December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays to you and yours.  Cherish your love ones, stay warm and safe travels!

December 6, 2009

Upcoming Release - O, Juliet by Robin Maxwell

I read and reviewed Signora da Vinci by Robin previously and thoroughly enjoyed the book...a unique perspective on the the life of Leonardo da Vinci's mother.  Her newest novel O, Juliet will be released February 2, 2010 in trade paperback (the cover is gorgeous).  Watch for my review in the next couple of months.

Robin is launching the Love Games to promote the release...a series of competitions and giveaways announced every two weeks until Valentine's Day. For more details follow her blog.

historical fictionBefore Juliet Capelletti lie two futures: a traditionally loveless marriage to her father's business partner, or the ">fulfillment of her poetic dreams, inspired by the great Dante. Unlike her beloved friend Lucrezia, who looks forward to her arranged marriage, Juliet has a wild, romantic imagination that knows not the bounds of her great family's stalwart keep.

The latter path is hers for the taking when Juliet meets Romeo Monticecco, a soulful young man seeking peace between their warring families. A dreamer himself, Romeo is unstoppable, once he determines to capture the heart of the remarkable woman foretold in his stars. The breathless intrigue that ensues is the stuff of beloved legend. But those familiar with Shakespeare's muse know only half the story...

Related Posts:

November 22, 2009

The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters

Radcliffe Emerson, the irascible husband of fellow archaeologist and Egyptologist Amelia Peabody, has earned the nickname "Father of Curses" -- and at Mazghunah he demonstrates why. Denied permission to dig at the pyramids of Dahshoor, he and Amelia are resigned to excavating mounds of rubble in the middle of nowhere. And there is nothing in this barren area worthy of their interest -- until an antiquities dealer is murdered in his own shop. A second sighting of a sinister stranger from the crime scene, a mysterious scrap of papyrus, and a missing mummy case have all whetted Amelia's curiosity. But when the Emersons start digging for answers in an ancient tomb, events take a darker and deadlier turn -- and there may be no surviving the very modern terrors their efforts reveal.

So I don't have much to say about the third book in the Amelia Peabody series. What was incredibly funny was the way Peabody talks about Emerson in the story as if he were a woman, with his fussing and hysterics and sensitivity of emotion and soft heart...yet outwardly of course he is blustery, always yelling and cursing, and quite manly.  I found the more in depth description of archeological methods and techniques informative and interesting, as well as the description of the various settings, especially the Cairo's bazaars.

Normally Peter's characters are likeable or interesting even though they may be responsible for evil-doing. In The Mummy Case I did not really care for some of the secondary characters, which impeded my enjoyment of the story.  There seemed to be too much going on in the plot as well, making events confusing. Actually I got irritated and finished the book as quickly as I could...I have now moved onto Lion in the Valley, the fourth book in the series.  Maybe I moved on to The Mummy Case too soon after The Curse of the Pharaohs but I don't think so as I have been liking Lion in the Valley so much more.

My Rating: 3.5


Related Posts:
And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander
Curse of the Pharaohs by Elizabeth Peters
Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn
Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn

November 20, 2009

Cover Love

These covers are divine.  Cannot wait to read the stories contained within them...

February 2, 2010. Before Juliet Capelletti lie two futures: a traditionally loveless marriage to her father's business partner, or the fulfillment of her poetic dreams, inspired by the great Dante. Unlike her beloved friend Lucrezia, who looks forward to her arranged marriage, Juliet has a wild, romantic imagination that knows not the bounds of her great family's stalwart keep.

The latter path is hers for the taking when Juliet meets Romeo Monticecco, a soulful young man seeking peace between their warring families. A dreamer himself, Romeo is unstoppable, once he determines to capture the heart of the remarkable woman foretold in his stars. The breathless intrigue that ensues is the stuff of beloved legend. But those familiar with Shakespeare's muse know only half the story...

January 12, 2010. Psychiatrist Andrew Marlowe, devoted to his profession and the painting hobby he loves, has a solitary but ordered life. When renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes his patient, Marlow finds that order destroyed. Desperate to understand the secret that torments the genius, he embarks on a journey that leads him into the lives of the women closest to Oliver and a tragedy at the heart of French Impressionism.

Kostova's masterful new novel travels from American cities to the coast of Normandy, from the late 19th century to the late 20th, from young love to last love. THE SWAN THIEVES is a story of obsession, history's losses, and the power of art to preserve human hope.

December 29, 2009. On the brink of revolution, with a tide of hate turned against the decadent royal court, France is in turmoil - as is the life of one young woman forced to leave her beloved Paris. After a fire destroys her home and family, Claudette Laurent is struggling to survive in London. But one precious gift remains: her talent for creating exquisite dolls that Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France herself, cherishes. When the Queen requests a meeting, Claudette seizes the opportunity to promote her business, and to return home...Amid the violence and unrest, Claudette befriends the Queen, who bears no resemblance to the figurehead rapidly becoming the scapegoat of the Revolution. But when Claudette herself is lured into a web of deadly political intrigue, it becomes clear that friendship with France's most despised woman has grim consequences. Now, overshadowed by the spectre of Madame Guillotine, the Queen's dollmaker will face the ultimate test.

January 21, 2010. Katherine Ashley, the daughter of a poor country squire, happily secures an education and a place for herself in a noble household. But when Thomas Cromwell, a henchman for King Henry VIII, brings her to the royal court as a spy, Kat enters into a thrilling new world of the Tudor monarchs.

Freed from a life of espionage by Cromwell's downfall, Kat eventually befriends Anne Boleyn. As a dying favor to the doomed queen, Kat becomes governess and surrogate-mother to the young Elizabeth Tudor. Together they suffer bitter exile, assassination attempts, and imprisonment, barely escaping with their lives. But they do, and when Elizabeth is crowned, Kat continues to serve her, faithfully guarding all the queen's secrets (including Elizabeth's affair with the dashing Robert Dudley) . . . and ultimately emerging as the lifelong confidante and true mother-figure to Queen Elizabeth.

March 23, 2010. It's 1559. A young woman painter is given the honor of traveling to Michelangelo's Roman workshop to learn from the Maestro himself. Only men are allowed to draw the naked figure, so she can merely observe from afar the lush works of art that Michelangelo sculpts and paints from life. Sheltered and yet gifted with extraordinary talent, she yearns to capture all that life and beauty in her own art. But after a scandal involving one of Michelangelo's students, she flees Rome and fears she has doomed herself and her family.

