Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review: The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

For years, Ms. Kearsley has enthralled readers with her tales of love set in the past and the present, in which her characters experience time travel through a variety of means. Her most recent book, The Winter Sea, published in the US by Sourcebooks in December, first appeared in the UK two years ago under the title Sophia's Secret. It is another fine example of her talent for transporting her readers to times past and holding them there, wishing the story wouldn't end.

Historical novelist Carrie McLelland travels to Scotland to do research on her latest novel set during the attempted invasion by the Old Pretender, James VIII, in 1708. Once there, she experiences deja vu and decides to take a cottage in the village nearby Slains Castle, the setting for her book. Her story flows from her fingertips, both exciting and frightening her. Not only has she not ever written so quickly, but she discovers she knows details of the period and its events she has never researched. And once the story starts to emerge, she finds she can't stop it, not even when she meets a local historian who has her questioning her nomadic lifestyle. It soon becomes clear that somehow she has tapped into the memory of her ancestress, Sophia Paterson.

Scotland past and present comes vividly alive in this superior piece of historical fiction - the rugged countryside, salty sea air and rich heritage are the perfect setting for this tale of love, loss and destiny. Carrie and Sophia are both engaging heroines, lively, impulsive and determined to follow their hearts, while the men they love, Graham and John prove to be heroes in every way. The secondary characters, from old Jimmy and his vain son Stuart to the Dowager Countess of Errol and the treacherous Duke of Hamilton, add depth to the plot without overwhelming the central stories. For those who love historical detail, there is plenty of it to revel in, yet never does it appear to be too much or smack of history lectures. Readers will find themselves flipping the pages eagerly, desperate to find out what happens next.

If you're a fan of historical fiction, I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Winter Sea, curling up in a chair and losing yourself in it. You won't regret it.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review - The Making of a Gentleman by Shana Galen

The Making of a Gentleman is the second in Shana Galen's Sons of the Revolution series and picks up the story a few months after Book One, The Making of a Duchess (which I reviewed in June) concluded. Readers of Book One will remember that Julien needed to rescue his brother Armand, who'd been locked away in a French prison for twelve years. As a result of his imprisonment, he has lost the ability to speak and interact with polite society, so Julien and Sarah decide to hire someone to help him. What they don't tell Felicity Bennett, a well-educated woman in need of a position, is that her pupil is a grown man. Felicity has a secret of her own - a reprobate betrothed who is blackmailing her to free her from their marriage agreement.
Their first meeting leaves them both shaken, but drawn to each other and Felicity decides to stay to help Armand, despite his peculiar ways and haunted aspect. For his part, Armand finds Felicity is the one person who can touch him without pain and soon finds himself needing to be with her as much as possible. When a threat from his past resurfaces, he is even more desperate to protect this woman who is helping to free him from the prison of his mind. But will her past be the undoing of them both?
As with Making of a Duchess, Ms. Galen has brought together an engaging heroine and a tortured but noble hero in a rivetting story with lots of twists and turns. The setting is impeccable, with just the right amount of detail while the characters, major and minor, sparkle. It's wonderful to see Julien and Sarah's relationship continue, yet they don't overwhelm the developing romance between Armand and Felicity. The pacing is perfect as the narrative moves between Armand and Felicity and the subplots involving their secrets.
My only quibble is that one plot point involving Felicity, drags on for just a little too long, but this was merely a minor annoyance as the rest of the story is fresh, intriguing and full of the right combination of romance and adventure. This book was a delight from start to finish and I can hardly wait to read the concluding volume which promises to bring all three brothers together again. I highly recommend that fans of historical romance find and read this book.


Where I write...

Melissa over at Writing with Style asked her readers to post about where they write - here's my response:

To the left you can see my office. It's where I write when I can find the time these days. The lamp is a very recent addition and I love it!

My office is very cozy and has everything I need, including a bookcase with loads of research books and binders with information on my characters, a window for natural light, room enough on my desk for a cat (or two) to snooze and keep me company, and speakers so I can plug my iPod in to listen to music while I write. The small table to the right of my desk belonged to my grandmother - she was one of the first people to encourage me in my writing, so it helps me feel close to her. Also on my desk is a small figurine of a boy and girl standing face to face. My dad bought that for me years ago as a gift while he was on a business trip - I treasure it and who knows, maybe that's what inspired me to write my first love story.

