Thursday, December 31, 2009

Booking through best reads of 2009

btt button

What were your favorite books of the year? (Books that were new to you in 2009, if not necessarily published this year.)

I read a lot of good books. But the ones that have made an impact are the following, in no particular order (click on the titles to read my reviews):

The Unseen by T. L. Hines*
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway**
The Suicide Collecters by David Oppegaard*
My Father's Paradise by Ariel Sabar**
Sputnik Sweatheart by Haruki Murakami*
Breathing Out the Ghost by Kirk Curnutt**
The Horseman's Graves by Jacqueline Baker*
Random Acts of Heroic Love by David Schienmann**
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks**
Tender Graces by Kathryn Magendie*

I must not forget the following poetry books:

Judah's Lion by Anne Caston (poetry)**
A Climb Through Altered Lanscaped by Ian Parks (Poetry)*
Mainline to the Heart and Other Poems by Clive Matson (Poetry)*

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday


Wondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by Kathy of BermudaOnion

I found the following word in Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier

Embrasure (Page 41): In the window embrasure beside the the table where the chieftain had been working stood a little old chest.


  1. An opening in a thick wall for a door or window, especially one with sides angled so that the opening is larger on the inside of the wall than on the outside.
  2. A flared opening for a gun in a wall or parapet.

[French, from embraser, to widen an opening.]

embrasured em·bra'sured adj.

The Undertaker's Widow by Phillip M. Margolin

Title: The Undertaker's Widow
Author: Phillip M. Margolin
ISBN: 9780751524536
Publisher: Warner Books/1998
Pages: 372

Book Description

Judge Richard Quinn is young, idealistic, and honest to a fault. That's why he's handed the most sensational homicide case in Oregon history. Locked in a race for the U.S. Senate, Ellen Crease gunned down the intruder who murdered her wealthy husband. In a single, brutal instant she became a widow, a victim, and a hero. Soon it becomes clear that a deadly plot of murder, blackmail, passion, and double cross is unfolding around Judge Richard Quinn. And unless he breaks the rules, justice will not only be blind, it will be the final victim.

My Review:

Senator Ellen Hoyt is in the midst of a campaign. Late one night, someone enters her home with the intent of robbery or murdering her or her husband, who is a rich man, an Undertaker. Ellen guns down the man who had killed her husband. First she is taken for grieving widow, a victim which helps her in the campaign. But her rival can't stomach that. They have to get to her and they find it via Judge Quinn, who is as upright as one can be. However, Richard Quinn has some personal issues. His marriage is crumbling. A moment of weakness gets him into a spot. Powerful people want him to put down Crease. They have to get her out of the way. Quinn faces the truth that justice can be bent to suit ones end. He is at his wits end to protect himself and also the senator.

He tries to investigate it all by himself. And finds some unpleasant facts. He gets embroiled in murder, and blackmail. Is he able to save himself? And the senator?

It is good legal thriller which keeps the reader on the edge. The motive and murderer are unknown until the end. The ending comes as bit of a surprise. A good year end read. Those who like thrillers will enjoy this fast paced book.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier

‘You could come on with me.’ The man’s tone had changed. ‘I’ve got a roof, supper, a comfortable bed. For a pretty little thing like you, there’s other ways of paying.’

Heart's Blood
Author: Juliet Marillier
ISBN: 9780230017917
Publisher: Pan MacMillan/2009
Pages: 56o

When Caitrin arrives at Whistling Tor, she is seeking a safe haven for herself. From her demons. Both in her mind and physically too. A deeply mysterious place, most people avoid the deep, haunted forest. There is this cursed castle and a chieftain who is considered a weakling. Anluan is a cripple and doesn't seem to have much stamina. He doesn't know how to redeem his people from that curse. A curse that no one understands. The presence of spirits known as host. They are everywhere and only Anluan is capable of controlling them. But for how long? Who are those unknown spirits? Were they people once?

Caitrin is a scribe and she is hired by Anluan to unravel the family secrets. As he can't write because he can't use his right hand much. Caitrin, while doing her work, discovers secrets which affect her too. She can understand Anluan's torment and knows that there has to be a way to find a solution. Although no one can say how.

In the midst of it, she is ordered out of Whistling Tor by Anluan and she leaves it to face her own demons. And succeeds too. However, she knows she has to go back to Anluan and his people. She has fallen in love with them. All of a sudden, she has a vision of who/what is responsible for the curse. Only she can break the curse with the help of Anluan.

It is a beautiful gothic love story, with the suspense intact until the end. It is also a story of the Beauty and the Beast. Those who like fantasy, romance, mystery, suspense, all told in a skillful way, will like this book very much. I enjoyed it immensely. One of my best reads of 2009.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday: Mailbox/Whereabouts

Monday Mailbox is hosted by Marcia.

I received only one book in my mailbox:

To Desire A Devil by Elizabeth Hoyt

1765, London. England. Reynaud St. Aubyn, son the late Earl, arrives at his own home, unrecognisable, with a raging fever and half-mad. He has been taken for dead for the past seven years. The drab tea party thrown by Beatrice Corning, the niece of present Earl's niece becomes a hot-bed of gossip after his unceremonious arrival. Reynaud has come from the dead to claim his title. He has somehow escaped from the captivity of the Indians, with scars both in his soul and body.


