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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book Blogger Hop 29/4 to 2/5

The Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read! So, grab the logo, post about the Hop on your blog, and start HOPPING through the list of blogs that are posted in the Linky list at Crazy for

The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week, so if you don't have time to Hop today, come back later and join the fun!

Summer is coming quickly - what 2011 summer release are you are most looking forward to?

I am in the tropics so we have summer 365 days of
the year!! That does not prevent me from wanting to
read all the time.

Anything I can get my hands on basically!

Have fun everyone!

Review - Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway

I had read Leonard Woolf but just one book by Virginia Woolf before. Mrs Dalloway for me was not an easy read but I wanted to read it through to see what all the excitement was about. The book deals with the life of a woman in a single day going through the whole gamut of emotions and feelings of Clarissa Dalloway mainly - though other characters are also caught up in the moment.

Where Clarissa Dalloway thinks of how life could have been different if she took different decisions and the way she thinks of what she could be and is now not. I think these feelings of introspection come to all of us and particularly when one is middle aged!!! The fact that sometimes we seem invisible and of no importance in the general plan of things and for Clarissa it was only Peter who saw her as Clarissa and not Mrs someone or the other .

This is not what one would call an easy read. I do not think I have quite grasped the nuances that Woolf expected me to see in the first reading. Maybe I will come back to it when things are quieter and I am able to assimilate it more. It was depressing at times but at the same time it drew you in. You needed to see how it went right upto the end. I will come to this book again for sure.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Review - CAMPAIGNERS by Cynthia Harrod Eagles

Still continuing the Morland dynasty series this book set during the Napoleonic wars gives you an insight mainly into the English version of events. As Napoleon's rise to power comes to an inevitable end, the elite of English society gather in Brussels and though it sounds very incongruous form their little English world there, of balls and clubs and cricket matches! Heloise and Lucy are now taking Sophia and Rosamund for their debut - hoping to make an eligible match for both of them.

At the same time James Morland back at home is trying to come to terms with the loss of his daughter Fanny, and in turn is resentful that his wife is not there around to share in the sorrow. It is only James who mourns Fanny to this extent mainly because Fanny was not a very nice person.

Sophie falls in love with a Frenchman and Rosamund has to handle her feelings for her cousin Marcus. The story culminates in the biggest ball of the season with which also the war commences in full. The sadness of the War, the loss of life on both sides, the horrors of the war brought home with the dying and wounded and how Heloise and Lucy, Sophie and Rosamund all turn their hands to succor the dying and wounded add a lot of interest to the story.

The war itself and how it went is well documented in lots of books. Here the interest lies in the personal stories of each of our heroines and heroes. Conflict within a younger group of Morlands who will feature in future stories is also apparent.

Military history is very well documented in this very fat book by the author and the personal history and stories of the Morlands continue.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Review - Cynthia Harrod Eagles - The Princeling

The time is 1558 and it is the time of Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of the Scots. A most turbulent time in English politics. The Protestant faith is on the rise and is very popular specially as it is promoted by the Queen and the Catholic Morlands have to look for new alliances and those who are very strong in the Catholic faith have to be very careful as to who their friends are. Spies are everywhere, the celebration of Catholic mass and rituals are prohibited and even fines imposed if you do not attend the Protestant services.

I did not know about this angle at all and was intrigued at the way the Justices of the Peace had to enforce the followers of a religion to conform. The use of servants as spies was also encouraged so that they could find out those who were secretly following the "old ways".

There are two main stories in this book. One of John, gentle and wonderful with animals who goes to wild Scotland and falls in love with a most strange girl - Mary and then there is Lettice who loves the Rob Hamilton and learns to live with the fear of death all the time.

The siblings stories are the main part of the book. As usual a great deal of history and intrigue are also involved.

My fascination for the series continues! This is also part of my reading for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry (fascinating books to be found there).

