Sunday, June 29, 2014

The House Of a Thousand Lanterns by Victoria Holt

The House of a Thousand Lanterns by Victoria HoltI almost gave this 2.5 stars but it probably deserves 3.


For three quarters of the book I was waiting for something to happen. Oh, things happen but not suspenseful things. The most interesting thing was the Chinese lantern festival. That's something I would love to see. But until the very end I wondered if I was even reading a Gothic. Where was the chilling suspense?

and the characters...I just better shut up. No sense in banging imaginary heads together.

This isn't Holt's best. But if you're new to the genre and can read a book without trying to "improve " it in your mind and if don't mind some senseless repetition and rooting for the wrong person then you'll probably enjoy this. But she can do so much better.


SEX: Behind closed doors, mention of mistresses.
VIOLENCE: Not an issue
PARANORMAL ELEMENTS: Brief mention is made of yarrow sticks, cards and tea leaf reading. Also ancestor spirits not being "happy".


The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

The Blue Castle by L.M. MontgomeryThis is a sweet story about a spinstery spinster who conversely is given a new lease on life when her doctor pronounces a death sentence on her. "If I have only one year to live", she reasons, "I had better start living"!

The first thing Valency does while squeezing out of society's cage is to see things (and people) as they truly are and speak the truth, niceties and platitudes be hanged!

I have to say that if I wasn't pressured by my daugher to keep reading this, I would have given it up around page 45. It read like a serious pity party. 'Wah Wah Wah, I have a miserable life, no one likes me, I'm not even pretty, and did I tell you about the time my special buttons were unjustly shared out when I was a child... I hate this room, I hate porridge, all I want is a dust pile of my own....' serious whineage going on! I wasn't sure I could stomach any more. But my daughter ripped the book out of my hands, flipped the pages and said, "Give it 10 more pages". I did. And it turned out very good. So if you're tempted to give it up, give it to page 50-55 and then decide.

And for the record: Barney is quite possibly one of the sweetest heroes ever. No tall dark and handsome claptrap, just an honest to goodness decent guy for a change. We need more of that.

And I added a new word to my vocabulary: SNOBOCRACY. I love that!


The House Of A Thousand Candles by Meredith Nicholson

The House of a Thousand Candles by Meredith Nicholson
I saw this while browsing ebay just after I had finished reading The House of a Thousand Lanterns. How could I read about 1,000 lanterns and not 1,000 candles, right? Besides, I like obscure books. There's very few opinions out there so I don't feel swayed by popular opinion or shy of hurting an author's feelings. :) Anyway, you can read it for free on Openlibrary so I decided to give it a go.

A young, irresponsible man inherits his grandfather's estate with stipulations. He has to live there for one year and never leave town, he has to clean up his wild ways, and if he forms any romantic attachment to a certain individual he loses everything.

Rumor has it that there is treasure hidden in the house, and knowing the old man (an architect), it seems a likely thing he would do for amusement. Most of the house is unfinished and there are sounds of footsteps in the walls at odd times. Compound that with shots in the dark and chases through the snow and you have a general feeling of the book,

Well, as promising as it sounds, it was a no go for me. I did read the whole thing but it was rather dreadful. Oh, the writing was ok, but I never liked the characters, I thought the main character was a bit of a jerk and he pretty much stayed that way. The mystery was ok, but nothing thrilling and slightly predictable. Romance was very 'meh'. I couldn't see why the girl was attracted to him and all she had to do was grow up and he was like a hound dog on a coon's trail.

Bottom line: Check it out on OpenLibrary but don't rush to ebay to buy it unless you've read the author's other works and like his style. (yes, Meredith is a HE). It was just ok for me.


SEX: None
VIOLENCE: A shoot out during "seige" and general knockabouts throughout.


The Nightingale Girls by Donna Douglas

The Nightingale Girls by Donna DouglasI really liked this. At first I wasn't sure if I would. I wanted more hospital/patient stories and less nurse stories but hello, look at the title. It is a book about three student NURSES in 1930s East End London.