The Creation of Eve is a riveting novel based on the true but little-known story of Sofonisba Anguissola, the first renowned female artist of the Renaissance. After Sofi's flight from Rome, her family eagerly accepts an invitation from fearsome King Felipe II of Spain for her to become lady-in-waiting and painting instructor to his young bride. The Spanish court is a nest of intrigue and gossip, where a whiff of impropriety can bring ruin. Hopelessly bound by the rules and restrictions of her position, Sofi yearns only to paint. And yet the young Queen needs Sofi's help in other matters-inexperiences as she is, the Queen not only fails to catch the King's eye, but she fails to give him an heir, both of which are crimes that could result in her banishment. Sofi guides her in how best to win the heart of the King, but the Queen is too young, and too romantic, to be satisfied. Soon, Sofi becomes embroiled in a love triangle involving the Queen, the King, and the King's illegitimate half brother, Don Juan. And if the crime of displeasing the King is banishment, the crime of cuckolding him must surely be death.

Combining art, drama, and history from the Golden Age of Spain, The Creation of Eve is an expansive, original, and addictively entertaining novel that asks the question: Can you ever truly know another person's heart?

April 20, 2010. The Arcane Society was born in turmoil when the friendship of its two founders evolved into a fierce rivalry. Nicholas Winters’s efforts led to the creation of a device of unknown powers called the Burning Lamp. Each generation of male descendants who inherits it is destined to develop multiple talents—and the curse of madness. Plagued by hallucinations and nightmares, notorious crime lord Griffin Winters is convinced he has been struck with the Winters Curse. But even as he arranges a meeting with the mysterious woman Adelaide Pyne, he has no idea how closely their fates are bound, for she holds the missing lamp in her possession. But their dangerous psychic experiment makes them the target of forces both inside and outside of the Arcane Society. And though desire strengthens their power, their different lives will keep them apart—if death doesn’t take them together.

July 15, 2010. They say I’m mad and perhaps it’s true. It is well known that lust brings madness and desperation and ruin. But upon my oath, I never meant any harm. All I wanted was to be happy, to love and to be loved in return, and for my life to count for something. That is not madness, is it?

So begins the story of Eleanor Glanville, the beautiful daughter of a seventeenth-century Puritan nobleman whose unconventional passions scandalized society. When butterflies were believed to be the souls of the dead, Eleanor’s scientific study of them made her little better than a witch. But her life—set against a backdrop of war, betrayal, and sexual obsession—was that of a woman far ahead of her time.

November 15, 2009

The Curse of the Pharaohs by Elizabeth Peters

From the Back Cover:
Victorian gentlewoman Amelia Peabody Emerson does not relish the joys of home and hearth, For while she and her husband, the renowned archeologist Radcliffe Emerson , dutifully go about raising their young son. Ramses, Amelia dreams only of the dust and detritus of ancient civilizations. Providentially, a damsel in distress-demands their immediate presence is Egypt. The damsel is Lady Baskerville, and the site is a tomb in Luxor recently discovered by Sir Henry Baskerville, who promptly died under bizarre circumstances. Amelia and Radcliffe arrive to find the camp in disarray, terrified workers, an eccentric group of guests...and a persistent rumour of a ghost on the grounds. Now the indomitable Amelia must battle evil forces determined to stand between her and her beloved antiquities-and make her foray into the truth a most deadly affair...

Another delightful mystery, the second book in the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters (aka Barbara Michaels, Barbara Mertz). The story is worth reading for the first chapter alone with the hilarity of Ramses Emerson's adventures and opinions, Amelia and Radcliffe Emerson's "catastrophically precocious" son. Despite Amelia's acerbic tone when describing Ramses, she has obvious pride in him though her mind yearns for Egyptian escapades. The author has a gift for creating very colourful secondary characters whether they are animals or ghosts, children or adults and gives each a distinctive voice and personality. I am looking forward to reading more about Ramses and the Egyptian cat that has adopted Peabody and Emerson as its owner.

I think the Amelia Peabody mysteries have captured me fully and I am well on the way to becoming obsessed with the series, like I already am by the Lady Emily Ashton series by Tasha Alexander and the Lady Julia Grey series by Deanna Raybourn, having purchased and already started reading The Mummy Case with The Lion in the Valley waiting in the wings. Very fitting as I believe Barbara Mertz pioneered the historical fiction mystery series featuring a strong female protagonist. No doubt I will end up reading the entire collection. So I highly recommend the the Amelia Peabody mysteries for those who like humor and wit with murder and mayhem in a historical context.

My Rating: 4.5


Related Posts:
And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander
Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn
Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn

November 1, 2009

Winners of the Gothic Fiction Giveaway

Thanks to everyone who entered my Gothic Fiction Giveaway. According to List Randomizer the winners are:

Enna has won The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

A Bookshelf Monstrosity has won Perfume: The Story of a Murder by Patrick Suskind

Brizmus has won The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

It was great hearing about all of your gothic fiction favourites and now I have a few more books I must add to my tbr list.

Happy Halloween to All!!!

There was a bit of a mix-up and so Brizmus will be receiving another copy of Perfume: The Story of a Murder rather than The Shadow of the Wind, which means Raspberry is now the winner of Shadow of the Wind!

October 25, 2009

Happy Birthday To Me!!!

My Birthday turned out to be lovely even though my man is away for 10 days for work.  I had lunch with a friend and indulged in a burger and indulged even more afterward with a cupcake and hot chocolate from Buttercream.  The sun was shining and I was wearing my favourite boots. All-in-all a great day.

My man and I celebrated my birthday before he left and GUESS WHAT I GOT!!! Oh yes I did...the Sony Reader Touch Edition PRS-600 in black and I even managed to find the swanky leather cover with light at another store in the city and these are totally on backorder and sold out online. The last one left!

What I love:
  • The touch screen. 
  • The ability to organize my books under whichever tag I choose and to make collections.
  • The leather case that I purchased extra. 
  • That I was able to add a memory card so I never have to think about running out of space.
  • The battery lasts a long time.
  • The ability to write notes and draw pictures and have these accessible in the Sony eBook Library.
  • I can highlight words and look them up in the dictionary.
  • The included stylus, which I thought I would never use.
  • The ability to turn pages using fingers or buttons.
  • The I can load pictures and audio. The audio is more important and I will probably never upload pictures.
  • That I got a US$25 coupon to the eBook Library when we bought the Reader, which I have already spent of course.
  • That you change change orientation of the reader.
  • That you can search text.
  • The back icon that takes you back to the previous menu.
  • The hidden power button so you do not accidentally hit it.
  • That Sony has finally provided software compatible with the Mac computer.
What I wish was different:
  • Not much at all. I wish the e-ink was darker or there was more contrast with the white space. I wish there was a feature where you could change contrast. But you can still change the font size.
  • The screen has a bit if glare depending on where the light source is.
  • That when you are reading the time was shown somewhere!
  • I wish you could make shortcuts.
  • The leather case light is a bit annoying. I hate glare and you have to have the light just so and the book just so so you do not see the reflection of the light. But I would rather have the light than not have it at all.
Even though the Reader is not wireless this does not bother me because I would be too tempted to buy books randomly if it was and I like to research the books I plan to purchase. When I connect my Reader to the computer the eBook Library automatically opens. You need to shut it down and then open Calibre. Note that Calibre now recognizes the Sony Touch Edition. In Calibre you need to modify your tags for each book and these tags will show up as collections in your reader. Before you can view any eBook Library books on your Reader you need to authorize your computer and your device in My Account in the eBook Store. This was not an intuitive process...and you must do this first before you can view the books on your device, even though you can move them to your memory stick.