Mailbox Monday 25th April 2011

Mailbox Monday was a meme initially hosted by Marcia from The Printed Page. It is on tour right now and this month's host is Passages to the Past. The links show the vast range of books received by bloggers either through wins/purchases or gifts!

My own Mailbox was late as I was out for the weekend and returned only on Monday direct to office!
This was very kindly sent to me by Thomas from My Porch. He was having a giveaway and added me as an additional giveaway simply because I whinge awfully at the lack of books available in Sri Lanka!!! Thanks Thomas.

This was a win from Martha. I had read one of Tana French's books and so this is a good second one. Thanks Martha.

Everyone everywhere have a good week!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Review - Geraldine Brooks - CALEB'S CROSSING

The book was a win for me from Heather from Book Addict and when I got the book nothing specific came to my mind other than the fact that I had read People of the Book and liked it. (for some strange reason I cannot save the image of the cover to paste it here) Sorry about that.

This book was a tough one for me to read. Overlying everything is a thread of sadness and I felt it strongly even in Bethia the principal female character of the story even at times of her happiness the underlying pull of ethos was very prevalent (for me).

The story deals with Caleb the first American Indian to graduate from Harvard in 1665. The travails, torments and torture almost that faced Caleb and Joel who followed him are all accounted in this book. Caleb's story is told by Bethia the daughter of the English minister who tutors both boys in Latin and Greek to prepare them for the entrance to Harvard. The English hope that the education of the two native American boys would lead to a widescale conversion of the "heathen" and "savages" and bring them back to the fold. The lack of understanding or even the need to try to understand a "different" culture and religion are very pronounced on the part of the English who presume that they know best in every circumstance.

The accounting of Bethia will indicate what it is to be a young woman in this period. Totally under the will of first her father, and on his demise her brother who is envious of her skills in understanding the languages which he struggles to pursue and who is petty enough to make trouble for her at every turn. Her grandfather who without hesitation indentures her services as a servant as he values his business more than a mere girl and how Bethia uses all the opportunities which come her way to try to educate herself in Hebrew, Latin and Greek even though it is considered very wrong for a woman to be educated. To know numbers and to be lettered was considered enough and anything more was considered a crime against nature and not to be even thought of. This was another part of the story which was a tough part to follow even. The story is imaginary but based on a true story so what was featured in the story is actually how things were at the time. The status of women specially poorer women like Bethia was nil - a good horse may have been considered more valuable.

The book is sad - and heavy going. I did not like the treatment meted out to Bethia who was only understood to some degree by her mother who died young. The entire burden of the family fell on her and she lived a drudge in the household. But, as the story unfolds you do hope that after all the struggle that Caleb and Joel will have a happy ending. Unfortunately it does not happen that way and the sadness deepens. Bethia will live to see her children's children and seems very content in her old age but the pathos of the history of her life and what she has seen will remain to the end.

A particularly moving story - of a period which was totally unknown to me. I hadn't read any books about Native Americans in the first place and this period of history in America was also unknown to me. Puritanism and the effects of it was also a new subject for me. In that sense I also understood a bit more about American history.

I would call this a "serious" read. A book of just over 300 pages in a very easy to read font.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Book Blogger Hop 22/4 to 25/4

This hop is the brainchild of Jennifer from Crazy for Books. Please visit her blog and also visit the links as you will see a host of book bloggers with such varying interests and genres of books. You will always end up with a few more book which you feel you just have to read.

The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week, so if you don't have time to Hop today, come back later and join the fun! This is a weekly event! And stop back throughout the weekend to see all the new blogs that are added.

This weeks question:

If you find a book you love do you hunt down other books by the same author?

In my case I certainly do. Look at me and the Morland Dynasty series. I loved Cynthia Harrod Eagles first book and am hooked!!!

Everyone have a Blessed Easter!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Review - Cynthia Harrod Eagles - The Homecoming

I am keeping the reviews short as there is so many books in the series.

