January 28, 2009

Guess What!!!

I just won a copy of Signora da Vinci by Robin Maxwell from Amy at Passages to the Past. I want to thank Amy for holding this awesome contest and I know their were over 40 entrants wishing to win a copy, so I am feeling very lucky.
I am always on the hunt for great historical fiction and from other reviews I have read, Signora da Vinci is a must read if you are a historical fiction lover. I can't wait to get my eager little hands on it (isn't the cover spectacular!).  Be sure to keep visiting my blog as I will be posting a review of the novel within a few weeks. Here is a cheeky interview with Robin Maxwell posted by Marg over at Historical Tapestry. Also a guest post by Robin over at HISTORICAL BOYS. Lastly, here is Amy's review of Signora da Vinci from earlier in the month.

January 27, 2009

Tuesday Thingers

Prior to today, were you aware of Open Shelves Classification? Have you helped to classify any books yet? Is this something you are interested in? Did you know that if you classify any books, it will also show you who else has classified the book?
Nope, not at all. Although on LibraryThing I recently recall seeing some sort of table at the bottom of some works I have searched. Looking up Conceit by Mary Novik, I see the text "The first test round has been closed. Visit the Open Shelves Classification group for details." I have not classified any books yet but I would love to do so!! I am totally strict about organization, my desk, my home, bookshelves, computer files. I use Bookpedia to catologue all my books and I classify some areas of my bookshelves.
In University I took Library Science 2000, a very cool class...and we had to learn all about classification, referencing and the Dewey Decimal system...sometimes I get bugged at work for this. :)
I wish I had known about this feature earlier...ostrich syndrom I guess. I have joined the group so I can be involved in future endeavors.

January 25, 2009

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks’ novel People of the Book is an amazing, well-crafted story about such eternal themes as betrayal, persecution, temptation and weakness as well as faith, hope, redemption and love.  Book restoration is Australian Dr. Hanna Heath’s life to the exclusion of all else, and she has been given an opportunity to work on the Sarajevo Haggadah, an illuminated Jewish manuscript, supposedly the only of its kind in the world…most Jewish texts only containing words. As Hanna works to restore the Haggadah in Sarajevo, she discovers minute artifacts within the pages…an insect wing, a wine stain, salt crystals and a white hair, each with its own history to reveal.  Hanna travels to colleagues in different places around the world, using their expertise to help her discern the artifacts origins, and as she follows their trail not only is she forced to confront the truth of who she is and where she came from, but her own faith in herself. 
I thought the story was a wonderfully unique and inspiring concept for a book.  The book flows back and forth through history, between Hanna in Sarajevo in Spring of 1996 and different periods in history relating to each artifact. We are shown the life of the Haggadah…and its endurance through time. While the main themes are the persecution and sacrifice of Jews, this story is not confined to Judaism but to each person’s religion or faith, whatever it may or may not be.  At times the stories of the lives relating to the artifacts are wrenching, making the story feel all the more meaningful and real.
People of the Book imparts an appreciation for learning, teaching and knowledge. Brooks goes into much detail about the technical aspects of book restoration and illumination, as well as providing discourse on differing views in religion. I have always found overly descriptive and overly detailed (other examples being Congo by Michael Crichton and Contact by Carl Sagan) books very appealing, although I know a lot of people do not like so much detail.  People of the Book is very nicely balanced between storyline and detailed description. 
I highly recommend People of the Book to anyone and everyone.  It’s a piercing story that will long leave an impact on you.  I am almost reluctant to suggest other recommended reading because I don’t think there are many similar high quality novels out there and if there is I have not yet read them.  If you appreciate fiction moving back and forth through time, as well as the endurance of belief and faith in the face of persecution, I would suggest Labyrinth by Kate Mosse and The Book of Love by Kathleen McGowan.
My Rating: 5.0

