22 August 2011

The Lady of the Rivers

By Philippa Gregory
Published by Touchstone
A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Available 11 October 2011
ARC courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada

This novel begins in France with a young Jacquetta of Luxembourg befriending an "odd trophy of war", Joan of Arc. Joan is being imprisoned at the castle of Jacquetta's great-uncle, Lord John of Luxembourg. We learn of Jacquetta's talents when she reads Joan's cards and realises she can see into the future.

This ability leads the widowed Duke of Bedford to wed a seventeen-year-old Jacquetta. The duke believes he can find a way to turn iron into gold and he wants Jacquetta to work with his alchemists and astrologers, to scry, and to look into the future. Their marriage is loveless and childless.

When the duke dies, Jacquetta marries Richard Woodville, the duke's squire. They are madly in love, marry without the king's blessing and, according to some historians, go on to produce sixteen children. Their eldest daughter, Elizabeth, eventually becomes queen consort of Edward IV of England.

The novel centres around Jacquetta's presence in the court of King Henry VI and Queen Margaret. Jacquetta and Queen Margaret have a very close relationship and Jacquetta and her husband are faithful to the House of Lancaster. Although Jacquetta has vowed not to read cards or perform any sort of witchcraft, she is naturally born to it and cannot help the visions she sees. While she tries to help the queen and guide her during the War of the Roses, Margaret usually pays little attention and reads into the visions what she herself wants to see.

This fictitious account of Jacquetta of Luxembourg and her presence in the court of England is compelling reading. As always, Gregory hits all the right notes with her combination of history and story-telling, bringing another little known female historical figure to light.

If you would like to hear Philippa Gregory talk about this book, click here.

08 August 2011


By Ellen Hopkins
Published by Atria Books
A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
October 2011
ARC courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada

"If I'm in the middle of my life, is this really all I've got to show for it?"

Triangles is a novel of three women facing mid-life and wondering if they've made the right choices. Holly has just lost 60 pounds and taken up running and extramarital sex after years of being at home and raising her three kids. Andrea is a single mom who can't seem to keep a love interest. Marissa is still married, barely, and has fallen into emotional despair.

Ellen Hopkins explores the lives of each of these women in an unusual way - through poetic verse. I have to admit I was not looking forward to reading this book once I discovered it was all poetry. However, poetic verse turned out to be a brilliant device to delve into the complexities of middle age. In many ways, one poem told more than several regular chapters would have been able to tell.

Childhood, parenthood, adoption, drugs, terminal illness, extramarital affairs, weight loss, friendship, teen pregnancy, and ordinary day-to-day activities are all covered in this novel (and covered well). The book is well written and a flick through the pages shows the different poetic styles Hopkins incorporated throughout.

The poetry is thoughtful, insightful, and heartbreaking, as well as funny, beautiful, and sexy. I raced through this book hoping each story would end the way I wanted (didn't happen) and I just wanted more, more, more when it was over.

Don't let the thought of reading poetry put you off this book. Empty your head of all such thoughts and throw yourself into the emotions and stories of Triangles,

05 August 2011

The Curse of the Holy Pail

By Sue Ann Jaffarian
Published by Midnight Ink
Kindle Edition

In the second Odelia Grey mystery the plot revolves around a vintage lunchbox. The lunchbox is the only one in existence and was made for The Chappy Wheeler Show, a popular 1940s cowboy TV show. Chappy Wheeler was murdered and every owner of the lunchbox since has died. The lunchbox is now worth a hundred thousand dollars and collectors are on its trail (thus earning it the title The Holy Pail).

Odelia, a paralegal for a successful law firm, becomes involved in the hunt for the pail when a client requires her services. Sterling Price has a vast collection of lunchboxes - Odelia is particularly drawn to the Zorro pail - and shows Odelia his prized possession: The Holy Pail. Sterling turns up dead, the pail goes missing, and Odelia finds herself trying to track it down.

Jaffarian has written quite a vibrant character; Odelia Grey is an overweight, forty-something woman who, like a lot of overweight, forty-something women, has food issues, work issues, love issues, and the various other stressors that come with being middle-aged. Odelia is smart, funny, and sexy, with a love for her off-the-wall cat, Seamus, and her boyfriend, Greg. Jaffarian makes sure to include Odelia's family, friends, and co-workers to round out her main character.

There are six books in the Odelia Grey series - time for me to catch up!