Saturday, October 30, 2010

In My Mailbox

I haven't participated in this meme, hosted by The Story Siren, for an eternity it seems, so I thought I would join in this week and see what everyone is up to.  I feel like I am swamped right now, but at the same time, I am thoroughly enjoying the review copies I have received in the mail.  I would love to add a few hours to my day just for reading though, in order to get everything done that needs to get done. 

Books For review:

The Templar's Code by C.M. Palov
Indulgence in Death (In Death, Book 38) by J.D. Robb

The Lies That Bind (Bibliophile Mystery, Book 3) by Kate Carlisle
The Templar Salvation (Last Templar, Book 2) by Raymond Khoury

Midnight Fugue (Dalziel & Pascoe, Book 24) by Reginald Hill
Echo by (Alex Benedict, Book 5) Jack McDevitt

Island Sting by Bonnie J Doen

Books I Won:

Blood Spells (Final Prophecy, Book 5) by Jessica Andersen

I'm off to my first real Hallowe'en party in a very long time.  I actually went out and bought a costume today as I was feeling guilty because I don't usually dress up, but everyone was going to, so I thought, What the heck!, go for it!  I will share my experiences about that interesting shopping trip and my party tomorrow.

Happy Hallowe'en everyone!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Upcoming Releases: October 25 - 31st

Can you believe it's the last week of October?  I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that November is just around the corner; we've made appointments to get out snowtires on our cars this Saturday as we've already had a couple of snowfalls, although the snow didn't stay long, but I don't want to be unprepared for the first 'big' one.  Slipping and sliding all over the road is not my idea of a fun commute to work as naturally, that is when it hits.

My daughter had her first sparring session tonight, and I am always impressed when I see the kids use the skills they have learned in their sparring bouts.  It's pretty impressive to see these seven- and eight-year olds use their kicks and punches.  I can't wait to see what she can do when she gets older.  My son acts like it's nothing now as he's been sparring for a couple of months, but he's learned to protect certain parts of his anatomy from the girls as they instinctively know exactly where to kick, even though they don't mean to (lol!).  I've been reading some books about martial arts with my kiddies, which is why I'm mentioning this here, although I've become deeply fascinated by the art.  Think a 40-something-year old can take up karate and kung fu?

The Dead (Enemy, Book 2)
by Charlie Higson
Release Date: October 26

A terrible disease is striking everyone over the age of fourteen. Death walks the streets. Nowhere is safe. Maxie, Blue and the rest of the Holloway crew aren't the only kids trying to escape the ferocious adults who prey on them. Jack and Ed are best friends, but their battle to stay alive tests their friendship to the limit as they go on the run with a mismatched group of other kids - nerds, fighters, misfits. And one adult. Greg, a butcher, who claims he's immune to the disease. They must work together if they want to make it in this terrifying new world. But as a fresh disaster threatens to overwhelm London, they realize they won't all survive.

Chocolate Box Girls: Cherry Crush
by Cathy Cassidy
Release Date: October 26, 2010

Cherry Costello's life is about to change forever. She and Dad are moving to Somerset where a new mum and a bunch of brand-new sisters await. And on Cherry's first day there she meets Shay Fletcher; with suntanned skin and sea-green eyes he's the kind of boy who should carry a government health warning.

Devoured (Hatton and Roumande, Book 1)
by D.E. Meredith
Release Date: October 26, 2010
London in 1856 is gripped by a frightening obsession. The specimen collecting craze is growing, and discoveries in far off jungles are reshaping the known world in terrible and unimaginable ways. The new theories of evolution threaten to disrupt the fragile balance of power that keeps the sprawling city in chaotic order - a disruption that many would do just about anything to prevent.

When the glamorous Lady Bessingham is found murdered in her bedroom, surrounded by her vast collection of fossils and tribal masks, Adolphus Hatton and his morgue assistant Albert Roumande are called in to examine the crime scene - and the body. In the new and suspicious world of forensics and autopsy examinations, Hatton and Roumande are the best. But the crime scene is not confined to one room. In their efforts to help the infamous Inspector Adams track down the Lady's killer, Hatton and Roumonde uncover a trail of murders all connected to a packet of seditious letters that, if published, would change the face of society and religion irrevocably.

The Hidden
by Bill Pronzini
Release Date: October 26, 2010

A series of seemingly random murders along a fifty-mile stretch of the rugged northern California coast, committed by an unknown dubbed by the media the Coastline Killer. A young couple with marital problems, Shelby and Jay Macklin, who decide to spend the week between Christmas and New Year's at a friend's remote coastal cottage. Two couples in a neighboring home whose relationships are thick with festering menace. A fierce winter storm that leads to a night of unrelenting terror. These are the main ingredients in Bill Pronzini's chilling and twist-filled tale about the hidden nature of crime and its motives.

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.

Dangerous to Know (Emily Ashton, Book 5)
by Tasha Alexander
Release Date: October 26, 2010

The novel opens as Lady Emily, out for a ride, suddenly comes across the body of a young woman who has been horribly murdered. Her wounds are reminiscent of those inflicted on the victims of Jack the Ripper, who is wreaking havoc across the channel in London. Has he made his way to France? Lady Emily and Colin learn that the victim is the daughter of a high born family of French aristocrats who had been committed to an asylum for the insane. While there, she had given birth to an illegitimate child who was spirited away, and may even be dead.

