December 31, 2010

The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley

Verity Grey is thrilled to be asked to join archaeologist Peter Quinnell's dig in the Scottish borders, but after her first day she isn't so sure. Quinnell, having spent his whole life searching for the resting place of the lost Ninth Roman Legion, is convinced he's finally found it - not because of any scientific evidence, but because a local boy has seen a Roman soldier walking in the fields, a ghostly sentinel who guards the bodies of his long-dead comrades. The worst thing is that Verity believes in Peter, and the boy, and even in the Sentinel, who seems determined to become her own protector...but from what?

I know there are quite a few Susanna Kearsley fans out there...and I am one of them! Not only is she a fantastic writer but she is a fellow Canadian - its great to support a talented writer from your own country. A Susanna Kearsley book always reemphasizes for me why I love reading and why quality writing always wins out over filler and flash. Instead of focusing this post on reviewing The Shadowy Horses though, I am going to discuss more why I love Susanna Kearsley and highly recommend this author!

For me, what elevates Susanna Kearsley's novels is the development of the setting and the characters. Locations have related historical events and even though there are a variety of characters in her novels they are distinct from each other and well rounded. Kearsley lets the quality of her writing speak for itself, with wonderful descriptive language, historical detail, sparkling and sharp dialogue - not one word is superfluous to the story. Chapters rarely end with cliffhangers...though there is mystery enough. There is no race to the finish with the plot but a slow build to a satisfying conclusion. You really need to think about all possible motivations to determine the antagonizing force in the story. Ghostly or supernatural elements are interwoven into the storyline - often the protagonist relives a past life, or encountering ghosts or experiencing strange events. Another reason why Kearsley's novels are so great, is that the female protagonists lead independent, interesting and creative lifestyles, with careers such as painter, writer, archeologist, etc.  Kearsley's stories can be appreciated by adult and young adult readers alike.

The Shadowy Horses, specifically, is a smoothly paced book. Verity Grey is an intelligent and stubborn woman, an archeologist herself, helping another renowned and reclusive archeologist explore for evidence of the Ninth Roman Legion at an estate called Rosehill but someone...or something...is meddling and strange incidents and coincidences occur. Though the formula for The Shadowy Horses is similar to Mariana and The Winter Sea, the setting and characters are completely different and I found all the related history to the Ninth Roman Legion fascinating.  Coincidentally I recently watched the movie Centurion, which explores another take on the Ninth Roman Legion and I recommend it to fans of the historical action/adventure movie genre. Another upcoming movie about the same Legion is The Eagle to be released February 25, 2011.
 
So now I have now read The Winter Sea, Mariana and The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley (but have not written reviews for the previous two novels).  Kearsley also writes mysteries under the pseudonym of Emma Cole.  Every Secret Thing, originally written under the Emma Cole pen name, has been recently released under Susanna Kearsley and is on its way into my mailbox. I look forward to reading it and collecting this author's back list.

My Rating: 5.0

ChaptersIndigo
Amazon

November 18, 2010

Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Announcement of the Random House anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It was first made way back in May of this year, but I thought it would be worthwhile to remind you all.

The anthology is a collection of inspired by Jane Austen (no vampires or zombies I'm hoping) short stories more than 20, yes 20!!!, authors, to be released in the fall of 2011.  I'm excited to see in the list Pamela Aiden, Syrie James and Lauren Willig.

Below is the list of included authors from a post at austenprose.com

Pamela Aidan (Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman Trilogy)
Elizabeth Aston (Mr. Darcy’s Daughters, & Writing Jane Austen)
Stephanie Barron (A Jane Austen Mystery Series, & The White Garden)
Carrie Bebris (Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries Series)
Diana Birchall (Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, & Mrs. Elton in America)
Frank Delaney (Shannon, Tipperary, & Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show)
Monica Fairview (The Darcy Cousins, & The Other Mr. Darcy)
Karen Joy Fowler (Jane Austen Book Club, & Wits End)
Amanda Grange (Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, & Mr. Darcy’s Diary)
Syrie James (The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, & The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte)
Diane Meier (The Season of Second Chances)
Janet Mullany (Bespelling Jane Austen, & Rules of Gentility)
Jane Odiwe (Lydia Bennet’s Story, & Willoughby’s Return)
Beth Pattillo (Jane Austen Ruined My Life, & Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart)
Alexandra Potter (Me & Mr. Darcy, & The Two Lives of Miss Charlotte Merryweather: A Novel)
Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino Bradway (Lady Vernon & Her Daughter)
Myretta Robens (Pemberley.com , Just Say Yes, & Once Upon a Sofa)
Margaret C. Sullivan (AustenBlog.com, & The Jane Austen Handbook)
Adriana Trigiani (Brava Valentine, Very Valentine, & Lucia, Lucia)
Laurie Viera Rigler (Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, & Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict)
Lauren Willig (The Pink Carnation Series)

What Kind of Geek Are You??

