Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Salon: July Reading Reflections

July has been my best reading month in at least 5 years in terms of number of books read and it was also a pretty good blogging month as well. I can't tell you why, what it was that was different, other than the fact that my house looks like a bomb has hit it and I really need to do some housework!

This month I read 31 books! 31! And I managed to also write 10 reviews.  Once upon a time I used to review every book that I read but over the last few years I decided that I was making blogging more pressurised for myself because I always felt like I was behind. These days, I always start a post for each book I read with some basic notes, but if I don't get to write the full review...then that is okay. 10 reviews in a month is definitely good for me!

Of those books that I read, four of them were even books that have been on my bookshelf for more than a year, and another 10 were books that I have acquired this year, with the rest of them being library books. That is probably a more even mix than I usually read which is a good thing.

Here are the books that I read this month:

Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey 4.5/5
Undeniably Yours by Shannon Stacey 4/5
Yours to Keep by Shannon Stacey 4.5/5
Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare 4.5/5
Surrender of a Siren by Tessa Dare 4/5
The Countess Angelique by Sergeanne Golon 3/5
What Happens in London by Julia Quinn 3.5/5
Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis 4/5
Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James 3/5
Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins 4.5/5
The Female Man by Joanna Russ 2/5
The Creed Legacy by Linda Lael Miller 4/5
The Sweetest Thing by Jill Shalvis 4/5
A Fountain Filled With Blood by Julia Spencer-Fleming 4.5/5
Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord by Sarah MacLean 4/5
Meet Grace by Sofie Laguna 4/5
Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn 4/5
To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell 4/5
If I Stay by Gayle Forman 4.5/5
The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton 4/5
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand 4.5/5
A Friend for Grace by Sofie Laguna 4/5
Charlaine Harris' Grave Sight Vol 1 by Charlaine Harris, Denis Medri and William Harms 3/5
The Last Goodbye by Sarah Mayberry 4/5
One Good Reason Sarah Mayberry by 4.5/5

In terms of challenges, I read three books for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge - The Very Thought of You, The Countess Angelique and Before Versailles. I only need to read one more book in order to complete this challenge.

The highlight for me this month was participating in Paris in July, hosted by Karen at Bookbath and Tamara at Thyme for Tea. The following posts were all done as part of this event.

Paris Breakfasts (blog spotlight)
Teaser Tuesday from Before Versailles (meme)
Cars2 in Paris (just for fun)

I am already thinking about what I might be able to do for next year's Paris in July event...assuming that it is being held again.

In closing, I thought I might start just having a section on each week's Sunday Salon post regardless of what topic I have chosen to post about where I talk about what I am reading and what I am expecting to read next.

Currently reading:

The Heir by Grace Burrowes - when this first came out I wasn't all that enticed by the blurb or the cover, but I have now heard quite a few good things about it so decided to give it a go.

Up next:

My next read will be a choice from The Wind Up Girl by Paolo Bacigulupi, Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman or City of Promise by Beverly Swerling.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard

′The chocolate centre flows like dark lava onto the whiteness of the plate. The last ounce of stress drains from my body....I have discovered the French version of Death by Chocolate.′

Part love story, part wine-splattered cookbook, LUNCH IN PARIS is a deliciously tart, forthright and funny story of falling in love with a Frenchman and moving to the world′s most romantic city - not the Hollywood version, but the real Paris, a heady mix of blood sausage and irregular verbs.

From gutting her first fish (with a little help from Jane Austen) and battling bad-tempered butchers to discovering heavenly chocolate shops, Elizabeth Bard finds that learning to cook and building a new life as a stranger in an even stranger land have a lot in common. Along the way she learns the true meaning of home - and the real reason French women don′t get fat ...

Peppered with recipes to die for, this mouth-watering love story is the perfect treat for any woman who has ever suspected that lunch in Paris could change her life.

Once upon a time I used to read a lot of books like this. A woman changes her life by moving to a new country, learns to cook and ends up having a fabulous life. It has however been years since I have done so, mainly because I realised that I was torturing myself because I did the moving countries thing, I didn't learn to cook all that well and I am still waiting for the fabulousness to arrive! (well, maybe that is being a bit overly dramatic, but you know what I mean).