January 21, 2009

Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that These Old Shades would be the next Georgette Heyer novel I would read, but I bought Black Sheep recently and it looked quite short and a lively, fun read so I plunged in wholeheartedly. As with most of Georgette Heyer Regency novels, there is witty dialogue and an abundance of humor. Black Sheep is a delightful romp of a tale, with Miss Abigail Wendover returning to her home with her sister Selina and her niece Fanny in Bath. Selina is a hypochondriac who has difficulty putting sentences together and Fanny is 17 years old, on the verge of her come-out and being pursued by a fortune hunter. Abby has returned home just in time to try to prevent Fanny from eloping with the fortune hunter, Mr. Stacy Calverleigh, determined to give him a set- down she encounter's Stacy's Uncle instead, Mr. Miles Calverleigh, recently returned to England from India…the Black Sheep of the Calverleigh's. Abby and Miles form a rapport and eventually she learns Miles is the skeleton in her family's proverbial closet. Of course, all's well that ends well with Stacy packed off, Fanny wiser and Selina, well even more clinging, but there is a happy ending for Miles and Abby, even though I thought it was much too abrupt!! I didn't want this story to end and look forward to my next Heyer novel. My Rating: 4.0 Chapters Amazon

January 20, 2009

TuesdayThingers

Have you ever used the Swap This Book function which can be found on the main page of any book (here is an example of Flirting With Forty by Jane Porter: link shown on book page, what it looks like if you click on the link)? If so, what do you think about it? If not, are there any other swap sites you utilize to exchange books once you are done? What do you do with your books if you no longer want them anymore?
I have seen the link but never clicked on it.  I suppose I assumed I would end up giving a book of mine away in return, but I am too possessive and don't want to give up a book!  Also, I usually can find what I want at my favourite used bookstore where I can get credit for the books I bring in.  I think its a great feature though and if I do have a book I want to get rid of I might use this tool.  
Once a year I go through my library to see if there are books taking up space that I don't care for and that I don't think the used bookstore would take...they get dropped off the local firehall for the annual Calgary Book Drive & Sale for charity.

January 18, 2009

Murder Game by Christine Feehan

I have been a dedicated fan of the GhostWalker series from the very first book Shadow Game, eagerly awaiting each new release. I was disappointed with a couple of the books in the middle of the series and liked the previous book, Predatory Game, but Murder Game has to be one of my favourites. We get to meet some of the previous GhostWalkers again, as well as submerge ourselves in an awesome thriller. I wasn't able to read the book in couple sittings but had to read a couple chapters here and there, frustrating because the plot was so good and it was hard to pick it up and put it down multiple times.  Tansy Meadows is a wildlife photographer who also happens to be an elite tracker of serial killers. But she is burnt out and has retreated to the mountains for peace and to photograph a cougar for National Geographic. This is where we meet Kadan Montague, who has gone to retrieve Tansy to help him track a group of serial killers, pawns playing a murder game. That's a very short summary to summarize the whole book but essentially I liked this story so much because of the twisty plot, Tansy tracking all the serial killers. I have always been a fan of gory, thrilling stories (but I don't like horror movies, go figure) and this was a new twist, not just one killer but multiple! Of course, being the 7th book in the series some of the scenes seem repetitive of those in previous books, and being Feehan there are some graphic sex scenes but she even creates new twists for this aspect. What was new was a more romantic feel than the previous stories, blunt and crude to be sure, but Kadan is actually vulnerable and emotional in a endearing way.  Great read. Highly recommended. I am looking forward to the 8th book. I also am looking forward to Hidden Currents, book 7 of Feehan's Drake Sisters series. I don't read her Dark (Carpathian) series...not a fan of vampire romance. I also read the Leopard series (shape-shifters) but I have have mixed feelings of the next book, Burning Wild, after reading an excerpt in Murder Game. My Rating: 4.5