As Lady Emily pursues a trail of clues to the beautiful medieval city of Rouen and a crumbling chateau in the country, she is increasingly disturbed to hear the cries of a little girl in distress who may or may not be the ghost of a murdered child. But then who is leaving blue ribbons in her wake? What is the nature of the bizarrely intense relationship between them murdered woman and her unstable brother? When the doctor who had treated her in the asylum is found brutally murdered and the body of the child's father is found hidden behind a wall in a cottage by the sea, Colin is determined to send Emily back to England before the killer strikes again. But it's too late. Emily is on the verge of solving the mystery, when she is taken captive by the madman in an isolated tower where she hears what sound like the eerie cries of a lost child. She begins to distrust her own sanity but must keep her head in a terrifying game of wits against a cold and brilliant killer or she will be his next victim.
The Haunting of Charles Dickens
by Louis Buzbee
Release Date: October 26, 2010

Meg Pickel's older brother, Orion, has disappeared. One night, she steals out to look for him, and makes two surprising discoveries: She stumbles upon a séance that she suspects involves Orion, and she meets the author Charles Dickens, also unable to sleep, and roaming the London streets. He is a customer of Meg's father, who owns a print shop, and a family friend. Mr. Dickens fears for Orion's safety and for the children of London, and is trying to solve the mystery of their many disappearances. If he can, with Meg's help, then perhaps he'll be able to write once again.

by Deirdre Purcell
Release Date: October 28, 2010

In 1920s' rural Ireland, Pearl Somers lives happily with her parents, her sisters Opal and Ruby, and her little brother Willie, in the gate lodge of Kilnashone Castle, where her father is chauffeur to Lord and Lady Areton. But one dreadful night, a series of dramatic events unfold and the lives of all -- elite and ordinary -- are changed forever. Over 40 years later, Pearl has become a successful writer. Yet there is one story she has never told, until her young cousin Catherine confesses a secret of her own that opens a door to Pearl's past -- one she thought had been firmly sealed forever. When Catherine discovers Pearl's story of heartbreak and yearning, she determines to do her best to reconcile past and present. But is it too late for Pearl to find her own happy ending?
The Properties of Water
by Hannah Roberts McKinnon
Release Date: October 28, 2010

The near-fatal accident that cripples thirteen-year-old Lace Martin's older sister paralyzes Lace in time. For Lace, there is only a before--can there be an after? But as the summer surges on, she learns that she must return to the water, the very thing that tore her family apart. This beautifully crafted novel explores the boundaries of family and friendship, the greatest griefs that knock us down, and the smallest kindnesses that guide us to safe harbors.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Spooktacular Giveaway

Spooktacular Giveaway

Welcome to the Spooktacular Book Blog Giveaway Hop!

This great, spooktacular hop runs from October 25th - 31st and is hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer.  There are over 70 blogs participating in this blog giveaway hop, so I encourage you to visit as many as you can.  Although you can win great prizes, it's also a great way to find some new friends, visit some great blogs, and discover some new and amazing things that are happening in the blogging world. 

My Giveaway:

I decided to keep this one simple and straighforward. 
Begins October 25th at 12:01a.m. and ends October 31st at 11:59 p.m.

$25 CAD choice of book(s) to Book Depository, open to wherever the Book Depository ships.

Mandatory Entry:  Leave a comment about a book you would love to order, along with your email address.
Extra Entries:
1) Follow me on Google Friend Connect:  +1.
2) Follow me on Twitter:  +1

Don't forget to visit the other amazing blogs participating in this hop.  Click on any of the following links to get you anywhere you would like to go.

Happy Hallowe'en!!!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review: Call Me Kate: Meeting the Molly Maguires by Molly Roe

Call Me Kate: Meeting the Molly Maguires
by Molly Roe
Release Date: November 24, 2008
2008 Tribute Books
Printed Copy; 159 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-9814619-3-9
Genre: Young Adult Historical
Source: Printed Review Copy from Publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Fourteen-year-old Katie McCafferty risks job, family, and eventually her very life to rescue a lifelong friend.  Disguised as a draft resister, Katie infiltrates a secret Irish organization to prevent bloodshed.  Tragedies challenge her strength and ingenuity, and she faces a crisis of conscience.  Can Katie balance her sense of justice with the law?

My Thoughts
I do have some knowledge of the struggle of miners and the difficulties they faced, especially before the unions and other organizations began to take shape earlier in the twentieth century.  My grandfather was a nickel miner in Sudbury, and anyone studying French would probably have come across Germinal by Emile Zola.  And of course, there are the films, such as October Sky, which depict some of the struggles that miners faced in their day to day lives.

Call Me Kate deals with a subject that I was uniquely unfamiliar with, however, the struggle of Irish immigrant miners, many of whom did not have American citizenship, who were forced to draft into the army during the Civil War.  It also dealt with the day-to-day struggles of women who lost their spouses in mining accidents or their spouses or sons who were hurt to the point where they could no longer work and the families came near to starvation as the mining organizations did little to help these people out. 

Katie is a character with whom I could readily identify.  She is brave, bold, confident, and determined to help her family in their struggles no matter what.  She is also very funny, and I particularly enjoyed the scene where she thought the neighbour was coming over to ask for her hand in marriage, but actually came to hire her as a maid; it made me laugh out loud at her plight.  Her intent to infiltrate an Irish organization to prevent bloodshed could have harmed her entire family, and I had to admire her pluck and courage as she did what she had to do to prevent close friends from getting hurt or from going to prison.  She is an admirable person for young girls to model.

I enjoyed this story as I really had no idea many of the people from the North were so adamant against the war, but then my knowledge of the Civil War is limited to what I have read in books or in trips to Gettysburg and Fort Sumter.  I think this is a great way to communicate to younger children what conditions were like during the war without completely scaring them, yet getting across the message that times were difficult.  The story is easy to follow and offers easy descriptions and intrigues for the younger mind to follow and keep engaged.  I read it to my son and he found it interesting and descriptive, to the point where he had many questions.  We had many a lively discussion on the Civil War and the plight of miners (and the recent tragedy of the Chilean miners helped fuel this sudden interest in miners). 