I remember reading books like Under the Tuscan Sun by Francis Mayes and literally spending hours trawling the internet imagining exactly what I would do when I got to Tuscany. That was at least 8 or 9 years ago, and I still haven't left Australia again. Really the torturing myself is because I can't see a way where I will be able to go on holidays to somewhere exciting any time soon. This book made me want to spend hours googling pictures of Paris and France and wishing that I could go there now. I was already feeling that way after watching the Tour de France and participating in Paris in July - now the longing is almost palpable.

The full title of this book is Lunch in Paris: A Delicious Love Story, with Recipes and it is exactly as it advertises!

Elizabeth Bard is a young American woman living in London when she meets Gwendal, a Frenchman. Soon she finds herself travelling back and forward between London, New York and Paris until it comes time to make the move to Paris itself.

What follows in the book is a tale of how fantastic it can be to be discovering the Paris behind the tourist trails, but also the small, and some times, large trials that face Elizabeth as she tries to find her place in a very different culture to the one she is used to. The major obvious difference is the language, but there are also major differences in relation to work, ambition, lifestyle, about eating for pleasure rather than function and so much more! Another subject that received a fair amount of page time - how do French women stay thin and glamorous looking!

When I was living overseas I didn't have the issues around language that Elizabeth Bard did, but there were certainly cultural differences that some times were difficult to navigate, and there were definitely times, especially just after I came home again, when I didn't really feel like I belonged in either place anymore.

This book was so much fun to read, and oh my goodness, the food and the recipes had me licking my lips. It all sounded so fantastic!

There are so many recipes I want to try. Just for fun I am going to give the French names of a few of the recipes and you can give your best guesses as to what they are in the comments! I'll add the English names of the recipes after the weekend is over.

Parfaits au Yauort et aux Fruits Rouges

Gateua au Yaourt

Travers de Porc au Miel

Moulleuz au Chocolate "Kitu"

Financiers aux Framboises

Souris d'Agneau a l'Orange et a la Badiane

There are very few books that I read from the library that I wish I owned, but this is definitely one of them. I think I might buy it some time soon. Actually, having just spent a little time going through and looking for recipes I might like to try, I think I am definitely going to have to buy this book as I am up to page 105 and I already have a list more than 10 recipes long. It almost feels like I could possibly do some French cooking! How exciting.

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 a month long event hosted by Karen from Book Bath and Tamara from Thyme for Tea, which invites the participants to celebrate all things French!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sea Witch by Helen Hollick

The Time : The Golden Age of Piracy - 1716.

The Place : The Pirate Round - from the South African Coast to the sun drenched Islands of the Caribbean.

Escaping the bullying of his elder half brother, from the age of fifteen Jesamiah Acorne has been a pirate with only two loves - his ship and his freedom. But his life is to change when he and his crewmates unsuccessfully attack a merchant ship off the coast of South Africa.

He is to meet Tiola Oldstagh an insignificant girl, or so he assumes - until she rescues him from a vicious attack, and almost certain death, by pirate hunters. And then he discovers what she reallyis; a healer, a midwife - and a white witch. Her name, an anagram of "all that is good." Tiola and Jesamiah become lovers, but the wealthy Stefan van Overstratten, a Cape Town Dutchman, also wants Tiola as his wife and Jesamiah's jealous brother, Phillipe Mereno, is determined to seek revenge for resentments of the past, a stolen ship and the insult of being cuckolded in his own home.

When the call of the sea and an opportunity to commandeer a beautiful ship - the Sea Witch - is put in Jesamiah's path he must make a choice between his life as a pirate or his love for Tiola. He wants both, but Mereno and van Overstratten want him dead.

In trouble, imprisoned in the darkness and stench that is the lowest part of his brother's ship, can Tiola with her gift of Craft, and the aid of his loyal crew, save him?