I love this...I'm a combination of book geek, chic geek and tech geek.  See the original post here at Flowtown! Love this website.


November 6, 2010

Librarians Do Lady Gaga (Cataloger Style). Love it!!!



Students and faculty from the University of Washington's Information School. From May 2010.

September 30, 2010

"A Bibliophile Mystery" Series by Kate Carlisle


So being in library school I thought it would be appropriate to highlight a book-related mystery series (A Bibliophile Mystery series) by Kate Carlisle that I have recently added to my Absolutely Must Acquire list. All the books in the series look highly recommended from the reviews I have read...looking forward to reading and reviewing!


The Lies That Bind

To Be Released in MMP November 2, 2010

Book restoration expert Brooklyn Wainwright returns home to San Francisco to teach a bookbinding class. Unfortunately, the program director Layla Fontaine is a horrendous host who pitches fits and lords over her subordinates. But when Layla is found shot dead, Brooklyn is bound and determined to investigate-even as the killer tries to close the book on her for good. 

ChaptersIndigo
Amazon

If Books Could Kill

MMP Release February 2, 2010

Murder is easy-on paper.

Book restoration expert Brooklyn Wainwright is attending the world- renowned Book Fair when her ex Kyle shows up with a bombshell. He has an original copy of a scandalous text that could change history-and humiliate the beloved British monarchy. 

When Kyle turns up dead, the police are convinced Brooklyn's the culprit. But with an entire convention of suspects, Brooklyn's conducting her own investigation to find out if the motive for murder was a 200-year-old secret-or something much more personal.

ChaptersIndigo
Amazon

Homicide in Hardcover

MMP Release February 3, 2009

Murder is always a bestseller...first in the new bibliophile mystery series! 

The streets of San Francisco would be lined with hardcovers if rare book expert Brooklyn Wainwright had her way. And her mentor would not be lying in a pool of his own blood on the eve of a celebration for his latest book restoration.

With his final breath he leaves Brooklyn a cryptic message, and gives her a priceless and supposedly cursed copy of Goetheas "Faust" for safekeeping. 


Brooklyn suddenly finds herself accused of murder and theft, thanks to the humorless but attractive British security officer who finds her kneeling over the body. Now she has to read the clues left behind by her mentor if she is going to restore justice.

September 11, 2010

First Impressions First Week of Library School


It has been just over a year since I first embarked upon the application process to enter graduate studies in a Masters of Library and Information Science program.  The application process was long and fraught with emotion for me. At first I was nervous about even contemplating returning to school after 10 years since acquiring my undergrad degree. Then there was all this anxiety about putting a credible application together, visiting professors I had not seen in over a decade to discuss being referees and keeping my intentions withheld from my coworkers.  After sending off my package I was depressed, second-guessing the content of my application and still trying to stay motivated at work. Then when I found out I was accepted I still had to keep this huge secret for a couple more months.  That was especially hard.

But let me tell you all the angst of the process was well worth it!!!  So if you are contemplating making a significant life change, I would recommend you go for it, if it is truly a lifetime goal or dream of yours.

I'm attending the MLIS program at the University of Alberta. The School of Library and Information Studies at UofA is very small, tucked away at the south end of Rutherford Library.  There are only three classrooms in actual fact!  The UofA campus feels intimate, although for some reason I thought it would be huge.  There are many green spaces and the grounds are very well taken care of. You can tell the governing body has a lot of pride in the institution. The SLIS community is very small and the Faculty make you feel important and welcome, stressing over and over again that they were here for us and the students their first priority.

There are about 50 to 55 graduate students enrolled in SLIS this year under various programs.  Some students are part-time but the majority are full-time. There are about the same amount of students as in 2009-10, but I guess the year before that they only accepted around 30 students to the program.  You must start the program in a fall term.  The majority of students are looking to enter into traditional librarian roles after graduating. I am one of the few planning on entering a non-traditional role and I am very surprised there are so few of us, as there are many emerging information professional opportunities. The age range of the group is from the mid 20s to mid 50s, with a very wide variety of backgrounds. Some people have multiple degrees, undergrads and Masters, and even Doctorate's!  The group seems to have been made deliberately diverse.  A good chunk of assignments in each class will involve group work. I find collaboration very rewarding so I'm looking forward to the team projects.

