November 29, 2011

Powder and Patch by Georgette Heyer

Powder and Patch is a lighter piece of fluff for Georgette Heyer, and much shorter in length than the majority of her novels. The book centralizes on two characters, Philip and Cleone. Here is the synopsis:

To win her hand, he must become what he despises . . .
Cleone Charteris's exquisite charms have made her the belle of the English countryside. But Cleone yearns for a husband who is refined, aristocratic and who is as skilled with his wit as he is with his dueling pistols . . . Everything Philip Jettan is not. As much as she is attracted to the handsome squire, Cleone finds herself dismissing Philip and his rough mannerisms. 

With his father's encouragement, Philip departs for the courts of Paris, determined to acquire the social graces and sirs of the genteel -- and convince Cleone that he is the man most suited for her hand. But his transformation may cost him everything, including Cleone . . .

The charm of Powder and Patch, as with many of Heyer's other novels, is her discourse on the social customs of the time, revealed through character exchanges and descriptions of dress and mannerisms for both ladies and gentleman. There is certainly a lot of great description of the clothing and accoutrement from the Georgian period in Power and Patch. Of course, what constitutes a gentleman has changed from era to era, in the Georgian period gentlemen must have great "love making" technique, have a certain air and posture, be a wonderful dancer, have a sly wit and, of course, must have great swordsmanship for all those duels to defend "my lady's" honour. Anyhoo, Powder and Patch is a fun read. I highly recommend for fans of Georgette Heyer but would recommend The Grand Sophy, The Nonesuch or Arabella instead for Heyer first timers.

My Rating: 3.5

Related Posts:

From TIME Video: The Making of a Romance Novel Cover

TIME goes behind the scenes of a romance novel cover shoot.

Read more:,32068,1292273354001_2100414,00.html#ixzz1fA3S2dm9

A rare look into the making of the the romance novel cover...all
kinds of good stuff in this video.

November 7, 2011

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Ten people, each with something to hide and something to fear, are invited to a lonely mansion on Soldier Island by a host who, surprisingly, fails to appear. On the island they are cut off from everything but each other and the inescapable shadows of their own past lives. One by one, the guests share the darkest secrets of their wicked pasts. And one by one, they start to die...

Possibly her most famous book, and certainly the most adapted, Christie used different endings for the novel and her stage adaptation, giving the stage version a happier ending. The Boston Transcript

I love a good mystery. Strike this case a 'great' mystery.  And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie has actually been called the greatest mystery novel of all time and the author spent months researching before she started writing the story.

So I thought it was finally time to read this novel. As I was reading the first few pages, I started to ask myself questions about how 10 characters could die. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to write all these questions down first...get my thoughts in order and make some assumptions before I read any further and then after I read the novel I could go back and reflect. Create for myself a sort of logic puzzle research project. This book is also known as, "Ten Little Indians," so with no insult intended to indigenous cultures, I am going to call a participant an Indian. Stopping at page 27, the end of chapter two, I have the following:
  1. There are 10 strangers and they all die. But the book summary does not state they are all murdered, just "they die". A death could be faked.
  2. Crimes of passion are committed because of jealousy, greed or revenge. It could be revenge. The deaths likely are not crimes of passion but of justice.
  3. There must have been at least one person who investigated each "Indian" on the island. If each Indian committed a crime then the common thread is the law - justice.
  4. The external characters are the boatman (Fred Narracott), the old seafaring gentleman, the jew (Mr. Isaac Morris), the porters and taxi drivers.
  5. Only Justice Wargrave was NOT invited by Owen, but supposedly by Lady Constance Culmington. Rather Wargrave is the only one who thinks he was invited by her and not Owen.
  6. A doctor, someone who can save lives, is one of the Indians. 
  7. Someone could be hiding out on the island.
  8. Could one of the individuals have a twin?
  9. Use of the word prisoner = military.
  10. Mr. Isaac Morris arranged and paid for transportation of the Indians to the Island as stated by Norracott. Mr. Blore may have been contracted by Morris.
Wow, ok so after reading the novel I have determined that all my logical assumptions above hold true. But I really can't discuss the plot of the book any further without giving away spoilers. This has been an interesting exercise though!  And Then There Were None is an unforgettable mystery. Its not very long but it has great impact. I highly recommend to fiction and mystery lovers.

My Rating 5.0


September 27, 2011

Mini-Review: The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn

Partners now in marriage and in trade, Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane have finally returned from abroad to set up housekeeping in London. But merging their respective collections of gadgets, pets and servants leaves little room for the harried newlyweds themselves, let alone Brisbane's private enquiry business.

Among the more unlikely clients: Julia's very proper brother, Lord Bellmont, who swears Brisbane to secrecy about his case. Not about to be left out of anything concerning her beloved—if eccentric—family, spirited Julia soon picks up the trail of the investigation.

It leads to the exclusive Ghost Club, where the alluring Madame Séraphine holds evening séances…and not a few powerful gentlemen in thrall. From this eerie enclave unfolds a lurid tangle of dark deeds, whose tendrils crush reputations and throttle trust.