January 16, 2009

Dark Fire by Elizabeth Lowell

I bought Dark Fire because its one of the last few books I have yet to collect by Elizabeth Lowell. I have loved and collected her books for years and was anticipating another good read. Unfortunately this is not what Dark Fire is and not Elizabeth Lowell’s best effort. The plot sounds like it has potential, basically Cindy Ryan’s best friend is missing in the cloud forest, so she hires the best guide available in Quito, Trace Rawlings, to help her find her friend, but it falls short of a satisfying read. There are too many metaphors, too many clich├ęs and an abundance of cringe worthy moments. That said I am glad I added another book to my collection, it is interesting as a basis of comparison for all the others novels but I wish I hadn’t paid so much. This book was not in stock with bookstores so I had to buy a used copy online. My Rating: 3.0

Chapters

January 13, 2009

TuesdayThingers

Have you ever looked at the Common Knowledge page, or viewed the history of changes/additions? If you were aware of this section, have you added any information? Do you find this information useful or interesting? I often skim the Common Knowledge of each book, taking note of the characters and whether the books are in a series or not. Today was the first day I have looked at the history of changes/additions link. Very interesting...but probably not a link I will visit very often. I have added details to common knowledge before...my first time being when I added The Book of Love by Kathleen McGowan. Some of the fields I don't find very useful but as I mentioned above, I almost always look at the characters and series fields...very useful when you are trying to find other possible books in series that you follow.

January 11, 2009

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

It is Victorian England and we meet Lady Julia Grey as her ailing husband Edward is writhing in throes of agony upon their music room floor, guests to their gathering looking on. Of course he soon dies and inquiry agent Nicholas Brisbane requests an audience with Julia to tell her that her husband may not have died of his illness but may have been murdered…as he had been hired by Edward to look into threats against his life…but with no proof Julia sends him away. Now a year later, Julia finds a threatening note hidden at the very back of Edward’s desk drawer. Of course, she can’t let her husband’s murder lie at rest, so she seeks out Brisbane and hires him to again hunt out the perpetrator.
I thought Silent in the Grave a very well crafted, well paced story. I would describe it as snapshots of plot accompanied by descriptive labels (meaning each chapter’s matching quote by bard), rather than a running stream, teasing you a little bit here, a little there, before twisting again. The writing is very detailed and at times blunt, drawing you in, never letting you leave. The setting, Grey House, was intriguingly atmospheric…Edward preferring a much different style than Julia’s own muddled, quirky study…multiple varying occupants each with a secret.
I appreciated that Raybourn rounded out the setting and the characters, especially the March family. This is the first book in a series after all and I thought it important that Raybourn took the time to fully develop each character you are introduced to, making you feel intimately invested of the course each took in the plot. Lady Julia’s character being sparkling and adventuresome but both innocent and blind. Brisbane being hardened, secretive and complex. The banter between Lady Julia and Brisbane was often intense and at times witty or biting, making for an exciting story. I look forward to meeting them all again in Silent in the Sanctuary, the second in the series and Silent on the Moor, the third book in the series (to be released in trade format March 1).
Deanna Raybourn’s Silent in the Grave is an amazing debut novel, filled with puzzles, seething emotions and gothic romantic overtones. It has been one of my favourite reads in months and I put it equally on par with Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily Ashton series, And Only to Deceive and A Poisoned Season (and A Fatal Waltz which I have not yet read), and Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale.
My Rating: 4.5

