Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review: Discord's Apple by Carrie Vaughn

Discord's Apple
by Carrie Vaughn
Release Date: July 6, 2010
2010 Tom Doherty Associates Book
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2554-9
Hardcover Edition; 299 Pages
Genre: Fiction (Dystopian, Fantasy)
Source: Local Library

4 / 5 Stars

When Evie Walker goes home to spend time with her dying father, she discovers that his creaky old house in Hope's Fort, Colorado, is not the only legacy she will inherit.  Hidden behind the basement door is a secret and magical storeroom, a place where wondrous treasures from myth and legend are kept safe until they are needed again.

Of course, this legacy is not without its costs: There are those who will give anything to find a way in.

With the help of her father, a mysterious stranger named Alex, and some unexpected heroes, Evie must guard the storeroom against ancient and malicious forces, and protect both the past and the future even as the present unravels.  Old heroes and notorious villains alike rise to fight on her side or to do their best to bring about her defeat.

At stake is the fate of the world and the prevention of nothing less than the apocalypse.

My Thoughts
Although I'd read the synopsis to the novel, I really wasn't sure to expect, being familiar with the Kitty Norville series.  I think I fully expected some werewolves, vampires, and other supernatural beings to jump out of nowhere and show up in the story and that would have been rather disappointing.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good urban fantasy novel as much as anybody, but I was really looking for something different, and different I got.  I was pleasantly surprised by Discord's Apple and thoroughly enoyed this novel from beginning to end.

First of all, I am a huge fan of mythology and loved the mythological threads that wound throughout the novel in very intricate ways.  The mythological characters that were brought to the present were a delight to read about, even though many were villainous, and I enjoyed learning how they fit into the story.  Alex, one of the main characters, has an interesting, and lonely, background, and I love how his story was woven around Evie's modern day story.  I went back and revisited some of my mythology books just to refresh myself with the stories.  I just wish that I felt more connected to these characters as there were many times when I felt like I was observing the events rather than being there, and this disconnectedness was disconcerting.  The waves of connecting went back and forth and I felt like I was in a tennis match at times, something I didn't always enjoy.

Evie is a strong, female heroine, who lost her mother in a terrorist attack several years before.  Her mother's death provided her with incentive to write and fuels her with thoughts of revenge.  She is also compassionate and courageous, reluctant to take on the legacy that is being gifted to her with her father's illness.  It's an interesting dilemna that is presented throughout the novel, a question that is presented as what happens when one does not want to inherit the legacy?  Can you refuse or are you destined no matter what?

The plot itself moved fairly quickly, with interesting developments, often switching from the past to the present.  Going back and forth has never bothered me, so I rather enjoyed learning about some of the characters past history.  Ms. Vaughn has an intriguing writing style, that kind of hooks you without you realizing what is happening.  With a bit of dystopian thrown in for good measure, the blend of everything makes for an intriguing plot line.

I enjoyed Discord's Apple, and the ending gives me hope that a sequel may be in the works as there were many threads left undeveloped or unfinished. 
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

WOW: The Anatomy of Ghosts & The Bone House

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine.  This is a great way to take a look at some of the upcoming releases we are looking forward to reading and to take a look at what other bloggers have discovered in the publishing world.  Come on, don't be shy, take a look, and join us in our  celebration of things to come.

The Anatomy of Ghosts
by Andrew Taylor
Release Date: October 26, 2010

1786, Jerusalem College Cambridge. The ghost of Sylvia Whichcote is rumoured to be haunting Jerusalem since disturbed fellow-commoner, Frank Oldershaw, claims to have seen the dead woman prowling the grounds. Desperate to salvage her son's reputation, Lady Anne Oldershaw employs John Holdsworth to investigate.

The Bone House
by Brian Freeman
Release Date: November 10, 2010

Hilary and Mark Bradley are trapped in a web of suspicion. Last year, accusations of a torrid affair with a student cost Mark his teaching job and made the young couple into outcasts in their remote island town off the Lake Michigan coast. Now another teenage girl is found dead on a deserted beach. . . and once again, Mark faces a hostile town convinced of his guilt.

Hilary Bradley is determined to prove that Mark is innocent, but she's on a lonely, dangerous quest. Even when she discovers that the murdered girl was witness to a horrific crime years earlier, the police are certain she's throwing up a smoke screen to protect her husband. Only a quirky detective named Cab Bolton seems willing to believe Hilary's story.

Hilary and Cab soon find that people in this community are willing to kill to keep their secrets hidden--and to make sure Mark doesn't get away with murder. And with each shocking revelation, even Hilary begins to wonder whether her husband is truly innocent.

Review: Lady in Waiting by Susan Meissner

Lady in Waiting
by Susan Meissner
2010 Waterbrook Press
Softcover Edition: 340 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-307-45883-4
Genre: Fiction
Source: Local Library

4 / 5 Stars

Content in her comfortable marriage of twenty-two years, Jane Lindsay had never expected to watch her husband, rad, pack his belongings and walk out the door of their Manhattan home. But when it happens, she feels powerless to stop him and the course of events that follow Brad’s departure.

Jane finds an old ring in a box of relics from a British jumble sale and discovers a Latin inscription in the band along with just one recognizable word: Jane. Feeling an instant connection to the mysterious ring bearing her namesake, Jane begins a journey to learn more about the ring—and perhaps about herself.

In the sixteenth-century, Lucy Day becomes the dressmaker to Lady Jane Grey, an innocent young woman whose fate seems to be controlled by a dangerous political and religious climate, one threatening to deny her true love and pursuit of her own interests.