Using all her skills Tiola must conjure up a wind to rescue her lover, but first she must brave the darkness of the ocean depths and confront the supernatural being, Tethys, the Spirit of the Sea, an elemental who will stop at nothing to claim Jesamiah Acorne's soul and bones as a trophy.
The Golden Age of Piracy lasted just under 50 years in the late 17th/early 18th century. It is a time that is hard for a modern reader to imagine - the news is months old when you first hear it, if you leave your home country there is every likelihood that you will never see it again, no mobile phones, electricity etc. Luckily, the modern reader can immerse themselves in the imagined world of books to get just a small taste of what life might have been like three hundred years ago.

Captain Jesamiah Acorne started life in a semi-respectable family - his father was a plantation owner in the Carolinas - but when his parents die, he is forced to flee from the sadistic older brother who has hated Jesamiah from the first time he saw him as a young child. Luckily for Jesamiah, he has found a natural home on the bridge of a ship, a pirate ship to be more precise. When we first meet Jesamiah, he and his crew are getting ready to board a ship with a view to clearing it of all of its cargo.

Little does he know that on the ship that he is aiming to plunder is Tiola Oldstagh, a young girl with knowledge much older than her true age because she is a white witch. Tiola is heading for a new life in South Africa, escaping from the legacy of a tragic end to her parent's lives. With her skills in midwifery and medicine, Tiola is bound to find a welcome awaiting her in her new home, accompanied by her companion Jenna. What Tiola knows for sure is that her destiny is bound tightly to that of Jesamiah Acorne even though he has no clue who she is, or even that she exists at their first meeting.

Click on the image to visit more stops on the tour
There are several factors that good pirate stories need - adventure, danger, lots of rum - and this book has it in spades. This book is a heady mix of history, adventure, romance and fantasy.

It is however not all plain sailing. Where the book was strongest was in the imagining of the pirate life. Jesamiah is no Captain Jack Sparrow blithely careening from disaster to disaster and still managing to remain unharmed. Jesamiah faces very real consequences for is actions - injuries, arrest and more. I also enjoyed the flavour of the towns that are visited throughout the course of the book. Places like Nassau and Cape Town and the coast of Madagascar. I also enjoyed a cameo appearance by William Dampier - a man who spent some time exploring the Australian coastline before the continent was properly claimed as an English possessoin.

What didn't work so well for me were the mystical elements - the craft that Tiola uses throughout the book, and most particularly the addition of Tethys to the storytelling. She is the sea and she demands payment from those who dare disturb her.

It feels as though I have been reading Helen Hollick's books for a very long time, but  a quick look at my handy spreadsheet tells me that I first encountered her books only just over two years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed her Arthurian Pendragon's Banner trilogy and also A Hollow Crown about Emma, queen of England in the time before William Conqueror invaded England. Whilst I liked the characters of Jesamiah and will eventually read more of their adventures, I think I prefer the more straight down the line historical fiction that the author does so well.

There are two more books already published in this series, Bring it Close and Pirate Code, and another book on the way soon called Ripples in the Sand.

This review is being cross posted at Historical Tapestry today and tomorrow we have a guest post from Helen as well as the chance to win a copy of a book from this series. Here at my blog though, I thought I might have a little fun with the pirate theme!

The most famous fiction pirate around at the moment would have to be Captain Jack Sparrow - a character who provided inspiration to the author.

An earlier film, Captain Blood, featured Errol Flynn buckling his swash

but I thought I might take you back to the early 80s to a simpler time when Christopher Atkins was a teen heart throb and to a movie that is so bad it is good! There are much better songs from The Pirate Movie, but this one showcases the pirates in all their...erm....glory.

