Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mailbox Monday

It's Mailbox Monday time!  This weekly travelling meme is being hosted for the month of September by Amused by Books.

I received a couple of new books this week (both my own purchases).  Synopses courtesy of

 The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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.

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

The Scorch Trials picks up where The Maze Runner left off. The Gladers have escaped the Maze, but now they face an even more treacherous challenge on the open roads of a devastated planet.  And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

Can Thomas survive in such a violent world?

What books arrived in your mailbox this past week?


Suddenly Sunday

Hard to believe it's time once again for Suddenly Sunday, a weekly meme hosted by Svea over at The Muse in the Fog Book Review.  

These past few weeks have been busy ones for me.  While I've made time for reading, I've sadly neglected my blog.   I have a few ideas for miscellaneous book-related posts, but have yet to find the time to transfer them from my head to my blog.   Hopefully that will change in the next week or two. 

Reading-wise, I've managed to get through quite a few books lately,  although I'll only be posting a review for one of them - Elisabeth Storrs' brilliant novel, The Wedding Shroud.   If all goes according to plan my review should be posted by mid-week.   I'm also quickly working my way through  Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, and should have a review for it posted by end of the week.   I'm not as enamoured of this book as most readers seem to be, but I will say it is one of the most beautifully written novels I've read in a long time. 

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

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mailbox Monday

It's time once again for Mailbox Monday.  This weekly travelling meme is being hosted for the month of September by Amused by Books.

My book buying addiction really shows this week, as, thanks in large part to having a few Chapters gift cards at my disposal, a lot of new books made their way into my house.   In fact, I received so many I'm only going to list the synopses for a few of them and just list the others. 

So, without further ado, here is my mailbox (Note: all synopses courtesy of

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

A modern gothic novel of love, secrets, and murder--set against the lush backdrop of Provence.

Meeting Dom was the most incredible thing that had ever happened to me. When Eve falls for the secretive, charming Dom in Switzerland, their whirlwind relationship leads them to Les GenEvriers, an abandoned house set among the fragrant lavender fields of the South of France. Each enchanting day delivers happy discoveries: hidden chambers, secret vaults, a beautiful wrought-iron lantern. Deeply in love and surrounded by music, books, and the heady summer scents of the French countryside, Eve has never felt more alive.

But with autumn's arrival the days begin to cool, and so, too, does Dom. Though Eve knows he bears the emotional scars of a failed marriage--one he refuses to talk about--his silence arouses suspicion and uncertainty. The more reticent Dom is to explain, the more Eve becomes obsessed with finding answers--and with unraveling the mystery of his absent, beautiful ex-wife, Rachel.

Like its owner, Les GenEvriers is also changing. Bright, warm rooms have turned cold and uninviting; shadows now fall unexpectedly; and Eve senses a presence moving through the garden. Is it a ghost from the past or a manifestation of her current troubles with Dom? Can she trust Dom, or could her life be in danger?

Eve does not know that Les GenEvriers has been haunted before. Benedicte Lincel, the house's former owner, thrived as a young girl within the rich elements of the landscape: the violets hidden in the woodland, the warm wind through the almond trees. She knew the bitter taste of heartbreak and tragedy--long-buried family secrets and evil deeds that, once unearthed, will hold shocking and unexpected consequences for Eve.

The Taker by Alma Katsu

True love can last an eternity . . . but immortality comes at a price. . . .
On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting another quiet evening of frostbite and the occasional domestic dispute. But the minute Lanore McIlvrae-Lanny-walks into his ER, she changes his life forever. A mysterious woman with a past and plenty of dark secrets, Lanny is unlike anyone Luke has ever met. He is inexplicably drawn to her . . . despite the fact that she is a murder suspect with a police escort. And as she begins to tell her story, a story of enduring love and consummate betrayal that transcends time and mortality, Luke finds himself utterly captivated.

