Friday, July 30, 2010

Another Opportunity with CSN Stores

CSN Stores has over 200+ stores featured in one incredible shopping experience.  You can find dinnerware sets, outdoor furniture, bookcases (my favourites), art decor, bedroom furniture, and pretty much anything you are looking for.  They have a huge variety of products listed in every category and because the products fall within such a great price range, one can pretty find anything for which one is looking.

I have been given another opportunity to review a product from CSN Stores and I can't wait.  I'm looking forward to looking through the vast array of products, making my decision, and posting my review.  Look for my review, coming soon!!!

Man Booker Prize Longlist Posted

The Man Booker Prize Longlist was posted this week and there are some fantastic contenders for this amazing prize (I believe the winner receives over $75 000 Canadian and a lot of exposure).  One Canadian author has made the longlist this year, with the shortlist to be announced September 7 and the winner to be declared on October 12.

Here are the books named to the longlist:

February by Lisa Moore

This historical novel, by Newfoundland author Lisa Moore, explores the 1982 Ocean Ranger disaster.

Room by Emma Donogue

Another Canadian connection, this Irish-born author who now makes her home in Canada, explores the world of five-year-old Jack and his mother who live in a 12 x 12 foot 'room' which has a locked door and a skylight.

Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey

Olivier - an improvisation on the life of Alexis de Tocqueville - is the traumatized child of aristocratic survivors of the French Revolution.  Parrot is the motherless son of an intinerant English engraver.  They are born on different sides of history, but their lives will be joined together by an enigmatic one-armed marquis.

The two-time Booker prize-winning author explores the adventure of American democracy in a superb story.

I can't wait to read this one!!

The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore
In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

Trespass by Rose Tremain
The Long Song by Andrea Levy

C by Tom McCarthy

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

It's my favourite day of the week AGAIN!

It's Friday Book Blogger Hop!!!

This is such a fabulous way to connect with people who love reading as
much as I do and can discuss books all day long!
It's a great way to take a look at what people are reading,
discover new authors, find amazing new blogs, and connect
with old friends you may not have been able to talk to this past week.

Jennifer @ Crazy For Books hosts this wonderful event each week, and this
week she is asking us another question to stimulate the brain on a tiring
Friday morning:

Who is your favourite new-to-you author you have discovered this year?

This is easy for me.  I finally discovered why so many people are flocking
to the Vampire Academy Books as I've finally begun reading Book 1.  Book 1?
you say with a gasp!!!! 
Well, I kind of received book 5 in the mail and I thought
it would be much easier to know what is happening if I
started from the beginning.  AND I"M HOOKED!!!!!!!!!!

So, hop along and let's go find some new friends!  But don't forget the old!

Blogmania Sponsor: Elle Moss Photography

Hello everyone!  I would love to introduce you to another of my Blogmania sponsors.  Elle Moss Photography is a wonderful Etsy shop specializing in original, unique fine art photography prints and jewelry.  Her work has been published in many magazines, including the cover pages of Prism Magazine (June 2010) and Maeve Magazine (Winter 2010) as well as Marie Claire Italia and Parasol Mag to name a few.  Furthermore, you can see her work on several book covers such as Darker Than Midnight by Salvo Sottile (2010) and featured in many books such as Poetic Terrorism.  I am grateful that Elle has agreed to be part of my giveaway for Blogmania.

Elle Moss Photography

I had an extremely difficult time choosing some photographs to show you for this review as I really love her work.  I find her photographs fascinating and captivating and whimsical as she shows the world that self-portraits can have many faces, many different personalities, and a variety of identities, often hiding the true self.  Visions of Alice in Wonderland and Amelie kept running through my head as I was looking through her work and the grainy quality of some of them add to that imaginative, whimsical feel of her work, making you feel like you are in another world. 

Un-Dress (11" x 14")                     Spellbound (8" x 10")

Here are two photograps that I absolutely adore.  All of Elle Moss' work is printed on professional, acid free, archival paper that produces sharp details and luscious colours at a lab that works with professional photographers only.

