Monday, August 30, 2010

Photo Friday - Warm

Caption: Handmade (by me) quilts and afghans. Getting ready for cooler temperatures and trying to stay warm.
For more "Warm" photos, visit the Photo Friday website.
For more of my submissions, please my PhotoFriday set on my Flickr page.

Last Writes by Sheila Lowe

In Last Writes, Claudia Rose is asked to help find Kelly's niece, Kylie, who's been taken away by her father. Kylie, who is about to turn three, has been dubbed "the chosen one" by the Temple of Brighter Light, a cult her mother and father belong to. It appears that the child's life is in danger and Kelly wants Claudia to use her handwriting analysis skills to help find the child.

I loved this book. It got my attention and held it until the very end. It's very well written and has a captivating and current storyline. Handwriting analysis isn't something I know a whole lot about, but it's a really fascinating field. I really enjoyed reading about the job and the work it entails. I was extremely excited to learn that the author was a handwriting expert. I knew at that point that the information was going to be plentiful and accurate. Beside the handwriting analysis, the other part of the story line revolves around the cult. That was equally fascinating, but I wondered how much personal experience the author had with that aspect of the story. Not that I any doubt about the accuracy of the information. I'm just curious.

All through the book, I wondered what Lowe could have said about me based on my terrible handwriting. *cringe* At this point in my life, I don't think she couldn't tell me anything I don't already know about myself, but I'm sure I'd be surprised about how much my handwriting reveals.

This book is forth book in the Forensic Handwriting Mysteries series. Despite that, the book didn't dwell on past events from the other books. I loved that about this book. If there was mention of a past case or past event, it slipped by me and that's just fine. I dislike it when the story depends too much on past events that happened in previous books, especially when I haven't read those books, as is the case here. Speaking of previous books in the series, the covers on those appear to be a little edgier, while this one appears to be more cozy. I think that this book could fit into the cozy genre. However, the story has a psychological aspect to it that makes it more serious and definitely less flighty (and better) than others in the genre. There's a very interesting post over at Lesa's Book Critiques in which the author discusses the cover. This really is a great book; I really hope that it reaches the right readers.

New words:
graphology (page 162): the study of handwriting
obstreperous (page 116): disruptive

Highly recommended. I think fans of psychological suspense and/or cozies will enjoy this one. I'll definitely be looking for more works by this author.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit Penguin's website.

For more information about the author and other Claudia Rose books, please visit the Claudia Rose website.

For more information about the author and her work as a handwriting expert, please visit Sheila Lowe's website.

I'd like to thank those Dana Kaye from Kaye Publicity for this review copy.

Last Writes: A Forensic Handwriting Mystery by Sheila Lowe, New American Library (Penguin), ©2010. 9780451231109(mass market), 290p.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Under the Dragon's Tail by Maureen Jennings

Under the Dragon's Tail: A Murdoch Mystery is a police procedural set in Toronto, Canada in the late 1800s. Detective Murdoch is summoned to investigate the death of a woman in a rundown rooming house. At first, it appears to be an accident, a drunken fall. However, evidence soon indicates that the woman, Dolly Merishaw, was murdered. Dolly was a mean, hard living, beer drinking, midwife and abortionist. She had three charges in her care; a mute daughter and two young fosters, both boys. Once Murdoch learns this about the victim, he's convinced that she has met with foul play. When another body turns up in the same house, Murdoch isn't sure if he's after one or two murderers.

I was quite excited to be able to review this book. My husband and I are avid viewers of the TV show, Murdoch Mysteries, which is based on the Murdoch Mystery books by Maureen Jennings. We usually don't watch too many Canadian TV shows, but this one has us hooked. For me, it doesn't hurt that Yannick Bisson is easy on the eyes.

As much as I love the TV show, I loved this book more. I really enjoyed reading it. The storyline was interesting and mostly non-violent, which I really liked. The story was a little more sexual than I thought it was going to be. It wasn't at all gratuitous or over the top, just different from my expectations (more about that later). I also loved that the story, characters actions and scene descriptions were all in keeping with the time period in which the book took place. Even the language that Jennings used fit the time period (see New Words below).

