Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

 It's time for Waiting on Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine that spotlights books we are eagerly anticipating the release of.  

My choice for this week is:

The Night Circus
 Erin Morgenstern
Release Date: 13 September 2011

In this mesmerizing debut, a competition between two magicians becomes a star-crossed love story.

The circus arrives at night, without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within nocturnal black and white striped tents awaits a unique experience, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stand awestruck as a tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and gaze in wonderment at an illusionist performing impossible feats of magic.

Welcome to Le Cirque des RĂªves. Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is underway--a contest between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in "a game," in which each must use their powers of illusion to best the other. Unbeknownst to them, this game is a duel to the death, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.

Synopsis courtesy of

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mailbox Monday

It's Mailbox Monday time!!  This weekly travelling meme that is being hosted for the month of August by Staci over at Life in the Thumb.

I only received one book in the mail this past week, but since I also came home from various trips to the bookstore with some new additions for my library, it was another good week for me :-)

Here are the novels that found their way into my home this past week:

The Ground is Burning by Samuel Black (synopsis courtesy of

Seduction, betrayal and murder: the true art of the renaissance. Cesare Borgia, Niccolo Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci - three of the most famous, or notorious, names in European history. In the autumn of 1502, their lives intersect in a castle in Italy's Romagna. In this hugely intelligent and entertaining novel, Samuel Black tells the true story of these men who, with different tools - ruthless ambition, unstoppable genius and subtle political manipulation - each follow an obsession to attain greatness and leave a lasting mark on the world. And at the centre of this court of intrigue and deception is Dorotea Caracciolo, a young noblewoman abducted by Borgia who has become his lover - and his secret agent. Their story begins in hope and fear and ends in bloodshed, deceit and triumph. Along the way, there are battles and romances, lavish parties and furtive stranglings. And out of this maelstrom will emerge the Mona Lisa and The Prince. 

To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick (synopsis courtesy of

From acclaimed novelist Elizabeth Chadwick comes a story of huge emotional power set against the road to Magna Carta and the fight to bring a tyrant king to heel.

The privileged daughter of one of the most powerful men in England, Mahelt Marshal's life changes dramatically when her father is suspected of treachery by King John. Her brothers become hostages and Mahelt is married to Hugh Bigod, heir to the earldom of Norfolk. Adapting to her new life is hard, but Mahelt comes to love Hugh deeply; however, defying her father-in-law brings disgrace and heartbreak.

When King John sets out to subdue the Bigods, Mahelt faces a heartbreaking battle, fearing neither she, nor her marriage, is likely to survive the outcome . . .

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen (synopsis courtesy of

In her latest enchanting novel, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Addison Allen invites you to a quirky little Southern town with more magic than a full Carolina moon. Here two very different women discover how to find their place in the world-no matter how out of place they feel.

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother's life. Such as, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? And why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew-a reclusive, real-life gentle giant-she realizes that mysteries aren't solved in Mullaby, they're a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.

Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson's cakes-which is a good thing, because Julia can't seem to stop baking them. She offers them to satisfy the town's sweet tooth but also in the hope of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Flour, eggs, milk, and sugar . . . Baking is the only language the proud but vulnerable Julia has to communicate what is truly in her heart. But is it enough to call back to her those she's hurt in the past?

Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily's backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.

The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore (synopsis by

I've seen him on the news. Followed the stories about what happened in Ohio. John Smith, out there, on the run. To the world, he's a mystery. But to me . . . he's one of us.

Nine of us came here, but sometimes I wonder if time has changed us-if we all still believe in our mission. How can I know? There are six of us left. We're hiding, blending in, avoiding contact with one another . . .but our Legacies are developing, and soon we'll be equipped to fight. Is John Number Four, and is his appearance the sign I've been waiting for? And what about Number Five and Six? Could one of them be the raven-haired girl with the stormy eyes from my dreams? The girl with powers that are beyond anything I could ever imagine? The girl who may be strong enough to bring the six of us together?

They caught Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya.
They tried to catch Number Four in Ohio and failed.

I am Number Seven. One of six still alive.

And I'm ready to fight.

That's my mailbox for this past week.  What was in yours?