                                     Marie (8" x 8")               I Think Its Gonna Rain (8" x 10")

Here are two other examples of her whimsical, self-portraits in their various moods.  Aren't they interesting? 

An Other (8" x 10")

And this one is my absolute favourite.  You can just feel the motions jumping from the photograph.  I spent a long time just looking at it and imagining the scene taking place.  The colours are so vibrant!!

Elle Moss has also partnered with jewelry maker Lori Patton of Heartworks by Lori whose gorgeous jewelry items can be found in museum gift shops.  Together, they have created some beautiful and amazing jewelry featuring Elle Moss' photography.  Take a look:

Lady Bird - Grande Luxe Art Photo Locket
Persuasion Art Pendant Necklace

Elle Moss Photography ships internationally.  For more information on her work, you can visit her at the following sites:

Etsy Shop: Elle Moss Photography

Her blog:  Elle Moss Photography

Facebook: Elle Moss Photography

BLOGMANIA TEASER: One of my lovely and amazing readers will win a signed print from Elle Moss Photography.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Picture a Book Changing Lives Campaign

I came across this campaign while reading today and I wanted to share this with my readers.  I'm not sure if you have heard of this, but I hadn't, and it sounded like such a lovely idea that I had to share it with everyone.  Running from June 15 to August 31st, Riverhead Books (a division of Penguin Group) is asking for your help to change lives over in Afghanistan. 

Inspired by The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini, winner of Borders Original Voices Award, Literature to Life Award, and Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award, when you visit the campaign page and join the 'Hosseini' group, you can upload photos of yourself or yourself and your friends/family reading The Kite Runner and/or A Thousand Splendid Suns and Riverhead Books will donate $2 for each uploaded photo to the Khalid Hosseini Foundation (rules state to a maximum of $25 000).   The Khalid Hosseini Foundation is dedicated to providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan and they need your help.

*** Open only to the residents of the U.S. 18 and older (sad moment as I am Canadian) and uploaded photos must have permission rights of photographer and subjects. 

Waiting on Wednesday

Jill @ Breaking the Spine hosts this weekly meme which takes a look at those books we bloggers and readers are looking forward to reading in the near future.  Hear are a couple I discovered, one because I received it as a review copy, and another, looking through the summer and fall catalogue. 

The Other Countess
by Eve Edwards
Release Date: August 24, 2010

Ellie - Lady Eleanor Rodriguez of San Jaime - is in possession of a goldseeking father, a worthless title, and a feisty spirit that captivates the elite of the Queen's court, including none other than the handsome new Earl of Dorset...

William Lacey has inherited his father's title and his financial ruin.  Now the Earl must seek a wealthy heiress and restore his family's fortune.  But Will's head has been turned by the gorgeous Ellie, yet their union can never be.  Will is destined to marry a worthy Lady, so the only question is - which one?

by Lesley Pearse
Release Date: August 24, 2010

When a beautiful blond girl is found half-drowned on a beach, she has no memory of who she is or what horrors have left her there.  But an article about her in a Brighton newspaper rings alarm bells for beautician, Dale, who shows the police photographs of Lotte Wainright.  The girls met working on a cruise ship and their friendship blossomed as they sailed the seas of South America, until Lotte fell under the sinister spell of an older American couple.  To her regret, Dale hasn't seen Lotte since leaving the ship months earlier...but the girl on the beach, although badly bruised, is indeed her much missed friend.

Their reunion only marks the beginning of a dangerous tidal wave of secrets, lies, and nightmares.  Where has Lotte been?  Who is the man who seems to want to kill her?  And what has become of the baby she's recently given birth to?

Dale and Lotte must dig deep and find the strength to hold on against the odds if they are to rebuild their friendship and survive Lotte's stolen - and deadly - past.

My Obsession With Castles: Chateau de Chenonceau

I have an absolute obsession and passion about castles.  Whenever I visit Europe, I always make it a special point to visit as many as I can and it doesn't matter if they are in marvelous condition or in complete ruins.  As I am in the midst of reading a biography about Catherine de Medici, I thought I would focus on one my favourites, Chenonceau.