Shocked to find their investigation spun into salacious newspaper headlines, bristling at the tension it causes between them, the Brisbanes find they must unite or fall. For Bellmont's sakeâ € “ and moreâ € “ they'll face myriad dangers born of dark secrets, the kind men kill to keep….

The Dark Enquiry is the fifth book in the Lady Julia Grey series. First of all I’m not sure the title of the fifth book really reflects the content. I would have liked something more impactful. I absolutely LOVED this installment to the series. There is much protectiveness, tenderness and growth between Julia and Brisbane. Their marriage is put front and center, although Brisbane is still hiding many secrets. Julia has taken up a new hobby, or rather Brisbane has channeled Julia's energy into a hobby so he doesn't have to rescue her from getting into trouble all the time.

Even though the antagonist’s and their motivations can be worked out with some thought, there are still quite a few surprises. The part of the story with Julia confronting the antagonist is a bit too coincidental for my liking but this does not detract too much from the story as a whole. There is a particular sentence that struck me deeply, although I’m not going to give any backstory, as it may lean too much toward a spoiler, but I love the way Deanna Raybourn uses metaphors.

"I was wandering through a garden, a beautiful place, with the most exquisite blossoms. And as I put a hand to smell one, it closed, furling its petals tightly against me. I moved to the next flower, and it did the same, and it happened again and again until I reached the garden gate. I passed through and closed the gate, looking back to see the sea of blossoms, nodding sleepily on their stems. I locked the gate firmly behind me and walked on. I did not look back again."

Now you'll just have to read the story to understand what that quote means!
I recommend reading the series in order...The Dark Inquiry is not really a standalone. Raybourn is working on a sixth instalment to the series.

My Rating: 5.0


Related Posts:
Mini-Review: Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn
Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn
Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn

Mini-Review: Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn

The fourth Lady Julia Grey mystery (following Silent on the Moor, 2009) finds Julia happily married to handsome, brooding detective Nicholas Brisbane. Their honeymoon is interrupted by her sister Portia and brother Plum, who want Julia and her new husband to come to India, where Portia’s former lover, Jane Cavendish, is living on the tea plantation her recently deceased husband, Freddie, inherited. Freddie died under mysterious circumstances, and Jane suspects he may have been murdered for his inheritance. Jane is pregnant, and she fears her child will be in danger if it proves to be a boy. Despite her husband’s objections, Julia decides to investigate Freddie’s murder, getting to know the potential suspects, including Freddie’s spinster aunt, his cousin Harry, several neighbors, and a mysterious man known as the White Rajah. As Julia closes in on the killer, she uncovers more than a few family secrets.

In this installment, I don’t feel that Julia or Brisbane advanced much as characters or in their marriage though there is still great chemistry in their exchanges. Many significant events happened with secondary characters, such as Jane, Portia and Plum and many new characters were introduced. There are the usual incidents of Julia’s curiosity getting her into trouble and Brisbane coming to the rescue. The setting of India gives an exotic underpinning and the cultural aspects were interesting. Somehow either because of the setting of India or maybe it was all the new characters, Dark Road to Darjeeling just did not work as well for me as the earlier instalments in the series. Raybourn does excellent character building though...maybe there was just too many extra characters for my personal tastes. The ending is a complete shocker and left me wanting more, so this series is still one of my favourites and I look forward to the next book.

The next instalment in the series, Book 5, is The Dark Enquiry. 

My Rating: 4.0


Related Posts:
Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn
Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn

September 7, 2011

Highlights of London/Scotland/Ireland

We flew to the UK for our summer vacation this year. We were in London for 5 days, then took a train to Edinburgh (2 days), staying in Scotland 9 days in total, then we flew over to Dublin (2 days) and toured Ireland and Northern Ireland for 9 days. An amazing trip with too many experiences to mention but here are the highlights.

London is a great city but busy, busy, busy. We will visit again sometime. The shopping districts have the same stores repeat every other block and sometimes across from each other!

Oxford/Regent Street Shopping

 Tower of London/Westminister. City Sightseeing Tours Best way to see London.

The British Museum. Marble Bust of Alexander the Great.

Taking the Train South to Sunny Coastal Worthing

We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre

Edinburgh was by far our favourite city and the West Highlands of Scotland were magical and awe-inspiring. We would go back here again in a heartbeat.

Edinburgh & Edinburgh Castle

Scotch Whiskey Taste Experience. Largest collection of scotch whiskey in the world.

Glamis Castle

Isle of Skye and hiking ALL the way up to Old Man's Storr 

Midlands and West Highlands, specifically the Nairn and Glencoe areas. Spectacular!

Urqhart Castle at Loch Ness

Glasgow Shopping

Restored Great Hall at Stirling Castle

Rosslyn Chapel. A beautiful structure marred by scaffolding.

Ireland/Northern Ireland
The Trinity College Old Library/Book of Kells was ok but I would recommend Dublin's Chester Beatty Library instead.

Dublin. The Spire.