Book Review: Hugh and Bess by Susan Higginbotham

Forced to marry Hugh le Despenser, the son and grandson of disgraced traitors, Bess de Montacute, just 13 years old, is appalled at his less-than-desirable past. Meanwhile, Hugh must give up the woman he really loves in order to marry the reluctant Bess. Far apart in age and haunted by the past, can Hugh and Bess somehow make their marriage work?

Just as walls break down and love begins to grow, the merciless plague endangers all whom the couple holds dear, threatening the life and love they have built.

Award-winning author Susan Higginbotham's impeccable research will delight avid historical fiction readers, and her enchanting characters will surely capture every reader's heart. Fans of her first novel, The Traitor's Wife, will be thrilled to find that this story follows the next generation of the Despenser family.

Synopsis courtesy of

My Review

4 Stars

Susan Higginbotham's Hugh and Bess is, at its heart, a love story.   Forced to marry a man several years her elder, one who also happens to be the son of a traitor to the Crown, Bess de Montecute is less than pleased by her match with Hugh le Despenser.   While willing to give his new bride a chance, Hugh's heart is already attached to another.   Despite a less than promising beginning, Hugh and Bess gradually grow closer and realize their match was, in fact, a good one. 

The strengths of Susan Higginbotham's novels rest with her attention to historical detail and solid character development.   Hugh and Bess is no exception.   While the primary focus of this novel is on the relationship between the title characters, key political, economic and social events of the period are skillfully woven into the story to provide context.   The character development is also well done, especially that of Bess, who, over the course of the novel, grows from a sullen, spoiled child into a mature, compassionate and strong young woman.

Well-written and engaging, Hugh and Bess is sure to please fans of historical fiction, especially those interested in the medieval period.   Although not necessary, I do recommend that anyone interested in this novel read The Traitor's Wife first, as it tells the story of Hugh's parents.    

Note: This book comes from my own personal collection.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

It's time for Waiting on Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine that spotlights books we are eagerly anticipating the release of.    This is my first time participating! 

My pick this week is:

Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman
Release Date: 4 October 2011

From the "New York Times" -bestselling novelist, a stunning story of a great medieval warrior-king, the accomplished and controversial son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine: Richard, Coeur de Lion.

They were called "The Devil's Brood," though never to their faces. They were the four surviving sons of Henry Plantagenet and Eleanor of Aquitaine. With two such extraordinary parents, much was expected of them.  But the eldest-charming yet mercurial-would turn on his father and, like his brother Geoffrey, meet an early death. When Henry died, Richard would take the throne and, almost immediately, set off for the Holy Land. This was the Third Crusade, and it would be characterized by internecine warfare among the Christians and extraordinary campaigns against the Saracens. And, back in England, by the conniving of Richard's youngest brother, John, to steal his crown.

In Lionheart, Sharon Kay Penman displays her remarkable mastery of historical detail and her acute understanding of human foibles. The result is a powerful story of intrigue, war, and- surprisingly-effective diplomacy, played out against the roiling conflicts of love and loyalty, passion and treachery, all set against the rich textures of the Holy Land. 

(Synopsis courtesy of

What book are you waiting for?


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book Review: Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers

Laure Beausejour has grown up in a dormitory in Paris surrounded by prostitutes, the insane, and other forgotten women. She dreams with her best friend, Madeleine, of using her needlework skills to become a seamstress and one day marry a nobleman. But in 1669, Laure is sent across the Atlantic to New France with Madeleine as filles du roi. The girls know little of the place they are being sent to, except for stories of ferocious winters and Indians who eat the hearts of French priests. To be banished to Canada is a punishment worse than death.

Bride of New France explores the challenges Laure faces coming into womanhood in a brutal time and place. From the moment she arrives in Ville-Marie (Montreal) she is expected to marry and produce children with a brutish French soldier who himself can barely survive the harsh conditions of his forest cabin. But through her clandestine relationship with Deskaheh, an allied Iroquois, Laure finds a sense of the possibilities in this New World.

What happens to a woman who attempts to make her own life choices in such authoritative times?