I'm living in the newly constructed Graduate Residence just a hop, skip and a jump from the SLIS school, all the main university buildings, the Kinsmen Center and shopping on Whyte Ave.  So I have been very fortunate as well in location and type of housing.  I have my own room. Its small, but cute and perfect for me.  To maintain balance and counteract stress, I have enrolled myself in yoga classes twice a week...and since I paid for them I am committed to going to every class.

The Reading Room in the Rutherford Library (as shown in the picture right) is an inspiring place to study, although its a bit chilly so its necessary you bring a hot drink and chunky scarf.

My final thoughts: After my first week in the MLIS program I'm excited for all the learning to come, the people to get to know and the city and campus to explore. I will be joining a few associations to get involved, which I think is essential for every student to do. I'm feeling content, grateful and very fortunate in getting another chance at a university education, even better being in a Masters program.  Having worked for 10 years I feel I have the experience, confidence and mindset to be successful in the program that I never felt was there while completing my undergrad degree. It will be a lot of hard work but I expect untold rewards.

If you have any questions about a Masters in Library and Information Studies feel free to ask away...

August 26, 2010

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova


Psychiatrist Andrew Marlow, 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.

I really wanted to love The Swan Thieves as much as I loved The Historian but it just didn't capture my interest the way The Historian did.  Novels that incorporate art of any kind and art history usually fascinate me.  Some readers do not like a multitude of technical details and find they bog down the storyline, but for me I find they only enhance a story and make it more interesting. I thought The Swan Thieves would have such content for the size of the book but it really doesn't, though being lushly detailed its much more about the emotional journeys, obsessions and passions of the main characters in the story, with a bit of mystery thrown in. Unfortunately the mystery was not very suspenseful, more of a slow burn, darts of menace rather than a blaze of shocks.

Kostova's prose and development of plot and characters are first rate though. It was satisfying to read a novel where a lot of care is taken with the development of the characters, background events, description and dialogue.  On a side note this book had all sorts of interesting new words I have never encountered before like ecumenical and numinously. If you want to read a finely crafted novel, with intriguing characters, that you can immerse yourself in, and explores the darker human emotions of obsession, fear, entrapment, jealousy and deception, I would recommend The Swan Thieves.  If you are looking for an exciting, suspenseful read I would take a pass.

August 7, 2010

NPR Link Love - Nancy Pearl & Killer Thrillers


First of all if you have not heard of Nancy Pearl and you blog post book reviews you really need to check her out.  A long-time librarian, Nancy can be found doling out her book recommendations on NPR, in podcasts and in her own publications, as well as her website. She's wonderful to listen to and archives of her podcasts on various radio stations can be found at the iTunes store...best of all they are free!!

What I really wanted to mention though was Nancy's most recent article at the NPR website on "Under the Radar Reads". There are some books on the list that are on my to acquire list, Under Heaven and Blood Harvest and from Nancy's recommendation I'm adding The Lotus Eater's to my list.

Another article on the NPR website caught my eye, "Top 100 Killer Thrillers".  Here are the Top 20.

1. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
3. Kiss the Girls, by James Patterson
4. The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum
5. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
6. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown
7. The Shining, by Stephen King
8. And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie
9. The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy
10. The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
11. Dracula, by Bram Stoker
12. The Stand, by Stephen King
13. The Bone Collector, by Jeffery Deaver
14. Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton
15. Angels & Demons, by Dan Brown
16. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
17. The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton
18. Mystic River, by Dennis Lehane
19. The Day of the Jackal, by Frederick Forsyth
20. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier

So I have read 1,2,3,6,11,13,14,15,16 and 17. Watched 1,2,3,4,6,9,10,11,13,14,15,16,17 and 18 in either movie or tv format. I also own 1,2,6,10,11,15 and 20 in book format.

So do you think Silence of the Lambs deserves to retain the number 1 spot or should it have been overtaken by The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

NPR is a great organization. Check them out sometime. Happy Reading!

August 2, 2010

Fantasy in Death by J.D. Robb

They were best friends, driven by one shared vision - to rule the world of virtual reality games. Cill, hard-edged and beautiful, Var and Benny, brains and business acumen, and Bart, the genius behind the idea. Their newest invention, developed to transport the player into a fantastical virtual world, is just about to be launched. Then, suddenly, Bart is found brutally killed, defeated by their own game. Their close-knit group is torn apart. Who could have engineered a virtual death with such devastating consequences? Even Eve Dallas, New York City's most cunning investigator, is hard-pressed for an answer. But as she digs deeper, peeling back layers of secrets, revenge and misplaced allegiances, she realises with growing dread the depth of the killer's master plan. And she knows his game is far from over...