I also have photos of Sean and me, which helps remind me of the true nature of lasting love.


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

30 Day Book Meme is on hiatus...

I've been assigned to a special project at work which will take up lots of my time...any spare time goes to my husband and my studies...I'll return with the Book Meme once the project is complete.

Watch for a book review of Shana Galen's upcoming release from Sourcebooks later this week...


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

30 Day Book Meme - Day 10

Day 10 - A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells. Normally it's not my kind of thing at all, but after seeing the movie, I decided to give it a try and Wow! Did I love it! The way Wells captured the period and locale, her characters and their complicated relationships just sucked me right in. I couldn't put it down and had to find out what happened to take Sidda and Vivi to the point of breaking the mother-daughter bond. I didn't, however, read its prequel, Little Altars Everywhere - somehow, it just didn't appeal. Maybe I should try it, though...

Care to share which book surprised you?


Sunday, September 26, 2010

30 Day Book Meme - Day 09

Day 09 - Best scene ever: The reunion scene in Sharon Kay Penman's Here be Dragons.

Please be advised - there are spoilers in this blog post, so if you still haven't read Here Be Dragons and intend to do so, you might not want to read any further. Ok - that said, my favourite scene ever in a book is the reunion between Llewelyn and Joanna, close to the end. Though their marriage was for the most part a happy one and they genuinely loved each other, tensions did exist which, at one point, drove her into the arms of another man. Llewelyn banished her when he found out, and tried to move on with his life.

Meanwhile, Joanna spends her exile torn up with guilt and grief, so when Llewelyn comes to see her after close to a year apart, she once again begs for his forgiveness. Though his trust and heart were broken by her betrayal, he acknowledges that he was not perfect and realizes that his love for her is strong enough to overcome it. The moment when Llewelyn gives into his love for Joanna always brings me to tears, these lines in particular - as he makes his decision, after she asks if he yet knows what he will do about her:

"I've always known what I ought to do.' He reached for a starnd of her hair, entiwined it about his fingers. "But now...now I know what I want to do."

"What?" she whispered, not daring to move, to risk breaking the spell.

"This," he said, and leaned toward her. The kiss was very gentle, almost tentative... (1)

No-one will ever really know the true feelings that existed in their very political marriage, but Penman's imagining of it has always rung true for me, especially given that Llewelyn established a monastery to honour Joanna at Llanfaes after her death in 1237.

What scene do you think is the best you've ever read?


(1) Penman, Sharon Kay. Here be Dragons. New York: Ballantine Books, 1985. Print. p. 678

Friday, September 24, 2010

30 Day Book Meme - Day 08

Day 08 - A book everyone should read at least once

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. I think it's really an important book for everyone to read - to understand one of the most heinous crimes of the 20th Century. As we get further and further into the 21st Century and the war fades from memory, I truly believe that everyone should read this book during their teens - or even later, to help keep the memory alive of what can happen when a megalomaniac with an agenda is given absolute power.

What other books do you think are important for everyone to read?


Thursday, September 23, 2010

30 Day Book Meme - Day 07

Day 07 - Least favorite plot device employed by way too many books you actually enjoyed otherwise

The Big Misunderstanding...I hate when writers include a misunderstanding that can be cleared up easily if two characters just talk to each other. I literally cringe when I read the scene and hope against hope that the author will clear it up quickly. Some do, but most don't, preferring to use that misunderstanding to increase the conflict between the protagonists. I hate that. Hate, hate, hate it...Even so, if the rest of the story is good and I actually like and sympathize with the characters, I'll keep reading. But if this is thrown in on top of a book over which I'm already wavering, then that is usually the key for me to close it and walk away.

Authors that avoid these kind of misunderstandings - or use them as a brief story point, the resolution of which brings the characters closer together, are the ones that keep me coming back to their stories again and again. An example of an author who proved that misunderstandings can serve as brief plot points that build a couple's relationship is Shana Galen - she used it to great effect in The Making of a Duchess (read my review).

So what is your leave favourite plot device?