Guinness Storehouse

Powerscourt Estate Gardens

Miven Head

View from Road to Miven Head

Killarney National Park

Bunratty Castle Medieval Banquet

Cliffs of Moher

Giant's Causeway

Trim Castle


Did you know that an automatic car rental will cost you three times more than a manual rental in the UK? We had a friend give us lessons in driving standard/manual in order to save costs. So, not only did we have to drive on the wrong side of the road, we wrangled with changing gears with the gear shift on the opposite side we learnt on. Our trip was awesome when we weren't driving but those roundabouts drove us nuts!!! We navigated around using our iPad and Google Maps/Offmaps and drove 1350 km in Scotland and 1685 km in Ireland. Its not something I would suggest doing for the faint of heart. Our summer vacation was very memorable but I think I'm done with 3 week vacations where you are sleeping somewhere different almost every night.

August 11, 2011

Back from Summer Break

So, I've got some great reasons why I've not posted to the blog since late March. The winter semester at the University of Alberta School of Library and Information Studies was incredibly difficult. Then I took a three week practicum course (LIS 590). Then we travelled to Halifax, Nova Scotia for 8 days and then we travelled on to London/Scotland/Ireland for three weeks. Since we got back from our travels, I took a summer course, (LIS 598 Information Security) and I've been taking a bit of a break.

Here's some thoughts on the courses I took in my second semester. By my own design I ended up taking probably the four most difficult courses in the program and then I subsequently took LIS 590 in the spring and LIS 598 in the summer.

LIS 505 - Introduction to Research
Oh the cold shivers running up my back at the memories. Suffice to say LIS 505 was a brutal course and I'm not exaggerating! This is a required course in an MLIS program. Basically you come up with a research question (e.g. quantitative, qualitative or textual) and live with it for 3 months, do a plethora of related assignments and then churn out a 35 page single-spaced research proposal including interview questions, ethics review, hypotheses, recruitment poster, budget, timeline and on and on for final term project. What was both great and not so great were the students from other disciplines enrolled in the course. Most classes in LIS only have LIS students but not LIS 505, as the course is meant to instruct students on how to put together a research proposal and how to conduct research. So external students brought refreshing opinions but those same students hogged the class time in a class filled to over capacity. Luckily, my marathon effort on my final proposal reaped rewards and I got a grade I am happy with.

LIS 532 - Cataloging and Classification
This was the most frustrating course but the most practical and rewarding. We learnt standards in bibliographic description, AACR2 rules, MARC 21 format, LCC, DCC, LCSH. We had five items of varying format such as monograph, serial, DVD, electronic resource, which we learnt the above aspects of cataloging and classification. The detail required and the high level of understanding of rules and standards was exacting and the source of my frustration being a perfectionist. Luckily, we had a wonderfully giving instructor, KDG, who felt our pain but had high expectations of our efforts. Our term project was a 20 page group paper examining LCSH and DDC on a high-level topic (cooking and ethnicity). I would recommend all MLIS students take this fundamental course. I even got to apply what I learnt in my spring practicum work placement!

LIS 533 - Database Design for Information Management
This course at its core was not about building a database in a software program but learning the conceptual, logical and practical design steps when creating and implementing databases. For this course you needed to be able to think abstractly when ER modeling and analytically when developing relational models, creating SQL queries, QBE and using normalization.  The term project required you to go through each step of database design, then create the database in Access, as well as forms, SQL queries and QBE. I did well with the analytical aspects to the course but in my mind failed with the more conceptual aspects, the ER modelling. So I just missed out on getting a top grade and I'm bitter about it. The content of the course was difficult, even for those who have the aptitude for it so I would not recommend this course to the majority of MLIS students.

LIS 538 - Digital Libraries
Digital libraries was my favourite course in the winter term, though a demanding one. It really opened my eyes to all the different layers involved in considering building a digital library, such as funding, preservation, metadata standards, etc. The course really ran the gamut on topics and was very informative. The final project was to create a digital library using the Greenstone application, with an accompanying paper. The course was demanding because Greenstone was very tricky and problematic to use. Many hours I'll never get back were spent on trial and error experimenting and perfecting my digital library which I called Interpretations of Tea. This course was my best grade. I would recommend a digital libraries course to MLIS students but if you are not comfortable with technology you may want to look at other options.

So, as you can see from above, all my final projects were very demanding...and of course they were essentially due all at the same time, along with some other assignments. I had two weeks of stress, poor diet, no exercise, sporadic sleep, mental intensity and then after submitting an assignment 6:00pm on the last Friday of the term, I had to pack up and clean my apartment, then move Saturday back to Calgary and start my practicum work placement on the Monday. The practicum was for 3 weeks and then I finally got a break!

LIS 590 - Practicum
My practicum placement was at a special library for a large Canadian oil & gas company. I got great exposure to reference requests, original and copy cataloguing and I researched embedded librarianship and alternative library models for my final project. I would recommend library and information studies students compete a co-operative work placement or a practicum, as it provides great insight into real world librarianship. The practicum was pass/fail, three-week intensive (100 hours) and although I was not paid it does count toward three credits or a full course in my program.

LIS 598 Information Security
I took this as a one-credit course. We learnt about risk management, information security in the context of threats and vulnerabilities (such as hacking, natural disasters, password management, etc.), critiquing acceptable use policies. I learnt a lot in this course, plus it was timely with all the recent Lulzsec and Anonymous events. A final project was required consisting of four parts (Policy Analysis, Software Evaluation, Future Forecast and Incident Report). The summary may sound dry but the course was eye-opening, as we were shown the techniques and technology that hackers use and we studied risk management documents. I got a great grade in this course as well...and I only wish it had been a three-credit instead of a one-credit, it was that interesting.      

