Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunday Salon: It's a Lizzie Bennet Diaries Easter

I mentioned briefly last week that I have somewhat belatedly discovered The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and by belatedly I mean just before it wrapped up once and for all! I watched the first 40 episodes last weekend, but managed to restrain myself from watching anymore during the week because I intended to start from the beginning again with a friend this weekend.

On Saturday morning, I set up the room ready to go. Snacks...check. Laptop receiving wi-fi signal..... check (eventually). Laptop connected to the TV screen....check. Ready to go!

While I waited for my friend I thought I would, you know, just watch a couple of episodes and then would start again when she arrived, except she ended up arriving a lot later in the day than expected and so I had watched the first 40 episodes again before I decided that I need to make cookies (which my son still hasn't tried - not that I am bitter about that) and made dinner! And then, I watched the first 50 or so with her. If you are counting along at home that means that yes, I watched the first 40 episodes three times. The difference being this time, that once my friend went home, I just kept on watching, right until the end, even though that kept me up until 2.30 in the morning.

And then there's today. No, I didn't start from the beginning again - even I would find that a bit of overkill - but I did start from the beginning on the website and read through all the additional material that is included and watch all of the other videos, like the ones that Lydia Bennet did, or later in the series those that Darcy's sister Gigi did, and so many more!

For those of you who are wondering what on earth I am talking about, the Lizzie Bennet Diaries are a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice using YouTube as the primary source of storytelling, but also using other forms like Twitter and Tumblr to progress the story. Whilst the book is clearly identifiable as being the basis of the story, many of the themes have been updated to reflect modern concerns. For example, while for Mrs Bennet the need to find good husbands is still very important especially in the light of the family's financial difficulties, for Lizzie and Jane and Charlotte the focus is more on their careers.  I found many of the modernisations to be fascinating. For example, Mr Collins was still irritating and in the metaphorical pockets of Catherine de Bourgh, but he wasn't a minister in this case. He was a ..... actually, I don't think I will tell you because it is one of the cleverer ways that the makers adapted the book.

I thought I would do a brief list of a few things that I learned from spending this entire weekend immersed is the world of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

1. Try and space your watching out over a few more than two days. Seriously....I am really tired now... and yet I can't stop watching certain episodes over and over! (and yes, you know the ones that they would be...le sigh). If you can't stop yourself, then it's not like I won't understand how that feels!

2. I basically put the Youtube stream on and let it play just the Lizzie Bennet entries. My advice to you would be to NOT do that. Follow all the posts from the website so that you get to see all the additional videos and Twitter conversations that help to colour the world and so that you can see the other action that is taking place away from Lizzie!

3. Don't let the fact that you have/have not read Pride and Prejudice stop you from enjoying the series. I haven't yet read it (shh.....I know alright) and I normally strongly avoid all the spin off books. Then again I tend to avoid the spin off books of the ones I have read too!

4. There are so many amazingly clever people out there who have created gifs, fan art etc. You could lose days just looking at this stuff if you aren't careful.

5. When the next adaptation, Welcome to Sanditon, starts some times in May, get in at the beginning. Yes, it means that you will have to wait for each new development to happen along with millions of other people, but I am sure that is half the fun...right? Right?

Oh, and to Livia Day whose book, A Trifle Dead, I intended to review yesterday .... sorry! I got a tad obsessed with LBD but I will get back to the book and do the review asap. Maybe even tomorrow, assuming that I can stop rewatching the videos tonight and tomorrow.

For your viewing pleasure, here is the first episode of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.



Currently watching

Nothing.

Oh, who am I kidding. I think I might just watch the last 10 or so episodes again before I go to bed.

Currently Reading

A Trifle Dead by Livia Day (again...sorry) and listening to Tuscan Rose by Belinda Alexandra

Up Next

The Chevalier by Cynthia Harrod-Eagle and From the Kitchen of Half Truths bu Maria Goodin


****Oh, nearly forgot! Don't forget to enter the giveaway that I am hosting of Back on Track by Donna Cummings - full details here****

Friday, March 29, 2013

Strangers on a Train blog tour

Today I am really excited to welcome author Donna Cummings here as part of the Strangers on a Train blog tour! Haven't heard of Strangers on a Train? Five romance authors have put together a series  which feature different couples and different trains, but with one big element that is the same in each - love!

And, don't forget to enter the contest to win a copy of Donna's book, Back on Track. Read to the end of the post to find out how to win.

Welcome Donna!



Donna Cummings
I'm a big fan of serendipity.

The Strangers on a Train series started with a random conversation on Twitter, when Ruthie and Samantha were chatting about a pic of a hot guy riding a train. Serena and Meg and I joined in -- and it was probably one of those times when I was thinking, "I really should be writing, not chatting on Twitter". But that's how serendipity works, if you're open to it. I added my thoughts, and next thing I knew, there was a "we should write some books!" comment thrown out there, and well, here we are. The series is going to be released in just a few days!

My story, Back on Track, had a few more instances of serendipity. I had originally started with a slightly different story, on a completely different train, but I was struggling a bit. For some reason the Napa Wine Train popped into my brain one morning. I still don't know how or why, since I hadn't seen anything about it. In fact, I thought for a moment I'd made it up! So I looked online and found that it really did exist. Then I thought, "One of the other authors must be using it", so I checked the email conversation where we'd all said which train we were going to write about -- and there was nothing. So it became mine, all mine.