As the stories of both Janes dovetail through the journey of one ring, it becomes clear that each woman has far more infl uence over her life than she once imagined. It all comes down to the choices each makes despite the realities they face.

My Thoughts
I have always been a fan of fiction novels that can weave an historical thread throughout the novel, but still keep the present moving along without interruption or unforgiving breaks in the flow of the story.  Susan Meissner's Lady in Waiting is able to flow back and forth effortlessly from the sixteenth century to modern day without interrupting the flow of the story or creating huge headaches for the reader.  I enjoyed this novel from start to finish, enjoying the sense of suspense and intrigue that built throughout.

The present day Jane finds a ring tucked into a sixteenth-century prayer book and immediately feels a connection with it, especially when she discovers her name inscribed in the ring.  She is going through her own problems as her own husband recently walked out on her, and her story is one of self-reflection and growth, and the realization that she has always has choices in her life, that no one has ever forced her to make the decisions she has made in life.  I enjoyed taking Jane's road to self-discovery and watching her grow and develop self-worth and it made me reflect on my own life as well.  I had been showing "The Bucket List" to my class at this same time and I couldn't help but feel the connection between this novel and the movie and as Jane started making her own list of things to do in her life, so did I.  It was certainly rejuvenating.

The sixteenth-century Lady Jane Grey has a tragic story, but I found myself looking at her decisions and choices in a new light in this novel.  I had always looked upon her as being a tragic pawn in a big chess game, but Ms. Meissner reminds us that everyone has choices and Jane made her choices as well, despite her limitations and the seeming control of everyone around her.  It's so easy to blame everyone else for our problems and situations, but we only have to look at ourselves for everything that is created.  Jane certainly had other choices, and I definitely admire her tenacity and her faith.  She had to be someone special to inspire loyalty in those around her. 

I also really enjoyed the interaction between the Janes and their mothers.  It was interesting to note the different relationships and to be truly thankful for my own mother.  I sometimes felt that modern-day Jane needed to be more forceful with her mother, but was forced to rethink certain things in light of events and how they played out.  I wish I could say more, but I would give away some spoilers and I don't want to do that.  Suffice it to say that maybe we need to remember that everyone has a history and a story and we should never judge one another too harshly, especially our mothers. 

Lucy Day, the seamstress to Lady Jane Grey, was a breath of fresh air.  She was loyal, strong, and a good friend, providing a shoulder for Jane to cry on when things became difficult or uncertain.  Because she was around many of the gentry, she was able to help Jane make informed decisions about what she should do about certain situations, always encouraging her to be true to herself.  I liked that she never told Jane what to do, which would have earned her reprimands anyways, but remained loyal despite everything.  I also liked how the novel showed how women and men could be independent and find other work if they did not like where they were working.  Too often, novels focus mainly on the gentry and forget about the commoners, but I liked how this novel focused equally on both.  I would have actually liked to have learned more. 

Lady in Waiting was an interesting novel, suspenseful at times, and definitely full of intrigues, especially if you do not know the history of Lady Jane Grey.  It touched me personally on many levels, causing me to reflect on my own marriage and on my own life.  I am definitely looking forward to reading another novel by this author in the future.

Upcoming Releases: September 27 - October 3

Wow! I think I say this every month, but where did the month go?  I was no sooner dropping my babes off for their first day of school (if grades 5 and 3 count as babes anymore), and preparing myself for the mental aspect of going back to work, and now it's already the end of the month.  And now my hubby approached me about buying snow tires for our new cars the other day.  SNOW TIRES!  Yikes!  But then, we do see snow as early as mid-October around here sometimes so I guess I should be thinking about it soon.  All that means is more cozy nights wrapped up in my warm comfy blanket, with a cup of cocoa and marshmallows, and a good book in front of the fire, enjoying these wonderful new releases.  Here are some of the ones I am anxiously awaiting this week:

Micah (Anita Blake)
Paperback Edition
by Laurel K. Hamilton
Release Date: September 28, 2010

Vampire hunter Anita Blake is called on to raise the dead - while trying to suppress her ever-growing feelings for a wereleopard.

Torment (Fallen, Book 2)
Lauren Kate
Release Date: September 28, 2010

Hell on earth.  That's what it's like for Luce to be apart from her fallen angel boyfriend, Daniel.  It took them an eternity to find one another, but now he has told her he must go away.  Just long enough to hunt down the Outcasts - immortals who want to kill Luce.  Daniel hides Luce at Shoreline, a school on the rocky California coast with unusually gifted students: Nephilim, the offspring of fallen angels and humans.

At Shoreline, Luce learns what the Shadows are, and how she can use them as windows to her previous lives. Yet the more Luce learns, the more she suspects that Daniel hasn't told her everything. He's hiding something - something dangerous.

What if Daniel's version of the past isn't actually true? What if Luce is really meant to be with someone else?

Fall of Giants (Century, Book 1)
by Ken Follett
Release Date: September 28, 2010

The first novel in The Century Trilogy, it follows the fates of five interrelated families-American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh-as they move through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women's suffrage.

Thirteen-year-old Billy Williams enters a man's world in the Welsh mining pits...Gus Dewar, an American law student rejected in love, finds a surprising new career in Woodrow Wilson's White House...two orphaned Russian brothers, Grigori and Lev Peshkov, embark on radically different paths half a world apart when their plan to emigrate to America falls afoul of war, conscription, and revolution...Billy's sister, Ethel, a housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts, takes a fateful step above her station, while Lady Maud Fitzherbert herself crosses deep into forbidden territory when she falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German embassy in London...