Chapters

January 6, 2009

My Bookcase

I noticed a post by Barbara at Happily Forever After which showed pictures of her collections of particular authors and thought it a great idea to do as well...but I will add a slight twist by showing everyone my most favorite thing in the entire world, besides chocolate and my boyfriend of course, my bookcase!!! I ordered it custom and waited 3 months to get it...unfortunately its almost full already. The left-side shelves books that I have read and the right side are books still to be read. The top left shelf contains everything Jane Austen. Soon I will be needing to move the non-fiction books on the two bottom right shelves to another bookshelf to make room for more of my favorites. I only wish I had enough money to have bought two of these bookcases!!! Oh well, I will add another really nice bookcase somewhere in the house someday. Currently most of my author collections are stored in rubbermaid containers under the stairs. :(
I have:
Over 130 Jayne Ann Krentz - Jayne Castle - Amanda Quick - Stephanie James.
63 Betty Neels
15 Candace Camp
17 Cathy Maxwell
20 Christina Dodd (historicals)
15 Christine Feehan (Ghostwalkers, Drake Sisters, Leopard)
36 Elizabeth Lowell
14 J.D. Robb
11 Jill Barnett
17 Johanna Lindsey
20 Julia Quinn
17 Julie Garwood (historicals)
18 Kasey Michaels
29 Linda Howard
10 Lisa Kleypas
11 Samantha James
10 Tami Hoag
7 Karen Marie Moning
12 Teresa Medeiros (sans vampire stories)
I have been collecting Jayne Ann Krentz for more than 10 years, my love affair with her books starting in a used bookstore on recommendation from the owner to read Amanda Quick and Julie Garwood. I love to re-read my favorite authors between picking up new books and most always I purchase books - so I spend a lot of time browsing reviews to make sure I don't waste my money. Occasionally I need to weed out authors I don't read anymore to make more space, so I take those books to a great used bookstore chain here.

TuesdayThingers

Did you know that there are 1497 authors participating in LT Authors? If you haven't checked it out, head over for a moment and see if you can find out something new about an author! If you don't have time to go snooping, have you ever looked at the LT Author page before? Did you know that it is for authors and readers alike? Have you ever looked up a favorite or new author on LT to see what they read and if they have left any comments or reviews themselves? Have you ever told an author about LT Authors and encouraged them to check the site out?
Wow, that's a lot of authors! I have looked at an author profile page before...I posted a review on Meg Waite Clayton's book The Wednesday Sisters.  She commented to me and I took the time to peruse her profile. I have never looked at the LT Author page before though.  I occasionally look at the Zeitgeist Overview to see who the top authors are...ok so I just realized that there is an Authors tab in the Zeitgeist.  COOL!   I am always interested in what my favourite authors like to read and recommend and I follow author blogs of Elizabeth Chadwick, Diana Gabaldon, Deanna Raybourn, Jeanne Kalogridis and others.  I have never told an author about LT Authors.

The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin

The Serpent’s Tale by Arianna Franklin is the second book in the Mistress of the Art of Death series set in Medieval England during the reign of King Henry I (Plantagenet). I am not providing details of the first book, Mistress of the Art of Death, or a summary of The Serpent’s Tale. In The Serpent’s Tale the author conveys more a sense of delight in telling a tale of murder than in Mistress of the Art of Death, which I felt more a sense of dread and doom throughout, plus the child murders being a very heavy subject it would have been difficult to impart lightness to it. I thought the second book in the series definitely had more elements of humor…I chuckled out loud many times throughout the book…I didn’t expect to do so. It has been quite awhile since I read Mistress of the Art of Death…sufficient length of time between its reading and The Serpent’s Tale to have no expectations for the second book’s story. I expected to enjoy it less after a few reviews I had read seemed to prefer the first book, but I found the second story more thrilling and engaging…probably due to less description of the injustices done to dead bodies and Adelia’s forensic methods. The first story dealt with child murders so the subject material was more difficult to read in the first place, plus The Serpent’s Tale was more humorous. The Serpent’s Tale is more straight mystery without much of the interwoven “romance” between Adelia and Rowley present in Mistress of the Art of Death, though we are still quite aware of their feelings toward each other. There were many nuances of thought and detail that added suspense and interest to the portrayal of Medieval England in this story. I appreciated rich descriptions of Godstow, the Thames, the tower, the winter climate; ideas of religion, forward thinking and feminism. Some might not appreciate that Adelia is now in this situation of having born a girl child out of wedlock and still having unresolved feelings for Rowley, now a Bishop, and employed in a profession such as hers. But I think the new plot element – Adelia having born a girl child (replacing Ulf in the first book) – is essential to balance the story, adding a softness to juxtapose the brutal nature of the murders Adelia investigates, and even Adelia herself, who struggles to balance the more analytical, unemotional facets of her personality, with emotional desires of home and love. The book’s title is The Serpent’s Tale, ergo there must be a serpent…I guessed the identity of the murderer on page 272, only about 60 pages before the murderer is actually revealed. I’m amazed I reasoned it out, as there were a lot of oddball twists and turns as roadblocks, but there are a few clues pointing you in the right direction. The Serpent’s Tale has a really good suspenseful plot and then a great reveal and explanation. Arianna Franklin definitely left some loose ends that can be used in future stories…Will the “Serpent” return?...Does Adelia go back to her homeland?...What will happen with Rowley? For the last question King Henry tells Adelia that she will “Never be safe”. Trying not to give away too much of the plot here but King Henry’s statement allows for more interaction between Rowley and Adelia in the future. Only a couple of things annoyed me. First that there was not a map of the area at the beginning of the book like there was in Mistress of the Art of Death. Second, the way Arianna Franklin treats the intimacy between Adelia and Rowley when he is waiting for her in her room at Godstow. I think the description was just too metaphorical…it surprised me and seemed so unnecessary when a more straightforward wording would have been better. Why must need cover up the physical affirmation of their feelings in all the mumbo jumbo? Anyways, this was only one very short paragraph in an otherwise superb story. The author has hit her stride and I am very much looking forward to the third book, Grave Goods, due to be released in trade paperback February 3rd. My Rating: 4.5 Chapters

