21 Sep 2011

New books for September and October

 The following were bought for August and September actually:

  • Jill Mansell - To the Moon and Back (read it and can give it 4 for readability)
  • Mary Balogh - Yes I bought 4 books together because I wanted to read about the Huxtable family all at once. These are : First Comes Marriage ; Then Comes Seduction;  To SEduce an Angel; At Last Comes Love; and the last one to marry - Constantine Huxtable in A Secret Affair
I really enjoyed reading these books and would recommend Mary Balogh for anybody who loves Regency romances. Just a word of caution though - Mary Balogh does not hide the real social scene behind parties and non stop gaiety. The society that she describes has war and its inevitable consequences as well as all the horror of poverty in 18th century England which she integrates so well in her stories that they give us readers different and  seldom shown view of the period.

I also bought a re-telling of a famous and well-known Shakespearean play - Hamlet, called Falling For Hamlet, written by a new comer to the writing scene - Michelle Ray.

Falling for Hamlet follows the Shakespearean tragedy fairly closely but we see the whole thing from the eyes of Ophelia, Hamlet's girlfriend, whose father is the King's advisor - Polonius. OPhelia is a girl of 16 - young and in love with the crown prince of Denmark who is a college student. Although the Queen, Getrude , does not really like it, she bears with the relationship, even befriending the motherless Ophelia and going shopping with her sometimes. Things however change when the King dies suddenly and Hamlet who was close to his father suspects that his father was murdered, and by his own uncle, the greedy Claudius. The rest of the story follows closely to the original, except that this has been modernised, that is the setting is modern day Denmark and Hamlet and Ophelia use phones and send text messages and the media is very much in the picture. In fact the story begins with a television interview - Ophelia is ready to face the press and tell her story. As we can see, Ophelia does not kill herself in this story. She is a young woman who has faced a lot of challenges and heartbreak but is strong against the storm.

THis is one book I literally could not put down until the last page. Its a stupendous read and whether you like Shakespeare or not, I recommend that you read this book. It has everything you want in a book - great characters, superb plot, stunning detail and lots of sex and murder. Shakespeare is ever a master story teller and the re-telling is not half bad!

Visiting Rizal and family

On Thursday 12 September Sarah and I decided to visit Sophia in Singapore. It had been at least 2 weeks since we last saw her, during the Eid celebrations and at that time I was just too busy to really enjoy her. So off to Singapore we went!As usual the arrangements were made by Repin, my husband. And as usual we went by night train, taking the sleeping berth and arriving in Woodlands at approximately 6.30 am. After immigration and customs were over we hailed a cab and arrived at Paya Lebar at 8 am - a bit too early for my daughter in law, who was obviously woken up by us ringing the bell!

Anyway she welcomed us and prepared breakfast - pancakes with maple syrup ! Hmmm I can still remember the delicious taste of the pancakes right now- two weeks after the visit!

Sophia was excited and to show how excited she ran around the living room and jumped up and down.But she still had to go to school- nenek or not. Poh ling sent her to her pre- school which was about a block away and after that since Poh ling had a Mandarin class to attend, we decided to meet at Orchard Road and have lunch with Rizal.

We had a great time walking along Orchard and just window shopping at first. Then we had lunch with Rizal and Poh ling at a place called famous for it's sandwiches. Later Poh ling took us to a new store- H&M which is well known in UK but had just opened in Singapore! Talk about queuing for clothes - there were so many people we had to queue to go in!Even though I didnt initially want to buy anything we ended up buying a shirt for Sarah, socks for me and a sweater too. They were so cheap at the discounted prices I just had to buy! Ha ha! So says the eternal shopholic.

Repin arrived later that night and we fetched him from the station at Woodlands in Rizal's new car. It 3was quite an adventure because Rizal had not driven much in Singapore and that was to send his boss to meetings and so on. However we did not get lost - much to my surprise actually and it is true that Singapore is so small you cant really get lost!

