Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Books in my Month .....

It's nice to have all my reads in one place - so here is my January Reading List....

Here are my January books: 

Book of the Month

11.22.63 by Stephen King

The Drowning Girl by Margaret Leroy - a story about past lives and inherited memory
A Gathering Storm by Rachel Hore - a dual time story about events in WW2
The Taker by Alma Katsu - a paranormal story, just a little bit different, and the start of The Taker Trilogy
Nectar from a Stone by Jane Guill - a fascinating look at life in medieval Wales
The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford - a lovely dual time story about lost love,s et in the present and during WW2 in America
Cavalier Queen by Fiona Mountain - as story about the love triangle between Queen Henrietta-Maria, Charles I, and courtier Henry Jermyn
Naming the Bones by Louise Welsh - cleverly constructed thriller set in Edinburgh
Armistice by Nick Stafford - a murder/mystery set just after Armistice WWI
Season of Light by Katharine McMahon - a novel of the French Revolution - reviewed for newbooks magazine
The Radleys by Matt Haig - a paranormal story about a dysfunctional family

Non Fiction Reads:

The Tudor Queens of England by David Loades

Gave up on:

The Ghost of Lily Painter by Caitlin Davies

Friday, 27 January 2012

Friday recommends #2

Friday again, and it's time for my choice of book for Friday recommends...

This is an exciting book blog hop that book bloggers can take part in once a week to share with their followers, the books that they most recommend reading!

The rules for Friday Recommends are:

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.
Pick a book that you've read, and have enjoyed enough to recommend to other readers. It can be a book you've read recently, or a book you read years ago - it's up to you - but make sure you tell us why you love the book (like a mini review). You make the post as long or as short as you like.
Visit the other blogs and enjoy!

My choice this week is :



 Stephen King


What if you could go back in time and change the course of history?

Jake Epping is given the secret of time travel, and armed with enough information he sets out to change history, not just the history surrounding the assignation of John F. Kennedy, but also of the people he meets on his journey from 2011, back to 1958.Leaving behind everything he knows, he enters an age devoid of computers and mobiles phones, and prepares to take on one of the biggest challenges of his life.

The ability to change history is not without its pitfalls, and Jake soon finds that in order to go forward, he needs to have the ability, not only to change his identity, but also to change his belief in the future.

Stephen King has written an incredible story, his attention to detail is superb, and his ability to invoke the America of the late 1950's, early 1960's is so utterly believable, you feel that you are walking the same streets, sitting in the same bars, and dancing the Lindy Hop at the school dance...and yet, as with all King's novels there is that underlying knowledge that all on the surface, is not as it seems...

"We never know which lives we influence , or when, or why. Not until the future eats the present anyway. We know when it's too late" © Stephen King

If you've never read a Stephen King book before, - don't be fooled into thinking he only does horror, he also does Time Travel.... very well indeed.

Read it if you can- it won't be time wasted, just be prepared to do nothing until you have finished it..

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Wish list Wednesday #3

I am delighted to be part of wishlist Wednesday which is hosted by Dani at pen to paper 

The idea is to post about one book each week that has been on your wishlist for some time, or maybe just added...

So what do you need to do to join in?
Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.
Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.
Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.
Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of her post.
Put a link back to pen to paper (http://vogue-pentopaper.blogspot.com) somewhere in your post.
Visit the other blogs and enjoy!

My #3 Wishlist Wednesday book


The Collabortor

Mizra Waheed

The Collaborator

Synopsis from

It is Kashmir in the early 1990s and war has finally reached the isolated village of Nowgam close to the Pakistan border. Indian soldiers appear as if from nowhere to hunt for militants on the run. Four teenage boys, who used to spend their afternoons playing cricket, or singing Bollywood ballads down by the river, have disappeared one by one, to cross into Pakistan and join the movement against the Indian army. Only one of their friends, the son of the headman, is left behind. The families in the village begin to think it's time to flee, to search for a place of greater safety. But the headman will not allow his family to leave. And, whilst the headman watches his dreams give way beneath the growing violence, his son, under the brutal, drunken gaze of the Indian army captain, is seemingly forced to collaborate and go into the valley to count the corpses, fearing, each day, that he will discover one of his friends lying amongst the dead. "The Colloborator" is a stunningly humane work of storytelling with a poignant and unpredictable hero at its heart. In one of the most shocking and brilliantly compelling novels of recent times Mirza Waheed lights our way into the heart of a war that is all too real.