Call Me Kate was an interesting and informative novel, not overly infused with blood and gore so as not to scare the reader, but still manages to get the message across about how difficult the life of an Irish immigrant miner was during this time period.   It would make a great addition to any young person's library.

Molly Roe is the pen name of Mary Garrity Slaby, a veteran language arts and reading teacher.  She holds a Ph.D. in education from Temple University.  She has pursued the hobby of geneaology for the past decade.  Digging into the past has given Mary a newfound respect for her ancestors and a better understanding of history.  Call Me Kate is the first in the author's trilogy of historical novels loosely based on the lives of the strong women who preceded her.

To visit with Molly, go to:



Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Hex Hall (Hex Hall, Book 1)
by Rachel Hawkins
Release Date: March 2, 2010
2010 Hyperion Books
Hardcover Edition; 327 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-4231-2130-5
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Source: Local Library

5 / 5 Stars

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

My Thoughts
I have always been intrigued by the paranormal, in particular witches and ghosts, so it came as no surprise that I would be thrilled to get my hands on a copy of Hex Hall.  And I was not disappointed in the least.  In fact, I read it straight through in one sitting, thoroughly enjoying the antics of its lead character, Sophie Mercer, as she tries to figure out who is killing all the young witches at Hex Hall.

Hecate Hall, most popularly known to the students as Hex Hall, is a reform school for young paranormals who have difficulty controlling their powers.  Sophie, having been sent there for a spell gone wrong on prom night, is surprised by the paranormals she will soon be sharing her quarters with, including the young vampire with whom she will be sharing a room.  I found Sophie to be charming and delightful, full of surprises and very quirky.  I loved her humour and found myself laughing out loud at some of the things she said and did.  I also found her quite naive, and because I could identify with her quite easily, her shocks became my shocks as well.  Connecting with a character is very important to me, and I could feel her pain as she learned so many revelations about her father and her family from a source other than her mother.  I was also proud of her that she remained so strong despite everything she had to go through, and I have to admire her loyalty to her friends.   I enjoyed watching her grow and develop and begin taking charge of situations although she did not see herself as a leader at all.  Naturally, because of her strong personality, she soon had run-ins with the popular crowd which included three very powerful witches who wanted her to join their coven, something Sophie was very reluctant to do, however much she wanted to be powerful.  Her sarcastic wit is priceless and so very, very funny!

Although the plot could have been formulaic, the antics of its characters, and the surprising twists and turns, kept it from being plodding and predictable, to being interesting and great fun.  I have to admit that I was surprised by some of the revelations in the ending, and although far from conclusive, kept me on my toes, paying attention to what was going on so I wouldn't miss anything.  For those who like to have it all, Hex Hall certainly delivers in that capacity as you will find romance, love, suspense, teenage angst and heartbreak, mystery, suspense, and surprising twists and turns. 

Ms. Hawkins definitely has a very lyrical style of writing that draws the reader into her very interesting and fun world.  I enjoyed this novel and the characters tremendously and am definitely looking forward to the release of Demonglass in March 2011, where Sophie's adventures will continue. 
Saturday, October 23, 2010

Review: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

by Kiersten White
Release Date: August 31, 2010
2010 Harper Teen
Hardcover Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-198584-3
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Source: Local Library

Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie's always thought of herself as normal.  Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, and she's the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours, but still. Normal

Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie's dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies.  She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths.  Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

My Thoughts
I absolutely loved this book.  I deliberately stayed away from any reviews on this as I knew I was going to read it, but I couldn't help but see some of the fantastic comments anyways on some of the blogs.  As a result, I had some high expectations going into this book, expectations that were absolutely met.  There was enough suspense, romance, thrills, excitement, and twists to keep me interested from beginning to end.

Evie is a wonderful character and I adored her.  She was funny, courageous, interesting, and sensitive, and I loved how she flouted the rules, but still felt guilty about doing that.  She was completely addicted to this television show called Easton Heights, as it was the only connection she had to the outside world, and she was always comparing those she met and those things she did to the show, something I found hilarious and touching at the same time.  She often acts like a normal teenager, even going so far as to name her pink weapons, although the job she does is so very far from normal.  A routine bag and tag of a vampire almost gets Evie killed one night, and event that makes her realize that her world is much larger than she thought and makes her question concepts and ideas she once took for granted.  I really enjoyed watching Evie grow and develop throughout the novel, learning the concepts with her as she copes with an outside world she is totally unprepared to deal with. 

The other characters in the novel, particularly Lend and Reth whom I really enjoyed, were original and very quirky, giving the novel a very delightful feel.  I like how all of the paranormals were incorporated into Evie's daily life and how they meshed into the real world.  And I really liked how even Evie was scared of some of them, like the hags.  Learning about Lend's family was really enjoyable, and I would have loved to have learned more about his mother as she sounds so interesting.

The plot itself was fantastic and pretty much had everything in it you would want: amazing friendships, budding romance that made me take a few trips down memory lane to my own high school days, loving families (I enjoyed the give and take relationship Evie had with Raquel, her substitute mom, as she tried to deal with her feelings for her), great character development, amazing new world, and the them too.  And Lend, what can I say about him except that I wished I had one when I was a teenager.  Sigh!!! 

Paranormalcy was completely enjoyable, and very appropriate for any age group.  I really couldn't find anything wrong with this novel other than the fact that I found it a bit too young adult, and the characters were more than a little perfect.  I really enjoyed Reth because he was a little dangerous and I seem to be attracted to the dark and dangerous ones more or maybe I just like my characters with that little dark edge to them, while Evie and Lend just seem 'good'.  I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a lighter young adult fantasy read.
Friday, October 22, 2010

It's Time to Hop!!!

It's time for Book Blogger Hop!!!

