself caught between shoals and a lee-shore, in an unfamiliar channel: MacArthur's machinations were no more noble than Bligh's in their ends, and likely less; even if in their forthrightness more appealing, and with the benefit of MacArthur's greater charm of person. And they were neither of them looking beyond the parochial boundaries of their quarrel, to the titanic struggle creeping ever more widely over the world. If either of them gave a thought to the war, Laurence could not discover it, and though they might gladly make him any promises which would make of him the useful ally they desired, they neither of them recognized in any real way the colossal folly of wasting Temeraire in this isolate part of the world.

The fascinating thing about these books is that the author takes actual history, and gives it enough of a tweak to include dragons. Both William Bligh (yes, of the mutiny on the Bounty fame) and MacArthur are famous names from Australian colonial history.

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, January 17, 2011

Reading Swap with Kelly from The Written World

I need to post this on my blog, because I keep on misplacing the email that has the list in it!

During 2011, Kelly from The Written World has specifically challenged me to read the following books:

Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs - hard to believe I bought this book nearly 4 years ago and still haven't read it! I did read the first book in the series a couple of years ago, but as is so often the case for books that I actually buy, I still haven't managed to actually fit it into the reading schedule.

Fire Study by Maria Snyder - I loved the first two books in this series, so why haven't I read the third book?

The Huntress by Susan Carroll - I was SO excited when this book came out. I bought it straight away. That was 3 and a half years ago!

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner - I was definitely planning to read this one anyway!

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear - I always intended to read this series after I was all caught up with Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series but I appear to have stalled on that one somewhat.

My list of books for Kelly to read was:

The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick - because it took her ages to read her first Elizabeth Chadwick. I don't want her to have to wait long to read the next one!

Witness in Death by J.D. Robb- Once upon a time we were doing joint reviews of this series. I think she is at least 10 books behind me now! Catch up, Kelly!

The Summer Garden by Paullina Simons- Apparently I sent this book to Kelly a while ago. I had completely forgotten that!

The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly - Because I am so excited about the third book in this trilogy coming out this year!

Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons - Such a fun book!

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly - Whoops! Doubled up on the Jennifer Donnelly recs!

Our reading swap is part of a bigger swap that is going on involving lots and lots of bloggers. Kelly has the master list on her blog!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Salon: Floods

As I am sure everyone is aware, Queensland has been inundated by flood waters this week with a terrible human cost for those who have lost everything, and for an unfortunate few who lost their lives. What may not be as well known is that that flood threat has now spread through five states including Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania. There has also been flooding in northern Western Australia over the last couple of weeks. It's hard to fathom earlier in the week they were comparing the size of the flooding to either the size of Germany and France combined, or greater than the size of Texas, and that is before the flooding spread to the other states.

Even the river that runs near me has flooded causing road closure. There's no danger to houses or lives (as long as people aren't silly near the water) but it is kind of weird to look at a piece of road that you drive over every day completely submerged by a rushing torrent of water. I do have some pictures but I can't for the life of me figure out how to get those photos off of my son's phone. Once I do I will post the pictures.

Personally, the end effect is inconvenience of having to drive around the long way to get where I need to go. I was also planning to go to Adelaide tomorrow for a couple of days, but because the highway between Melbourne and Adelaide is cut due to flood waters and isn't due to peak until tomorrow we have had to revise our plans. That means time at home, which will hopefully translate into some reading time, but we will see!

There are people who I know through blogging and Twitter who have been effected in various ways, either through having to evacuate, or whose livelihood has been lost, or who have lost many of their possessions. At times like these, you realise that it doesn't take much to connect with people who you know online - most of us know someone who has been affected, or at the very least knows someone who knows someone.

It seems completely surreal to think that just under two years ago our horror was due to terrible fires that destroyed hundreds of homes just outside of Melbourne and left more than 180 people dead in its wake.  Even at that time while there were fires near Melbourne there were floods in the northern states. Oh, this is a tough country at times.

Coincidentally, this week I have been reading a novel that is set in historical Australia called Walk About by Aaron Fletcher. This is the third book in the Outback Saga which follows two families from colonial days as they try to establish and run two huge sheep stations in the Outback. Of course, where you have a saga there will inevitably be drama but there were definitely surreal moments this morning as I turned on the news to hear news of flooding in places like Wilcannia and Menindee, when just a few pages before I had seen mention of these same places in the novel. Even though I haven't been to either of those places before, I instantly felt a jolt of recognition and empathy for those towns. Not to mention that the characters in the books had to deal with both fire and flooding.

