Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: The Lady in the Tower by Jean Plaidy

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. If you'd like to play along, please do the following:

Grab your current read.
Open to a random page.
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
Be careful not to include spoilers.
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser.

from The Lady in the Tower: The Wives of Henry VIII by Jean Plaidy:

"They came for me yesterday, and we glided along the river to the great gray Tower. Many times had I seen it before but never with such fearful clarity. Once I came here in great pomp and glory--and never for one moment then would it have seemed possible that one day I should be brought here--a prisoner."

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's Monday! What are you reading?

What are you reading on Mondays? is a weekly meme hosted by J. Kaye at J. Kaye's book blog. Join the fun and click here to see what others are reading and reviewing this week.

This week I am continuing to savor Diana Gabaldon's Echo in the Bone; I'm taking my time with this one, enjoying not only the plot twists and turns, but anticipating finding some answers to questions that fans have been waiting years to find out!

Also planned for this week is the first book I have selected for the Jean Plaidy challenge, The Lady in the Tower: The Wives of Henry VIII (Anne Boleyn). I'm getting a late start on this challenge, but no pressure here as you simply choose any titles you want in this prolific author's royal historical fiction collection. (I've read most of the gothic romances this author has written under the name Victoria Holt, so I'm looking forward to reading the famous Plaidy royal novels.)

I have also posted my thoughts about the novel, Ransome's Honor by Kaye Dacus for the Everything Austen challenge.

Have a great week and enjoy your books!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ransome's Honor by Kaye Dacus

from the publisher:

"When young Julia Witherington doesn't receive the proposal for marriage she expects from William Ransome, she determines to never forgive him. They go their separate ways--she returns to her family's Caribbean plantation, and he returns to the Royal Navy.

Now, twelve years later, Julia is about to receive a substantial inheritance, including her beloved plantation. When unscrupulous relatives try to gain the inheritance by forcing her into a marriage, she turns to the only eligible man to whom her father, Admiral Sir Edward Witherington, will not object--his most trusted captain and the man who broke her heart, William Ransome. Julia offers William her thirty-thousand pound dowry to feign marriage for one year, but then something she could never have imagined happens. She starts to fall in love with him again.

Can two people overcome their hurt, reconcile their conflicting desires and find a way to be happy together? Duty and honor, faith and love are intertwined in this intriguing tale from the Regency era."

my thoughts:

This was a simple, sweet Regency-era romance that was perfect for a quick, relaxing read. Having first learned of Kaye Dacus on the book blog, Jane Austen's World, I decided to add Ransome's Honor as part of my Jane Austen challenge since the plot is in the tradition of Austen's book, Persuasion. I enjoyed the character of Julia Whiterington, a strong, intelligent, umarried young woman of her times, determined to find her place in society which views women over twenty-five as spinsters. I was hoping the plot would take the reader to her plantation in the Caribbean for a little "spice" in the plot, but it appears you must wait for the planned sequels, Ransome's Crossing and Ransome's Quest to be written.

For those who enjoy Christian fiction and romances and stories of duty, honor, and faith, Ransome's Honor is sure to please.

Monday, September 21, 2009

It's Monday! What are you reading?

What are you reading on Mondays? is a weekly meme hosted by J. Kaye at J. Kaye's book blog. You can click here to join in the fun to see what everyone is reading and reviewing this week.

On tap for this week is the Regency era historical romance, Ransome's Honor by Kaye Dacus. In the tradition of Jane Austen's Persuasion, it is a story of young sweethearts who reunite after a twelve year separation. Here's a sneak peek at Ransome's Honor:

Also planned for this week, after a two year wait.......(drumroll, please)......Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon!

I have also added my review of The Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman below.

Have a great week!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman

from the publisher:

"Constantinople, 1599. Paul Pindar, a secretary to the English ambassador, thinks he has lost his love, Celia, in a shipwreck. Now, two years later, clues begin to emerge that she may be hidden among the ranks of the slaves in the Sultan's harem. But how can he be sure? And can they be reunited? With a secret rebellion rising within the Sultan's palace, danger surrounds the lovers. A lush tale of treacherous secrets, forbidden love, and murder in the Ottoman palace. The Aviary Gate is exotic historical fiction at its very best."