I'm having a hard time separating my feelings for the book from those for the TV show. As I read, I saw the characters as the actors on TV. That would be fine, except that I found myself liking and disliking characters in the book based on whether or not I cared for the actor who portrayed them on TV. As for the sexual sections in the book, again those expectations came from the TV show, which I'm sure have to contend with censors.

New words: There are plenty of new-to-me words in the book. At least some of these were used in the time period in which the book is set. Here's a sampling:
sluggard (page 14): lazy person
quadroon (page 22): an offensive term for somebody with one black and three white grandparents
mithering (page 65): scolding
huckaback (page 103): coarse fabric for towels
tubercles (page 109): lesion
gainsaid (page 129): opposed
enceinte (page 274): pregnant
escritoire (page 282): writing desk
antimacassars (page 284): a piece of fabric place over the back of an armchair to keep it clean.

Highly recommended for mystery lovers. Even if you don't watch the TV show, I'm sure you'll like this book. I'm definitely going to pick up more of these Murdoch Mysteries.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit McClelland & Stewart'swebsite.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Maureen Jennings's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at McClelland & Stewart and Random House for this review copy.

Under the Dragon's Tail by Maureen Jennings, McClelland & Stewart, ©2003. ISBN 9780771043352(Trade Paperback), 295p.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner

In Fly Away Home, Sylvie learns that her husband, the senator, has been having an extramarital affair. She was the perfect politician's wife and has built her life entirely around his career. Now, she refuses to stand by his side and goes away to think things over. Meanwhile her adult daughters Lizzie and Diana are facing struggles of their own. Lizzie, a slightly unstable former addict, is on the slow rocky road to recovery, but continues to find trouble around every corner. Diana, an ER physician, is having her own marital problems and gives into temptation. When the news of the affair dies down, the three women, who haven't been too close over the years, huddle together to try to find solace in each other.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It drew me in right away and I didn't want to put it down. I just loved the way the story was structured. It was written in alternating chapters between Sylvie, Diane and Lizzie, which was a perfect fit for this storyline. In some ways, it felt like three short stories strung together by a common denominator; the senator and his affair. That connection made them work together in one cohesive unit.

I could have read a whole book on each of these characters. I loved them all. Sylvie poured everything she had into her husband's life and career and didn't seem to have much left for herself. It was amazing to watch her change as the book progressed. The references to real-life politician sex scandals made her plight current and real. Poor Lizzie just couldn't catch a break. I really wanted things to turn around for her. Diana really got to me, too. The pain she felt over her marriage woes broke my heart.

At first, I was a little leery about the book. I don't typically read women's fiction. I had read another book by Weiner, In Her Shoes and didn't love it. ( my review). I was worried that the book was going to be more of the same. Having said that, I've heard such good things about this author that I really wanted to give her another try. I'm so glad I did. I liked this book considerably more than the last one I read.

Favourite quotes:
...what [Lizzie] was in search of was what all the photographers she most admired had been after: not beauty, which was easy, but truth. (page 86)

New word Alert:
irascible (page 105): irritable

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit Simon & Schuster's website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Jennifer Weiner's website.

I'd like to thank Christine over at at Edwards Magazine Bookclub and those nice people at Simon & Schuster for this review copy.

Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner, Atria Books (Simon & Schuster), ©2010. ISBN 9780743294270 (Hardcover), 397p.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Do Not Open by John Farndon

Do Not Open features secrets from around the world. Inside you'll find everything from A to Z: Abominable Snowman, bacteria, China, diamonds, eavesdropping, Fibonacci Numbers, gunpowder, Holy Grail, Ivan the Terrible, Jack the Ripper, Ku Klux Klan, lost tribes, Mary Queen of Scots, nuclear bombs, optical illusions, Plato, reincarnation, sleepwalking, telepathy, unicorns, vampires, Watergate, Xi'an pyramids, yeti, Fritz Zwicky, and much, much more. There are many ways to read the book: sequentially (like any other book), randomly by opening it at any page, or by starting at the beginning (or anywhere for that matter) and using the directions at the bottom of the pages to go to related articles.