Chateau of Chenonceau
I first visited this Chateau back in 1988 and will have the opportunity to go again next March when I go to France and Spain.  One of the main charms of this castle for me is the fact that it was built, maintained, and protected by a variety of strong women over the years, something very remarkable for the time period.  It was built by Katherine Briconnet in 1513, touched up by Diane de Poitiers, added to by Catherine de Medici, and saved from torching during the French Revolution by Mme Dupin.

It is considered to be remarkable not only for it fantastic architecture and historical background, but also for its amazing collection including Renaissance furniture, period tapestries, and famous art and paintings.  It also contains a formal gardens, park, and labyrinth.  You can visit Catherine de Medici's famous gardens while you are there.

Chenonceau was given to Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of Henry II, as a gift after the previous owners could not pay their debts and the castle was confiscated by Henry's father.  Diane de Poitiers became very attached to the castle and made extensive renovations, including the building of the arched bridge, the planting of extensive flower beds and vegetable gardens and a variety of fruit trees.

Diane de Poitiers' Bedroom
After's Henry's death, Catherine de Medici made Chenonceau her own, only after giving Diane de Poitiers Chateau Chaumont because she could not seize it outright as legal manoeuvers had yielded possession to Diane de Poitiers.  But who is going to argue with Catherine de Medici?

In 1560, the first-ever fireworks display was seen in France at Chenonceau to mark the ascension to the throne of Catherine's son Francis II.  Upon Catherine's death, the castle went to her daughter-in-law, Louise de Lorraine-Vaudemont, who spent most of her remaining days there after the death of her husband.

During the Enlightenment, Louise Dupin was the hostess of this magnificent castle and hosted such figures as Voltaire, Montesquieu, de Marivaux, Buffon, and Rousseau.  She is the one who saved the castle during the French Revolution by using it as a supply and commerce post as it had the only bridge with which to cross the river during these difficult times.

Visiting Today
Today, Chenonceau is a fabulous museum to visit.  There is a fabulous restaurant at The Orangerie where you can eat a buffet lunch or dinner, or rent out for receptions or other events.  There is an amazing wax museum where you can visit with the famous women of Chenonceau and see a sumptuous collection of costumes made according to original documents.  For parents with children, Chenonceau is now an UNESCO site for 'On The Trail of The Child King", a living and educational discovery of the Loire Valley. And best of all in my opinion, are the castle and gardens themselves, where you can dream and imagine what life what like during one of my favourite time periods.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Review: The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman

The Left Hand of God
by Paul Hoffman
Release Date: June 15, 2010
2010 Penguin Group
Hardcover Edition; 376 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-525-95131-5
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Source: Review copy from Penguin Canada

4 / 5 Stars

In the Redeemer Sanctuary, the stronghold of a secretive sect of warrior monks, torture and death await the unsuccessful or disobedient.  Raised by the Redeemers from early childhood like hundreds of other young captives, Thomas Cale has known only deprivation, punishment, and grueling training.  He doesn't know that another world exists outside the fortress walls or even that secrets he can't imagine lurk behind the Sanctuary's many forbidden doorways.  He doesn't know that his mast Lord Bosco and the Sanctuary's Redeemers have been preparing for a holy war for centuries - a holy war that is now imminent.  And Cale doesn't know that he's been noticed and quietly cultivated.

And then, Cale decides to open a door.

It's a door that leads to one of the Redeemers' darkest secrets and a choice that is really no choice at all: certain death or daring escape.  Adrift in the wider world for the first time in his young life, Cale soon find himself in Memphis, the capital of culture - and the den of Sin.  It's there that Cale discovers his prodigious gift: violence.  And he discovers that, after years of abuse at the hands of the Redeemers, his embittered heart is still capable of loving - and breaking.

My Thoughts
Although I found the story itself to be somewhat predictable, I do have to admit that I was totally drawn into the novel right from the beginning.  The tales of abuse and torture, the descriptions of the Sanctuary, and the horrors of some of the events that were going on in a place that was supposed to be religious and 'safe', were heartbreaking and sickening.   The boys are brought to the Sanctuary very young, are told they are sinners their entire young lives, and are trained in such a militaristic and strict fashion, that it becomes a boy-against-boy world.  The concept of obeying 'no matter what', where creativity and original thinking are considered to be non-existent can be detrimental when training soldiers.  (And yet the Redeemers won a brilliant battle due to creative thinking, original and creative feats of engineering, and master planning, so how did that happen to an army that was trained to not think and to be obedient?)