In Fantasy in Death the majority the progression of the storyline seemed too staged for me and some of the dialogue too canned. Since the victim has his head cut off there was quite a few one liners about being beheaded, detached, etc., and these just seemed unnecessary filler and silly. The scant action and overabundance of discussion made the plot stutter a bit, but the last 75 pages or so made up for the slow start. A lot of the ideas on "holonetics" were pretty frosty, as Peabody would say, and I found this aspect and the theories of the science, fictional and otherwise, super interesting. Fantasy in Death did not really reveal anything new about Eve and Roarke's relationship, other than that they would rather die together than have one of them live on after the other's death. I would recommend Fantasy in Death to fans of the series and those who have interest in gaming systems.

Next up in the In Death series is Indulgence in Death, to be released in hardcover on November 2, 2010.

My Rating: 4.0

ChaptersIndigo
Amazon

Related Posts
The Lost (Anthology)
Kindred in Death by J.D. Robb
Promises in Death by J.D. Robb
Salvation in Death by J.D. Robb
Naked in Death by J.D. Robb

July 25, 2010

The Lost (Anthology)

"Missing in Death" by J.D. Robb investigates a female tourist's disappearance during a ferry ride. Detective Eve Dallas wonders...if she didn't jump, and she's not on board, then where in the world is she? 

Eve makes a very difficult decision that goes against the rules she is supposed to abide by being in law enforcement. Sometimes the line between victim and criminal is blurred. Solid novella I highly recommend to J.D. Robb fans. My Rating: 4.25/5

In Patricia Gaffney's "The Dog Days of Laurie Summer," a woman awakens to a familiar yet unsettling world.

My first Patricia Gaffney story. This novella was very unexpected in that the soul of Laurie leaves her comatose body to inhabit a dog so she can still be near her family. Unique perspective and voice.  My Rating: 3.5/5

In Mary Blayney's "Lost in Paradise," a man locked in an island fortress finds hope for freedom in an enigmatic nurse.

Lost in Paradise was the weakest novella in the collection for me. It started too abruptly, the story felt forced and the religious undertones were overly pretentious. My Rating: 2.0/5

And Ruth Ryan Langan's "Legacy" belongs to a young woman who unearths a family secret buried on the grounds of a magnificent but imposing Irish castle.

Legacy is a very solid story that manages to develop credible relationships between Aidan and other characters she meets for the first time, in a handle full of days. Usually I find such rapid relationship development hard to accept, but in Legacy the story is very believable and this is fiction after all. My Rating: 4.25/5

In a novella either a relationship has to evolve in a credible way, or the story has to have impact and resolution, or a crime must be committed and solved...and in only 90 pages at that. A successful novella is hard to achieve and very difficult perfect. Anthologies seem to be published more abundantly now than in years past and, as its mainly a tool to introduce lesser known authors to readers, its difficult to get value for money.  I would recommend waiting for Missing in Death to be repacked with other J.D. Robb novellas or buy the ebook if available rather than spend your money on The Lost.

ChaptersIndigo
Amazon

Related Posts
Kindred in Death by J.D. Robb
Promises in Death by J.D. Robb
Salvation in Death by J.D. Robb
Naked in Death by J.D. Robb

July 20, 2010

Syrie James (Dracula, My Love) Huffington Post Article

Here's a link for an article in HuffingtonPost.com written by Syrie James discussing why she chose to write about Dracula for her next novel, Dracula, My Love, which was released today, July 20th in trade paperback from Avon (HarperCollins Publishers, 480 pages, ISBN-10: 0061923036).


What interested me the most in the article was her discussion on how the image of Dracula (or vampires) have evolved over the years. Vampires never used to be categorized as "sexy" but now this connotation runs rampant through popular vampire novels of today. Following is the book summary.

Syrie James approaches Bram Stoker's classic Dracula with a breathtaking new perspective--as, for the first time, Mina Harker records the shocking story of her scandalous seduction and sexual rebirth.

Who is this young, magnetic, handsome, fascinating man? And how could one woman fall so completely under his spell?


Mina Harker is torn between two men. Struggling to hang on to the deep, pure love she's found within her marriage to her husband, Jonathan, she is inexorably drawn into a secret, passionate affair with a charismatic but dangerous lover. This haunted and haunting creature has awakened feelings and desires within her that she has never before known, which remake her as a woman.

Although everyone she knows fears Count Dracula and is pledged to destroy him, Mina sees a side to him that the others cannot: a tender, romantic side; a man who's taken full advantage of his gift of immortality to expand his mind and talents; a man who is deeply in love, and who may not be evil after all. Soon, they are connected in a way she never thought humanly possible.