I finished:

To Desire A Devil by Elizabeth Hoyt

Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier
Saving Cicadas by Nicole Seitz
The Captive by Brenda Joyce

I plan to read:

Anything that holds my interest

I posted reviews of:

Dantes' Inferno by Sarah Lovett
To Desire A Devil by Elizabeth Hoyt
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Night Secrets by Kat Martin

Sunday, December 27, 2009

TSS: The last of 2009

A whole year disappears in a jiffy! Or may be not. It was an interesting year with ups and downs. Both in blogging front and personal front. I read more than 150 books and plan to read a few more in the next few days. I read Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier and Saving Cicadas by Nicole Seitz in the last couple of days. I liked both.

Due to the holiday season, networking has been slow. I am way behind my reviews. I am planning to tackle those before 2010 strikes! I am not sure if I can but I will try.

Today I bought 8 books, the last ones of 2009. All for a steal. Believe it or not, I went for easy reads. Mostly romances. For someone who reads difficult books, I think I need to enjoy romances too. These are what I bought:

1) Captive by Brenda Joyce
2) The Courtship by Catherine Coulter
3) The Switch by Sandra Brown
4) The Valentine Legacy by Catherine Coulter
5) The Marshal and the Heiress by Patricia Potter
6) The Last Bachelor by Betina Krahn
7) Life Support by Tess Gerritsen-Medico thriller
8) The Undertaker's Widow by Phillip M. Margolin--legal thriller

Which one of those should I read first? I welcome suggestions!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Night Secrets by Kat Martin

Title: Night Secrets
Author: Kat Martin
ISBN: 9780-312970024
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks/1999
Pages: 342

Brandy Winters is works as a serving girl in her father's tavern, in Charleston. As a serving girl, she comes to know many sailors as they sail in to port and back out, month after month and year after year. One of those sailors is English Captain Marcus Delaine who is also the Earl of Hawksmoor. Brandy has admired and loved Marcus from afar for many years and Marcus too has watched Brandy grow into a very attractive young lady. One night he rescues her from a tavern patron. When Marcus tells her that his crew is taking a month long voyage before returning to England, on a whim Brandy decides to stow away on Marcus's ship for the short voyage. When she is found, sick and half dead, Marcus is not as kind as Brandy had hoped. He is very angry with her. However, she is not easily intimidated.

Night Secrets set in Charleston, on the seas, England, and takes a full circle. Marcus is a man of the sea and doesn't wish to be anywhere else. He doesn't want to fulfill his duties as Earl of Hawksmoor and thinks e will never marry because no one can take the place of the sea in life. A major accident occurs in the sea and Marcus is left disabled, he becomes embitted. When Brandy reaches out for him, he refuses to acknowledge even her existence. But Brandy doesn't give up easily, even though his behaviour is quiet hurtful.

Although unbelievable at times, Kat has managed to write a engrossing romance novel. With a spunky heroine, one can enjoy this book. Of course, as usual, it has that predictable ending. But then romance novels are!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Booking through history

btt button

Given the choice, which do you prefer? Real history? Or historical fiction? (Assume, for the purposes of this discussion that they are equally well-written and engaging.)

I like to read both. Real history as well as historical fiction. Real history takes us right into the midst of it. Reading history and analysing it is something I like to do. It gives me a better perspective of the present world. Most of the times, I have found real history more engaging than fiction.

In Historical fiction, the uthor takes liberties with the history aspect and can twist it to suit his/her own ends. That doesn't mean that I won't read it. I do but then I know am reading it for the enjoyment part of it and not for the education about history.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday


Wondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by Kathy of BermudaOnion

Taken from To Desire a Devil by Elizabeth Hoyt

Wigeon (Page 57): Oh, Jeremy, I am such a wigeon!

Any of four species of
dabbling ducks, popular game and food birds. The male European wigeon (Anas penelope) has a reddish head, cream forehead, and gray back. The male American wigeon, or baldpate (A. americana), has a white crown, green eye stripe, and brown back. Baldpates often graze on young grasses. The Cape wigeon (A. capensis) of Africa is a nocturnal feeder.

A-Z Wednesday: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Title: Things Fall Apart
Author: Chinua Achebe
ISBN: 9780385474542
Publisher: Anchor/1994
Pages: 224

Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe's first novel, was published in 1958. This book tells us about a great, brave, kind human spirit," is often compared to the great Greek tragedies. It deals with the age-old struggle between unyielding traditionalism and the winds of change.

Mostly, it is about the effects of British colonialism on a small Nigerian village at the turn of the century. A simple story of a "strong man" whose life is dominated by fear and anger, it is written with incredible economy and subtle irony. Uniquely and richly African, at the same time it reveals Achebe's keen awareness of the human qualities common to men of all times and places.

The novel speaks of Okonkwo, a leader andalso the wrestling champion in Umofia, which is a fictional group of nine villages in Nigeria, inhabited by the Igbo ethnic group. It also deals with his three wives and his children. However his oldest son Nwoye and his favorite daughter Ezinma have a special place. We also see influences of British colonialism and Christian missionaries on his traditional Igbo community in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.