One Saturday morning I stumbled across this being showed on one of the movie channels here and I watched it. I suddenly realised that not only does the movie star quite a few Australian actors, but also parts of it were filmed in the stately home that is about 10 minutes away from where I live!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

When Eva’s filmstar sister Katrina dies, she leaves California and returns to Trelowarth, Cornwall , where they spent their childhood summers, to scatter Katrina’s ashes and in doing so return her to the place where she belongs. But Eva must also confront the ghosts from her own past, as well as those from a time long before her own. For the house where she so often stayed as a child is home not only to her old friends the Halletts, but also to the people who had lived there in the eighteenth century. When Eva finally accepts that she is able to slip between centuries and see and talk to the inhabitants from hundreds of years ago, she soon finds herself falling for Daniel Butler, a man who lived – and died – long before she herself was born. Eva begins to question her place in the present, and in laying her sister to rest, comes to realise that she too must decide where she really belongs, choosing between the life she knows and the past she feels so drawn towards

Today, Kelly from The Written World and I are doing a joint review of The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley! Head over to Kelly's blog to read the first half (be warned it is a bit gushy!)

Kelly's thoughts are in black and mine are in purple.


Yes, talking about the actual story is probably a good idea. The story starts off on a very negative note when Eva loses her sister, but the book becomes about much more than that. It is obvious why Eva is so connected to Cornwall. It was just the place that she is meant to be. She goes through a lot while she is there. The Hallett son was Katrina’s first love and even though many years have gone by and she married someone else, he is still battling with the emotions that her death evokes. His father has died and he is tending the family gardens, but he hates the public side of things and is resistant to much change. His sister, though, has big ideas and Eva helps her discover them by advertising the tea house that she has built. That tea house is so much more to the story, though... The reason it came to be in the first place was a touching story.

Given that you have read other books by Kearsley what did you think when Eva started hearing voices?

I wasn’t really surprised because I knew there was something of that nature to expect, but it was just a matter of finding out what method she was going to choose. That didn’t mean there were not a lot surprises in store, though!

So, the hearing voices is the first clue that all is not as it seems, which becomes even more obvious when Eva finds herself in the same house, but that it is occupied by different people in a different time. The house is occupied by a widower, Daniel Butler and his friend Fergal. They are men with a secret of their own - secret Jacobite supporters. The local constabulary, especially Constable Creed, is deeply  suspicious of the Butlers and an unexplained woman appearing could make things awkward, especially as she is sometimes there and sometimes isn’t, and she can’t really talk due to her obvious accent and different use of language. Also add into the mix a bit of smuggling and the charismatic and vivid brother Jack and life becomes very complicated all round.

First of all, I loved the characters you mentioned. I know, I am getting off track, but I can’t help pointing out how well written they all were! From the very beginning I loved Daniel. The very first scene was entertaining and I enjoyed watching him develop as a character each time she ‘magically’ appeared. I believe that he really brought the early setting to life by being so realistic. I could picture him and everything that was going on around him. I also love Fergal. Sometimes I think he was simply there to lighten the mood from time to time, but then Jack appeared and took that to a whole different level. Jack is interesting to say the least! In many ways the opposite of his brother, but he grew on me with time. Then, there was the very well-written villain, Constable Creed. I have to admit that I was not there, I was just reading about it, but every time the ‘law’ paid them a visit he creeped me out. It made the story dark just having him there and you never knew what was going to happen, but you felt like it was going to be bad. I cannot applaud Kearsley enough for writing such excellent characterizations. It is why I enjoy her books so much - coupled with the fact she writes fascinating story-lines, captures the time period very well, and has settings that I always want to visit!

Oh yes, the law man was totally, totally creepy!

One other aspect that I did find interesting was the fact that when Eva travelled through time, the treatment of the clothing aspects seemed very logical. I loved that she kept on having to hide the 18th century clothes (including Daniel’s dressing gown) in the future. It also tied in to her worries about changing things in the past.

I appreciated the fashion in general. That was another thing that was explained very well. I can just imagine how hard it is to go from the fashion of today to the fashion of the 18th-century. It was the same in Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. In this book the two men knew that she had no idea what she was doing so they aided her, but I found the description illuminating because it is not something I generally think about. The clothes themselves worked well to tie in other things, as well. One of the dresses that she brings back to the modern world belong to Daniel’s deceased wife, so using this one dress we learn more about Daniel and his past that might not have come up right away.

So wrapping up now, Kearsley has once again done a stellar job of making time slip seem like a completely probable possibility, has delivered a lushly romantic story, and this time also made us both gasp out loud with a fabulous twist in the tale!