The title was another bit of Twitter inspiration. I was chatting with Samantha about how our writing was going, and she tweeted something about getting back on track, and I said, "That's my new title!"

My heroine, Allie, is trying to get the hero, baseball superstar Matt, to pose for her beefcake celebrity calendar. It's to benefit greyhounds that have been rescued once they are no longer able to race. I stumbled across an article about the dogs, and it struck a chord with me, and in that out-of-the-blue way that things were happening, I knew it would be a perfect fit for Allie's project. It was also something Matt would find a worthy cause, since he can sympathize with what life might be like after he's unable to compete.

So, after the way this story--and series--came together, if I wasn't a fan of serendipity before, I certainly am now!

Has serendipity worked for you? I'd love to hear your stories! 

One random commenter will win an e-book of Back on Track. Contest closes on 7 April. Don't forget to leave your email address in the comments so that we can let you know if you are the lucky winner!

Preorder/order links – releasing April 2

Strangers on a Train at Amazon
Strangers on a Train at Barnes & Noble
Strangers on a Train at Samhain

Goodreads: http://goodreads.com/series/92319-strangers-on-a-train


About Strangers on a Train

Romancing the rails…



Tight Quarters by Samantha Hunter

Reid isn’t happy about the mix-up that saddles him with a claustrophobic roommate on his New York train tour. Then his weekend with Brenna progresses to a weekend fling, and so much more.



Ticket Home by Serena Bell

Encountering her workaholic ex on her commuter train is the surprise of Amy’s life. Especially since Jeff seems hell-bent on winning her back.



Thank You for Riding by Meg Maguire

At the end of Caitlin’s commute, her extended flirtation with a handsome stranger finds them facing a frigid winter night locked in an unheated subway station.



Back on Track by Donna Cummings

A wine tour isn’t enough to take Matt’s mind off his baseball slump—until sexy, funny Allie plops into the adjacent seat and tells him three things about herself. One of them, she says, is a lie. Then Allie lets slip one truth too many…



Big Boy by Ruthie Knox

Mandy doesn’t want romance, but monthly role-playing dates with her stranger on a train—each to a different time period—become the erotic escape she desperately needs. And a soul connection she never expected.

About the Authors

Serena Bell - Website  Twitter  Facebook   Goodreads
Ruthie Knox -Website  Twitter  Facebook   Goodreads
Samantha Hunter - Website  Twitter  Facebook  Goodreads
Donna Cummings - Website Twitter  Facebook  Goodreads
Meg Maguire - Website Twitter Goodreads

Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison

I have a number of historical eras that I seem to be drawn to when it comes to books. Among those are books set in the medieval era, World War I and II, and books set in Russia, especially those featuring the Romanov family.

It was therefore no surprise that I was interested in this book when I first heard of it. The main character of this book is Masha Rasputina, daughter of the infamous 'Mad Monk' Grigori Rasputin, which is an interesting choice of narrator that I have only seen used one other time in Robert Alexander's book Rasputin's Daughter.

This book hinges on the premise that Rasputin organised for his daughters, Masha and Varya, to be made wards of the Romanov family after his death. The book opens with the story of his death, although it is revisited several times through the book, and so the two girls are taken to live with the Tsar and Tsarina, their four daughters (collectively known as OTMA - Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia) and their son, Alexei, or Alyosha as he is known. It is a difficult time to be associated with the Romanovs though.  The revolution is underway, and they are in the process of being removed from the throne. Masha and Varya are basically kept prisoner with the family and it is in this restricted environment that a strong relationship develops between Masha and Alyosha, despite the fact that he is 14 years old and she is 18.

The tsarina believes that Masha has some of the same skills of her father in that she will be able to heal the tsarevich who suffers from hemophilia. While Masha feels the pressure that this assumption heaps on her, it is really Alyosha's mental well being that is aided by his relationship with Masha, especially after he has an accident that causes a hemophiliac episode that leaves him bedridden. Spending time without other family members around, Masha is able to share stories with Alyosha both of her own past, especially the story of how her father came to prominence, of Rasputin's death and of the boy's own family. They talk of how difficult the tsarina found the role that she had married into, the relationship with her critical mother in law, and dealing with the cloud of depression that hovered over her. Alyosha also showed a very practical understanding of the current political situation and the mistakes that his father had made in dealing with the revolutionaries, and he was pretty much convinced that they were all going to die, regardless of the way that his other family members refused to accept this as their future.

Some of these stories were lovely. For example, the two created a dazzlingly dream like sequence of the life of his parents after his mother moved to Russia following her marriage. Nicky (the tsar) would wrap up his much loved wife in the middle of the night and take her out in a white sled pulled by white horses, and show her the city of St Petersburg and the country around their home in a way that just wouldn't be allowed during the day.

There are many instances within the book where the language is beautiful, but I think that I missed having a linear storyline. Maybe because the story is so well known, the author felt some freedom to not need to keep to a strong plot. After all, the ending for the Romanovs was never going to be in doubt. The stories that were told moved backwards and forwards through time, including after the family's death, when Masha eventually gets hold of Alyosha's diary and he tells of life for the family in the 'house of special purpose' they were moved to before they were murdered. While a non linear story can work for me as a reader when it is done well, this was one of those occasions where I found it a distraction.