My thoughts:

I received The Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman as an ARC from Bloomsbury publishers and was fascinated by the setting of the book: the mysterious, secretive, and sensual world of a sixteenth century harem.

It was quite an eye-opening experience learning of the hierarchy of the Sultan's women slaves and concubines, as well as palace protocol (eyes downcast, silence and submission, isolation), and the rituals of perfuming and adorning the body for the Sultan's pleasure.

The story alternates between the present day and 1599 as Elizabeth Stavely, a university doctoral student, researches captivity narratives and discovers a fragment of parchment with a clue that indicates that an English woman may have been captured at sea and brought to the Ottoman palace. As she travels to Instanbul to continue her search through archives to attempt to discover the fate of Celia, the narrative flashes back to Celia's tale of separation from the man she planned to marry and her experiences during a time of rebellion and intrigue in the Sultan's harem. Elizabeth hopes that her research will answer several questions: Did Paul Pindar have knowledge of Celia's captivity? Was Celia able to escape from the palace and pass through the Aviary Gate? Was she reunited with Paul Pindar?

The present day story, unfortunately, includes details of Elizabeth's own romantic troubles which detracted from the story. I skimmed through these sections and concentrated on the research developments which were much more intriguing. There were several weak points in this novel; some characters were not fleshed out enough, and the story does not neatly tie up all the threads of the plot. Overall, though, it was an interesting journey with a message that sometimes the past tries to speak to us to bring stories to light.

Title: The Aviary Gate
Author: Katie Hickman
Publisher: Bloomsbury
340 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Spoiler Free/Excerpt Free Zone for Echo in the Bone

As the widget counter is almost winding down to the release date, I thought I would take a moment to let visitors to this site know that I intend to keep this blog a spoiler free and excerpt free zone for Echo in the Bone for quite some time. I'm not sure how long I will wait to post my thoughts about the book (several weeks or months, at least), but it won't be anytime soon. I believe everyone should have a chance to read Echo, absorb all its details, and savor the experience before readers start posting about plot details.

I will also be tip-toeing very carefully around other book blogs, as well, as I don't want to have any surprises in the plot revealed.

So rest assured, my lips are sealed and my blog will not spoil the fun for you!

Happy reading!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Outlander's Circle of Stones

from Outlander , Chapter 2, "Standing Stones" by Diana Gabaldon

"Why, it's a henge!" I said, delighted. "A miniature henge!"...There were no signs of burial in the miniature henge atop the hill. By miniature, I mean only that the circle of standing stones was smaller than Stonehenge; each stone was twice my own height, and massive in proportion..."

"The tallest stone of the circle was cleft, with a vertical split dividing the two massive peices. Oddly, the pieces had been drawn apart by some means. Though you could see the facing surfaces matched, they were separated by a gap of two or three feet.

There was a deep humming noise coming from somewhere near at hand. I thought there might be a beehive lodged in some crevice of the rock, and placed a hand on the stone in order to lean into the cleft.

The stone screamed."


One of the most intriguing aspects of the Outlander books is the Circle of Stones, or Craigh na Dun, as the Scottish highlanders call it. We learn early on that the stones are a passage through time and are responsible for Claire's disappearance in the twentieth century. As the plot unfolds, we gradually learn more and more about the secrets of the standing stones.

Why did the stone scream? Looks like you'll have to read Outlander to find out the answer to that question!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Outlander's Jamie and Claire

from Outlander, Chapter 14, A Marriage Takes Place, p. 190 by Diana Gabaldon

"A Highlander in full regalia is an impressive sight--any Highlander, no matter how old, ill-favored, or crabbed in appearance. A tall, straight-bodied, and by no means ill-favored young Highlander at close range is breath-taking.

The thick red-gold hair had been brushed to a smooth gleam that swept the collar of a fine lawn shirt with tucked front, belled sleeves, and lace-trimmed wrist frills that matched the cascade of the starched jabot at the throat, decorated with a ruby stickpin.

His tartan was a brilliant crimson and black that blazed among the more sedate MacKenzies in their green and white. The flaming wool, fastened by a circular silver brooch, fell from his right shoulder in a graceful drape, caught by a silver-studded sword belt before continuing its sweep past neat calves clothed in woolen hose and stopping just short of the silver-buckled black leather boots. Sword, dirk, and badger-skin sporran completed the ensemble.