Next post I will be providing some highlights and photos of our trip to London/Scotland/Ireland.

March 20, 2011

Books to Film News

Although I'm sure most would agree that the films and TV mini-series are usually never as good as the book, that doesn't stop me from eagerly awaiting releases of these adaptations.  Recently I watched The Pillars of the Earth miniseries, which was I thought was really good, though I haven't yet read the book even though I own it. I will one day!

A new screen adaptation of Jane Eyre was just released and I'm gasping to watch it, though I have to finish the school term first!

I've noticed two other announcements of upcoming adaptions that I am SUPER excited about.  First is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. This was an amazing novel, one of my all-time favourites actually, which is slated to be released in July 15, 2011 in the United States. Here is article from Shelf Awareness.

The second adaptation is... Labyrinth by Kate Mosse to be released in spring of 2012. This one is going to be awesome. It will be a four-hour TV miniseries actually and filmed by the same production team as The Pillars of the Earth, so I have high expectations. Here is the article from Shelf Awareness.

I recommend the daily newsletter by Shelf Awareness as a great resource to follow to keep up to date on the latest media, movie and book news.

February 28, 2011

Mr & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy by Sharon Lathan

A couple of years ago I became obsessed with Austen fan fiction, a brief intense period in which I immersed myself in everything Austen (I recall at the same time Masterpiece Classic was releasing new series versions of a few Austen classics), though eventually I think I burnt myself out and I haven't really focused on it much since...though I do have a nice collection of Austen titles and fan fiction. I think the genre has become saturated and quality has suffered. Seriously, I will never be caught reading Pride & Prejudice and Zombies and I am so glad my favourite actor Natalie Portman decided not to take the lead role).  Recently though another series caught my attention in blog posts (mainly because of the book covers), which is Sharon Lathan's Darcy Saga.

I hold the Pamela Aidan Fitzwilliam Darcy - Gentleman series as the pinnacle of Austen fan fiction, which followed the same storyline as the original Pride & Prejudice, but from Darcy's point of view. I was expecting a lot from the Sharon Lathan series, my first foray in Austen fan fiction after a long drought) but after reading the first novel I admit I am bit gobsmacked. Usually I do some research on ratings and recommendations before I purchase books but I have to admit I didn't do so for this series and I wish I had. I'm not really sure how to proceed with reviewing the novel, in order to be fair and not give away any spoilers. For further reviews I suggest visiting LibraryThing. Here are a few observations that may be helpful in deciding whether you would want to read the series:

  • The novels follow the Darcy's directly after their wedding.
  • There is a lot of description about the Pemberley estate, manor and history of Darcy's family. 
  • New characters are brought into the story.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy contains a lot of romantic language and scenes of intimacy. (I am not a overtly romantic person but I do think I have sensitivity and the quantity of these moments and the verbosity of the characters frankly made me uncomfortable, something that takes quite a lot to do!) 
  • The peak of the story, all the action, comes in the last chapters of the book.
  • The novel is romance not literature.
  • Indirectly offers lessons in romance: when, where, why, and how often to say "I love you".
  • The book covers are certainly pretty.

Well, I purchased the series all at once with a Christmas gift card, so they are there sitting on the shelf, so I suppose they will all get read one day (maybe). I think for me that's it for now with Austen fan fiction...but for those who can't get enough please look to the Pamela Aidan series and Syrie James' The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen.

My Rating: 2.5


Related Posts:
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Rigler
Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange

Darcy's Story by Janet Aylmer

February 23, 2011

Mini Reviews for The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown and Altar of Eden of James Rollins

I read two action adventure novels recently, that I have a few lingering thoughts about.  What do you expect out of action adventure fiction? Yes, I want to be thrilled and I want fast-paced action. I want to learn something, or be taken to somewhere around the world I have never heard of or thought about before...but I also want relationships developing between characters.  Is this too much to ask for in action adventure novels with all the other elements packed in? I don't think so, but its often what seems to be lacking.

Also can I just say I DESPISE this new book size for mass market paperbacks...first they had to introduce the tall format which ruined the consistent height of my collections and the spacing between my bookshelves but now they have this extra wide and shorter format, more squarish.  Don't the publishers realize they are antagonizing their readers by introducing these new sizes...I try not to buy these when at all possible.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned unexpectedly to deliver an evening lecture in the U.S. Capitol Building. Within minutes of his arrival, however, the night takes a bizarre turn. A disturbing object -artfully encoded with five symbols-is discovered in the Capitol Building. Langdon recognizes the object as an ancient invitation . . . one meant to usher its recipient into a long-lost world of esoteric wisdom.

When Langdon''s beloved mentor, Peter Solomon-a prominent Mason and philanthropist -is brutally kidnapped, Langdon realizes his only hope of saving Peter is to accept this mystical invitation and follow wherever it leads him. Langdon is instantly plunged into a clandestine world of Masonic secrets, hidden history, and never-before-seen locations-all of which seem to be dragging him toward a single, inconceivable truth.