Synopsis courtesy of

My Review

4 Stars

Bride of New France, the debut novel from Canadian author Suzanne Desrochers, is set in Paris and  New France in the latter part of the 17th century.   As the novel opens the reader is introduced to Laure Beausejour, a young woman living at Paris' notorious Hospice de la Saltpetriere.  Skilled at embroidery, Laure dreams of becoming a renowned seamstress and marrying well.   This dream, however, is shattered when Laure is sent to New France as one of King Louis XIV's filles du roi (King's girl), a group of young women sent to the French colony to marry and raise a family. 

The greatest strength of this novel lies with Desrochers' rich imagery, which leaves the reader with an astounding sense of time and place.   These vivid descriptions are especially pronounced when the setting of the novel shifts to New France.   Indeed, the reader can almost feel the cold air and hear the wind whistling through Laure's cabin during her first winter in the colony.   In her new surroundings, her sense her isolation and loneliness is palpable.  Through Laure, the reader gets to experience the hardships faced by the filles du roi and the colonist in general as they tried to tame the harsh and unforgiving environment in which they settled.   

Although fluidly written, the manner in which this story is told makes it difficult to connect with Laure.   A connection with the protagonist is also made difficult due to her lack of charisma.   I was interested in Laure's struggles, but indifferent to the outcomes.   Nevertheless, these facts did not impact in any overly negative way on my enjoyment of the novel.    

Bride of New France is a worthwhile read for any fan of historical fiction, especially those interested in novels told from the perspective of ordinary individuals rather than famous historical figures.   Suzanne Desrochers is a writer to watch and I look forward to hearing more from her. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mailbox Monday

It's Mailbox Monday time!!  This weekly travelling meme that is being hosted for the month of August by Staci over at Life in the Thumb.

This past week was a really good one for me thanks, in part, to the big Sourcebooks $1.99 Georgette Heyer e-book sale!

Purchases (in paper form):

Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey (synopsis from

This enthralling confection of a novel, the first in a new trilogy, follows the transformation of a coddled Austrian archduchess into the reckless, powerful, beautiful queen Marie Antoinette.

Why must it be me?
I wondered. When I am so clearly inadequate to my destiny?

Raised alongside her numerous brothers and sisters by the formidable empress of Austria, ten-year-old Maria Antonia knew that her idyllic existence would one day be sacrificed to her mother's political ambitions. What she never anticipated was that the day in question would come so soon.

Before she can journey from sunlit picnics with her sisters in Vienna to the glitter, glamour, and gossip of Versailles, Antonia must change everything about herself in order to be accepted as dauphine of France and the wife of the awkward teenage boy who will one day be Louis XVI. Yet nothing can prepare her for the ingenuity and influence it will take to become queen.

Filled with smart history, treacherous rivalries, lavish clothes, and sparkling jewels, Becoming Marie Antoinette will utterly captivate fiction and history lovers alike.

The Magician King by Lev Grossman (synopsis from

The Magicians was praised as a triumph by readers and critics of both mainstream and fantasy literature. Now Grossman takes us back to Fillory, where the Brakebills graduates have fled the sorrows of the mundane world, only to face terrifying new challenges.

Quentin and his friends are now the kings and queens of Fillory, but the days and nights of royal luxury are starting to pall. After a morning hunt takes a sinister turn, Quentin and his old friend Julia charter a magical sailing ship and set out on an errand to the wild outer reaches of their kingdom. Their pleasure cruise becomes an adventure when the two are unceremoniously dumped back into the last place Quentin ever wants to see: his parent's house in Chesterton, Massachusetts. And only the black, twisted magic that Julia learned on the streets can save them.

The Magician King is a grand voyage into the dark, glittering heart of magic, an epic quest for the Harry Potter generation. It also introduces a powerful new voice, that of Julia, whose angry genius is thrilling. Once again Grossman proves that he is the modern heir to C.S. Lewis, and the cutting edge of literary fantasy.

Purchases (Kindle)

 The Wedding Shroud by Elisabeth Storrs (synopsis courtesy

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.

Various Georgette Heyer novels:

That is what arrived in my mailbox.  What did you get in yours?

Suddenly Sunday

It's time for this week's edition of Suddenly Sunday,  a weekly meme hosted by Svea over at The Muse in the Fog Book Review.   