This is another of those books that has been bubbling under my book radar for several months - I really mean to read it soon.

Happy Reading

Monday, 23 January 2012

IttyBittyKnitty bags....

Just so you know I don't spend all day everyday reading.........sometimes, I knit IttyBittyKnitty Bags..... I gave quite a few away at Christmas, so in the last couple of weeks I've been building up my stock.

Some are my own designs, but others I knitted from patterns in Emma King's excellent book 25 more bags to knit, which is a really easy book to follow, and there are designs to suit all skill levels.

25 More Bags to Knit: Chic and Stylish Accessories

Just a few
of my

Thanks for looking !!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Where in the world have I been....

I'm not a great traveller, so it always amazes me that I can journey around the world from the comfort of my armchair....

Where in the world have I been this week....

LONDON in 1918 courtesy of Armistice by Nick Stafford.

Having lost her fiancé, Dan in the final minutes of 11th November 1918, Philomena Bligh travels to London in order to find out what happened in the final minutes of WW1, and how her fiancé could have been killed just a minute after ceasefire was called....but if he wasn't killed by enemy fire....who did kill Dan Case?

Published by Quercus

Incidentally Nick Stafford adapted Michael Morpurgo's Warhorse for the stage......

PARIS in 1788 courtesy of Season of Light by Katherine McMahon

Season of Light
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson

NORTHERN ENGLAND Present Day courtesy of  The Radleys by Matt Haig

The Radleys

Published by Canongate books ltd

Where in the world will we go next week......................come with us, if you can.......

Friday, 20 January 2012

Friday Recommends #1....

So it's Friday again, and that means another exciting Friday Recommends!

This is an exciting book blog hop that book bloggers can take part in once a week to share with their followers, the books that they most recommend reading!

The rules for Friday Recommends are:

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.
Pick a book that you've read, and have enjoyed enough to recommend to other readers. It can be a book you've read recently, or a book you read years ago - it's up to you - but make sure you tell us why you love the book (like a mini review). You make the post as long or as short as you like.
Visit the other blogs and enjoy!

My first Friday Recommend is a book kindly given to me by the publishers Canongate and which I have also read this month as part of a book group read....

The Radleys
 Matt Haig

The Radleys

The Radleys appear to be a normal happy family, but underneath this veneer of respectability lies a dark secret which is about to come crashing to the surface. Peter and Helen Radley have done all they can to protect their children, Rowan and Clara, from experiencing the dark and daring world of the paranormal, but secrets run deep, and the threat of exposure is never far from the surface.

Covering a whole range of topics, from sibling rivalry and school time bullying, through to marital disharmony and the threat of infidelity, this story just about covers every emotion. There are some genuinely funny moments where I laughed out loud, but equally, there are some truly dark dilemmas which seek not only to question morality, but also to ponder on the principles of goodness and decency. Ultimately, this is a novel about rites of passage, not just within families but within the wider community, and demonstrates how the intricacies of relationships can be flimsy, and yet strengthened by a common purpose.

The author’s skill as a story teller is unmistakable, Matt Haig has the distinct ability to engage, entertain and amuse in equal measure, and yet his true talent lies in making the book just a little bit different. It’s refreshingly diverse to have a paranormal book that doesn’t feature too heavily on the dark and dirty alpha male, and yet should the story ever continue, Rowan certainly has potential.

Read it if you can -  the hours spent in the company of The Radleys won’t be wasted.


Thursday, 19 January 2012

Review - Season of Light by Katharine McMahon..