The most surprising thing about The Lost Symbol for me was unrelated to the content of the book...its actually amazingly long at over 600 pages...but look more critically and you will see that the chapters are short, very short.  I really dislike this format...making the chapters short to somehow make the book feel more fast-paced. Yes, the whole premise about the Masons and the inclusion of The Smithsonian was quite interesting but the ending dragged on a bit too much with this fluffy, rosy, bright hopefulness (I don't mind sappy but it seemed over the top for me). With all those pages you would think Robert Langdon would develop relationships with other characters but he doesn't...though I guess this is hard to do when a whole storyline falls within only a few hours. Still, its what I love about reading, the development of character's relationships...which was singularly lacking in The Lost Symbol.  There were interesting ideas and themes in The Lost Symbol, so if you like action adventure novels I would recommend reading it.

My Rating: 4.0


Altar of Eden by James Rollins
Baghdad falls . . . and armed men are seen looting the city zoo. Amid a hail of bullets, a concealed underground lab is ransacked—and something horrific is set loose upon the world.
Seven years later, Louisiana state veterinarian Lorna Polk investigates an abandoned shipwrecked fishing trawler carrying exotic caged animals, part of a black market smuggling ring. But there is something disturbingly wrong with these beasts—each an unsettling mutation of the natural order, all sharing one uncanny trait: incredibly heightened intelligence. 

Joining forces with U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jack Menard—a man who shares with her a dark and bloody past—Lorna sets out to uncover the truth about this strange cargo and the terrorist threat it poses. Because a beast escaped the shipwreck and is running amok—and what is about to be born upon the altar of Eden could threaten not only the future of the world but the very foundation of what it means to be human.

I have mentioned many times that novels with themes of technology and science rock my world and James Rollins is one of my absolute favorite action/adventure authors who incorporates these themes. Normally I'm enraptured by the scientific theories Rollins includes in his novels, but in Altar of Eden I felt I was at times being lectured to about the science rather the than the story evolving from the science (this was even more apparent after comparing Altar of Eden to Awakening by S. J. Bolton, which incorporates scientific knowledge as well, but with a more natural feel than in this novel). Maybe it was because Altar of Eden was a departure from Rollins' Sigma series that I felt this way. Other than this aspect of the novel though, I appreciated the story even though it was a bit more far out than usual for Rollins. The main characters were multi-faceted, interesting, resourceful and pulled at my emotions. Read if you are a Rollins fan but if you have never read Rollins before, I would not start with this novel.

My Rating: 4.0


Related Posts:
The Doomsday Key by James Rollins
The Last Oracle by James Rollins
Ice Hunt by James Rollins
Deep Fathom by James Rollins
Subterranean by James Rollins

What Does My Bookcase Say About Me Meme?

1. “I’m a Jane Austen Addict” (Jane Austen The Complete Novels, Pamela Aiden series, fan fiction by Abigail Reynolds, Amanda Grange, Diana Birchall, Lost Memories of Jane Austen by Syrie James, Sharon Lathan's series, Just Jane by Nancy Moser, 2 Linda Berdoll and Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence...just to name a few...and I've not listed all my video titles!)
2. “I collect certain authors an series!” (20 Georgette Heyer, 40 J.D. Robb, Alan Bradley, 5 J.R.R. Tolkien, complete box set of Harry Potter novels, Christopher Paolini's Inheritance series, Kate Carlisle Bibliophile mysteries, 9 Philippa Gregory, 22 Tami Hoag, 4 Susanna Kearsley, 148 Jayne Anne Krentz, 97 Betty Neels, 40 Elizabeth Lowell, 14 James Rollins, 4 Thomas Harris, 11 Andrea Kane, Alison Weir, 19 Carla Neggers, 3 Dan Brown, Elizabeth Chadwick, Stieg Larsson, Sarah Dunant, Michelle Moran, Maria V. Snyder, Kathleen McGowan, Christine Trent and C.L. Wilson.)
3. “I like Gothic fiction!” (Ariana Franklin series, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Dracula by Bram Stoker, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Drood by Dan Simmons, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, 4 Victoria Holt, Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott, Perfume by Patrick Suskind, Eve Silver, A Whisper in the Dark by Louise May Alcott, 3 Kate Mosse and 3 S. J. Bolton.)

4. "Classics call my name!" (The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson, Middlemarch by George Eliot, To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee, Vanity Fair by William Makepeace, Lolita by Nabokov, Master & Commander by Patrick O'brian, Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy and The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery ans 2 Oscar Wilde novels.)

5. “I collect Victorian novels!” (The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey series, Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily Ashton series, Elizabeth Peters Amelia Peabody series, Leanna Hieber's Guards and Goddesses' series and Libby Bray's Gemma Doyle young adult series and Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue.)
6. "Fiction involving Asian history or locations fascinates me! (Empress Orchid and The Last Empress by Anchee Min, 3 Amy Tan, Empress by Shan Sa, Peony and The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, The Red Queen by Margaret Drabble, 3 Lisa See novels and Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.)