Heartstone (Shardlake, Book 5)
by C.J. Sansom
Release Date: September 28, 2010

Summer, 1545. England is at war. Henry VIII's invasion of France has gone badly wrong, and a massive French fleet is preparing to sail across the Channel. As the English fleet gathers at Portsmouth, the country raises the largest militia army it has ever seen. The King has debased the currency to pay for the war, and England is in the grip of soaring inflation and economic crisis. Meanwhile Matthew Shardlake is given an intriguing legal case by an old servant of Queen Catherine Parr. Asked to investigate claims of 'monstrous wrongs' committed against a young ward of the court, which have already involved one mysterious death, Shardlake and his assistant Barak journey to Portsmouth. Once arrived, Shardlake and Barak find themselves in a city preparing to become a war zone; and Shardlake takes the opportunity to also investigate the mysterious past of Ellen Fettipace, a young woman incarcerated in the Bedlam. The emerging mysteries around the young ward, and the events that destroyed Ellen's family nineteen years before, involve Shardlake in reunions both with an old friend and an old enemy close to the throne. Events will converge on board one of the King's great warships, primed for battle in Portsmouth harbour: the Mary Rose...

Dead Beautiful
by Yvonne Woon
Release Date: September 28, 2010

After Renee Winters discovers her parents lying dead in California's Redwood Forest in what appears to be a strange double murder, her grandfather sends her off to Gottfried Academy in Maine, a remote and mysterious high school dedicated to philosophy, 'crude sciences,' and Latin: the Language of the Dead. It's here she meets Dante, a dark and elusive student to whom she feels inexplicably drawn. As they get to know each other better, Dante can't seem to control his attraction either, and their desires gradually deepen into a complex and dangerous romance. Dangerous because Dante is hiding a frightening secret. A secret so terrible, it has him fearing for Renee's life.

Dante's not the only one with secrets, though. Turns out Gottfried Academy has a few of its own. Like, how come students keep disappearing? Why are the prefect-like Monitors creeping around campus during the night? And what exactly are the Headmistress and Professors really up to? Renee is determined to find out why.

Naked Heat (Nikki Heat, Book 2)
by Richard Castle
Release Date: September 28, 2010

Tough, sexy, professional, NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat carries a passion for justice as she leads one of New York City's top homicide squads. In what's sure to be another smash sensation by blockbuster author Richard Castle, readers will once again follow Nikki Heat and hotshot reporter Jameson Rook as they trade barbs and innuendos all while on the trail of a murderer!

Girl, Stolen
by April Henry
Release Date: September 28, 2010

Sixteen year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of a car while her mom fills her prescription at the pharmacy. Before Cheyenne realizes what's happening, their car is being stolen--with her inside! Griffin hadn't meant to kidnap Cheyenne, all he needed to do was steal a car for the others. But once Griffin's dad finds out that Cheyenne's father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes--now there's a reason to keep her. What Griffin doesn't know is that Cheyenne is not only sick with pneumonia, she is blind. How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare, and if she does, at what price?

Rival to the Queen
by Carolly Erickson
Release Date: September 28, 2010
Far more attractive than the queen, Lettie soon won the attention of the handsome and ambitious Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, a man so enamored of the queen and determined to share her throne that it was rumored he had murdered his own wife in order to become her royal consort. The enigmatic Elizabeth allowed Dudley into her heart, and relied on his devoted service, but shied away from the personal and political risks of marriage.

When Elizabeth discovered that he had married her cousin Lettie in secret, Lettie would pay a terrible price, fighting to keep her husband's love and ultimately losing her beloved son, the Earl of Essex, to the queen's headsman.This is the unforgettable story of two women related by blood, yet destined to clash over one of Tudor England's most charismatic men.

The Frenzy
by Francesca Lia Block
Release Date: September 28, 2010

Liv has a secret.

Something happened to her when she was thirteen. Something that changed everything. Liv knows she doesn't belong anymore - not in her own skin, not in her family . . . not anywhere. The only time she truly feels like herself is when she's with her boyfriend, Corey, and in the woods that surround her town.

But in the woods, a mysterious woman watches Liv. In the woods, a pack of wild boys lurks. In the woods, Liv learns about the curse that will haunt her forever. The curse that caused the frenzy four years ago. And that may cause it again, all too soon.

While Corey and Liv's love binds them together, Liv's dark secret threatens to tear them apart as she struggles to understand who - or what - she really is. And by the light of the full moon, the most dangerous secrets bare their claws. . .

Tuesday Teaser: The Geneva Deception by James Twining

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Miz B @ Should Be Reading.  Anyone can join in the weekly teaser, all you have to do is the following:

*  Grab a book and open to a random page.
*  Write two teaser sentences from the book, but be careful to not include any spoilers in case the person who reads your teaser would like to read the book.
*  Include the name of the book and the author.

Here is my teaser this week:

" "Everything all right?" Archie bellowed as they got out.
"Tom!" A tearful Dominique tore past him and wrapped her arms around Tom's neck.  "I'm so sorry about what happened to...I'm so sorry." "

Don't forget to share your teaser this week!  I'm looking forward to discovering new books and authors.

Happy reading everyone!
Monday, September 27, 2010

It's MONDAY!!!! And it's raining!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's been one of those interesting weeks where a lot of amazing things have been happening around the blogosphere.  I've been following Scott Nicholson's Haunted Computer tour with a lot of interest and he really has some fascinating things to say about the book industry, ebooks, and ereaders, as well as the blogging community itself.  You should take a look at some of his articles and some of his guest posts as they provide a lot of insight into what he feels is happening in the publishing world today.  He was a guest here on Curling Up At The Fire on September 24 as well and if you comment on any of the posts, you have a chance to win a Kindle.