Well over six feet tall, broad in proportion and striking of feature, he was a far cry from the grubby horse-handler I was accustomed to--and he knew it. Making a leg in courtly fashion, he swept me a bow of impeccable grace, murmuring, "Your servant, Ma'am," eyes glinting with mischief."
Diana Gabaldon

Ahhhh, Jamie...Jamie and the love he has for his Claire is such a beautiful love story, and the heart of the Outlander books, for me.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

An Invitation for Outlander Fans...

Good day to everyone! As I look at my widget countdown for the release of Diana Gabaldon's latest book in the Outlander series, I can't believe it's only a few days away. Such anticipation for me, and I'm sure for you, too, if you're a fan of the series! I fully intend to fall off the face of the earth for a few days when I get my little hands on a copy and revel in the world that is Jamie and Claire.

I thought it would be fun to celebrate the upcoming release of Echo in the Bone by taking a few days and posting about my experiences with this terrific series. I invite you to join in and share your thoughts and experiences as well. We might even be able to encourage some who have not read the books to give them a try.

To start off the celebration and countdown, I thought I would answer one of the most frequently asked questions when I talk about the books with someone who is not familiar with the series:

"What are they about?" they ask curiously and innocently.


To answer this question, I'm going to quote the author, Diana Gabaldon, because it pretty much sums it up as succinctly as possible:

In the pages of Outlander, you will find...
"history, warfare, medicine, sex, violence, spirituality, honor,
betrayal, vengeance, hope & despair, relationships, the building
and destruction of families and societies, time travel, moral
ambiguity, swords, herbs, horses, gambling (with cards, dice, and
lives), voyages of daring, journeys of both body and soul...
you know, the usual stuff of literature."

--Diana Gabaldon

I think one of the reasons I enjoy Diana's writing is because it doesn't fit neatly into any one category or genre. If you're a fan of history or historical fiction, you'll find well-researched books about the Scottish Highlands, the Jacobites and the Rebellion of 1745, the events leading up to the Revolutionary War in the colonies, as well as a fascinating look at daily life in the past; if you enjoy science/science fiction, the time travel element is an ever-evolving puzzle in each book, and Diana Gabaldon's scientific background is evident in the skills she gives Claire as a "healer"; the love story of Jamie and Claire is truly engaging and unique in that they are portrayed realistically as a couple who share joys, struggles, and sorrows together as they experience life and mature; the plots are intricate and unpredictable for the most part, and there is always something mysterious happening (even a few ghosts) for those who enjoy mysteries; you just never know what twisty turn the plot will take, and you're constantly guessing. So much fun!

So, for all of you who are Outlander fans, what aspects of the books do you enjoy the most?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: The Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. If you'd like to play along, please do the following:

Grab your current read.
Open to a random page.
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
Be careful not to include spoilers.
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.

Here is my teaser from the ARC of The Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman, a tale of love, secrets and murder in the Ottoman Palace in sixteenth century Constantinople:

p. 52
"There were many occasions in the life of the palace women -- entertainments and dancing for the Sultan, alfresco picnics in the palace gardens and boating expeditions along the Bosphorous -- when the Valide showed herself. At those times, when the music played and the sound of women's voices and laughter carried on the rose-scented air, when they were taken to watch the dolphins sporting in the Sea of Marmara or when the moonlight sparkled on the waters of the Bosphorous and the little boats of the women, lit up like fireflies, followed the Sultan in his mother Safiye's barge, its poop all inlaid wih precious stones, shining with ivory and gold, at those times, Celia thought, it was possible to believe that the Valide was indeed the mother of them all."

Monday, September 7, 2009

It's Monday! What are you reading?

What are you reading on Monday? is a weekly meme hosted by J. Kaye at J. Kaye's Book Blog. Join in the weekly fun by clicking here.

This week I have an ARC from Bloomsbury Publishers. The Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman is an intriguing historical fiction novel that takes the reader to Constantinople in 1599. An English ambassador thinks his fiance' has been lost in a shipwreck, but clues begin to emerge that lead him to believe she may have survived and be hidden inside the Sultan's harem. It is a tale of secrets, love, and murder in the Ottoman palace.