I love the scenic descriptions of every region in England and Scotland - from Yorkshire to London itself. I also enjoy very much the descriptive manner in which the way of day to day life is handled in the books - from the very housewifely skills that seemed to be a necessity of the age to the farming methods used in that time (that is my agricultural background coming into play). Though horses - both the breeding of horses as well as horses as beloved pets are very much part of the story - and horses in Sri Lanka are few and far between, I very much like to read the part played by these animals right throughout the stories. Both in the personal lives of the characters as well as during the many, many wars which encompass the series.

The Homecoming set in 1885 is dealing with the dawn of a new age in England. Late Victorian on the one hand and on the other Oscar Wilde at first very welcomed in London society and finally shunned and ostracized for his homosexual leanings, the Prince of Wales set - and what I abhorred - the huge double standards applied to the aristocracy and how they literally got away with murder, and the last but not least bit - Girl's Education. This was the part that fascinated me. I did not know how difficult it was for progressive girls and families to be educated, what obstacles they faced and what hurdles had to be overcome just to be educated.

There are still quite a few books to come but I am giving reviews in between of other books to vary the reading.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Review - Rona Randall's The Ladies of Hanover Square

This was one of my books from my trusty second hand book shop - covered in dust - and I doubt anyone has touched that particular pile for decades.

I just liked the cover - had never heard of the author and my knowledge of Edwardian society was also very, very little. The story starts at the height of Edwardian society - and very high flying it seems to be. Despite all the behind the scenes activities of changing partners, openly having lovers, the question of being aristocratic and above it all still seemed prevalent at the beginning of the book. The hypocrisy of the period began to grate on me after a while. The notion of one set of rules for the very rich and aristocratic who definitely ruled the roost - and also totally abused and took advantage of the working class was very difficult to read about.

We have Dulcima - beautiful, young and definitely middle class in love with a titled aristocrat. In her naivety she believes that having a child will force the infamous Justin to marry her as he is desperate for an heir. His obvious disdain for her, and his disgusting attitude towards her only dawns on her when she actually tells him she is pregnant. Fast forward to her having the child and dying and her niece taking over the infamous card salon which Dulcima ran along with bringing up baby Charles.

The story is very descriptive of the period and then moves on to pre WWI and the actual period of WWI and how life changes dramatically for all - especially the titled and how the position of women is empowered to the point that they begin to think of themselves as being independent, free thinking people. This part of the story was very interesting for me because within a period of about twenty years, the entire fabric of society was changed to such an extent that working women even from a category of women who never worked before, became totally acceptable to the society of the time. The attitude of men towards their wives and daughters also changed, the position of men in the family changing from an autocratic all powerful being to someone who was more approachable and mellow was also apparent in the book.

A difficult book to read at the beginning (I think maybe for women of the present times!) but as it went on I enjoyed the story specially the WWI period. The story in parts was a bit too "happy ever after" though the ending was not quite what was expected! A very interesting book to read for anyone who has an interest in this period.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mailbox Monday 18th April 2011

Mailbox Monday is a meme that was created by Marcia of The Printed Page. It is right now on tour. This months host is Passages to the Past. The meme brings together book bloggers and we all get an insight of what books have come to your house either purchased, borrowed or gifted.
It is always a pleasant surprise to find out special finds and books recommended by like minded bloggers.

Begins 1772. George III. American War of Independence. My knowledge of this war is sketchy so this is going to be a bit of an education as well.

Begins 1558 - Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots. A tumultuous period in history.

Period 1501 - Henry VIII - going back a bit from my earlier books by the same author.

This was a win from Marce of Tea Time with Marce. A thriller - described as grimly realistic action. I need to read something different.
This was a win from Heather of Book Addict. Thanks Heather.

On a non book note, the New Year holidays are OVER. We have had nine glorious days of doing nothing at home. Now to get back to work on Monday is going to be tough.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Book review - The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand

This book was on all the book blogs about two years ago. I usually get the best sellers rather late but I am grateful that I do get them eventually. This was one of my lucky finds.