This book blew me away. It's so great that every time I open the book it sucks me in. I can't stop. No wonder it's a New York Times bestseller. The book is filled with information that's new to me. I love learning new things and this book fit right in with that. The material is presented in an unusual, fun and quirky way, which makes the book fun to read. The pages are visually interesting because the text is arranged in a wide variety of formations, using many different fonts and font sizes. Along with the text there's plenty of phenomenal art work. There are collages, photographs, cartoons, flip out pages, flip out tabs, and a few other special effects. Not one boring page in the whole book.

The directions at the bottom of the page (called links) are a feature I particularly enjoy. They make this book different from others I've seen. The linking example given in the introduction goes as follows: Starting at "Hoaxes", the reader can than go to another page to read about "Anastasia: The Lost Princess", then to "Haunted Places", followed by "UFOs", which leads to "Men in Black", then "Surveillance". It goes on and on. This is my favourite way to read the book. Of course, on occasion I've also just picked it up and read a page or two. Either way, it's fun.

It was really hard to come up with some favourite pages. There are so many. Here's a short list of ones I really enjoyed:

  • Atlantis (pages 212-213): Did you know that there are 9 different sites that could be Atlantis?
  • Want a Strawberry Milkshake?(page 164-165): Did you know that a prepared strawberry milkshake gets its flavours from more than 60 chemicals and not a single strawberry? Yum.
  • Vatican (page 88-89): Did you know that the divorce documents of King Henry VIII are stored in the secret archives because of their sensitive nature?
  • Elvis (pages 242-243): Did you know that Elvis's coffin weighed 400kg (900 lb)? What was in there?

The book features a fantastic table of contents with not only a list of secrets, but also an explanation of what the secret is about. That makes it useful and a fascinating read all by itself. The index is equally useful with enough entries to make things easy to find. The glossary is ok and only features a small fraction of the items in the book. Since many of these items have already been explained on their respective pages, it makes me wonder if it is necessary at all. Still, it contains some interesting information in a concise format. It might be helpful to some readers.

I really think this book would be great for a reluctant readers, both young or old(er). I also think it would make a great coffee table book, except when you have company. Your visitors will probably spend more time with the book than they do with you. Lock it away, keep it to yourself and whatever you do, Do Not Open it [unless you want to learn something and have a good time doing it].

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book or to take a peek inside selected sections, please visit DK Canada's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at DK Canada for this review copy.

Do Not Open by John Farndon, DK Publishing (Penguin), ©2007. ISBN 9780756662936(paperback), 256p.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sushi: Taste and Technique by Kimiko Barber and Hiroki Takemura

Sushi: Taste and Technique focuses on ingredients and techniques used in the making of sushi. It's divided into three sections: basics, making and eating. The basics cover utensils, ingredients and basic recipes. The making section covers scattered, stuffed, pressed, rolled, hand-formed types of sushi, while the eating part covers sushi bars, etiquette, beverages, entertaining and troubleshooting.

As a sushi reference, it's great. It's filled with gorgeous mouth-watering photographs. Some of the techniques and recipes have step by step photographs which make them easier to follow. The sections on history of sushi, ingredients/utensils and recipe introductions were all well written and interesting.

I loved seeing all the different kinds of sushi. I had no idea there were so many. Two of the types were new to me: scattered sushi, pressed sushi. I'm definitely going to try the scattered sushi at some point. It looks like a great lunch solution.

Sushi is relatively new to my eating repertoire, so by no means am I a great sushi connoisseur. I've had takeout more than a few times and have made sushi a few times at home. I mainly stick to stuff I know I like, but have been adventurous on occasion. Over the years, I've picked up some equipment and utensils to use. However, I'm still short some pieces. It's nice that the book offers short cuts and utensil substitutions so that I can try out a new recipe or new kind of sushi without making an investment in equipment I might only use once.

While the section on all the types of fish, shellfish and techniques for filleting and dismembering them was interesting and informative, I'm not sure how useful this information is going to be for me. I rarely (if ever) buy fish or shellfish that hasn't already been cleaned. Having said that, it was kind of cool to see all of the different seafoods in their natural states. I'd never heard of John Dory, brill or turbot.