7. "I like books that have themes of art, math or science or similar!" (Contact by Carl Sagan, Michael Crichton, Dune by Frank Herbert, The Rule of Four by Caldwell and Thomason, Girl With a Pearl Earring and Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier, Signora Da Vinci by Robin Maxwell, The Savage Garden by Mark Mills, The Eight by Katherine Neville, The Tailor's Daughter by Janice Graham, Karen Essex and Sarah Dunant.)

8. "I need another bookshelf!" (Most of the free space at the front of each shelf is filled with stacks of books and there is little remaining free space.)

9. “I buy a lot more books than I can read!” (The right hand side of my bookshelf contains books I haven't read and the left side contains books I have read.)

So, what does your bookcase say about you?

February 14, 2011

Awakening by S. J. Bolton

An idyllic village is thrown into turmoil in a startling, heart-racing thriller.

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 wherever possible. But when a man dies, following a supposed snake bite, Clara learns that 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.

S. J. Bolton's suspense novels are like no other mystery suspense novels I have ever read. Browsing Chapters a couple years ago, I happened to see the cover of Sacrifice (a bright gold ring on a gloomy bluish coastal background) and it intrigued me so I read the back blurb...I love elements of science and the I took a chance on Bolton's debut. Well, I wasn't disappointed and Sacrifice stayed in my thoughts (and possibly nightmares) for days after I had read it.  I continued to follow the efforts of Bolton, acquiring Awakening and an ARC copy of Blood Harvest.  So I've finally gotten around to reading Bolton's sophomore effort, Awakening, and its just as gripping and creepy. For me, it didn't have the shock value of Sacrifice but it was more focused. Yes, there is a lot about snakes in this book, but if anything they are treated with respect...and its the humans who are the real serpents!!

What do I love about these novels.  Pungent description, authenticity, damaged female protagonists, multi-layered plots, and science and the supernatural co-mingling (slightly gothic feel). I don't like horror but I love a good thrill and a bit of ugliness doesn't turn my stomach.

The Times stated of Bolton "S.J. Bolton has elevated herself to the High Priestess of English Rural Gothic. If she carries on like this she will have worshippers in their millions."  I heartily agree. If you appreciate great mystery/suspense novels, YOU MUST read Bolton. An author not to be missed!!! S. J. Bolton's next effort is Now You See Me, to be released May 26, 2011 in hardcover.

My Rating: 4.0


Related Posts:
New Release by S.J. Bolton - Awakening
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February 12, 2011

Deeds of the Disturber by Elizabeth Peters

Can fear kill? There are those who believe so--but Amelia Peabody is skeptical. A respected Egyptologist and amateur sleuth, Amelia has foiled felonious schemes from Victoria's England to the Middle East. And she doubts that it was a Nineteenth-Dynasty mummy's curse that caused the death of a night watchman in the British Museum. The corpse was found sprawled in the mummy's shadow, a look of terror frozen on the guard's face. What--or who--killed the unfortunate man is a mystery that seems too intriguingly delicious for Amelia to pass up, especially now that she, her dashing archaeologist husband, Emerson, and their precocious son, Ramses, are back on Britain's shores. But a contemporary curse can be as lethal as one centuries old--and the foggy London thoroughfares can be as treacherous as the narrow, twisting alleyways of Cairo after dark--when a perpetrator of evil deeds sets his murderous sights on his relentless pursuer . . . Amelia Peabody

Deeds of the Disturber did not recommend itself to me as well as the previous novels in the series. The setting of this installment was London, not very exciting compared to the wonderfully described desert and Cairo scenes of Egypt in the past novels. Many of the secondary characters were just not likeable or very interesting. The continual overt battle of wills between Amelia and Emerson diluted the usual sparkling banter between them.  The story had fits of starts and sections that seemed to drag on.  I also guessed a crucial element of the story early on which ruined my enjoyment.

But I did learn another new word...ratiocinative!

In my opinion, events in Deeds of the Disturber did not advance the Amelia Peabody series significantly.  A good read but does not have the vibrancy of the earlier efforts in the series.

My Rating: 3.5


Related Posts: 
The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters
Curse of the Pharaohs by Elizabeth Peters
Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

January 26, 2011

Thoughts on Masters of Library & Information Studies (So Far)

So, now that I have completed one term (4 courses) and am on to my second, I have some comments about my particular library and information studies program (MLIS at University of Alberta) I would like to share.  First of all, since this question is asked perpetually by those interested in LIS programs: the state of job availability is much more positive in Canada than in the United States, from the commentary I have heard.  In the various list serves I am on...there always seems to be new opportunities becoming available...though more often for senior positions or related to technical services. But generally, I would say there are a range of opportunities available across seniority, institutions and experience levels. Metatdata Librarians are particularly in demand. In Canada, I believe the LIS profession is healthy.