Greg and Tess are part of a group of four couples and one day whilst celebrating their twelfth anniversary they drown in a boating accident. How this incident tears the four couples apart, the secrets that unravel and the slow disintegration of their lives is the story.
The story is reminiscent of teenagers or maybe university students if its a Sri Lankan story. You meet others, form a group or clique and some of these in that group fall in love and get married so the ties that bind are more permanent. Whether these deaths are an accident or not, is also something that is never known - though it seems to be convenient for all if it is written as an accident so that the closure for all would be easy.

The book written in chapters denoting each of the four characters highlights the thoughts and feelings of each person both in the present time as well as in the past - particularly of the period where the past is relevant to the present times. This helped to connect the variant bits and pieces together and form a coherent picture of the whole.

Though it has been described as not a light story, there is a spirit of lightness about the whole story - it was an easy read as well just right for a lazy Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Review - Cynthia Harrod Eagles The Reckoning

This story begins in 1816. I feel as I am back in school at my history lessons (which I incidentally loved!). I seem to have forgotten bits of the Industrial Revolution and this period of new machinery, and strikes for the first time so it is bringing it all back to me.

Napoleon is defeated at last but England seems to be still limping back to normalcy which is still far on the horizon. The cost of this war has been astronomic. Inflation is rife, bankruptcies galore and the gentry do not seem able to know how to cope with the new order of things. Hundreds of soldiers returning from the war add to the unemployed as they are coming back disabled and not fit for the work for which they were originally trained.

James and Heloise guardians of the Morland riches are faced with one tragedy after another. A scandal of epic proportions involving the family where love and murder are intertwined. This will effect the family badly. Add to this Rosamund and Sophie who both have to come to terms with loss and know that riches and family can never be always counted upon to protect you from the hard knocks of life.

This was a rich story with lots of complicated issues. The background of the Industrial Revolution and Napoleon's defeat form the backbone of the story but the intricacies and extended family of the Morland clan are also part of this fascinating story.

Book blogger hop - 11/4 to 14/4

The meme hosted by crazy for books highlights bloggers and their varied interests in books.
Please link up and see what the book world has to offer.

This weeks question is a good one "Outside of books what is your guilty pleasure?"

I do not feel guilty about any pleasures I have!!! I love to quilt but find that this is happening now only in fits and starts and I do wish I could get to it more systematically. I also love crafts of every kind and even reading about stuff which people do, even if I know that I will not get to it at all gives me enormous pleasure. I also love reading about thrifting in America and op shopping in Australia. The finds of bloggers around the world is amazing!!! what people throw out is something I am still trying to get used to. Here in Sri Lanka nothing would be thrown out certainly not the stuff that is appearing in thrift shops all around the world.

Have a good weekend everyone. The New Year finished yesterday but the celebrations will continue till Sunday (see my post on this!)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Review - The Church of Dead Girls by Stephen Dobyns

I am trying to read books of other genres and get out of my comfort zone of history, mystery murders, travel memoirs and family sagas. The results have been very pleasant. This book is of course part of a mystery murder but it actually comes as two distinct stories. One is mysterious murders of very young girls - three of them, and the how and why and whom, and the second story is how the little town of Aurelius slowly comes apart at the seams as a result of each murder.

Aurelius is a little town of just seven thousand souls. A minor crime rate and where everyone knows everyone and their business as well. The murder of a prostitute is the first thing that grips the town following which is the murder of each young girl. Trust and good feelings towards your neighbour turns to mistrust and suspicion. Everyone is suspect. It also shows how hysteria can change rational people into a mob of people intent on destruction. All small town get togetherness flies out of the window in the face of such hysteria.

An unusual read and one I liked.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mailbox Monday 11th April 2011

Mailbox Monday is on tour. For this month it is being hosted by Passages to the Past. My mailbox continues to be the series of the Morland Dynasty. The four books not listed in order is of particular interest to me as some of the topics are completely new to me. George V, what on earth was the Cat and Mouse Act, am looking forward to the Divorce Act as well. So many interesting features of these books.