Currently Reading: The Exile of Sara Stevenson by Darci Hannah

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

30 Day Book Meme - Day -06

Day 06 - Favorite book of your favorite series OR your favorite book of all time

The Chalet School in Exile is my favourite book in the entire Chalet School series. It touches on so many important things - the war, the horrid prejudices that drove it and most especially, the fact that so many people from both sides were stuck on opposing sides, people who had been friends. As war approaches, the girls form a Peace League, knowing that the many German schoolgirls will be behind enemy lines before long. A few of them even jump to the defence of an old Jewish man in a village, which brings down the wrath of the Nazis who are there. From that point forward, the book moves at a frantic pace.

After hiding their Peace League charter, those involved in the incident in the village are forced to flee for their freedom. The story then picks up with the school in Guernsay and we see how some have escaped Europe, but their loved ones have been left behind. Then two German airmen crash and the girls face a terrible dilemma - it's brought home to them that while Hitler has a reason for the war and his need for supremacy, many of those fighting on his side are young men not much older than themselves who do not necessarily share his views. It really brings home the horrors of the war and the realities faced by those who experienced it.

So, what book is your favourite in the series you like best?


Currently Reading - The Exile of Sara Stevenson by Darci Hannah

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

30 Day Book Meme - Day 05

Day 05 - A book or series you hate

Hating any book is beyond a true book lover like me, but I will confess that I did not enjoy reading Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. It was required reading for my first year English course at university, many years ago now. Though only around 100 pages, for me, the book might as well have been 1000 pages. Nothing about the story interested me remotely and I just found it  difficult to wrap my head around. I couldn't sympathize with the protagonist and though my half-Polish soul wept at me rejecting this work by a son of Poland, I put down the book with relief when I was done. Would it be different today? I don't know.

So - is there a book or series you hate?


About to start reading: The Exile of Sara Stevenson by Darci Hannah

Sunday, September 19, 2010

30 Day Book Meme - Day 04

Day 04 - Your favorite book or series ever

This is easy...The Chalet School Series by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. I own more than half the 60-odd books in the series and when I need a true comfort read, I pull one out. For those of you not familiar with it, this set of school stories was written by Ms. Brent-Dyer (herself a school teacher/headmistress) from the 20s through to the 60s. The story starts with Madge Bettany deciding to open a school in Austria as a means of supporting herself and her fragile 12 year old sister, Jo. Though she has only 6 pupils to start, the school very quickly meets with great success as parents from around Europe and beyond hear of it. The books are typical of the school story type - prefects, mischievous middle school students, midnight feasts and plenty of antics. Its location is one of the charms - what 10 year old girl doesn't love to read about tramps through fresh snow, hiking up into the alps and camping in shady woods in a foreign country. But it's Brent-Dyer's characters that really charm. Jo is a headstrong tomboy who blossoms once she moves to a climate more suited to her health. Also a typical school-story heroine, she saves many of her friends from unlikely but fascinating situations, leads her group of friends and even after graduation, remains the heart of the school. As a child I dreamed of being able to go to a school like this.

The series moves location several times as the school is forced from Europe at the beginning of WWII (The Chalet School in Exile), initially to Guernsey, then Wales and Switzerland and many of the original characters reappear, either as teachers or parents of later students. Occasionally Brent-Dyer loses track of some and names occasionally change - most famously that of Madge's partner and successor as Head Mistress, Mademoiselle Lepattre, whose first name changes, IIRC, from Thérèse to Elise - but these slight inconsistencies are all part of the series' charm and appeal.

Parents of girls today might want to check out a couple of the books before recommending them, simply because they do contain references to religion and some moralizing does occur. They are not inspirational, in that religion is not the focus, but as was current at the time they were set, the majority of the girls and their teachers belonged to and were active in either the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church. Many girls today might simply find them boring compared to the vampires and wizards they read about today.

All that said, many who grew up reading them in years gone by are still huge fans, as is evidenced by the existence of at least two international organizations devoted to this series of books - Friends of the Chalet School and The New Chalet Club.

What about you? Are you a Chalet School fan? Have you read other school series you liked?
Currently Reading: Shadow Baby by Margaret Forster

Friday, September 17, 2010

30 Day Book Meme - Day 03

Please note that on Saturdays and Mondays, I won't be posting entries for this meme.

