Saturday, June 30, 2007

Mystery Books Challenge Book Review Number 6

The Eyre Affair
by Jasper Fforde
Hodder Paperback 2001
Website - Thursday Next

I have seen a few mentions of this character called Thursday Next, and wondered what a Literature Detective actually did. Now I know. I spotted 2 books in this series on display at the bookshop and stopped to have a look. They looked good, and were going cheap so I grabbed them, plus a third one, and have just now finished the first book in the series.

This series starts off in England in 1985. Actually its an alternative history where the Crimea war never ended. Russia and England are still fighting over who will own Yalta and the Crimean peninsula.

The Special Operations Network was begun to handle policing duties considered too unusual or hush-hush to leave to the regular forces. There are 30 departments in the Special Operatives Network, starting from SO-1 (the equivalent to the Internal Affairs where the SO themselves are kept under a watchful eye) down to the Mundane SO-30 which handles Neighbourly Disputes.

Anything below SO-20 is restricted - although it is common knowledge that Antiterrorism is SO-9 and ChronoGuard is S0-12. Anything higher than SO-20 is public knowledge and considered not secret. These departments include Art Crime (SO-24) and Literary Detectives (SO-27) AKA LiteraTec, the department that Thursday Next works for.

In this first book, Thursday Next works for LiteraTec in London, but after the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit is stolen, 2 colleagues are killed because of an evil new enemy (named Archeron Hades). Thursday requests a transfer to the town of Swindon.

Upon her arrival in Swindon, Thursday has to deal with her family, her former boyfriend and the same arch enemy who kidnaps Thursdays Aunt & Uncle, steals the orginal manuscript of Jane Eyre and proceeds to rewrite the novel by removing Jane from the book. Every single copy of Jane Eyre immediately becomes nothing but a book with blank pages.

Thursday must go into the novel, find Mr Rochester and help restore the book to its former glory. Well almost it's former glory. In doing so she burns down Thornfield Hall, and helps Jane & Rochester to get married. And thereby creates a new ending. The orginal ending had Jane going off to India with her cousin St John Rivers. Once back in the real world, Thursday is greeted as a hero because everyone loves the new ending.

One of the reviews inside this book calls Fforde "this year's grown up J K Rowling". And yes, this book is sort of like the Harry Potter books, but using Time Travel instead of magic.

And thus we end up with time paradoxi. Where things and events become twisted and not making sense because of something that happened some place or some time else. There was a brief mention of the Second world war, but I'm not sure how exactly that could have happened against a long running war in the Black Sea that has been going on for well over 100 years.

Thursday's father is a ChronoGuard (SO-12). It was his job to keep the timeline straight and correct, but he seems to have changed something important, because he is now banished to another time, and can only drop into see Thursday for very quick 5 minute visits.

There are 4 books in this series, with a 5th book due out this year. I have 3 of the series, and cannot wait to read book number 2. But first I have a few others to read & review.

You need to be able to suspend reality and read this book with an open mind. If you can do that, you will enjoy this book for the ripping yarn that it is.

Thus endeth my Mystery Challenge.

Mystery Books Challenge Book Review Number 5

When Day Breaks
By Mary Jane Clark
Harper Collins June 2007
Website Mary Jane Clark

And another new mystery author bites the dust. This book was an ARC from Harpercollins. Published just this month (June 2007). Mary Jane is a writer and producer at CBS News' New York City headquarters, and has written 10 books. Check out her website.

Interestingly enough, I actually have never heard of Mary Jane Clark before. I have heard of Mary Higgins Clark. Even read a few of her books. But I never heard of Mary Jane Clark. Are they related? Check the FAQ. Are you related to Mary Higgins Clark? I was married to Mary's son.

I absolutely thoroughly enjoyed this book. Read it in 24 hours. I just could not put it down. It's the first in a new series that MJ is creating using 3 of the best known characters from her previous books. They call themselves the Sunrise Suspense Society. They all work at KEY News TV station and they have a knack for solving mysteries. I was very pleased to have caught this series at the beginning, rather than coming in part way through.

KEY News is the centre of these people's lives. There's the anchor Eliza Blake - a single mom with a 6 year old daughter. The producer Annabelle Murphy with a spouse and twin sons. The cameraman BJ, and lastly a new character, Dr Margo Gonzalez - a psychiatrist, who provides insight into why people do things and act the way they do.