January 3, 2009

The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer

Having just read Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer and enjoying it enormously I decided to go straight into another read by the author. The Reluctant Widow in comparison has more of a mystery/suspense plot than romance, with the romance only unfolding in the last few pages of the story. It was a good novel though, with great characters and Heyer's ever-present humorous happenings. I was able to reason out some of the plot however which detracted a bit from the enjoyment, so I do not put the The Reluctant Widow on par with Devil's Cub.
I used to read gothic romances by Catherine Coulter and Louisa May Alcott (she wrote Gothics under the pseudonym A.M. Barnard and I would recommend the book A Whisper in the Dark for those with interest) and that's what this story sort of reminds me of (excluding the humor of course), only set in the Regency period; the same underlying menace and intriguing male characters who were either foppish dandies or cool observers and female characters a bit too high strung and overwrought. Heyer puts a lot of effort into describing exactly how the clothes, buildings, conversation would have been for the period, as well as each character's voice matching their station in life and ancestry (e.g. we are told that the retainer Barrows talks in a less refined Sussex dialect). An admirable effort.
I have to admit after reading two Regency books in a row I am dizzy with period language...not sure if I will read These Old Shades next...I look forward to the story but need a change of pace.
My Rating: 4.0

January 2, 2009

Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer

I liked Devil’s Cub enormously. Historical fiction and romance are my favorite fiction and Devil’s Cub encompasses all that I like about both genres; high-quality historical detail, engaging characters, complex, interwoven plot, a strong no-nonsense heroine and charismatic hero and a lot of laughs. This is my first Georgette Heyer novel and I am very impressed. The story was compulsively readable and I was engrossed from the first sentence...I barely put the book down. The characters are so vivid and distinguishable from each other…the dialogue is so quick and witty…and the characters are in situations so amusing and have the most amazing adventures. Heyer had an incredible imagination and ability to translate the Regency period to the page. Highly recommended. I purchased five books, Cotillion, Friday’s Child, The Reluctant Widow, Devil’s Cub and These Old Shades. I started reading Devil’s Cub because it looked like the shortest…not realizing that it is a sort of sequel to These Old Shades. I think I will read The Reluctant Widow next and then These Old Shades…I can’t wait to see how much more wicked the Duke of Avon was than his son!! My Rating: 4.5 Chapters