I am happy to answer any questions you may have about the PRS-600. Ask away!

Don't forget to enter my Gothic Fiction Giveaway  by October 30 to win either The Historian, Perfume or The Shadow of the Wind.

October 14, 2009

Gothic Fiction Giveaway

Originally Posted October 1, 2009
It has been a year of blogging at Obsessed With Books and to celebrate I will be giving away the following Gothic fiction 'modern classics' to three lucky winners. I read all three before I started blogging but the memory of them has stayed with me since, each being a distintictive work of fiction. All three novels are new, never been opened!

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind (Trade Paperback) In the slums of eighteenth-century France, the infant Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift-an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the odors of Paris, and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. But Grenouille''s genius is such that he is not satisfied to stop there, and he becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of objects such as brass doorknobs and frest-cut wood. Then one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the "ultimate perfume"-the scent of a beautiful young virgin. Told with dazzling narrative brillance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (Mass Market Paperback) To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history....Late one night, exploring her father''s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to "My dear and unfortunate successor," and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of-a labyrinth where the secrets of her father''s past and her mother''s mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history.The letters provide links to one of the darkest powers that humanity has ever known-and to a centuries-long quest to find the source of that darkness and wipe it out. It is a quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the legend of Dracula. Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Now one young woman must decide whether to take up this quest herself-to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago, when he was a vibrant young scholar and her mother was still alive. Parsing obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions-and evading the unknown adversaries who will go to any lengths to conceal and protect Vlad''s ancient powers-one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil.

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Trade Paperback) Barcelona, 1945?A great world city lies shrouded in secrets after the war, and a boy mourning the loss of his mother finds solace in his love for an extraordinary book called "The Shadow of the Wind," by an author named Julian Carax. When the boy searches for Carax''s other books, it begins to dawn on him, to his horror, that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book the man has ever written. Soon the boy realizes that "The Shadow of the Wind" is as dangerous to own as it is impossible to forget, for the mystery of its author''s identity holds the key to an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love that someone will go to any lengths to keep secret.

I recently posted about my love of Gothic fiction, as well as historical and timeslip novels with Gothic elements, and I thought what better way to highlight the genre than to hold a contest!  

One entry per person. Open to entries worldwide. Entry Deadline: October 30th  
Winners Announced: October 31st  

What to Do: Comment on this blog post naming your favourite Gothic fiction novel or novel containing Gothic elements. Please include your email address in the comment and your book of choice out the three in the giveaway (pick one). Earn an additional entry by linking to this post on your blog. Don't forget to let me know!
Related Posts:
Gothic Fiction - Historical and Timeslip Favourites

October 13, 2009

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

Elizabeth Peters' unforgettable heroine Amelia Peabody makes her first appearance in this clever mystery. Amelia receives a rather large inheritance and decides to use it for travel. On her way through Rome to Egypt, she meets Evelyn Barton-Forbes, a young woman abandoned by her lover and left with no means of support. Amelia promptly takes Evelyn under her wing, insisting that the young lady accompany her to Egypt, where Amelia plans to indulge her passion for Egyptology. When Evelyn becomes the target of an aborted kidnapping and the focus of a series of suspicious accidents and mysterious visitations, Amelia becomes convinced of a plot to harm her young friend. Like any self-respecting sleuth, Amelia sets out to discover who is behind it all.

Crocodile on the Sandbank is the first book in the Amelia Peabody Mystery series and although categorized as a mystery I think I smiled and chuckled all the way through. Amelia Peabody is such a character – a strong willed, opinionated, bossy woman, who thinks the only appeal she has is the inheritance left to her by her father. Touring Rome Amelia’s companion falls ill and must be sent home before they can reach their final destination of Cairo. She encounters a young Englishwoman, Evelyn Barton-Forbes, who has collapsed on the grounds of the Forum of Rome. After hearing Evelyn’s shocking story of betrayal and abandonment by a man she thought loved her, Amelia determines to takes Evelyn under her wing to mentor her and be her companion on her Egyptian adventures.

This novel is a mystery, a story of self-discovery and a bit of a comedy of errors. In the end Evelyn teaches Amelia more about life, loyalty and love than she ever expected. Beneath her prickly and spunky exterior Amelia hides a kind heart. The below quote is one of my favourites in the novel and portrays Amelia to a tee. “I watched them with the most thorough satisfaction I had ever felt in my life. I did not even wipe away the tears that rained down my face – although I began to think it was just as well Evelyn was leaving me. A few more weeks with her, and I should have turned into a rampageous sentimentalist.”

I’ve not delved too much into Egyptian archeological history so I’m not sure how true the methodology was for techniques in preserving Egyptian antiquities but I was impressed with the level of detail and how the descriptions of Cairo and Amarna come to life even though the story is fairly short. I’m sure I’ll continue on to read the rest of the series, the second book being The Curse of the Pharaohs. I would also recommend the Lady Emily Ashton series by Tasha Alexander.

Book Disclosure: Purchased  

My Rating: 4.5


September 29, 2009

New Release by S.J. Bolton - Awakening

Sacrifice was an original and thrilling debut novel by S. J. Bolton. Her sophomore effort, Awakening, was released in trade paperback in Canada on August 29, 2009 (UK Import) and in hardcover in the U.S. on June 9, 2009. The mass market paperback edition will be released on February 23, 2010. I will definitely be looking to pick up the MMP in February as it is supposed to be even better. S.J. Bolton - synonymous with suspenseful and unique.