Long time KEY morning anchor Constance Young is leaving the Station and moving to a competing network. The novel opens on the day of her last appearance on KEY to America - her top-rated Morning show. The Executive Producer Linus is furious that Constance is leaving. He has already tapped Constance's replacement. A young woman named Lauren Adams.

But the morning after Constance resigned from KEY news, she is found dead in her swimming pool. She didn't drown. Everyone who knew her, knew she was a strong swimmer.
How did she die?
Who killed her and why?
And did someone see the murder being committed?

Eliza, Annabelle and BJ work together to solve the mystery.

Mary Jane Clark works at CBS News in New York city. Her writing about a TV network, the atmosphere and the ambience are so authentic, it really comes across in the novel. Since I have never read any of MJ's previous books, I will be searching them out to read. And I will definitely be reading future books in this series.

PS This novel opens with an act that would definitely be rated as "Extreme Cruelty to Animals". Just be warned that the first chapter is shocking, but necessary.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mystery Books Challenge Book Review Number 4

Stealing With Style
by Emyl Jenkins
Algonquin Books 2005
Website Emyl Jenkins

I grabbed this book off the sale table because the cover looked so gorgeous. And it was an Antiques mystery by a new (to me) author. I LOVE antique mysteries.

This is a Sterling Glass Mystery - and Sterling Glass really is her name. She is an experienced Antiques Appraiser living in Leemont, Virginia, and after a normal maybe even boring life as an appraiser, raising her kids, writing an antiques column for the newspaper and readjusting to life as a widow, she finally stumbles into a mystery.

When a valuable 1810 tea urn and a Georgian style diamond & pearl brooch are found at the local Salvation Army thrift shop, Sterling is called in, to determine where they came from. The trail eventually leads her to a gang of house sitters and roofers who "case the joint" of the rich homeowners and steal the valuables.

Along the way Sterling meets an ex-priest with whom she might be falling in love, a knowledgeable insurance agent, and a sleazy auctionhouse salesman. She also stumbles across some very valuable Art Deco figurines that are being stolen and sold for a quick buck.

To add to the ambience of the story, each chapter opens with a Question and Answer about Antiques, in the manner of Sterling's newspaper column. These Q&A's were very educational.

The Author is a well known Antiques Appraiser in real life and has written several books on the subject. This was her first novel. The excerpt at the back looked good for a second novel, but so far there is no second novel. Which is a great pity because this is one character I would REALLY love to read more of.

Unfortunately, when one does a search for Sterling Glass, one finds a company using that name located in Sterling, Virginia. I suspect Ms Jenkin's publishers did not do an adequate copyright search on the name, before publishing this novel. If the lead character's name has been changed slightly, there may well have been more books in this series. Which is a great pity because I LOVED this story.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

DECIPHER - Book Review

The Chunkster Challenge.
The cover quote is right. This novel is SPELLBINDING. It's also long (over 500 pages) which is why I am entering this novel as my one and only entry into the 2007 Chunkster Challenge which ends next week.

The short version of this novel is that the world is about to end in 1 week.

The longer version is that the sun is a pulsar star and every 12,000 years it pulsates, thereby causing major geological upheaval on the planets. Atlantis was at the height of its civilisation the last time the sun pulsated, and it was destroyed. That's the origin of the Atlantis legend, and all the flood stories.

It has been 12,000 years since Atlantis was destroyed, and in 1 week, the sun will pulsate again.

The Samson Effect - Preview

The Samson Effect
By Tony Eldridge
Publisher - iUniverse
Date - July 2007
Website - Samson Effect

An ancient secret...
Evidence of a powerful substance lost nearly 3000 years ago...
Most believe it's a myth, but people are dying because some do not...

The Samson Effect has not actually been published yet, and I have read just the first three chapters. The action starts right from the very first page. I can't wait to read the whole book. It is set in the present and centers around characters who are searching for the ancient secret to Samson's strength.

Dr. Michael Sieff, an Israeli Biblical linguist, and Dr. Thomas Hamilton, an American Biblical archeologist, have spent over a year searching the archaeological record for a secret that leads them to the divided city of Hebron; divided between the Jews and the Palestinians. Somewhere in this ancient city lies the truth behind one of the greatest finds of antiquity: the lost power of the Samson Effect.