I know! I have been writing this review and thinking ‘I want to read this again...’ I also want to reread her other books all of a sudden! It has brought the story back and reminded me just how much I loved this book, which I had not entirely forgotten, of course. I am so happy that you, and a few other people, lead me to read her because for the longest time I didn’t think she was my type of writer. I was wrong!

I could do with rereading as well, but I have lent the book to my non reader sister, who just read her first Kearsley and enjoyed it.

Ever since I first read The Winter Sea I have been encouraging everyone (not just you!) I know to read Susanna Kearsley. This book has reinforced that desire even more! So, if you haven’t read Kearsley, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Library Loot: July 27 to August 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!

Perfect Play by Jaci Burton - As soon as I saw this book I knew that I had to read it, and all the other covers are pretty damned good! Funniest thing was the look on my 12 year old son's face when he saw it! I've already read this one.

The Temptation of Angelique by Sergeanne Golon - The next book in the Angelique series.

Fools Rush In by Kristan Higgins - I had to get this one ILL'd in from another library as my library only has a couple of her books.

Novel in the Viola by Natasha Solomons - This is reloot. I loved Mr Rosenblum's List so want to read this one!

A Friend for Grace by Sofie Laguna - This is the second book in the 1808 series of Our Australian Girl. I intend to post about this series at some point in time.

Meet Letty by Alison Lloyd - This is also part of the Our Australian Girl series, but is set in 1861.

The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff - Pam Jenoff is one of those authors who I am pretty confident that I will love, and have been for a while, but have never quite gotten around to actually reading her books!

What loot did you get this week? Share your link to your Library Loot post below:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

I read very little non-fiction other than cookbooks. I had heard so many good things about this book before I started it, and I have to say that every good thing was deserved. It has been a fascinating read so far.

My teaser comes from page 182 to 183:

Men subjected to dehumanizing treatment experience profound wretchedness and loneliness and find that hope is almost impossible to retain. Without dignity, identity is erased. In its absence, men are defined not by themselves, but by their captors and the cirmcumstances in which they are forced to live.

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 25, 2011

Mailbox Monday: July Edition

Not counting how many books came into my house this month - need to remain oblivious to how far behind I am getting! Not counting....not counting....don't tell me!

Mailbox Monday is on tour and for June it is being hosted at A Sea of Books. Head over there to share your links, or to see what everyone else has posted about this week.


Nanberry by Jackie French - I have read one Jackie French novel before, so thought I would give this one a go when I saw it up for grabs.

Empire Day by Diane Armstrong - This is a new author to me, and the setting of just after the end of WWII sounds fascinating.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson - A new series from Maureen Johnson, and I wanted to get in early for the first books.

Sweet Invention by Michael Krondl - a history of dessert, and a future Weekend Cooking post I am sure.

The King's Courtesan by Judith James - I have heard such good things about Judith James, and even own one of her other books!

Unclaimed by Courtney Milan - There has been a lot of hype about the novella that precedes this book. I own it, so I wanted to have this one lined up ready to go when I read the first book and the novella.


Murder in the Kitchen by Alice B Toklas and Exciting Food for Southern Types by Pellegrino Artusi - Two books from the Penguin Great Food Series. I have already posted about Murder in the Kitchen.

Exclusively Yours, Undeniably Yours and Yours to Keep by Shannon Stacey - I downloaded Exclusively Yours one Friday night, read it and then got up at 6am on a Saturday morning and downloaded the next two, and then proceeded to read both of them straight through. So good!

Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison - I have heard so many good things about this book and it is not yet available from the library so I decided just to buy it.

Dear Cupid, Falling for You, Lean on Me and Don't Tempt Me by Julie Ortolon - I read Julie Ortolon five years ago but then had lost track of her. Now that her backlist is digitised I ended up buying all the ones I hadn't yet read.


The Mistress House by Leigh Michaels, The Fire Lord's Lover by Kathryne Kennedy and Never a Bride by Amelia Grey - These are all new to me authors but they sounded interesting so I thought I would try them out.


The Other Countess by Eve Edwards - My local bookstore had a contest! The owner knows what I will like and so gave me this YA historical fiction.

For Review

The Private World of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge - With thanks to Sourcebooks.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday Salon: The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one…except the "thing" inside her.

When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch….

Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gas lit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.

Griffin's investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help—and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.

But The Machinist wants to tear Griff's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on—even if it seems no one believes her.

I am a real sucker for a book with a gorgeous dress on the cover. I bought the first Luxe book by Anna Godberson purely based on the gorgeousness of the cover - haven't ever read it, but had to have it. So from the first day I saw the cover to The Girl in the Steel Corset I knew I would have to get it. It didn't hurt that it is a steampunk novel, which is something that I hadn't read, so there was a point of difference as well that made me more interested

There is therefore a certain irony in the fact that I ended up with a galley with a plain print cover (no image at all), not long after I had downloaded the egalley. And, really that whole paragraph is an analogy for my feelings on the book - so pretty on the outside, but kind of plain and lacking depth on the inside.

Sixteen year old Finley Jayne has a dark secret - she has a dark side that gives her impressive strength to fight and defend herself. When she flees from her latest place of employment after being treated very badly by the young lord of the house that she was employed in, she runs into (literally) and is taken in by Griffin King, Duke of Greythorne and his friends, Emily and Sam.

The Duke is not your normal peer of the realm. He is heavily involved in important research originally started by his father and investigation into a number of fascinating areas, including a series of puzzling and seemingly unconnected crimes that are being blamed on a mysterious person known only as The Machinist.

Bringing Finley into the house unsettles the already established relationships. Finley initially trusts no one, mainly because she is terrified about her own dark side. Sam distrusts Finley intensely and when he finds out what happened to him when he was attacked by automatons he feels betrayed by Emily and Griff, and Griff's aunt knows exactly what Finley is, and more importantly who she is and how her family is connected to Griffin's deceased parents, and she doesn't like it either.

All this distrust is not helped when Finley gets to know one of the major players in the London underworld  - Jack Dandy. Jack was meant to be the big tough man of the underworld, a man who inspires fear, but who has a heart of gold where it comes to Finley. For the most part though, Jack felt to me like a bit of a characiture - too two dimensional to offer up a real alternative for Finley.

Now, the fact that there is a potential love triangle forming shouldn't be too much of a surprise given that this is a YA novel. When an American cowboy is added into the mix, there is a half hearted attempt to bring a second love triangle into the mix as well revolving around Emily.

With all the key players in place, the group must learn to work together in order to work out exactly that The Machinist's dastardly plans are and of course, save the day.

There were parts of this novel that I did enjoy - I loved the cameo appearance by Queen Victoria, I liked some of the descriptions of the clothes and then all the steampunk inventions were interesting although some of them were far too obviously derivative of modern technology,  but there were times when they also felt like a flimsy attempt at world building, especially when relied on too much.

In terms of the physical book, I thought that the chapter page treatment was really nice, and so it is really a very pretty package when you combine it with the cover.

Whilst this is the author's first novel under the name Kady Cross, she has published a number of romances under the name Kathryn Smith (and I think I saw something about another pseudonym as well). It therefore surprised me a little to see that the chemistry didn't really feel all that strong between the characters.

If I had to summarise this book in just a few words I would say that it was an uneven start to a series that may develop into something more interesting in due course.

Thanks to Netgalley and to Harlequin Australia for the review copies.

Rating: 3.5/5

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Paris Breakfasts

Today as a duel purpose Paris in July and Weekend Cooking post, I want to spotlight a blog that I have been reading for a long time now, one of only a few non book related blogs that I read regularly.

Here's a bit about Paris Breakfasts:

Paris breakfasts was started in 2006 to share a stack of cafe watercolors sitting on a shelf. Your comments inspire new Paris dreams. Every post is an 'amuse bouche', a little bite of quotidiene Parisien life to savor with your coffee and encourage you to return. I make my own paints to match any macaron or pastry you desire. I paint Paris dreams...

So the name probably gives away why I want to post about this blog for Paris in July, but maybe not so clear for a Weekend Cooking post?

Not only do Carol Gillott's posts make me want to return to Paris, but they quite often make me want to eat delicious food, especially cakes and macarons. Up until a few weeks ago, I had never even tried a macaron, but I knew I wanted to try one, based purely on the images that are shown at Paris Breaksfasts. So far, I have tried a vanilla, a chocolate one and a blackberry one (which was my favourite). Quite often, Carol matches the photos she has taken with beautiful paintings that she has done herself. So talented, and her blog is so gorgeous as well! I can, and do, spend ages going through her archives. It's not all food, and it's not 100% Paris, but it is most of the time!

Here are just a few glimpses of her work (all images link back to their original posts), many of which are available to purchase:

Jar O' Macarons, watercolor, 9" x 11"

Laduree Religieuse Violette, watercolor, 9" x 11"
All images used with permission of Carol Gillott.

Don't they make you hungry just looking at them?

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 a month long event hosted by Karen from Book Bath and Tamara from Thyme for Tea, which invites the participants to celebrate all things French!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Before Versaille by Karleen Koen

Louis XIV is one of the best-known monarchs ever to grace the French throne. But what was he like as a young man—the man before Versailles?

After the death of his prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin, twenty-two-year-old Louis steps into governing France. He’s still a young man, but one who, as king, willfully takes everything he can get—including his brother’s wife. As the love affair between Louis and Princess Henriette burns, it sets the kingdom on the road toward unmistakable scandal and conflict with the Vatican. Every woman wants him. He must face what he is willing to sacrifice for love.

But there are other problems lurking outside the chateau of Fontainebleau: a boy in an iron mask has been seen in the woods, and the king’s finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet, has proven to be more powerful than Louis ever thought—a man who could make a great ally or become a dangerous foe . . .

Meticulously researched and vividly brought to life by the gorgeous prose of Karleen Koen, Before Versailles dares to explore the forces that shaped an iconic king and determined the fate of an empire.

What a web deceit made, its strands strangling the innocent and the guilty alike. (page244)

If you were to look at a list of the names of the kings of France, you would be hard pressed to go past the name of Louis XIV in terms of the importance of the legacy that he left behind. The Sun King - the man behind the magnificence that is Versailles. A man who started out as a very young king, but who grew into a formidable force to be reckoned with politically both within his own country and outside of it's borders. A man with a string of mistresses to his name.

In this book, Karleen Koen has chosen a very narrow frame of reference, focusing on a period of only six  months during the year 1661. The man who had been the power behind the throne for many years, Cardinal Mazarin, had recently died leaving Louis to decide which of his courtiers, if any, he could really trust to help rule the country. During this short period, Koen portrays a boy king who finds his identity and grows into the strong, powerful, decisive and iconic king that his country needed.

Louis' wife, the Spanish princess Marie Therese, is with child, and whilst Louis is determined that every precaution should be taken with their lives, he is not a man who is in love with his wife. He is, however, ardently besotted with the wife of his brother Philippe, known to the court as Monsieur. Most accounts I have read about the relationship between Monsieur and his wife Madame (Henriette, sister to Charles II of England) was that the marriage was a very unhappy one, but this book opens before all the turmoil starts and so he too is besotted with his wife. Once Louis starts paying court to Madame, Philippe is understandably put out (not that he doesn't have more than enough of his own secrets to keep hidden).  Scandal swirls around the couple as all the major players try to find out what the status of the relationship between Louis and Henrietta is.

The other major character is Louise de la Baume le Blanc (later known as Louise de la Valliere). She comes to court as an impoverished noble and finds a place as one of Madame's ladies. She somehow remains unsullied by the court life, a breath of fresh air that catches Louis' attention through the unwitting machinations of Madame.

Also cleverly woven into the narrative is a retelling of the story of the boy in the iron mask, which is familiar through legend, through Alexander Dumas' novel and more recently through film.

I often find myself thinking that I would not like to have lived at a royal court - so much dissembling, gossip, rumour, bribery and deceit swirling around the main players. As I read I found myself thinking a few times that I would have been completely out of my depth amongst all that intrigue, and yet, there was so much glamour, pageantry and beauty it must have been a heady place to be. And let's not forget the musketeers!

Sometimes when you read historical fiction it can feel a bit like you are putting together the pieces of a puzzle. For example, this is not the first book I have read which features Louise de la Valliere as the main character. Among others where she has been mentioned Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland comes to mind. Whilst some of the characterisation was similar, other elements were different from those I remember reading previously. Will we ever know what she was really like? Probably not, but it is fun to see the various different takes on the same historical figure and put it all together.

I had been meaning to read one of Karleen Koen's books for a long time. I am not sure quite what I was waiting for. I do know that I won't be waiting too long at all before I read the next one. Her storytelling is strong, packing drama and depth in amongst the known historical facts to bring history alive!

Rating 4/5

This book is one of my reads for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge and also for Paris in July.

Head on over to Historical Tapestry for your chance to win a copy of this book! My thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing me with an ARC of this book. For other stops on this tour:

Tour stops

Tuesday, July 5th: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Wednesday, July 6th: Broken Teepee
Thursday, July 7th: The Bookworm
Friday, July 8th:
Monday, July 11th: In the Hammock
Tuesday, July 12th: Living Outside the Stacks
Wednesday, July 13th: The Maiden’s Court
Thursday, July 14th: Royal Reviews
Monday, July 18th: Unabridged Chick
Tuesday, July 19th: Enchanted by Josephine
Wednesday, July 20th: Laura’s Reviews
Thursday, July 21st: Historical Tapestry AND Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Friday, July 22nd: Books Like Breathing
Monday, July 25th: Stiletto Storytime
Tuesday, July 26th: Hist-Fic Chick
Wednesday, July 27th: Life in Review
Thursday, July 28th: Reading, Reading & Life

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How cool? Very cool...or hot...or something.

I tell you that I am going to be so frigging excited when this movie actually comes out! How's this for a teaser poster?

If you are reading on a feed, click through to see the embedded image!

Library Loot: July 20 to 26

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!
One of the things I love about my library's online catalogue is the fact that it is really easy to go online, check if a book is owned by the library or not, and then request it so that I can pick it up a few days later. Very convenient, very easy and very....dangerous, because what ends up happening is that I have lots of books come in at once. This is what happened to me this week, and I am really pretending that there aren't another 4 books waiting to be picked up already.

Once again there is a heavy lean towards a romance because as I finish one book by an author I am requesting the next one!

Here's the loot I got this week:

The Sweetest Thing by Jill Shalvis - The second Lucky Harbor book. I now have to wait until later this year for the third book.

Something About You by Julie James - I read my first Julie James book a couple of weeks ago, so this is next to be read.

Too Good to be True by Kristan Higgins - same as for Julie James.

Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn - the next book in the trilogy.

The Woman He Loved Before by Dorothy Koomson - This is the only reloot this week.

Coming Home by Mariah Stewart - I saw the trailer for this trilogy and just had to have the book as it seems to very much fit my current craving for small town contemporary romance.

Unveiled by Courtney Milan - I recently have heard a lot about a novella that Milan has written that follows this book so I need to read this book first.

The Happiest Refugee: the extraordinary true story of a boy's journey from starvation at sea to becoming one of Australia's best-loved comedians  by Anh Do - A few weeks ago now I watched a documentary about the history of Australia. In the last episode there was a section about multi cultural Australia and Anh Do was interviewed for 5 minutes. At that point I knew that I had to know more.

Gillespie and I by Jane Harris - I loved The Observations, and so I was very excited to hear that she had a new book out.

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obrecht - I added this to my TBR list when I heard about it, but the fact that it won the Orange Prize pushed it up the list a bit!

So there you have my jumbo sized loot for this week. Head over to Claire's blog to share your own loot for this week.


Related Posts with Thumbnails

  © Blogger template Simple n' Sweet by 2009

Back to TOP