For recipes, the book is just okay. The focus of the book is really on ingredients and techniques, so there weren't as many recipes as I would have liked. I tried a few of them with varying degrees of success:

  • sushi rice (page 36): Straight forward and somewhat successful. I thought the result was a little sweet, so I checked my other recipe. Sure enough, this recipe has 4 times more sugar. The other toppings and fillings pretty much masked the sweetness, so it wasn't too bad. Unfortunately, the sweetness masked the vinegar taste in the rice, which for me is the part of the appeal.
  • dashi (page 39): straight forward and successful. I haven't made this before, so I have nothing to compare it to.
  • Thin Japanese omelette (page 44): Hard to get right and not too successful. The omelette looked ok. A couple of them were too thick and hard to roll, but making a perfectly thin omelette takes some practice. The result was way too salty, almost to the point of inedible. I made a second batch with half the amount of salt and it was still too salty. The recipe called for 1 tsp salt for 1 egg + 1 egg yolk. If I make this again, I'd use 1/8-1/4 tsp of salt. I noticed that the thick Japanese Omelette (page 40) used 1 tsp salt for 6 eggs. That sounds more reasonable.
  • wasabi leaf (page 51): straight forward and successful.
  • Thin-roll sushi (hoso maki zushi) (page 186): straight forward and successful. Made three rolls: scallop and shitake; cucumber; avocado. All of these were good.
  • Stuffed tofu pouches (inari) (page 152): straight forward and somewhat successful. The filling for the inari was a little bland for my taste.
  • Omelette packages (page 158): straight forward and not too successful. See Thin Japanese omelette explanation above. The filling, which was basically the same for the inari above, was bland. As for the other ingredients, I couldn't find kampyo (dried gourd) despite asking at two Asian grocery stores. No one knew what I was talking about. They all said, "What is it?", "Oh, that's probably Japanese." "No we don't have it." I tried to use the green part of a scallion to use as a tie, but it just kept breaking. I used a strip of nori (dried seaweed) instead.
  • Inside-out roll sushi (page 196): straight forward and successful. Delicious! The California rolls had rice, nori, crab (I used shrimp), avocado, cucumber, mayo, wasabi and roe. The recipe called for half a sheet of nori, however, I used a whole one. I didn't think I could all of these ingredients onto half a sheet. Also, I don't think my knife was sharp enough so they came out a little squished, but still tasted good.

Here's a picture of my attempts:

Despite my sweetness and salty issues above, I probably will try a few more recipes in the book. I particularly looking forward to some of the soups and a couple of the fusion scattered varieties for lunch.

The table of contents was pretty good. It was nicely laid out and easy to use. The index, however, was adequate, but not great. I had a hard time finding a few of the recipes. The glossary, which featured Japanese names, English explanations and page numbers was very useful.

Recommended for ingredient explanations and the different sushi techniques.

For more information about this book or to have a peek inside selected sections, please visit DK Canada's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at DK Canada for this review copy.

Sushi: Taste and Technique by Kimiko Barber and Hiroki Takemura, DK Publishing, ©2010. ISBN 9780756664244(paperback), 256p.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Murder Unleashed: A Dead-End Job Mystery

Murder Unleashed: A Dead-End Job Mystery, is the 5th book in the Dead-End Job mystery series. In this series, Helen is on the run and takes a series of dead end jobs to make ends meet.

In this instalment, Helen is employed at Barker Brothers Pampered Pet Boutique. When she delivers a dog to one of the clients, she finds that client dead by the pool with a pair of scissors sticking out of her chest. Because of her past, Helen’s afraid to call the police and runs away instead. Later that afternoon, another dog is dogknapped from the shop. If that wasn’t bad enough there’s a hurricane on the way, leaving Helen little time to sort this entire thing out. With the other employees acting strangely, Helen soon discovers she’s not the only one with secrets to keep.

Even though it's the 5th book in the series, it's the first one I read. I really enjoyed it. It was witty, fun, easy to read and packed temperamental employees, unruly clients and pampered pets. I’d really like to read the first one to get some additional background information on Helen and her predicament. Having said that, I don't think it's necessary to read these books in order. I found that this one, at least, can be enjoyed on its own.