Clive Cussler (who writes the NUMA and Dirk Pitt novels) read the manuscript and he said The Samson Effect is a “first class thriller brimming with intrigue and adventure.”

This new author, Tony Eldridge, looks like he could be bringing Indiana Jones back to life.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Town House Book Review

TownHouse by Tish Cohen
Published May 2007

I blogged about this author, a week or so ago, and have just now finished reading the book. It turns out that this is Tish Cohen's first adult novel. She has previously published one children's story as well.

Anyway, going by the cover, I would have stopped to take a look, checked out the back cover (about an agrophobic who cant leave the house) and quickly put this book back on the shelf. It is so not my usual type of book.

So when I receive it in the mail, I know I have to make a decent attempt to read it. Guess what. I read it all the way through in 7 hours straight. Stayed up until 2am. I actually shocked myself when I surfaced to check the time.

It was funny, thought provoking, and the language was definitely no holds barred. I found the style of writing to be very refreshing actually.

The story is about Jack, who has been an agrophobic since his son was a baby. He has lived in his house since he was born there - that was 36 years before. Jack's father died in this house. Jack still lives in the past. The house is still exactly like it was when his father died. Nothing major has been renovated or repaired since that day. We also learn about the people in Jack's life - his teenage son, his ex-wife, the shrink, the bank manager, the real estate agent, and the girl from next door.

Harlan is now seventeen and in his last year of high school. He has a secret he hides from his father. Jack's wife Penelope left some time previously and also has some news that she is reluctant to tell Jack. The bank manager fore-closes on the mortgage and Jack has just a few weeks to come up with the outstanding balance or the house will be sold. Lucie, the kid from next door, literally pushes into Jack's house and starts meeting him for breakfast every day before school. She knows how to make a great pot of coffee.

Slowly one step at a time, Jack is forced to start living outside his house. He also begins to learn just how much he has really missed. And he learns that he likes living in the present. He had wanted things to stay the same, because bad things were always happening. But eventually he learns that change is inevitable - and not always bad.

The language and grammar of one's inner mind is so different from every day speech when we have to be careful about what we say, how we say it and who we say it to. But our inner minds are so free to say what we think. Thats how this book is written. Everything that Jack says, does, sees and reads, ends up on the pages of this book. Profanity and all. Freedom of speech - which thankfully is still available in the inner mind. That is why I read it straight through.

If you do not like reading profanity, then I would suggest you do not read this novel.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Bon Voyage - Armchair Travellers Challenge

The challenge runs from July 1 through December 31 during which time you must read six books that fall under the ‘armchair traveling’ theme.
Fiction or non-fiction works are fine, and do not need to be specifically travel related, as long as the location is integral to the book - I’ll leave that to your discretion. Locations must be actual places that you could visit, so no Middle Earths or galaxies far, far away.
Books may be cross-posted to other challenges, but you cannot count any books read prior to July 1st.
Because I like to have a little wiggle room, you can opt to switch out books throughout the challenge. And yes, there will be prizes!

Yaaaay another cool challenge. I LOVE reading about other places.
Here are my 3 of my choices. I'll need to find another 3 to add.

C'est La Vie - Suzy Gershmann (Paris France)
Explorers House - Robert M. Poole (National Geographic Magazine - International)
The Hacienda - Lisa St Aubain de Teran
(Venezuela - overlap with The New Notions Challenge)

The Judas Strain - Book Review

The Judas Strain
By James Rollins
On sale July 2nd, 2007 - ARC
Time taken to read - 48 hours
June 14 to June 16, 2007

Deep within a jungle, ancient ruins conceal a deadly secret...
In a tomb in Venice a great explorer hides a truth that could shatter history...
Upon an Egyptian obelisk, cryptic carvings hint at the language of angels...
While in the twists of our own genetic code, lies a mystery like no other...
And in the hand of SIGMA force balances the fate of all humanity...

Two marine biologists are diving in the Indian Ocean. They discover that the water appears to be infected with what looks like an algae bloom. Within hours the first symptoms start appearing on their bodies.

In the Vatican, a priest named Vigor Verona is shown a mysterious drawing on the floor of a Museum room, and then an ancient carving in the wall. He decides to contact his neice Rachel's ex-boyfriend for help.