Her impassioned account begins at the turn of the nineteenth century in the same small town of St. Andrew, Maine, back when it was a Puritan settlement. Consumed as a child by her love for the son of the town's founder, Lanny will do anything to be with him forever. But the price she pays is steep-an immortal bond that chains her to a terrible fate for all eternity. And now, two centuries later, the key to her healing and her salvation lies with Dr. Luke Findley.

Part historical novel, part supernatural page-turner, The Taker is an unforgettable tale about the power of unrequited love not only to elevate and sustain, but also to blind and ultimately destroy, and how each of us is responsible for finding our own path to redemption.

The Eagle and The Raven by Pauline Gedge

She was the flame-haired Boudicca, Queen of the Britons, whose passion and pride lit up the mysterious world of the ancient Celts. From the valleys and mountains of still barbaric Britain to the classic grandeur and corruption of Claudius's Rome, here is the unforgettable drama of a warrior queen torn between love and destiny.

Kanata by Don Gilmour

From the author of Canada: A People's History comes a novel of Canada written in the tradition of such great epics as The Source and Sarum.

Kanata was inspired by the life of David Thompson, a Welshman who came to the New World at the age of fifteen, and went on to become its greatest cartographer. He walked or paddled 80,000 miles and mapped 1.9 million square miles, cataloguing flora and fauna as well as the language and customs of the Natives. But though he has been described as the greatest land geographer who ever lived, he died impoverished and unknown.

Following the lives of Thompson's illegitimate son and his descendants, Kanata takes readers on a fictionalized, multi-generational journey through millennia and across a continent to examine the stories, myths, and legends of those who formed the country and who were formed by it.

Kanata is the story of the invention of a nation.

Other books that found there way into my home this past week include: 

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Royal Blood by Rhys Bowen
Sharpe's Triumph by Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe's Fortress by Bernard Cornwell
The Memoirs of Helen of Troy by Amanda Elyot
Empire by Steven Saylor
The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima

What arrived in your mailbox this week?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Book Review: Sharpe's Tiger by Bernard Cornwell

As the British army fights its way through India toward a diabolical trap, young private Richard Sharpe must battle both man and beast behind enemy lines. 

It's 1799, and Richard Sharpe is just an illiterate young private in His Majesty's service, part of an expedition sent to push the ruthless Tippoo of Mysore from his throne and drive his French allies out of India.

Posing as a deserter, Sharpe must penetrate into the Tippoo's city and make contact with a Scottish spy being held prisoner there. Success will mean winning his sergeant stripes; failure, being turned over to the Tippoo's brutal executioners -- or his man-eating tigers. Picking his way through an exotic and alien world, one slip will mean disaster as Sharpe learns that he must fight his old comrades in order to save his own neck. Along the way, he keeps an eye out for Mysore's beautiful prositutes, any stray loot he can get his hands on and the chance to learn his ABC's. But when the furious British assault on the city begins, Sharpe must fight with the fierceness and agility of a tiger himself to foil the Tippoo's well-set trap -- and to keep from being killed by his own side.

Synopsis courtesy of

My Review

4 Stars

Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's Tiger introduces the reader to literary hero Richard Sharpe, a young British solider whose many adventures are chronicled in Cornwell's popular Sharpe series.  While not published first, Sharpe's Tiger is, chronologically, the first novel in the series.   As such, the novel introduces Sharpe, tells of his early years in the British Army and lays the groundwork for some of the key events and relationships featured throughout the series.  

The novel is set at the turn of the 19th century in Mysore (India) during the British siege of Seringapatam.   The setting alternates between a British Army camp and Seringapatam.   Cornwell's descriptive prose transports the reader right into the heart of the British camp during the oppressive heat of an Indian summer, and one can practically feel the discomfort of the British soldiers in their heavy wool uniforms.   Despite being under siege, an air of optimism remains in Seringapatam, where the Tippoo is creating a weapon that will ensure his victory against any British assault. 