Jennifer @ Crazy for Books hosts this great weekly meme that helps you connect with other book bloggers every week and gives you a chance to discover new blogs.  And it gives you an opportunity to discuss one of your favourite subjects, BOOKS!  I know as a book lover, I can discourse about different books for hours on end, probably boring others around me who are not interested in the subject.  Here, you can find hundreds of people who are more than willing to discuss the subject for days on end, and I love that!

Weekly Question: "Where is your favorite place to read? Curled up on the sofa, in bed, in the garden?"

Answer: I can pretty much read anywhere, and I have a book on the go in every room in my house (yes, even in the bathroom!).  If I had to choose however, it would be on the floor, in front of the fireplace, curled up in a blanket, with a cup of tea, and some snacks.  I also like to read in bed when I first wake up in the morning as I find it peaceful.  I don't like to read in bed before sleeping as I have a hard time putting a book down, but I can do that in the morning for some reason. 

I am looking forward to checking out everyone else's favourite reading spots.  So, join in on the fun, and hop, hop, hop!!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

WOW: The Guardians and The Human Blend

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine.  This weekly meme features upcoming releases that we are looking forward to reading and highlights their release dates for others who may not be as familiar with some of the books.  It's also a great way to check out other books that other readers have discovered are being released.

The Human Blend (Tipping Point Trilogy, Book 1)
by Alan Dean Foster
Release Date: November 23, 2010

Given his name because radical surgery and implants have reduced him to preternatural thinness, Whispr is a thug. His partner in crime, Jiminy Cricket, has also been physically altered with nanocarbonic prosthetic legs and high-strength fast-twitch muscle fibers that give him great jumping abilities. In a dark alley in Savannah, Whispr and Jiminy murder what they take to be a random tourist in order to amputate and then fence his sophisticated artificial hand. But the hapless victim also happens to be carrying an unusual silver thread that appears to be some kind of storage medium. Ever quick to scent potential profit, Whispr and Jiminy grab the thread as well.

Chance later deposits a wounded Whispr at the clinic of Dr. Ingrid Seastrom. Things have not gone smoothly for Whispr since he acquired the mysterious thread. Powerful forces are searching for him, and Jiminy has vanished. All Whispr wants to do is sell the thread as quickly as he can. When he offers to split the profits with Ingrid in exchange for her medical services, she makes an astonishing discovery.

So begins a unique partnership. Unlike Whispr, Ingrid is a natural, with no genetic or bodily alteration. She is also a Harvard-educated physician, while Whispr's smarts are strictly of the street variety. Yet together they make a formidable team - as long as they can elude the enhanced assassins that are tracking them.

The Guardians
by Andrew Pyper
Release Date: January 4, 2011

There's no such thing as an empty house...

Trevor, Randy, Ben and Carl grew up together in the small town of Grimshaw as many boys do - playing hockey and forging friendships that run deep. Twenty-four years later, when Ben commits suicide, the three remaining friends gather once again in their hometown. But going home means going back, and that's not always easy. The three men are forced to confront their memories of a sinister crime that happened in an abandoned house in their neighbourhood - a crime that claws its way into the present, leaving its indelible mark on everyone.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review: The Jumbee by Pamela Keyes

The Jumbee
by Pamela Keyes
Release Date: October 19, 2010
2010 Dial Books
Softcover Edition; 400 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3313-8
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

When Esti Legard starts theater school on Cariba, she's determined to step out of the shadow of her late father, a famous Shakespearean actor. But on an island rife with superstition, Esti can't escape the darkness. In the black of the theater, an alluring phantom voice - known only as Alan - becomes her brilliant drama tutor, while in the light of day Esti struggles to resist her magnetic attraction to Rafe, the local bad boy. Toppled sets, frightening rumors of jumbee ghosts, and brewing tropical storms culminate in a tantalizingly spooky finale where romance sizzles and truths are unmasked.

My Thoughts
I am one of those people who is thoroughly and absolutely addicted and fascinated by The Phantom of the Opera.  I actually first read the novel in French many years ago for a French Literature course (Le Fantome de l'Opera par Gaston Leroux) and then came the theatrical production, and of course, the film.  So when I received The Jumbee to review, loosely based on the ideas of The Phantom of the Opera, I was more than happy to delve into another twisted love triangle.

The Jumbee is set on the beautiful tropical island of the West Indies, but still retains the flavour of the original work by having many of its scenes occurring in a theater.  I'm not sure if anything can match the famous Opera de Paris (Palais Garnier), but with the theater being part of an old plantation house where slaves were tortured and beaten to death and is said to be haunted, definitely gave the setting that haunted feeling that is needed for a novel such as this.  The many myths and legends surrounding the island also helped to give the novel its mystical allure.  I just don't believe it was enough to carry off a novel that is going to be compared to The Phantom of the Opera, with its underground lake system, and double walls that allow for a series of mischiefs.  In The Jumbee, we have hurricanes occurring out of season, ocean waters, downpours, poisonous trees, and other such nuissances that create problems for the protagonists. 

Although I enjoyed the novel, and found the descriptions of the island and the theater to be fascinating, I just wasn't convinced of the ardour between Alan and Esti as I felt something was missing all of the time.  I didn't feel the connection that she felt to Alan, although I did feel pity and sadness for him, and I couldn't relate to her feelings about him, so I felt distant from her a lot of the time.  Although I understood her attraction to him when he spoke the Shakesperean texts to her, I didn't understand how that transferred into this all-consuming love for him so quickly and so suddenly, especially as how she didn't, and couldn't, touch him or see him. What I could relate to, however, was her feelings for Rafe Solomon, as he seemed more real and human.  I adored Rafe, with his powerful emotions and all of his flaws.  I also wished I learned more about Esti's father as it always seemed like we were given little tidbits of information but little else afterwards and I felt let down at the end as I don't think I really understood why Esti acted the way she did in the last year of his life.  Perhaps if Esti's character had been developed a little more, her thoughts and actions would have made more sense to me. 