In Venice, Stefano is asked to find a certain Egyptian Obelisk so that it can be returned to Egypt.

On Christmas Island, a mysterious epidemic is raging. This illness is attacking both humans AND animals. Any living creature in the water and on land that comes in contact with the algae, begins to exhibit symptoms, crazy behaviour and eventually dies. Doctor Lisa Cummings and her colleague Monk Kokkalis of the Sigma Force are dispatched to the island to help find the source and hopefully the cure.

Gray and Seichan need to start looking for answers to the disease and to what really happened to Marco Polo on his return journey from China. The first place to look is the mysterious Egyptian Obelisk. The journey takes them to locations where Marco Polo passed through, on his return from China over 700 years earlier.

The Guild also hijack the luxury cruise shop that was being used as a Medical ship at Christmas Island. The Guild plan to use the diease as a bio-weapon.

Can the SIGMA force find a cure and eliminate the Guild threat in time to save the world?

The cover of the book (US version above) shows the City of the Dead. If you can figure it out - well you'll know where the trail ends. The cover of the UK version (right) shows Venice canals and gondolas.

In 1293, Marco Polo, his father and his uncle finally left China with 14 immense ships and 600 men. When they sailed into port 2 years later, they had just 2 ships and 18 men. What happened to the other ships and men?

In Venice Marco Polo's body has long since disappeared from his tomb and has never been found. The last line of his book says "I have not told half of what I saw". What was so secret and dreadful that he could never mention it? What was the secret that died with him?

The journey to find the answers - to what Marco Polo knew and the cure to the epidemic - both lead to the same place.

I loved this book. I read it in 2 days. I loved the action as it hopped, skipped and jumped back and forth between the Indian Ocean, Italy, Istanbul, The Persian Gulf and South East Asia.

Of course I am partial to history and I am especially partial to Marco Polo, ever since I watched a TV Mini series about Marco Polo over 25 years ago. That got me curious about the Silk Road, and I have continued to be intrigued by the history, the cultures and the legends of the Silk Road.

The only down side to this novel is that one of the SIGMA team dies. I was shocked, and sad that Rollins could allow this person to die. But then we see one small clue, that indicates they might still be alive. A classic hook to keep you in suspense until the next book.

(edited June 21, 2007)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

When you drink too much Coke and stay up late.

Serves me right for drinking coke for dinner this evening. I'm still wide awake at 1.30 AM!! LOL
During the Bloggers get together last Saturday, one of the subjects that came up was about accents. As you know, I'm from New Zealand and my accent is quite strong.

I can remember meeting a girl in my high school who was from Belgium, and had arrived in New Zealand at age 10, not speaking a word of English. 5 Years later in high school she sounded exactly like me, and noone would have though she was not born in NZ.

Melanie mentioned that if you move to an area with a different accent before the age 12, you can lose the old accent rather easily. But if you are still speaking with a particular accent by the time you get to high school - then you are "doomed" to have that accent for the rest of your life. (my emphasis - Melanie did not actually say the word doomed)

Anyway, my point is, I found a nice quiz that sort of tells you what type of accent you have. It's obviously american biased, but still, I'm sure I do NOT sound like someone from New York City. Most people think I'm British actually.

What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)


Most people don't know it but this is actually what dictionaries are based on. If you don't believe me, pick up any American dictionary and look up "source" and "sauce" and you'll see they are written with the same vowel pronunciation.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.

Friday, June 15, 2007

My First ARC Book

I started reading a really cool novel about Atlantis and the end of the world, (DECIPHER) but am currently taking a break to read an ARC (JUDAS STRAIN). My first one ever - which arrived yesterday. I will be putting up reviews of both of them as soon as I have finished reading them.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Why do books still show such outrageous prices?

I remember a few years ago, shortly after I arrived in Canada, I was in a bookshop and a women was complaining to me about the price of books. The back of a paperback has the US price - usually around $8 or $9 and the Canadian price was always higher - maybe as much as $12. At the time the loonie ($1 CAN) was worth around 80c (I think - dont quote me on that).

There's an article today on Yahoo that says the Canadian loonie is now worth 94 centes and may climb as high as 96 cents.

If thats true, then why are books still being sold in this country with such large differences in the currencies - when those prices should now be no more than $1 apart?