I have also been following the Book Swarm against Wesley Croggins with great interest and I am impressed and amazed, although I really shouldn't be, at the thoughtful and insightful posts that I have seen out there with regards to this issue.  I have always been against censorship and have even posted a few things about this issue over the past year, and completely agree with many of the statements I have read.  I don't want to get into a rant against censorship here, but I do want to say, GO BLOGGERS GO!  Somebody has to make a stand and to anyone who has read the article, the issues being raised go far beyond the issue of censorship.  Women have worked so hard over the years to bring so many issues to light and to fight for so many freedoms, we don't want somebody like Croggins helping us take any steps backwards.  I look at my daughter's young, innocent face and I think, I want her to have the same freedom in her reading choices as I did.  Bless all of you with an open mind!!!

It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey and it highlights the books we have read last week, those we are currently reading, and those was need to tackle in the upcoming week.  I like this meme as I get a chance to see what others are reading, and I always discover new books and new authors.

What I Read This Week:

The Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn - I love this series and was thrilled to get a review copy in the mail.  I pretty much finished it in one sitting, after tossing other half-read books to the side.  I was not disappointed.

Lady in Waiting by Susan Meissner - A quick, interesting story about Lady Jane Grey, a ring, and a modern women who inherits the ring.  My review will be posted soon.

What I Am Currently Reading:

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova - I am very into this novel, but it is still taking me a while to get through it.  Maybe I should put the other five books I have on the go on the back-burner and concentrate on this one for a while.

Discord's Apple by Carrie Vaughn - Fascinating dystopian novel, with a twist of mythology and folklore.

What's Up Next:

Within My Heart by Tamera Alexander

I hope everyone had a great reading week.  Happy reading everyone!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

CSN Stores Review: Wall Sculpture

I had the opportunity to review a product by CSN Stores and I had the same problem I think a lot of people have, difficulty in choosing the product I wanted to review.  While I did browse the bookshelf section, an obvious choice, what I really need with regards to bookshelving is quite extensive and I was not ready to make a selection in that area.  So I ended up choosing this item:

This was the perfect choice for me and it finished off my kitchen perfectly.  My husband and I had been searching for an item for a long time for our kitchen, which has a leaves theme to it, as we had not been satisfied with anything.  Then this opportunity came up, and I actually had my eye on this wall sculpture, so I ordered it.  The ordering was extremely easy, and CSN Stores made sure I could track the delivery every step of the way so I knew exactly when it was being delivered.  It only took about three days to come to my house and this was surprising, considering I live in Canada.

The item itself came in very durable packaging, which took a little while to come off.  This made me happy as I knew the sculpture would be very well-protected and I didn't have to worry about any damage.  Naturally, my kids had fun with the bubble wrap, and I will admit to playing with it too.  There were two clips on the back to show where the screws would attach to, and it was extremely easy to hang on the wall.  It looks wonderful there. 

Overall, I was extremely pleased with my wall sculpture and I would not hesitate to order an item from CSN Store again in the future.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Welcome Scott Nicholson! Win a Kindle!

Today, I would like to welcome Scott Nicholson to Curling Up By The Fire.  If you've been following his tour, then you already know how important it is to read to the end of the post to find out how you can win a great prize. 

You Are the Story
by Scott Nicholson

Many of these early stops on the Kindle Giveaway Blog Tour are about ebooks, independent authors, and book bloggers more than about my work, and there’s a reason for that.

Without all of those things, I wouldn’t be here. My work would probably be sitting on my hard drive as I made one more push to sell a book the “old way.” No, I don’t want to rant about how New York doesn’t get my genius or publishing is dying. It’s not dying, it’s just changing, and the adaptable will survive and even thrive. I understand quite well the circumstances of the major publishing industry. And I better understand now that I am not in the publishing industry anymore, at least not as the main event.

I am in the Scott Nicholson industry.

It just so happens that my industry is currently built around ebooks, the Internet, and the Kindle. These are wonderful times for independence, and do-it-yourselfers, and even lazy dreamers like me.

But it’s not easy. Writing was never meant to be easy, and reading books is a minority habit. Two million writers are now pulling out moldering manuscripts from their bottom drawers and declaring themselves published. And they are. “Publishing” has no defined meaning anymore.

There’s a Chicken Little sector saying the sky is falling. It is issuing dire warnings about the threat to literature when just any old person with a keyboard and an Internet connection can be an author. Someone like me, who has spent 14 years at the craft and followed all the rules of the Old Way, even to the point of getting lucky and breaking in, should have a vested interest in defending the Ivory Tower because, heck, one day they may let me peel potatoes in the basement again, and at least I’d have some potato peels to eat.

But I rather like sitting in my one-room cottage industry. Sure, I am competing with two million other authors, and the competition will only grow. I expect the flat-text digital era has maybe a five-year lifespan before it will seem as antiquated as bookstores and paper sheaves bound in the skin of cows. I expect there will be 10 million e-books available in five years, if not two years. I expect everybody out there with wacky ideas, stories in their hearts, or insight into the world’s workings will find a way to share that idea in pixels.

And I think it’s wonderful.

I have a dyslexic friend who is writing a novel, and I am not sure he has ever read one. Young children, even kindergartners, are now publishing their own books. People in their 90s, who always wanted to be writers when they grew up, now have a golden chance to cultivate an audience.

I say “Do it.”