I was delighted to be given the opportunity to review Season of Light by Katharine McMahon for newbooks magazine

I've long been a fan of  Katharine McMahon. She writes essentially good historical novels, and has covered quite diverse periods in history from the Crimean war in the Rose of Sebastopol, through to her latest book Season of Light , which is set during the turbulent times of the French Revolution. Since this sort of fits in with my theme of reading A Tale of Two Cities, I was intrigued to see how the two books would compare. Obviously Dickens has a charm all of his own, but it was quiety reassuring to see that the title of Katharine's book is taken from the stunning opening passage from A Tale of Two Cities...

"It was the best of times , it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief , it was the epoch of incredulity , it was the season of light ......"

Season of Light

Publication Date : November 10th 2011
ISBN: ISBN-13 Number: 9780297853398
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson

My Review

Paris in 1788 is on the brink of revolution. In the genteel salons of the aristocracy, nineteen year old ingénue, Thomasina Ardleigh is introduced to the scintillating world of the revolutionary, where she falls completely in love with the handsome and dangerous, Didier Paulin. When family circumstances force Thomasina to return home to England, she never forgets her love affair, and continues to hope for future happiness with Didier. However, the wheels of the revolution threaten the very safety of all those who remain in Paris and in 1793 when Thomasina secretly returns to France, her search for Didier involves her in dangerous political intrigue.
Reminiscent at times of the early work of Georgette Heyer, this novel is primarily a love story, and yet in the background, the French revolution is always bubbling under the surface, with enough description of historical events to make the story meaningful, and informative. I particularly enjoyed the social and political imagery of the revolution, and felt that the involvement of real historic figures helped to put the story into context. The social observations of Georgian England with all its faults and failings is very well done, particularly the descriptions of matrimonial conspiracies, and the lengths people went to, in order to maintain wealth and prosperity.
Overall, I thought that this was a really enjoyable read. The French Revolution is a huge topic to write about, and yet the author manages to convey the story without becoming over involved in sheer horror. There are some nice touches throughout, with likeable and believable characters, and a pleasing conclusion. I enjoyed it, and recommend it to those of my friends who enjoy historical novels.

I've given the book 5 stars - a sign of a good book for me is when I want to keep turning the pages, in order to find out just a little bit more .....and I know you really shouldn't judge a book by its cover ...but I really do like this one !!!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Wishlist Wednesday #2

I am delighted to be part of Wishlist Wednesday which is being hosted by Dani over at pen to paper

The idea is to post one book each week which has been on your wishlist for some time...or maybe just been added...

So what do you need to do to join in?

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.
Please consider adding the blog hop button to your blog somewhere, so others can find it easily and join in too! Help spread the word! The code will be at the bottom of the post under the linky.

Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.
Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.

Visit the other blogs and enjoy!

 My #2 Wishlist Wednesday book

Next to Love 


 Ellen Feldman


A story of love, war, loss, and the scars they leave, Next to Love follows the lives of three young women and their men during the years of World War II and its aftermath, beginning with the men going off to war and ending a generation later, when their children are on the cusp of their own adulthood.

Set in a small town in Massachusetts, the novel follows three childhood friends, Babe, Millie, and Grace, whose lives are unmoored when their men are called to duty. And yet the changes that are thrust upon them move them in directions they never dreamed possible—while their husbands and boyfriends are enduring their own transformations. In the decades that follow, the three friends lose their innocence, struggle to raise their children, and find meaning and love in unexpected places. And as they change, so does America—from a country in which people know their place in the social hierarchy to a world in which feminism, the Civil Rights movement, and technological innovations present new possibilities—and uncertainties. And yet Babe, Millie, and Grace remain bonded by their past, even as their children grow up and away and a new society rises from the ashes of the war.

Beautifully crafted and unforgettable, Next to Love depicts the enduring power of love and friendship, and illuminates a transformational moment in American history.

This talented American author has written three other books...

Scotsborro which was short listed for the 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction

Happy Reading

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Strange but true...