The cast surrounding Esti and all of her friends were quite unique and I enjoyed them tremendously, even Ma, who wasn't exactly nice to Esti.  Alan's character was a lot of fun to read about, even if I didn't understand the love relationship, but he certainly gave the people of Cariba some interesting gossip and fed the tales of the jumbee, the ghosts that haunt the island.  And although he wasn't always nice to people, he was the most interesting when it came to character development.  

The Jumbee was an interesting read, with a definite Caribbean flavour.  I always like reading books where I learn some of the history about the places in the novel, and it made me realize I am somewhat lacking in my knowledge of the slave trade in the West Indies and need a refresher course.   And I couldn't help comparing it to The Phantom of the Opera, which was perhaps unfair as well as Ms. Keyes definitely weaves the superstitions of a Caribbean culture with an old tale into a unique story, with enough suspense and mystery to keep any reader interested. 
Monday, October 18, 2010

Upcoming Releases - October 18 - 24

Another week of great books releasing that I really want to read.  I don't think I will ever reduce that TBR pile, EVER!!!!!!    As soon as I finish three books, I add about ten to the list and if that grows exponentionally, well...I am basically out of luck when it comes to taming the pile.  But, even after all these years, I still get a thrill when I walk into the library or bookstore and see those new releases on the shelves and I can't help but get excited when I pick up a new book.  My husband calls it an addiction, I call it a passion.

Crescendo (Hush, Book 2)
by Becca Fitzpatrick
Release Date: October 19, 2010

Nora should have know her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The farther Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim blood line has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?

Nightshade (Witches' War, Book 1)
by Andrea Cremer
Release Date: October 19, 2010

Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she'll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters' laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything - including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?

The Templar Salvation (Last Templar, Book 2)
by Raymond Khoury
Release Date: October 19, 2010

Constantinople, 1203: As the rapacious armies of the Fourth Crusade lay siege to the city, a secretive band of Templars infiltrate the imperial library. Their target: a cache of documents that must not be allowed to fall into the hands of the Doge of Venice. They escape with three heavy chests, filled with explosive secrets that these men will not live long enough to learn. Vatican City, present day: FBI agent Sean Reilly infiltrates the Pope's massive Vatican Secret Archives of the Inquisition. No one but the Pope's trusted secondi get in-but Reilly has earned the Vatican's trust, a trust he has no choice but to violate. His love, Tess Chaykin, has been kidnapped; the key to her freedom lays in this underground tomb, in the form of a document known as the Fondo Templari, a secret history of the infamous Templars...

Forge (Chains, Book 2)
by Laurie Halse Anderson
Release Date: October 19, 2010

The Patriot Army was shaped and strengthened by the desperate circumstances of the Valley Forge winter. This is where Curzon the boy becomes Curzon the young man. In addition to the hardships of soldiering, he lives with the fear of discovery, for he is an escaped slave passing for free. And then there is Isabel, who is also at Valley Forge - against her will. She and Curzon have to sort out the tangled threads of their friendship while figuring out what stands between the two of them and true freedom.

A Girl, A Ghost and the Hollywood Hills
by Lizabeth Zandel
Release Date: October 19, 2010

When Holly's mother dies unexpectedly, she thinks things can't get much worse. But then her dad starts dating again. And his new girlfriend is Holly's aunt - her mom's sister! Aunt Claudia is known in Hollywood as the Queen of B Movies. Horror films, zombie flicks, she's made them all. Holly never liked her aunt, but now she positively can't stand her. Especially once the ghost of her mother appears and tells Holly that Claudia was to blame for her death.

The Jumbee
by Pamela Keyes
Release Date: October 19, 2010

When Esti Legard starts theater school on Cariba, she's determined to step out of the shadow of her late father, a famous Shakespearean actor. But on an island rife with superstition, Esti can't escape the darkness. In the black of the theater, an alluring phantom voice - known only as Alan - becomes her brilliant drama tutor, while in the light of day Esti struggles to resist her magnetic attraction to Rafe, the local bad boy. Toppled sets, frightening rumors of jumbee ghosts, and brewing tropical storms culminate in a tantalizingly spooky finale where romance sizzles and truths are unmasked.

Merlin's Dragon (Merlin's Dragon, Book 3)
by T.A. Barron
Release Date: October 19, 2010

Avalon is on the verge of total destruction: an army of warriors, a swarm of fire dragons, and a lethal plague are all laying waste to Merlin's beloved land. But Merlin is nowhere to be found. Leading the fight in his place is Basil, the once tiny lizard who is now the most powerful dragon in Avalon.

But to restore peace, the mastermind behind this chaos, Doomraga, will need to be discovered and destroyed before his power grows stronger and Avalon and its inhabitants are beyond saving. For Basil to triumph, he and his friends may need to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Violence 101
by Denis Wright
Release Date: October 19, 2010

Fourteen year-old Hamish doesn't simply do terrible things, he is committed to the belief that violence is the solution to the obstacles in life. But Hamish is also extremely smart, and extremely self-aware. And he considers everyone around him—the other institutionalized boys, his teachers and wardens, the whole world—as sheep, blindly following society's rules, unaware of what really dictates our existence. Hamish's heroes, like Alexander the Great, understood that violence drives us all.