As for the non fictions - well I am flabbergasted. Those gaps are huge.

I have a large number of non fiction books - and I'd like to list some comparisons.

if the price is $15 US then it can be go for $20 CAN. (PB)
if the price is $25 US then it can be go for $39 CAN. (PB or HC)
if the price is $30 US then it can be go for $45 CAN. (HC)

However I will say this - for some of the more recently published that gap seems to be getting smaller. So far I only have 1 non-fiction paperback book published in 2006. The price says $15 US and $19 CAN

So my question is this. Is this price "gouging" for want of a better word - pure profit margin for the publishers, or are the transportation costs across the border really that horrendous???

Naturally this is still floating around the edges of my mind, after I posted about the last Harry Potter Book and how the publishers are practically giving away their profit by discounting those books so much.

Is there any bookish person out there, who can explain (via comment or an email) why there is such a large difference?


This is exactly why I always purchase from remainder shops - and I now have a very good online remainder outlet. I just received another package of books in the mail today. Six books for $32 US total including shipping & handling. Not bad for an hours browsing online.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mystery Books Challenge Book Review Number 3

There's an antiques dealer in New England who seems to have a knack for getting mixed up in murders. Well, in this case, actually she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and was framed for a murder she did not commit. So she waited for the police to stop suspecting her and find the real killer. And while she waited, she continued running her antiques appraisal business.
As I have said before, I love art history and the antiquarian business - especially books. But I certainly like reading about the antiques business as well.

So I grabbed Consigned to Death by Jane Cleland from a sales table recently and have just finished reading it. For a first novel it was quite good, but I have do a few nit-picks.

Firstly, I found it annoying every time Josie referred to the "whistleblowing" incident that forced her to leave New York and move to New England. I felt like I had missed a lot of the back-story, and that I had somehow missed reading the book about the whistle blowing incident. There is no such book.

Secondly, I also found it annoying everytime Josie asked her lawyer a question about police and legal procedures. If she had already gone through all this hassle in NYC, then surely she must already be familiar with said procedures? The questions were basically a plot point to show new readers exactly how police procedures work, but Cleland overdid it somewhat, in my opinion.

Thirdly the excerpt at the back for book number two grated on me because it's obvious, there is no continuity between novels. Josie has been through a harrowing murder case (in book one) for which she was the suspect, and was interrogated several times, and yet the very next time (book 2) she is questioned by a cop, she panics? Now I have not read book number 2, but I'm not sure I want to, going by the first 2 chapters excerpted at the back of book 1.

This book is not bad - but its not great either.

So if I had to choose between 2 antiques dealers who like solving mysteries - namely Josie Prescott and Lara McClintoch - I would choose Lara any day of the week, and not just because she lives in Toronto.

But I must also add, that I do LOVE the What's it Worth quiz on Jane Cleland's website.

Tish Cohen hits Hollywood big time with literary debut

I was surfing some book blogs this morning and came across this mention of a new Canadian author.

Tish Cohen

She's just published her first novel called Town House from Harper Collins, and the funny thing is that the movie rights have already been sold - to Ridley Scott.

In a country that tends to sneer at light literature and beach reads — even the globally famous, literary and unabashedly patriotic Douglas Coupland has never won a major CanLit prize — Cohen is a rare and refreshing breed: an unapologetically commercial author. Like the best-selling Canadian thriller writer Joy Fielding, Cohen is a populist with an eye for the lucrative American market.

“I did approach Canadian agents and I didn’t get a single response,” she says. “I did think I’d have a better chance in the U.S. because the book is commercial and in Canada [the book industry] is much more literary and serious.” Taking the advice of her editors, she decided to set the book in Boston because “Americans wouldn’t read a book set in Toronto.”

A Canadian writer cannot even set a novel in Toronto anymore? Thats just so unfair. Why should we have to pander to the audience across the border just because they think their country is better than ours? Or maybe its simply because the reading audience is so much bigger down there - 300 millions against a paltry 30 million - with at least half of all Canadians whose first language is NOT English.