Last week, I read and reviewed Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler. My review is posted below.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

From the publisher:

"After nursing a broken engagement with Jane Austen novels and Absolut, Courtney Stone wakes up and finds herself not in her Los Angeles bedroom or even in her own body, but inside the bedchamber of a woman in Regency England. Who but an Austen addict like herself could concoct such a fantasy?"

My thoughts:

I believe this is the type of book that readers will have polar opposite reactions -- you're either going to love it or find it full of flaws. I want to say that I thought the premise of the book was truly interesting -- what a fascinating concept to have a twenty-first century modern woman (Courtney Stone) wake up and discover that she is inhabiting the body of a Regency era maiden (Jane Mansfield - yes, really) who has just suffered a head injury during a horse riding accident. As Courtney slowly gains consciousness, she believes she is living in some type of dream state as her surroundings are obviously not modern. When time passes and she realizes that this is not a dream-state, that she has somehow experienced a type of time travel, she tentatively takes her place in the household and attempts to play the role of the daughter, hoping that somehow she will discover how she managed to be in Regency England and if it is possible to return to her former life.

What was truly difficult to understand was the snide and rude behavior of the protagonist. When in her own time, Courtney turned to the writings of Jane Austen for pleasure and comfort and considers herself a Jane Austen addict. If that were true, she would have had an underlying understanding of the expectations of society and the vastly different cultural traditions and norms. Instead, as she takes part in the Mansfield household and interacts with family friends, she is forever making inane and flip comments about women's rights, the role of men and women in society, servants' rights, and other ridiculous remarks. I suppose these were meant to be witty, but it made the character so contentious that it completely detracted from what could have been a great storyline. There are also several situations and references that I can only describe as crude and tasteless. While Courtney's journey of self-discovery does lead her to a greater level of maturity at the end, the reader does not completely learn the mystery of the time travel. I assume it is necessary to read the next book, Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict (which is the parallel experience of Jane Mansfield finding herself in Courtney's twenty-first century world) in order to learn how and why the time travel occurs.

I wish I had a more positive view of the book, but I have to call 'em like I see 'em, and this is one that I had too many issues with to recommend. It had the potential to be a fun and interesting read, but somehow it totally missed the mark.

Title: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
Author: Laurie Viera Rigler
Publisher: Plume
293 pages

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cozy Mystery Week at Sharon's

Hey, everybody! Thought I'd pass along this fun tip -- Sharon at Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews is having a fun week of cozy mystery reviews and author interviews.

See you there!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. If you'd like to play along, please do the following:

Grab your current read.
Open to a random page.
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.

Here is my teaser from Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict:

p. 33 "That's when I decided to order myself a large clam-and-garlic pizza and reread Pride and Prejudice. I would self-medicate with fat, carbohydrates, and Jane Austen, my number one drug of choice, my constant companion through every breakup, every disappointment, every crisis. Men might come and go, but Jane Austen was always there."

Update on Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander

Just received this e-mail from Tasha Alexander -- I've loved her Lady Emily series, and can't wait to read this latest installment!

Greetings, everyone!

I'm thrilled to announce that TEARS OF PEARL, my fifth novel (the fourth in the Lady Emily series), goes on sale in bookstores everywhere today. To mark the occasion (aside from praying, chanting, and sacrificing goats in what I hope will not be a vain attempt to ensure good sales), I've updated my website to include additional information about the locations in the book:


I hope you'll check it out. And if you decide to read TEARS, I'd love to hear what you think. So far, this is my favorite in the series...

Thanks for all your support; it means the world to me.


Favorite Period Dramas

Mount TBR

Joanne's to-read book montage

On a Highland Shore
A Light on the Veranda
The Queen's Vow: A Novel Of Isabella Of Castile
The Edwardians
Maisie Dobbs
Howards End
Lady's Maid
Instruments Of Darkness
When Maidens Mourn
Where Shadows Dance
What Remains of Heaven
Where Serpents Sleep
Why Mermaids Sing
When Gods Die
Before Ever After
The Sugar Queen
Garden Spells
After the Night

Joanne's favorite books »