Yet to surrender is surely madness, for to be with him could end her life. It may cost Mina all she holds dear, but to make her choice she must learn everything she can about the remarkable origins and unique, sensuous powers of this man, this exquisite monster, this ... Dracula!


I very much enjoyed Syrie James' novel The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (author debut), which I read before I started my blog, and have The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte sitting on my bookshelf.  No doubt I will end up buying Dracula, My Love eventually, even though I'm not huge on the whole vampire craze right now.

July 19, 2010

Ever Felt There Was Something You Just Had To Do?

I was an average post-secondary student in university. By average I mean I was depressed, miserable and fearful of failing and had no clue what I was spending all that money for. I was the first child of a large number of cousins to go to university and really my parents were poor so they couldn't help me out financially. I ended up withdrawing from university for a year due to poor grades and lack of resources and I came back a year later, a bit more mature, as an unclassified student. Pretty much taking the expensive, hard, long way about it. When I graduated it was by default, not actually graduating with the Bachelor's degree I finally decided on, Computer Science, but a degree based on the fact that I had a large number of electives in it, Psychology. There was one highlight of my university career, I received an A in Library Science 2000. I LOVED that class. It was the first time I actually felt I had a talent for something.

After I graduated I applied to a MLIS program in Ontario and was rejected. I promptly forged ahead and landed with an amazing company, a private boutique bank where I started as a filing assistant and worked my way up to Senior Research Assistant, supervising staff among my main responsibilities of desktop publishing and copy editing research publications. Through working at this company for ~7 years as was able to pay off tens of thousands of dollars in student loans.

It really happened like this. An incident happened at work that broke though my contentment with my job. One day I was happy and the next day I was unhappy and restless. Not too long after that I woke up one morning and realized I HAD to go back to school, which I never thought I would ever do again. I HAD to try again and apply to an MLIS program. Have you ever felt that? Like you have been knocked over the head with a sledgehammer? The decision seemed taken out of my hands, out of my control, a total subconscious realization. From one day to the next my whole axis revolved from one future to another.

Can we talk about scared, confused, angry, nerve racking, exhausted, depressed, hopeful, anxious, numb, excitement, elation and then scared again? These are just some of the emotions I have gone through since May of last year through the process of applying to enter graduate school. Come September I will be entering a Master's of Library and Information Studies program at the University of Alberta. I'm going to be focusing on Information Technology.

Though I have always been a bit of an erratic blogger I'm not quite sure what time I will have to commit to the blog once I am in school. I still want to blog and I hope I can write about some of my adventures in the MLIS program, as well as continue with the book reviews. I'm always going to be reading and its fortunate I bought all these books sitting to be read on my bookshelf, as I won't have any money to buy more, being a broke student. Hey maybe I will actually have more time to read and review books as I'll need frequent breaks from studying. Guess I will find out come September.

If you have ever had such a momentus, life-changing event happen to you, I would love to hear about it.

Wish me luck!

Photo: http://www.slis.ualberta.ca/

July 18, 2010

Christine Trent's Upcoming Sophomore Release - A Royal Likeness


Last year, I was fortunate enough to receive a galley copy of Christine Trent's debut effort The Queen's Dollmaker. I loved The Queen's Dollmaker for its originality and cleverness; the story of Claudette Laurent, an entrepreneurial and strong willed frenchwoman who grows her business of dollmaking in England and comes to the notice of Marie Antoinette. If you have have not read the novel yet and have interest in the French Revolution I highly recommend it. There's much more to the story than the brief explanation above, so check out my review.

Christine Trent's next release is A Royal Likeness (a much more beguiling title than the original working title of The Wax Apprentice). I'm not that much of a fan of covers where the lady's head is cut off (can someone tell me why the industry favours this?) but this cover is gorgeous and if similar to The Queen's Dollmaker, will show the lady's face on the spine. A Royal Likeness is a sequel of sorts to The Queen's Dollmaker - this is Marguerite Ashby's story. Marguerite apprenticed to Claudette Laurent and eventually took over the management of the dollmaking shop.

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.

Release Date: December 28, 2010
Format: Trade Paperback
Publisher: Kensington
Pages: 384
ISBN: 0758238584
Amazon

Related Posts
The Queen's Dollmaker by Christine Trent

July 15, 2010

Upcoming Releases On My Auto Buy List


The fifth installment in the Lady Emily Ashton-Hargreaves series by Tasha Alexander, Dangerous to Know, to be released in hardcover October 26, 2010. I have read the first two novels in the series, And Only to Deceive (my review here) and A Poisoned Season and enjoyed them very much, but have yet to read A Fatal Waltz or Tears of Pearl, though they stuffed somewhere in my bookshelf.