Well when I ever get around to writing the great Canadian novel, I'm going to be setting it in Canada - or England. But then I'm much more likely to be writing historical or non-fiction. I doubt I will be writing popular or contemporary.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Harry Potter magic spells losses for booksellers

You may have noticed that I havent mentioned Harry Potter before. Thats because I'm not a kid and I dont have a crush on him. I'm old enough to be Harry's mother - and Daniel's too for that matter. LOL

I've seen the frenzy (there is no other word to describe it) in the bookshops to sell the most HP books. And the latest frenzy to get the most advance orders for the last book due out, in just 6 weeks.

Anyway there was an interesting article on Yahoo today about how most bookshops will not make much if any profit on the last volume despite have thousands of advance orders, because they have discounted them so much, that they lose their profit margins.

Everywhere you go there is huge, ridiculous discounting by the chains," said Graham Marks, children's editor at the British-based trade magazine Publishing News.
"They are literally not going to make one penny out of the book. It is stupid - just throwing money away ... The world has gone mad."

I agree with calling it stupid. Sure people will buy the book at $19.99, but since it is the LAST book in a very popular series, they should also be willing to buy it at the retail price of $35. Or they can do what I do - wait 6 months, reserve it at the library and read it for free. Thats what I have done with every other Harry Potter book, and I dont expect this one to be any different.

Mystery Books Challenge Book Review Number 2

This is Review number 2 in the Mystery Book Challenge.

Anyway I finished reading my first Anna Pigeon mystery today. This novel was called Ill Wind and is number 3 in the series. Set in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, its about a young child and a park ranger who are killed in the old Anasazi cliff dwellings. There are rumours of spirits in the air late at night. One of the park rangers claims that the Anasazi are warning visitors away from the ancient dwellings. But eventually Anna and Frederick Stanton (a old FBI colleague) solve the mystery. The spirits turn out to be fumes from illegal toxic wastes being dumped on federal land.

I love stories with an environmental theme, and there are quite a number of American National Parks I would love to visit. I also love learning about the Anasazi. I find them to be mysterious - only because we still dont know very much about them. And their dwellings are just so beautiful. I am eager to read this entire series to learn more about the parks. I cannot beleive I have never heard of this author or this series before. Nevada Barr has been writing this series for over 15 years.

I still need to do the Non fiction and the other 2 challenges I signed up for - these challenges are kind of addictive aren't they? LOL.

Mystery Books Challenge Book Review

I don't normally read Jeffrey Archer, but I can never resist an Art History Mystery. So when I found False Impression on a sale table on Saturday, I grabbed it for 50 cents. Then I stayed up until 3am Sunday morning because I could not put it down. So this is the first Book in my Mystery Challenge.

The Blurb and the back cover asks questions like

Why was an elegant lady brutally murdered the night before 9/11?
Why was a successful New York banker not surprised to receive a woman's left ear in the morning mail?
Why did a top Manhattan lawyer work only for one client, but never charge a fee?
Why did a young woman with a bright career steal a priceless Van Gogh painting?
Why was an Olympic gymnast paid a million dollars an assigment when she didn't have a bank account?
Why was an honors graduate working as a temporary secretary after inheriting a fortune?
Why was an English Countess ready to kill the banker, the lawyer, and the gymnast even if it meant spending the rest of her life in jail?
Why was a Japanese steel magnate happy to hand over $50 million to a woman he had only met once?
Why was a senior FBI agent trying to work out the connection between these eight apparently innocent individuals?

Let me see if I can answer these questions.

The FBI agent has 3 unsolved murders - all with their throats slit and their art collections recovered by the New York banker to cover their debts. The elegant lady becomes the 4th victim.

The english countess and the elegant lady were related which is why she wants to kill the banker, the lawyer and the gymnast. Actually I dont recall that she even knew the lawyer's name.

The FBI agent thinks the brilliant young women with a promising career who stole the Van Gogh is the murderer, so he puts surveillance on her. He thinks she is in league with the banker. After all she is an Art History professional with a Ph.D. And she and the banker both come from the same East European country.

The honors graduate working as a temporary secretary - well she was the surprise twist. We dont discover her story and how she ties into all this until the very last chapter.

The Japanese magnate - like all art collectors - he's willing to pay $50 million for a "stolen painting", once he is told of the reason for the sale.

The Olympic Gymnast? She also comes from the same East European Country and she uses her gymnastics to escape from a locked room. No bank account means no way to be traced - supposedly.