This past week was a productive one for me blog-wise, although I didn't post my review of Suzanne Desrochers' Bride of New France as I had originally intended.  It will go up this coming week instead, as will my review of Susan Higginbotham's Hugh and Bess

I've decided to play around with memes in the weeks ahead.  My  Travel Tuesday feature is now going to be a bi-weekly event.  While in the past I've occasionally posted my own Wish List Wednesday feature,  I think from now on I'll go with the established Waiting on Wednesday meme to share some of the items on my wish list. 

In Book Challenge news, I decided this past week to opt out of the 2011 Victorian Literature Challenge.   I had very good intentions at the start of the year to read some of the many classics sitting on my shelves unread.   While I generally love classic literature, I have to be in the right mood to read it.   This year I just haven't felt like cracking any of my classics open.   Maybe next year?

That's all from me for now.   I hope everyone has a wonderful week.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Book Selection - Is the End Your Beginning?

I have a friend who, like me, is a big reader.   She and I can often be found wandering the aisles of our favourite bookstore pondering what books to buy next.   While our reading tastes are generally similar, what we look for in a novel differs when it comes to endings.   While I prefer novels that end happily, this type of resolution doesn't usually impact on my enjoyment of a book.   My friend, on the other hand, won't read something that doesn't have a happy ending.   In fact, she often goes so far as to read the final few pages of a novel before purchasing it to make certain she won't be disappointed by the ending.   Since she's not the only person I know who does this, it got me wondering if this is common practice for readers who insist on happy endings.  So fellow book lovers, I have two questions for you:

(1) Is a happy ending a prerequisite?

(2) Do you ever read the end of a novel first?  If so, why? 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Book Review: Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick

Synopsis courtesy of

Based on fascinating history, a never-before-told story from critically acclaimed Elizabeth Chadwick.  Royal wives and royal widows, Queen Adeliza and her stepdaughter Empress Matilda are the only two women to be titled "Lady of the English," a title that does not come cheap. Adeliza, widowed queen and peacemaker, is married to a warrior who supports Stephen, grandson of the Conqueror. Matilda, daughter of the last king and a fierce fighter, is determined to win her inheritance against all odds and despite all men, including Stephen. Both are women who, in their different ways, will stand and fight for what they know is right. But for Matilda, pride comes before a fall. And for Adeliza, even the deepest love is no proof against fate. 

 My Review

4 Stars  

In Lady of the English, author Elizabeth Chadwick transports readers to one of the most tumultuous periods in English history, the mid-twelfth century.   This is the story of Empress Matilda, named as heir to her father, England's King Henry I, yet who is denied her throne when her cousin Stephen seizes it upon Henry's death.  This action sparks a bitter and long-lasting civil war as Matilda fights to oust Stephen from the throne that by rights should be hers.   The novel is also the story of Queen Adeliza, widow of Henry I, who struggles to find her place after her husband's death and is ultimately rewarded by finding love and having a family of her own.   Her happiness, however, is tempered by her desire to show loyalty to her husband, a staunch ally of the King, while seeking to retain her relationship with her stepdaughter Matilda, who is battling the King for the throne.   Despite these challenges, Adeliza maintains the diplomacy and grace that made her such a well-liked queen.  

A strength of Chadwick's writing is her vivid descriptions that are rich in historical detail.  In Lady of the English Chadwick has once again crafted a novel with a strong sense of time and place.  While the historical detail is impressive, the greatest strength of this novel rests with Chadwick's characterizations, especially that of Empress Matilda.  Chadwick's Matilda is a strong and determined woman who isn't afraid of fighting for what is rightfully hers.   Nevertheless, Matilda is not a woman without faults and her failings made her, at times, her own worst enemy and are one of the reasons she never did win the throne from Stephen.   Chadwick's depiction of Empress Matilda is one of the best I've read.

Despite being over 500 pages in length, I did feel the novel could have been longer without bogging the story down.   While not necessary to the progression of the story, I would have liked to have read more from the perspective of Matilda's enemies in order to better understand why they denied her claim to the throne and supported a man who was clearly an ineffective monarch.   I also would have liked to have seen more of Robert of Gloucester, Matilda's illegitimate half-brother and one of her staunchest supporters.   However, even without with this additional detail the novel is still an entertaining and informative read. 

Overall, Lady of the English is another great novel from Elizabeth Chadwick, one fans of historical are sure to enjoy.  