The Ibo religious structure consists of chi--the personal god--and many other gods and goddesses. There is an issue here of fate versus personal control over destiny. For example, Okonkwo's father is sometimes held responsible for his own actions, while at other times he is referred to as ill fated and a victim of evil-fortune. The threads of the story follow a circular fashion, as opposed to a conventional linear time pattern. This is what makes it very interesting. Life is never linear but circular. The villagers believe--or maybe pretend to believe--that the "Supreme Court" of the nine egwugwu is ancestral spirits. In fact, they are men of the village in disguise.

Nature plays an integral role in the mythic and real life of the Ibo villagers, much more so than in our own society. AS was the norm of that time, seemingly barbaric acts are supposedly followed. These are done to appease the Gods so that no evil takes place. Okonkwo rejects his father's way and is in turn, rejected by Nwoye. The lives of Ikemefuma and Okonkwo are seen to be parallel to the extent that they both have fathers whose behaviour's are judged unacceptable.

I could identify with it in more ways than one as Hinduism too follows in a parallel way. We have Gods pertaining to every aspect…fire, wind, Earth etc. Hindus too believe in fate or destiny. Difference is, we believe in Karma too and changing the fate with our actions. Hinduism too believes that our ancestors come to bless us on certain days of the year. They do not interfere or anything but, they look on us from above. However, no living being impersonates ancestors. The rural population is still dependant on nature. Even now, Human sacrifice is rampant in some interior parts of India. Many tribes still follow the ancient Gods unquestioningly.

Things Fall Apart, though written almost 50 years back, has much to teach us even today. Nothing has changed in some parts o the world. Time stands still for them. Every day is a struggle and accepting something new is never easy. Though this has a tragic ending, it still teaches us about those basic human values of bravery, fearlessness and indomitable human spirit. Instinct for survival works very strong under any circumstances.

Also reviewed by:

SmallWorld at Home

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: To Desire A Devil by Elizabeth Hoyt

"He knew from looking in the mirror---once and only once---that his back was a mass of scars. Thin white ones carved through the tan of his skin. Thicker, reddened scars, the ones she'd felt before, roped from midback to his right hip."

~Page 257, To Desire A Devil by Elizabeth Hoyt

Title: To Desire A Devil
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
ISBN: 9780446406949
Publisher: Vision/2009
Pages: 340

1765, London. England. Reynaud St. Aubyn, son the late Earl, arrives at his own home, unrecognisable, with a raging fever and half-mad. He has been taken for dead for the past seven years. The drab tea party thrown by Beatrice Corning, the niece of present Earl's niece becomes a hot-bed of gossip after his unceremonious arrival. Reynaud has come from the dead to claim his title. He has somehow escaped from the captivity of the Indians, with scars both in his soul and body.

Beatrice recognises him from the portrait and doesn't know whom to support, her Uncle or Reynaud, who wants to regain his title. Reynaud knows that he can't do it without Beatrice's help. The gentle English lady is able to sway his body as well as his mind. Beatrice too is not immune to his charms. She is already half in love with his portrait.

Reynaud, along with his few friends, who had been in the war before his capture, learns that someone deliberately set them up to be caught and killed by the Indians. Who is that person? It has to be someone with influence. When several attempts are made on Reynaud's person, he knows he has to get into the bottom of it. When Beatrice gets almost killed, he knows he has to expose that person, no matter at what cost.

The interaction between the savage hero and the very proper heroine is good. Initially it does seem Reynaud is using Beatrice for regaining the title. But he also knows that after so many years of captivity, she only she is home for him. There are good many love scenes between the two but that doesn't seem out of place. It a very readable historical romance. I am going to check out more books by Hoyt.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Crime Fiction Alphabet: Dantes' Inferno by Sarah Lovett

Title: Dantes' Inferno
Author: Sarah Lovett
ISBN: 684955984
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/2001
Pages: 318

I had not heard of Sarah Lovett before this book. I picked it up mainly because the title interested me and the premise beckoned me.

The novel starts with a bomb blast in a museum where a teacher and a eleven years boy are killed. Edmund Sweatheart, a professor studying bombings is devasted as the boy is related to him. A serial bomber is threatening to destroy Los Angelos city. Before bombing any place he does give information about it in the lines of Dante Alighieri's work. Dr Sylvia Strange is assigned the job of getting into the mind of that bomber. John Dantes, a brilliant scholar, is suspected of the said crimes. The glitch is, he is already in a high security prison. It seems he has a compatriot who does his bidding. But how do they get in touch?

What made John Dantes turn the corner? Slowly we see Dr Sylvia Strange being affected by Dantes. He has the power to disturb her and seems to have some kind of hold on her. Is Dantes faking his insanity? Is he as troubled as he seems? How is he connected to M, the bomber who is outside.

Dantes' Inferno is a good psycho thriller. It keeps us completely enthralled in it. The nine circles of hell are very well marked in here. References to Alighieri's work is brilliant. Lovett's prose is very good. Fast paced and a page turner.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday Salon: Book Chat or otherwise at the fag end of December

The Sunday

As a whole, I have had a good reading year. I have read so many good books on varied genres. I participated in readathons and was succesful too.