And by the way, the painting was never stolen. The banker just wants what he claims is his property in order to recover his debt. The english countess says the banker is a swindler and refuses to give up without a fight. The art historian just does a bit of switch & bait to fool the banker and get justice for the countess after the elegant lady was murdered.

And I think I'll leave it at that. You got to read the book to find the answers. But it really is a riveting story. Like I said, I stayed up until 3am reading it.

One last thing - the elegant lady was murdered the day before 9/11. The banker, the lawyer and the art historian are all in New York and were in the North Tower when it was hit. The description of walking down over 90 levels of stairway is very nicely detailed and really makes you feel like you were there. Then the running to escape the dust & ash cloud when the first tower went down is also riveting.

I was sitting at my doctors office on the morning of 9/11 waiting for a diagnostic test. I watched the towers fall on the TV in his waiting room.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Mystery Challenge

Well I have found 2 mystery series that I havent read and with nice strong female characters.

The first character is Anna Pigeon. As I'm sure you probably already know, Anna is a National Park Ranger and part time Detective, and every summer she works in a different National Park. This series is written by Nevada Barr.

The second character is Sister Frivisse. Someone else posted about Margaret Frazer who writes Medieval Mysteries. I love medieval mysteries. I have read most of the Brother Cadfael books.

I'm definitely going to check both these series out.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Carnivals, Woofstock, and Blogging - all in a days work for me

Well its now after 9pm and today has been a very busy day. My son is a early riser, and by 9am we were outside and heading for the park. By accident we discovered one of the local schools setting up its annual fundraising carnival. OOH bad news - this means I can't take son back to dad as planned so I can attend blog meeting later. He would kick up a stinker of a tantrum if I try and do this. A slight change of plan is called for. Drag son up to St Lawrence markets to use the pay phone and call home. Tell dad he MUST be at the carnival by 1pm. He agrees.

Outside the markets on Front street, all is quiet. The craft tables are being set up like they always do. The roads are clear and the traffic is flowing freely. There is nothing to indicate that chaos is about to descend. And despite having commented last weekend about Woofstock being on this weekend, I had completely forgotten about it.

Back at the carnival, my son and I have an enjoyable time. He gets an all day pass to do the rides and games, wins lots of prizes and my bag quickly starts to overflow with toys. We even won a cake in the raffle. I found some great new kids books going really cheap and snapped those up. My son gets bored with his books, and always wants "something different". Finally dad showed up so I ditched the carnival and headed back up past the markets. Right into chaos on Front Street. Dogs everywhere.

The Woofstock the annual dogshow is being held this weekend along Front and Wellington streets (between Jarvis & Yonge). Its amazing there was not more noise being heard one block down at the carnival, but I guess a carnival is noisy as well.

Got to Solferinos early. In fact I think I was the first one there. Sassy monkey arrived soon after I did. We made contact and then we sat and chatted while we waited for everyone else. Traffic was just as chaotic, and everyone was late, but then parking down here is HORRENDOUS!!! One young lady was standing around for quite some time before she plucked up enough courage to ask "Are you the blogging group".

The get together was WONDERFUL!!! Six women getting together on a gorgeous sunny day and talking nonstop, mostly about books, for 3 hours. I had a great time - despite all the noise.

So who was there?

Karen the Technical writer who organised this get together because she wanted to meet some Toronto Bloggers before moving back to Montreal.

Patricia the Cartoonist who is a published illustrator

Kate from Saskatoon who is a published author.

Melanie the Librarian who came all the way in from Stratford.

Deanne the Online Editor

And of course me - the only one who does not actually work in the Book industry - although I dearly wish I was.

Solferino's is a cafe (38 Wellington Street East, Downtown Toronto) that sells tea, coffee, juice, the usual, but it also sells GELATO. Italian Icecream. The notice on the wall said that gelato was icecream with NO air in it which made it thicker and creamier.

Being from New Zealand I grew up with passionfruit and kiwifruit vines outside my house. To this day I love passionfruit, but I detest kiwifruit. Not sure why. Anyway, I had a small bowl of passionfruit gelato and it was just so so scrumptious and yummy.

"The flavour I would enthusiastically recommend, however, is the passion fruit, rich in aroma and flavour with a cool and fruity taste that will make even Toronto’s hottest summer’s days seem bearable." (as reviewed in the Solferino link above) GO PASSIONFRUIT

The cafe was very loud, noisy and chaotic. Everywhere you looked there were bloggers, babies, dogs, and more bloggers.