Note: This novel comes from my own personal collection.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Travel Tuesday: Cardiff Castle, Wales

This week's edition of Travel Tuesday features another Welsh Castle - Cardiff.  Cardiff Castle began as a Roman fort circa 50AD, and after the Norman Invasion in 1066, the Norman Keep was built on the site of this fort.  This Keep still stands today.   In addition to the Norman Keep, Cardiff Castle also includes the main Castle itself, and the current Gothic Style dates backs to the mid 1800s.   The Castle lies right in the heart of Cardiff, the Welsh capital. 

More information on Cardiff Castle and its history can be found on the Castle's official webpage:

Here are some of my pics:

The Norman Keep (one picture taken from the Castle grounds, the other from inside the Keep)

Castle (looking towards the Castle apartments)

For anyone planning to travel to south Wales, Cardiff Castle is well worth a visit.

Literary LinkCardiff Castle is featured, albeit briefly, in my current read - Susan Higginbotham's Hugh and Bess (synopsis from

Forced to marry Hugh le Despenser, the son and grandson of disgraced traitors, Bess de Montacute, just 13 years old, is appalled at his less-than-desirable past. Meanwhile, Hugh must give up the woman he really loves in order to marry the reluctant Bess. Far apart in age and haunted by the past, can Hugh and Bess somehow make their marriage work?

Just as walls break down and love begins to grow, the merciless plague endangers all whom the couple holds dear, threatening the life and love they have built.

Award-winning author Susan Higginbotham's impeccable research will delight avid historical fiction readers, and her enchanting characters will surely capture every reader's heart. Fans of her first novel, The Traitor's Wife, will be thrilled to find that this story follows the next generation of the Despenser family.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mailbox Monday

It's time once again for Mailbox Monday, a weekly travelling meme that is being hosted for the month of August by Staci over at Life in the Thumb.

I didn't receive as many books in the mail this past week as I was expected, but that only means I'll get lots next week :-)

Here are the books I received:

Three Maids for the Crown by Ella March Chase (synopsis from

In the second novel from Ella March Chase, we meet sixteen-year-old Jane Grey, a quiet and obedient young lady destined to become the shortest reigning English monarch. Her beautiful middle sister Katherine Grey charms all the right people--until loyalties shift. And finally Lady Mary Grey, a dwarf with a twisted spine whose goal is simply to protect people she loves--but at a terrible cost.

In an age in which begetting sons was all that mattered and queens rose and fell on the sex of their child, these three girls with royal Tudor blood lived under the dangerous whims of parents with a passion for gambling. The stakes they would wager: their daughters' lives against rampant ambition.

Holy Warrior by Angus Donald (synopsis from

After the events of Outlaw, Robin of Locksley-and his sidekick and narrator, Alan Dale-finds himself in a very different England and a very changed world.

In 1190 A.D. Richard the Lionheart, the new King of England, has launched his epic crusade to seize Jerusalem from the Saracens. Marching with the vast royal army is Britain's most famous, most feared, most ferocious warrior: the Outlaw of Nottingham, the Earl of Locksley-Robin Hood himself. With his band of loyal men at his side, Robin cuts a bloody swath on the brutal journey east. Daring and dangerous, he can outwit and outlast any foe-but the battlefields of the Holy Land are the ultimate proving ground. And within Robin's camp lurks a traitor-a hidden enemy determined to assassinate England's most dangerous rogue.

 Those are the books that showed up in my mailbox this week.  What did you get in yours? 

Suddenly Sunday

Suddenly Sunday is a weekly meme hosted by Svea over at The Muse in the Fog Book Review.  

Hard to believe Sunday is here once again.   This past week seems to have flown by!   Things have finally quieted down around here so I'll be able to devote more time to my blog.   This past week I had time only to post my Mailbox Monday, as well as my review of The Agency: A Spy in the House by YS Lee.    Next week looks to be more promising on the blog activity front:

Monday: Mailbox Monday
Tuesday: Travel Tuesday
Wed: Review of Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick
Thurs: Miscellaneous Musing
Fri: Review of Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers

Here's hoping all of you have a great week!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Book Review: The Agency - A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

Introducing an exciting new series! Steeped in Victorian atmosphere and intrigue, this diverting mystery trails a feisty heroine as she takes on a precarious secret assignment.

Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners - and an unusual vocation. Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls is a cover for an all-female investigative unit called The Agency, and at seventeen, Mary is about to put her training to the test. Assuming the guise of a lady's companion, she must infiltrate a rich merchant's home in hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the household is full of dangerous deceptions, and there is no one to trust - or is there? Packed with action and suspense, banter and romance, and evoking the gritty backstreets of Victorian London, this breezy mystery debuts a daring young detective who lives by her wits while uncovering secrets - including those of her own past.  

Synopsis courtesy of 

My Review

4 Stars 

The Agency: A Spy in the House is the first novel in a new YA historical mystery series set during the Victorian era.   At the start of the novel the reader is introduced to Mary Quinn, a rough young woman from London who is set to hang for stealing.  Despite her death sentence, Mary is not fated to die on the gallows as she rescued by a woman from Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls, a seemingly innocuous school for young ladies.   However, Miss Scrimshaw's Academy is actually a cover for an all-female spy agency.   When Mary completes her formal education and indicates an interest in doing more with her life, she is given the opportunity to become one of The Agency's operatives.   Mary accepts and is given her first assignment, that of a lady's companion in the home of a merchant whose cargo ships go missing, and thus the foundations for the first novel-and the series-are laid. 

The mystery itself is straight forward, as Mary attempts to solve things in a perfectly believable manner, making use of no over the top or implausible antics in her quest to gather information.  I feel Lee does a good job keeping the reader guessing as to the eventual solution to the mystery and, despite clues, I was somewhat surprised by it's resolution.  In addition to the main mystery, Lee also gives Mary herself a mysterious background.  This background slowly comes to light over the course of the story, although it is apparent at the outset what it will be and, as a result, when it is revealed it doesn't come as a surprise.  

Lee does a good job with the development of her main characters, especially Mary, who comes across as an intelligent and industrious young woman.   I did, however,  feel the depiction of some of the lesser characters to be a little inconsistent, but this didn't detract from my enjoyment of the novel.   The story moves quickly and easily and, despite being geared for a YA audience, it isn't simplistic.  

Overall, I would recommend this novel to fans of historical mysteries and think it is a welcome addition to the YA genre, which, these days, seems to be dominated by paranormal novels.

This book comes from my own personal collection.   


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Mailbox Monday

It's time for Mailbox Monday, a weekly travelling meme that is being hosted for the month of August by Staci over at Life in the Thumb

I missed last week's Mailbox Monday, so this week's post lists the books I received over the last few weeks.   Without further ado, here is my mailbox:

Won courtesy of Sarah over at Reading the Past:

Moon in Leo by Kathleen Herbert (synopsis from

A vivid and scholarly portrait of England in the reign of Charles II. The joy of the Restoration is a fading memory, and conflicts of land ownership and religious toleration are raging. The story is set on the Furness Peninsula in Northern England, now part of Cumbria, and concerns how ordinary folks survive, live and love in times of political upheaval and social conflict. There is a feisty heroine who keeps an eye on how her very own Restoration bawdy comedy is progressing, a chilling villain, a proto-Darcy hero, and a gallery of characters from real history. This is Kathleen Herbert at her rich best: a book which is intelligent, full of humour and above all, deeply humane.

Received courtesy of my friend Isabelle 

 Anatomy of Murder by Imogen Robertson  (synopsis courtesy of

The streets of London seethe with rumour and conspiracy as the King's navy battles the French at sea. And while the banks of the Thames swarm with life, a body is dragged from its murky waters. In another part of town, where the air seems sweeter, the privileged enjoy a brighter world of complacent wealth and intoxicating celebrity. But as society revels in its pleasures, a darker plot is played out.  Yet some are willing to look below the surface to the unsavoury depths. Mrs Harriet Westerman believes passionately in justice. Reclusive anatomist Gabriel Crowther is fascinated by the bones beneath the skin. Invited to seek the true nature of the dead man, they risk censure for an unnatural interest in murder. But when the safety of a nation is at stake, personal reputation must give way to the pursuit of reason and truth.

Island of Bones by Imogen Robertson (synopsis from

Cumbria, 1783. A broken heritage; a secret history...