The worst part was I lost my book blog to malware and despite trying my utmost best, google refused to release it. I created it blog and was back to blogging like never before. We Aries never say die! I made a lot of new friends who enriched my reading life. I also got offers from Authors and publicists for book reviews. From my side, I too requested quite a lot of books directly from authors and received a lot too due to their generosity.

Reading has kind of slowed down now. Mainly becos of my personal life. I am at crossroads and reading has not been able to give me pleasure. I can't even write poetry to sustain me.

I have been recycling reviews for the past few weeks. And writing pending reviews. THere are a lot of books that need to be reviewed. Maybe it is good thing that I am not reading much. I had kind of stopped visiting other bloggers too but now I am making an effort to visit and comment. It is slowly helping me read too. I am kind of slow, despite being a fast reader. However, I am not going to let anything deter me. Hopefully, my personal life sorts itself out. And I go back to reading with a bang!

These are my random thoughts this sunday evening. What are yours? All christmassy? Do let me know here!

Monday: Musings/Mailbox/Whereabouts

Monday Mailbox is hosted by Marcia.

I received only one book in my mailbox:

Saving Cicadas by Nicole Seitz via Thomas Nelson

When single mother Priscilla Lynn Macy learns she's having another child unexpectedly, she packs the family into the car to escape. Eight-year-old Janie and Rainey Dae, her seventeen-year-old sister with special needs, embark on the last family vacation they'll ever take with Poppy and Grandma Mona in the back seat.

The trip seems aimless until Janie realizes they are searching for the father who left them years ago. When they can't find him, they make their way to Forest Pines, SC. Priscilla hasn't been to her family home in many years and finds it a mixed blessing of hope, buried secrets, and family ghosts.

Through eyes of innocence, Janie learns the hard realities of life and the difficult choices grownups make. And she must face disturbing truths about the people she loves in order to carry them in the moments that matter most.


I finished:

For the Love of St. Nick by Garasamo Maccagnone
Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas--pdf form

I plan to read:

Anything that holds my interest

I posted reviews of:

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse
Cold Skin by Steven Herrick
Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel García
Midnight Magic by Betina Krahn


Musing Mondays (BIG)
When you buy books, do they immediately go onto your bookshelf to wait until you’re ready to read them (even if that means months/years from then!), or do you read them right away? What makes you do this? If you’re a ’shelver’, why do you think you don’t read the books right away? Do you ever feel guilty for letting the books sit there, unread? If you’re a ‘read-em-now’ person, why do you feel they have to be read right away? Do you give away the books when you’re done, too?

It totally depends on my mood. Sometimes I shelve those books and other times, I start reading right away. Suppose if I buy 10 books, 5 I might read right away and put the other five to be read later on. There are some books which have been there on thos helves, unread for years. Sometimes I do feel guilty about those books. And after reading, I do keep those books I mean to re-read, otherwise I give away. My nephews, nieces and close friends benefit most from me!

How about you?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Midnight Magic by Betina Krahn

Title: Midnight Magic
Author: Betina Krahn
ISBN: 9780821730669
Publisher: Zebra/1990
Pages: 445

1810. Devonshire, England.

Charity is considered to be jinxed. Whoever comes in touch with her supposedly gets into trouble. Rane Austen is hit by a bullet as soon as he first saw her. He somehow ends being nursed by her. It doesn't take long when he falls for her and has to have her. Charity, when she learns that she is jinxed, tries to keep him away from her life but he is not keen to let her go. With his charm, he makes her long for him and both end up making midnight magic.

Of course, it has that predictable ending but hilarious scenes and interaction between the dashing hero and the spunky heroine make it a refreshing read. This is my second Betina Krahn novel and I am going to read more from her.

As I have not been able to read much, a light, fast romance is good to dispell that non-reading spell.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Find: The Wrong Miracle by Liz Gallagher

The Wrong Miracle by Liz Gallagher

Short description/annotation:

From the cosmic to the domestic, from childhood flashback to adult matter-of-factness, from the simply chilling to the witty and authentic – cleverness and a surreal intensity entertain and enlighten, making Wrong Miracle an achievement of the amusing and the deep. These poems will tempt one to exclaim: ‘Ah, what a great thing for poems to do!’

Booking through speeding

btt button

What do you think of speed-reading? Is it a good way to get through a lot of books, or does the speed-reader miss depth and nuance? Do you speed-read? Is some material better suited to speed-reading than others?

I am one of those who is otherwise known as a fast reader. Speed reading is as I understand it, is to skip pages or skim pages, which not for me unless I want to finish it real quick and get on to another book. With romances I do tend to speed read. However, with other books, it is a big no-no. I prefer to read it on my own pace and time, which is infact very fast. I can read 100-120 pages in an hour. I usually finish a 400 pages book in a little more than three hours.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A-Z Wednesday: Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel García Márquez

Strange Pilgrims
Author: Gabriel García Márquez
ISBN: 9780140239409
Publisher: Penguin Classics/1994
Pages: 208

Strange Pilgrims is a collection of short stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, written over a period of eighteen years.These short stories depict the day by day mystic and beautiful expediency that has made the Nobel Prize-winning author so engaging. All the twelve stories involve Latin American characters that are peripatetic throughout Europe. While some stories may strike the reader as being quite peculiar, others will flummox while demonstrating the splendour of the human spirit. The stories take us on a journey of sort. A whole gamut of emotions and feelings run through us while we reading the unusual stories.

