December 31, 2008

Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

Lexi Smart awakens in a hospital having lost all of her memories of the past three years of her life. She remembers herself as snaggletoothed, frizzy-haired, broke, plump and miserable...but somehow she has a Louis Vuitton bag, a skinny body, perfect teeth, perfect hair...and the perfect husband?? The car accident she was in...in her Mercedes...has left Lexi with amnesia and somehow she must figure out just how in the heck her life changed so dramatically. 

Sophie Kinsella's stories are always good for a laugh. They are fluffy, funny and you can finish them in a few hours. I really liked the concept of Remember Me? and was cracking up at all the messes Lexi got herself into and tried to get herself out of. Kinsella has an amazing ability to make very likable characters and to make you laugh. I have read The Undomestic Goddess though which I liked better, mostly because I laughed more, and which, for me, had a more satisfying ending. I would have liked to see an epilogue or a longer last chapter for Lexi's story. That said, I bought Confessions of a Shopaholic and look forward to reading more of Sophie Kinsella's novels. 
My Rating: 3.5

December 30, 2008

TuesdayThingers

Today's question: Here is a list of the main areas of Library Thing:
1. Home (http://www.librarything.com/, before you log in)
2. Home (once you log in, contains Your Home, Your Profile, Connections, Recommendations, Reviews, Statistics, Clouds, Gallery, Memes)
3. Profile (Recent activity, tags, comments, members with your books)
4. Your Library 5. Your Tags 6. Add Books 7. Talk 8. Groups 9. Local 10. Search 11. Zeitgeist (Stats, Top Lists) 12. Tools (Widgets, Store) 13. Blog
What area are you most familiar with? What area is your favorite? What area are you curious about? Are there any that you have not really looked at?

Areas I am most familiar with are 2, 4, 6, 10 and 11.  Adding books, looking at My Library and searching for books and reviews are my favourite things to do on LibraryThing.  LT is my number one place to go trolling for reviews!!  

I also visit the Zeitgeist on occasion to see who I have the most books in common with and what top books I have in my library.  I am most curious about Blog, Talk and Groups as have not spent a lot of time in these areas.  I have no idea what Talk is - if its sending comments then I have done that  - maybe I should find out what it is again before I say I have no idea what it is! I have tried to add my Local City a couple times but it never seems to work, goes back to the default of Boston.

December 28, 2008

Interred With Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell

In Interred With Their Bones, author Jennifer Lee Carrell plunges you without delay into a suspenseful story revolving around Shakespeare and the burning of The Globe Theatre. In the present day Globe, Kate Stanley is directing soon to be premiered Hamlet when Rosalind Howard, her mentor not seen for many years, asks her to take a gift - an adventure, a secret - and follow when it leads…The Globe Theatre is on fire, the same day when The Globe Theatre burned in 1613 and Rosalind Howard is found dead within. 


I think Jennifer Lee Carrell must have done a mind-boggling amount of research, with the amount of knowledge and historical content of Shakespeare required within all of the details in the story. It would have been daunting to keep all the back-story organized. I did like that the story was convoluted with layer upon layer of plotlines, but reading was confusing and challenging at times, doubly so since the last time I had any familiarity with Shakespeare was in high school. The plot skipped from idea to idea a little to quickly for me, but those who have read any Shakespeare recently, especially Hamlet, would enjoy Interred With Their Bones and doubtless find the story progressing more smoothly than it did for me. 
I also liked the partitioning of the novel into Acts and historical Interludes. I found the shorter chapters particularly effective; giving you enough time to absorb what was just read before the story twisted and turned again. 
There are a limited amount of characters in the present day story, so with this being a suspense/murder mystery…you know at least one of the characters must be a murderer, otherwise the character is superfluous to the story. It wasn’t that difficult to figure out the whodunits but it was difficult determining motives. 
A couple of things that grated on my nerves were that Kate Stanley’s character has an abundance of thought but not an abundance of emotion, leaving me with little sense of who the character was until toward the very end of the book; I did not like the dichotomy that Kate is supposed to be intelligent but she cannot reason out who her killer is; And why have her kiss Ben and then Matthew kiss her? 
I did like the book a lot but I didn’t absolutely love it so I have to rate it 4.0. I am left with a lot of questions about Kate Stanley and will look out for the sequel released in 2009 “Haunt Me Still” (probably why the author held back so much detail on the character). Similar books are The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber and Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott. Out of the three I would recommend Interred With Their Bones over the other two.
My Rating: 4.0 

