Monday, February 16, 2009

January Reading Round Up | Book Club Book Review

As darkness falls / Bronwyn Parry.
Set in an isolated small town at the edge of the New South Wales outback and haunted by her failures, Detective Isabella O'Connell is recalled to duty by Detective Alec Goddard as yet another child is abducted. They have days to find the child and their mutual attraction is being ruthlessly exploited by the killer. ~from the blurb. Your basic thriller/crime story with love interest. Fun to read and kept me interested.

Mao's Last Dancer / Li Cunxin
Biography of Li Cunxin who was chosen at 11 years old to go to the ballet academy in Beijing... away from his family and friends. I really enjoyed this story of triumph over adversity. Li was one of the lucky ones but it came at a cost. I enjoyed the importance of family love he highlights in the book.

Woman of a thousand secrets / Barbara Wood.
A novel set in an undiscovered world before the time of Columbus. This is the story of Tonina. She came from the sea, found floating in a basket by a childless couple. Unlike the fellow villagers in her adoptive home, she is tall, lean and light-skinned. When she turns nineteen, her parents know they must send her back to her people. And here is where Tonina's tale of survival and sacrifice, of luck, magic, intrigue, danger, romance and betrayal begins. ~from the blurb. I usually enjoy Wood's books but this one I found pedantic and slow. The main character is too "good" - someone with no flaws, or who does little in terms of character development is just boring. The bad character is just too predictably bad. Not sure I'd bother recommending it.

Stiff : the curious lives of human cadavers / Mary Roach.
Ever wondered how the dead help the living? This is a non-fiction book detailing just that. Amazing! I really enjoyed it - lots of interesting stories and facts that I had no idea about. The topic may seem morbid but the book is anything but. No gross-out factor involved either. Recommend this one.

Fortune's fool / Mercedes Lackey.
As the seventh daughter of the Sea King, Ekaterina has a wonderful life -but also a lot of responsibility. Her special gift for moving around on land made her the perfect emissary from her father to check out interesting happenings on the surface. In short, she became the family spy. On one such reconnaissance mission, she encounters Sasha - the seventh son of the king of Belorus. Though everyone sees his talent at music, they also consider him a fool. Ekaternia suspects something more powerful lies behind his facade. But before she can find out what, Ekaterina is kidnapped and trapped in a castle with other kidnapped princesses at the mercy of a possessive Jinn. Ekaterina knows her chances of being found are slim. Which means that fortune, a fool and a paper bird are the only things she can count on. ~from the blurb. I rather enjoyed this one. I found it predictable but in a nice way. It' sometimes pleasant to read something that feels like a comfortable old shoe. Good, 'clean' fantasy and a series I quite like.

The lady and the unicorn / Tracy Chevalier.
Set over the period 1490 to 1492, Tracy Chevalier's novel moves between a chateau in Lyons and the cities of Paris and Brussels. The story concerns a series of six Flemish tapestries known as the lady and the unicorn tapestries. ~from the blurb. Having read some other books by Chevalier I was pleased to pick this one up and enjoyed the historical story of these famous tapestries.

Wild latitudes / Barbara Else.
After the unusual death of their papa, Adele Overend and her younger brother Godwin are dispatched from comfortable Autumn Hall in Yorkshire to the uttermost ends of the earth - gold rush Dunedin in 1864. Even worse for the grieving pair, they must travel on separate vessels. Self-possessed and practical Adele discovers herself cast up on an inhospitable island occupied by a misfit band of sealers. Godwin arrives on the rim of civilisation to find his sister vanished and nobody willing to employ an unusually pretty boy. Their adventures lead them into a series of mishaps and self-reinventions. Oh, what a catalogue: shipwreck, murder, renegade scientists, nasty doctors, a brothel, an asylum, urchins, a remarkable baby, lost relations, cross-dressing, dwarf wrestling, pyrotechnics, concealed identities, quackery, highway robbery, strange religious cults, bridled passions heaving under the stays. ~from the blurb. This one was kind of wierd. On one had I enjoyed the NZ aspect and the story is quite engaging. But I did find myself getting annoyed at Adele's pomposity and Godwin's pathetic wussie ways!

Reserved for the cat / Mercedes Lackey.
In 1910, in an alternate London, a penniless young dancer is visited by a cat who communicates with her mind to mind. Though she is certain she must be going mad, she is desperate enough to follow the cat's advice and impersonates a famous Russian ballerina. The cat, it turns out, is actually an Elemental Earth Spirit, and leads her to minor stardom. Meanwhile, the real Russian ballerina has fallen victim to an evil troll who takes over her body and kills her patrons, drinking their life essences in order to strengthen his powers. And soon, the troll focuses his dark attentions on the young dancer. ~from the blurb. Once again - predictable clean fantasy but I enjoyed it. I happen to like this particular series. Lackey does tend to overstate and over describe the situations but the story is fun.

