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Ramblings by Category

Ramblings by Year

The Flight of Gemma Hardy

 The Flight of Gemma Hardy
by Margot Livesey

Fate has not been kind to Gemma Hardy. Orphaned by the age of ten, neglected by a bitter and cruel aunt, sent to a boarding school where she is both servant and student, young Gemma seems destined for a life of hardship and loneliness. Yet her bright spirit burns strong. Fiercely intelligent, singularly determined, Gemma overcomes each challenge and setback, growing stronger and more certain of her path. Now an independent young woman with dreams of the future, she accepts a position as an au pair on the remote and beautiful Orkney Islands.

But Gemma’s biggest trial is about to begin . . . a journey of passion and betrayal, secrets and lies, redemption and discovery that will lead her to a life she’s never dreamed. (goodreads.com)

Earlier this year, The Flight of Gemma Hardy kept popping up on my radar. Eventually I saw a review over on Stephanie’s Written Word (where I find all of my interesting adult fiction, if I were to be honest). There was something about both the title and cover of this book that haunted me. After reading Stephanie’s review I felt like I needed to read this book almost as much as I need to breathe (something I occasionally forget to do, I might add). Through the rest of February and all of March, as my reading difficulties progressed, I would still think about The Flight of Gemma Hardy and wish I had to it read. I wasn’t buying books because, well, I wasn’t reading the ones I had in the house. Why spend money on something you’re not going to use, right?

I finally broke down and bought this book online after having checked it out in the store. To add to the beauty of cover and title that was haunting me, the book’s pages are that ragged, torn edge thing that for some reason makes books all that more appealing. I know that sort of binding is called something, but I can’t think of it right now. The book was stupidly priced in the store, but I knew I could buy it from the store online, making it cheaper AND not have to use my credit card (bonus!)

Gemma flew to my house last Monday when I was home sick. The book arrived just as I was finishing another book and I started it the same day. Although I wanted to do nothing but read the book the week proved to be stubborn in its instance that I do so many other things. I did not find this fair at all. After almost three months of being unable to keep my nose in a book for more than 3-5 pages at a time, I was now ready to forget about the world and bury myself in a book. I spent my working days daydreaming of this book. I didn’t want to work at all, I wanted to curl up in a corner and read. The few nights I was able to find time to read last week, I was so exhausted I’d fall asleep before I got any reading done.


It’s rare I am haunted by a book so deeply. It’s almost as if I knew from the first time I heard the title or saw the cover that I would fall in love with this story completely. Friday night I read until I was cross-eyed. I woke up Saturday morning and finished the book.

I cried for an hour when it was done.

It was a good cry though. One of those happy endings to a heartbreaking tale sort of cries. I loved Gemma and her sad little existence. I loved her story. I loved her determination. I loved her heartbreak and her joy.

I might have hugged this book for a while after I finished it.

Every once in a while you come across a story that just resonates with you. A story you are so glad to have in your life. I feel this way about The Flight of Gemma Hardy. I know this is a retelling of Jane Eyre so I think I shall now pick up a copy of that classic (since I have never read it) and give that a try. Maybe it’s the plot that I am in love with. Maybe it’s the author’s words. Maybe it’s just Gemma. Either way, this book vaulted to the top of my All Time Favourite list. I am going to buy copies of this book for friends. I am going to lend out my copy (possibly with a written contract about owing me their soul  in case they damage the book that the reader will have to sign before I let them leave with the book. Heh).

This book is beautiful and heartbreaking and just utterly charming. It’s what I needed to get me back into reading again. The book is sitting on the coffee table right now and I keep looking at it longingly. I can’t remember a time when I wanted to re-read a book as soon as I finished it, but that’s exactly how I feel now. I’m trying to channel that desire into reading all of the other books I have in the house right now.

I want to write a love letter to this book. This book is my soulmate. I swear.

I now have Jane Eyre on my iPhone, though I don’t think I’ll be able to read it that way because I hate reading things on my iPhone. I wanted to download it to see what I’d think of it before I rush out and buy yet another classic novel that I’ll never read, despite my best intentions. Meanwhile, I think I’ll have a cup of tea and make doe-eyes at The Flight of Gemma Hardy a little bit longer.