An idyllic village is thrown into turmoil in the startling, heart-racing new thriller from the author of Sacrifice. How did it all begin? I suppose it would be the day I rescued a new-born baby from a poisonous snake, heard the news of my mother’s death and encountered my first ghost . . . Veterinary surgeon Clara Benning is young and intelligent, but practically a recluse. Disfigured by a childhood accident, she lives alone and shies away from human contact whenever possible. But when a man dies following a supposed snake bite, the victim’s post mortem shows a higher concentration of venom than could ever be found in a single snake. Assisted by her softly spoken neighbour, and an eccentric reptile expert, Clara unravels sinister links to a barbaric ancient ritual, an abandoned house and a fifty-year-old tragedy that left the survivors fiercely secretive. Then the village’s inventive attacker strikes again, and Clara’s own solitary existence is brutally invaded. For someone the truth must remain buried in the past — even if they have to kill to keep it there.

Related Posts:

Sacrifice by S.J. Bolton

You're born. You live. They die. Moving to remote Shetland has been unsettling enough for consultant surgeon Tora Hamilton; even before the gruesome discovery she makes one rain-drenched afternoon…Deep in the peat soil of her field she is shocked to find the perfectly preserved body of a young woman, a gaping hole where her heart has been brutally removed and three rune marks etched into her skin. The marks bear an eerie resemblance to carvings Tora has seen all over the islands, and she quickly uncovers disturbing links to an ancient legend. But as Tora investigates she is warned by the local police, her boss, and even her husband, to leave well alone. And even though it chills her to the bone to admit it…something tells her their concern isn't genuine.
I was pleasantly surprised by this debut effort by author S.J. Bolton. The setting of the Shetland Islands off the northeast coast of Scotland is interesting and unique. An area of isolation, myth and legend, remote from the rest of the world where secrets have been hidden for decades and immense power has been hoarded. Imagine moving from bustling London to a small acreage on a stark, unforgiving island. Your husband is often away on business, you have made no friends in the six months you have been working in the nearby hospital and your beloved horse has just died. Tora Hamilton is determined to bury her horse nearby her home, even though it is illegal, and in doing so uncovers a female body buried deep in the peat, heart taken out, runes carved into her back. From here leads a strange, twisted tale of murder and mortality, ethics, fertility manipulation, cults and myths.
Bolton's prose is rawly descriptive and blunt. Events are presented in a cold and analytical way, yet to offset this the author has created a sensitive, vulnerable character in Tora, who buries her feelings of confusion, pain and loss deeply. At first I did not like Tora, thinking her weak, misguided and a little dense, but after awhile I realized she is someone juggling a lot of issues and handling them the best she is capable of. Tora has difficulty making friends and with communication. People don't warm to her readily and she knows it. She has fears, inadequacies and issues to overcome. I would describe her as having questionable self-esteem, a frustrated, nervous temperament...yet tenacity of will and a caring heart. Someone that I could relate to rather than being some grand heroine or superwoman.
Bolton does a great job of disguising the true motivations of the characters, which made the story very suspenseful. I did not like most of the characters in the novel...we are not given much background on the characters, rather just the bare bones of their lives...and actually I do not think the author wants you to like any of the characters either. The tension, disapproval and antagonism between particular characters is portrayed well and really comes across in the writing.
One word in the story - a character's career - led me to figuring out some of the plot but by no means led to unravelling everything, as the story has been very cleverly crafted. Of course there are a few plot holes and loose threads (Why exactly did Dr. Kenn Gifford state (lie?) that KT meant Keloid Trauma when he must have known it meant something else entirely...he could not have been kept in the dark about everything...but we are left to ponder!) but the premise and setting are unique which makes for an out of the ordinary read.
I really liked this book and think its a solid debut effort by S.J. Bolton. Although it took me awhile to warm up to it, once I did, I did not want to put the book down and could not get the story out of my head. My Rating: 4.0

September 25, 2009

E-Book Universe

A very good pictoral summary of how the e-book world is interconnected!

September 19, 2009

Pondering My Intimidating Bookcase

Somehow the actual collecting of books is insidiously replacing my enjoyment of reading.
I remember the joy of finding two or three books at the bookstore and then returning home to snuggle with a blanket on the sofa or in bed, with a cup a tea and cookie. I would read for a good three hours or so until I had finished one of the books I had bought...then most likely I would have started on the second. I had piles of books around my bed, under my bed, in shoe-box after shoe-box and in what closet space I could cram them into and in rubber maid containers stacked upon each other. With finally owning a home I determined to buy a bookcase which I then saved for and took my time picking out so I picked the right one.
When the bookcase first arrived I loved it, loved looking at it and running my eyes over all my precious books. Every time I walked into the house my eyes were drawn to it and I could smell the newness of the wood stain. Now more often than not to look at my bookcase raises anxiety instead of pleasure.
The left half of the bookcase are books I have read and the right half contains the unread ones...over 120 of them (and I have more put away in boxes and another bookshelf ). When I first started buying books to fill up the shelves I told myself I was doing so, so that when I retire or when I am on vacation I can pick from the bookshelf instead of going to the bookstore. That I would already have collected all my favourite fiction. What I did not realize was that the more unread books I have on the shelves the more difficulty I have in actually picking out a book to read. With wanting to read all the books I am finding it very difficult to pick just one.
I know I am lucky... not everyone can afford to buy books. I do miss the library but really not all that much because I have replaced that experience with the purchasing of books in a bookstore or online. I've turned into the type of person who cannot pass a bookstore by without stopping and hunting down books I've put on my To Buy list. I use Bookpedia to track the books I own and those on my wish list, which I then export to my iPod so I can always carry around a list of my To Buy. I spend a lot of time browsing online bookstores, LibraryThing, and GoodReads for reviews...time that could have been spent more enjoyably actually reading a book!! If only that darn bookcase would stop intimidating me.
Is there therapy for those who are book obsessed? I mean seriously, I need to create a plan of attack to stop allowing my bookcase to push me around. Instead of standing in front of it waiting for inspiration to strike, I think a good start may be to pick out three to five books that appeal, take them to another part of the house and see if one of them stands out. Do you have any helpful suggestions? Are you similarly book obsessed?

September 17, 2009

Bye Bye TuesdayThinger

Life can be unpredictable... the last few months I have tried my best to keep up with the weekly TuesdayThinger post but there have been many times I have not been very successful at doing so. Who would of thought posting only weekly would get so difficult!! I'm the time of person who keeps her promises and its been frustrating for me that my TuesdayThinger post keeps on getting later and later in the week. With that said, after close to a year and 43 TuesdayThinger posts later I am retiring from the group.
I love LibraryThing and highly recommend buying a lifetime membership (only $25). If you are new to LibraryThing I suggest subscribing to Wendi's Book Corner and following the TuesdayThinger posts. You can discover a lot about LibraryThings' features and learn educational helpful hints and tricks.
I'm thinking of some big life changes next year and I've been very involved in researching possibilities. I'm not going to get into specifics now but I hope next year to make an announcement about exactly what I am up to!