And the cafe got more noisy when another group of bloggers showed up and started putting a lovely photo exhibit on the wall right behind where we were sitting.

Our resident photographer took the requisite photos (of our group and the photo display). You should be able to email me now. Please send me copies of the photos, thanks.

So what did we talk about? Books of course. Including how to get published, the pros and cons of self publishing, Publicists and Agents - the good and bad, Authors we have met, Authors who have insulted us, Books we did and didnt like, Book signing parties, genealogy and accents, whether or not women really need men (as in spouse or partner) to get ahead in life.

We finally broke up at 5 pm. Not because we had run out of things to say. Oh no, it because several of the ladies had events to attend at the Book Expo also being held downtown.

I barely walked in the door at home before I was back outside, taking my son back to the playground again. We didnt get home until well after 8pm. I am sunburned and tired but I had a fantastic day.

Thanks Karen for organising the meeting.

And if you're still reading this novella, thanks for sticking with me all the way. LOL

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Last Cato - Book Review

Paleography is the discipline that studies (1) the history of writing (and precisely, handwriting, graffiti, murals) in their different phases; (2) the techniques used in writing in different periods; (3) the process of reproduction of written witnesses as they developed in different periods, and (4) the result of this process, as in books or inscriptions from documents or from individual and private writing (accounts, notes, letters, etc.) in their graphic form".

I finished this novel today and all I can say is WOW!! This novel is much better than The Da Vinci Code. Its got history, mystery, physical trials, tests of faith, a strong female lead who happens to be a nun, and of course a romance. But the romance is a very small part of the story.

As the head of the Vatican’s secret Classified Archives it is Dr. Ottavia Salinas's job to research and maintain some of the world’s most ancient and protected documents while also controlling her staff with an unyielding, unforgiving iron fist. As a nun, working in the Vatican is a prestigious and enviable job.

An Ethiopian man with strange markings on his body is killed in a plane crash. Amongst his belongings is a reliquary box with a small piece of the True Cross in it. The reliquary is taken to the Vatican, along with photos of the markings on the man's body. Sister Ottavia is asked to decipher the markings.

Once Ottavia discovers that the letters tattooed on the body spell the Greek word STAUROS or Cross, and that the strange marks on the body refer to the Seven Deadly Sins, the trail leads directly to Purgatory and Hell via Dante and his Divine Comedy.

Ottavia and her team must travel through Purgatory using the clues from Dante's Divine Comedy, and submitting themselves to 7 trials, in order to discover who is stealing the relics of the True Cross from the Catholic church.

Along the way. Ottavia discovers new things about her beliefs, herself and her family. She also finds herself more and more drawn to Farag, the Egyptian academic with whom she is falling in love. But as I said earlier, the romance is just a small part of the story.

The Last Cato Review

The Last Cato Review

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Security Letters

Now if I am supposed to enter "security letters" EVERY time I want to edit my posts - I might just STOP blogging. Its very INTRUSIVE. BLOGSPOT please take note!!!!!

The Last Cato

Havent posted anything in a week. Not good. I'm supposed to be blogging about Books. Anyway I finshed The MapMakers Wife and am now reading a novel called The Last Cato.

It's about a Nun who is a Paleographer and works on the ancient Manuscripts in the Classified Vatican Libraries, and a Swiss Guard and an Anglo-Egyptian Archaeologist and their search for the True Cross. Those little slivers of wood that the Catholic church have been selling to their churches, claiming they come from the Cross that Jesus supposedly died on.

Oh yeah, about the Divine Comedy by Dante. The above journey to find the Cross, uses the Divine Comedy as a map - going through Purgatory, Hell and Heaven.

While I dont beleive that the relics are from the True Cross (wood is wood anywhere anytime), the story itself is very exciting. It reads exactly like the Da Vinci Code for those of you who have read that. And I love an exciting story. It takes me away from my boring life for a few hours.

The Blurb on the cover of my edition says this - The Last Cato is a riveting journey shrouded in mystery and literary allegory. It will do for Dante what Dan Brown did for Da Vinci - James Rollins (who is one of my favourite adventure/thriller authors).