The Pool of Two Moons

The Pool of Two Moons (Witches of Eileanan, Book 2)
by Kate Forsyth

Taking up where The Witches of Eileanan left off, we find Meghan o’ the Beasts and her young charge Isabeau, outcasts in a land where magic has been outlawed. But the pair are soon separated, and Isabeau is wounded by witchfinders, and saved by a group of samaritans. Meghan sets out to find Isabeau’s warrior-trained twin, Iseult, and a missing prince living under an ancient curse. Separately, the two parties must make their way through a land where magic is punished by death, seeking allies to spread the news–that the Witches are returning, and the Queen and her evil must fall. (goodreads.com)

This book was my introduction to the Witches of Eileanan series back in 1999. I remember when I unpacked it from a box of new books for the store how it caught my eye instantly. The cover itself enchanted me, the type-face of the title (which I would love to know what it is!), the title with the word “moon” in it and then the name of the series itself, with the magical word “witch”. I made sure we ordered the first book in the series and I of course started with that. I have never been happier to discover a series in my life.

Both Isabeau and Iseult are still apart for pretty much the duration of the story and their first meeting still gives me a thrill even with this third reading of the story.

One thing that struck me more with this reread was how Isabeau has a pretty crummy lot in life. She grew up with such hopes and dreams and it seems like she keeps getting the bad end of the stick and all the good stuff happens to Iseult, who has only just been discovered. I have always sympathized more with Isabeau throughout the series and this time around it was an even stronger connection to her that I had. I feel bad for Isabeau and do not think she deserves a life of sacrifice and suffering. Of course she is envious and bitter about her sister’s life. Isabeau cares so much for everyone and she always seems to get shafted. Poor, firey thing.

The funny thing about the end of this book is the “Stay tuned for the conclusion to the Witches of Eileanan series with the next book!” I know at the time this was to be a trilogy, but like many trilogies it seemed to have grown into a longer saga – 6 books to be precise.

As much as I am dying to reread The Cursèd Towers, I am finally in a better head space to start reading some of my TBR review books. So I shall put off the third book for a while and get some much needed scheduled reading done!

There just aren’t words enough to express how much I love this series.

The Witches of Eileanan series

  1. The Witches of Eileanan
  2. The Pool of Two Moons
  3. The Cursèd Towers
  4. The Forbidden Land
  5. The Skull of the World
  6. The Fathomless Caves

Rhiannon’s Ride

  1. The Tower of Ravens
  2. The Shining City
  3. The Heart of Stars

    The Witches of Eileanan

    The Witches of Eileanan (Book 1)
    by Kate Forsyth

    In the Celtic land of Eileanan, witches and magic have been outlawed, and those caught for practicing witchcraft are put to death! It is a land ruled by an evil Queen, where sea-dwelling Fairgean stir, and children vanish in the night. But in a valley deep in the mountains, young Isabeau grows to womanhood under the guidance of an elderly witch, and must set out on a quest, carrying the last hopes of the persecuted witches. (goodreads.com)

    If you asked me what my all-time favourite Fantasy series was I would answer with “The Belgariad! No! The Witches of Eileanan! No! Bellgariad! No! Witches!” and then my head would probably explode. But I have been thinking about this question a lot as I reread the series I first discovered in 1999. Though I adore David & Leigh Eddings’ Belgariad and Mallorean series, I think my favourite part of that series was a companion novel, Polgara the Sorceress. Kate Forsyth’s Witches series reminds me a lot of Polgara, or rather, the other way around.

    ANYHOW… my point is that this 6-book series is fantastic and comfort food for my brain and soul. After the state of mind Plain Kate left me in I just could not get into a brand new book. I started and stopped 5 books after Plain Kate and finally decided since I was desperate to read something I would pick up an old favourite and see how that went. It’s been a while since I have read this first book and I was instantly transported back to the world of Eileanan within the first pages.

    Many of you may only know Kate Forsyth from her two recent MG/YA novels – The Puzzle Ring (which I ADORED) and The Gypsy Crown, although I have loved her for much longer than that. I was working in a bookstore when the second book in this series came out and the cover caught my eye instantly and when I saw it was a Book 2 I went in search of Book 1. So, really, since 1999 I have been head-over-heels in love with this series and the author’s writing.