When Cale discovers some even more horrible things going on than even he could even imagine, he had to escape.  His escape plan was interesting to say the least, and I have to say I admired the boys, as several other people ended up mired in Cale's mess, for their creativity and daring during their escape.  I truly enjoyed the character of Riba (one of the escapees), as she really knew how to put the boys in their place and really put some perspective on their lives, made them realize that things were not always so bad or always what they seemed.  I really hope she plays more of a role in the following novels as I'd love to see her character developed and grown into something bigger and better.

The three boys themselves, for the most part, usually behave the way most teenage boys would behave, despite their horrific background at the Sanctuary.  Once away from the torture and abuse, they played, laughed, and teased each other the way most boys would, as they learned to navigate a social world with which they were completely unfamiliar.  I really enjoyed how the novel took more of a lighter turn in the middle as the four teenagers try to cope with living in a new environment and dealing with things that were totally unfamiliar.  Don't get me wrong though, as there were still plenty of fights and arguments to go around if you enjoy that kind of thing, and Cale's emerging talents and gifts became more obvious during this section too.

As for Cale himself, I really don't know what to think of him.  I really like him as a character, but he is so different from the usual hero-type character in many novels I have read.  There is a dark depth to him that is made known throughout the book, a depth that allows him to become a fighting maching, and to plan brilliant battle strategies.  It will be interesting to see how he develops as a character in future novels.

While there are plenty of danger, excitement, twists and turns, suspense, thrills in this novel, one of the things that really bothered me was the use of names and terms.  I thought I had the religious theme all figured out with the Hanged Redeemer, until suddenly they started talking about Jesus Christ in the middle of the novel.  I can't quite figure out how all the religious themes work in the plot, and while I don't mind alternative religions or other religions as long as it's explained as the novel goes along, it usually helps to have some basis to help the reader figure out how it all goes together.  But here I find it confusing and all over the place.  I also find the mish-mash of mythologies and legends and stories to be somewhat confusing, even those with which I'm familiar as I feel like Mr. Hoffman just mixed them all together and put them in any order he chose. So while things sounds familiar, it's like you're in a nightmare as you realize they're not familiar at all, only the names are familiar.  Very confusing stuff!!!

The novel was definitely riveting and had a satisfying confusion, one that I didn't really see coming. Although the novel didn't quite mesh the way it was meant to, I still enjoyed the twists and turns in the narrative, and the quirky characters, and I am looking forward to reading the next book in this planned trilogy. Hopefully some of the questions that were left unanswered in this novel will be answered as the story unfolds.

Upcoming Releases - July 26 - Aug. 1st

It's hard to believe August is just around the corner.  I'd like somebody to tell me where July went because I really can't understand where the days have gone.  There are some pretty amazing books coming out next month, and although I'm on a book ban at the moment, it's still hard not to get excited when I see what's up for the fall releases.  Here's a few that I thought looked interesting this week:

Star Island
by Carl Hiaasen
Release Date: July 27, 2010

A hilarious spin on life in the celebrity fast lane. 

Face Off (A Laura Blackstone Novel)
by Mark del Franco
Release Date: July 27, 2010

Laura Black is a druid who can change her appearance.  She is both the Fey Guild's public relations directions and a secret agent for the International Security Agency.  And now she'll have to choose where her loyalties lie when a political war breaks out between the fey and human populations...

A Wild Light (A Hunter Kiss Novel)
by Marjorie M. Liu
Release Date: July 27, 2010

For too long Maxine Kiss has felt an inexplicable darkness inside her - a force she channels into hunting the demons bent on destroying the human race.  But when she finds herself covered in blood and crouched beside her grandfather's dead body with no memory of what happened, Maxine begins to fear that the darkness has already consumed her.