The tomb of the first Earl of Greta should have lain undisturbed on its island of bones for three hundred years. When idle curiosity opens the stone lid, however, inside is one body too many. Gabriel Crowther's family bought the Gretas' land long ago, and has suffered its own bloody history. His brother was hanged for murdering their father, the Baron of Keswick, and Crowther has chosen comfortable seclusion and anonymity over estate and title for thirty years. But the call of the mystery brings him home at last.

Travelling with forthright Mrs Harriet Westerman, who is escaping her own tragedy, Crowther finds a little town caught between new horrors and old, where ancient ways challenge modern justice. And against the wild and beautiful backdrop of fells and water, Crowther discovers that his past will not stay buried. 

My own purchases

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen (synopsis from

In this irresistible follow-up to her New York Times bestselling debut, Garden Spells, author Sarah Addison Allen tells the tale of a young woman whose family secrets-and secret passions-are about to change her life forever.

Twenty-seven-year-old Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter in her North Carolina hometown is her favorite season, she's a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her hidden closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother's house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night…. Until she finds it harboring none other than local waitress Della Lee Baker, a tough-talking, tenderhearted woman who is one part nemesis-and two parts fairy godmother…

Fleeing a life of bad luck and big mistakes, Della Lee has decided Josey's clandestine closet is the safest place to crash. In return she's going to change Josey's life-because, clearly, it is not the closet of a happy woman. With Della Lee's tough love, Josey is soon forgoing pecan rolls and caramels, tapping into her startlingly keen feminine instincts, and finding her narrow existence quickly expanding.

Before long, Josey bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who makes the best sandwiches in town, is hounded by books that inexplicably appear whenever she needs them, and-most amazing of all-has a close connection to Josey's longtime crush.

As little by little Josey dares to step outside herself, she discovers a world where the color red has astonishing power, passion can make eggs fry in their cartons, and romance can blossom at any time-even for her. It seems that Della Lee's work is done, and it's time for her to move on. But the truth about where she's going, why she showed up in the first place-and what Chloe has to do with it all-is about to add one more unexpected chapter to Josey's fast-changing life.

Brimming with warmth, wit, and a sprinkling of magic, here is a spellbinding tale of friendship, love-and the enchanting possibilities of every new day.

Hounded (Book One of the Iron Druid Chronicles) by Kevin Hearne (synopsis from

The first novel in an original, back-to-back three-book series The Iron Druid Chronicles-introducing a cool, new, funny urban fantasy hero

Atticus O'Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old-when in actuality, he's twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he's hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power-plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish-to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

Hexed (Book Two of the Iron Druid Chronicles) by Kevin Hearne (synopsis from

Atticus O'Sullivan, last of the Druids, doesn't care much for witches. Still, he's about to make nice with the local coven by signing a mutually beneficial nonaggression treaty-when suddenly the witch population in modern-day Tempe, Arizona, quadruples overnight. And the new girls are not just bad, they're badasses with a dark history on the German side of World War II.

With a fallen angel feasting on local high school students, a horde of Bacchants blowing in from Vegas with their special brand of deadly decadence, and a dangerously sexy Celtic goddess of fire vying for his attention, Atticus is having trouble scheduling the witch hunt. But aided by his magical sword, his neighbor's rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and his vampire attorney, Atticus is ready to sweep the town and show the witchy women they picked the wrong Druid to hex.

Hammered (Book Three of the Iron Druid Chronicles) by Kevin Hearne (synopsis from

Thor, the Norse god of thunder, is worse than a blowhard and a bully-he's ruined countless lives and killed scores of innocents. After centuries, Viking vampire Leif Helgarson is ready to get his vengeance, and he's asked his friend Atticus O'Sullivan, the last of the Druids, to help take down this Norse nightmare.

One survival strategy has worked for Atticus for more than two thousand years: stay away from the guy with the lightning bolts. But things are heating up in Atticus's home base of Tempe, Arizona. There's a vampire turf war brewing, and Russian demon hunters who call themselves the Hammers of God are running rampant. Despite multiple warnings and portents of dire consequences, Atticus and Leif journey to the Norse plain of Asgard, where they team up with a werewolf, a sorcerer, and an army of frost giants for an epic showdown against vicious Valkyries, angry gods, and the hammer-wielding Thunder Thug himself.

So, these are the books that arrived at my house this week.  What goodies did you get?