December 23, 2008

The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir

The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir is an exciting addition to the realm of Tudor fiction. The story follows Lady Elizabeth from when she is three years old to when she is become Queen of England and all the trials in between.
I am very impressed with Alison Weir’s storytelling ability. I have not yet read any of her non-fiction work but as she is an historian first, I appreciated the level of detail and historical account in this novel. The conversations between characters and descriptions of England and life in the 1500s were compelling and thorough. I’m sure there are some who would be put off by the more controversial aspects of the story, especially between the Admiral and Elizabeth, but I thought it gave the plot an enthralling twist that had not yet been put forth in other Tudor fiction, setting The Lady Elizabeth apart. 
Another way that this story is set apart from the other Tudor fiction is that a good portion of the story follows Lady Elizabeth when she is a young girl. I was fascinated that young children were treated more as adults in that era, their life expectancy being much lower than today (as described by Weir). In the storyline we get to live with Lady Elizabeth as she grows into adulthood, making mistakes, taking chances, and becoming more intelligent, perceptive and cunning. There is a very distinct feeling and voice between dowdy, spiteful Mary and daring, vivacious, precocious Elizabeth.
I am rating The Lady Elizabeth 4.5 because the story lagged for me a bit three quarters of the way through the book. I thought the omnipresence of doom throughout the last section was a bit too much. In “A Conversation With Alison Weir” at the back of the book Weir states that The Lady Elizabeth is the first part of series, with The Phoenix and The Bear being the sequel. Very much looking forward to reading this. In other reading I would recommend The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory (religion – Queen Mary) and although I have not yet read The Virgin’s Lover by the same author I imagine it would be a good basis of comparison. I am adding Weir to my list of favourite authors. 
My Rating: 4.5

Tuesday Thingers

Today's question: Holiday gift-giving. Do you give books for the holidays? Did you participate in LT's SantaThing, either this year or last, or in other blogging gift exchanges? Were you happy with what you received?
 
I have given books in the past but my favourite gift now is the giftcard...I have given many a gift card to Chapters. As well I like to buy books as gifts online and have them sent to the recipient. I did not have time to participate in SantaThing but the idea of the program is an excellent one...maybe next year. I have never participated in any gift blog exchanges...I don't want to give up any of my books and I like particular books and authors...maybe I should find out how these really work before forming an opinion...I think it would be fun to send a book I would not necessarily read myself to someone and hear what they have to say...but if I did not like the book I was sent I don't think I would read it.

December 16, 2008

Tuesday Thingers

Today's Question: The LT Home Page feature. How are you liking it? Or not? Do you go here when you log into LT or do you use your profile page more?
 
I always take a quick look at my Home page before moving on to other areas of the site. I often use the Search feature. I have a widget on my website pulling recent adds that mirrors my recent adds on Home. Most often I look at Popular This Month. I have in the past clicked on other members who have my books. I find the Home page very useful. I rarely use my profile page...mostly only to look at comments.

December 10, 2008

Cold Pursuit by Carla Neggers

An American ambassador had been killed and his stepdaughter is fleeing from an unknown elusive threat in Black Falls, Vermont. Jo Harper is a Secret Service agent on leave in her home town of Black Falls for an embarrassing incident with the Vice President’s genius teenage son. The boy who Jo loved as a teenager and left her to go into the army, Elijah Cameron, has survived being shot and has also returned to Black Falls to recuperate. But something is going on in Black Falls...Elijah’s father has died on the mountain and he is determined to find out whether it was an accident…or murder. Jo and Elijah’s paths cross and they combine forces to discover the truth behind the deaths. 

While I liked the chemistry between Jo & Elijah, there were a lot of threads in Cold Pursuit, some of which I thought were unlikely or farfetched or seemed to cut off abruptly. The dialogue between characters Myrtle, Grit & Moose was often choppy and staccato. I liked that the story left an open ending indicating the start of a series. There were a few times with Jo and Elijah where the storyline duplicated itself, crossing paths numerous times in the first day they see each other, saying the same things after similar events. Anyways, I liked the characters but was not truly engaged in the story.

My Rating: 3.0

December 9, 2008

Tuesday Thingers

Most of us book bloggers like to write book reviews- if we don't love to write book reviews- but here's today's question. When it comes to LT (and your blog), do you review every book you read? Do you just review Early Reviewers or ARCs? Do you review only if you like a book, or only if you feel like you have to? How soon after reading do you post your review? Do you post them other places- other social networking sites, Amazon, etc.?
 