Please visit the links on this post at Passages to the Past. There are so many bloggers out there with loads of interesting suggestions for reading.

Begins 1912. George V. Titanic. Cat and Mouse Act

Begins 1908. Edwardian. Aviation.

Begins 1857. The American Civil War. The Divorce Act. The first underground Railway.

Begins in 1885. Late Victorian. Oscar Wilde. Prince of Wales set. Girls Education
Starts in 1815 and deals with the campaign of the 100 days and the Battle of Waterloo.

The Singhala and Hindu New Year is near!

The Singhalese and Hindu New Year is almost on us (13th and 14th of April) and everything is grinding slowly to a halt. It is the biggest festival for Sri Lankans and I have just shown three pictures (from various sites not my own) which show the festivities which take place. The first is the traditional food prepared, milk rice which is exactly what it means and the sweetmeats which accompany it, the second is the very important blessings by the priest and the final picture is of a drum being played by three women.

The festival is important because it sends everyone (well almost everyone) scurrying home - home in this instance is your ancestral home where your parents live. Very often this is in a village quite a distance away from where you live/work so there is a lot of planning involved. Half the excitement is for the children because going to visit grandparents, grand aunts and uncles and aunts whom you see once a year means a lot of gifts going to be received. There is also for city children the opportunity to observe village customs, village food and also have some idea of how their parents lived before they moved to the bigger cities.

So many children in Sri Lanka are pressured by parents to perform academically well and it is a constant round of tuition classes and I sometimes wonder who is the more pressurised - the children or the parents. Everyone wants their son or daughter (thank the good Lord we do not have female prejudices here) to be a doctor, a lawyer or some big professional. They will not accept that everyone cannot shine in this way and that there is a lot of wonderful people out there who do simpler things but actually keep the whole world turning. I will not get on my hobby horse again at this time though!!!

Offices have been closed from Friday and the roads are empty. Everyone who has folk back in their villages have left or are preparing to leave. In my case, I am from the city - I do not have roots in a village so here we are. It has been however an extremely busy week as we do have agricultural property in a far off village and one of the traditional celebrations is where employers give gifts to their workers. This was done and another year has gone by. Tea factories and rubber factories have also closed and everyone is enjoying a well earned rest. Workers on agricultural properties labour very hard to earn their monthly wage and these ten days are a respite for them as well.

I have lots of books to read. Several read and reviews to be done. Wishing everyone a very happy, peaceful and blessed New Year.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Review - Cynthia Harrod Eagles - THE OAK APPLE

It is 1630 and the civil war along with Charles I is in full stride in England. It is a period which I am totally unfamiliar with.

Families are divided by the growth of this new idea about the Puritan faith and the Morland family are not exempted. Richard brings home a bride who is not just a Puritan but wants to convert the Morland clan to the new faith. We have Edmund and his wife striving to maintain an oasis of calm amidst the war - all Edmund wants is to maintain the estate for the benefit of the generations to come. He does not care for Cromwell or the King - he just wants to get on with his business.

As the war goes on and on the clan is decimated - one by one sons, cousins, brothers, nephews all die - on this side or that and you get steadfast Edmund trying to cling to his beliefs and his estate amongst the spoils of war.

Again a story that could be read alone - despite it being part of a series. The Morland family tree relevant to the particular story is always part of the book which adds greatly to my interest.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Review - Tracy Chevalier's THE VIRGIN BLUE

This was my second book by this author and a delightful surprise! the story following two different time lines 500 years apart was wonderful - Isabelle married to Etienne a Hugenot is in a tight spot. A midwife, devoted to The Virgin and with red hair she is believed to be surreptitiously a witch who dabbles in herbals and potions. Fast forward to Ella Turner nee Tournier origins in the distant past to France who accompanies her architect husband whilst he works in France.