That's part of what happens when we read. We are transported to places we may never visit, and learn something about the people who live there, the environment around them.

What has come out both through the book, and through the stories that we are seeing constantly on the news is the resilience of people, the eagerness of people to pitch in however they can possibly, the way people gather together to help those who have seen their lives turned upside down by the strength and fury of Mother Nature.

Now the questions come for those of us who are far away from the drama but want to do something - how can we help? There are lots of ways. The most obvious is to donate to the Queensland Premier's Flood Relief Appeal, or to well known charities like The Salvation Army or The Red Cross.

Within the book community, people are doing their part as well. I am sure there are many efforts that I am not aware of, but here are a couple that I do know of:

  • At the upcoming Australian Romance Readers Convention in Sydney in March 2011 there will be a silent auction allowing delegates to bid on donated items from authors. The organisers have put out a call for donations. There was a similar silent auction at the last ARRC convention which raised around $7500 for bushfire victims.
  • The Romance Writers of Australia have set up the RWA Flooded Communities Book Appeal asking for donations of books which will be sent to local libraries.
  • Fablecroft Publishing has a limited edition e-book called After the Rain which is being sold by donation, and all donations are going to the Flood Appeal. The stories are all spec fic, which is probably a little bit out of my comfort zone, but this is one of the things I am going to be doing.
  • The Writers Auction 4 Queensland has been set up on Facebook. They are no longer accepting auction items, but it sounds as though the bidding system is in the process of being set up. Similarly, the Queensland Writers Centre is setting up Writers on Rafts which is another author auction, and there are some big names attached to the project.
  • The team behind 100 Stories for Haiti and 50 Stories for Pakistan are reconvening and looking for submissions to 100 Stories for Queensland - an anthology of short stories with all proceeds going to charity.

I am sure there are many other ways that we can help. One final, non bookish way, is to download the song that seems to have become official anthem related to the flooding - Never Break You by Casey Barnes. I know it is available on iTunes in Australia to download with all profits going to the flood appeal. I am not sure if it is available on iTunes internationally though.

And whilst we are watching events as they happen here in Australia, we are also conscious of the terrible flooding in Brazil which has caused such devestating losses there.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Blog Tour: Major Pettrigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) leads a quiet life in the small rural English village of Edgecombe St Mary where he values the proper things that Englishmen have treasured for generations - honour, duty, decorum and a properly brewed cup of tea. The Major takes pleasure in his well-organised and rational life until he finds out that his patronising son, and the kind yet interfering ladies of the village, seem to have their own, rather special plans for him.

It takes news of his brother's death, though, to open the Major's eyes to Mrs Jasmina Ali, the village shopkeeper, and confound all those carefully laid plans. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But although the Major was actually born in Lahore, and Mrs Ali in Cambridge, village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as a permanent foreigner.

A most unlikely hero, Major Pettigrew finds himself contending with irate relatives and an outraged village before he comes to understand his own heart.

Written with warmth, feeling and a delightfully dry sense of humour, this very modern love story will have you cheering wildly for the Major and Mrs Ali and believing that sometimes life does give you a second chance.

Some time ago now one of my favourite authors mentioned that she was reading this book and really loving it, and I was sufficiently influenced enough by her recommendation to not just add it to my TBR list but to actually buy the book. Like so many other books that I buy, I didn't actually get around to reading it, so when I saw that there was going to be a blog tour for this book, I had the added impetus, and deadline, that I required! I should have read it earlier.

Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) is a widower who lives a very ordered life. He has a very strict sense of right and wrong, and a very strong sense of exactly how things should be. He believes in the proper use of appropriate titles (you would never catch him introducing the local nobility as anything other than Lord Dagenham), he despises the dreadful themes that the local golf club of which he is an active member keeps on choosing for their annual ball (he would much rather have a black and white dress code), his most prized possession is one half of a pair of Churchill shooting guns, and he has an innate sense of honour and duty (which is quite at odds with his only son's more modern lifestyle).