The Chicken Little crowd squawks, “Normal people can’t be trusted with something as important as deciding what is worth reading.”

I say each reader is far more brilliant than the finest New York minds in knowing what that reader wants.

To the Chicken Little crowd squawking about how impossible it will be to find quality literature, I’d point to all the millions, if not billions, of Web sites floating around in the ether. Are you bothered by all that content and those ideas? Do you have trouble finding only the information that interests you? Do you even know all that other stuff is out there?

A writer’s message may only appeal to half a dozen people. A book, no matter how badly written, may truly change one life or inspire one person. And doesn’t that give it value? Doesn’t that make it worth publishing, especially when the means is cheap or free?

More important than a writer’s being able to reach an audience, from 10 people to 10 million, is the reader’s right to seek out and share the stories and data and dreams they crave.

This era is not about the writers, editors, publishers, agents, or corporations at all, though 99 percent of all writers will surely benefit, at least for the near term.

This is the Era of the Reader.

You are the story.

Let the sky fall if it must.

If the sky was that small and fragile to begin with, a bigger, brave sky surely waits above it.


Scott Nicholson is author of The Skull Ring, Speed Dating with the Dead, Drummer Boy, and nine other novels, five story collections, four comics series, and six screenplays. A journalist and freelance editor in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, he often uses local legends in his work. This tour is sponsored by Amazon, Kindle Nation Daily, and Dellaster Design.

To be eligible for the Kindle DX, simply post a comment below with contact info. Feel free to debate and discuss the topic, but you will only be entered once per blog. Visit all the blogs on the tour and increase your odds. I’m also giving away a Kindle 3 through the tour newsletter and a Pandora’s Box of free ebooks to a follower of “hauntedcomputer” on Twitter. And, hey, buy my books and put me in the Top 100 and I’ll throw in another random Kindle 3 giveaway. Thanks for playing. Complete details at
Thursday, September 23, 2010

Book Blogger Hop - It's Friday!!!

Gotta Love Those Fridays!!!

I can't believe another week has flown by and it's time to do the hop again.  This great weekly meme, hosted by Jennifer @ Crazy For Books, gives book bloggers the chance to meet and greet other book bloggers and discuss what we all love to talk about most, BOOKS!  All you have to do is have a blog that contains some content, but is not limited to book reviews, about books.  Head over to Jennifer's blog, sign up, and start hopping.  Who knows what you will find?!?!

Question of the week:  When you write reviews, do you write them as you are reading or wait until you have read the entire book?

My answer: It often depends on the book and my mood.  If the book is really difficult or really long, I might jot down notes or quotes to remind me of something that I could later use in a review.  I usually try to write the review as soon as I've finished the book as the characters and the events and my feelings are fresh in my mind.  If that doesn't happen, it's good to have the notes to refer to. 

It also depends on the review itself.  I write reviews for different reasons and for different publications, and not just for my blog, some of which are far more formal and use different formats than the more informal ones I use on my blog.  They require notes and a different way of writing.  I also tend to be a perfectionist and when I notice mistakes, it bothers me, so notes help. 

It's time to go have fun!  Time to talk about books!  Time to discover new authors! 

Have a great weekend and happy reading everyone!

My Obsession With Castles: Heidelberg Castle

I have this obsession with castles that probably began as a young child reading fantasy novels, and then developed as I began traveling around the world and insisted on visiting as many of these famous sites as I possibly could.  I went through a phase when I was younger where I read as many novels as I could that had settings in castles, and if you combined that with ghost stories...well, I was completely hooked.  I will still drop anything today for a ghost story that takes place in a castle, so if anyone knows of any of these, please let me know and I will run to the bookstore or library.  In fact, I will probably go RIGHT NOW!!
Today, I'd like to feature Heidelberg Castle, a famous ruin in Germany, as I recently came across a beautiful print of this castle in an Etsy Store I was browsing.  I haven't heard a lot about it, so I thought I would feature it in this edition of My Obsession with Castles.

Heidelberg Castle, Germany

Heidelberg Castle was first mentioned as early as 1225 and is actually part of two original castles.  In 1537, the upper castle was apparently destroyed by lightning-bolt, while the lower castle is the one that we continue to see on the hillside today.

Heidelberg Castle was considered a Gothic and Renaissance masterpiece, but today a large part of it is in ruins.  In 1689, French troops set the castle and the town on fire, an occasion which is still commemorated with fireworks three times a year.  Although rebuilt by Karl-Ludwig, it was destroyed yet again in 1693 during the War of Succession.

There is a lot of history to this castle.  While the history is too long to recite here in this blog post, and it really is not my purpose to give a history lesson, I found some facts, in particular, really fascinating.  First of all, Victor Hugo visited the castle in 1838 and really enjoyed strolling around the gardens.  I would imagine it was not his inspiration for Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) and Les Miserables.  I wonder if he used any of the scenery for his other passionate creative outlet, drawing, as Hugo was a very prolific artist, producing over 4 000 drawings in his lifetime.  I can't imagine the beautiful scenery in the German mountains would not have found inspiration in his work.  Second of all, Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate was born at Heidelberg, the same woman who later married the brother of Louis XIV, Philippe I, Duke of Orleans.   I know from my own history lessons that many royal houses in Europe owe their descendency to this marriage, including the Spanish, Italian, Austrian, Bulgarian, Tuscan and Neopolitan royal families.  She is also the great-grandmother of Marie Antoinette.

In the eighteenth century, Heidelberg Castle was often used as a site for concerts, musicals, operas, and musical productions in the courtyard, to the delight of all.  Unfortunately, the early nineteenth century saw the castle being misused as a quarry, the castle stones being used to build new homes in the old town. 