    The series has quite a large cast of characters and it may seem a little daunting as you are introduced to the various clans of Eileanan. Even with this rereading I was trying to remember all of the clans and characters. Many are around much of the novel but some slip in under the radar and you are left trying to figure out what side they’re on. 😉

    Oddly, my fondest memory of the book is Isabeau and yet much of the novel focuses on her sister Iseault and guardian Meghan. Some major plot points that happened in this book I remembered has happening later on in the novel, but in my defense by the time I got to the 6th book so much had happened! 😉

    One thing I remember missing – and still do – from the books are the maps of the country. These can actually be found on the author’s website, but I like having maps at the front of my fantasy books so I can flip back and orient myself when a character goes from one place to the other. And these maps weren’t available online back in the days of yore that I originally read the books!

    Another thing that I would have found very helpful is a glossary at the end and pronunciation guide. There are a lot of Gaelic words in this series and I never know how to pronounce them and that makes me angry! I was hoping perhaps such a guide would be available on the website, too, but sadly there isn’t. So I spent a few hours googling the words and trying to find pronunciation guides. Turns out these past 11 years I have been mispronouncing the words for King and Queen in this book – Rìgh and Banrìgh (Ree and BanREE). I was pronouncing it like RYE (like eye). Argh. I might be of Irish decent but I wasn’t born with an innate knowledge of Gaelic. ha! And I am not always certain I am pronouncing the names of people or faerie races all that well. Oh, dear. So I have been making google my friend when it comes to Gaelic terms.

    Overall, this is a fantastic fantasy series. It’s magical, dragony, humourous, torturous and all around enchanting. I am immersed in Eileanan with each book and they are not small books either. They are all between 450-550 pages and so well written you’d almost have to believe the world exists and that the author spent a ton of time there.

    I’m on to book two now and I think my emotions have settled enough from reading Plain Kate that I might actually be able to get to a review book after this!

    The Witches of Eileanan series

    1. The Witches of Eileanan
    2. The Pool of Two Moons
    3. The Cursèd Towers
    4. The Forbidden Land
    5. The Skull of the World
    6. The Fathomless Caves

    Rhiannon’s Ride

    1. The Tower of Ravens
    2. The Shining City
    3. The Heart of Stars

    Class of ’88: Freshman

    Class of ’88: Freshman
    by Linda A. Cooney

    Five friends. Nick, the golden boy, Celia the beautiful, Sean the thinker, Allie the wild, Meg the brave.

    Brand-new Redwood High holds a different promise for each of them. Celia could be popular for the first time in her life — if she stops being Allie’s best friend. Nick could be a campus star — but only if he plays by someone else’s rules…rules that don’t include Sean. Meg has a chance to be a leader… and to be passed over by the boy she loves.

    Together, they could have faced anything. But after Freshman year, they may never be together again. (transcribed from back of the book)

    I needed something to distract me from To Kill a Mockingbird that wasn’t going to completely distract me so that I didn’t finish it. This is a book series that I read, and adored when I was 10-12 years old. I have finally managed to complete the series through bookmooch and ebay to replace the books that were given away years ago (accidentally).

    I can honestly say that even when I was a kid I didn’t like realistic fiction. My tastes were always towards the magical and fantastical. So why would I have read a series about 5 kids starting high school? It’s easy, I was drawn to the title of the series.

    Class of ’88.

    Because I, too, was a Class of ’88. Only not from high school but from elementary school. (Side note: Quebec school system is this – Elementary K-6, High School 7-11, CEGEP 2-3 years before University.) In 1988 I graduated from grade 6 and was ready to go off to high school!

    I must have bought these books in the summer, because it’s the only time I can recall buying books. We would have been on vacation at the time at our trailer in up state New York. I remember going to Walden Books. Oh, the memories! That’s where I discovered this series I am sure, but most importantly it was in that Walden Books that I discovered L. J. Smith’s Secret Circle books. Oh, the bliss!

    As this book was published in 1987 (per the inside cover) I must have got them the summer before I entered the sixth grade. And it wasn’t until I re-read the book last night that I realized – if they were the class of ’88 then they must have started their Freshman year in 1984! I don’t know why I didn’t realize that when I was 11. 😉

    The 80’s pop culture references are amazing. Allie gets excited when the theme to Family Ties comes on (I was in love with that show AND with Michael J. Fox), one of the “mean girls” wears multiple Swatch watches on one arm (I so remember that fad – and never understood it!). When two of the friends start discussing they’d rather be someone other than who they are, the girl chooses Molly Ringwald and the boy chooses Michael J. Fox.