Figures in silk / Vanora Bennett.
When silk merchant John Lambert marries off his two beautiful daughters, their fortunes are set to change forever. Elder daughter Jane starts a notorious liaison with Edward IV, while her sister, Isabel, as the new silkweaver to the court, becomes privy to its most intimate secrets. Could they hold the keys to power in this time of uncertainty? ~from the blurb. So glad I discovered this author! Very much enjoyed this story especially because the relationship between the main character and Edward grows/changes and is believable. Recommended.

At risk / Patricia Cornwell.
Winston Garano, a Massachusetts state investigator, is called home from a course at the National Forensic Academy. His boss, the district attorney, an attractive but hard-charging woman, is planning to run for governor and planning to use a new crime initiative called At Risk. By employing cutting-edge DNA technology she thinks her office can be made to look pretty good and reflect well on her. Win is not so sure but before he can open his mouth, a shocking piece of violence intervenes.~ from the blurb. I used to enjoy Cornwell's Scarpetta series but over time I've got fed up with the continual angst Scarpetta suffers from. So I was curious to see what this new character was like. I enjoyed the book but I didn't feel like Cornwell had done anything new or different with this character. Ok I guess.

Blogosphere Book Circle Book of the Month

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society / Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows.

Set in London/Guernsey just after the war, this book is written in the format of letters to one character to another which takes a little getting used to. As far as I was concerned I "got into" it within the first few pages! Julia Ashton is looking for her next book topic and discovers it when she is contacted by a man who has bought a copy of a book that used to belong to her. Thus begins a correspondence that quickly evolves into more as Julia gets to know each member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and their life on the island during the German occupation. Each letter reveals a little more about their stories, their perspectives island life, characters who live there and connections. Julia eventually visits the island and finds more than just her book.

Did you like/dislike the book, did it affect you in any way?:
I LOVED it! Srsly. I enjoyed the way the story developed with each letter. The humour appealed to me.. it's very like my own. I found it moving in parts but not so heart wrenching that I had to put it down. I was delighted to see that the author was a librarian and peeved disappointed to discover that the author died before it was published. Because I would like to read more by her!

You can read what the other book circle members wrote by visiting their blogs (in the side bar --->)


  1. Penny, some fabulous books here. Always look forward to seeing what your've read over the past month.

    Mmm, want to read the cadavers book, just because it's about cadavers, lol.

    Also, the Else book. Thanks for the heads up on that. As you know, am rearching my great great grandparents who cam from Ireland and settled in Gabriel's Gully in 1862 & 1863 respectively.

    Can't wait to read this and get more of a mind picture as to what their lives were like.

    Re. your previous post: The train trip looks like so much fun. Is that where they sometimes have the "Thomas the Tank Engine" train trips?

  2. Anonymous8:19 pm

    Some good sounding books there.
    I was also upet to read that Mary Ann Shaffer had passed away.

  3. Penny you are a honey, I think the Marie Antionette award was the kick in the butt I needed to get going again.
    Big huge hugs and thanks heaps

  4. Anonymous9:00 am

    you always read some cool sounding books Penny! I must start writing some of them down.

  5. i loved our book, too! need to post on it, too...

  6. Great list. There are many here I haven't read yet.

  7. I read lots of books on holiday but still not the book club book. Still have to go cap in hand to the library

  8. I used to be a huge Scarpetta fan but good annoyed with her last five books and I refuse to read anything of hers now. I loved our current book too. I must get round to doing my write up later in the week.

  9. I used to be a huge Scarpetta fan but good annoyed with her last five books and I refuse to read anything of hers now. I loved our current book too. I must get round to doing my write up later in the week.

  10. I'm left exhausted by your reading! Is that a regular month - for if so- you are a super-woman! I've finished *the book* and will hopefully blog about it this weekend (or sometime soon- it's o-week here and things are really jumping!)

  11. My daughter's class is studying the kids' version of Mao's Last Dancer at school. I think I'm going to have to read it too now. My to be read list is getting awfully long!

    Thank you so much for getting this book circle thing going. I too really enjoyed our first book and it great fun to be sharing the reading experience with everyone else :)

  12. Thanks for the round up Penny - wow you do get to read a bit!!

    I've finished the book and have now put my thoughts up on the blog :)