Sometimes the title of a book is so strange, you just have to read it - a couple of months ago I saw a discussion about this one, and managed to get a copy from my good friend Mrs Mac -

This is the true story of Italian opera singer Giusto Ferdinando Tenducci, who was born into a poor family in the Tuscan village of Monte San Savino, and who then went on to become one of the most famous celebrities of the eighteenth century. From quite early in his career Tenducci was besieged by women who flocked to his concerts, and he had all the main composers of the day vying for his favour. However, it was his marriage to his pupil, Dorothea Maunsell, a teenage girl from a good Irish family, that would be the catalyst which boosted his career into the public stratosphere. When the marriage eventually broke down,  the subsequent court case to have the marriage annulled proved to be sensational and damaging.

It's an unconventional love story, and all the more intriguing because it's true...

Helen Berry, a noted historian has written an accomplished account of Tenducci's life. The book is easier to read than you would imagine, and has a very generous reference section, which I must admit to not really reading much of......but, it's there for those who like that kind of thing...

I love the glimpse of picture from the front cover - it's from The Singer Farinelli and Friends by Jacopo Amigoni c 1750-1752... I think the picture is copyrighted ....so you'll have to look it up for yourself !

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Books in my week...

Wherever does the time go - the week has flown by so quickly, and despite feeling, or in spite of feeling rather poorly, I have managed to have some really good reading time.

These are the books in my week...

Cavalier QueenCavalier Queen by Fiona Mountain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
jaffa's rating 4paws - only dogs in this one !

Primarily, this is a love story between a strong and determined woman, and the two men who loved her.

Henrietta- Maria, a Bourbon princess, was only 15 when she was married, by proxy, to Charles I of England, The marriage,initially difficult, eventually blossomed into a strong and tender partnership. However, this novel also focuses on Henrietta-Maria's life long association, and possible love affair, with one of her courtiers,Henry Jermyn.

Overall, I thought it was a well thought out historical romance, the writer has taken time and effort to research the period, and this is reflected in the story. At the start of the book I knew very little about Henrietta - Maria, other than she pawned the English crown jewels in order to fund the Cavalier cause, but at the end of the story I felt that I had learned a little more about this fascinating period in English history.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetHotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
jaffa's rating 5paws

I seem to have been waiting to read this book for months, and was determined to make it one of my first reads of 2012. Sometimes when you anticipate a book, there is always the danger that it won't live up to expectations, thankfully, this is not the case with Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

The story draws you in from the very beginning, and has you stamping your feet at the injustice of a world gone mad. Beautifully tender in places, and downright sad in others , this book is to be savoured like fine wine, it is from start to finish, simply wonderful.

Nectar from a Stone: A NovelNectar from a Stone: A Novel by Jane Guill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
jaffa's rating 4paws

Set in medieval Wales in 1351 - in a land devastated by plague, and alive with superstition.

Elise, a young visionary is shackled by a violent marriage, but fate intervenes and releases her from her miserable existence. Together with her servant Annora, Elise travels the North Wales countryside searching for peace and prosperity.Her journey will intercept with Gwydion, a moody Welshman who is seeking to revenge his murdered family, and reclaim his plundered family home.

Reminiscent at times of the work of Karen Maitland,this is a fascinating glimpse into life in medieval Wales. Set against the stark beauty of the Welsh countryside, medieval skulduggery is expertly explored,the characters come vividly to life, and the story bounds along at a cracking pace.

Naming the BonesNaming the Bones by Louise Welsh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
jaffa's rating 4paws

I've long been a fan of the darkly different books of Louise Welsh. This slightly unusual thriller really grabs your attention from the opening page, it quickly becomes one of those books you simply can't put down.

Set in Edinburgh, and largely focused on academic Dr Murray Watson, and his research into the life of an enigmatic Scottish poet, Archie Lunan. With very little information, Dr Murray begins to uncover a web of intrigue, which will eventually lead him into danger, and a journey of self discovery.

Strong characterisation, excellent plot and the ability to engage the reader from the first sentence, all make this book well worth reading.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Curled up with a good book...

Books and music are the best medicine.....

......feeling a bit poorly today - so jaffa is looking after me ......

Happy Thursday everyone ....