Helen was a really good protagonist and amateur detective. She was frightened that her past would catch up with her and lied to the police, but she stuck it out to clear her name and finger the culprit. I liked that everyone at the boutique had a motive and could be considered a suspect. I couldn't wait to find out their secrets and discover who done it. The ending was a little disappointing and the overall story line wasn't as suspenseful as it could have been, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

I especially liked the social commentary part about how pets are treated; the good, the bad and the atrocious. I don't have pets (Achoo!), but I really hate to see animals treated badly. It makes me sad. On the flip side, I was amazed at how spoiled some pets can be. Designer outfits, fancy collars and leashes, and pet furniture can all be purchased at the boutique. Some people should be so fortunate.

I have not experienced a hurricane and I hope I never do. I wasn't totally convinced that this as how people act with a hurricane was approaching. I didn't understand how the business could remain open. I can understand a grocery store, a gas station, or a place where emergency supplies are sold, but a pet boutique? Also, I didn't get the sense of urgency. I would be absolutely frantic. Maybe once you've lived through it, you handle it better.

Recommended. I’d definitely read another book by this author.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit Penguin's website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Elaine Viets’s website.

Murder Unleashed: A Dead-End Job Mystery, Signet (New American Library, Penguin), ©2007. ISBN 9780451221087(Mass Market), 266p.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Rough Guide Book of Brain Training by Gareth Moore & Tom Stafford

The Rough Guide Book of Brain Training is a 100-day workout book for your brain. It contains hundreds of puzzles and is designed to exercise the different parts of your brain.

At first glance, I thought this was just another puzzle book with different kinds of puzzles that can be done randomly. However, it's not. The informative introduction explains the book, the workouts, and the tracking system; everything one would need to get started. In a nutshell, the workouts contain 5 different puzzles grouped together for each day. They get progressively harder and are meant to be done consecutively. There's a test every ten days so that the participant can measure their progress.

I love this book. I thought this book was going to be too much like work and probably too hard for me. Not so. After I did the first day, I realized how fun it was. The weird thing was that I really felt like my brain had been working. Much like my body feels after a physical workout.

I was really surprised at how I did. I usually do ok at word and Sudoku type puzzles, but have trouble when it comes to math (especially if I have to do it in my head) and spatial relations type puzzles (I get left and right mixed up). Overall, I was really happy with my initial attempt at the puzzles for day one. It didn't take me too long and it felt really good when I'd figured them out. I've since gone on to subsequent days and am slowly working my way through the book. I continue to surprise myself on how well I'm doing.

I loved that there was a variety of puzzles in the book (not just one kind) and that even familiar puzzles, like Sudoku, have a slight twist to them. This makes them seem new and a little more challenging,

The solutions to the puzzles can be found at the back of the book. The introduction encourages participants to look at the solutions if and when a particular puzzle gives them trouble. Sort of like authorized cheating. How cool is that? The puzzles are meant to be challenging, but it wouldn't be much fun if you got stuck and couldn't go any further.

In addition to the puzzles, there are some interesting 2-page articles on brain related subjects as well as facts and tips scattered throughout the book. There's even a resources list for keeners who want further "study". All of these are well worth the read.

Highly recommended for those looking for a good mental workout and for those who love puzzles.

For more information about this book, please visit DK Canada'swebsite.

I'd like to thank those nice people at DK Canada for this review copy.

The Rough Guide Book of Brain Training Gareth Moore & Tom Stafford, Rough Guide, ©2010. ISBN 9781848365186(paperback), 288p.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Truth About Delilah Blue by Tish Cohen

In The Truth About Delilah Blue, Delilah, or Lila (the name she goes by now), models in the nude for art students as a way to earn money for art school. In the meantime, she listens to every word the teacher says trying to pick up what she can. She lives with her father, who showing early signs of Alzheimer's. When she was eight, her father moved the two of them to California stating that her mother no longer wanted to care for Delilah. Now with her mother back in the picture, she's caught between her parents while she tries to find out the real reason her father took her away.