A father moves with the body of his daughter who is just beautiful in death as she was in life, for her to be declared a saint. It’s father love at the ultimate. Then there is an ex-president who is expected to die and is looked after a couple who have little money to spare. A young sent to an asylum for no fault of hers. A panicked husband rushes his wife to a Parisian hospital for treatment of a cut finger, but never sees her again. A man on an overseas plane flight preoccupied in thought about the beauty of a lady passenger as she soundly sleeps next to him. An elderly prostitute trains her obedient puppy to weep at her grave because she has a haunting premonition about her own death and has no one other than the dog to cry at her death. In one story, two little boys experiment with light flowing as water.

Marquez displays his penchant for bringing to mind curiosity in the reader through his use of colourful description and captivating characters. Strange Pilgrims proves, once again, that Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of the greatest storytellers of our time. The title of the book is apt as the reader indeed feels as if he is embarking on a pilgrim albeit a strange one.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cold Skin by Steven Herrick

They named me Eddie
after Mum's father
who died before I was born.
'A queit, stubborn bastard,'
says my dad.
I am not sure if he's talking about
grandad or me.

Title: Cold Skin
Author: Steven Herrick
ISBN: 9781741751291
Publisher: Allen & Unwin/2007
Pages: 264

A story told in verse, it is about a teenaged boy Eddie Holder, who lives in a small mining town, Burruga in Australia. The time period is after the world war II. He wants to leave school and work as a miner but his dad is dead against it. HIs brother Larry wishes to leave the town after finishing school. Their teacher, Mr Butcher is not a good man and is detested by most people in that town, including the Mayor.

Nothing much seems to be happening other than small fights. Then a beautiful girl is found murdered, and the suspicion of her murder falls on many men of that town. And truthfully anyone could have done it.

Told in the voices of Eddie, Larry and Sally, the teacher and Mayor, the story unfolds beautifully. Initially the voices do seem disjointed but tie up in a satisfying manner. Told in the form of verse, the chapters are at the most two pages and contain everything in a nutshell. Herrick has managed to hold that tension essential for whodunits until the end.

Eddie likes to observe people and draw his own conclusions. And it is from his viewpoints that we are able to get into the heart and mind of the characters in this fast-paced book. Works well as a YA novel.

And I am a sucker for poetry, I totally loved this book. Thanks to the author for my copy!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Crime Fiction Alphabet: Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

Title: Labyrinth
Author: Kate Mosse
ISBN: 978-0425213971

Publisher: Berkley Trade/2007

Pages: 528

In this elaborate thriller Labyrinth, two women strangly mysteriously linked across eight centuries, take up the search to find the legendary Holy Grail and guard its secrets from those who would use its power for evil ends. Kate Mosse spins an electrifying story of intrigue and hazard, with female characters who don't wait for men to lead. With valour and shrewdness, they plunge headlong into the everlasting search for truth. In this grail quest, women aren't helpless creatures to be rescued by knights in shining armour. They hold on their own, are central to the action, with the capability to change the course of history. The villains, in both eras too, are women. The climactic moments where the good and evil women are face to face and fight it out is very gripping...

Story in a nutshell:

July 1209: in Carcassonne, France, a young girl is given one of the three secret books, by her father which he claims contains the secret of the true Grail. Although Alaïs cannot understand the strange words and symbols hidden within, she memorises them and knows that she must protect it. It takes great sacrifice and lots of faith on her part to keep the secret of the labyrinth safe - a secret that stretches back thousands of years to the deserts of Ancient Egypt . . .

July 2005: Alice Tanner, a British Volunteer, stumbles upon two skeletons during an archaeological dig in the mountains outside Carcassonne. Inside the hidden cave where two skeletons lie crumbling, she experiences an overwhelming sense of malevolence, as well as a creeping understanding and familiarity. She can somehow make sense of the mysterious ancient words carved into the rock. Though she cannot comprehend fully, Alice realises she is trapped in a terrifying sequence of events for which she has no control and her destiny is somehow linked with the fate of the Cathars 800 years before.

Their stories are told in alternating chapters as both take utmost care to hide and protect their secrets. As history unfolds over the centuries, both find themselves entangled in the history and evil that surrounds them. The novel moves between past and present, one life reflecting and mirroring the other. Most of the characters in both eras are mirrored.

As one might expect of a labyrinth, it turns out that there are truths beyond the truths sought. There are twists and turns, memories to be retrieved and reclaimed, lovers' misunderstandings to be reconciled, fragments of the past to be salvaged and old betrayals to be, very satisfyingly, revenged. It has all these and more ingredients for a good novel.

Mosse's love of the location around Carcassonne is clear from her generous descriptions of the city and the surrounding countryside; and her research into the details of the historical facts and language is markedly wide-ranging. The novel does hold attention till the end despite some loose ends.

Monday: Mailbox/Whereabouts

Monday Mailbox is hosted by Marcia.

I received the following books in my mailbox:

1) The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson from the publicist.

Tarmon Gai’don, the Last Battle, looms. And mankind is not ready.