September 11, 2009

Fourth Novel in the Mistress of the Art of Death Series

A Murderous Procession looks to be the next novel, book four, in the Mistress of the Art of Death series by Ariana Franklin (Putnam). There is some conflicting information as ChaptersIndigo shows the book to be released in trade paperback February 2, 2010 and is showing hardcover in April 10, 2010.
Summary from Chapters:
Joanna, the youngest of King Henry's daughters, is on her way to marry William II, king of Sicily. The journey will be long and dangerous, so Henry sends the only doctor he trusts-Adelia Aquilar, who is just as gifted with the living as she is with the dead. Usually, Adelia would be eager to visit her homeland, but Henry insists she leave her daughter in England as insurance she'll return. Adelia takes out her bitterness on Rowley, her former lover and Henry's most loyal man. Rowley is along for protection because a princess travelling with a fortune in jewels and gold is a tempting target, especially when among the treasures is the great sword Excalibur. Henry has decided to give it to his future son-in-law and greatest ally-to keep it from his ambitious sons. But the scheming of princes is nothing compared to a madman who seeks revenge because he blames Adelia for his lover's death...
Related Posts:

September 8, 2009

Gothic Fiction - Historical and Timeslip Favourites

I just wanted to highlight the excellent Die, Gothic, Die post by Special Guest Emily Ryan Davis from Scorched Sheets posting at Romancing The Blog, in which she poses the question to readers whether the Gothic romance novel is real and truly, dead. I completely agree with Emily that this category of novel is still firmly alive, albeit I think it has been repackaged and hidden within other categories like timeslip, historical fiction, paranormal romance and fantasy romance.
Wikipedia has a great summary about exactly what Gothic fiction/Gothic romance is and its historical roots. My first experience with Gothic romance fiction was reading Victoria Holt as a teenager...her books totally suited my mind frame at the time...depressed, moody and overly dramatic. After reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott I looked into her backlist and realized that she wrote a collection of Gothic short stories anonymously called A Whisper in the Dark. If you want to read pure Gothic fiction I highly recommend this collection. I am very fond of historical fiction and timeslip novels that incorporate gothic elements and if you are looking for further reading in these genres I would recommend: A Poisoned Season by Tasha Alexander
A Fatal Waltz by Tasha Alexander
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
A Great and Terribble Beauty by Libby Bray (YA)
Rebel Angels by Libby Bray (YA)
The Sweet Far Thing by Libby Bray (YA)
Jayne Eyre by Charlotte Bronte Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley Sepulchre by Kate Mosse Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn Silent in the Santuary by Deanna Raybourn Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn Frankenstein by Mary Shelly Perfume by Patrick Suskind Dracula by Bram Stoker Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon Here's a list of Gothic fiction from LibraryThing based on tag cloud popularity. Here's a list of Gothic romance fiction from LibraryThing based on tag cloud popularity.

Tuesday Thingers

Today's Questions from Wendi's Book Corner: Have you explored the Series feature of your Statistics? Were you surprised by how many series you have/haven't read? Were your series mostly complete, or did you find that you had only read one book from a lot of different series? What was the largest number of books in a series? Feel free to answer a few or all of these questions.
Well I'm back from a two week hiatus being vacationing in the fabulous Okanagan in British Columbia, Canada. I managed to read four books and review two with another review on the way.
Let me just say that I think this week's TuesdayThinger question is great and ties in to my vacation reading, as one of the books I read was part of a series. I think I have only visited the LibraryThing Statistics page a couple times and never have I looked at the Series feature but its I think its very cool. I guess I love to read series because I own books from 110 of them. I'm totally blown away... although now that I think about it I also love to collect books by my favourite authors so it makes some sense.
What I did realize was that I actually own a lot of books that I have not added to my library yet so its hard for me to tell whether I have many completed series but I do like to own the complete the series by favourite authors. I was also shocked by certain series where I realized there were much books in the series than I had thought (i.e. J.D. Robb In Death series). If I actually added to my library all the books I own I think my largest number of series would be the Bridgertons by Julia Quinn at 14.

September 2, 2009

Arabella by Georgette Heyer

Daughter of a modest country clergyman, Arabella Tallant is on her way to London when her carriage breaks down outside the hunting lodge of the wealthy Mr. Robert Beaumaris. Her pride stung when she overhears a remark of her host's, Arabella pretends to be an heiress, a pretense that deeply amuses the jaded Beau. To counter her white lie, Beaumaris launches her into high society and thereby subjects her to all kinds of fortune hunters and other embarrassments.

When compassionate Arabella rescues such unfortunate creatures as a mistreated chimney sweep and a mixed-breed mongrel, she foists them upon Beaumaris, who finds he rather enjoys the role of rescuer and is soon given the opportunity to prove his worth in the person of Arabella's impetuous young brother...  

Arabella Tallant is the eldest daughter of eight children and considered a Beauty. The Tallant family lives in a cozy parsonage, the father being Reverend Henry Tallant, in genteel poverty. With little aspiration for Arabella contriving a great match in Yorkshire (a must to help marry off the rest of the girls and provide a living for the son's) Mrs. Tallant's long-held dream has been to have Arabella's godmother, Lady Bridlington, sponsor a London season for Arabella. When the invitation comes Arabella is very aware of how fortunate she is and resolves to make a good match to help support her family. Although she is a soft-hearted, conscientious girl, Arabella's temper gets the better of her when she overhears a careless remark made by the Nonpareil Beaumaris (one of the richest and most sought after bachelor's in England), leading her to prevaricate on her birth and circumstance...that she is The Rich Tallant!
The novel is a delightful bit of silliness. Its hard to believe such an eligible, rich bachelor as Beaumaris would have a heart of mush inside his facade of "cool civility" but Heyer always has a way of making her heros and heroines endear themselves to you. Beaumaris talks about his noble consequence but always in the end his actions are kinder than his words belie. Arabella is sweet and naive, although tenaciously single-minded in what she believes is right and wrong...causing much confusion and muddling of events in the Bridlington household and for the beleaguered Beaumaris...but he would not have it any other way!!!
Although at 312 pages shorter in length than most of her novels, and with the classic wit, strong characterization, and humorous happenings we have come to expect, Arabella is another winner from Heyer.
My Rating: 4.0

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August 31, 2009

Sepulchre by Kate Mosse

I have to admit I am a bit overwhelmed writing my review of Sepulchre by Kate Mosse. Luckily I am on vacation so I have all the time I need to give it a go. Sepulchre is over 735 pages long not including the Reader's Notes and Sepulchre Tour pages. Very daunting number of pages to any reader I should imagine...and then writing a credible review that encompasses all the themes...well you can see why I'm daunted! The book was very seductive though and breezed by on a tense plot, shortish chapters and intrepid characters. Sepulchre blends mystery and crime with gothic drama and a hint of romance.