Day 03 - The best book you've read in the last 12 months:

Another really difficult one. For this one, I'm going to go with Rain Before Morning by Michael Poole. Most of you won't have heard of this book as it was written by an author here on the Sunshine Coast and published Harbour Publishing, a small publisher located a few kilometers north of where I live. The novel is a powerful piece set before and during WWI, following the love story of a young couple, Leah and  who meet when she moves with her family to a village on the Sunshine Coast. Her mother disapproves of the romance and finds a way to separate them. Leah ends up in France during the war while Nathan spends time in logging camps, trying to earn enough money to support them. When conscription is invoked, Nathan and Leah face their biggest challenge yet.

What I loved about this book is the atmosphere - the dripping trees, the cold, the smell of the sea and the sound of the wind. Poole, who grew up in this area, captures it effortlessly. Combine this atmosphere with a rivetting story that pits a group of young men who are evading the army and you have a novel that grips and envelops its reader. In dealing with the politically charged issue of conscription, and the varying reasons young men opposed it, Poole addresses an aspect of history not often discussed any more. He also deals with Leah's disgust for the early 20th century military attitude towards shell-shock. Though this book is by no means an easy read - at times it all but overwhelmed me emotionally, it is compelling and well worth taking the time to curl up with.

Currently Reading: Shadow Baby by Margaret Forster

Thursday, September 16, 2010

30 Day Book Meme - Day 02

Day 02 - A book or series you wish more people were reading and talking about

Tracy Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures. It's her latest book and just wonderful, focussing as it does on Mary Anning, the young woman who made major fossil discoveries on the South Coast of England in the early 19th century. It also deals with her friendship with her patron, Elizabeth Philpot, a woman who shared her fascination with fossils but who didn't have the same degree of success in uncovering them. Not only did Ms Anning find the fossils, but she cleaned and reconstructed them. All this in a small house in Lyme Regis.

As with all her books, Ms Chevalier brings historical figures to life, immersing us in their daily routine so that we feel we could turn around and bump into them. So skilled is she at weaving in historical fact that we learn about them and the world around them without being subjected to info dumps, a technique which contributes to the feeling of being transported back in time through her prose. She also examines the difficult nature of female friendship and rivalry, in a time in general when women were excluded from academic life and relegated to the drawing room and nursery.

Until I read this book, I had no idea about the important contributions to science and history made by Ms Anning, an ordinary woman with an extraordinary talent and the drive to persevere. To learn more, you can read about the book and/or visit the online version of the Philpot museum in Lyme Regis.

Currently Reading: Shadow Baby by Margaret Forster

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

30 Day book meme...Day 01

I found this at Cate's Bookshelves and have decided that this is one way I can keep my blog updated without taking too much time away from my school work. The topics are right there for me and very specific...Cate found this meme at another blog, Christina Reads!

Feel free to join in :) And now, as they say, on with the sh--- er, meme.

Day 01 - A book series you wish had gone on longer OR a book series you wish would just freaking end already (or both!)

This is a hard one for me to answer, I fully admit, as I don't always finish a whole series. After all, I still haven't gotten any further than Drums of Autumn (though I do have the other books). Still, I hated to see Sharon Kay Penman's Welsh series - Here be Dragons, Falls the Shadow and The Reckoning - end. It was masterful and I would have loved to have seen her continue the story somehow, even though the central character dies. I remember waiting on tenterhooks for each book in the series to be released, diving into it with the eagerness of a boy let loose in a Matchbox Car factory. Here be Dragons remains one of my favourite books to this day. For those of you who haven't read these books, they follow the story of the last Welsh princes of Wales - Llewellyn Fawr through to his grandson, Llewellyn the Last. There's political intrigue, war, family disputes and romance - everything any afficiando of historical fiction craves. If you haven't read them, I highly recommend finding them at your local library or bookstore!


Thursday, September 09, 2010

Where did the summer go?

I can't believe we're down to the last official weeks of summer! Granted, here on the BC Coast, the weather didn't even get decent till the first full week of July and I was in school from May till early August, but still...

Regardless, we had a wonderful season :) In May, Sean and I took our camper to Harrison Hot Springs in the Fraser Valley and had a fantastic time, despite a flat tire on the truck and getting lost on a muddy trail.