Well, I don't review every book I read. I do read quite a few romance novels but I just don't have much to say about them. I would rather give my point of view on historical fiction, action/adventure or mystery/suspense, which I read a lot of. I have been trying to get into the habit of reviewing most of these type of books as I think it might help my chances on getting more ARCs, plus I like to go back and see what I wrote as a comparison for other books by the author, or similar authors. I write my review immediately after I finish the book or within a couple days, otherwise I feel I can't move on to another book.
Ever since I started blogging I have reviewed a majority of the books I have read. I definitely review the ARCs I receive from LibraryThing's EarlyReviewers program and other programs. There is only one book I received from the ER program that I have not yet reviewed. I always post my review to my blog, LibraryThing, GoodReads and Chapters Community.

December 7, 2008

The Book of Love by Kathleen McGowan

I received an ARC copy of The Book of Love from Simon & Schuster Canada and it will be released in hardcover on March 10, 2009. The Book of Love by Kathleen McGowan is the second book in The Magdalene Line trilogy. The first book in the trilogy, The Expected One, focused on Maureen Paschal’s adventure to discover the lost Gospel of Mary Magdalene and growing realization she is an “Expected One”. The second story in the trilogy begins as Maureen is on her book tour. 
 

Fresh from her successful hunt for the long-hidden scrolls written by Mary Magdalene, journalist Maureen Paschal receives a strange package in the mail – containing what looks to be an ancient document written in Latin and signed in code. Maureen discovers that the document was written by an extraordinary woman who history has overlooked – or covered up, Matilda of Tuscany, and it demands the return of Matilda’s “most precious books and documents”. As the discoverer of Mary Magdalene’s gospel, Maureen immediately recognizes a new search has begun. Soon, she finds herself in a race across Italy and France, where new dangers await her and her lover Sinclair as they begin to uncover secrets and shine new light on the hidden corners of Christianity. 
As Maureen learns more about Matilda, a warrior countess who was secretly married to a Pope who joined her, not only in bed, but also in using the Last Gospel of Jesus to form a radical new kind of church, she begins to see the eerie connections between herself and Matilda, connections she must unravel quickly if she is to stop the wrong people from finding The Book of Love and hiding it forever.
Combining expert research with Dazzling plot twists, The Book of Love is sure to thrill readers as they follow Maureen’s search for clues through the world’s greatest art, architecture, and history, until a potentially fatal encounter reveals The Book of Love to her – and to us. 
 
I thought The Expected One leaned more toward the mystery/suspense genre, while The Book of Love presents itself as largely historical fiction. It is an ode to a little-known but vital woman in history, Matilda of Tuscany, and a quest for the truth. As a large portion of the novel is portraying Matilda, I did not get as strong a sense of Maureen’s character that I did in the first book. In fact I was much more engaged with Matilda, as Maureen seemed to be wavering between making choices, decisions. Parts of Maureen’s story I was frustrated with, first that, as she should have already experienced theft of her belongings and attempts on her life, that she would have been more aware of plots against her and have the intelligence to avoid them. Second, her life is in ways paralleling Matilda’s, but Matilda is a warrior and Maureen has little shown similar strength of will. I was most riveted with Maureen’s story when she was unraveling all the clues to the truth about The Book of Love and the secrets of Chartres Cathedral. 
The Book of Love is surprising, evocative and eye opening. There are many layers and interwoven elements to the story, probably more than what can be grasped in the first reading of the book (the author herself suggests this in Acknowledgements). I have to applaud Kathleen McGowan for the shear amount of historical content that had to have been researched and the creativity required to present the story in its three-way format of Maureen’s present day journey, Matilda of Tuscany’s historical diary and the writings from the Book of Love. 

In reading this series I would suggest keeping an open mind and an open heart. If you loved books such as The Red Tent, Labyrinth, The Rossetti Letter, The Historian or The Thirteenth Tale, I would definitely recommend this series. 
The third and final book will be called The Poet Prince, the story of Maureen’s other half, Berenger Sinclair. I definitely will be re-reading the first two books when The Poet Prince is published. 

Kathleen McGowan’s website: http://www.theexpectedone.com/

My Rating: 4.0

The Expected One by Kathleen McGowan

I originally posted this short blurb on LibraryThing in April 2008.
Great read. I appreciated that the book focused on an historical figure that we know little about even though she is prevalent in art and culture, as well as insight on other female historical figures like Marie Antoinette. This book makes you think and question! Looking forward to the second in the series: The Book of Love. 
My Rating: 4.5

December 2, 2008

Tuesday Thingers

What's the most popular book in your library? Have you read it? What did you think? How many users have it?
 