    Reading this book now, at 34 (oh, gods, that’s over 20 years after I read it the first time!) makes me feel nostalgic for the 80s even though I did have a miserable experience for most of it.

    Also, reading the book again was sort of like reading it for the first time with a strong sense of deja-vu. I had forgotten much of what happened in the story until I started reading and thought, “Oh, yeah! They make that haunted house and Allie meet a Sophomore guy who tries to impress her by saying he can drive her to the dance!” Or, “Right! Whitney was only using Celia to get to Nick!”

    I don’t know why I care so much about the lives of these 5 teens who were obviously older than I was when I started reading the series, but I did. And it seems I still do.

    I think after every couple of chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird (which I am STILL confusing with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest which I am STILL confusing with Of Mice and Men) I shall read another high school year of these 5 friends. It’s a nice way to break up the slow goings of Scout and Jem and it’s a nice reminder of summers that were spent sitting by Lake Champlain reading a book.

    Class of ’88

    1. Freshman
    2. Sophomore
    3. Junior
    4. Senior

    Finger Lickin’ Fifteen

    Finger Lickin’ Fifteen (A Stephanie Plum Novel)
    by Janet Evanovich

    I laughed out loud from page one of this novel right until the last page. The year wait from hard cover to paperback was worth it. I think this was one of the best Stephanie Plum books yet.

    You know, I see a lot of complaints at how Stephanie is still an incompetent bounty hunter and after all this time she should be better. Yes, it is true, but if you read these stories carefully you’ll notice that she’s not a mess up at everything. I mean, Ranger has her look into break-ins for him and to try and figure out who might  be double crossing him on the inside and Stephanie has a really keen eye for figuring out connections between burgled sites and how it could be done. She’s got the smarts for an investigative job, she’s just not a great bounty hunter.

    And to be honest, she’s NOT a bounty hunter, she started that gig to be able to pay her rent and just sort of stuck with it.

    How she hasn’t been killed yet is beyond me. And I still get a kick out of every car she has being destroyed in some manner. Heck, it’ll even be destroyed just by being a bystander, er, bycarer, or whatever it cars are. That scene nearly killed me.

    There was little Morelli, which was fine by me, but I did feel a little pang of loss like Stephanie did when she’d see him or drive by. And there was a ton of Ranger (pardon me while I wipe drool off my keyboard) and as much as he tried to get her into bed, she resisted! (what is she? a nun? He’s RANGER!) But at the same time I felt that made her a much stronger character and it said a lot about her as a person.

    The amount of Lula and Grandma in the book was borderline too much and just right. The story focuses on Lula and her witnessing a murder and those murderers trying to kill her and aside from how irritated I got when she decided she was moving into Stephanie’s house without asking, I think she was tolerable. She always makes me laugh but sometimes she’s just TOO MUCH LULA for my patience. Of course her crashing at Stephanie’s meant that Steph was crashing at Ranger’s and Mmmmm. Ranger.

    Evanovich never lets me down in a Stephanie Plum book. Sure I might not be as entertained by some as others, but I think this one was just what I needed after a craptastic week at work and heatwave that nearly knocked me out.

    (Also, Stephanie trying to dance in a hot dog costume nearly drowned me while I was in the bath. I laughed so hard I slipped and nearly dropped the book in the water. Best. Scene. Ever.)

    Stephanie Plum series

    1. One for the Money
    2. Two for the Dough
    3. Three to Get Deadly
    4. Four to Score
    5. High Five
    6. Hot Six
    7. Seven Up
    8. Hard Eight
    9. To the Nines
    10. Ten Big Ones
    11. Eleven on Top
    12. Twelve Sharp
    13. Lean Mean Thirteen
    14. Fearless Fourteen
    15. Finger Lickin’ Fifteen
    16. Sizzling Sixteen
    17. Smokin’ Seventeen (June 2011 – hard cover

    Stephanie Plum Between-the-Numbers Novellas

    1. Visions of Sugar Plums (between 8 & 9)
    2. Plum Lovin’ (between 12 & 13)
    3. Plum Lucky (between 13 & 14)
    4. Plum Spooky (between 14 & 15)