Cheam Peak

Camper in situ

Harrison Lake

Clematis in bloom

One of the highlights of the summer on the Coast was the presence of a grey whale that fed up and down the coastline from Roberts Creek to Halfmoon Bay. Sean and I just happened to be down for a sunset walk at Davis Bay on one of the evenings it was very close to the beach. Fortunately I had my camera, and snapped this pic of it!

Whale at Davis Bay

Other nature encounters included the bear and a heron. I'm particularly pleased with the photo of the heron on wing:

Bear on an early morning vist


Soon after finishing my English lit course (which was fantastic), my sister and her family came to stay - we had a busy but fun 10 days together:

the gang out at Smuggler Cove

Meanwhile, I'm still working at the library - in fact, in May I officially became a part-time employee :) Up until then, I'd been a Casual. I still love my job and love being able to apply the things I'm learning about in school.

Finally, the cats continue to be their happy-go-lucky selves - running around, playing, snoozing and generally enjoying the life of Riley.

Chloe and Cleo enjoying the sun in the living room

Chloe and Cleo enjoying a post-dinner snooze in the spare room

On Tuesday I started school again and it's going to be a busy term! One of the courses is a cataloguing one and the other is about the history of libraries (yeah, that one's really tough to take!) I'll try to pop in again at least once or twice before Christmas...

Currently Reading: Solo by Jill Mansell

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Book Review - The Dark Rose

While reading this second book in the Morland Dynasty saga, I remembered why I got hooked on the series the first time I read it almost thirty years ago - the characters. The Dark Rose carries on the story of Robert and Eleanor's brood, focussing on their great-grandson Paul and great-great grand-daughter, Anne, know as Nanette. Paul is married to a woman he does not love and finds happiness in the arms of another, who gives him a son out of wedlock with whom he has a trouble relationship while Nanette goes to Court and serves both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Parr, sharing in their tragic lives. The lives of the other members of the family are interwoven into the story.

As with The Founding, there is lots of historical detail and the characters observe and particpate in some of the major events of the Tudor period, including Henry VIII's split with the Catholic Church, the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the resulting Pilgrimage of Grace. Once again, Ms. Harrod-Eagles captures the period atmosphere, especially the social and political tensions, yet her story does not come across as a history lesson. Instead it unfolds at a absorbing pace that keeps the reader turning the pages, eager to know what happens next.

Paul himself is not the most endearing of characters, yet this is another of the author's strengths - making us care about people who have characters flaws. His son Adrian is even more difficult, yet again, the reader has some sympathy for him, despite his less than stellar nature. Nanette's story is one that many women from the higher classes during that period experienced seeing the Tudor court from the female point of view is always interesting and she is very engaging and believable. Even Henry VIII is portrayed as a real flesh and blood person and not as the caricature he has become for so many who think of him only as a fat old man who cut off the heads of his wives.

I read this book in less than a week, and loved being swept away by the Morland family and their story and when I closed it, I was eager to start the next one in the series. So why not pick up up The Dark Rose this month from Sourcebooks Landmark and, like me, lose yourself in this wonderful work of historical fiction.


Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Book Review - The Making of a Duchess by Shana Galen

It's always refreshing to read a historical romance set in a slightly different time period. Published this month by Sourcebooks, Shana Galen's The Making of a Duchess is set in 1801 England, after the Treaty of Amiens that saw a temporary cessation of the Napoleonic Wars. Sarah Smith, a governess, is horrified when her employer proposes she spy for England, but when he threatens to turn her out onto the streets, she agrees. Sent to the home of Julien Harcourt, duc de Valère, a French emigré, she poses as Serafina Artois, a friend of the duc's family who no-one has seen since before the Revolution. The Foreign Office suspects Harcourt is carrying English secrets to his homeland on his frequent journeys across the Channel and Sarah must find proof. In reality, Julien is searching for his long-lost brother, Armand, who he and his mother were forced to leave behind when they fled their home during a peasant uprising in 1789.

Julien's mother hopes for a match between Serafina and her son and is delighted by the young woman who arrives, but begins to suspect there is more to the situation when Sarah's social gaffes mount. Nervous that she'll be caught and unprepared for the many social situation she faces, Sarah works quickly to find the necessary information that will set her free. But when she and Julien are caught in a compromising situation and marriage is called for, Sarah learns her employer expects her to follow through. What will her new husband think when he learns he has married an orphaned governess? And when she learns that Julien is no spy, can she work with him to outwit her employer? Or will they both perish?