Its funny because I have had the Harry Potter series on my to purchase list for a long time but I want to buy the whole set, which will cost a lot. I have read the first two Harry Potters and loved them but I stopped reading the series when I decided I wanted to buy the whole set and read them all one after another. I have read The Da Vinci Code and watched the movie but I do not own the actual book, although I do own Angels & Demons, which I thought was a much better story.
The first book in the list that I actually have in my library is...The Hobbit, or There and Back Again (24,939), with the second being Pride and Prejudice (23,275). I love both books and have read them multiple times as well as The Lord of the Rings and all of Jane Austen's works.

November 26, 2008

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

I was picked for a copy of Kelly Armstrong’s Bitten in October’s LT ER contest. The novel is about a werewolf named Elena living in Toronto. Elena has made the choice to live in Toronto and try to lead as normal a human life as she can away from the ‘Pack’. She struggles more than other werewolves, having become one by being bitten and being the only female werewolf in her world. Now I have to say that vampires & werewolves are not my thing at all. So why did I try to win a copy do you ask? Bitten was one of Chapters Top 10 Beach Reads in 2007 and was also listed as number 34 in Chapters Canada’s Best 100 Fiction 2006. I was a bit curious so I thought what the heck!

I would say that I was expecting to dislike the content of the book and was biased to be negative about it but Armstrong wrote a very well developed, gripping, supernatural story. Elena’s background interspersed throughout the narrative rather than up front all at once worked well. I was very much engaged in Elena’s frustration and ineptitude in adapting to living mostly in the human world. I particularly liked the descriptions and expressiveness of the characters when they were werewolves, how they felt, what they saw, their sense of freedom and aggression. What I did not enjoy was Elena being in a relationship with Philip but still having strong feelings for Clayton and her being unable to choose…. I dislike some of the choices she made but on the other hand I suppose they made the storyline more realistic and were true to the werewolf world Armstrong created.

For a 550 page novel, the story progressed fairly quickly and was very engaging. I am confused whether this story is supposed to be classified as romance? I don’t think it fits into the romance category but firmly fantasy. I liked Elena and am interested in finding out more about her and Clay so I would probably read Stolen & Broken.

My Rating: 4.0

Chapters

November 25, 2008

TuesdayThingers

Today's question- Blog Widgets. Do you use them? Do you have them on your blog? Do you know what I'm talking about? :-) A blog widget is that list of books "From my LibraryThing" and such, that you'll sometimes see on someone's sidebar. If you use it, do all of your books show up or do you have it set to only show certain books? Do you have a search widget, which would allow your blog readers to search your library? Have you ever made a photomosaic of your book covers? You can find widgets and photomosaic information on the "Tools" tab in LibraryThing.

I do use blog widgets.  I think they add many more layers of interest to your blog.  I have all sort of widgets but I like especially my own customized "Recent Books from My Library" LibraryThing widget.  I do not have a search widget but I did create a widget from Picasa that shows jpegs of Eye-Catching Books Covers and a counter widget. I have never made a photomosiac of my book covers.

November 23, 2008

The Book of Love by Kathleen McGowan

I am so lucky!!! I won a copy of The Book of Love by Kathleen McGowan, the second book in The Magdalene Line Trilogy. I loved the first book, The Expected One and got my friends and family to read it as well. The book is not released until March 2009 so I count myself very fortunate that I won this ARC.

I found the Simon & Schuster Canada Facebook group Simonsays Read! Bookclub only a couple weeks ago, they were having contests to win a few titles and no sooner had I entered than I got The Book of Love in the mail...I was so surprised. What a great bookclub with the books available to win!! Now I just need to finish and review Bitten by Kelly Armstrong, an ARC I won from LibraryThing's EarlyReviewer's program, so I can read The Book of Love.

Visit Kathleen McGowan's website at http://www.theexpectedone.com/

If you loved The Red Tent or The Da Vinci Code or Labyrinth I guarantee you will love Kathleen McGowan's novels!

November 20, 2008

Subterranean by James Rollins

Subterranean was the last of James Rollins books that I had not read and I suppose it was a so-so experience. I do love the fast-paced action/adventure that Rollins delivers but I think there was just too much going on in this story. 

**Spoiler** 

A research team is sent to discover a new environment found underneath the bottom of the world, there they discover the unimaginable…but what they have not been told is that another research team walked through the same passages before them…and disappeared. I do love the blend of scientific details Rollins includes but Subterranean was a little too fantastical to me. It is interesting that the research teams discovered another type of environment underneath Antarctica but another “humanoid” species living devoid of light for eons…too much for me. Also the book ended without the members returning to their own world…which I thought unrealistic and hard to believe. So although this story delivered all the action I wanted the plot just did not do it for me.