Great book! It contains a really good story line, which was executed beautifully, and plenty of likeable and believable characters. I enjoyed reading all of the art related material and was surprised to learn that the models could/would dictate the poses. I always assumed it was the artist or in this case the teacher who directed the model. I especially loved how Cohen introduced past events in the book. As the secrets were revealed, they are linked back to events earlier in Delilah's life, slowly filling in the pieces to the puzzle. I liked that the text of these events were set apart from the present day with a date and italics. That made it very easy to follow what was going on.

I knew Delilah was going to be reunited with her mother at some point. I was expecting this movie-type scene with huge drama. But it didn't happen that way. It's funny because I was thinking afterwards that Cohen's portrayal of the event was probably more like real life, where my vision was just Hollywood fiction. The book became real for me after that.

Delilah was a great character, but I really felt sorry for her. Caught in the middle between her parents, she was still very protective of her father even though she no longer fully trusted him. She wanted the truth and needed to act quickly before he lost his memory. However, she didn't want to upset him and make his condition worse. Delilah was also very leery of her mother, who had abandoned her all those years ago, or so she thought. Whom could she trust?

There were two other characters that I enjoyed reading about: Kieran and Lichty. Kieran, Delilah's much younger half sister, was hilarious. Other characters called her uptight and felt sorry for her because she was losing out on her childhood. I liked her because she added comic relief to the story and had some pretty funny lines. Lichty, Delilah's art teacher, who had his nose in the air and verbally tortured poor Delilah. I couldn't wait to see what he was going to do or say next.

Highly recommended. I have Inside Out Girl on my to-be-read bookshelf. I'm looking forward to reading it.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Tish Cohen's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins Canada for this review copy.

The Truth About Delilah Blue by Tish Cohen, HarperCollins, ©2010. ISBN 9781554685868(Trade paperback), 409p.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Q&A with Tish Cohen

HarperCollins Canada has put together a blog tour for Tish Cohen's new book, The Truth About Delilah Blue. I was lucky enough to be chosen as a participate and today's the day that Tish stops by to answer a few questions. Enjoy!

Me: At the end of The Truth About Delilah Blue you thank a bunch of people who helped you sort out some of the details in the story (information on art, coyotes, Alzheimer’s, etc). Can you tell us more about how you go about researching items when writing a book?
TISH: I usually write about subjects I have some base knowledge about, and then supplement what I think I know with books on the topic, online research and interviews.

Me: How do you feel about used book stores/charity used book sales/swapping websites (or sites like who encourage members to give away their books?) What do you think the impact is on book sales?
TISH: Honestly, this is not a thing I worry about. Books can be costly and some people love to read but simply cannot afford to spend on new books—I completely respect that and am just thrilled to hear people are reading. Obviously this doesn’t help the publishing industry, but it doesn’t necessarily detract from it either—it might just mean people are buying more books than they would have otherwise.

Me: How important are the new internet tools (bloggers, websites like Twitter, Facebook and others) in promoting a book? How has this changed the way you work?
TISH: I don’t think social networking necessarily creates huge increases in book sales, but Twitter and Facebook are excellent ways to connect with your readers. In terms of impact on my work – social networking is an enormous distraction!

Me: Which of your books is your favourite? (I know it’s like asking which of your children is our favourite). Which one are you most proud of? Why?
TISH: I am most proud of The Truth About Delilah Blue because this book went through a great deal of change before it became the story we read between the covers. And I put more real life events into this one.

Me: Which one was the hardest to write?
TISH: Definitely The Truth About Delilah Blue

Me: Can you tell us a little about what you are working on now?
TISH: I am revising an adult novel about suicide and a teen novel that will come out next spring.

Me: What/who was your inspiration for Delilah Blue?
TISH: I wanted to explore the issue of aging parents and the eventual role reversal that its most parents and children. It is easy to imagine how adult children from loving homes might respond to their parents being needy, but what about children from disturbed homes? How would an adult child respond to the demise of a parent who had grossly wronged him or her? It seemed a fascinating scenario to wrap a story around.

Me: Tell us about your writing environment. (music or quiet, desk or comfy chair, etc.)
TISH: I usually write on my laptop because I don’t have wireless so am less likely to waste time on the Internet. So I tend to move away from my desk and write in a comfy chair somewhere at home or at the cottage. In terms of noise, sometimes I need quiet and other times I love to hear the hustle and bustle of people and action all around me.