After escaping from the hands of a ruthless murderer while honeymooning in Constantinople (Tears of Pearl), Lady Emily Hargreaves reluctantly agrees to recover from her wounds at her mother-in-law’s estate in Normandy. The calm permeating the lush countryside is destroyed when Emily, out for a ride, discovers the body of a young woman who has been brutally murdered. Begrudgingly accepting the investigation is firmly in the hands of the police, she focuses her attention on the reappearance of an old friend—Sebastian Capet, a thief of impeccable taste whom Buckingham Palace has taken a new interest in—until a series of clues draw her back into the fray. Haunting cries, the ghost of a small child, and two families afflicted with degenerative madness lead her into a terrifying game of wits against a cold and brilliant killer.

Pages: 320
Publisher: Minotaur Books
ISBN-10: 0312383797
Amazon  ChaptersIndigo

The Salt Road by Jane Johnson to be released in hardcover January 4, 2011. Jane Johnson's previous effort was The Tenth Gift (my review here), a wonderful timeslip novel I highly recommend to anyone. I think the cover is exotic and mysterious, don't you?

When Isabelle’s estranged father dies he leaves her the house she grew up in, in the attic of which lies a mysterious box with her name on it. Inside the box are three items: an archaeological paper about an ancient Saharan queen, a faded piece of paper written in what appears to be in Arabic, and a curious piece of antique silver: an amulet. 

In another place and time, Mariata belongs to a desert tribe which traces its roots back to Tin Hinan, founding queen of the Tuareg, the legendary Blue Men of the Sahara. She meets and falls in love with Amastan, a charismatic and damaged young warrior. But when her father takes a new wife who has no wish to live the nomad life he takes Mariata to settle in a town in south Morocco. Mariata hates her new existence; and when her stepmother plots to marry her off to a detested suitor, she decides to follow in the steps of her ancestress and make an epic solo journey a thousand miles into the desert in search of her lost love. 

Separated by different times and cultures, the lives of Izzy and Mariata are about to become fatally entwined. Izzy discovers that her amulet is a Tuareg artefact containing an inscription in Tifinagh, a language of the ancient world used for poetry and magic, understood now only by nomads in the deep desert. The desert routes once travelled by caravans of camels bearing ivory, gold and salt are now more perilous than ever but Isobel must follow them if she is ever to lay her ghosts to rest. 

Out in the magnificent wastes of the Sahara she will find more than she ever dreamed: not only the answer to her mysterious inheritance, but a romance as grand and sweeping as the desert itself…

Pages: 464 

Publisher: Doubleday Canada
ISBN-10: 0385669976
Amazon  ChaptersIndigo

Happy Reading!!

July 8, 2010

Blogger or Wordpress?

So I'm going to have some free time in about a month or so and I have these "day(s) for" planned. A day to spend watching movies, a day to spend reading, a day to get my recipes organized, a day to play PS3...and a day to update my website. So I need your input!  Blogger is what I have been using but I really want to spruce the layout up visually.  So do I stick with Blogger or move to Wordpress?  Anything I should know if I decide to move to Wordpress?  Thanks All!

   OR


  

July 2, 2010

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

Sister Evangeline was just a young girl when her father left her at St. Rose Convent under the care of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Now a young woman, she has unexpectedly discovered a collection of letters dating back sixty years - letters that bring her deep into a closely guarded secret, to an ancient conflict between the millennium-old Society of Angelologists and the monstrously beautiful Nephilim, the descendants of angels and humans. Rich and mesmerizing, Angelology blends biblical lore, mythology and the fall of the Rebel Angels, creating a luminous, riveting tale of one young woman caught in a battle that will determine the fate of the world.

The summary above from the publisher makes Angelology by Danielle Trussoni sound so promising and I had great hope that this would be a fantastic read, but unfortunately the novel did not live up to expectations. Albeit, maybe my expectations were too high. I won a a signed hardcover copy from Booklounge.ca and I had read S. Krisha's glowing review, so you can imagine I was quite excited to see its startling cover when it showed up in my mailbox.  I thought Angelology would be something like The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, as S. Krishna described, and in a couple ways it was. Evangaline is a young nun of St. Rose's who is suddenly confronted by an almost unbelievable past through a series of letters and she must delve deeper into the clues left for her by her grandmother to determine her history and her destiny. Superficially similar to The Historian no doubt.  Beyond the summary Angelology falls very short of the amazing work of fiction The Historian is.