Ms. Galen has fashioned a believable love story between two sympathetic characters. Though I found the story a bit slow to get going, once Sarah and Julien started working together and fighting their attraction for each other, I was hooked. Julien is a perfect hero - handsome, kind and considerate, yet tortured enough to have a dark side he can't always control. Sarah is more than a match for him, quickly overcoming her inital intimidation to stand up to him. Her character development from nervous young woman to confident duchess is delightful to follow. They soon learn that together they are stronger and their love for each other is genuine and brought to life vividly.

I loved the historical details, the social interactions at the various public events Sarah and Julien attend and the steadily increasing pace of the story as pressure mounts on Sarah and Julien to prove his innocence. But what I appreciated most was the author's skill at advancing the story without falling back on clichéd devices. At one point I thought for certain she would go one way with the plot and was so happy when she chose instead to go with a more believable way that did justice to her protagonists. Also, there are a couple of little plot points that I figured out quite early, but this did not detract from the story and my feeling is the author meant for her readers to make these discoveries well before her characters do.

So if you love well-written, historical romance with lots of detail, interesting and engaging characters and plots with twists and turns, I highly recommend you pick up The Making of a Duchess.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Review...Rumor has it...

Are you looking for a good beach read this summer? If so, you can do no better than Jill Mansell's Rumor has it (Sourcebooks Landmark), in which the heroine, Tilly Cole learns that what you hear isn't always the truth. Having been dumped by her boyfriend, she decides to up sticks and move from London to rural Gloucestershire to be near her best friend, consignment shop owner, Erin. To support herself, she takes a job as a personal assistant to Max, an interior designer with a precocious teenager, Louisa and a devastatingly handsome best friend named Jack Lucas. Jack has a reputation as a ladies man and Tilly has no intention of adding herself to his list of conquests, but circumstances throw them together, allowing her to see a different side of him. Soon she finds herself fighting her attraction to a man everyone tells her will break her heart even as he proves himself to be more than a shameless womanizer.

There are several sub-plots featuring Tilly's friend Erin, her boss Max and his former wife and a hunky teacher at Louisa's school. They add depth to the story without overwhelming the main plot, while reflecting the overall theme of appearances not always reflecting the truth. Ms. Mansell's talent lies in her ability to create quirky, sympathetic and compelling characters about whose fate the reader cares and creating storylines for them that highlight their particular personal journeys. Serving as background, small-town life is portrayed in all its gossipy yet close-knit glory, with just enough physical detail to ground it in reality. I could see the pub, the country lanes and Jack's house in my mind while I read.

Ms. Mansell's accomplished prose strikes just the right balance of narrative and dialogue. North American readers will occasionally encounter British expressions they don't understand, though in general the context makes the meaning clear enough. The story moves along quickly, as Tilly's dilemma deepens and her friends find themselves equally challenged by life's unexpected twists and turns. Are some of the situations in which our heroine finds herself a little far-fetched? Sure! But that's the fun of fiction.

As with other works by Ms. Mansell, I read this one almost compulsively, always reluctant when forced to set it aside to tend to the more mundane aspects of my life. Here's hoping you get to lose yourself in it on a gorgeous sunny day, when you have nothing but time to indulge in a moreish book.


Thursday, April 22, 2010


Yes, spring term is now over and I'm back in the blogosphere for a while. I had so much work over the past fourteen weeks, I pretty much had no time for much else. And when I did manage to snatch a few hours here and there, I did a lot of reading. No writing, alas. My brain was pretty much completely dedicated to school stuff. That's not to say my characters haven't been trying to get my attention, but I had little to give them.

So I'm hoping over the summer that I'll manage better, given that I'm taking only one course. Despite my preoccupation with school, I've missed my truly creative side and know that at least some of my grumpiness is down to the fact I've had to suppress it to concentrate on reference assignments and learning about enhancing library web pages.

What keeps me from giving up entirely on my writing is knowing that school is a finite thing. In two years I should be done! And then I can go back to writing regularly. A hiatus may not be ideal, given that I still do want to get published but now that I've found library studies/work to be what I want to do on a regular basis, I have to dedicate myself to it. I'm generally a "don't do things by half-measures" kinda gal :) Which in the end, also makes me a better writer.