The Sixth Surrender
by Hana Samek Norton
Release Date: July 27, 2010

In the last years of her eventful life, queen-duchess Alienor of Aquitaine launches a deadly dynastic chess game to safeguard the crowns of Normandy and England for John Plantagenet, her last surviving son.

Fat Vampire: A Never Coming of Age Story
by Adam Rex
Release Date: July 27, 2010

Doug Lee is undead quite by accident - attacked by a desperate vampire, he finds himself cursed with being fat and fifteen forever.  When he has no luck finding himself some goth chick with a vampire fetish, he resorts to sucking the blood of cows under cover of the night.  But it's just not the same.

Then he meets the new Indian exchange student and falls for her.  But like the laws of life, love, and high school, the laws of vampire existence are complicated - it's not as easy as studying Dracula.  Especially when the star of Vampire Hunters is hot on your tail in an attempt to boost ratings...

Original Sins
by Peg Kingman
Release Date: July 27, 2010

A young woman's journey into the Slave-holding South she so narrowly escaped to find a lost child.

Guardian of the Gate (Prophecy of the Sisters, Book 2)
by Michelle Zink
Release Date: August 1st, 2010

The ultimate battle between sisters is nearing, and its outcome could have catastrophic consequences.  As sixteen-year-old Lia searches for a way to end the prophecy, her twin sister Alice hones the skills she'll need to defeat Lia.  Alice will stop at nothing to reclaim her sister's role in the prophecy, and that's not the only thing she wants: There's the matter of Lia's boyfriend, James.

by Eireann Corrigan
Release Date: August 1st, 2010

What they have done is not good enough, so Lally decides she and Jane will have to attract the colleges attention another way.  They come up with a scheme to stage Lally's disappearance - and then, when CNN is on their doorstep and the nation is riveted, Jane will find her and save her.  It seems like the perfect plan - until things start to go really wrong.
Monday, July 26, 2010

It's Monday! What are You Reading?

It's been such an interesting week for my hubby and I.  We had the entire week to ourselves; yes, that means no kids for one whole week as they were at Memere & Dida's and Nanny & Pappa's (that's what happens when you have four different nationalies in your background (lol)).  Although I missed them desperately, I still had a great time: Hubby and I went for long walks, went out for dinner, had a weekend alone at our trailer, went on a 2 1/2 hour boat cruise, got to shop, and generally had a relaxing time.  And tomorrow I pick them up!!  So life returns to normal.   In the midst of that, I had a great time with the GotBooks? Event and finding new blogs that I plan on visiting and spending more time with, learning how to deal with Twitter (I am so new to that, I really don't know what I am doing so bear with me if I mess things up horribly on there), and organizing some fun contests for the future, like BlogFest and Blogmania and a Followers contest.

In the midst of all that, did I get any reading done?  Very little to my ever-lasting shame.  And boy, do I need to catch up with my reading.  So, it's time to focus and get on with it this week.

Hopefully, just writing this post will set me on the straight and narrow.  It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books and focuses on the books you read last week (oops!), the ones you are currently reading, and the ones you intend to read.

What I managed to finish:

The Book of Love by Kathleen McGowan - I absolutely loved this sequel to The Expected One.  It focuses on Matilda, the Countess of Tuscany, and the Book of Love, another lost Gospel.  You can read my review here.

A Wretched Man: A Novel of Paul the Apostle - An interesting book on the life of Paul.  You can read my review here.  The religious theme in these two books was purely coincidental.

What I am currently reading (This could fill a page by itself):

The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman - I am almost finished, but man, is this book riveting.  The hero is completely different from what I expected.

The Secret (of Happiness) by Demonsthenes Armeniades - I am almost finished.  I am really enjoying the twists and turns in this one.

In Free Fall by Julie Zeh - I love the way this author writes.  Too soon to tell how good it will be.

What I Plan on Reading:

Velocity by Alan Jacobson

The Poet Prince by Kathleen McGowan - I was going to read this one back to back with her other book, but the concepts are so deep and philosophical, I need time to reflect before I attack this one.  Can't wait though!!!