Through mesmerizing journal entries, Violence 101 paints a disturbing yet utterly compelling picture of an extremely bright, extremely misguided adolescent who must navigate a world that encourages aggressive behavior at every turn, but then struggles to help a young man who doesn't know where to draw the line between appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

by Linda Gerber
Release Date: October 19, 2010

Ashlyn Greenfield has always known when bad things are going to happen. Each time that familiar tingling at the back of her neck begins, she knows what's to come, a trance. She's pulled in, blindsided, an unwilling witness to a horrible upcoming event. But she's never been able to stop it. Not even when the vision was of her mother's fatal car accident. When soulful Jake enters Ashlyn's life, she begins having trances about another car accident. And as her trances escalate, one thing becomes clear: it's up to her to save Jake from near-certain death.

It's Monday!!!

This has been a crazy week this past week!  I had progress reports due, plus parent-teacher interviews, and then a workshop on Friday.  Somewhere in there, I still had to be a parent and drive my kiddies to their dentist appointment and to their karate classes.  I sometimes wonder how I manage to get everything accomplished every day (oh, yeah, I don't!!!).  I feel like some days I am living by the skin of my teeth (has anyone else noticed what a weird expressions that really is?), but it's so true.  Any other parents feeling the same way right now?

Don't get me wrong, as I absolutely love my life right now and I really wouldn't change a thing (except for winning the lottery!!)  And I am very blessed with two amazing kids, and a loving husband who usually understands where I am coming from.  I just wish some days I could just let go and do nothing, you know?  No worrying about the dishes in the sink, the lunches that need to be made, the four loads of laundry that need to be folded, the floor that needs to be swept, and the list goes on.  I had this discussion at work with a couple of girlfriends the other day, and sometimes we have a hard time just letting things go and RELAXING! 

I was looking at condos today just for fun, and I had this fantasy of living in a small place that I could clean in less than one hour.  It seemed like heaven, until one of the people I was chatting with reminded me that there was nowhere to put the kids.  Back to earth I came and I realized that despite everything, I could always kick the kids outside with dad, and go have a hot bath, read a good book, have a cup of tea, and relax.  That's where I'm heading now!  Heaven!!!

It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by the amazing Sheila over at Book Journey.  It's a great place to connect with other readers and bloggers, and to check out what everyone is currently reading, has read, or is planning on reading.  Head on over to Sheila's blog and check it out.  You may even win a prize if you play along!

What I read last week:

DragonArt Evolution: How to Draw Everything Dragon by J. "NeonDragon" Peffer - All of us were fascinated by this book that teaches you how to draw dragons properly.  The drawings were interesting and easy to follow.

Dust City by Robert Paul Weston - I loved, loved, loved this book. I really hope there will be a sequel.

Nevermore by Kelly Creagh - I am a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe, which is one of things that attracted me to this interesting tale.  I enjoyed it tremendously and can't wait for book 2 in this supposed trilogy.

What I am currently reading:

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova - I am close to finishing.  This one took quite a while, but I love it.

The Jumbee by Pamela Keyes - An interesting twist on The Fantom of the Opera.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White - Love this book already. I was on the waiting list at the library and did not expect to get it this soon. 

The Outlaw Demon Wails (Book 6) by Kim Harrison (Audiobook) - I don't usually enjoy audiobooks, but am thoroughly enjoying this one.  I have been listening to this in the car on the way to work and find myself actually looking forward to it every day.  Weird!

What I am planning to read next:

Eon by Alison Goodman -  I snuck in a few chapters already, so I know I am going to enjoy this one.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly - I can't wait to read this one as I really love books that jump back and forth through time. 
Sunday, October 17, 2010

Review: Dragonart Evolution: How to Draw Everything Dragon

Dragonart Evolution: How to Draw Everything Dragon
by J. "NeonDragon" Peffer
Release Date: August 19, 2010
2010 Impact Books
Softcover Edition; 144 Pages
ISBN-13: 978-1-4403-0252-7
ISBN-10: 1-4403-0252-9
Source: Review Copy From Publisher

Magnificent and powerful creatures, these dragons be, with bone-crushing jaws and razor-sharp teeth, it's difficult to tell whether you're dealing with a hotheaded nature or a wise and benevolent beast.  Therein lies the trouble with drawing them both from life.  Make your dragon portraits more authentic (while avoiding loss of life and limbs) with the help of this guide.  A follow-up to the fiercely popular DragonArt, this book features ALL NEW dragons and EVEN MORE detailed dragon anatomy instruction.

My Thoughts
I was very impressed with DragonArt Evolution: How to Draw Everything Dragon and have had a difficult time doing this review simply because I haven't been able to get this book out of my son's hands.  He basically appropriated the book as soon as it arrived, and it took me quite a while to track it down so I could have a chance to look it over and try some of the art techniques myself.  My compromise with my very stubborn 10 year-old son was to sit down with him and draw some dragons together.  And boy, did we ever have a blast!

First of all, the book is full of beautiful drawings of dragons and I was more than happy to thumb through the pages, exploring the drawings of all of the different types of dragons.  They were colourful, vibrant, and beautiful, allowing your imagination to soar.  My son and I spent some time imagining some stories to go with the dragons.  I definitely have a budding storywriter on my hands (if I can ever get him to pick up a pencil for things other than schoolwork, that is!). 

I had always enjoyed sketching and drawing when I was younger, and do have a collection of drawing books from my younger days, although I really haven't touched them in years.  I had a lot of fun trying the step-by-step instructions and demonstrations that were given in this book.  And it was easy to follow as the book is separated into sections that make drawing fun.   The Introduction included things like drawing basic dragon shapes, dragon shading and 3-D effects, colour and pattern considerations, and perspective and overlap, all with easy to follow instructions and information.  Part 1 discussed how to draw the individual dragon parts while part 2 talked about how to put it all together and draw complete dragons.  She even included a very interesting, but far too short, demonstration on digital painting.

DragonArt Evolution: How to Draw Everything Dragon includes a lot of elements for the new or intermediate artist to draw many different types of dragons, and have fun doing it.  What I especially like about this book is how the artist encourages other artists to be creative and to mix and match things to create new things.  She definitely encourages fledging artists to be brave in their artwork and to try new things.  As a mom, I am definitely in favour of that type of philosophy and look forward to watching my children develop their artistic skills, and their imaginations, as they pore over this book.
Saturday, October 16, 2010

Giveaway: Extraordinary and The Julian Game

Dear Readers,

In an earlier contest, I had both of these books up for grabs, but the winner already had both of them and asked to choose another book instead from Book Depository.  As a result, I am giving away both of these books again to another lucky reader.

The Julian Game (ARC) by Adele Griffin
Extraordinary (ARC) by Nancy Werlin

Giveaway Rules:

Open to U.S. and Canada residents only.

Ends November 5, 2010 at midnight.

MANDATORY ENTRY:  Post a comment, including your email address, about this contest.

Extra Entries: Please leave a separate one for each entry.
1) Are a follower of my blog via Google Friend Connect (1 entry)
2) Are a follower via Twitter (1 entry)
3) Follow via email or RSS Feed (1 entry)
4) Tweet about the contest (1 entry)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Giveaway: STRIDE Everyday Panty

STRIDE Everyday!

Like any new mom when I first discovered I was pregnant, I was over the moon full of happiness, totally content with the way my body would grow and develop as the baby developped.  I don't really think anyone is prepared for the shock of a tiny little baby, inside a womb, kicking and punching the way mine did, keeping me awake at night, and landing some pretty nasty kicks right on the bladder.  Then you think, when the baby is born, everything will go right back to normal, right?  No more leaks when sneezing, no more having to squeeze the legs shut when you have to laugh or cough, longing for the days when you can jump or run again in freedom.

Imagine the shock when you have the baby and then you realize that things may not go back exactly the way they were before you had your baby.  And then you have another child (like me).  And then you have a third or possibly a fourth child (not like me).  So what is a mom to do?  Up until now, the only option was to live with tampons or pantyliners for the rest of your life, and help contribute to the landfills, or no more running, jumping, sneezing, coughing...I'm sure you get the drift.

Luckily for many women out there, Wendy Spencer was surprised to discover she had problems with light incontinence during her pregnancy (although not lucky that she discovered she was incontinent).  Unable to find any comfortable or discreet ways to deal with the problem, she founded Berkshire Axis Innovations, a company committed to discovering new ways to make the 1 in 4 women who suffer from incontinence feel more comfortable.  Using a patented new technology, OQUOS, this unique fabric had the potential to be woven right into women's underwear in order to act as a pantyliner.  Thus, STRIDE Everyday was born.  

When I was first contacted by STRIDE Everyday to review a pair of their revolutionay underwear, I couldn't help but picture "granny panties" in my mind.  And I know my husband had a good chuckle when I told him what I was reviewing as he couldn't picture something with that kind of technology to be anywhere near sexy.  Well, I was pleasantly surprised by what I received.  And they were sexy enough for my husband too!!!  Luckily, I am not one of those women who suffer from incontinence, but I can certainly see the advantages of this panty.  I tried them out while exercising, and they worked wonderfully and were extremely comfortable.  There was no sweat odours after the workout, and when I washed them, they looked as new as when I first pulled them out of the pretty little box in which they came.

STRIDE Everyday panty was comfortable and came in pretty, feminine colours.  You can get them in nude, dusty rose, dusty blue or black.  You can choose from a variety of types that suit your own personal style as well as a variety of colours that come with each style, colours that will appeal to any woman.  They range in price from $19.99 to $24.99  And for the men who would like something to lick away moisture, or those little leaks they do not like to discuss, STRIDE Homme was released in August 2010. 

STRIDE Everyday was also featured in Shape magazine in September 2010 as an editor's pick.

Overall, I was very satisfied with the panty I received.  It was comfortably, cute, and seamless, and I now prefer it over my regular underwear when I am working out.  I am definitely going to be purchasing more panties from STRIDE Everyday.


STRIDE Everyday has generously given one lucky reader the chance to win 1 pair of STRIDE Everyday panties in their choice of size, colour, and style.

Ends November 3, 2010 at midnight

Open to Canada and U.S. residents

MANDATORY ENTRY:  Visit STRIDE Everyday and tell me which style panty you would choose and which colour you would prefer.

EXTRA ENTRIES:  Please leave a separate comment for each entry.
1) Follow me on Google Friend Connect. (1 entry)
2) Subscribe by email or reader. (1 entry)
3) Follow me on Twitter. (1 entry)
4) Tweet about this giveaway - "Win a pair of STRIDE Everyday panties @ Curling Up By The Fire -" (1 entry per day)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review: Dust City by Robert Paul Weston

Dust City
by Robert Paul Weston
Release Date: September 30, 2010
2010 Puffin Canada
Softcover Edition; 300 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-670-06396-7
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

5 / 5 Stars

The son of the famed Red Riding Hood Killer unlocks the grim secrets of Dust City - and his father's past.

Henry Whelp is a big bad wolf - or will be, someday.  The only son of the infamous Red Riding Hood Killer, Henry is worried that he may be following in his father's violent footsteps.  He tries to distance himself from his past, and avoids the other teens at St. Remus Home for Wayward Youth, a dentention centre in Dust City - a rundown, gritty metropolis known of its production of fairydust.  But when Henry's psychiatrist turns up dead, Henry finds himself on a trail of clues that may lead to proof of his father's innocence - and the horrifying secret behind fairydust.

My Thoughts
I had no idea what to expect when I was asked to review this book, but it has quickly become a favourite of mine this year.  Henry lives in Dust City and wants nothing to do with dust, the mind-altering substance that is being created by the thaumaturgical companies now that the faeries have all disappeared and the real dust has disappeared with them.  But while the original dust gave people great gifts of joy and benevolence, and the gift of healing, the created dust has done something to the city and its people, creating an urgent need that can be felt in the underbelly of the city.

As Henry delves deeper into the truth behind the synthetic dust, he learns some horrifying secrets and the reasons to his dad's imprisonment.  These truths and secrets send Henry on a whirlwind path through Dust City and to the special city, Eden, where only those who are human may live. 

What I loved about this book is how the fairy tale world was brought into the mainstream and integrated so fully into the plotline.  I had to laugh at the scenes with Jack and his beans, the mention of Detective White (meaning Snow White) who can kick some serious butt, and Richard, a character from The Princess and the Frog, turns back into the creature he originally was.  The characters were so creative and unique and I couldn't wait to see who else would be brought into the story.  The incorporation of Little Red Riding Hood and Grandma and their demise was priceless and I love how this story was woven into the main story.  I just can't say enough about how original this was. 

The author acknowledges that one of his inspirations for this book was a volume he read based on the Grimms' Fairy Tales, and if you have ever read the original Grimms' stories you know they are definitely not lighthearted fun.  That being said, this novel does have its edgier moments and is definitely gritty.   Henry has some difficult times ahead of him in his fight to discover the truth and must use all of his courage to fight back.  There were definitely some dark moments in this novel, and some younger children may find some of the scenes uncomfortable.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and was hooked right from the beginning.  I have always enjoyed the darker fairytales of the Brothers Grimm (I love Edgar Allan Poe too, so what does that say about my mind, eh?) so I was fascinated by the underlying grittiness that existed in this book.  The ending was satisfactory, but was my no means conclusive, which gives me hope that a sequel may be in the works.  I really hope so as I would love to read more about Henry, Fiona, and the other wonderful characters in this amazing novel. 

Giveaway: Gift Certificate to CSN Stores

Giveaway!  $45 Gift Certificate to CSN Stores!!

I love shopping at CSN Stores and often have a difficult time choosing the product that I want.  With over 200 stores to choose from, it's no wonder people spend hours browsing their online stores.  I have pored over decor items for my house, and don't even get me started on the shelving units I want for my many books.  Here are a couple of items I have purchased in the past few months:

Nexxt 7 Piece Tetra Cube Shelf Set

Infinity Instruments Leaves and Medallions Wall Sculpture in Sage Patina


One of my lucky readers is going to receive a $45 GC to CSN Stores.
All you have to do to enter is leave a comment with your email address.  Contest is open to US and Canada residents only.  Contest closes on November 1st at 12 midnight.

Good luck!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Review: Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

by Kelly Creagh
Release Date: August 31, 2010
2010 Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Hardcover Edition; 543 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-4424-0200-3
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

5 / 5 Stars

Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due - so unfair - on the day of the rival game.  Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he'd rather not have anything to do with her either.  But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can't help but give this enigmatic boy with piercing eyes another look.

Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen.  Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.

As her world begins to unraven around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind.  Now she must find a way to read Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.

My Thoughts
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was captured by the haunting evocation of Edgar Allan Poe's work as it was deftly woven thoughout the novel.  While the novel has all the elements of a YA novel, it goes far beyond that as it weaves nightmares and dreams amongst the story so that you are instantly caught up in the nightmarish qualities of the story.

First of all, I have always been a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe, one of the primary reasons I was drawn to this novel in the first place and as people are obssessed with Jack the Ripper and what happened to him, I have always been interested in what could have possibly happened to Poe.  I love how Ms. Creagh weaves his uncertain demise into this novel and blends his work into Isobel and Varen's story.

While I wasn't crazy about many of the characters at the beginning of the novel, they sort of grew on me as the novel developped.  I found Isobel to be a stereotypical cheerleader at the beginning, but discovered there was a side to her that was different from the others, one who stood up for people, one who was sympathetic and vulnerable.  I liked her courage and her determination to do what she thought was right, despite what others thought she should do.  I adored Varen and would have loved to have learned more about him.  I found I was given tidbits of information here and there about his life, just tantalizing enough to want to learn more, but he was definitely a complex character, shaped by his home life and I was always eager to learn more.  He often ran hot and cold with Isobel, but she was able to overlook that and see straight through him to what he was truly feeling.  I enjoyed their developing relationship and was glad to see that they didn't immediately fall in love with each other or that it didn't become the main storyline.  I would have been disappointed if that was the case.

I enjoyed the paranormal elements in this novel, especially how Ms. Creagh brings out Poe's stories and poems and creates tension and dread.  The dreamworld that is created is unique and interesting, and anything can happen there. The part where Isobel is running through the park because she thinks she is being chased, and there are ravens surrounding her, gave me goosebumps. Who wouldn't think of the poem The Raven at a time like this?  I would love to get my hands on this Reynolds character and know more about him and how he can help Isobel and Varen. I could have gladly given Reynolds a shake if it would have answered any more of my questions.  It shows how deeply I connected with the characters that I felt that way.   If I have any complaints about Nevermore, it would be over the ending as it was definitely left open for the planned sequel and it will be difficult to wait to see what happens to everyone.  There is no closure or tidy ending in this novel.

Nevermore was a fascinating read with many different paranormal elements that will keep any reader interested.  The romance between Isobel and Varen, although it explodes with sexual tension, never really goes beyond that and is good clean fun.  The dark elements, twisted with the works of Edgar Allan Poe has made reading fascinating and fun, interjecting a rather unique twist to a unique story.  It has rather effectively sent me back to my shelves in search of my Great Works of Edgar Allan Poe for some re-reading.  I am looking forward to the next novel in this planned trilogy, and anyone who loves a unique paranormal novel (with some romance) will enjoy this one too.