How about you? Do you sometimes have to set your writing on the back burner? Do you feel guilty? And do you get grumpy when you don't write?

Happy Earth Day!


About to Start Reading: Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Book Review - The Founding, by Cynthia Harrod Eagles

This classic in the historical fiction genre, the first in a series ranging from the 15th through the 20th centuries, is being re-released by Sourcebooks Landmark thirty years after it was first published in the UK. I read at least the first 10 books in the series during my teens, so was eager to revisit it when given the chance to review the Sourcebooks edition.

It was all I remembered. Rich in historical details, populated by compelling and very real characters and a true page-turner. Set in Yorkshire, The Founding begins with the marriage of Robert Morland and Eleanor Courteney. She is a reluctant bride, already half in love with Richard, the dashing Duke of York. He is the sole heir to his father's Yorkshire holding, built up by hard work and determination. Though the match falters at first, with Eleanor determined not to give in to her lowered circumstances and Richard too shy to stand up to his formidable bride, soon enough they come to an understanding and settle into a comfortable marriage.

Within a few years they have a brood of children, a burgeoning wool business bolstered by Eleanor's ambition and torn loyalties as the Wars of the Roses begin. Though a Lancastrian by virtue of her Beaufort guardians, Eleanor's true allegiance is to the House of York. Soon enough they both have to choose once and for all which side they will support. That decision does not come without a price as battles ensue, leading to losses on both sides.

Eleanor is the heart of this story, her strength and resilience are what holds the family together. But the secondary characters, especially Richard, are equally well-drawn and central to the appeal of this book. Ms. Harrod-Eagles makes you care about them and their lives. There is much to both cheer for and shed tears for as Eleanor and Richard's children, grand-children and great-grandchildren come of age in an era well-known for its political and social turmoil.

Fans of historical fiction will delight in the many small details of every-day life woven into the narrative. I especially liked the portrayal of religious devotion as something natural and matter-of-fact.

On a few occasions the prose does seem a little stilted, but for the most part it pulls the reader into the story and moves along at a comfortable pace. The main characters participate in many of the central historical events of the period, ensuring that for the most part the reader experiences them rather than just hearing a recitation of facts. Only once does the author slip in this, with the events surrounding the seizure of the young king by the Duke of Gloucester. Even so, she is a skilled enough writer to pull off this "info dump" with aplomb. Overall I was transported back in time and was disappointed when this volume of the series reached its conclusion.

For those with an interest in medieval history, be aware that this is a very Yorkist story, with a sympathetic portrayal of Richard III and his reign. If you are partial to the Beaufort/Tudor side of the story, this might not be the book for you. However, you will miss out on one of the true cornerstones of historical ficiton of the late 20th century. I look forward to rereading more of the Morland saga in the coming years.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Deborah Cooke (aka Claire Delacroix) on "Conquering the Synopsis"

Deborah wrote a great blog post on this topic. Speaking as one who has never perfected the art of the synopsis, I loved her advice. Hope you do too :)


Currently Reading: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Happy New Year!!!

Yes, I'm back. Though I'm also pondering the future of this blog...these days I just don't seem to have much time for it. Between school and work, I'm hardpressed to do anything else.

That said, I'd find it hard to give up all together, so maybe for now I'll continue with occasional posts and accept the fact I won't have many readers/followers or comments.

In November I went to visit my sister and mother in Saskatoon - that was an enjoyable break, especially given that the weather was glorious and I was able to spend time with my nephews and niece as well!

School finished in mid-December, then I was thrown into Christmas prep along with shifts at the library, though we did close for 10 days while having our carpets replaced as part of the Christmas break.

Here are a few pics from the last couple of months:

Chloe sleeping on my Sechelt Library bag

Cleo on the back of the love seat

Sean checking the state of his ice (back when our pond was frozen enough to skate on)

Me skating :)

Frozen pond

Frosty Christmas tree decoration

Beach at Snickett Park, Sechelt

I'll try to get back sooner this time! School starts again tomorrow - very excited to be taking my Reference course this term :)

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!!!


Currently Reading: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel