Sunday, January 23, 2011

Random Reading Thoughts...

I just finished re-reading Kristen Britain's The High King's Tomb, the third novel in the Green Rider fantasy series, which is one of my all-time favourites.   Now I'm all ready for the release - on 1 February - of book 4,  Blackveil.  I have to tell you, I haven't been this excited for the release of a novel since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out back in 2007!  I'm not sure what it is about the series that has made me so crazy about it, but I think it has something to do with the fact that Britain has created a great heroine in Karigan G'ladheon, and the supporting cast of characters are simply wonderful.  Britain has pulled me into her tale by making me truly care about the people she has written about. 

While I wait for Blackveil to arrive on my Kindle I'm re-reading my favourite novel, Jane Austen's Persuasion, and starting on Baroness Orczy's The Scarlett Pimpernel.   I've heard The Scarlett Pimpernel is great fun! 

On a completely unrelated note, do any of you have an e-reader?  I got a Kindle a couple of months before Christmas, and just love it.   I have to admit, however, that until recently I've been quite reluctant to actually buy books for it unless I consider them to be a good deal.     Something changed last week, however, and I spent quite a bit of time perusing the Amazon Kindle Store.  The result was that I downloaded quite a few novels.  In addition to pre-ordering Blackveil, I also picked up Katherine Stockett's The Help, Tatiana de Rosnay's Sarah's Key and Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone, all of which fall within the historical fiction genre, as well as Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, a YA fantasy novel, and P.C. Cast's Divine by Mistake, which is also a fantasy novel - although it may be romantic fantasy, I'm not sure.    We'll see if my high rate of Kindle purchasing keeps up.   I'm due to read Susanna Clarke's Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell during February, which I already own but am considering buying for my Kindle anyway.  I hate buying the e-version of a book if it is already sitting on my shelves, but the copy I own is a massive trade paperback that I don't really feel like lugging around...

Anyway, that's all for now.   I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!

Happy Reading :-)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wist List Wednesday

It's time for another addition of Wish List Wednesday, my weekly meme where I share the books I added to my wish list over the course of the past week.    Feedback is gladly welcomed, especially if you think something on my wish list should be avoided! 

This week I added a few works of historical fiction to my wish list - no surprise there, since it is my favourite genre :-)

The Road to Jerusalem by Jan Guillou (synopsis from

For power. For passion. For glory. 

The epic story of the Knights Templar.

Born in 1150 to a noble Swedish family and coming of age at a monastery under the tutelage of a Cistercian monk and a former Knight Templar, young Arn Magnusson is sent to fulfill his destiny beyond the cloister walls. But the world awaiting him is a place at odds with his monastic ways. And when the murder of a king engulfs Western GĂ–taland into a whirlwind of intrigue and ruthless power plays, headstrong and naive Arn is forced to leave the woman he loves behind and take up arms to battle infidels in the Holy Land. 

The first book in the international bestselling Crusades Trilogy, this thrilling epic of betrayal, faith, blood, and love sets "a Shakespearian quest for power" (Corriere della Sera, Italy) against the backdrop of the Holy Wars, witnessed through a vibrant, unorthodox lens. 

Queen of the Summer Stars by Persia Woolley.  Book Two of the Guinevere Trilogy (synopsis from

Release date: 1 June 2011

In a country simmering with witchcraft and unholy alliances, Guinevere joins forces with her husband, King Arthur, to gain control of Britain's warring knights. She presides over fabled heroes-including Gawain, Merlin, Tristan and Isolde-and treacherous villains, including Morgan le Fey and Lancelot. Vibrantly human, she reigns as a woman poised to discover the true peril and promise of the human heart. The second novel of this Arthurian trilogy plays out the history and myth of the round table, brought to life through the words of an extraordinary queen.


Kingdom of Summer by Gillian Bradshaw.  Book Two of the Sir Gawain Trilogy (synopsis from

Release Date: 1 May 2011

While defending Arthur's kingdom, the great warrior Gwalchmai commits a grave offense against the woman he loves. She disappears, and haunted by her memory, Gwalchmai travels to the most beautiful land of all as he searches for her. But an unexpected and malevolent force of evil and Darkness has taken root there...and it will be up to Gwalchmai once again to serve the Light.

In the second book of Gillian Bradshaw's critically acclaimed trilogy, Sir Gawain comes to life as Gwalchmai, startlingly human yet fantastically heroic.


Those are the novels I added to my wish list.   What did you add to yours?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Book Review: The Wolves of Andover by Kathleen Kent

 Synopsis (from

In the harsh wilderness of colonial Massachusetts, Martha Allen works as a servant in her cousin's household, taking charge and locking wills with everyone. Thomas Carrier labors for the family and is known both for his immense strength and size and mysterious past. The two begin a courtship that suits their independent natures, with Thomas slowly revealing the story of his part in the English Civil War. But in the rugged new world they inhabit, danger is ever present, whether it be from the assassins sent from London to kill the executioner of Charles I or the wolves-in many forms-who hunt for blood. A love story and a tale of courage, The Wolves of Andover confirms Kathleen Kent's ability to craft powerful stories of family from colonial history. 


Avid Reader's Review

2.5 Stars

The Wolves of Andover is a prequel to Kent's debut novel, The Heretic's Daughter, telling the story of how Martha Allen came to meet, and fall in love with, Thomas Carrier.    Unfortunately, I couldn't shake the feeling as I was reading the novel that I would have enjoyed it more if I had already been familiar with the characters.    In other words,  despite the novel being a prequel, I feel I should have read The Heretic's Daughter first.   In fact, at times I felt as if the author assumed readers had read Heretic's Daughter, and nowhere did I think this more evident than in the novel's epilogue.   

I admit that the subject matter and period in history covered by this novel is not normally of interest to me.   Ultimately, however, I was never able to connect with any of the characters in the way necessary to draw me into the story; leaving me indifferent to their fates.    While this book didn't appeal to me, I think readers with an interest in colonial American history or those who read and enjoyed The Heretic's Daughter would find it a worthwhile read. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wish List Wednesday

I've added a couple of really great books to my wish list this week, one fiction and one non-fiction:

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley (synopsis from

When Eva's film star sister Catrina dies, she leaves California and returns to Trelowarth, Cornwall, where they spent their childhood summers, to scatter Catrina''s ashes and thus return her to the place where she belongs. But in doing so Eva must confront ghosts from her own past, as well as those from a time long before her own. For the house where she so often stayed as a child is home not only to her old friends the Hallets, but also to the people who had lived there in the eighteenth century. Eva finds herself able to see and talk to these people, and she falls for Daniel Butler, a man who lived and died long before she herself was born.  Eva begins to question her place in the present, and in laying her sister to rest, comes to realise that she too must decide where she really belongs, choosing between the life she knows and the past she feels so drawn towards.

Release date: 15 April 2011 in Canada and 11 May 2011 in the US and UK

Susanna Kearsley is one of my favourite authors, and I can't wait for the release of this one!


Henry II by D.L. Warren (Synopsis from

Henry II was an enigma to contemporaries, and has excited widely divergent judgments ever since. Dramatic incidents of his reign, such as his quarrel with Archbishop Becket and his troubled relations with his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and his sons, have attracted the attention of historical novelists, playwrights, and filmmakers, but with no unanimity of interpretation. That he was a great king there can be no doubt. Yet his motives and intentions are not easy to divine, and it is Professor Warren''s contention that concentration on the great crises of the reign can lead to distortion. This book is therefore a comprehensive reappraisal of the reign based, with rare understanding, on contemporary sources; it provides a coherent and persuasive revaluation of the man and the king, and is, in itself an eloquent and impressive achievement.

I've heard great things about this account of Henry II, a monarch who I've always been quite fascinated with - even more so since finishing Sharon Kay Penman's novel Devil's Brood.   I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but this one seems worth checking out.  

What did you add to your wish list this week?  

Friday, January 7, 2011

Book Review: Devil's Brood by Sharon Kay Penman

Synopsis (from   

The long-awaited and highly anticipated final volume in Penman’s trilogy of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine—a tumultuous conclusion to this timeless story of love, power, ambition, and betrayal.

Where the second novel in the trilogy, Time And Chance, dealt with the extraordinary politics of the twelfth century, climaxing with the murder of Thomas Becket and Henry’s confrontation with the Church and self-imposed exile to Ireland, Devil’s Brood centers on the implosion of a family. And because it is a royal family whose domains span the English Channel and whose alliances encompass the Christian world, that collapse will have dire consequences. This is a story of betrayal as Henry’s three eldest sons and his wife enter into a rebellion against him, aligning themselves with his bitterest enemy, King Louis of France. But it is also the story of a great king whose brilliance forged an empire but whose personal blind spots led him into the most serious mistake of his life.

Sharon Kay Penman has created a novel of tremendous power, as two strong-willed, passionate people clash, a family divides, and a marriage ends in all but name. Curiously, it is a novel without villains—only flawed human beings caught up in misperceptions and bad judgment calls. Most devastating to Henry was not his sons’ rebellion but his wife’s betrayal in joining them. How could it happen that two people whose love for each other was all consuming end up as bitter adversaries? That is the heart of Penman’s tale in Devil’s Brood.

Avid Reader's Review:

5 Stars

Incredible.  That one word basically sums up my thoughts on Sharon Kay Penman’s Devil’s Brood, an epic work of historical fiction focused on the final years of the reign of Henry II and his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine.    Penman brings the medieval court of Henry II to life like no other author can, leaving the reader feeling as if they are witnessing first hand the turbulent final years of Henry II’s reign rather than just being an outside observer through the pages of a book.  

I’ve always been intensely interested in the reign of Henry II, as well as his relationships with both Eleanor of Aquitaine and their sons.    Devil’s Brood brings Henry to life not only as a ruler, but also as a husband and father.   It also presents a balanced view of the reasons for Hal, Richard and Geoffrey’s rebellions against their father, and Eleanor’s early support for them.   Although I’ve always respected the intelligence and political acumen of Eleanor of Aquitaine, I can’t say I ever really warmed to her in any of the works of historical fiction I’ve read in which she’s been featured.   This novel changed my impressions of her, and Penman has given me a new perspective of Eleanor that has lead me to have a greater appreciation for why she supported her sons over her husband.   While I may have gained a greater appreciation for Eleanor, this novel has left me less impressed with Henry and Eleanor’s sons, who seemed to feel it their right to rebel whenever their father didn’t give them what they wanted, which was usually money, land and independence.   Never mind that Henry’s sons did very little, especially in their younger years, to prove that they could successfully rule – especially Hal, the Young King.    That said, it wasn’t difficult to see why the sons grew increasingly distrustful of their father.

Overall, not only did I find this novel incredibly interesting and entertaining, but thanks to Penman’s commitment to historical accuracy, I also found it to be highly educational – elements that, for me, mark a great work of historical fiction.   

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wish List Wednesday...

Happy Wednesday!  It's time for me once again to share with you some of the books I added to my wish list over the past few weeks. 

The following two novels have been added to my wish list courtesy of Sarah over at Reading the Past, who gave both books positive reviews:

The Hothouse Flower by Lucinda Riley  (Synopsis from

This is a heart-rending page turner which sweeps from war-torn Europe to Thailand and back again ...As a child Julia Forrester spent many idyllic hours in the hothouse of Wharton Park estate, where her grandfather tended the exotic flowers. So when a family tragedy strikes, Julia returns to the tranquility of Wharton Park and its hothouse. Recently inherited by charismatic Kit Crawford, the estate is undergoing renovation. This leads to the discovery of an old diary, prompting the pair to seek out Julia's grandmother to learn the truth behind a love affair that almost destroyed Wharton Park. Julia is taken back to the 1940s where the fortunes of young couple Olivia and Harry Crawford will have terrible consequences on generations to come. For as war breaks out Olivia and Harry are cruelly separated...

The Wedding Shroud by Elizabeth Shorrs (Synopsis from

In 406 BC, to seal a tenuous truce, the young Roman Caecilia is wedded to Vel Mastarna, an Etruscan nobleman from the city of Veii. The fledgling Republic lies only twelve miles across the Tiber from its neighbour, but the cities are from opposing worlds so different are their customs and beliefs.

Leaving behind a righteous society, Caecilia is determined to remain true to Roman virtues while living among the sinful Etruscans. Instead she finds herself tempted by a mystical, hedonistic culture which offers pleasure and independence to women as well as a chance to persuade the Gods to delay her destiny. Yet Mastarna and his people also hold dark secrets and, as war looms, Caecilia discovers that Fate is not so easy to control and that she must finally choose where her allegiance lies.

Exploring themes of sexuality, destiny versus self-determination and tolerance versus prejudice, The Wedding Shroud is a novel that vividly captures a historical time and place while accenting the lives of women of the ancient world.

Lastly,  I've also added one work of history non-fiction to my wish list this week:

The Tudors: The Complete Story of England's Most Notorious Dynasty by G.J. Meyers (description from

For the first time in decades, here, in a single volume, is a fresh look at the fabled Tudor dynasty, comprising some of the most enigmatic figures ever to rule a country. Acclaimed historian G. J. Meyer reveals the flesh-and-bone reality in all its wild excess.

In 1485, young Henry Tudor, whose claim to the throne was so weak as to be almost laughable, crossed the English Channel from France at the head of a ragtag little army and took the crown from the family that had ruled England for almost four hundred years. Half a century later his son, Henry VIII, desperate to rid himself of his first wife in order to marry a second, launched a reign of terror aimed at taking powers no previous monarch had even dreamed of possessing. In the process he plunged his kingdom into generations of division and disorder, creating a legacy of blood and betrayal that would blight the lives of his children and the destiny of his country.

The boy king Edward VI, a fervent believer in reforming the English church, died before bringing to fruition his dream of a second English Reformation. Mary I, the disgraced daughter of Catherine of Aragon, tried and failed to reestablish the Catholic Church and produce an heir. And finally came Elizabeth I, who devoted her life to creating an image of herself as Gloriana the Virgin Queen but, behind that mask, sacrificed all chance of personal happiness in order to survive.

The Tudors weaves together all the sinners and saints, the tragedies and triumphs, the high dreams and dark crimes, that reveal the Tudor era to be, in its enthralling, notorious truth, as momentous and as fascinating as the fictions audiences have come to love.

So, that's what has been added to my wish list.  What did you add to yours?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011 Reading Resolutions

Happy New Year!  Now that 2011 is upon us, I thought I would share some of my reading resolutions for the year:

(1) Buy fewer books.   I make this resolution every year but somehow always seem to end up buying more books than I did the year before :-).   Nevertheless, I will make this my top reading resolution of 2011.   I'm quickly running out of shelf space, so it just might be possible for me to actually achieve this resolution this year. 

(2) Make a dent in my To Be Read Pile.   As a result of my book buying addiction (see resolution #1), I have a very large to be read's more of a to be read mountain actually.  One of the things I'd like to do this year is finally read some of the books that have been languishing unread on my shelves for years. 

(3) Complete my 2011 Reading Challenges.   I've decided to participate in a number of reading challenges in 2011, and my goal is to successfully meet all of them. 

Those are my reading resolutions for 2011.   What are yours?