Next day was a Saturday so we all decided to spend some time at the zoo with the small fry who was initially excited and talked of the zoo non stop before that. All that changed however when we were there - she was afraid of everything! We couldn't walk near the monkeys or any of the animals or she would scream her head off and yell instructions - no not so near, stay in the middle of the road, no don't go near the animals! Luckily all that changed after she had her lunch and a dip at the water park - which was after 2pm., by which time she had calmed down enough to allow us to take her to some of the animals. Which was the point of the whole visit actually - to introduce her to some of the animals she sees on tv or in her books. Sophie however is more like her father in many ways - one of which is their fear of anything new! Rizal as a baby was just like that - he cried when we took him to the beach  and refused to touch the sand - it was too grainy and stuck to his feet so he refused to leave my arms and clung like a baby orang utan!
Sophia in her pram "reading" the zoo map

The Singapore zoo actually deserves a whole page to itself - its so well maintained and beautifully landscaped. There are lots of huge old trees, orchids and other plants the walk around the zoo is like walking around a park and the view is certainly fantastic, with lakes and rivers all around. I hear they are adding other attractions - a river boat ride is one of them. This is one place I promise myself I will visit again.

Orchids at the zoo

2 Sep 2011

Mary Balogh's Huxtable series

Now that all the hullabaloo about Eid is over, I've got more time to sit and read a bit. Actually I have been reading, just not writing about it, mainly because I discovered a very addictive pastime - playing Angry Birds, City Story, and Empire Story on my new Ipad. I can tell you that it is very very addictive - I can sit there with my Ipad and forget about cooking or cleaning or reading for that matter! Repin comes home from work and when he sees me sitting with my Ipad he'll say - "Oh Mama is busy empire building or city building or fighting angry birds!" Which makes me feel very guilty...

Anyway now that I have a bit of time I'll just tell you all about these books I've been reading. They're about the Huxtable family which is a fairly big one. There's Constantine Huxtable, a tall, dangerously sexy and formidable guy who was the illegimate son of the Earl of Merton. He was illegitimate only by a technicality - his parents - the first Earl of Merton married his mother two days too late - and because of that he could not inherit the title and property of his own father, even though he was the first born. His second brother, who was born much later and slightly retarded, inherited the title instead. BUt his brother died early, when he was only 16 years old so the title went to a  second cousin, as the only one who was a direct descendent.

The first book- First Comes Marriage is about this second cousin's family - a family of 3 young beautiful women and one handsome young man who was to become the next Earl of Merton. Elliot Wallace is a trustee of the Hustable Estate and when the young Earl of Merton dies, it is his job to look for the next heir. He is Constantine's cousin on his mother's side and actually looks very much like him - tall with dark good looks and dangerously sexy. However, due to false rumors and prejudice, he hates Con's guts and refuses to acknowledge him, even though they are cousins and had been best friends in their teenage years. After much search they manage to find the heir to the Huxtable estate and the Earl of Merton in a remote village where he found the 4 siblings living in genteel poverty, with Margaret, the most beautiful of them all and the eldest, trying her best to keep the family afloat. Stephen, who would soon be the next Earl of Merton was a mere boy at only 17 years old. Margaret was wondering how she could send her brother to Oxford to continue his studies, as a gentleman's son should. But their father - the former Vicar of Throckbridge - had so angered their grandfather by marrying their mother - his family had cut him off without a penny, or even acknowledging them. So apart from what Margaret and Kate earned from teaching at the local school, they had no means of support.In fact soon, even their cottage would no longer be theirs and Margaret was desperate enough to think of moving somewhere where she could find work.

At this stage, along comes Elliot with his announcement that their brother Stephen was in fact the new Earl of Merton and that he would not only inherit the title but also a large sum of money and an estate that was rich beyond their imagining. The only flaw was that they found Elliot arrogant and slightly condescending and that he meant to take Stephen, their baby brother away from them! So they all refused to budge, unless they all went along to the new place. Elliot, who was supposed to guide Stephen into his new role and act as mentor was forced to accept the ultimatum and finally took all of them, including the widowed Vanessa Huxtable, the second oldest sister. In fact, Elliot who was soon to be the Earl of Moreland decided to marry one of the Huxtable sisters, which one though he was not so sure, until one of them , the most audacious of them all - proposed to him!
This is one of Mary Balogh's finest books - I always love her style, which is slightly like that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer combined and really enjoyed the read. Her characters are lovable and real and the situations they find themselves in sometimes funny and hilarious. If you like Regency romances, then this is the book for you.

There are 5 books in all - First Comes Marriage, Then Comes Seduction, At last Comes Love, Seducing an Angel and finally A Secret Affair.

These books tell the stories of the three sisters, Vanessa (First Comes Marriage), Katherine (Then Comes Seduction), and Margaret (At Last Comes Love) and of their brother Stephen (Seducing an Angel) and second cousin Constantine (A Secret Affair).