While the history presented in the book is quite interesting, Sharpe's Tiger is very much a character driven novel.  Indeed, it is the characters that make this book come alive for the reader.  While not without flaws, Richard Sharpe is a character readers can't help but be drawn to and cheer for.   The villain of the novel, British Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill, is a cruel and conniving man who will stop at nothing to bring Richard Sharpe down.   Key historical figures featured in the novel include the cold, but brilliant Colonel Arthur Wellesley, who will later earn lasting renown on the battlefields of Europe as the Duke of Wellington, and British General David Baird, who is portrayed as an affable man who respects those under his command.   While ruthless, the Tippoo of Mysore is characterized as a brave man who will do whatever it takes to save his city and territory from the British. 

Sharpe's Tiger is the first novel in the series I've had the pleasure to read and it won't be the last.  I'm very much looking forward to the next installment to find out what adventures Richard Sharpe will experience next. 

Note: This novel comes from my own personal collection.

Wednesday, September 7, 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 week I'm waiting for:

The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England
By Ian Mortimer
Release Date: April 24, 2012 (North America), March 1, 2012 (UK)

We think of Queen Elizabeth I as ‘Gloriana’: the most powerful English woman in history. We think of her reign (1558-1603) as a golden age of maritime heroes, like Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Richard Grenville and Sir Francis Drake, and of great writers, such as Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare. But what was it actually like to live in Elizabethan England? If you could travel to the past and walk the streets of London in the 1590s, where would you stay? What would you eat? What would you wear? Would you really have a sense of it being a glorious age? And if so, how would that glory sit alongside the vagrants, diseases, violence, sexism and famine of the time? 

In this book Ian Mortimer answers the key questions that a prospective traveller to late sixteenth-century England would ask. Applying the groundbreaking approach he pioneered in his bestselling Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England, the Elizabethan world unfolds around the reader.

He shows a society making great discoveries and winning military victories and yet at the same time being troubled by its new-found awareness. It is a country in which life expectancy at birth is in the early thirties, people still starve to death and Catholics are persecuted for their faith. Yet it produces some of the finest writing in the English language and some of the most magnificent architecture, and sees Elizabeth’s subjects settle in America and circumnavigate the globe. Welcome to a country that is, in all its contradictions, the very crucible of the modern world.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Mailbox Monday

It's Mailbox Monday time!!  This weekly travelling meme that is being hosted for the month of September by Amused by Books

So there was a 4 for 3 sale at my favourite bookstore this past week and since I'm not one to pass up a book sale I came home with four new books!  I also received one book in the mail.

Here is my mailbox (all synopsis are courtesy of

Wildflower Hill by Kimberly Freeman

Emma, a prima ballerina in London, is at a crossroads after an injured knee ruins her career. Forced to rest and take stock of her life, she finds that she's mistaken fame and achievement for love and fulfillment. Returning home to Australia, she learns of her grandmother Beattie's death and a strange inheritance: a sheep station in isolated rural Australia. Certain she has been saddled with an irritating burden, Emma prepares to leave for Wildflower Hill to sell the estate.

Beattie also found herself at a crossroads as a young woman, but she was pregnant and unwed. She eventually found success-but only after following an unconventional path that was often dangerous and heartbreaking. Beattie knew the lessons she learned in life would be important to Emma one day, and she wanted to make sure Emma's heart remained open to love, no matter what life brought. She knew the magic of the Australian wilderness would show Emma the way.

Wildflower Hill is a compelling, atmospheric, and romantic novel about taking risks, starting again, and believing in yourself. It's about finding out what you really want and discovering that the answer might be not at all what you'd expect.

His Last Duchess by Gabrielle Kimm

A beautifully written, lushly romantic historical novel based on the poem "My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning. The chilling story of Lucrezia de Medici, duchess to Alfonso d'Este, His Last Duchess paints a portrait of a lonely young girl and her marriage to an inscrutable duke.  