I do give kudos to Ms. Trussoni for the interesting ideas involving Angelology and its intriguing historical content, as well as Angelologists and their eternal battle with the Nephilim. My mind was often left whirling from trying to absorb the unfamiliar but compelling concepts.

The novel is in three parts and changes focus from present day to historic day and back.  I found the language staccato in places, mostly at the beginning, which made immersing in the story difficult at first. A portion of the book was about an Angelologist by the name of Celestine Clochette, set years before Evangaline's time, and included some historical writings by a Bishop on an Angelology mission.  This section of the novel was truly interesting and engaging, I only wish the whole story was written this way.  There were an abundance of characters in the novel, each with their own act, which detracted from the story because point of view switched between characters too often and left me unable to become engaged with any one character more than the other.  This disconnect left me dissatisfied and feeling kind of left empty.

I am left with a couple of conclusions.  The "heart" of the story seemed missing.  Although the length of the novel at 464p (as compared to The Historian's 642p) seems average for most fiction novels, the switching from scene to scene to scene left me wanting more. There should have been much more description to enhance the erratic plot.  "Scene to scene to scene" is the operative qualifier...Angelology reads more like a movie script rather than the novel it is, depleted of all the promise of what could have been a truly great story.

My Rating: 3.0

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Related Posts: 
Gothic Fiction - Historical and Timeslip Favourites

July 1, 2010

Lucky To Live in Such a Great Country

Even if our Prime Minister is a dork!  Happy Canada Day!!!


June 27, 2010

Top 10 Hawaiian Experiences

Here's my top ten list of favourite Hawaiian experiences.  We spent two weeks in Hawai'i and ended up visiting four of the islands.  I would recommend Hawai'i to anyone and look forward to traveling there again.

10. The afternoon and evening we spent in Lahaina, Maui, where we shopped on Front Street, had dinner at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and watched the evening show, 'Ulalena, presented by Cirque du Soleil. Great steak and great entertainment.


9. Fred's Mexican Cafe, Kihei, Maui.  Watch out you don't fill up on the basket of freshly made taco chips and the margaritas because the entrees are super-sized.  I had mouthwatering shrimp, fish and calamari tacos, and at a great value too.


8. The shopping at Ala Moana Center, Honoloulu, Oahu.  J Crew on the Islands, Banana Republic flagship store, Coach, the awesome and huge Victoria Secret store, shoe stores aplenty.  What more could a girl ask for!


7. Makawao and area.  In Makawao proper you can see glass blowing at Hot Island Glass and there are numerous small little trendy shops like Pink, where you can shop for clothes, antiques, jewelry, spices, etc.  We lunched at the classy and contemporary Haili'imaile General Store, Maui...I had the blackened Ahi Tune Wrap with refreshing and zesty coleslaw, accompanied with glass of Conundrum and finished with a generous slice of chocolate truffle layer cake. Yum yum.


6. The Road to Hana.  Although I was not a fan of being in a tour bus and having to sit at the back of the van...we were able to go completely around Haleakala, instead of turning back at Hana from whence we came.  Highlights were the pineapple winery, the black sand beaches, and the Sacred Pools at Oleo Gulch. 




5. Watching the body board surfers at Sandy Beach on Oahu.  They were too cool for school...or just plain crazy.




4. The scenic views and snorkeling at Hananuma Bay on Oahu.  You have to pay a fee to enter the park but the setting is amazing and the snorkeling is pretty good too...and so is the beach!


3. The sunrise at Haleakala on Maui.  The drive was slow and twisty up the volcano in the pitch dark early morning (3:00 AM) to to watch the sunrise at 5:45 AM. Beautiful scenic views at the top and through the drive down.




2. The changeable landscape at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island .  We also experienced a 25 degree change in weather from the top of the Chain of Craters Road to the bottom...refreshing at the top and baking hot at the bottom.


1. The Trilogy catamaran sail from Lahaina, Maui to Hulope Bay, Lana'i and back. A full day trip.  We saw hundreds of spinner dolphins on the way to Lana'i, snorkeled in the Hulope Bay Nature Preserve, were provided breakfast, lunch, snacks and a late afternoon barbecue.  Great people, great sailing, beautiful sunset. A perfect day.


June 21, 2010

The Doomsday Key by James Rollins

At Princeton University, a famed geneticist dies inside a biohazard lab. In Rome, a Vatican archaeologist is found dead in St. Peter's Basilica. In Africa, a U.S. senator's son is slain outside a Red Cross camp. Three murder victims on three continents, linked by a pagan Druidic cross burned into their flesh.