The final volume of the Wheel of Time, A Memory of Light, was partially written by Robert Jordan before his untimely passing in 2007. Brandon Sanderson, New York Times bestselling author of the Mistborn books, was chosen by Jordan’s editor---his wife, Harriet McDougal---to complete the final book. The scope and size of the volume was such that it could not be contained in a single book, and so Tor proudly presents The Gathering Storm as the first of three novels that will make up A Memory of Light. This short sequence will complete the struggle against the Shadow, bringing to a close a journey begun almost twenty years ago and marking the conclusion of the Wheel of Time, the preeminent fantasy epic of our era.

2) For the Love of St. Nick by Garasamo Maccagnone from the author
Two boys who have lost their mother tragically, worry they'll never see their father,a Naval Commander, after he embarks on a secret mission with the United States military. After the boys are advised by their nanny to seek the help of St. Nick, the boys are shocked by an early Christmas visit.

3) Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier from the author
A haunted forest. A cursed castle. A girl running from her past and a man who’s more than he seems to be. A tale of love, betrayal and redemption…

Whistling Tor is a place of secrets, a mysterious wooded hill housing the crumbling fortress of a chieftain whose name is spoken throughout the district in tones of revulsion and bitterness. A curse lies over Anluan’s family and his people; the woods hold a perilous force whose every whisper threatens doom.

And yet the derelict fortress is a safe haven for Caitrin, the troubled young scribe who is fleeing her own demons. Despite Anluan’s tempers and the mysterious secrets housed in the dark corridors, this long-feared place provides the refuge she so desperately needs.

As time passes, Caitrin learns there is more to the broken young man and his unusual household than she realised. It may be only through her love and determination that the curse can be lifted and Anluan and his people set free...

4) Tirissa and the Necklace of Nulidor by Willow Chase from the author

One day twelve-year-old Tirissa discovers that everyone in her village is under a spell. Everyone but her! Then she sees a mysterious stranger change into a huge bird, a bird with a beak like a sword. Did he cast the spell? Desperate to find someone who can break it, she flees, leaving her village behind. An old herbwoman tells her to seek help from a wizard who lives far away, and her journey takes her across the Three Kingdoms. Along the way she’s joined by a kindly troll and a short, fat palace guard. They are pursued by the twin princes of Kellayne, the best hunters in the Blue River Kingdom, as well as by the huge, dangerous bird. Meanwhile, an evil wizard watches Tirissa and her friends in his magic mirror and plans a second spell that will kill everyone in the Three Kingdoms.


I finished:

Absolutely nothing!

I am in the midst of reading:

Too many books!

I plan to read:

Anything that holds my interest

I posted reviews of:

Midwife of the Blue Ridge by Christine Blevins
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Scottish Thistle by Cindy Vallar
The Curse of the Holy Pail by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Weekly Geeks : Making a list

Do you have a book wish list for the holidays? If so, what's on it?

I have a permanent wish list. I keep adding to it. There are too many books to list here. Recently I have started a blog wishing for books, books, more books for my wishlist but yet to add the books I have jotted down in my journal. Too long and cumbersome.

Are you very specific when someone asks what you want for a gift? Or do you throw caution to the wind and say, "Oh any book you choose...." Or do you prefer a bookstore gift card?

Sometimes I am specific. Mostly I take what comes. If someone asks then I tell them about books. Bookstore gift cards are always welcome!

Do you buy books for people on your gift list? Do you choose books for them that you like and try to influence their reading (or hope they'll loan it to you when they're done)? Or do you get specific titles from your giftee?

Yes, for children I buy books. I take them along and let them pick out books. I don't try to influence but I do suggest titles.

Where do you buy your book gifts? Do you shop at local independent bookstores, or the "big box" stores? or do you shop online?

Any good bookstore works well. No, I seldom shop online.

The Alphabet in Historical Fiction: Midwife of the Blue Ridge by Christine Blevins

"It's a rare thing for a child to be delivered at my convenience..." Hannah launched herself from the warm cocoon of her bedcovers. A midwife is never surprised by a knock on the door, but Hannah Cameron was indeed surprised when she opened the door and found a strange, bedraggled mite of a girl on her stair step.

Title: Midwife of the Blue Ridge
Author: Christine Blevins
ISBN: 9780425221686
Publisher: Berkley books/2008
Pages: 417/Historical

It is early 1760s in Scotland. Maggie is that girl who arrives at Hannah's doorstep. She has survived the massacre in her village, and is taken to be unlucky. Hannah has no such notions and takes her in, teaching her all her medicinal skills. However Hannah's dies due to extreme cold and Maggie, at 22 years of age is again left with no one. No one is ready to marry the dark haired beauty as she is considered cursed.

Maggie only has her wits, her knowledge of medicines and her midwifery skills. She ventures out as an indentured servant towards the American colonies to seek a better life. In the ship she travels, she catches the eye of a debauched Duke, who wants to buy her out. However, Seth Martin succeeds in that as he needs someone to look after his three children and his sick and pregnant wife. Seth, is a good man and his family takes to Maggie in no time. Maggie with her knowledge of medicines becomes very popular. Tom Roberts, Seth's best friend is attracted towards her but does want to have any roots and leaves her for hunting.

Meanwhile, Cavendish, the Duke wants the land and Maggie bargains herself over to him, for Seth and his family. She is treated brutaaly almost broken and beaten. But she survives, all the while making plans to run away.