I'm a big fan of timeslip novels...although usually I find a character from one period is more interesting or stronger in voice than the character in the other time period. I thought the main characters from the past and present were equally as strong in Sepulchre, though more of the story is given over to the past. Leonie Vernier is our heroine from the late 1900s, a young girl of seventeen who demonstrates a naive willfulness that causes death and harm to those she loves. Eventually she triumphs over evil at great cost to herself...unable to rest peacefully in death as her story remains untold, she begins to haunt her distant relative Meredith Martin, after Meredith indulges in an impulsive tarot reading while researching Debussy on her long awaited trip to Paris. 2007 - Meredith Martin is come to Paris to finalize her research on Claude Debussy, although this is not her only motive for visiting France... she is determined to discover her ancestral legacy using a lone photograph she has been given of a sepia soldier. After a strange tarot card reading she begins to have frightening dreams, echos from the past, which only become more intense while visiting a mysterious hotel in southern France called the Domaine de le Cade.

Sepulchre is the second book in Mosse's Languedoc Trilogy, very loosely connected to the first in the trilogy, Labyrinth, although focusing on different time periods and events, as well as varying in tone and storyline. Sepulchre relies more upon dramatic gothic and supernatural elements to create tension, while Labyrinth trends more to the spiritual and mythical. The books have entirely different cast of characters. If you do not care for heavy gothic overtones (a malignant oppressiveness), nor have an interest in the symbolism of tarot or suggestion of supernatural patterns, repetition in music, then this is probably not the book for you...but I very much enjoy dark, mysterious novels and really was captivated by this one!! I would venture to say I preferred Sepulchre over Labyrinth, much more drawn to the features and tone of this more recent read. Reading Sepulchre was like putting together pieces of a complex puzzle, knowledge revealed little by little.
Mosse does not give more weight to the research than the characters or plot and this is an impressive feat. There was so much description given about the areas in France that the book is set in, Rennes-les-Bains, Paris, as well as Carcassonne, and patterns in music, symbolism of tarot but these do not distract from the plot which flows along seamlessly in parallel with all the details. I can't imagine the amount of research Mosse must have put together...but you can get an idea of her sources by perusing the Sepulchre Tour inclusion at the back of the novel. This is a book to put down and ponder before greedily snatching up again.
The third book in the Languedoc trilogy is The Winter Ghosts to be released in hardcover this fall.
My Rating: 4.5

Suggested Recommendations for Related Reading with Gothic Elements:
Lady Julia Grey series by Deanna Raybourn
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Eight by Katherine Neville
Mistress of the Art of Death series by Ariana Franklin

August 22, 2009

Tuesday Thingers, Vacationing

Tuesday's Questions from Wendi's Book Corner: Have you recently browsed any of the groups? Are you actively participating in any groups? Do you have any favorites?
I recently browsed the Early Reviewer's group and I think I am a member but not sure. This would be my favourite group. Its a good reference place to see if others have received their books yet. I find it difficult to juggle my blog with my work and I have found that I am not able to read as much as I used to, which is making me unhappy and depressed. So joining groups takes away from the reading I can do because I end up spending more time on the computer. I do have groups on ChaptersIndigo Community that I keep up 50 books in 2009... but I find myself posting less. I do not want to sacrifice reading time to be on the computer so some things have to get cut.
Hello Sunshine
I am way late this week posting my TuesdayThinger answer and I may miss next week...because I will be on vacation. Whoo hoo!! We have not had any other vacation this year so I am really looking forward to it. Wine tours, golf, sun, sand...what could be better!!
So I am trying to plan what books to bring with me on vacation. I was having trouble for awhile there reading anything overlong, so I decided to read something lighter, hence Beauty by Robin McKinley. I just started reading Sepulchre by Kate Mosse, a weighty book at over 700 pages, since I promised myself my next read after Beauty would be longer and require dedication. Liking it so far. I have decided to to bring The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley and the first three books in C.L. Wilson's Tauren Soul series. I'd like to bring an additional historical fiction or mystery option. So, out of the list below what do you think would be perfect to read on my summer vacation?
Grand Sophy or Arabella, Georgette Heyer
A Fatal Waltz, Tasha Alexander
The Last Queen, C.W. Gortner
Grave Goods, Ariana Franklin
The Meaning of Night Michael Cox
Sacrifice, S.J. Bolton

Beauty by Robin McKinley

This much-loved retelling of the classic French tale Beauty and the Beast elicits the familiar magical charm, but is more believable and complex than the traditional story. In this version, Beauty is not as beautiful as her older sisters, who are both lovely and kind. Here, in fact, Beauty has no confidence in her appearance but takes pride in her own intelligence, her love of learning and books, and her talent in riding. She is the most competent of the three sisters, which proves essential when they are forced to retire to the country because of their father's financial ruin.
The plot follows that of the renowned legend: Beauty selflessly agrees to inhabit the Beast's castle to spare her father's life. Beauty's gradual acceptance of the Beast and the couple's deepening trust and affection are amplified in novel form. Robin McKinley's writing has the flavor of another century, and Beauty heightens the authenticity as a reliable and competent narrator.
I like that McKinley creates a realistic setting, although with magical elements, and real life problems for Beauty and her family to struggle through. The family has lived a charmed life until a string of bad luck reduces them to living on a very small farm, having to learn chores and to do for themselves. Beauty avoids the mirror and revels in being the tomboy she always has been at heart, thinking herself plain and mousy. She has courage to make a sacrifice for her family and in doing so discovers more about herself and what she desires out of life. She overcomes her timidity with the Beast and eventually realizes, like how she views herself, that one's heart and character on the inside is more important than what one looks like on the outside. There are many themes that young adults can relate to: courage, honor, working hard, sacrifice, true beauty, being humble and thankful, etc.
What I found odd about the Beauty storyline was that it was not linear. McKinley would reference present events and then skip back to past events to explain and expound and then skip back to the present events. Seemed hodge podge when past events could have been all explained in a prologue. That said ... McKinley created interesting characters each with their own quirks.
I guess I was expecting more content and fluidity to the writing and the numerous spelling mistakes were distracting. It was a bit difficult reading the first half of the book getting used to the abrupt sentence structure. Although if I think the writing style would suit pre-teen and teen readers well. Solidly young adult fiction although I would recommend anyone can read the story and enjoy it.
My Rating: 3.5 Chapters Amazon