One of the plot points that were there seemed to be a kind of sexual awakening between Masha and Alyosha initially, and then, once Masha had left the family, with a young peasant girl.  I may be sticking my head in the sand a little, but I look at my 14 year old son and think that it would be just completely wrong for the kind of sexual awakening that it is described with an 18 year old girl. I do understand that being in close confines would possible allow this, but to be constantly guarded and still find a way... not sure.

Masha's story continues after she is separated from the Romanovs, when she is unhappily married and finds herself in various European countries with her charlatan of a husband. Eventually she finds work as a trick rider in a circus, and in due course trading on her father's name before her career is ended in a horrific animal attack. My overriding feeling for Masha by the end of the story was one of despair because she never really seemed to have come to a place of peace within herself, haunted in her dreams by the past and the Romanov family.

There were elements of this that had a magical realism kind of feeling. As an example, the tsarina Alexandra is described as having a cloud above her head that would only disappear when she was happy and this was something that others could see. There are also a couple of episodes where Masha looks inside a Faberge egg and sees a representation of the Romanov's favourite home and the people moving within it. Again, nice imagery, but not sure what it added to the story!

As I read through the other reviews on the blog tour, they are predominantly positive with a couple that were kind of mediocre. If you think that this might be a book that interests you then take a look at some of the other reviews by clicking on the tour details below. It wasn't a book that worked for me though.

Rating 2.5/5

Tour Details

Link to Tour Schedule: http://tlcbooktours.com/2013/01/kathryn-harrison-author-of-enchantments-on-tour-februarymarch-2013/
Kathryn Harrison's website

Synopsis

St. Petersburg, 1917. After Rasputin’s body is pulled from the icy waters of the Neva River, his eighteen-year-old daughter, Masha, is sent to live at the imperial palace with Tsar Nikolay and his family. Desperately hoping that Masha has inherited Rasputin’s healing powers, Tsarina Alexandra asks her to tend to her son, the headstrong prince Alyosha, who suffers from hemophilia. Soon after Masha arrives at the palace, the tsar is forced to abdicate, and the Bolsheviks place the royal family under house arrest. As Russia descends into civil war, Masha and Alyosha find solace in each other’s company. To escape the confinement of the palace, and to distract the prince from the pain she cannot heal, Masha tells him stories—some embellished and others entirely imagined—about Nikolay and Alexandra’s courtship, Rasputin’s exploits, and their wild and wonderful country, now on the brink of an irrevocable transformation. In the worlds of their imagination, the weak become strong, legend becomes fact, and a future that will never come to pass feels close at hand.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Library Loot: March 27 to April 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!
In last week's Library Loot post, I did hint at the fact that my loot was going to be more like a haul. However an influx of requests has meant that it is now a huge haul. The impact of this is that after months of having my number of books out at a relatively reasonably level, suddenly I am getting back up towards the limit of the number of books out. Maybe I should spend the four day weekend for Easter just reading...oh, and maybe watching some more Lizzie Bennet Diaries!

Here is what I have picked up this week:




Channel Orange by Frank Ocean - Heard lots of good things about this album!

The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O'Neal - I have read a few of this author's books now and I find them very easy reading, very soothing!

Giving Chase by Lauren Dane - I am up to date with the Brown Brothers series and the spin off series, Delicious, so time to go back to one of the older series that Lauren Dane has written.



Best of Bill by Bill Granger - My go to Banana Bread recipe is one of Bill's recipes, and just recently I have been cooking one of his roast chicken recipes too. Time to have a look at his best and see what else he has to offer!

Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany - Recently included on the Miles Franklin longlist, it is probably way past time I read this book.

Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik  - I was a bit disappointed with the last Temeraire book so I am hoping this one will be better.





Flavours of Melbourne by Jonnette George - I wonder what hidden gems will be unearthed in the pages of this book.

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan - I loved Sea Hearts by Margo so it is time to read one of her other novels.

Lord of Darkness by Elizabeth Hoyt - The next Maiden Lane book.




Thrown by a Curve by Jaci Burton - The next Play-by-Play book which obviously features a baseball player!

Zoe's Baby by Alison Roberts - The next Sydney Harbor Hospital book.

Claire has Mr Linky this week so head over to share your loot!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau

I don't think I have made any secret of the fact that I am a bit Tudored out and so I am being very selective about the books that I read that are set during the Tudor period of British history. When I saw that this book was coming out though, there was no question for me as to whether I would read this or not. Bilyeau's debut novel, The Chalice, which features a novice nun named Joanne Stafford who comes from a disgraced noble family was a good read for me last year but I did have some issues with the pacing.

Everything I enjoyed about The Crown was present, but The Chalice is by far the stronger book of the two. The pacing is strong and consistent, the mystery is interesting, the plot twists and turns, the historical facts are fascinating and the characters are captivating!

After the dissolution of the monasteries, former novice Joanna Stafford is trying to make a home for herself in the town of Dartford in Kent. It is difficult to be out in the community, especially given that the town isn't particularly welcoming to the former nuns and friars. In addition to the former sisters who share her life, Joanna also has custody of a young boy, Arthur, who is the son of her cousin who was executed for committing treason in the previous book.

