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04 March 2007 @ 05:32 pm
You might remember me ranting on about how awesome I thought the first novel (of the actually unintended trilogy), The Tea Rose was. Well, this one was great too, but probably not as moving to me as its predecessor.
From the official website:
The Winter Rose, second book in The Tea Rose trilogy, reunites readers with the much-loved Finnegan family. Beginning where The Tea Rose ended, on the river Thames, the novel follows the story of Charlie Finnegan – now Sid Malone – and an intriguing new female character – India Selwyn Jones.

The year is 1900 and the dangerous streets of East London are no place for a wellbred woman. But India Selwyn Jones is headstrong: she has trained as one of a new breed, a woman doctor, and is determined to practice where the need is greatest.

It is on these grim streets where India meets – and saves the life of – London’s most notorious gangster, Sid Malone. Hard, violent, devastatingly attractive, Malone is the opposite of India’s cool, aristocratic fiancé, a rising star in the House of Commons. Though Malone represents all she despises, India finds herself unwillingly drawn ever closer to him – enticed by his charm, intrigued by his hidden, mysterious past.

The Winter Rose brings the beginning of the turbulent twentieth century vividly to life, drawing the reader into its wretched underworld, its privileged society, and the shadowland between the two, where the strict rules of the time blur into secret passions.

Donnelly has really established herself as a brilliant storyteller - she seems completely at ease at the pace of her tale, and knows exactly where she wants to go. The writing style in terms of literary merit is quite mediocre, but the amount of research Donnelly has put into the vision of the story enriches the historical period and enhances the credibility of such a vivid and epic tale.

Verdict: 4/5 Brilliantly told story of the passionate affair between Sid Malone and India Selwyn Jones and the turbulent waters in which they tread as a result.
Camelot's Shadow by Sarah Zettel
As the title suggests, yes this is an Arthurian novel. Zettel has taken liberties with the legends of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" and "The Loathly Lady" (from Geoffrey Chaucer's Wife of Bath tale) and spun an intriguing, magical and romantic albeit somewhat flat story. And in spite of this, it was great to be swept away by the knights, the swordfights, the damsel in distress, however annoyingly chivalrous Gawain became.

From Amazon: A stunning tale of romance and magic set against the legendary backdrop of King Arthur's court. At nineteen the beautiful Lady Rhian is clearly of marriageable age. But her father seems reluctant to give his blessing to any of her suitors. When she discovers the true reason for this -- that in return for her mother's life he promised her to a sorcerer -- she runs away to join a convent. The sorcerer, Euberacon, is determined to exact his payment and waylays Rhian on the road, but she is rescued by the valiant Sir Gawain, a knight of King Arthur's Round Table, who gallantly offers to escort Rhian to Camelot. Gawain has grave tidings to bring to Arthur -- the Saxons are growing restless, and the threat of war looms. He has taken a great risk in stopping to help Rhian. But when a band of Saxons attacks them, Rhian proves that her skills include more than tapestry and gossip -- and Gawain will be captivated as much by her bravery as by her beauty.

Verdict: 3/5 A pleasant escapist tale to appease fantasy/romance fans.

Washington Square by Henry James
This is a LOOOOONG overdue review - I studied this in Literature last year. I didn't particularly enjoy it, probably because it was so depressing and revealing of the oppression of women in the 19th century, but nonetheless there is great merit in this novel. Dr Sloper is a cold, calculating father, while Morris Townsend is equally scheming and callous and both are adored by Catherine much to her downfall. Catherine Sloper certainly isn't a typical literary heroine but as events unfold her personality also takes a turn, which eventually leads to sadness and bitterness.

Synopsis: When a handsome young man begins to court Catherine Sloper, she feels she is very lucky. She is a quiet, gentle girl, but neither beautiful nor clever; no one had ever admired her before, or come to the front parlour of her home in Washington Square to whisper soft words of love to her.

But in New York in the 1840s young ladies are not free to marry where they please. Catherine must have her father's permission, and Dr Sloper is a rich man. One day Catherine will have a fortune of 30,000 dollars a year ...

Verdict: 4/5 Want a taste of American literature from the 19th century? You've got to read James.
08 January 2007 @ 02:32 pm
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI've been waiting yonks to get it and when I did I got straight into it. I think it's important to be aware of all genres of fiction, and it's amazing at how large the romance industry is. o_O I've read a fair number of historical romances, and this one is probably the highest at the list thus far. Georgian England versus Regency England when you consider both does not have much of a difference, apart from fashion and the ruling monarch. What the hell, all the men wear cravats and the women are heaving their buxom bosoms in their tight corsets. Harhar. For some bizarre reason the dialogue didn't tick me off so much. How many authors actually get the vernacular CORRECT?

A plain looking widow, Anna Wren and her mother-in-law are near destitution so she ends up finding herself employed as Edward de Raaf's (aka Lord Swartingharm) secretary without his knowing. When they do meet again, as master and employee, the Sexual Sparks That Be fly in flaming bursts. Anna begins to enjoy the company of her employer until she takes action into her own hands (HANDS, I SAY) to have her way with him which consequently leads to events that will transform the both of them, causing heartache and angst. (Geez, I am struggling to sound coherent and pretentious here)

The parallels of this story with Jane Eyre is rather stark. I mean, when the protagonists first meet he has been unseated by his horse, she asks if he requires her aid. Sounds vaguely familiar now, no? His name is EDWARD for God's sake. And his face is supposedly scarred by remnants of the smallpox, yet he wreaks sheer masculinity and power (hmm) and she, plain Jane, has the most delectably sensual mouth that captivates our Hero. Oh and she's poor, and seemingly barren, but we all know in the land of Romance that this is non-existent at least until the epilogue. And yeah, he's got a dog (Pilot? No, it's called Jock) and he's loaded. In more ways than one with excess emotional baggage.

This tale seems like it's on the road to Cliche Catastrophe, but despite these similarities to the Bronte classic, this is an embarrassingly heartwarming tale of two people caught in the throes of passion and love. Like an incredibly huge dose of a hot chocolate fudge sundae. And then you suddenly feel sick for indulging too much.

Hard to believe this is the debut novel of Ms Hoyt. It's a fairly well written, well paced and even funny at some points. Although maybe I laughed at the wrong points. Overall a polished piece of work that promises more great feel-good trash in the years to come. Just remember, it's trash. Good trash.

Verdict: 4.5/5
13 December 2006 @ 08:59 pm
When Lily moves into Marcus's flat and plunges headlong into a relationship, she must contend not merely with the disapproval of flatmate Adrian, but with a more intangible, hostile presence. Could it be that Sinead, Marcus's ex, is trying to communicate with her?

Unfortunately, or fortunately, this is the first O'Farrell novel I've read, so I do not know the actual standard that she has set up for herself for her readers. I can say that the beginning of this novel was incredibly compelling in its thrilling unfolding of events in a refreshingly subtle yet decadently revealing manner. This subtleness continues to play on despite the growing eroticism and psychological tremours. This is a part ghost story, part romance, part tragedy, part thriller set in contemporary London and China.

However, the ending that is supposed to resolve the issue of Sinead is not quite complete, which will leave readers a bit disoriented after the generally compelling journey. Don't even ask about the ghost. I think the Sinead ghost literally disappeared and had a cup of tea with Nearly Headless Nick down at Hogwarts. Another slip up, Ms O'Farrell.

Verdict: 3/5
A subtle and succinct style of writing; however, the plot falters heavily at the end into "I'll just make the prose so mysterious that I'll get away with it" territory.
13 November 2006 @ 01:45 pm
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usI read this a while back but forgot to review it. I am totally addicted to Janet Evanovich. Her writing is wildly entertaining, laugh out loud goodness that is really a lot like the birthday cake Stephanie Plum says. Now at the twelfth book in the Plum series, Evanovich hasn't lost her touch, and has even improved on the humour and plot.

"The mixture of slapstick and gunplay that has put Evanovich's series about a sassy, less than competent New Jersey bounty hunter at the top of bestseller lists once again works its magic in Stephanie Plum's latest caper (after 2005's Eleven on Top). Stephanie, who freely admits her failings as a hunter of fugitives, faces a growing work backlog that threatens the continued existence of her job. Her clumsy efforts to clear some cases, along with the help of her outrageous colleague, Lula, result only in their adding another sad sack to the office payroll—a forlorn shoe salesman who's talked off a ledge by Stephanie's offer of a position as file clerk. Stephanie's ambivalence toward the two men in her life becomes harder to maintain when one of them, the mysterious Ranger, is accused of kidnapping his own daughter. Countless over-the-top scenes, including one at a funeral parlor, will delight longtime fans."

Stephanie finally says the "l" word to one of the two men in her life - to whom, you'll have to see for yourself. ;) Anyhoo, Morelli is hot sex; Ranger is hot sex too but he's too hot to be human.... then he gets plain scary.

Verdict: 4.5/5 - pure unadulterated comedic, suspenseful, feel-good fest. Recommended. And definitely get the audiobooks by Lorelei King - she is an absolutely brilliant narrator.
Current Mood: coldcold
Current Music: Don't Cry Baby - Madeleine Peyroux
11 November 2006 @ 01:59 pm
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usHi all! I've finally completed year 12, and finished the final exams just yesterday, so I am FREE - free to read and read and read. So during these long holidays I hope to have more compelling reviews.
Dr Anya Crichton, a pathologist and forensic physician, finds work is sparse for the only female freelancer in the field. Between paying child support, a mortgage and struggling to get her business off the ground, Anya can't yet afford to fight her ex-husband for custody of their three-year-old son, Ben.

After her expert evidence helps win a high-profile court case, Anya is asked by lawyer Dan Brody to look into the drug overdose of a young Lebanese girl. While investigating, Anya notices startling coincidences in a number of unrelated suicides she's been asked to examine by friend and colleague, Detective Sergeant Kate Farrer. All the victims disappeared for a period of time, before committing suicide in bizarre circumstances. As Anya delves deeper, the pathological findings point to the frightening possibility that the deaths are not only linked, but part of a sinister plot. One in which Anya is unwillingly immersed...
I finished much of this book yesterday and today. Before that I had read only a chapter per week/month. I had read a raving review in Vogue magazine about the author's latest work but decided to read her debut novel first. And I have to say that I was thoroughly immersed in the story, despite it succumbing to a tad of superficiality on the surface. The forensic and medical jargon provides authenticity and the pace of Anya's findings is thrilling and suspenseful. Her family history and background and the recognisable areas of Sydney also add dimension. However, I began to be suspicious of the identity of the mystery perpetrator perhaps mid-way into the novel, and was a bit eager to see the end afterwards. The hot-shot lawyer, angry husband, estranged mother, pissed off detective, alluring psychiatrist and other stereotypes may downplay the originality of the story but it's an interesting formula of personal life clashing with work. Nevertheless the conclusion chilled me to the core of my sensitivity. I would have liked to have a more "settled" ending though. For a moment I lost all hope in humanity - this is the first time I've read such a violent tale set in practically my backyard.

Verdict: 4/5
Fox's story is gripping, authentic and a good Friday night read if crime tickles your fancy. And seriously, that is the worst and most boring book cover I have ever seen. Wish I hadn't bought the book now. It would have been a great novel to borrow from a library, but not for keepers.
Current Music: Welcome to My Truth - Anastacia
12 July 2006 @ 10:31 pm
I finally got my hands on The Wedding Officer yesterday. I finished reading it in one sitting. It is that good. Love, war, Italiano delizioso food and a comedy of errors. Total extremes. I love the front cover. It's gorgeously contemporary with a touch of vintage nostalgia.

"Naive and already war-weary, James Gould takes up a position in Naples in 1943. What he doesn't anticipate is that this involves a limited menu of fried Spam fritters and interrogating the would-be Italian fiances of members of the armed forces. James' chance at true heroism arrives when a German tank is sighted and he is caught in its path. However, it is the imperious and dogmatic Livia who opens the hatch and yells at him to stop being such an idiot.

Livia gladly becomes cook, translator and general factotum to James. The two begin to fall in love, but the eruption of Vesuvius triggers a chain of explosive events that will force the two to flee behind enemy lines and will alter their lives immeasurably."

The food intertwined really well into the romance and the war is like that missing jigsaw puzzle piece that completes the whole picture. On the whole this is a wonderful novel, albeit the ending seemed somewhat "awkwardly incomplete". This is a tale for romantics, Italiophiles and food buffs.

A movie version of TWO has even been proposed, although God forbid what it'll turn out to be like. I think having less known actors would be suitable. I've become way too addicted to romanticised World War II fiction. *must find more* I must read The Food of Love now.

Verdict: 4/5 - gloriously delicious and occasionally lightheartedly funny romp in the midst of dark forces at work =D
22 June 2006 @ 09:56 pm
This is quite possibly one of the best novels I've read. As soon as I read the blurb of this novel I was hooked. Originally written in French, Suite Française contains only two of the four or five volumes that Némirovsky had planned. She died in Auschwitz before she could see her novel to fruition. The first volume, titled "Storm in June" is an exodus from Paris on the eve of the Nazi invasion. Both the bourgeois and working-class people are fleeing their homes. The second, called "Dolce", is set in a rural French village occupied by the Nazis. It is the story of Lucille and her growing attraction for a sensitive German officer and the conflicts that arise when she takes a rebel under her wing.

I thought the characters were compelling and genuine and the intertwining stories are exquisite. I had a bit of trouble getting into the novel in the first couple of chapters, but maybe this was due to my being preoccupied with other thoughts. ^^ Even though I have a very limited knowledge of France in World War II, I can appreciate the portrait that Némirovsky has painted. Her writing style is subtle and reveals an insight into the moral conflicts of human nature. It is an absolute shame that she did not live to complete the novel. There is a long afterword in the book with a detailed account of Némirovsky's life, letters written to and from her, and the author's notes on forthcoming volumes, which are all engaging reads in themselves.

Rating: 4.5/5 - beautiful, compelling story that feels so true to life
16 May 2006 @ 07:11 pm
"On a New England college campus, the naked body of a beautiful student is found frozen in a bank of snow. Why had she not even been reported missing by her friends?

Spencer O'Malley, the police detective assigned to the case, is soon drawn into the disturbing world of four friends, Jim, Conni, Albert and Kristina. O'Malley finds that these children of priviledge who played, studied, and occasionally slept together also kept secrets of their own, secrets that must be pieced together to form an entirely new picture.

O'Malley is a stranger in this Ivy League environment, yet he feels an affinity with the victim. In her death, he gradually discovers the truth of her mysterious and complex life, and each revelation is more shocking than the last."

Spencer is not a new character to me, having read The Girl in Times Square before Red Leaves. I am currently reading the former again, and it's making more sense to me. On some levels I feel that Spencer is a cliched character with demons but a strong moral resolve and a beautiful, gentle wife turned plot device (that really stuck out), but all the same I love him for all his weaknesses. Simons masterfully sticks the reader into his head and we feel the claustrophobia, the tension, the rage, the confusion, the sorrow, the loss. At times it feels like progress is slow, but the suspense is always lurking on the corner.

I guessed the murderer and I was right. Sadly. There's a strange Heathcliffe and Catherine complex about the relationships in the novel, but it's so well told. Bitterness is prevalent in the prose, so if you're looking for a feel-good read, this is definitely not one to pick up. Paullina Simons is a brilliant storyteller, however, so I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy any of her novels.

Verdict: 4/5 - A far more satisfying read than said novel below this entry.
14 May 2006 @ 01:31 pm
I don't normally venture into chick lit territory, but when I read the little blurb of this novel I became curious. I guess I'm just partial to plots laced with whodunnit! Mae Sullivan's dirt rich uncle has died, but his diary is missing, and she is determined that someone has murdered him. Has he really been murdered though? Enter rather pathetic P.I. Mitchell Peatwick, not quite the knight in shining armour, who follows an "everybody lies" philosophy (Has he met Dr House?), loves The Maltese Falcon and dreams of a Brigid O'Shaughnessy to step into his office and sweep him off his feet. Or vice versa. Mae takes Mitchell on, 'cause she has no choice and neither does he. The problem is, as the story unfolds, there really doesn't seem to be a story unfolding. There's only ONE funny joke, and it probably wasn't even intended to be one. Poor character development, terrible innuendos, and to garnish the gruel there's a truly gagworthy love scene at the end.

This story had a bit of potential but then it just went right over the mill. It has reaffirmed my belief that these sorts of romances are a no-go zone. Unless divine intervention had any say in why the hell I chose to waste my time reading this thing.

Verdict: 2/5 - romance in Harry Potter has more dimension than this.