August 17, 2009

Promises in Death by J.D. Robb

NYPD Lieutenant Eve Dallas always does her best to solve every one of her cases, but her latest assignment just might be her most difficult yet. Not only was the victim, Amarylis Coltraine, a cop who was killed with her own weapon, but the case also takes on an added personal dimension since Amarylis was Chief Medical Examiner Morris’ lover, and Morris is one of Eve’s best friends. When the killer sends Eve a package containing Coltraine’s badge, weapon, and a taunting note suggesting that she might be next on the list, Eve finds herself trying to untangle a case that may be linked to her own past. All of the familiar ingredients Robb’s millions of readers expect to fall neatly into place—a cleverly constructed plot, an intriguing cast of secondary characters, and a sexy romance between tough-as-nails Eve and her mysterious billionaire husband Roarke—do so in the 30th gritty, suspenseful addition to Robb’s best-selling, futuristic police-procedural series. I loved everything about this addition to the in Death series, including the coral cover which just screams...It's me! Whereas I was quite disappointed in the previous release, Salvation in Death, this one satisfied on all fronts. Eve seems much more comfortable being a wife, yet much still baffles her about life and relationships. The connection between Eve and Roarke was much more focused on with Eve experiencing a series of revelations or conclusions about herself and their relationship. I felt Eve really grew in this novel as a person and as a cop. In Salvation in Death I thought the book lacked on the emotional front. Well, Promises in Death more than makes up for it. Eve responds to a call and finds the body of murdered Detective Amarylis Coltraine, the woman that her friend Medical Examiner Morris had been dating for the past year. I reread the first 20 pages of the book a few times and it made me want to break out crying every time. Although the story focuses on a devastating event there were a lot of funny moments too. Especially Eve describing the goings on at Louise's bachelorette party. There seemed to be more snarling, witty, and snappy dialogue than usual too, a feature I have come to anticipate from every Robb novel. Promises in Death deals with a deeper and more complex crime involving a criminal from Eve and Roarke's past. Robb ponders the sins of the father and what a son or daughter make of their life with the family they have been dealt. I think "Promises" in Promises in Death means Eve's promise to Morris to find Coltraine's killer...Eve's and Roarke's promise to each to always communicate and for each to make the right decisions even when those decisions are difficult. I thought this was one of the best in Death books. Would have liked a final subconscious conversation from Eve between her and Coltraine after she brings down the murderer. I'm interested to see where Robb takes the series from here and plan to read the newest release Kindred in Death. My Rating: 4.0 Chapters Amazon Related Posts: Salvation in Death Naked in Death

August 14, 2009

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Rigler

I don't think Miss Austen would have been impressed. Courtney Stone falls into the life of Jane Mansfield in the time of Jane Austen. Inhabiting Jane’s body Courtney experiences life in 1813 England and learns who she truly is and discovers her destiny. I thought the idea for the book was good but could have been executed better. I’m a fast reader and having paragraphs of 6 or 8 word sentences made the story seem choppy and incoherent. The story switched so often between thinking like Jane to thinking like Courtney that it had a whole disjointed feeling. On the other side the story was lively and rollicking, and it was interesting enough for me to read the whole thing, just would have liked more content. Doubtful if I will read the next in the series Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict. After nursing a broken engagement with Jane Austen novels and Absolut, Courtney Stone wakes up to find herself not in her Los Angeles bedroom or even in her own body, but inside the bedchamber of a woman in Regency England. Who but an Austen addict like herself could concoct such a fantasy? Not only is Courtney stuck inside another womanas life, she is forced to pretend she actually is that woman; and despite knowing nothing about her, she manages to fool even the most astute observer. For her borrowed body knows how to speak without slaying the Kingas English, dance without maiming her partner, and embroider as if possessed by actual domestic skill. But not even Courtneyas level of Austen mania has prepared her for the chamber pots and filthy coaching inns of nineteenth-century England, let alone the realities of being a single woman who must fend off suffocating chaperones, condom-less seducers, and marriages of convenience. Enter the enigmatic Mr. Edgeworth, a suitor who may turn out not to be a familiar species of philanderer after all.

My Rating: 2.0

Chapters Amazon

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Mr. Darcy's Diary Darcy's Story

August 13, 2009

Tuesday Thingers

Tuesday's Questions from Wendi's Book Corner: Did you use the Help button? Did you get some good information on the page you were on? Did you use the edit feature to add/edit any of the information on the page? I don't think I have used Help but I may have when I was first starting out using LibraryThing. What I think is cool though is that the Help pages are created by contributors and members, not just LT staff. I like that Help is intuitive...whatever LT page you are on when you press Help it will give you Help for all the features in that page. I would be very nervous about editing anything. I think I'll just leave that unless I see a very glaring error is a book's record. I never knew what Conversations exactly entailed so the Help page for HelpThing: Work was very useful in describing what the feature is. I will be using this feature going forward to see what is being discussed about a book. One of the links to the left is Your WikiThing page and I do not really understand what this is supposed to be...mine is empty. OK...I want to mention an Improvement I think the Author's page needs...I think it would be GREAT if you could sort the Author's works by Title and rating. Currently I think they are listed in popularity by number of copies.

August 5, 2009

Tuesday Thingers

Tuesday's Questions from Wendi's Book Corner: Have you had an opportunity to check out the new Amazon Vine program? Have you signed up? Is this program something that interests you? How do you feel about the reviews posted on Amazon in general (not counting the ones that have made the news)?
I have not checked out the Amazon Vine program or signed up, although I have heard of it and seen the icon by reviewers names on the website. Unfortunately I have a hard enough time reading and reviewing the books I already do own and that I win from LibraryThing's EarlyReviewers and elsewhere. I love to win books and it would be great to win more but additionally I am picky about what what I read and like to choose the specific books I could win.
I went to the Amazon Vine page and it indicates that it is an invitation only program...not a fan of this. EarlyReviewers seems much more fair with any permanent member able to join and "Request" to win.
I wonder at times about the Amazon reviews...I think the reviewers could be influenced. I have heard in the past about writers having their friends post positive reviews on their books, although I think this was a predecessor program to Vine. Amazon Vine members definitely provide longer reviews and I like that and I think on average the reviews are fair.