What did you read?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Winner: GotBooks? Event & KKK Giveaway

Wow! Wow! Wow!  I am completely amazed by the GotBooks? Event and how fun it was to be one of the blogs participating.  Thank you to everyone who participated and entered in my contest over in my little corner of the world; I had over 300 entries.  Welcome to all of my new followers and I truly hope you will come back to see what is in store at Curling Up By the Fire in the months ahead, especially with Blogmania (you can read some of my non-book teasers already for the event, and don't worry folks, there will be plenty of books up for grabs, too) and BlogFest just around the corner in September. (Thanks to A Girl Read a Book for creating this image and letting other bloggers use it to help promote the GotBooks? Event.)

And now on to the winners!!!!

Bundle #1 Winner is Jacinda.

Bundle #2 Winner is Bianca.

And the winner of the International Contest featuring a choice of their book up to $10 from the Book Depository is:   Kaya

I am about to email all of you; please send me you snail mail addys so I can send you the books.  You have 72 hours to respond before another winner is chosen.

The two winners of They Called Themselves the KKK are ThriftyCanucks and edmontonjb.  I have already emailed you and you have 72 hours to respond before another winner is chosen.  Please send me you snail mail addys so I can send you the books.

I would like to thank everyone at the GotBooks? Event for putting on and organizing such a wonderful event.  I had a great time discovering new blogs and am looking forward to the next event.  Thank you again to everyone who visited my blog, and for the supportive comments.  You are wonderful!  Look for my followers contest, coming soon!

Congratulations everyone!

Blogmania Sponsor: Willow and Quinn

Hello everyone!  I'd like to introduce another one of my lovely Blogmania sponsors, Willow and Quinn, for the September event.  Katie's amazing Etsy shop features a variety of handmade jewelry and hair accessories made from unique beads and vintage findings.  She specializes in old cabochons made in the former West Germany between 1950 and 1990, and Occupied Japan between 1945-1952.  A lot of the items that she uses are extremely rare and extremely limited.

Willow and Quinn: Uniquely Handmade

Here are a couple of the wonderful items you can find in her shop:


Lily of the Valley Earrings (above) and Uncertainty Earrings (Below)


Sterling Silver Tree of Life Necklace (Above) and Glass Beaded Chain with Silver Flower (Below)


Blue Glass Flower Ring (Above) and Green Rose on Silver Filigree Ring (Below)


Vintage 1940s Flower Cuff

There are quite a few items in her shop I am eyeing for Christmas presents already and I know my daughter loves Katie's jewelry too.  So, take a moment, and head on over to her lovely shop, and see what other beautiful items she has in her shop. 

A portion of all Katie's sales goes to help women in war torn counties rebuild their lives - see Katie's profile for more information on this wonderful cause. 

Shipping is international.

BLOGMANIA TEASER:  One of my lovely readers will have a chance to win an item from Willow and Quinn during the Blogmania Event.  Keep an eye out for further details.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Got Books? Contest and Giveaway

Welcome to a Got Books? Contest

It's time to have some fun!!!

You have only 48 hours to visit all of the participating blogs. 
Don't know where to start?  Check back at the Got Books? blog and you'll find a listing of all of the participating blogs as well as links to their blogs.
You can even print off a handy little check list to keep track
of all of the blogs so you know where you have already visited.
How handy is that?

Be sure to visit the Kick-Off Contest for some more bookish fun!

Are you ready to find out what the prizes are?

Bundle #1
Canada/US ONLY

ARC of Demon Princess: Reign Check by Michelle Rowan
ARC of The Other Countess by Eve Edwards
ARC of Blood Feud by Alyxandra Harvey

Bundle #2
Canada / US ONLY

ARC of Sea by Heidi R. Kling
ARC of The Education of Bet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Folly by Marthe Jocelyn

$10 Choice of book from Book Depository
International ONLY

2) Bundles 1 & 2 are open to US/Canada Residents only while the $10 prize is open 
internationally (except US/Canada) where Book Depository ships.
3) Must be at least 13 years of age to enter.
4) Following is not a requirement, but there are bonus entries for anyone who'd love to come
back and visit!!!!
5) Contest ends July 24, 2010 at midnight.

Have fun everyone!!!