Commander Gray Pierce and Sigma Force have only days to solve an apocalyptic puzzle dating back centuries. Aided by two women from his past-one his ex-lover, the other his new partner-Gray must uncover a horrifying secret that threatens America and the world, even if it means sacrificing the life of one of the women at his side. The race is on-from the Roman Coliseum to the icy peaks of Norway to the lost tombs of Celtic kings-and the future hangs in the balance. For humankind's ultimate nightmare is locked within a talisman buried by a dead saint-an ancient artifact known as . . . The Doomsday Key.

James Rollins action/adventure thriller novels are always far fetched, though the scientific details always have a basis in fact. This time, in The Doomsday Key, the scientific storyline delves into the areas of genetically modified foods, fungal viruses and super enzymes. The regular cast of characters are there, Gray, Monk, Painter, etc. with the addition of Rachel and Seichan in a new twist.  I'm always very keen on the scientific elements and arcane bits of knowledge, and in this, the novel does not disappoint. But The Doomsday Key does have too much of an overemphasis of the scientific problem at hand and I missed the emotional intensivness of the past two novels in the series, The Last Oracle and The Judas Strain.

I found this storyline less balanced and fluid in the doling out of details and the switching between description and character interaction. Consequently the pace of the story gets bogged down.  But the storyline is redeemed with the emotional wrenching and poignant events at the end that wrap up all the loose ends. James Rollins certainly thrills me and he will you too! Next up is The Devil Colony to be released in hardcover August 3, 2010.

Just want to reiterate that I detest the tall paperback format, as it makes my Rollins collection off kilter in height.  I saw this new "wide paperback" format of The Judas Strain in Indigo Spirit the other day. Wacky!  Hope it doesn't become mainstream.

My Rating: 4.0


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

June 10, 2010

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley


The summer of 1950 hasn't offered up anything out of the ordinary for eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce: bicycle explorations around the village, keeping tabs on her neighbours, relentless battles with her older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne, and brewing up poisonous concoctions while plotting revenge in their home's abandoned Victorian chemistry lab, which Flavia has claimed for her own.

But then a series of mysterious events gets Flavia's attention: A dead bird is found on the doormat, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. A mysterious late-night visitor argues with her aloof father, Colonel de Luce, behind closed doors. And in the early morning Flavia finds a red-headed stranger lying in the cucumber patch and watches him take his dying breath. For Flavia, the summer begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw: "I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn't. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life."

Did the stranger die of poisoning? There was a piece missing from Mrs. Mullet's custard pie, and none of the de Luces would have dared to eat the awful thing. Or could he have been killed by the family's loyal handyman, Dogger… or by the Colonel himself! At that moment, Flavia commits herself to solving the crime - even if it means keeping information from the village police, in order to protect her family. But then her father confesses to the crime, for the same reason, and it's up to Flavia to free him of suspicion. Only she has the ingenuity to follow the clues that reveal the victim's identity, and a conspiracy that reaches back into the de Luces' murky past.

Flavia de Luce, a little smartass curmudgeon, with a lightning quick mind, is like no other 11 year old girl. Her prestigious family lives in Buckshaw, the rambling ancestral estate of the de Luces. Her father either bolts himself in his study to pursue his philetist interests or in his aging Rolls Royce to grieve the long past death of his wife Harriet; her sister Daphne always has her head buried in Dickens or some other esoteric author; and her sister Ophelia spends her hours staring at her reflection and primping or absorbed in playing her piano. Flavia is left to her own devices, which would be to indulge in her obsessive interest in Chemistry in the laboratory she has claimed as her own at Buckshaw.

When Flavia stumbles upon a man dying in the early hours of the morning in Buckshaw's cucumber patch and with his last odorous exhale states “Vale”, she determinedly sets out to investigate the manner of his death.  Flavia is delicious in her pleasure of things of a gruesome nature. I often found myself chuckling at her over the top rudeness, diabolical thoughts and ornery nature. Flavia tries to be this strong, indomitable force, yet we are shown that at her heart she is still an 11 year old girl with a clutch of insecurities.

The novel is a complex formula in itself;  layers and sidesteps and sequences all combined together to form a brilliant deduction. The quality of the writing is first rate, with vivid descriptions of a bygone era. The abundance of details in this unique series debut are a sheer delight.  So many interesting topics are described in myopic detail that keep you enthralled with the story - philetology, chemistry, the art of conjuring, forensic science and investigations, and literature. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a brilliant effort that shines bright and true. Highly recommend.

Winner of the 2007 CWA Debut Dagger Award.

Next up in the series: The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag released in hardcover March 9, 2010.

My Rating: 5.0

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