Lucrezia longs for love, Alfonso desperately needs an heir, and in a true story of lust and dark decadence, the dramatic fireworks the marriage kindles threaten to destroy the duke''s entire inheritance, and Lucrezia's future.  His Last Duchess gorgeously brings to life the passions and people of sixteenth-century Tuscany and Ferrara.

The Heretic's Wife by Brenda Rickman Vantrease

Tudor England is a perilous place for booksellers Kate Gough and her brother John, who sell forbidden translations of the Bible. Caught between warring factions-English Catholics opposed to the Lutheran reformation, and Henry VIII's growing impatience with the Pope's refusal to sanction his marriage to Anne Boleyn-Kate embarks on a daring adventure that will lead her into a dangerous marriage and a web of intrigue that pits her against powerful enemies. From the king's lavish banquet halls to secret dungeons and the inner sanctums of Thomas More, Brenda Rickman Vantrease's glorious new novel illuminates the public pageantry and the private passions of men and women of conscience in treacherous times.

The Scarlet Contessa by Jeanne Kalogridis

Daughter of the Duke of Milan and wife of the conniving Count Girolamo Riario, Caterina Sforza was the bravest warrior Renaissance Italy ever knew. She ruled her own lands, fought her own battles, and openly took lovers whenever she pleased. Her remarkable tale is told by her lady-in-waiting, Dea, a woman knowledgeable in reading the "triumph cards," the predecessor of modern-day Tarot. As Dea tries to unravel the truth about her husband's murder, Caterina single-handedly holds off invaders who would steal her title and lands. However, Dea's reading of the cards reveals that Caterina cannot withstand a third and final invader--none other than Cesare Borgia, son of the corrupt Pope Alexander VI, who has an old score to settle with Caterina. Trapped inside the Fortress at Ravaldino as Borgia's cannons pound the walls, Dea reviews Caterina's scandalous past and struggles to understand their joint destiny, while Caterina valiantly tries to fight off Borgia's unconquerable army.

The Edinburgh Dead by Brian Ruckley

Edinburgh: 1828

In the starkly-lit operating theaters of the city, grisly experiments are being carried out on corpses in the name of medical science. But elsewhere, there are those experimenting with more sinister forces.

Amongst the crowded, sprawling tenements of the labyrinthine Old Town, a body is found, its neck torn to pieces. Charged with investigating the murder is Adam Quire, Officer of the newly- formed Edinburgh Police. The trail will lead him into the deepest reaches of the city''s criminal underclass, and to the highest echelons of the filthy rich.

Soon Quire will discover that a darkness is crawling through this city of enlightenment - and no one is safe from its corruption.

The Edinburgh Dead is a powerful fusion of gothic horror, history, and the fantastical.


What arrived in your mailbox this week?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

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.  

Despite my good intentions, this past week wasn't a very productive one blogging-wise.   I've got a couple of reviews to write, one for The Gallows Curse by Karen Maitland and the other for Sharpe's Tiger by Bernard Cornwell, but keep putting them off.   The fact that I'm struggling to come up with what to say about Maitland's novel is the primary reason why I'm procrastinating.   I thought the book was very good, but it's a hard one to describe.   Although it qualifies for both the Historical Fiction Challenge and the British Books Challenge I'm currently participating in, I may just forgo a review unless I can come up with something good soon! 

Reading-wise I've been struggling with what to read lately.   I seem to be off historical fiction at the moment, and have set down both Beneath A Marble Sky by John Shors and Queen By Right by Anne Easter Smith.   The Shors book just wasn't working for me and, while I like the Easter Smith book,  I realized I'm not in the mood for it at the moment so I set it aside for another day.    To fill the void I'm reading some lighter fantasy and Science Fiction fare.   I imagine I'll be back to Queen By Right by the end of this coming week. 

I hope everyone is enjoying the Labour Day Weekend!  Don't you wish every weekend could be a three-day weekend? 

Happy Reading!