Blevins has treated the story well, she does not soft pedal it, she shows the stark reality a woman who has no support, has to face and endure. She shows the strength of character a woman can have in such circumstances. Maggie has all of those and knows how to survive. She does not let herself break apart.

The novel touches upon the perils of colonisation, the whites and the warrier Indians and shows both their strenghth and weaknesses. I did find it longwinded at places, but as a historical novel, it really works well.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Find: The Music Room by William Fiennes


The Music Room by William Fiennes

From Publishers Weekly

Just after Fiennes (Snow Geese) was born, his family moved into a medieval English estate that included a castle surrounded by a moat. The estate was an inheritance passed down from his father's ancestors since the 14th century. The castle in particular proves to be the book's most evocative metaphor for how every man is and is not an island. The book is part memoir, part journalistic profile and philosophical digression, all revolving around Richard, Fiennes eldest brother, who suffered from extreme epilepsy. In taut and exacting prose that profits grandly from vivid descriptions of the estate grounds and the working-class people who care for it, Fiennes recounts life alone in a home that was mostly only semiprivate. It was often used by TV and film crews as a backdrop. His older twin brother and sister went to boarding school while Richard convalesced in an insane asylum. Fiennes recalls the trials of familial love punctuated by a brother's violent seizures and outbursts (once scalding their mother's face with a hot cast-iron pan). His portrayal of Richard, moreover, is at once affectionate and brazenly honest. Fiennes allows him to come off as sick, magical yet somewhat boring (he talks incessantly about his favorite soccer team). The book feels fluffed up at times with asides on the history of epilepsy, but more often than not these serve the greater purpose of evoking a sense of continuity and reflection.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Spot on!

btt button

What items have you ever used as a bookmark? What is the most unusual item you’ve ever used or seen used?

I have a lot of bookmarks and mostly I use those. However, I also use boarding passes, bus tickets, or any rectangular piece of card that is handy. I am not very fastidious although I do have a leather bookmark that I really love. I can use anything that I can lay my hands on. A few times I have also placed my comb or my cellphone to mark my place. Is that gross?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A-Z Wednesday: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

This is a repost....

Title: The Road

Author: Cormac McCarthy
ISBN: 9780330448628
Publisher: Picador/2006
Pages: 307
Rating: 5/5

It is a story, if we can call it that, about a father and a son who remain nameless throughout the narration. Both are walking through America, which has been ravaged by fire. They are walking towards south to the coasts. On their way to it, there is nothing but ashes, burnt trees, and soulless houses. They have each other and a pistol for a company. They pass through dead towns, looted houses, finding corpses on their way. They are afraid to meet other fellow human beings. Men who kill for food, for any kind of food.

The Man all the while tries to save the boy. Love and despair go hand in hand. Without the boy, he would have been dead long ago. Survival is the key. He does all he can to save himself and his son. However, he also prepares the boy to survive in case he is no longer there. The interactions between the father and the son is very interesting. We do not see dialogues, only narration. The Man instils moral values in the boy even in great adversity. At certain places, we see that he is not disappointed. His son has risen above the father.

The sparseness of languages enhances the harshness of the situation. This is what makes it chilling, scary and very gripping. If we do not take care of our Earth, this might become a reality. A forest burning is not a new phenomenon. The same reaching out cities and destroying can become a fact. What is shocking is that it can become a reality. The nameless people could be us…

Language used can be called poetry in prose. One pauses at certain places to enjoy the sheer beauty of words. One feels sad. However, there is hope too at the end, a salvation of some kind. This book should be read by all. Those who do not care for the Earth and those who truly love it.

To be precise, this book is not everyone's cup of tea. Only those who appreciate serious reading should go for it. Many might find it difficult to follow it through the end as it appears bleak. It is not the feel good kind of novel for those peppy readers. For them, my suggestion is- leave it well alone!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Not related to books or reading

Have you ever felt you lost your moorings? I have been feeling that way lately. One of the reasons for not visiting and commenting. I do post to keep myself out of depth of despair but visiting and commenting has taken a beating.

I know I will get out it. But when, I can't say...

Right now nothing is helping me. Books, least of all...

Teaser Tuesdays: The Scottish Thistle by Cindy Vallar

Earlier, Thistle had blessed the torrential rain. Now, the smuggler cursed it.

Title: The Scottish Thistle
Author: Cindy Vallar
ISBN: 1592797121
Publisher: Amber Quill Press/2006
Pages: 404

About the book:

Loyalty and honor. A Highland warrior prizes both more than life, and when he swears his oath on the dirk, he must obey or die. Duncan Cameron heeds his chief’s order without question, but discovers his wife-to-be is no fair maiden. Although women are no longer trained in the art of fighting, Rory MacGregor follows in the footsteps of her Celtic ancestors. Secrets from the past and superstitious folk endanger Rory and Duncan as much as Bonnie Prince Charlie and his uprising to win back the British throne for his father. Rory and Duncan must make difficult choices that pit honor and duty against trust and love.