Joanna knows that she needs to find a way to make a living and so has a plan to start producing tapestries. She just needs her loom to arrive from the low countries and she will be able to start working and live a nice, quiet life with the only dilemma for her being her love life. At the end of The Chalice things were kind of unresolved, which made sense given that Joanne had a religious vocation. She definitely felt a strong connection to Geoffrey Scovill, a constable that she met when he saved her from a mob at the beginning of the last book, and a strong emotional connection to Brother Edmund, the apothecary who is a constant in her life.

When her cousin and his wife suddenly show up in Dartford with an invitation for both Joanna and Arthur to visit with them, it is a surprise to Joanna. She has no intention of being drawn back into the world that comes with being a member of one of England's most infamous families and related to many of the other noble families like the Howards. Only agreeing to accompany her cousin as long as she does not have to attend Court, Joanna goes with them to London.

Despite her protests, Joanna is drawn into a complicated plot that relies strongly on a prophecy that concerns her.  Suddenly her quiet life is a long way behind her as she finds herself faced with the responsibility of trying to restore the Catholic faith to England. The last thing that Joanna wants is to fulfil the terms of the prophecy but  life conspires to bring Joanna to a place where she has very little choice.  The plot is constantly evolving and bringing Joanna into different situations, even having her travelling to Flanders. Joanna is not always blindly following fate, for want of a better word, especially once there are people starting to die around her. There were a couple of times when she did do a couple of things that had me shaking my head, but she is also able to find a resolution to the prophecy that enables her to be who she wants to be. I did find the resolution to be very interesting, especially with the way that Joanna was introduced to both Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard. I would think that Joanne will be back at court with everything that we know is going to happen regarding those two women in the future.

One of the pieces of history that I learned about during reading this book was about a law that was passed by Henry VIII that prevented anyone who had taken religious vows from being able to marry. Once again this left those former nuns and brothers with few options. They could no longer fulfil their religious obligations but they also could not become fully immersed in secular life either and it had very interesting implications for the story.

Once again, the book ends with some ambiguity in relation to Joanna's future. Which just left me with one major question when I finished the book ...when is the next one out?

Rating 4.5/5



Tour Details


Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thechalicevirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #TheChaliceVirtualTour
Nancy Bilyeau's website.
Nancy Bilyeau on Facebook
Nancy Bilyeau on Twitter


Synopsis

In the next novel from Nancy Bilyeau after her acclaimed debut The Crown, novice Joanna Stafford plunges into an even more dangerous conspiracy as she comes up against some of the most powerful men of her era.

In 1538, England is in the midst of bloody power struggles between crown and cross that threaten to tear the country apart. Joanna Stafford has seen what lies inside the king’s torture rooms and risks imprisonment again, when she is caught up in a shadowy international plot targeting the King. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna understands she may have to assume her role in a prophecy foretold by three different seers, each more omniscient than the last.

Joanna realizes the life of Henry VIII as well as the future of Christendom are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice that lays at the center of these deadly prophecies…

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday Salon: Ramblings

I am not sure if you have noticed or not but it has been kind of quiet around here recently. While I have still been reading up a storm, the idea of sitting down to collect my thoughts and write about a book hasn't been that appealing. Yep....I'm in a reviewing slump. The only thing that gets me to sit down and actually write something is where I have committed to post a review on a particular date, usually for a blog tour. I have even dropped off Weekend Cooking for the last few weeks because I was so uninspired. Of course, it doesn't help that even the baking I have been doing hasn't exactly turned out well either! I did have a book to write about yesterday for Weekend Cooking, but then I saw something shiny and got distracted so it didn't happen. I have posts scheduled for the next two weeks now so it could well be that I don't ever actually write about that book! We'll see!

Of course, getting obsessed with something new isn't going to help motivate me to write reviews! Today, after hearing about them for a long time, I started watching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. My intention was just to watch a few episodes. Do you think that 40 can still be quantified as a few or have I crossed the line into many, many episodes now? I can't wait to watch more! So much fun! I have no idea why I didn't start watching them earlier!

I am also way behind on blog hopping but I did notice a few posts the other day announcing that it was time for Once Upon a Time again, being hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings for the seventh time.

This year I am going to undertake the Journey level of participation.

This is really as simple as the name implies. It means you are participating, but not committing yourself to any specific number of books. By signing up for The Journey you are agreeing to read at least one book within one of the four categories during March 21st to June 21st period. Just one book. If you choose to read more, fantastic! If not, then we have still had the pleasure of your company during this three month reading journey and hopefully you have read a great book, met some interesting people, and enjoyed the various activities that occur during the challenge. It has always been of utmost importance to me that the challenges that I host be all about experiencing enjoyable literature and sharing it with others. I want you to participate. Hence, The Journey.

In a way it kinds of feels as though I am cheating just a little bit on this one because the book that I finished the day that the challenge started is one that met the criteria, and I did have that in mind at the time I was reading it so technically, I could have finished the challenge already. Of course, see my opening paragraph to find out the likelihood of a review being written is.

Other books that I might reading for the challenge that are sitting on my shelves include:

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham
Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller
Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik

I am sure that there are others on my shelves that might make the grade too!

In other news I am still going strong on the #estellagram front and so far haven't missed a prompt for the month of March! Normally I drop off after a few days from these photo a day challenges so I am quite happy with that achievement. Some time this week I will probably do a post with the photos that I haven't yet shown here. I do have to laugh at myself though because for yesterday's prompt I did something a teensy bit embarrassing. I am not sure if anyone has noticed because no one has said anything, but I am going to out myself anyway.

