28 May, 2013

And the Winner Is...

So as you may recall, I needed assistance in working out which of these four stunning titles I should read:

I am (not so) pleased to announce that I will be reading number 4 - The Sheikh's Love Child.

For those who need a refresher, this was the blurb.

King of the desert, father of her child...
With butterflies fluttering in her stomach, Lucy Banks has arrived in the desert kingdom on Biryal - with a secret!
Seeing Sheikh Khaled - the man who once loved and left her - at home in his sumptuous royal palace, Lucy is blown away by his barbaric magnificence. He's king of the desert, his eyes are blacker and harder than before, and he's no longer the man she once knew. She wants to run away from his overwhelming masculinity. But they're inextricably bound for ever...for he is the father of her son...
Now, due to the fact that I had issues with comments here, I accepted votes made on Facebook and here. With that I had a whopping 9 entries! Using a random number generator, the winner is...

Congratulations Leah, let me know your snail mail address and I'll send a copy of

on it's way.

Thanks to all who took the time to help me choose...now if only you could help me read it!

26 May, 2013

Book Review - Nocturnes

From Goodreads: In this sublime story cycle, Kazuo Ishiguro explores love, music and the passage of time. This quintet ranges from Italian piazzas to the Malvern Hills, a London flat to the “hush-hush floor” of an exclusive Hollywood hotel. Along the way we meet young dreamers, café musicians and faded stars, all at some moment of reckoning.
Gentle, intimate and witty, Nocturnes is underscored by a haunting theme: the struggle to restoke life’s romance, even as relationships flounder and youthful hopes recede.

Thoughts: As I have said before, I love Ishiguro's writing, but I frequently feel out of my depth with it - like I am missing something. But what I do love is that I'm not intimidated by it - I'm happy to read the book, enjoy the language, the story and leave the in depth analysis to others. Once I had finished Nocturnes, I read some of the reviews on Goodreads by readers who do this analysis very well and in general I agree with them - I can now recognise how each story looks at the different stages of a musicians professional life and the effect it may have on their personal life, issues with denial and having to compromise your principles to go to the top of your chosen field.

What I really like about Ishiguro is how his stories don't end with a nicely tied bow of perfection. In fact there are times the don't really end at all - they just stop! While this can be annoying, it's also refreshing to be left with no idea what happens next. Does the character resolve their problem? Does it all work out or was this simply the beginning of the end? It's almost like you have been give permission to stop and observe a life for a short amount of time before moving on, left to wonder about the importance of what you have observed.

Pride and Prejudice Challenge - Part 1

Hello challengers! You will be pleased to know I have completed the first part of my challenge - or at least one of the parts.

Taking my commitment to this challenge seriously, I sat myself down on the couch to watch the 2005 movie starring Kiera Knightly.

Now my friends have varied opinions on this movie - some love it, some think it's horrendous. Personally I didn't mind it, although I wasn't completely convinced by Keira Knightley. But the main reason I watched it was so I can read the book.

I struggle, a lot, with the classics. The formality of the language quite often leaves me struggling to absorb the story. In recent years I have found that if I watch a movie or dramatisation of it first, I struggle less. So although I also plan to watch the BBC version, I chose to watch this first, simply because it is shorter and will allow me to get to the book sooner. At the end I will do a bit of a comparison, but for now I can go to the book having at least the basic story line sorted out!

25 May, 2013

Bloggers Boogie: P&P Edition

In honour of my Pride and Prejudice challenge, Miss Dove over at Little White Dove has themed her Bloggers Boogie challenge after P&P.

This is the first Bloggers Boogie I have participated in, but the rules are simple. Post a couple of songs that are related to the theme and then link up over at Little White Dove. Check out everyone's links and get your boogie on!

I am slightly challenged by the fact I have not yet read or watched P&P, but this is what I've picked up from reading summaries and trawling the net!

 Balle Balle from Bride and Prejudice - a bollywood version of Pride and Prejudice.

We Are Family by Sister Sledge - lots of family in P&P - and lots of sisters!

You're so Vain - Carly Simon. Seems to be a bit of vanity in P&P..

Darcy's Letter from the movie - just 'cause I like it!

Hope you like my boogie selections! Feel free to join in and link up!

23 May, 2013

Oh the Shame...and a giveaway

As part of the 13 in '13 challenge I have taken on thanks to Miss Dove, I need to read a romance. I did offer up this option:

GoodReads link
And Miss Dove, bless her heart, actually said OK. But I could feel her disappointment seeping through the computer...it wasn't what could truly be called romance - not trashy enough. And in all honesty, it does feel kinda like cheating.

So today at work, I sullied my library card with these titles.

(I tried to do something fancy so they appeared in a 2x2 format, but my technical help is away fishing, so I'm not sleeping and I'm too tired to work it out!)

I took great pains to hide them from my colleagues, smuggling them out under the cover of these dvds (needed for another challenge)

Let's make it clear - I WILL NOT, under ANY circumstances be reading all four - the fact is I have never managed to get past the first 20 pages of any book like this. However, I am unable to make a choice of which of these to read. (notice all the authors come from the H shelf in the library? It was all about speed people!) So dear reader, help me - which of these should I read? To help you, here is the blurb for each of them.

The best man to be her baby's father?
Getting noticed by the gorgeous best man in every bridesmaid's dream. Especially if he's your old crush. Lucy McKenty knows she should be wary of Will Carruthers. All she wants is to finally settle down and have a family - and that's a far cry from this nomadic wanderer's life plan...
But Will is irresistibly charming, and Lucy finds herself in his arms. Discovering she is pregnant thrills her - but is Will going to stay to meet his baby...

 A millionaire who's determined not to fall in love. Patrick Farr is perfectly happy with his bachelor life, wining and dining beautiful young women. If only he could make them understand that marriage is definitely not on the agenda!
He decides there is only one way to prove that he will never marry for love - a marriage of convenience. His PA, Lousia Dennison, is cool and calm  under pressure. She's also a single mum, bring up two very demanding kids, So when Patrick proposes, what will her answer be? After all his offer could answer all her prayers...

A special bride for a special doctor. New consultant paediatrician Rhys Morgan is everything the hospital grapevine promised. He is also Katrina's boss, but she thinks she's safe from Rhys's charms. Until the discover a shared commitment to their little patients - and a heartfelt passion for each other.

Rhys has never believed in happy families, yet Katrina opens his eyes to what love and family really means - and her courage and vulnerability create a fierce desire to protect her. Enough, prehaps, to make Rhys risk his heart with the most special proposal of all...

King of the desert, father of her child...
With butterflies fluttering in her stomach, Lucy Banks has arrived in the desert kingdom on Biryal - with a secret!
Seeing Sheikh Khaled - the man who once loved and left her - at home in his sumptuous royal palace, Lucy is blown away by his barbaric magnificence. He's king of the desert, his eyes are blacker and harder than before, and he's no longer the man she once knew. She wants to run away from his overwhelming masculinity. But they're inextricably bound for ever...for he is the father of her son...

(really?? who writes this stuff!!)

Voting will close on Tuesday night (Brisbane time), so I can return the losers when I go back to work on Wednesday. And just to prove there are no hard feeling in subjecting me to this, there is a

All votes will receive an entry into a draw to win the book I originally nominated

GoodReads link

Sent to you, wherever you are in the world! (yep, it's international baby!) So cast your vote and make sure you leave contact details for me!

I'm now off to watch one those Pride and Prejudice dvd's in an attempt to cleanse my soul...

21 May, 2013

Challenge Anyone??

So it's a matter of opinion who you want to blame, Miss Dove over at Little White Dove or Miss Car over at Carrose Creations, but for me it all started with this post and specifically this part of that post

I blame Miss Dove - she somehow managed to get a few of us into the Lizzie Bennet Diaries (a modern day adaption to Pride and Prejudice) over on you-tube. This is all good and well but I've never read the original books and feel a bit fraudulent - so I decided it WILL happen.

Now, I've been meaning to read Pride and Prejudice myself for awhile, so I thought I would extend a challenge, specifically to Miss Car amd Miss Dove, but also to anyone willing to play along, to read Pride and Prejudice.

(here's a little secret, Miss Car finds it impossible to refuse a challenge - her response to the word itself is almost Pavlovian, just with a lot less drool...maybe)

So here's the nitty gritty.

I hearby extend a challenge to anyone who cares to take part to read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin. Given the general craziness of most people's lives, I suggest a time period of just over 3 months - from now until August 31, 2013 - consider it the perfect winter challenge.

You may also choose in those three months to do the extended version of the challenge and watch what started this all - The Lizzie Bennet Diaries which can be found on the official site, on tumblr, or YouTube.


If you are really brave, you can go the super deluxe version and also watch the movie or BBC production or any other production you know of.

The 2005 movie version starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth and Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy

The 1995 BBC version with Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth and Colin Firth as Darcy

As challenge issuer, I will of course be going the super deluxe version - possibly with both movie and BBC version. I will make a start on the LBD as soon as I can work out where the sound on the computer has gone!

So, who's in? Who is willing to say Challenge accepted?? Simply leave a comment and commence your reading and viewing!

Book Review - The Book Thief

From Goodreads: It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still. By her brother's graveside, Liesel's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found. But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jewish fist-fighter in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up, and closed down. In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

Thoughts: Wow. Just wow. Where to start with this? The language - beautiful. Zusak's writing is phenomenal. I found myself frequently stopping to post quotes on Facebook just to share with everyone.

I've seen so many young men over the years who think they're running at other young men. They are not. They're running at me. (Death, taking about war)

A definition not found in the dictionary-Not leaving: an act of trust and love, often deciphered by children.

After ten minutes or so, what was most prominent in the cellar was a kind of nonmovement. Their bodies were welded together and only their feet changed position or pressure. Stillness was shackled to their faces. They watched each other and waited.

In fact, I'm pretty sure I could open this book to just about any page and find something that captures my attention immediately. Add to that a storyline that breaks your heart one minutes and lifts you to great heights the next, and you have a book that will stay with you long after you have finished it.

Zusak weaves a tale so poignant  and emotional you are truly lost in his world for the time you are reading. As I approached the end I became more reluctant to read it, both because I didn't want it to end and because I didn't want it to end the way I knew it would. His characters breath, walk through your house and laugh at your silly little life and your silly little worries. As for the narrator - Death - he draws you attention to things you never thought about, gives a different perspective on the world we live in.

I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that's where they begin. Their great skills is their capacity to escalate.

I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn't already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.

Perhaps the best way to summon up this book for me is from another reviewer on Goodreads. Tamara said:
If you love to read and if you love to care about the characters you read about and if you love to eat words like they're ice cream and if you love to have your heart broken and mended on the same page, this book is for you.

Challenges: eBook Challenge; Aussie Author Challenge

Book Review - The Storyteller

From Goodreads: Sage Singer befriends an old man who's particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone's favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. They strike up a friendship at the bakery where Sage works. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses…and then he confesses his darkest secret - he deserves to die, because he was a Nazi SS guard. Complicating the matter? Sage's grandmother is a Holocaust survivor.

What do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who's committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren't the party who was wronged? And most of all - if Sage even considers his request - is it murder, or justice?

Thoughts: To tell you the truth, after the last couple of Picoult's books, I've been tempted to give up on them, but this latest one has gone some way to restoring my faith. In this Picoult seems to be back to her best. I think it's partly because there are no mother issues for me in this one. 
Sage Singer is the grand daughter of a holocaust survivor who meets and befriends an elderly man called Josef. AS the friendship continues, he asks Sage to help him die - something he feels he deserves for his role as a soldier in the SS during World War II.
It's hard to discuss this book without giving too much away. Needless to say, if you have been feeling disillusioned with Picoult, this may be worth the read. It is in no way perfect, but it's closer to what I use to feel about her work than I have recently. There is, of course, the trademark twist at the end - in fact there is two - one I picked, one I didn't. I felt the romance between Sage and the man who worked for the Justice Department to track down and prosecute Nazi's (see, I can't even remember his name!) was pointless and added nothing to the story -  it was simply there because I story apparently must have a romance. What I am pleased to say is that this surprised me and I will now be more willing to pick up a Picoult book.

Book Review - Stripes of the Sidestep Wolf

From Goodreads: Ever since Dad went off the deep end and decided he didn't need to work anymore -- insisting the Lord would provide -- Satchel O'Rye has felt stuck for life in his dying country town. A high school dropout drifting from one small carpentry job to the next, Satchel can see nothing beyond his own dreary duty to help keep the family afloat. But things start to change when he spies a strange doglike animal at a nearby mountain -- and mentions the fact to Chelsea Piper, an awkward young woman considered the local pariah. Could the animal he saw be a Tasmanian tiger, a marsupial thought to be extinct? And if they found it again, could it give them both a new chance at life?

Thoughts: One of the things I've found on my journey through Sonya Hartnett's work is her obvious growth as an author. From the beginning there was something special about her writing, a potential that was clear. The more I read of her work, the more that potential is fulfilled.
In this book, Hartnett creates believable characters, a setting you could walk into and recognise immediately and a scenario you want to believe is real. Part of her appeal for me is her economic use of words. It perfectly suits the sparse landscape she writes about. As always, after reading one of her books, I wonder why I take so long between them - looking forward to the next.

Challenges: Aussie Author Challenge   

04 May, 2013

Book Review - Innocent Victims

From Goodreads: Chickenfeed - As part of World Book Day 2006, Minette Walters took part in the Quick Reads initiative, designed to encourage developing readers and adult learners as they explore the exciting world of books. Chickenfeed, Walter's contribution, is a crackling tale based on the true story of the 'chicken farm murder' that took place in Blackness Road, Crowborough, East Sussex in December, 1924.
Although Norman Thorne never confessed to killing his girlfriend Elsie, he was tried and hanged for the crime. Minette's fictionalised account of their relationship is told from the points of view of both Elsie and Norman, from the time of their first meeting at chapel when Norman is 18 and Elsie is 22, until the eve of Norman’s trial for her murder just over four years later.
In the real-life case, an exchange of letters between the lovers, in which Elsie told Norman that she was pregnant, formed part of the evidence that suggested Norman's motive for murder. When the lovers grow apart, Elsie creates a fantasy to replace the reality of their fractured relationship. Meanwhile Norman has fallen for another woman yet cannot bring himself to tell Elsie that he no longer wants to marry her. Burrowing deep into an English legend, Walters creates a suspenseful tale of fiction based in fact, leaving it to the reader decide whether Norman was guilty of the heinous crime.

The Tinder Box - In the small village of Sowerbridge, Patrick O'Riordan has been arrested for the brutal murder of elderly Lavinia Fanshaw and her live-in nurse, Dorothy Jenkins. As shock turns to fury, the village residents form a united front against the O'Riordan family, while friend and neighbour Siobhan Lavenham remains convinced that Patrick has fallen victim to a prejudiced investigation. Jeopardizing her own position within the bigoted community, Siobhan stands firmly by his family in defense of the O'Riordan name.
Yet when terrible secrets about the O'Riordans' past are revealed, Siobhan is forced to question her loyalties. Could Patrick be capable of murder after all? Could his family's tales of attacks be devious fabrications? And if so, what other lies lurk beneath the surface of their world? As the truth unravels, it becomes clear that beneath a cunning façade, someone's chilling ambition is about to ignite

What I Thought: I really enjoyed these pared down stories by Minette Walters. As with many of her stories you are forced to look at things differently and realise things are not always what they seem. Chickenfeed in particular was excellent. Written specifically to encourage developing readers and adult learners, the language was kept simple and straightforward, adding to the feel of story. These two short books would be a great introduction for anyone wanting to read more crime fiction or Minette Walters. 


Book Review - The Happiness Show

From Goodreads: She ached for him. She longed for him. She missed the way he made her feel and how funny and smart and sexy she felt with him. And young. She missed the version of herself that she had left behind.At thirty-eight, Lizzie Quealy thinks she has things sorted: a happy relationship, a couple of gorgeous kids, a steadfast best friend and a career she loves. But when Lizzie bumps into Tom, an old flame from her globe-trotting twenties, her life begins to unravel.Tom is her 'unfinished business': the man she might have spent her life with, if things had gone a little bit differently. Ten years on, the spark is still there – but how far is Lizzie prepared to go to recapture it, and at what cost?Set in Melbourne, London and Bali, via Tokyo and the Trans-Siberian Express, The Happiness Show is a refreshingly honest story of love, fidelity and the messiness of second chances. Sexy and hilarious, it explores the rules and taboos of contemporary relationships – and what happens when they stand in the way of one woman's pursuit of happiness.

What I Thought: Hmmmm....not sure. It's not that I didn't enjoy this, but there is something about it that annoyed me and I'm not quite sure I can put my finger on it. Maybe it's my inability to truly understand why someone who is in a happy, stable, loving relationship is willing to risk it. If you do happen to come across your missed chance and it sends you into as big as a whirl as it did Lizzie, then I find it hard to buy that your current relationship is as wonderful as we are led to believe. And I cannot, no matter how hard I try, buy into it being ok to cheat on your partner - it's not - even if you are never caught.
Lizzie came across to me as selfish and willing to risk her marriage and friendships for a second chance at a earlier romance. If you don't take the book too seriously, then it's a fun, light holiday read. Other than that, I'm not a fan.

Challenges: Aussie Author challenge


Book Review - Les Miserables: Book 2 - Cosette

From Goodreads: Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean - the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread - Les Misérables (1862) ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them onto the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose. Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait which resulted is larger than life, epic in scope - an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.

Thoughts: Les Miserables is over 1200 pages. It's a big ask to read, so I am breaking it down into smaller parts reading and reviewing each volume (there are 5), most probably with a break in between each one. You can read my review of book 1: Fantine, here.

Book two sees us investigate Cosette's life with the Thénadier's and her rescue from them by Jean Valjean. It also includes a looooooooong history of the battle of Waterloo and various other events that are not actually part of the story. As such I ended up skipping large chunks. While I do worry I may miss things by doing this, I know that if I don't skim over the bits I find tedious I won't read the book at all.
This part of the story fills in a large chunk of what was missed in the movie and the musical - the intervening years between Cosette being taken from the Thénadier's and her reaching adulthood. The length of the book does mean it's impossible for the makers of the movie and stage production to include everything and I admit I don't feel that anything that happened here was necessary to the story.

This takes me to 40% of the book - almost half way! Hopefully there won't be as big a gap between this and the next book Marius.