When we meet him, the Major's brother has recently died, and he is alone in his grief that is until the local shopkeeper, Mrs Ali, rings his doorbell to collect the paper money. From such inauspicious beginnings their relationship begins to blossom as Major Pettigrew realises that he enjoys spending time with the widow. She is well read and enjoys their conversations about favourite authors, amongst many other things. Despite the many differences between each other including culture and religion, there are many ways in which they are extremely compatible

As the Major and Mrs Ali get to know each other more, they gradually draw the attention of the other villagers, causing quite some consternation. Mrs Ali is seen as a foreigner and Major Pettigrew as the quintessential English gentleman. The irony is that the Major was born in Lahore in Pakistan, and Mrs Ali was born in Cambridge and has never been any further than the Isle of Wight. Along the way both of them must contemplate what is their duty, and when does their own happiness becomes more important than the expectations of friends and family, and what it is that is really important in life.

This really is quite a deceptive book in some ways. As you are introduced to the main players in the story the reader floats along the story like boating on a gentle flowing river on a sunny day. There are the foundations for the story being put in place but you almost can't see it happening. It is only as you get a bit further into the novel that you realise that many of the themes being discussed within the pages are quite weighty including the development of the English countryside, the gap between two very different generations, racism, cross cultural relationships, and the expectations of behaviour for women  in some cultures.

The cover at the top left of my post is the Australian cover, which I must confess I wasn't all that fond of, but I did love the internal treatment. At the beginning of each chapter there was a small icon to denote the chapter beginnings and that was mostly relevant to the events of that chapter, ranging from tea cups, to birds, to milk jugs. Having finished the book, the cover has grown on me a little more. The cover on the right is the US edition.

In the pages of this book you find an unusual romance between an unlikely couple, important issues, humour and oodles of charm. You could do a lot worse than pouring yourself a cup of proper tea and immersing yourself in the world of Major Pettigrew and Mrs Ali for a few hours.

Rating 4.5/5

To find out more about this book and the author, Helen Simonson, click on the following links.
Check out other stops on the blog tour at the blogs below:

Tuesday, January 4th: Colloquium
Wednesday, January 5th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Thursday, January 6th: Lit and Life
Friday, January 7th: BookNAround
Monday, January 10th: Book Reviews by Molly
Tuesday, January 11th: Scraps of Life
Thursday, January 13th: The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Monday, January 17th: Rundpinne
Wednesday, January 19th: 1330v
Thursday, January 20th: In the Next Room
Tuesday, January 25th: Dolce Bellezza
Wednesday, January 26th: A Certain Bent Appeal
Friday, January 28th: Jenny Loves to Read
Monday, January 31st: Novel Whore
Tuesday, February 1st: Debbie’s Book Bag
Wednesday, February 2nd: The Brain Lair
Thursday, February 3rd: Unabridged Chick
Tuesday, February 15th: Mabel’s House

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Library Loot: January 12 to 18

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 do have a few more books to pick up from the library, but I really need to finish the book I am reading before I can go there because I have about 100 pages left to go and the book is overdue! I was able to pick up these two items before the book was due:

Little Paradise by Gabrielle Wang- I read a review of this book over at Book Gryffin, and I just had to add it to my TBR list instantly!

Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton- This is another blogger influenced pick up from the library although in this case it has taken me a while to actually borrow it. The review that I read originally was from Nymeth, but it was because I have heard mention of a new Walton book in a podcast that I was listening to, so I was reminded that I should borrow this one.

What loot did you get this week. Add your link to Mr Linky below;

And now I am off to try and finish this book

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Anna by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

I actually teased from this book a few months ago, and even at that time it was overdue. I had a plan though. I would return the book first thing in the morning, request it as soon as it was checked in again, and then I would be able to pick up that night, and keep reading.

It didn't quite work out that way as when the book was checked in, the librarian put it into mending, and then they deleted it from the catalogue altogether along with the other two book in the trilogy, so then I had to request the book via inter library loan.

Now, the book was due back yesterday, but there is no way that I am returning it until I have finished it!

My teaser comes from page 231:

Papa thinks Napoleon is the enemy of civilisation, and that he must be defeated sooner or later. He thinks what happens in Europe does matter, and that we should resist it: and that the treaty solves nothing, only pushes the problem under the carpet.
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, January 10, 2011

Dark Enquiry cover

Last year I was very excited to read Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn. What I didn't expect was that this book would become my favourite book in the series. And now, on her blog today, Deanna Raybourn has shared the cover for the next book in the series - The Dark Enquiry. There's no blurb yet, but the cover suggests that there may be another exotic locale!

I can only hope that we get this cover here in Australia, as I really did not like the Australian cover for Dark Road to Darjeeling especially in comparison to the overseas cover:


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