In my first term I took 4 required courses. This course-based Masters is 16 courses plus a capping exercise (as opposed to thesis-based), with an IT requirement of 2 courses within the 16.  The School states you can finish the program in 2 academic years, which I plan to do. Many, many students take the program student has been taking courses for 7 years in fact. The problem with this in my school, is that there are few Spring and Summer session courses offered.  Although, you can take external courses, one practicum, or a directed study (in conjunction with seminar courses if needed).  Here are some comments about last term's courses.
  • LIS 501 Foundations of Library and Information Studies - Introduction to LIS. Different types of librarians and their roles. Looked at Mission Statements, Goals and Objectives of Institutions.  Some assignments were directed at developing soft skills. I found the Career Development Planning assignment helpful. We were fortunate enough to be taught by visiting scholar Dr. Brooke Sheldon, which made the course quite a fun experience.
  • LIS 502 Organization of Knowledge and Information - All about the theories behind how we organize, analyze, transmit and retrieve knowledge.  Disliked the assignments, which were reflective papers and a final exam, but enjoyed the content and exercises.
  • LIS 503 Information Services - This course is basically Reference Services 101. The most practical course last term, the most demanding, but the most rewarding and some "fun" assignments (i.e. presentation of a reference source, evaluation of a reference interview).
  • LIS 504 Leadership and Management Principles for Library and Information Services - If you did not have any management or supervisory experience, the course would be more challenging because a lot of discussion was required by the professor in the lectures and in an online discussion forum.
This term I am taking another required course (LIS 505) and three electives.
  • LIS 505 Introduction to Research - A step by step progression to creating a research proposal. Oh you bet I am intimidated!  Students often go on to extend the proposal as their thesis.
  • LIS 532 Cataloguing and Classification - Yes, this is all about MARC encoding, ISBD and AACR2R cataloging rules. Library of Congress Subject Headings. Library of Congress Classification and Dewey Decimal Classification.  But this class is applicable if you are interested in metadata, which is becoming increasingly important with the semantic web.
  • LIS 533 Database Design for Information Management (IT) - More about theory, the process of database development and good database design, than creating a database.
  • LIS 538 Digital Libraries (IT) - What is a digital library? What are good Digital Collections?  These questions are more complicated than you may think. We do get to create a small digital library at the end. Super excited about this!
All my courses this term develop practical skills...and this is my whole mandate - Information Technology (practical and technical skills).  Most of the assignments in the courses allow you to target the program to wherever your interests are. This is the best way to get the most out of the program.

Last term I decided not to work and I received good grades (though these are really not so important unless you are applying for scholarships).  This term will be the same though I plan on working next academic year.  Working and participating in a full-time MLIS program is a fine balance. Including class time and time required for all readings, sourcing and assignments, I would say I devote 30+ hours per week and probably closer to 40+ hours per week the last 6 to 8 weeks of the term, to the program. I would also say I am the average student...not one who is completely dedicated...I want a life too!

Many scholarships are given out by the school automatically and other scholarships require applications with research proposals....yes research proposals!  Needless to say, I probably will not be receiving any scholarships in the program. Why? I do not have a second Masters, second undergrad degree or a Doctorate, and these are the usual candidates for scholarship money.

The majority of students in the program are looking at entering traditional library roles after graduating (roles in academic, special and public libraries). Other roles include archives and schools...and even more non-traditional and alternative are jobs in the information profession and the corporate world...which is this gray fuzzy area seemingly impossible to gain any insight on - this is my focus and I did find one good printed resource called What's the Alternative? by Rachel Singer Gordon.

The most rewarding aspect about being in library school is putting behind me the sense of feeling like "the piece that won't fit into the puzzle" of the professional world.  I have made many friends, we all have different backgrounds but we have the same desire to acquire an MLIS, although we all have different interests and want to accomplish different things. Being exposed to others, with various creative ideas and collaborating on different assignments (yes, group work is heavy in some courses) has exposed me to a variety of perspectives. I have grown so much as a person from this experience.

The profession is a small one, so its important to be visible, network, join committees and generally participate.  Really, not as scary as you may think!!!  Everyone is very supportive. I decided to go to library school...because everything in me was telling me it was something I just HAD to do. Don't go to library school on a whim. Make sure it becomes a thought that never goes away. I recommend having a strong interest on a subject related to the profession. Its not necessary to be in the profession or have worked in the profession, but you must have an open mind, the ability to adapt to change and a willingness to learn, learn, learn.

Related Posts
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January 22, 2011

Giveaway Winner!!!

The winner of A Royal Likeness by Christine Trent is...

Busy Working Mama


January 19, 2011

GIVEAWAY Reminder - A Royal Likeness by Christine Trent

Reminder you have only a couple more days to enter the giveaway for A Royal Likeness by Christine Trent.  This novel would be a great addition to your historical fiction collection!!!

For here for more details and to enter the giveaway.

January 10, 2011

GIVEAWAY and Review: A Royal Likeness by Christine Trent

As heiress to the famous Laurent Fashion Dolls business, Marguerite Ashby’s future seems secure. But France still seethes with violence in the wake of the Revolution. And when Marguerite’s husband Nicholas is killed during a riot at their shop, she leaves home vowing never to return. Instead, the young widow travels to Edinburgh and joins her old friend, Marie Tussaud, who has established a touring wax exhibition.

Under the great Tussaud’s patient instruction, Marguerite learns to mold wax into stunningly lifelike creations. When Prime Minister William Pitt commissions a wax figure of military hero Admiral Nelson, Marguerite becomes immersed in a dangerous adventure—and earns the admiration of two very different men. And as Britain battles to overthrow Napoleon and flush out spies against the Crown, Marguerite will find her own loyalties, and her heart, under fire from all sides.

With wit, flair, and a masterful eye for telling details, Christine Trent brings one of history’s most fascinating eras to vibrant life in an unforgettable story of desire, ambition, treachery, and courage.

I was impressed with Christine Trent's debut The Queen's Dollmaker in early 2010.  The novel appealed to me because it featured a strong, independent heroine with the unique employment of being an artist and entrepreneur in dollmaking. I am equally as impressed with Trent's sophomore release A Royal Likeness. Marguerite is a sympathetic character and it was a great pleasure to read about her escapades. I had planned on reading the book over a couple days but once I started reading I couldn't put it down and stayed up to the wee hours of the morning to finish it!!

A Royal Likeness combines history of the Napoleonic Era, including fascinating details about the Battle of Trafalgar, an abundance of adventure and intrigue, and a good dose of romantic interest.  The novel stands on its own, although I do recommend reading The Queen's Dollmaker first, to better understand the enmity between Marguerite and her husband's mother and brother, Maude and Nathaniel Ashby, two characters easy to dislike intensely. I also recommend reading The Queen's Dollmaker so you can meet the hero and heroine of that novel, Claudette and William, who appear in A Royal Likeness.

Marguerite's naivety and preoccupation with overcoming the grief from the loss of her husband gets her into a bit of trouble, ok more than bit, but she soon learns to become independent and face challenges with courage and determination. I would like to mention the hijinks Maurguerite gets up to, but I think this would spoil the story a bit so I will refrain. The author gives this character more adventure than she ever expected, when all she was trying to do was survive the death of her beloved husband.

For me, Christine Trent's novels stand out from others through attention to the details. Beyond the historical content, I learned things about ships I never knew before and the process of wax modeling was fascinating. I highly recommend this novel if you love quality historical fiction, adventure and intrigue, and original characters. Christine Trent's next novel is The Prince's Pavilion, to be released in 2012 by Kensington Books.

My Rating: 4.5



Christine Trent is generously providing a copy of A Royal Likeness for giveaway. To enter please leave a comment on this post.  The contest is open to International entries.

One entry for leaving a comment on this post.  Please include your email address.
One entry if you are a Follower of this blog.
Two entries if you post about this contest on your own blog.

Please include how many entries you have in your comment on this post (if you post about this contest on your blog please include the link in your comment on this post).

The entry deadline is Friday, January 21st 11:59 PM MST. 

The winner will be announced Saturday, January 22nd. 

Good Luck!!!

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Christine Trent's Upcoming Sophomore Release - A Royal Likeness
The Queen's Dollmaker by Christine Trent

January 8, 2011

The Scarlet Pimpernel - Classic Novel and A&E Miniseries

So over the holidays I had myself a bit of a Scarlet Pimpernel marathon.  I read the classic novel by Baroness Orczy and then watched the 1999 A&E six-part TV miniseries featuring Richard Grant and Elizabeth McGovern. Notwithstanding, I have watched the original 1934 The Scarlet Pimpernel movie starring Leslie Howard over half a dozen times, my favourite film version.

Simply brilliant.  Two words that sum up the novel. I cannot believe it has taken me so long to read this classic novel but it was absolutely wonderful. The only thing wrong with the novel is that it was too darn short! I mourned the ending of the adventure. There are sequels (and prequels) to the original story but I am content to have read just The Scarlet Pimpernel and no farther, which I will explain why in a bit more detail below.

Orczy was brilliant at characterization...contrasting mannerisms and speech of characters from different strata of society in England and in France.  The adventure is taut and rollicking and the longings of Percy and Marguerite wrap around your heart. Though short in length, the book has many nuances of emotion and thoughts by the characters, adding dimension to the story that is lacking in the film versions. For instance, in film versions it never comes across that Marguerite is an intellectual, as well as an actress, but that is how she is described by Baroness Orczy.

I think the miniseries is enjoyable in the context of the events of the French Revolution, though I venture the miniseries is not entirely accurate. As to staying true to the plot and relationships in the novel, the miniseries takes many, many liberties, which I think is unfortunate. There are many surprising events happening, many of which I did not agree with, which has decided me not to continue to read any more novels in the series, to preserve my pleasure of The Scarlet Pimpernel novel. Now having read the book, gaining more understanding about the motivations of all the characters, I appreciate the story even more and rank it as one of my all time favourite story concepts.

My favourite quote from the 1999 A&E TV miniseries is when Sir William Wetherby says to Percy, "More pimp than Pimpernel, what".  I laughed hysterically...In the last episode Sir Percy plays at a bit of matchmaking...    

I have watched The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934) many times, each time enjoying it as much as the first time. The 1934 version captures the intensity, fraught emotions and sweetness of love renewed imparted in the novel. So I highly recommend the novel by Baroness Orczy and The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934) movie but only recommend the A&E TV miniseries (1999) version for those you interested in another perspective of the French Revolution and a bit of adventure.

My Rating - Novel: 4.5
My Rating - A&E Miniseries: 3.0

ChaptersIndigo This Amazon edition is enriched with notes and commentary.

A&E Miniseries