My Rating: 3.0

November 18, 2008

Tuesday Thingers

Popular this month on LT: Do you look at this list? Do you get ideas on what to read from it? Have you read any of the books on the list right now? Feel free to link to any reviews you've done as well. Here's the list and my answer: 1.The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman 2.Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron 3.Nation by Terry Pratchett 4.Brisingr by Christopher Paolini 5.Anathem by Neal Stephenson 6.American Wife: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld 7.The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer 8.The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel by David Wroblewski 9.Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland 10.Eclipse (The Twilight Saga, Book 3) by Stephenie Meyer Once in awhile as soon as I login to LT I take a look at the Popular This Month list. I am always excited to learn that the books I want to read a lot of others do too. I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and enjoyed it very much. I thought the epistolary format was very effective. I was won an ARC for Any Given Doomsday and I have just received it. I am waiting for Brisingr and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle to come out in trade paperback before purchasing and reading.

November 16, 2008

Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange

Now having read Pamela Aiden's series and a range of other Jane Austen fan fiction novels, I would compare Amanda Grange's Mr. Darcy's Diary as better than other fan fiction but not on par with the Pamela Aiden novels. The last one-fifth of the book was the most interesting to me, as it provided a "what could have happened" glimpse into the lives of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam and their acquaintances after their marriage. I think Amanda Grange had the best of intentions and made a solid effort at summarizing Pride & Prejudice from Darcy's perspective, unlike other the other Jane Austen fan fiction authors who almost make a mockery of one of the world's greatest works of fiction.
My Rating: 3.5

November 11, 2008

Tuesday Thingers

Today's question: LT Things- t-shirts, bags,cue cats- are you into the "stuff"? Do you use a cuecat to enter your books, or do you enter them manually? What do you think of the stuff?

I have an LibraryThing membership, that's about all my LT stuff, though I have received a numer of ARCs using LT's EarlyReviewers program. A great program!!! Thanks LT. Before I got my LT membership I had pulled all my isbns into Bookpedia using websites such as chaptersindigo.ca, amazon.com, and amazon.ca to find isbns. Then when I got my LT membership I imported all the isbns from a .csv file I created with Bookpedia. With Bookpedia and LibraryThing I don't need anything more to organize my books. I think "the stuff" is a great way to promote pride in something you really love using and are proud to promote. GO LT Nation!

Naked in Death by J.D. Robb

Naked in Death is 19th on the All ABout Romance's Top 100 Romance Books 2007 list. I have read a lot of the later In Death series books and finally worked my way back to where it all started. I do find it difficult to believe that Naked made it to 19th on the list. I love the In Death series, can't wait to read each new novel in the series and usually rate every effort a solid 4.0 but I can only give Naked in Death the same and no more. 

Naked in Death is a very good book and I think it earns its place more so because it was one of the first, if not the first, introduction into a new sub-sector of the Romance genre - Futuristics, but I think there are a lot of other books out there that deserve to be in 19th place more than Naked... 

My Rating: 4.0 Chapters

Deep Fathom by James Rollins

Another solid effort! To rack up the suspense Rollins has habit of seemingly killing off characters but then all of a sudden they are alive again. Some readers may dislike the predictability of this but I get involved with the characters and hate to see then go...Deep Fathom was sort of the exception to the rule and I was a little disappointed to see some characters I was interested in not come back...but then there was this twist at the end of the novel that led to a satisfying conclusion. Good read. 

My Rating: 4.0

Chapters

November 7, 2008

The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory

Another great Tudor historical fiction novel by Philippa Gregory. There are a lot of reviews out there on The Boleyn Inheritance and Phillipa Gregory's other Tudor books...one more certainly will not disrupt the mix. I did not mind that the story switched between Jane Boleyn, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard...I thought it created a lot of suspense although I had to check myself from skipping ahead all the time, impatient to see what happened next for the characters. Jane Boleyn seemed like such a sympathetic character in the beginning and then she turned into this terror. Poor Katherine Howard has absolutely no sense (great believable writing) and you can't help but laugh out loud at her multiple times throughout the novel and even toward the end when is sentenced to death. And stalwart Anne of Cleves...who finally comes into her own and gains the freedom she deserves. 

You'll not want to put this gripping story down!! Definite must for historical fiction readers and Phillipa Gregory fans. 