Today, Heidelberg's reputation has spread around the world, with more than three million tourists a year.  Some renovation has occurred, but the main renovations are to preserve what is there and not for reconstruction purposes. The place is idyllic for weddings, and the scenery is breathtaking.  There are many observation towers from which to view the town and surrounding countryside.  If you wish, you can visit during the Heidelberg Castle Summer Festival and be treated to operas and other musical entertainments in the courtyard.

For those who like to exercise, you can take the 315 stairs to the castle (yes, they are numbered) or you can take the ten degree ramp that will make you legs burn.  For those who like to take things somewhat easier, there is a funicular that runs up the side of the mountain, giving the tourist a fantastic view of the town and surrounding countryside.  Whatever way suits your fancy, if you happen to be in this area of Germany, this is a must see tourist attraction!!

Heidelberg Castle - Majestic, Scenic, Breathtaking
Heidelberg Castle -
Pictures from

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Review: Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn

Dark Road to Darjeeling (Lady Julia Grey, Book 4)
by Deanna Raybourn
Release Date: October 1st, 2010
2010 Mira Books
ISBN: 978-0-7783-2820-9
Softcover Edition; 400 Pages
Genre: Historical Murder Mystery
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

4.5 / 5 Stars

After eight idyllic months in the Mediterranean, Lady Julia Grey and her detective husband are ready to put their investigative talents to work once more.  At the urging of Julia's eccentric family, they hurry to India to aid an old friend, the new widowed Jane Cavendish.  Living on the Cavendish tea plantation with the remnants of her husband's family, Jane is consumed with the impending birth of her child - and with discovering the truth about her husband's death.  Was he murdered for his estate?  And if he was, could Jane and her unborn child be next?

Amid the lush foothills of the Himalayas, dark deeds are buried and malicious thoughts flourish.  The Brisbanes uncover secrets and scandal, illicit affairs and twisted legacies.  In this remote and exotic place, exploration is perilous and discovery, deadly.  The danger is palpable and, if they are not careful, Julia and Nicholas will not live to celebrate their first anniversary.

My Thoughts
I read Silent in the Grave earlier this year and was thoroughly hooked by the relationship between Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane.  When I found out I was getting an ARC of Deanna Raybourn's latest installment of Lady Julia's adventures, I was absolutely thrilled, and the novel certainly met my expectations.  I was completely hooked from beginning to end and pretty much read the book in one sitting. 

The highlight of this series however, is definitely not the mysteries, but the fascinating sexual tension and romantic interplay that exists between the two principal characters, Lady Julia and Nicholas.  In this novel, Ms. Raybourn explores the marital relationship after the 'honeymoon glow' wears off and the reality of everyday life returns and she handled it beautifully.  Ms. Raybourn's amazing writing style made me feel I was right there in the story, feeling the frustations of two people whose lives have changed irrevocably, but whose personalities have not really changed, and who must now try to adapt and compromise and work out solutions so they can live happily and comfortably.  The interplay between Lady Julia and Nicholas was tense and difficult, yet the author still managed to convey their strong love for each other.   The main stumbling block in their relationship being that Lady Julia has full intentions of continuing her investigative work for Brisbane while he would prefer that she remain safe at home as he feels she is too unprepared.  It presents an interesting conundrum and I can't wait to see how it plays out in future books.

I find it so interesting that Julia and her family can come across as such snobs at times, due to their wealthy and aristocratic upbringing, and it really comes across in her viewpoints towards the servants and the foreigners in this novel.  Yet, they were the foreigners in the Himalayas; I found the pursuit to keep rigidly to English customs in a foreign land so ironic, treating those around them as beneath them, but I suppose it was the way things were done.   I found the discussions of general usefulness and having a purpose in life between the various characters to be utterly fascinating.  I never really thought about how a wealthy aristocratic woman could be seriously bored in her role and would maybe be looking for adventure and something to fill her days with purpose. 

The mystery itself takes on a secondary role in the novel, and provides a side story for a menage of secrets and scandals to be revealed as Julia and Brisbane investigate Freddie's death.  All sorts of interesting facts about illicit drug traffiking and pronographic issues are revealed in this tale, almost distracting the reader from the murder mystery, so when it was revealed, I was totally surprised and shocked.  I have to say it was definitely not what I was expecting, although the manner in which everything was revealed I thought was rushed.  I was also not impressed with all of the coincidences that appeared in this novel, although I can't reveal too much or I will give out some major spoilers in the story.  Some coincidences I can handle, but there were a few too many in this novel for me. 

Dark Road to Darjeeling was a delight to read and I really hope I don't have to wait too long for the next book in the series to be published.

WOW: Unbound and Ghosting

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine.  This fun weekly meme takes a look at upcoming releases we are anticipating reading and are looking forward to.  Here's a couple I wouldn't mind taking a closer look at when they are released.

by Kay Danella
Release Date: October 5, 2010

A relic hunter, Asrial stumbles across a rare vase, only to discover it holds something more precious inside - a djinn named Romir.  Aboard Asrial's ships, Romir finds unexpected freedom and unexpected passion in Asrial's bed. But when the vase beckons him back, Asrial must find a way to release him completely, even if it means returning to the dangers of her home world...

by David Poyer
Release Date: November 9, 2010

Dr. Jack Scales, a promiment neurosurgeon, is at the peak of his career. To celebrate, he decides to make up for lost time and buys a sailing yacht christened Slow Dance, for a family cruise to Bermuda. But the family is strained: Jack’s wife Arlen is secretly considering leaving the marriage; Rick, their bipolar twenty-year-old son, may need to be committed to a group home; Haley, a rebellious teenager, would rather be anywhere but trapped on a boat with her family; and Jack himself is not prepared for the challenge of the open sea.

Day by day, the Scales face mounting dangers. A lightning storm nearly destroys the boat, Rick’s unstable condition worsens, and both Arlen and Haley realize that Jack is in over his head. Still, emerging from the storm, they find a fragile unity…until a man adrift on a raft leads them into danger against a terrifying gang of smugglers, who will stop at nothing to gain control of Slow Dance.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Blogmania Winners!

I have said this many times and will say it over and over again, but I am amazed and impressed by the overwhelming response that these events bring to the many blogs that participate in events such as these.  The support and enthusiastic response just blows me away, and I can't thank everyone enough!!!  To everyone who took the time to enter the contest, thank you, and thank you for the wonderful comments.  This was my first time ever having sponsors and I am so grateful for the support and enthusiasm that was shown for their generosity in their gifts and donations to this amazing event. 

The Winners Are:

Prize Pack #1 - Lara

Prize Pack #2 - Cicely

Prize Pack #3 - Jenny B

Prize Pack #4 - Arceli

Prize Pack #5 - imalazymom

Prize Pack #6 - Andy S

Prize Pack # 7 - John (email begins with dev)

Prize Pack # 8 - CrystalGB

Prize Pack #9 - Beth I

Prize Pack #10 - Becky (email begins with jpn)

Congrats!!!!  Thank you again to everyone who participated in this event.   Some stats: I had 591 submissions, totalling to 1463 entries, so it took a while to tabulate.   I will be emailing the winners soon, and you have 72 hours to respond to the email with your mailing address.   I will be forwarding you mailing address to the various sponsors who are responsible for shipping your prizes. 

I would also like to again thank my wonderful sponsors who so generously donated to this wonderful event.  Thank you!  Thank you!   Thank you!  You are wonderful!!!  And welcome my new followers!   There is much in store for the next year so I hope you stick around to see what's up. 

Happy reading everyone!

Upcoming Releases - September 20 - 26

I didn't get to do this one yet again last week as I was too busy organizing Blogmania and BlogFest as well as working long hours, so Tuesday kind of rolled on right by and on Wednesday I realized that I had completely forgotten about posting it.  Oh well!  Such is life. 

I had also been on a library ban for the past few months as I really need to reduce my TBR pile, yet I had no choice but to go there today to pick up a DVD I needed for my class.  Unfortunately, the DVD section is right by the "New Releases" section and while I really thought I had the willpower to avoid it, once I was inside, I was like a kid in a candy store.  While I adore librarians, they are evil for putting the new releases in such tempting spots!!! (lol)   At least I emerged with only one DVD and four books, the others I put back on the shelf with a great show of determination and regret.  Anyone else have this problem?

by Emily Whitman
Release Date: September 21, 2010

When Addy is swept back in time, she couldn't be happier to leave her miserable life behind.  Now she's mistaken for Lady Matilda, the pampered ward of the king.  If Addy can play her play, she'll have glorious gowns, jewels, and something she's always longed for - the respect and admiration of others.  But then she meets Will, the falconer's son with sky blue eyes, who unsettles all her plans.

From shipwrecks to castle dungeons, from betrothals to hidden conspiracies, Addy finds herself in a world where she's not the only one with a dangerous secret.  When she discovers the truth, Addy must take matters into her own hands.  The stakes?  Her chance at true love...and the life she's meant to live.

Heaven's Fury
by Stephen Frey
Release Date: September 21, 2010

A mesmerizing tale about a small-town sheriff who must confront the worst violence that nature and man possess.

The Replacement
by Brenna Yovanoff
Release Date: September 21, 2010

Mackie Doyle is not one of us.  Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess.  He is a Replacement - left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago.  Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, he is fighting to survive in the human world. 

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or to spend time with his crush, Tate.  But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.

The Forest Laird: A Tale of William Wallace (Book 1)
by Jack Whyte
Release Date: September 21, 2010

In the pre-dawn hours of August 24, 1305 a.d. in London's Smithfield Prison, the outlaw William Wallace, who is to be executed at dawn, is visited by a Scottish priest who is to hear his last Confession. 

by Elizabeth Scott
Release Date: September 21, 2010

Grace was raised to be an Angel, a herald of death by suicide bomb.  But she refuses to die for the cause, and now Grace is on the run, daring to dream of freedom.  In search of a border she may never reach, she travels among malevolent soldiers on a decrepit train traveling through the desert.  Accompanied by the mysterious Kerr, Grace struggles to be invisible, but the fear of discovery looms large as she recalls the history and events that delivered her uncertain fate.
Monday, September 20, 2010

It's Monday! What are You Reading?

This certainly has been a crazy and fun week!  With Blog Fest last weekend and Blogmania this past week, it's been incredibly busy and incredibly amazing.  I am simply awed at the overwhelming support each of these events has created for all the blogs out there, and for myself too, and for the beatiful comments that were left.  I don't even have words to express it, and that's quite a feat, as I usually tend to have something to say for every occasion.  For all of my new followers, I hope you will stick around and see what is happening here in the next few months.  Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!!!!!   As it was, I got very little reading done this was past week, and I am starting to feel those little twinges of guilt as I look at my TBR pile.  I have made a vow to myself to put some time away each night to get some personal reading done so I hope I can stick to it.  But with two kids, a busy job, and a busy lifestyle, we'll see.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey.  It's a way of looking at what we have read, what we are reading, and what we plan on reading in the week ahead.  It's a good way to analyze that TBR pile and really look at what needs to be done.  It's also a nifty way to see what everyone has read/is currently reading.  Take a look and have fun!