Ella has sudden deep disturbed feelings for this region in France and despite not being fluent in French at all, wakes up suddenly spouting psalms and making the sign of the cross (which she has never done in her life). Taken aback by these feelings Ella makes a determined effort to find out her roots and comes slap bang against very surprising ancestors.

The two lives are told side by side and there is no awkwardness or difficulty to remember which is which.

You know where you are going with this story from very early on. There are no surprises here, but you also know there is no happily ever afters either. Both Isabelle and Ella are not happily in love and there is no happily ever after for either of them. Bleak is Isabelle's future and Ella is more in control of her destiny, purely because of the present times.

Not a big book but one which was very nice to read and finish fast - and an author I am going back to for more.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Review - Susan Howatch's SCANDALOUS RISKS

Written in the first person Venetia almost thirty, unmarried (still a stigma from the 60's to the 80's) comes from an aristocratic upper crust English family. Almost ignored by her family in what seems to be typical upbringing for her age - Venetia falls in love with a clergyman in his sixties, married to a highly strung, controlling woman with over 5 children - some almost her same age The story set in 1963 is told from 20 years later which adds a poignancy to the story.

Howatch has written several books set amongst the hierarchy of the Anglican clergy - this is one more. The stuffiness and traditions some set in stone, apparent in the clergy, are at the same time at variance with Aysgarth's views on love and life - that you can be madly in love and still only have a platonic relationship with the love of your life seems peculiar. As long as no one is hurt and the love affair is not consummated seems to be ideal for Aysgarth. Howatch shows how dangerous such ideas could be.

How Venetia gets trapped in this mess of lies and how the whole affair erupts is the love story part of Scandalous Risks. Lots of detail- both of the times as well as life in the hierarchy of the Anglican church, the politics, the back biting and behind the scenes activities in the church all add a great deal of interest to the book and form the balance part of the story.

As usual a very good book.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Review - Cynthia Harrod Eagles - THE MAIDEN

I am back to my series and this is one which for me was particularly tinged with sadness. It starts with Jemmy - eldest of all the brothers and disliked by most of them as he is his father's heir. His father for years estranged from all his children, grudgingly accepts that Jemmy is his son, doubting forever the fact that the other five boys are his sons.

The year is 1720 and Jemmy is contracted to marry the Lady Mary - distant, cold and influenced by a most disagreeable companion who ruins any prospect of happiness in the marriage. Having borne two children Lady Mary continues her dislike almost hate for her daughter Jemima when she loses her son to small pox.

Jemima her father's sole heir to the entire estate is thrust into a world of learning about commerce and running an estate much against the wishes of several elders of the family including her mother. Despite this, Jemima does accept the responsibilities thrust on her and does not allow herself to be overwhelmed by this - inspite of a ruinous marriage.

How Jemima survives and fights back is the happy part of the story.

An extremely enjoyable series - as I said before could be also read as a stand alone book.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Review - Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER

My cover is different to this but lack of time kept me from going looking for the cover I wanted! My first experience into the realm of time travel - but this is not just a paranormal/fantasy story - not at all. It is historical fiction at its best delving into the 1700's going back 200 years from where Claire is at present.

The story starts in the Highlands with Claire and her husband Frank in the midst of a relaxing holiday having survived WWII (as a nurse) and enjoying an almost second honeymoon (after eight years of marriage).

Touching a stone in a circle (something similar to Stonehenge) almost by accident she is thrown into the 1700's into a world so removed from her own that she is worried for her sanity and also her survival. Taken into custody as an English spy it the story adds another twist in the tale as it reveals the entire story of Randall who is her 20th century husband's actual ancestor!

Plenty of violence, plenty of drama, the harshness of life in society in primitive times and oh plenty of passion and scenes of explicit sex (maybe a bit too much at times) but on the other hand very real to show the deep abiding love of Claire and Jamie! Wont add any more spoilers to this story. You have got to read this to believe this.

For someone who was rather disdainful of the paranormal this was a wonderful read. Loved the book.