My Rating: 5.0  

Chapters

November 5, 2008

Michael Crichton

Not everyone would have loved Michael Crichton's books I'm sure but I did very much and I am so sad that he has passed away from cancer. I remember being struck by his novel Congo and how much technical information he included. I felt like I was learning something as well as being taken on an adventure. After that novel I went on to read all of his other novels with The Andromeda Strain, Eaters of the Dead and Congo being favorites, although I have yet to read Next (because I hate the tall paperback format and I always buy paperbacks). I would visit his website once every couple of months eagerly waiting for an announcement of a new novel. He never shied away from controversial topics like global warming in State of Fear or sexual harrassment by a women in Disclosure. I know many people loved not only his novels but his movies and Television shows. He will be missed.

October 31, 2008

The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld

Good book. Freud is visiting America for the first time with his collegues Jung and Ferenczi. He is met by another follower of psychoanlaysis, Stratham Younger, when he arrives. Younger is pulled in by the Mayor of New York to analyze a seeming victim of a violent crime similar to other recent crimes in the city. It is Younger's job to find the truth about the incident from Nora, the young woman who was attacked. Younger ends up on a quest to help solve all the murders with a green detective and downtrodden coroner. Freud and his collegues are involved in Younger's investigation. 

This is a story with many threads which are surprisingly all wrapped up nicely at the non-typical ending. A literary work of fact/fiction that is astounding, insightful and makes you question what is or is not true. 

My Rating: 4.0
 

October 27, 2008

All About Romance's 2007 Top 100 Poll

I was recently browsing at Heather's Reading Romance and saw her post on how many books from the AAR's 2007 Top 100 list that she has read/owns and much to my surprise after perusing the list myself, I actually own 39 books on the list and plan to buy at least 4. Never knew I had such good book sense. A lot of the novels I bought years ago when searching for new favorite authors and then ended up collecting each new release from them (Julie Garwood, Julia Quinn, Linda Howard, Judith McNaught).

How many do you have? Check it out. 
http://www.likesbooks.com/top1002007results.html
http://www.likesbooks.com/printablelist.html

October 20, 2008

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

Meg Waite Clayton has written a well researched, cleverly woven story of 5 women, Frankie, Linda, Kath, Brett and Ally, who first meet each other at a park in front of their homes, and subsequently discover each have a dream of writing. They make a pact to meet once a week to help critique each other’s scribbles and over 4 decades they support each other through turmoil and success, with an enduring loyalty to their sisterhood.

The Wednesday Sisters inspired in me a yearning to have such a sisterhood of my own. The author speaks to the loneliness and wish for accomplishment, friendship and personal growth that is present in all of us. Though the story starts in the late 1960s the themes of self-discovery, dreams, prejudices, and disappointments are familiar no matter what era you live in. Weaved into the story Clayton also confronts many stereotypical ideas of the time related to gender, race, and science, an admirable and bold literary effort. This is a book I never knew I wanted to read but was waiting for to find me.
My Rating: 4.0

October 17, 2008

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a uniquely charming novel with a distinctive voice. 

Juliet Ashton is living in an England emerging from the aftermath of World War II. During the war Juliet wrote a humorous column called Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War, which was subsequently bound into a collection because of its popularity. We meet Juliet at the end of her promotional tour for the book and, although proud of the accomplishment of Izzy, she is determined next to write a not so humorous narrative of…something. Not sure of what her future holds or what she will do next, a telegram arrives for Juliet from a Guernsey Island native who happens to possess a book by Charles Lamb that was once hers, and he requests her help in knowing more about the author. A correspondence is struck and Juliet becomes ever more interested in the man, his friends and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society that they formed during the German occupation of the Island during the war. As the Society members write to her she becomes more and more interested in their lives until finally she decides to set sail for Guernsey Island and determine her future. 

The uniqueness of the novel is that all of the writing is in letter format. Like others who have read this novel I was drawn into the evermore-interesting details of the Society members and the intertwining relationships of the characters. I fell in love with Juliet and all of her new friends on Guernsey and was sad to say goodbye.

My Rating: 4.5

October 13, 2008

Darcy's Story by Janet Aylmer

I am having a mostly enjoyable time reading Jane Austen fan fiction (I decided to start a collection to accompany my complete works of Jane Austen) but having read Pamela Aiden's series of Pride & Prejudice from Darcy's perspective first, I can state positively that this version by Janet Aylmer is almost lifeless. The story is more explanatory and observational of his experiences than how Darcy may having been thinking and/or feeling emotionally at the time. It is a good attempt but sounds like an essay, so I would invest in the Aiden series first instead of spending your time and money on this version. Ok, so maybe I am being too harsh (feel free to debate with me!), as I was also harsh with Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, but where at least CJAA was entertaining this effort did not seem inspired in any way. 