Yesterday's prompt was e-reader, so I put my e-reader on top of a book and took a photo of the both of them saying something along the lines of I am happy to read either paper books or using my e-reader, and didn't think much more about it! After I had received a few likes, I had another look at the picture and I realised that the page I was showing on the e-reader was of....ummm...sexy times in the steamy romance I was reading and not the Tudor set historical mystery that I had thought it was! Whoops! But it is there now so I am not going to take it down! Note to self....make sure you take a look at what you are taking photos of.

So that's it for my rambly Sunday Salon post this week! There will be at least a couple of reviews this week because they are scheduled. We'll see what else happens shall we!

Currently Reading

The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau and listening to Tuscan Rose by Belinda Alexandra

Up Next

Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Library Loot: March 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!
Busy, busy week at work this week so not much time for preamble! Let's just get down to the loot straight away and not many books to talk about either! I do have some waiting to be picked up but I won't be getting to the library to pick them up until the weekend probably.

Here's what I picked up from the library this week:




The Autumn Bride by Anne Gracie - This is the start of a new series so I wanted to get in at the beginning!

The Stranger Prince by Margaret Irwin - I have been fascinated by Prince Rupert of the Rhine ever since I first heard about him. When this book was mentioned in a group I am in, I knew that I was going to have to try to get this book and luckily it was available via interlibrary loan (I have been going a bit crazy on the ILLs recently! Going to have to watch that!)

Share your Library Loot links in Mr Linky below


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday Salon: On following and the demise of Google Reader

I was just a bit panicked over the last few days when the news broke that Google Reader will be shut down as at 1 July this year.  And coming just a few days after I was forced into changing from the Tweetdeck app to the web version, and not really liking it, it hasn't been a great week for me technologically.

Many years ago now, I discovered how much easier blog hopping is once you start using a RSS Feed to follow your blogs. This is especially true as you accumulate more and more blogs. For each blog I remove from the list (usually because they haven't posted for more than 6 months or so) I am sure I add at least three or four more! I am sure I am not the only one who does this!

On Twitter the other day the question was asked why people use a feed reader anyway, so I thought I would talk about my experiences with feed readers, the positives and negatives, why I don't choose to follow via other methods and maybe talk about the options going forward.

My number one reason for using a feed reader is that it is a time saver. When I first started, I maintained a blog roll and each day I would faithfully click on each link and see if there was a new post or not. It was all very well if there was but if there wasn't, there was a pointless visit. With a feedreader, you can see exactly who has posted since the last time you visited and how many times (yes, those people who post 5 times a day or more I am looking at you!)

Another reason I like using a feed reader is the ability to categorise blogs into groups. It means that if I am time poor for whatever reason, I can make sure that I have read at least one group. I have mine sorted into groups like Aussie bloggers, Historical Fiction bloggers, Must Read Romance, Must Read Book bloggers, Book Blogs, Others, Challenge Blogs and New Feeds. The last one is a label that I use when I meet a new blogger who I think I might like to follow, but I want to take a look at a few more posts before I decide for sure. Once I have decided I will move them into a different category.

One thing that I do find easier in a feed reader is finding a post that I know I have seen but can't remember where. By using the search feature, I can usually narrow down the list of blogs which talked about a specific book or perhaps a specific recipe. You can also "star" posts so that you can come back to them later.

There are downsides. That feeling of being "behind" is so much easier to succumb to when you open your feed reader and it tells you that not only are there posts to read but in fact there are more than 1000 of them! Some days that causes me to go "Mark all as read" and start again, but often I sit here and go through each category and read the posts, stopping to comment on the ones that interest me. And then I give myself a mental pat on the back for getting through them all and promise never to get in that situation again. Obviously I need to work on that second part because it keeps on happening.

The other thing is that sometimes it is easy to just read through your feeds and not actually click through to the blogs to make comments. There are some times that I am really good at that, but other times when I am not so good. One of the things I might do is to say I am going to make sure that I am going to comment on 10 posts in each group, or in an hour or something like that so that I can ensure that I am not  just reading but also connecting with other bloggers.

So what about the other ways of connecting to bloggers, using methods like Google Friend Connect or subscribing to blogs via email?

I choose to be able to follow all of the blogs that I follow in one place, regardless of whether they are Blogger blogs or Wordpress or Typepad or whatever different variation they are. I don't want to have to look in one place for some and another for others etc. There are also some times when I think that the GFC thing is more about numbers than the connection that builds between bloggers.  Let's not talk about the fact that my follower count in Blogger broke once I went to my own domain name. Apparently I haven't had a new follower in the last 3 years. In theory that could be true, but I would like to think that it isn't!

How about receiving posts via email? Like many other people, I get more than enough email without also getting a new email every time there is a new post from multiple blogs. Whenever there is the option I choose to follow any new comments that come on a post I have commented on previously so that I can possibly continue the interaction which is more than enough mail coming into the inbox.

I do get a bit cross when I see contests and the like that are specifically only for GFC followers or email subscribers. I do get that people can do what they like with their own blogs, but the fact that I choose to follow via RSS does not make me any less of a follower than someone who chooses to receive the emails or use GFC. Anyway... moving on.

So, I guess for people like me who choose to use Google Reader currently, the big question is where to from here? I could go back to Bloglines which was actually the first RSS feed reader that I used. The only reason I moved from there was that it was supposed to be closing down. I moved all of my feeds and then came the news that Bloglines was being taken over by a new company but given that I had already moved I never went back.

Whilst I have signed one of the #saveGoogleReader petitions that sprung up, the fact of the matter is that it is totally in Google's hands and even if it is saved this time, there is no guarantee that it won't be under threat again at some point in the future.

I get the impression that part of the reason for this closure is to try and get more people using Google+. I have to say that I have had a Google+ account for ages now, and I don't think I have actually worked out the best way to use it. I do participate in a closed group there which mostly works effectively but in terms of being a blogger I haven't yet worked out why I should expend my time and energy there or how I should go about it.

Maybe this is a good time to be having a look at what other services are out there in terms of RSS readers.

The kind of things I will be looking for in a new feed reader will be the ability to import my existing feeds from Google Reader, web based (I don't need yet another reading distraction on my phone - Twitter and Instagram take up enough of my time as it is), ability to organise into categories, easy to subscribe to new blogs and to manage existing blog, functional search facilities, preferably free or at the very least minimal cost.

Possible alternatives that I have seen mentioned include The Old Reader, Newsblur, Feedly, Feedreader, Google Currents (which I have never even heard of until today - who knows if that will close in due course as well), Taptu and Zite.

Tania from Girlxoxo.com has done a comparison post of four services: Netvibes, Bloglines, Bloglovin and Feedly which you may find interesting and I am sure that there will be other posts along those lines in due course.

At this stage I am leaning towards Feedly, but it is early days yet. Do you know what you are going to switch to with the demise of Google Reader?

Currently Reading

Not actually reading anything at the moment. I am still listening to Tuscan Rose by Belinda Alexandra

Up Next

I am in the strange position of not having any library books due until early April and no review books due for 10 days or so so I can pick whatever I like! No idea what that will be yet though!


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Library Loot: March 13 to 19


Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!
A few weeks ago I went through a bit of a phase of requesting CDs from the library! Turns out that they are just like books because several of them have come in at the same time!

Here's the loot I got this week:



Wedding Tiers by Trisha Ashley - I recently read my first Trisha Ashley book and thought it was fun so I have borrowed the next one already!

An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear - The next Maisie Dobbs book in the series.

Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham - According to Kelly's guide to reading the Fables series, this is my next book in that series.



Truth About Love by Pink - Love Pink's music!

Red by Taylor Swift - I have liked everything I have heard off of this album so far so time to give the whole thing a listen



The Amber Ambulet by Craig Silvey - I think I have had this book out from the library before but I saw someone mention it and had to borrow it again. As an object this is such a great little book - fab cover treatment, compact size!

The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen - When this book first came out I kept on checking the library catalogue to see if it had been added. Ended up having to get this one via interlibrary loan.

Unorthodox Jukebox by Bruno Mars - Love Bruno Mars' fun brand of music!

Head over to Claire's blog to share your library loot this week!

And now....just because I can.....



Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hope's Road by Margareta Osborn

When Margareta Osborn's first book, Bella's Run, came out she came and visited my local bookstore. Bree and I went to the signing and chatted with Margareta for ages. I duly bought the book, which Margareta signed, and that was that. I never actually got around to reading the book.  Now, having read Hope's Road, I am pretty sure that I am the one who has missed out by not having read Bella's Run and I will be rectifying that as soon as I can! I feel like I should apologise profusely to Margareta! Sorry, sorry, sorry!

Hope's Road focuses on three people who live on three properties near each other that are connected by Hope's Road in the Gippsland region of Victoria. There is curmudgeonly old Joe, his estranged grand niece Tammy and neighbour Travis Hunter who lives with his young son Billy. All three of them are used to living pretty much alone and always self reliant. While for Joe and Travis this is pretty much a lifestyle choice, for Tammy this has come about as a result of being in an emotionally and, more recently, physically abusive marriage all the while trying to keep the family farm going.

Tammy was married to Shon Murphy for years. While her grandparents were alive, he helped around the farm, but once they died and the property was specifically left to Tammy only he became resentful and that resentment only kept on growing. Now, he has moved on to someone else and he wants a divorce straight away. The fact that the farm is Tammy's and has been part of her family for generations is no concern to him. He wants a payout and if the only way for him to get it is for Tammy to sell up, then so be it. One of the few things I wasn't sure about in this book was the way that the divorce, and in particular the property settlement, had to happen so quickly. It is a minor qualm though.

Travis Hunter has bought his mother back to her home town with his son Billy in tow. Travis is a feral dog trapper (the dogs being feral, not Travis), a solitary job for a solitary man. Trav is doing his best for his son, but to say they are just getting by is probably about all. He has no clue about creating the emotional connection to his son that Billy requires. There are a number of reasons for this, but one of those reasons is that when his wife walked away from the both of them when Billy was just a toddler, Travis left his son with his mother and continued to do his job, leaving her to practically raise her grandson. Now that his mother is no longer capable of being the main care giver, Travis has to work out how to go about that, and he needs to learn quickly.

Joe is an embittered old man who walked away from his family 60 years before because of a woman and never spoke to any of them again - not the woman, or his brother, or his niece or even his grand niece (unless you count yelling at her when she was a small girl to get off his land as talking). He can see the house that was once his home from his front verandah through his rifle scope and has a regular series of informants, so he usually knows what is going on at Montmorency Downs but that is as close as he wants to get to his grand niece. He is content to do what needs to be done on his own property and to sit on his verandah and watch the world go by.

Billy soon becomes the glue that starts to unite these three strangers. He often finds himself up at Joe's place or down at Tammy's house helping out and also using the computer because his father refuses to recognise that he needs one for his schooling. Tammy can see that Billy is desperate for his father's approval and she isn't shy about letting Travis know. In fact, Billy is desperate for any kind of family relationship, as evidenced by his hope when his mother turns up in town. I felt so much for Billy many times throughout this book. He was a great kid who just needed a bit of attention, not least of which to attend to an undiagnosed medical condition, and who was desperate for love where ever he could find it.

One day, Billy is up at Joe's place when there is an accident which leaves Joe with a broken hip. When the doctors tell him that he can not go home until he is healed and that he will have to live in the nursing home in the mean time, he is horrified and reacts badly. Both Travis and Tammy offer to help look after him. At first Joe refuses belligerently, pretty much because he is a stubborn old coot, but given the choice of the nursing home or the help of strangers, he relents.

Slowly but surely the relationship between the three of them grows. Tammy begins to get to know her Uncle Joe without actually knowing why it was that her only blood relative has always been a stranger. Joe and Travis begin to recognise that they share quite a lot of traits which can be seen as both good and bad. And for Tammy and Travis there is a strong attraction that is growing between them.  But with Tammy's divorce proving so difficult, Trav's ex-wife in town, a fragile trust growing between them all and Mother Nature determined to throw in a big curveball too, there are a lot of challenges for this group of people to deal with.

I really enjoyed Hope's Road. With three different backstories to include in the book, including establishing several peripheral characters, there were times at the beginning of the book where it felt a bit slow, but once it got going ... boy, it got going. I was trying to read this yesterday before I went out but I didn't quite make it, so I ended up taking it with me to the pool. It was boiling hot and I really needed to go for a swim but I couldn't do that before I knew exactly what was happening with these characters! I had to know!

I have a big list of jobs that I would never do. These include things like being a childcare worker or a nurse, a cop and more. After reading some of the things that Tammy had to do on her farm (bloat...ugh!), I am pretty sure that you could add farmer to that list.

The rural lit genre is one that seems to be growing and growing here in Australia. For the most part, I have been really pleased with the books I have read. They represent a side of life that I as a city dwelling Aussie wouldn't normally see as much but I can still find the characters relatable. They also often have a really strong sense of Australia in the humour and the language and this book is no exception!

Now, where did I put my copy of Bella's Run?

Rating 4/5


Blog Tour

I was invited to participate in a blog tour for this book by the publisher. Check out other stops in the tour including yesterday's stop at MrsMichelles and tomorrow's stop at Daystarz's Books.

You can see all the stops below. Click on the banner to make it bigger.


Banner created by Marcia from Book Muster Down Under
Synopsis

From the author of the bestselling Bella's Run comes another captivating rural romance set in the the rugged, beautiful high country of East Gippsland.

Hope's Road connects three very different properties, and three very different lives …

Sixty years ago, heartbroken and betrayed, old Joe McCauley turned his back on his family and their fifth-generation farm, Montmorency Downs. He now spends his days as a recluse, spying upon the land - and the granddaughter – that should by rights have been his.

For Tammy McCauley, Montmorency Downs is the last remaining tie to her family. But land can make or break you - and, with her husband's latest treachery, how long can she hold on to it?

Wild-dog trapper, Travis Hunter, is struggling as a single dad, unable to give his son, Billy, the thing he craves most. A complete family.

Then, out of the blue, a terrible event forces the three neighbours to confront each other - and the mistakes of their past …

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Turncoat by Donna Thorland

When I signed up for the War Through the Generations challenge for this year, I knew that I was going to struggle to find books set in the American Revolution, but that's okay. It just means that you have to work a bit harder to complete the challenge. That doesn't mean to say that if a book that fits the criteria lands in your lap you don't say yes, so when I heard about this book I knew I was going to read it if only because of that. Fortunately, it sounded like a fascinating read too.

Kate Grey has been bought up in a Quaker family, but it is fair to say that hers wasn't a typical upbringing. Her father was a former soldier who converted to the faith for his wife and who has seen fit to ensure that his daughter is educated and has been freely allowed to share her opinions on many subjects that are not normally seen as womanly.When her father decides to join Washington to fight against the British, Kate is left to manage the household alone. Their home is on a major through road between New York and Philadelphia and it doesn't take long for some British troops to requisition the house. The leader, Major Lord Peter Tremayne, is carrying important plans regarding the invasion of Philadelphia. Kate feels an instant attraction to the man, and while at first he doesn't notice the Quaker miss, she is soon debating him on the finer points of military strategy and he is definitely paying attention, to the point where he plans to seduce the young lady. Unfortunately, while he is distracted by Kate, a rebel spy who happened to be staying there steals the papers, thereby implicating Kate in high treason and putting Peter in military disgrace, to the point where he could have been hanged.

Kate and the spy flee their home, never imagining that Kate won't be able to sit out the conflict in a safe home with her friends. Instead, she is drawn into the world of espionage and is recruited to gain entry into the inner circle of the British command. She soon finds herself caught up in the inner circle, including an engagement with an unsuitable man, but one who gives her unparalleled access to the military secrets that she then can pass on to her mentor and to the rebels.

However, it is when Peter Tremayne returns to the scene that the trouble starts. He believes that Kate was part of the plot to steal the papers, which nearly ended in him losing his life. He has been charged with the task of finding the women who caused his disgrace and bringing them to justice. Peter is not the only person on Kate's trail though. With their feelings for each other growing stronger, an engagement to another man who happens to be closely linked to Peter, and the dangerous situation that Kate has put herself in, there is no guarantee that they will both make it to the end of the war, let alone that they will make it to the end together. And, if they do, how can they possible make a life together when everything in their lives puts them on opposite sides of the political fence.

The author of this book has a background in screen writing and there are times you can tell, with some of the dramatic plot twists and turns. Sometimes that can be a bad thing because there is all plot and not enough focus on characters or the history, but in this case I think Thorland got the balance pretty much right, although there was a touch of melodrama. For example, you do have to suspend disbelief a little as you see Kate transform from a Quaker lass to a woman who would give away her virginity so easily, to a beautiful and worldly spy. This screen writing and involvement in TV and movies also meant that the author was able to bring those skills to making the book trailer below.

For a while there I was wondering if this book could have been classified more as a historical romance rather than historical fiction with romantic elements, but then some things happened that you would just never see happen in a straight romance novel!

On her website, the author has the tagline 'Sex, Violence and History' and I think that is perfectly apt for this book. While there aren't too many sex scenes, the ones that are there are quite revealing. There is also no backing away from the fact that the American Revolution was a violent time to be living in places like Philadelphia where the war came virtually to the door of the cities and where the people suffered due to blockades and the like, and it was doubly dangerous to be a 'rebel' against the British rule. The history seems to be strong, although I must confess that I don't know much more than the basics about this period in time but there were some familiar names coming to life on the page.There were some characters that I was surprised to see were actual historical figures given their actions!

This book is apparently the first in the Renegades of the Revolution series, and I can't wait to see where the author takes us next!

Rating 4/5
Synopsis
They are lovers on opposite sides of a brutal war, with everything at stake and no possibility of retreat. They can trust no one—especially not each other.

Major Lord Peter Tremayne is the last man rebel bluestocking Kate Grey should fall in love with, but when the handsome British viscount commandeers her home, Kate throws caution to the wind and responds to his seduction. She is on the verge of surrender when a spy in her own household seizes the opportunity to steal the military dispatches Tremayne carries, ensuring his disgrace—and implicating Kate in high treason. Painfully awakened to the risks of war, Kate determines to put duty ahead of desire, and offers General Washington her services as an undercover agent in the City of Brotherly Love.

Months later, having narrowly escaped court martial and hanging, Tremayne returns to decadent, British-occupied Philadelphia with no stomach for his current assignment—to capture the woman he believes betrayed him. Nor does he relish the glittering entertainments being held for General Howe’s idle officers. Worse, the glamorous woman in the midst of this social whirl, the fiancĂ©e of his own dissolute cousin, is none other than Kate Grey herself. And so begins their dangerous dance, between passion and patriotism, between certain death and the promise of a brave new future together.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sunday Salon: Bookish Photo a Day Challenge #estellagram

Since joining Instagram a few months ago, I have tried to join in on the Photo A Day style challenges that happen each month. Some months I am a better than others but the most common outcome is that I run out of steam before the end of the month. For example, in February I was doing the #fmsphotoaday challenge and had photos up for the first three weeks but I just didn't do any of the final week's prompts. In March, I put up photos for a couple of days but no more.

Despite the fact that I don't often finish the challenges I was very excited to see a couple of bookish challenges appear for the month of March. While I might try the one being run by Book Soulmates next month, for March I am going to attempt to complete The Estella Society Bookish Photo a Day challenge.


Today I am going to share my photos for March 1 to 10

Day 1 - bookshelves - getting towards needing to cull and reorganise both of these! #estellagram #bookishphotoaday#books

Day 2 - tbr - just the library books#estellagram #bookishphotoaday#books #catchingup
Day 3 - unread - even though bookclub is tomorrow night - eeek #estellagram#bookishphotoaday #books
Day 4 - fiction - my current read#estellagram #books


Day 5 - non fiction - one of the few non fiction books i have out from the library#estellagram #books


A sentiment you will never hear me express #whoadorescleaning #notme. Just realised that this could be my day 6 photo for #estellagram because this is a mystery to me!

Day 7 - it will be a #crime if i return this to the library unread... Again#estellagram

Audiobooks are awesome for when you are travelling even if it is just to work and back #estellagram #books#audiobooks

#day 9 I had every intention of baking today but it's too hot so my reading snack today is ice cream with milo#estellagram #longhotsummer

10. Reading space - i have recently been reminded that i need to get back to reading this series (which is set in space. #estellagram #books


Are you playing along with the challenge?

I do have a question for those of you that use Instagram and put the photos up on your blogs. What is the easiest way to do this? In the past I have shared to Facebook but you have to do that when you create the photo otherwise it doesn't work. I don't necessarily won't to put all those photos up on my FB page either so today I have uploaded from my phone to my computer and then to the blog which is a bit slow and laborious.

Currently Reading

Hope's Road by Margareta Osborn and listening to Tuscan Rose by Belinda Alexandra

Up Next

The Perils of Pleasure by Julie Ann Long


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