Me: When did you start writing? Did you ever want to be something else?
TISH: Like Delilah Blue, I wanted to be an artist. The first manuscript I wrote was a picture book, about eighteen years ago.

Me: What is your favourite book that you’ve read?
TISH: Olive Kittredge by Elizabeth Strout.

Me: What do you do for fun when you are not writing? Do you have any hobbies?
TISH: I run, hike, do yoga, and read.

Me: Tea or coffee? Cats or dogs? Dark or milk chocolate?
TISH: Coffee, dogs and milk chocolate!

Me: What’s your favourite place that you’ve lived? If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?
TISH: I live in Muskoka during the summers and that’s probably my favourite place on earth.

Thanks so much Tish for taking time to answer my questions. I really appreciate it.

For everyone else, don't forget to drop by the other tour stops. Click here for the schedule.

Oh, and come back here tomorrow because that's when I'll be posting my review of The Truth About Delilah Blue.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

In The Red Queen, Margaret Beaufort believed she was destined for greatness. Since she was deeply religious, she imagined that her life would include doing God's work, much like her idol, Joan of Arc. However, when her family marries her off at a very young age, she has to rethink those plans. When her son Henry is born, she decides that her greatness will come from his conquests. She's determined to see him on the throne and will stop at nothing to achieve this goal.

I absolutely loved this book. I can't believe I haven't read any books by Gregory before. If this book is anything like her previous ones, I'm going to love them, too. The history in this story was so interesting that I looked up the Tudors on the internet to find out more about them and their place in history. Fascinating stuff. I've only been reading historical fiction for a couple of years and love being transported to another place and time. Gregory did not disappoint me.

The beginning of the story was a little confusing for me. I wasn't used to all of the names and positions that the characters had. For example, Jasper Tudor, was also the Earl of Pembroke and from the house of Lancaster. It was a bit too much to take in. After awhile, though, I got used to it and found that it really wasn't so hard to remember all of the names, positions and relationships. A family tree would have been nice inclusion, though. [Note: it's possible that it will be included in public editions of the book.]

Margaret was certainly a determined woman. She was obsessed with keeping her son Henry safe and getting him on the throne. She could be ruthless. She really believed that she was doing God's work and used that as an excuse for everything she did, whether it was proper or not. According to her, everyone who didn't see things as she did was evil. I laughed at her behaviour a few times because of how adamant she was in her convictions and how she believed that only she was following the true and rightful path.

One of my favourite characters was Margaret's last husband, Thomas Stanley. He was smug and couldn't be relied upon, but I loved him. He was determined to be on the winning side of any fight. Even though he appeared to be loyal to a few different parties, he was capable of double-crossing anyone to ensure he came out on top. A true turncoat. I think he and Margaret deserved each other.

It was interesting to see how the women were treated at that time. Male heirs were valued and protected, while female children were little more than tolerated. My favourite quote comes from Margaret's mother as she's speaking to Margaret:
Since you were a girl you could only be the bridge to the next generations; you could be nothing more than the means by which our family gets a boy. (page 59)

New word Alert (page numbers refer to the ARC). There were numerous words in the book that were new to me. Here are a sampling:
pillion (page 12) - passenger seat
portcullis (page 40) - heavy castle gate
prie dieu (page 45) - piece of furniture for kneeling at
cudgels (page 53) - club
marchpane (page 81) - marzipan
tocsin (page 155) - alarm bell
liegeman (page 172) - loyal follower
fealty (page 172) - faithfulness
fecundity (page 221) - richness
sequestration (page 301) - confiscation

Highly recommended. I already have The White Queen sitting on my to-be-read shelf. I can't wait to get to it. I look forward to reading many more books by Gregory. I love her work.

For more information about this book or to browse inside selected sections, please visit the Simon & Schuster website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Philippa Gregory's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon & Schuster Canada for this review copy.

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory, Touchstone (Simon & Schuster), ©2010. ISBN 9781416563723(Advance Uncorrected Reader's Proof), 387p.