It is a bit of a soap opera, fans of 'Strong Medicine' (not a book, I know but you get the idea) and ' Call The Midwife' will like this. I found myself getting quite engrossed in their lives and had a hard time putting the last half of the book down. (In fact, as soon as I turned the last page I grabbed the next book in the series and bookmarked the first chapter).

There are love interests in the book but everything is kept clean which I appreciated.

Bottom line: Well worth the read and pretty absorbing.


SEX: (view spoiler)
VIOLENCE: Not an issue
PROFANITY : Mild (B, D, H)


*I received a free ebook from Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sleep in the Woods by Dorothy Eden

Sleep In The Woods by Dorothy EdenI'm rather surprised to see several two star ratings for this excellent book. Were we reading the same thing? I absolutely loved this!

A servant girl accompanies two young ladies to New Zealand in their gentlewomanly pursuit of husbands. In a Cinderella -like twist, the servant girl Briar sneaks into a masked ball where they're doing the ancient wedding dance and lands herself a husband. Unfortunately for her, it was not the man she was aiming to snag, and unfortunately for him, she was wearing her mistress's gown and he also got the wrong girl.

But he needs a wife and she wants a home so they decide to go through with it and this is where the story really cranks it up a notch.

While Saul and Briar seethe with an intense hatred/ begrudging admiration for eachother, their biggest challenge isnt their loveless marriage but where they decide to set up home; for Saul lives in a remote region where the Maori are warring with the settlers and those they tomahawk and kill, they eat in their ceremonies...

I found this a gripping read and so real as to human nature and emotions. I could feel the agonizing frustrations of both Saul and Briar and while I wanted them to "sort things out" and be happy, the story was realistic. True understanding and appreciation take time and is all the sweeter when it arrives.

Lovers of Emma Drummond, M.M. Kaye and Catherine Gaskin would like this!


SEX: Fade to black but perhaps a little mature for young readers.
VIOLENCE: Maori warring, some descriptions of their ceremonies and "feasts".

MY RATING: PG-13 for sexual content and disturbing imagery

Beloved Rebel by Sylvia Thorpe

Beloved Rebel by Sylvia ThorpeWell, thank goodness that's over!

This was a buddy read with Tweety and I refuse to look at her review until Ive sorted my own thoughts out. :)

The 1600's are not my preferred time period, I'd better say that at the outset because I'm sure others will enjoy this book more than I did.

My main complaint is with the characters. Why oh why do I seem to root for the wrong characters? For once Id like to see an author turn the tables on the obvious and go for the ultimate twist: the triumph of the underdog. *sigh*

In a nutshell: Gervase is a fugitive after the uprising of the Duke of Monmouth fails. Anyone who is found aiding and abetting such fugitives earn the penalty of death. This does not thwart Elinor, Gervase's wife whom he married 5 years prior at the tender age of 13 (even though she has not set eyes on him since) from stepping in time and again to save his sorry butt .

I found it difficult to believe that a 13 year old girl would be so infatuated with a man she married by arrangement and in name only and whom she'd only seen two or three times. He viewed her as no more than a child. (that is, until he comes back, and lo and behold the twerpit has grown up! Who is this creature with golden eyes and bosoms? )

As the story played out there was ample opportunity to show us some depth of character or even personality on the part of the hero but for the life of me I could see no reason why she should like him, let alone love him to distraction and risk her neck for him. For my part, I didn't care much whether he was caught or not.

No sex, profanity or violence

Jackie; the adventures of a little boy trying to grow up by John Tammela

Jackie: The adventures of a little boy trying to grow upYou really have to ignore the cover on this one. The melancholy boy gives the impression that the book is about overcoming some kind of childhood trauma or abuse, but it's not. This is a memoir of a 1930-40's childhood. You know, snowballs, appendicitis, chewing gum, visiting the dentist, porridge for breakfast, that kind of thing. Nothing angsty at all.

In fact, I'm a little confused as to who the projected audience is. Again, the cover looks like its for an adult audience but when you open it up and see the font size (it's quite large) and the pencil sketches at the beginning of each chapter, as well as the simple sentence structure it feels more like a book for 10-14 year olds.

Anyway, if you are in the 10-14 age range I think you would enjoy this, especially since things have changed so much for youngsters these days. Reading this book is kind of like having your grandpa (or great- grandpa) sit down with you and talk about the good ol days "when I was a boy..."

However, there is one thing I would like to lay on the table; it may or may not affect your decision to let your child read this. There is one hospital scene where Jackie is getting a bed bath by a nurse and it appears that both he and the nurse are enjoying it too much. It borders on inappropriate and personally I would feel a little uncomfortable giving this to a young boy to read.

Overall, a pleasant memoir.

*I received a free copy through the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Feast by Margaret Kennedy

The Feast by Margaret KennedyIf you look at the dust jacket you'll see a small hotel at the base of a huge cliff. The cliff has been undermined by an errant mine that washed into a cave at its base and exploded. No ill effects are noted for some time. But then cracks appear at the top edge of the cliff and they get wider..and wider...a note is sent to the owners of the hotel urging them to abandon the building for safety but the letter goes unopened in a pile of correspondence and rubbish...

Meanwhile, life goes on in the little hotel. There's the petty squabblers,the mopers, the heroes, the innocents as well as the seriously deranged "monsters" and even a love interest or two. Margaret Kennedy develops characters with such depth of insight into the human psyche that I felt that if she was sitting in a room with me she could pick my brain apart and tell me a thing or two.

Such an unusual but fascinating book. The only other book I've read similar in style to this is Dorothy Evelyn Smith's The Lovely Day, a book where no one character steals the show but every member of the village is given a slice of the story.

Well worth a read!


SEX: None shown to reader


Friday, June 6, 2014

Sergeant Joe by Mary Jane Staples

Sergeant Joe by Mary Jane Staples3.5 Stars

Sergeant Joe is another fun read with some surprising twists and turns by one of my favorite authors, Robert Tyler Stevens (a.k.a. Mary Jane Staples). In this story you'll find a lot of cheeky banter, a sprinkling of romance and a mystery involving Russian Reds and an attempt on the German Kaiser during the Queen's coronation in London.

So basically, an ex- Dragoon, self named Sergeant Joe, is out walking during a thick "pea souper" when he crashes into an orphan cockney woman (think Eliza Doolittle) on the run from pinching a man's wallet. She stumbles in the collision and sprains her ankle; Joe, being the gent, takes her under his wing while she heals.

Really, they're two peas in a pod, Dolly the pickpocket and Joe, who has his own dubious dealings concerning literary forgeries,(which serve him some amusement while feathering his nest). But while we are chuckling at the witty bantering between them, there are more serious events forming, and complications arise in the form of a Russian beauty, a question of identity and the safety of the Monarchy and the Tsar of Russia.

By the way, fans of Robert Tyler Stevens will be pleased to know that Alexandra Petrovna (from The Summer Day Is Done) appears in this story as well.


SEX: None, although there's some flirting and innuendos
VIOLENCE: A murder is committed
PROFANITY: Liberal sprinkling of British slang/cusses


Olivia and Jai by Rebecca Ryman

Olivia And Jai by Rebecca RymanWhat a weird, twisted book. Wow, I can't believe how much I hate this! And yet I still read 300 pages in hopes that I was mistaken, in hopes that Jai wasn't a psychopath and Olivia really did have a brain in her head ...nope

OK, I read my share of misunderstood heroes. But this nut case really takes the cake! Jai is constantly berating, criticizing, scorning and snubbing Olivia and the more abusive he is, the more she swoons over him.

Example: (warning slight spoiler)

"What I will not accept, Jai, is the devaluation, the denial, of your feelings for me. You lie to hide your own delusions..You fabricate a hate that does not exist. You do love me, jai..."

"Get out!" His voice was tight in his throat.

"I will! But not before you admit you have lied!"

The final thread of his control snapped. With a snarl he sprang at her and two enormous, powerful hands circled her neck. Distorted into a mask of virulence, his features turned maniacal, barely human. Thumbs pressed against her windpipe, he shook her with the fury of a mastiff...

Basically, he strangles her until she passes out.

"Don't love me, Olivia...I could have killed you. What further proof can you want of my worthlessness?"

"It is also proof of what you deny..."

Oh.My.Goodness. So really, the more he hurts you the more he loves you! My husband has never strangled me or screamed at me, I guess he doesn't love me afterall. Wow. Ive been disillusioned for 21 years...

So many people loved this book. And I really wanted to. Oh well.

Bottom line: too much melodrama, not enough story. Yes yes yes, I know there's more story to come after page 300, 300 pages in fact! but I. am. so. DONE.

By the way, I guessed the "great whoopsie". *book crashes into wall*

The gavel has fallen. verdict: Hero is a jerk. Heroine is TSTL. They deserve eachother. I award them a life of misery together

Monday, June 2, 2014

International Night: A Father and Daughter Cook Their Way Around the World *Including More than 250 Recipes* by Mark Kurlansky, Talia Kurlansky

International Night by Mark Kurlansky3.5 Stars

I love the whole idea of this cookbook. A journalist father and his daughter play "spin the globe" and wherever the finger lands they cook up a four course meal from that country. The father has been to beau-coup countries in his line of work and has experienced food and culture in a very grass roots way, through jungle treks amidst gorilla warfare to train journeys across Russia. So I was pretty excited to read this.

But why...WHY...WHY  do you sit down to compile a chunkster of a world recipe book and not even bring your camera??? Where are the pictures of the dishes?? Seriously, what a disappointment!

Ok, lets be fair. There are sketches. But not of meals. You'll find sketches of things like chili peppers, squid, calaloo but no dishes or locations. Such a missed opportunity. Because this book is more than a recipe book. It is a travelogue and I loved that. At the beginning of each recipe, the author shares his experiences visiting the country, why he was there, the food he ate, a little bit of history etc.The experience would have felt more complete with pictures. Just sayin'.

On to the recipes themselves. There's a lot of them (at least four dishes per 52 countries so over 200 recipes). Some sounded intriguing and I bookmarked them for reference. Others, I found a little simplistic but I do understand that that is what most people will want so they can recreate "something similar" at home. Personally, I'm into ethnic cooking in a fairly large way so I was most interested in the sections involving India, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia; places of strong flavors and contrasts. But the recipe choices were pretty bland for those areas.

Overall, an interesting cookbook. One I enjoyed reading.

* I received a free ebook from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Nor The Moon By Night by Joy Packer

Nor The Moon by Night by Joy PackerI saw this on a Goodreads friend's  to-read list and was intrigued. They had it on open library so I downloaded it "just for a taste", got engrossed and read it all in two days. (despite reading two other books~ welcome to my world! :)

In a nutshell, Alice is a nurse and WW2 is over. After caring for her terminally ill mother for four years she is free and looking for a change. Andrew, her game warden penpal invites her to South Africa to pursue their relationship and she immediately sets off. Not everything goes to plan and Andrew is unable to pick Alice up when she arrives. Instead, Andrew 's brother, Rusty takes her under his wing.. .

Sounds like a pretty straightforward romance, right? Wrong! It's much more....African.

There are poachers, game keepers on the "wrong side " supplying the locals with guns, rogue elephants, 'pet ' lions, mambas, and a mystery surrounding a native game keeper who has been found with his tongue cut out and blinded...

Also there is a mystery surrounding Alice herself and the 'convenient' demise of her ill mother...

There's lots to love here. I thought it was a really well rounded book with the focus evenly distributed between adventure, romance and mystery. The writing is solid and engrossing and the characters felt real. This is the first Joy Packer book I've read but I really want to check out her others after reading this one!


SEX: None
VIOLENCE: Animal attacks and poacher pursuit. Nothing too graphic
PARANORMAL ELEMENTS: village chiefs and witch doctors. "paper lion" spells.


In Search Of Staswewski by Kenneth Fedzin

In Search of Staszewski by Kenneth FedzinI got 28% into this but just lost interest. The story itself is a fascinating one but I got bogged down in detail, background info and statistics. I also never fully felt 'in the skin' of the characters which stunted my emotional response.

Still, it deserves at least the three stars I gave it for thorough research and personal family history that the author was willing to share with us.

*ebook provided by Netgalley