What I finished this week:
The Geneva Deception by James Twining

What I am currently reading:
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn

I am truly enjoying both of these books right now (and I have set aside many other books in my eager anticipation to get to these ones) that I am just savouring them.

What I am planning to read:
Nevermore by Kelly Creagh
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Within My Heart by Tamera Alexandra

What is everyone else reading this week?  I hope you had a better reading week than I did!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Blogmania Contest!

It's Blogmania Time!

Blogmania is a huge event where over 170 blogs are each hosting their own event and giving away at least $100 in prizes on each of their blogs.   Each blog will be listing their giveaways and their rules on their own blogs, so read each one carefully.  And don't forget to visit the links at the bottom of each page so you can visit as many blogs as you like.  Have fun, but don't take too long as the event begins at 12:01 on September 15th and runs until 12:00 am (EST) on September 17th; you will only have 48 hours in which to check out all of the fantastic blogs and their giveaways.  So, what are you waiting for?

MY BIG GIVEAWAY!!!!  Curling Around the Fire

Prize #1 Book Pack

ARC Rush by Jonathan Friesen
ARC The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
(US/Canada Only)

Prize #2
$10 Book of Choice to Book Depository (International Only)

Prize #3

Choice of 8 x 10 print from Flash Forward Photography
Prize to be shipped by Flash Forward Photography

Prize #4

Leaf Dance Earth Light from Paperplanet
Candle from JenSanCandles (picture shown is for display only)
(US/Canada only)
Prizes to be shipped by Paperplanet and JenSanCandles

Prize #5

Of Wood and Field...Wild Honeysuckle and Grapevine Wreath
(US/Canada Only)
Prize to be shipped by HollyFerencze

Prize #6

Choice of 8x8 or 8x10 Print from Elle Moss Photography
(US/Canada Only)
Prize to be shipped by Elle Moss Photography

Prize #7

$25 Gift Certificate to Silk N Lights Designs

Prize #8

$25 Gift Certificate to Lorilee35

Prize #9

Scarf (not exactly as shown) from Flax Designs
Prize to be shipped from Flax Designs

Prize #10

Choice of 8x10 print from Kim's Cottage Art
Item from Willow and Quinn (not displayed here)
Prize to be shipped from Kim's Cottage Art and Willow and Quinn

1) The prize packs are open to different countries so please check them carefully.
2) Fill in the FORM to enter (+1).
3) Already a follower? (+2)
4) Become a follower. (+1)
5) Winners will be contacted by email and will have 72 hours to respond.
6) Contest ends at 12:00 AM September 17th.

Have fun and happy reading everyone!

Once you are finished here, take a look at the following list and have fun hopping somewhere else.  There are many place to visit and many contests to enter.  So, go have fun, go enter some contests, go meet some new bloggy friends, and see you soon!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blogfest Giveaway Winners!

And the winners are:

Prize #1( Books): brandileigh2003

Prize #2 ($10 Book of Choice from Book Depository): brendajean

Prize #3 ($10 Book of Choice from Book Depository): Mervi

Congratulations to each of you!  You have been emailed and have 72 hours to respond.  Understand that if I don't hear back from you, I will have to choose another winner.  Winners are always chosen using

Thank you to everyone who entered!!!!!  As always, I am amazed and impressed by the kind of support that is out there for an event like this.  I would also like to thank all of my new followers, as well as my old and faithful, and I hope that you will stick around to see what fun and interesting events will be happening here in the future.  You are really fantastic!!!!  Here's a few interesting stats from the BlogFest Event:  I had 486 people who entered my contest for a total of 1361 entries, something that I never expected.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank Cinnamon of A Journey of Books for her hard work and putting this great event together.    Stay tuned for many great events to come and as always, HAPPY READING EVERYONE!
Monday, September 13, 2010

Blogmania Sponsors: Lorilee35 and Silk n Lights Designs

I would like to introduce a few more Blogmania Sponsors that have generously agreed to donate an item to my giveaway which begins this week.  Lorilee35 and Silk n Lights Designs, both Etsy shops, have wonderful items in their stores.  Lori's shop, Lorilee35, specializes in jewelry designs, particularly freshwater pearls, natural stones, crystal and sterling silver.   Silk n Light Designs has a variety of items in her shop such as wreaths, gel candles, candle holders, crystal potpourri, and soy melts/fragrance oil.  She also makes custom wedding bouquets. 

Silk n Lights Designs

Festive Fall Ghost Wreath
Halloween Fall Wreath

Shark and Shell Gel Candle
Halloween Ghost Forest Gel Candle

Gel Candles come in a variety of scents such as:
Apple Pie, Banana Nut, Creme Brulee

Crystal Rocks Potpourri also comes in a variety of scents such as:
Lavender, Sugar Cookie, Pumpkin Pie

Custom orders are always happy to be received!


Dragon - Dragon Vein Agate Necklace
Crazy Horse - Stone Bracelet

Happy Jack o Lantern Earrings
Spring Fling - Lampwork Glass Bracelet

If you hurry, you can find a great sale happening at Lorilee35 right now!
Check it out!

Lorilee35 also welcomes any special requests!!!

BLOGMANIA TEASER: One of my lucky readers will win a gift certificate for Silk N Light Designs and a jewelry item from Lorilee 35.  Stay tuned folks!  Blogmania is just around the corner.