July 29, 2009

Tuesday Thingers

Tuesday's Questions from Wendi's Book Corner: When you click on the Local tab, do you see any information? Do you find the information you see useful? Have you added any information? If you don't already use the Local tab, is it something you would use more often if there were more events listed?
I suggested this LibraryThing feature for this week's Tuesday Thinger as I had wondered if anyone else found it useful. Thanks to Wendi for posing the questions. When I first became a LibraryThinger I tried to change my location in my profile a couple of times but the system seemed finicky and would not accept a new city so I had Boston as my location for a long time. Now my city is correct and I see multiple events.
I have not added any information but if I was a Librarian or hosted a Book Club I would definitely post in LibraryThing Local. I do find the information useful... especially when book sales are posted! Also, it lists where all the public libraries and/or bookstores are in the city so I can see which are closest to my home and work locations. Of course the book stores are pretty much exclusively independents...and some of them I did not know about before so this is very useful.
For events it would be nice if events had expiry dates...or were divided into current and historical, as I do not find it useful to view events that are in the past.

Tron Legacy Trailer

Too cool! See the trailer here.
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July 27, 2009

New Timeslip Novel - The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse

I am a big fan of timeslip novels...of which The Rossetti Letter by Christi Phillips, The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson, The Expected One and The Book of Love by Kathleen McGowan, Labyrinth by Kate Mosse, The Eight by Katherine Neville and The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield are favourites.
Kate Mosse's final effort in her Languedoc Trilogy is The Winter Ghosts, to be released October 1, 2009. I very much enjoyed Mosse's debut fictional effort Labyrinth and have Sepulchre on my bookshelf still to be read. Her third effort looks equally as interesting...this time using a male POV. This is the UK cover.
The Great War took much more than lives. It robbed a generation of friends, lovers and futures. In Freddie Watson's case, it took his beloved brother and, at times, his peace of mind. Unable to cope with his grief, Freddie has spent much of the time since in a sanatorium. In the winter of 1928, still seeking resolution, Freddie is travelling through the French Pyrenees - another region that has seen too much bloodshed over the years. During a snowstorm, his car spins off the mountain road. Shaken, he stumbles into the woods, emerging by a tiny village. There he meets Fabrissa, a beautiful local woman, also mourning a lost generation. Over the course of one night, Fabrissa and Freddie share their stories of remembrance and loss. By the time dawn breaks, he will have stumbled across a tragic mystery that goes back through the centuries. By turns thrilling, poignant and haunting, this is a story of two lives touched by war and transformed by courage. THE WINTER GHOSTS is the gripping new adventure from the No 1 bestselling author of LABYRINTH and SEPULCHRE.
Timeslip novels still to be read on my bookshelf are Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, The House of Riverton and The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, Sepulchre by Kate Mosse, and The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
Note also the following newish or upcoming releases by the authors I mentioned above. The Salt Road by Jane Johnson (Spring 2010), The Poet Prince by Kathleen McGowan (Spring 2010), The Devlin Diary by Christi Phillips (Sep 2009), The Fire by Katherine Neville (Oct 2008) . I am eagerly awaiting any new news about Diane Setterfields's second novel, as The Thirteenth Tale was published in 2006.
Related Posts:
The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson
The Eight by Katherine Neville
The Book of Love by Kathleen McGowan
The Expected One by Kathleen McGowan

July 26, 2009

The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson

The Tenth Gift is a wonderful and absorbing story about two complex women: Catherine Anne Tregenna (Cat) in 17th Century Cornwall, and Julia Lovat in 21st Century London. Like Cat, Julia has a talent for embroidery and at the dissolution of her long adulterous relationship with her friend’s husband Michael, she is given a book of embroidery patterns. Michael had meant to give her another similar book but mistakenly gives her the more valuable and unique palimpsest, as written overtop of the embroidery patterns and in the margins is Cat’s account of her capture by Turkish pirates. As Julia reads Cat’s story she comes to realize their lives have a strange parallel. Who is Catherine Anne Tregenna and why does Julia feel such a close bond to her? Both Cat and Julia are women of impetuosity, temper and singular naivety, given to taking bold and somewhat blind risks. They are both talented with embroidery, believe in love and are seeking to find meaning in their existence, yet they also have faults of emotional weakness and vanity. I did not like Julia at all at first and was convinced my opinion would not change. She was bitchy, emotional, weak and needy and never thought about what she was saying, insulting others whether deliberate or not. Although I have to admit she became a more likable character when the story took her to Morocco…without giving too much away…she let Morocco cleanse her of mistakes in the past.
The Tenth Gift is an excellent work of fiction and though there are romantic tensions and intimacy there is no “romance”. There is a unique, realistic and fresh feeling to the story. I don’t think I have read another novel similar to this one. Johnson also includes quotes, poems, and letters that enhance the storyline. Each chapter is a cliff hanger and I felt equally invested in the fates of both characters, although there was no pattern to the switching from historical time to modern day. Tension ratchets up more and more every time the story flipped back and forth. So much so that I became frustrated that I could not continue to read one or the other of the storylines, but frustrated in a good way as it really made The Tenth Gift an exciting read. I enjoyed and appreciated both storylines as each was so absorbing.

There were a few other aspects of The Tenth Gift that interested me. The book expands upon the ideas of mosaic, pattern, and tapestry in culture, as well as rebirth and the influence of supernatural forces. Johnson describes the process of Cat and the captured people of Penzance being sold into slavery, how they looked at the time and how they were sized up, poked at, and forced to remove all their clothing. The pictures she created were quite brutal but mostly glossed over. I learned about places and times that I had never before read or known about: the history and culture of Cornwall and Morocco and the religious, political and economic tensions of the time. I thought the book could have benefited from including pictures or stencils of the stylized designs and embroidery described within. Toward the end of the story we learn that “The Tenth Gift” is a song/poem about how God divided beauty into ten, where the tenth item is a book. I love it when authors go to the effort to include maps, chapter prefaces or quotes, and suggestions for further reading material. I highly recommend this story to everyone.
In an expensive London restaurant Julia Lovat receives a gift that will change her life. It appears to be a book of exquisite 17th-century embroidery patterns but on closer examination Julia finds it also contains faint diary entries. In these, Cat Tregenna, an embroideress, tells how she and others were stolen out of a Cornish church in 1625 by Muslim pirates and taken on a brutal voyage to Morocco to be auctioned off as slaves. Captivated by this dramatic discovery, Julia sets off to North Africa to determine the authenticity of the book and to uncover more of Cat's story. There, in the company of a charismatic Moroccan guide, amid the sultry heat, the spice markets, and exotic ruins, Julia discovers buried secrets. And in Morocco - just as Cat did before her - she loses her heart. Almost 400 years apart, the stories of the two women converge in an extraordinary and haunting manner that will make readers wonder - is history fated to repeat itself?
My Rating: 4.5