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Wishlist Wednesday #1

I am delighted to become part of Wishlist Wednesday which is being hosted by Dani at pen to paper

The idea is to post about one book each week that has been on your wishlist for some time, or maybe just added...

So what do you need to do to join in?
Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.
Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.
Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.
Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of her post.
Put a link back to pen to paper (http://vogue-pentopaper.blogspot.com) somewhere in your post.
Visit the other blogs and enjoy!

My #1 Wishlist Wednesday Book 

The Paris Wife 


Paula McLain

The Paris Wife

I first heard about this book several months ago, and I am pleased to hear that it has been chosen as one of the Richard and Judy book club spring reads for 2012..

from Goodreads 

Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard- drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unravelling of everything they’ve fought so hard for. A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.

I am sure this will find its way onto either my kindle or my book shelf before too long....

Happy Reading !

Monday, 9 January 2012

Just for Fun Reading Challenge 2012..

I'm always on the look out for a new challenge, and this Just for Fun Challenge 2012 sounds like a great idea.....
Thanks to escapewith dollycas.com for hosting this fun challenge over on Goodreads

The idea is to read one book for fun each month from those books that have been sitting on your book shelf for far too long. The know the ones - you picked them up because the cover looked interesting, or you read a good review on someone's blog - and then they just sit on the shelf unread gathering dust....

JUST FOR FUN Reading Challenge 2012

I am committing to read just one book for fun each month!

JANUARY - The Drowning Girl by Margaret Leroy


Sunday, 8 January 2012

Books in my week...

My first reading week of the New Year got off to rather a good start with three very different books :

The Drowning GirlThe Drowning Girl by Margaret Leroy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
jaffa's rating 5 paws

This is a cleverly crafted book. The subject of inherited memory is fascinating, and the story of four year old Sylvie who seems to be remembering tragic events of a past life, is both tragic, and heart warming in equal measure.

I really enjoyed it ... Margaret Leroy's books never fail to engage from the opening page.

The Gathering StormThe Gathering Storm by Rachel Hore
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Jaffa's rating 2 paws -jaffa fell asleep through this one

I've been a huge fan of Rachel Hore's books, but this one left me feeling really disappointed, and quite frankly a little bit bored. Whilst acknowledging the skill of the author, the idea of the book is good, but the story just plods along, and it never really sparks interest. I guessed very early on what the twist would be, and found myself skipping large chunks of the narrative in order to get to the end...I'm sure her next book will be back on track.

The Taker (The Taker #1)The Taker by Alma Katsu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dr Luke Findlay is a doctor, and when a young woman shows up in the emergency room of the small provinicial hospital in St Andrews, Maine, he is little prepared for the effect that she will have on his life.

Lanny McIlvrae is unlike anyone Luke has ever met. She tells him a story of love, and betrayal that transcends time and mortality.....and against his judgement Luke becomes drawn into her quest for salvation...

This is an interesting take on the immortality/paranormal genre, as it not only does the immortality bit rather well - it is quite graphic in places, and yet, it's also a fascinating historical look at the early part of the 19th Century in New England... this is a good debut book, and the start of The Taker Trilogy.

I enjoyed this one far more than I expected.

Book Two-The Reckoning is due in June 2012.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Charles Dickens Bicentennial 2012...

Dickens 2012 is the celebration of the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens birth ~ born on the 7 February 1812 - he is considered to be the greatest English novelist of the Victorian era.

BBC History

I thought that I might try to read as many of Dickens novels as I can during the year....here are my choices...

Martin Chuzzlewit
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
David Copperfield
Our Mutual Friend
A Tale of Two Cities
Oliver Twist
Nicholas Nickeby
Bleak House
The Old Curiosity Shop 

" No one who can read, ever looks at a book, even unopened on a shelf, like one who cannot..."
Charles Dickens : Our Mutual Friend

There are several planned exhibitions find them here:

Dickens 2012
Museum of London
Charles Dickens Museum

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year ~ 2012

 Jaffa and I would like to wish all our friends and followers


Here's to lots of Happy Reading !!