My Rating: 2.0

Ice Hunt by James Rollins

Another solid action/adventure from James Rollins. I won't bother with a detailed description but Rollins books are usually about a group of people, good against evil of course, and they race to save the world...or try to destroy it. I get bored easily so I mix in a Rollins book amongst the classics, historical fiction and romantic suspense I usually read. Always guaranteed an exciting, fast-paced read and you learn about obscure scientific facts. I also appreciate how his books are not geared to just a male audience. Can't wait to read the next one. 

My Rating: 4.0

October 7, 2008

Stranded on a Desert Island

An often posed question: What 10 books would I bring if I were stranded on a desert island? This was really hard for me.  I get bored easily so I picked more weighty works that I could get lost in, instead of more practical ones.  Also, there are so many great books I own I have not read yet. Which list should I choose?  
  
Have Read? 
1 The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova 
2 The Complete Works of Jane Austen 
3 Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden 
4 Lord of the Rings Trilogy (The Hobbit too.) 
5 The Tailor’s Daughter (amazing, well-rounded historical fiction novel) 
6 Harry Potter Series 
7 Contact by Carl Sagan 
8 Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon 
9 The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield 
10 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee   
Or Not Yet Read? 
1 The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger 
2 Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke 
3 The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas 
4 Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand 
5 The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck 
6 Katherine by Anya Seton 
7 The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 
8 Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley 
9 Outlander by Diana Gabaldon 
10 Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

September 29, 2008

The Queen's Lady by Barbara Kyle

I found Barbara Kyle’s The Queen’s Lady to be a bit hit & miss. On the positive side there were a lot of twist and turns to the story, which keeps you guessing what is going to happen next. The Tudor history is captivating in itself and this story just shows another viewpoint of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and the political and religious players of the time. On the negative side there was a loss of coherency to the story, as it seemed the author wanted to present all the differing religious views of the time, making the story unnecessarily complex. Some of the plot, particularly about the M√ľnsterites and Anabaptists, was quite strange. There is so much going on the story its confusing and I think the chapter divisions would have benefited from an accompanying timeline and not just a specific title. 

If you would like to read a similar story (historical fiction, strong female protagonist and a minor study in religious views of the time) I would try Phillipa Gregory's The Queen's Fool. All this said I think I will read the sequel about Isabella Thornleigh. Note that this book was first published in 1994 as A Dangerous Temptation. The sequel featuring Isabella Thornleigh was previously published as A Dangerous Devotion and will be published in February 24, 2009 as The King’s Daughter. I think the timing of the books are suspect, riding on the wave of popularity of The Other Boleyn Girl current pop culture interest in The Tudors. 

My Rating: 3.5

Chapters

September 24, 2008

Vivaldi's Virgins by Barbara Quick

A poignant story of a young 'figlie di coro', or daughter of the choir, who is a student of Maestro Vivaldi in 1700s Venice. Anna Maria was abandoned as an infant and given to a foundling home, as a young girl her musical talent is revealed and becomes a student of Antonio Vivaldi. Prohibited from engaging in life outside the foundling home she struggles between her talent for the violin and a desire for freedom, and as she grows she is faced with difficult choices and tests of faith in herself, as she tries to discover her destiny and who her family is. An eloquent picture into what life would have been like as one of Vivaldi's virgins.

My Rating: 3.0

September 22, 2008

Empress Orchid by Anchee Min

A fascinating, detailed story of Empress Orchid and what her life may have been like as a concubine of Emperor Hsien Feng, and ultimately the last Empress of China. Orchid is a character with strong will, an inquiring, questioning mind and someone who desires to be loved and to give love but her destiny is to delicately and surreptitiously rule China after the death of the Emperor.

Some novels filled with considerable historical detail can become boring and slow but Anchee Min sets a brisk pace through the events of Orchid’s life, painting vivid descriptions and keeping you engaged without losing any meaning. I really liked this book but did not love it as much as Memoirs of a Geisha, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love. I would read more from this Author.

My Rating: 4.0

September 18, 2008

And Only to Deceive: A Novel of Suspense by Tasha Alexander

A delightful first novel of a series about Lady Emily Ashton set in Victorian England (Tasha Alexander).