My views:

Notwithstanding the storyline, this book takes us into the highlands and lowlands of Scotland, a veritable journey into its history. We learn about its customs, culture and about its proud people. At a first glance, it looks like a romance, but it isn't so. Rory is fiercely independent. Duncan too knows that he can't tame her spirit. He loves her for it. When they have to choose sides to fight for causes, their love is truly tested. However, that is not the only interest. It is the historic bit which engrossed me. For all those history lovers, it is a book worth picking up.

Thanks to Tracee of Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Tour for the book.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Crime Fiction Alphabet: The Curse of the Holy Pail by Sue Ann Jaffarian

By the age of forty-seven, I had technically broken nine of the then commandments. Although, I'm still fuzzy about the whole graven image thing.

Title: The Curse of the Holy Pail
Author: Sue Ann Jaffarian
ISBN: 9780738708645
Publisher: Midnight Ink/2007
Pages: 343

The book is set in New Power Beach, California. Odelia Grey, a paralegal and a plus size woman, gets involved in a murder when one the clients of her firm, is murdered. Sterling Price is a millionaire who collects lunch boxes. He is murdered and a lunch box goes missing. Now who would want a lunch box? But the said lunch box, known as the Holy Pail is worth a fortune.

There really are people who can go to any extreme to get hold of the holy pail. It has a curse that whoever owned it has died. Odelia takes it upon herself to solve the murder. She makes it a point to talk to everyone who has come into the periphery of Price.

With queer set of people thrown in, it is a fun filled mystery. It does keep us laughing but I found it repetitive at places. I wouldn't call it a nail biting one as I could guess the murderer somewhere in the middle. Maybe going around in circles about the purpose, cause and people did that to me. Humour is there but mystery fizzles out.

Odelia grey is a lovable character and one of the hudlums here too is likeable. Then there is a romantic angel between Odelia Grey and Greg, 10 years her junior. I found their relationship very sweet. It does have its redeemable points.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Monday: Musing/Mailbox/Whereabouts

Monday Mailbox is hosted by Marcia.

I received the following books in my mailbox:

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest from the author

From Publishers Weekly

In an alternate 1880s America, mad inventor Leviticus Blue is blamed for destroying Civil War–era Seattle. When Zeke Wilkes, Blue's son, goes into the walled wreck of a city to clear his father's name, Zeke's mother, Briar Wilkes, follows him in an airship, determined to rescue her son from the toxic gas that turns people into zombies (called rotters and described in gut-churning detail). When Briar learns that Seattle still has a mad inventor, Dr. Minnericht, who eerily resembles her dead husband, a simple rescue quickly turns into a thrilling race to save Zeke from the man who may be his father.

Conflicts of Interest by Michael Ruddy from the Publicist

T.R. Morgan, a seasoned building professional, finds himself entangled in the combined corruption of the high profile law firm that is attacking him and the insurance companies that are supposed to defend him. Still enduring the painful memories brought on by the tragic death of his wife, he soon finds out, nothing involving lawyers and insurance companies happens quickly. Instead of resolution, T.R., unwittingly enters a world of human trafficking, drugs, and illicit sex taking place behind the scenes. And his story comes forward to an explosive climax that no one could possibly foresee, least of all T.R. himself. This suspenseful tale of contemporary fiction is packed with enlightenment and high-stakes characters; provoking thought on a new subject in a new light.

She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb (bookmooch)

Dolores is a class-A emotional basket case, and why shouldn't she be? She's suffered almost every abuse and familial travesty that exists: Her father is a violent, philandering liar; her mother has the mental and emotional consistency of Jell-O; and the men in her life are probably the gender's most loathsome creatures. But Dolores is no quitter; she battles her woes with a sense of self-indulgence and gluttony rivaled only by Henry VIII. Hers is a dysfunctional Wonder Years, where growing up in the golden era was anything but ideal. While most kids her age were dealing with the monumental importance of the latest Beatles single and how college turned an older sibling into a long-haired hippie, Dolores was grappling with such issues as divorce, rape, and mental illness.

I bought the following 9 books last sunday and forgot to mention here. Out of those I finished read 5-9:

1) The Floating Admiral by Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, G. K. Chesterton
2) The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
3) Colony by Anne Rivers Siddons
4) S. by John Updike
The Emerald Swan by Jane Feather
6) Creole Angel by Peggy Hancher
7) After Innocence by Brenda Joyce

8) Night Secrets by Kat Martin
9) Midnight Magic by Betina Krahan


I finished:

The Emerald Swan by Jane Feather
Creole Angel by Peggy Hancher
After Innocence by Brenda Joyce

Night Secrets by Kat Martin
In An Uncharted Country by Clifford Garstang

I am in the midst of reading:

North Of Calcutta by Duanne Evans
Dead Floating Lovers Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli
Becoming the Villainess by Jeannine Hall Gaily (poetry)

I plan to read:

Anything that holds my interest

I posted reviews of:

In the Shadow of the Glacier by Vicki Delany
Judah's Lion by Anne Caston

Musing Mondays (BIG)
Do you have your own idea of what constitutes proper library etiquette? Is there anything you always try to do? Anything you hate when others do?

Foremost thing is one ought to be silent in a library. Some people just don't get it and jabber away. Then there are those who dog-ear books. I truly hate that. Some library users simply stand at a place and don't let others browse. I have found chewing gums inside books and that completely maddens me.