Emily was only married to her husband for a short time before he died. After more than a year in mourning, Emily is learning surprising new details about the husband she never had the chance to know, and finds herself gripped by the same interest in antiquities he had. But some of the classical art pieces she examines are forgeries and someone doesn’t want her to discover more about her husband’s death...

Emily is a complex, daring and curious character. ‘And Only to Deceive’ is a great combination of historical fiction, suspense and lecture on classical art. A lot of the time suspense novels are predictable, as you know all the characters in the plot and can predict the antagonist but Tasha Alexander only gives you little snippets of detail for each character, carrying the suspense until the very last page. Great start to the series. Cannot wait to read ‘A Poisoned Season’ and then ‘A Fatal Waltz’.

My Rating: 4.0

Chapters

September 16, 2008

The Queen of Subtleties by Suzannah Dunn

Suzannah Dunn provides another viewpoint of the life of Anne Boleyn. The author does write dialogue well but in the case of this historical novel I just couldn't see that this would be the speech of the time, with seemingly modern day catch-phrases interspersed. This novel does have emotional impact and is imaginative but I just did not see the point of the two story-lines differing in time and point of view and only the one connecting thread. This is the author's first historical novel and I would be interested to see how she improves in her next, the story of Katherine Parr - The Sixth Wife.

My Rating: 3.0

Chapters

September 12, 2008

The Borgia Bride by Jeanne Kalogridis

The story of The Borgia Bride by Jeanne Kalogridis is packed with historical facts but does not become bogged down in the breadth of details, the story flowing naturally from season to season through the life of Sancha of Aragon.

The young Sancha has a rebellious nature and is in a battle of wills with her father Alfonso II of Naples, although she completely loyal to her brother Alfonso. Retaliating against Sancha for her behaviour, her father contracts a marriage for her to the Borgia family of Rome, and in Sancha’s mind, the worst possible thing that could happen - being separated from her kind and loving brother. She becomes embroiled in the Borgia family’s struggle to gain more power and suppress their enemies through corruption, betrayal, poison and war. Sancha struggle’s against the evil in the Borgia family and is eventually faced with the ultimate choice… whether to murder.

There are some crude parts, rape, incest, in the story but I thought the author treated them as well as these subjects could have been, as they were based on historical facts. If you are a fan of Phillipa Gregory you are sure to be a fan of Jeanne Kalogridis.

My Rating: 4.0

Chapters

September 11, 2008

Peony in Love by Lisa See

Peony in Love was just as enjoyable and maybe even more so, than Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. I thought Lisa See was more focused on telling the story of Peony in the context of that time in Chinese history, rather than intricately detailing historical facts of the time, as in Snow Flower.



Peony, a much loved daughter, is obsessed with an opera called The Peony Pavilion and longs to be in love and in charge of her destiny, although she is to be wed to someone she has never met. Though forbidden she meets a young man and the choices she makes afterwards determines her destiny. 

Read this book if you want a love story with a twist and a sprinkling of the supernatural. Both a heartbreaking and lovely read. You will not be disappointed!!
My Rating: 4.5

Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Girl with a Pearl Earring captured me with its seeming simplicity yet taught emotion. At 16, Griet must leave the home of her Protestant parents to become a maid of the Catholic painter Vermeer and live in the household with his wife, their five children and a couple other characters. As the story unfolds Griet becomes more and more involved with helping Vermeer in his studio, which Griet is to keep a secret from most of the rest of the household. 

Although not much seemed to happen quickly in this story, I was gripped by the anxiety that Griet always carried with her, which kept me engrossed with the book. She always sensed that there would be life-altering consequences if all was revealed and that she would need to make choices where before she was not allowed to make any choices of her own. The conclusion of the story was not typical and very satisfying. This is a fine work into the insight of how the painting by Vermeer may have come to be.  

My Rating: 4.0  

Chapters

September 10, 2008

You Know You Are Obsessed When...

You spend thousands of dollars on the perfect bookshelf... You use Bookpedia to catalogue all the books you own... You have a weekly book budget... You spend hours online at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Chapters reading book reviews... Your books are more precious to you than clothes or food... Y ou compulsively need to go to the bookstore in your free time and can’t leave without a purchase... You collect all the books of your favourite authors... You build a website dedicated to the books you love... You travel to Sidney, B.C. aka Book Town and photograph every bookstore... You travel to Munro's in Victoria, B.C. and gasp at the beautiful coffered ceiling and bookshelves (and take lots of pictures there too)... You smell every brand new book you purchase... You blog about your book obsession...