Monday, January 31, 2011

A-Z Reading Challenge

I promised myself that I wouldn't join another challenge, but I am joining my last one today.  This time it's absolutely final, except for maybe the mini-challenges that keep kicking around once in a while that are fun and interesting to do.  This one is hosted by The Thoughts of a Book Junky

All you have to do is read 26 books this year, which sounds pretty easy for fanatical book bloggers like ourselves, one for each letter of the alphabet.

Here's how to enter:
* Make a post with your list of 26 books and fill out the entry form.
* If you don't have a blog don't worry.. you can post your list on Facebook, Goodreads or anywhere else you prefer...just add your link to where you posted your list!!

When you have posted your link, you are now eligible to start winning some prizes.
Here's my list:
A - Across the Universe by Beth Revis
B - Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers
C - Chime by Franny Billingsley
D - Delirium by Lauren Oliver or Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton
E - Echo by Jack McDavitt
F - First Grave on the Right - Darynda Jones
G - Goddess Test by Aimee Walker
H - Haven by Kristi Cook
I - I Am Number Four by Lore Pittacus
J - Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey
K - Kat, Incorrigble by Stephanie Burgis
L - Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
M - Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
N - Never Eighteen by Megan Boshe
O - Once A Witch by Carolyn MacCallough
P - Poison Study by Maria Snyder
Q - Queen of the Dead by Stacey Kade
R - Ruby Red by Kierstin Gier
S - Sudden Moves by Kelli Sue Landon
T - Timeless by Alexandra Monir
U - Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
V - Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
W - Wither by Lauren DeStefano
X - XVI by Julia Karr
Y - You Had Me At Halo by Amanda Ashby

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Hello my lovely readers!  I'm finally reading again now that exams are finished and I can now focus on preparing for second semester.  It's a great feeling having everything completed and knowing I have a few days to relax.  It doesn't mean there isn't a lot to do as I have a couple of challenging courses to teach again next semester, but at least there is no marking to get in the way of preparation and reports are done.  I am looking forward to some quiet evenings sitting on the couch and immersing myself in some much needed literature.  Hard to believe it's almost February already, though!  Wow! 

Oh, apparently there's another huge snowstorm heading our way as well so what else is there to do other than sit in front of the fire and read!!!  Once we shovel everything out, that is!   There's our reminder that although we know spring is getting closer, winter's grip is not letting go too easily.

What I Managed to Read This Week:
By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan - This an engrossing tale based on real-life events (and people)of the Spanish Inquisition and the expulsion of the Jewish people. 

The Discovery of Socket Greeny by Tony Bertauski - Oh, how I love my new ereader.  A creative tale set in an alternate earth that provides a lot of twists and turns.  Review forthcoming.

Blood Spells (Final Prophecy, Book 5) by Jessica Andersen - I really enjoyed this fifth novel of the Nightkeepers series about the upcoming 2012 Mayan prophecy and the race to save the world.

What I am Currently Reading:
Subject Seven by James A. Moore - Interesting and disturbing at the same time.  I'm hooked and can't wait to finish.  I really like his adult novels so I was thrilled to discover he'd written a young adult novel.  I am almost finished and it looks like it's the first in a possible series.

Blue by Lou Aronica  - I an finding this tale quite interesting although I am not quite far enough into it to really know what is actually going on, although I'm getting a hint or two. I am finding the two alternating tales quite engrossing however.

The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston - I always enjoy books that jump back and forth through time so I am looking forward to finding out what happened in this 'witchly' tale.

Eternal Kiss of Darkness by Jeaniene Frost - This happened to be sitting next to me as I was having a snack so I started reading it and of course, I am already into chapter 3.  I can't leave well enough alone and go find a book I've already started.  I love this author!

What's Up Next:
Bride of New France by Suzanne Desroches
Matched by Ally Condie
The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card

Have a great reading week everyone!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review: Blood Spells by Jessica Andersen

Blood Spells (Final Prophecy, Book 5)
by Jessica Andersen
Release Date: November 2, 2010
2010 Signet Eclipse Books
Trade Paperback Edition; 451 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-451-23165-9
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Source: Review Copy from Penguin

4 / 5 Stars

Trained from birth to fight with fists and magic, Patience White-Eagle knows that she should focus on the coming war for souls.  But she isn't just a warrior - she's a wife and mother too, which leaves her loyalties divided between he Nightkeepers and her family.

Brandt White-Eagle broke the rules when he married Patience and fathered their twin sons - and now he's paying the price.  Torn between his magic and his marriage, and separated from his ancestors' wisdom by a curse he can't remove, Brandt is fighting to put his life back together.

When an ancient Aztec god-king arises, Patience and Brandt must set aside their problems and team up as a mated warrior pair.  But as they race to prevent the Nightkeepers' enemies from enacting a terrible ritual that could tear apart humanity, the threat turns even more personal, becoming a deadly test of their powers...and their love.

My Thoughts
I really enjoyed Blood Spells, the fifth book in a series about the upcoming global cataclysm - one that the Mayans predicted many years ago.  This novel is slightly different from the other novels in that it features Patience and Brandt, who are already mated and married, and the difficulties they have trying to make their marriage and the warrior aspects of their lives work together coherently, while the previous novels tended to deal with people who were single, met their mates and eventually, through trials and tribulations, found themselves together at the end.  As a mother and a wife, I think I identified with Patience and Brandt and their struggles a bit more than the others because I understand how difficult trying to make everything work together actually is.

What I have always enjoyed about this series, besides the magic and mayhem, is the interesting and fascinating use of Mayan history, culture, mythology, and folklore.  Many historical facts were intertwined with a demonic tale of intrigue that made this a fun novel to read and definitely hooked me right from the beginning. 

Patience is a character in whom I can easily identify.  She is a mother, a wife, and a warrior, with conflicting obligations and being pulled in many directions.  Watching her marriage collapse in front of her after her twin children were put into safekeeping, she went into a deep depression, little knowing how to reconnect with a husband whom she loves but from whom she was growing distant.  Because of this, the mated bond magic that is so necessary and important to their magic was growing weaker, causing weaknesses in their defenses they could ill afford.  The byplay between Patience and Brandt and how they learned to resolve their issues was interesting as these two people needed to learn how to trust each other to do their jobs, knowing they could rely on each other absolutely.  It was a perfect blend of romance, excitement, entertainment, suspense, tension, and friction that kept you reading and wanting to know more about what was going to happen.

I would recommend that you begin the series from the beginning, starting with Nightkeepers, before reading this novel however, as there is a lot going on in this novel and it is easy to become confused if you aren't already familiar with the series.  Ms. Andersen often makes references to events that have occurred in previous novels with the assumption that you already know what is going on and it can be confusing if you haven't already read them.

I really enjoyed Blood Spells and was captivated right from the beginning.  Ms. Andersen continues to expand on her extensive and complicated world in this novel, creating a novel that has plenty of romance and magic, with a demonic twist, suspense, action, and many twists and turns that will keep you flipping the pages in pure entertainment delight.  I love the supporting characters and look forward to reading their stories in each installment.  I am definitely looking forward to Reese and Dez' story in Storm Kissed coming in June 2011. 
Saturday, January 29, 2011

Review: By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan

By Fire, By Water
by Mitchell James Kaplan
Release Date: May 18, 2010
2010 Other Press LLC
Softcover Edition; 284 Pages
ISBN: 978-159051352-1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Luis de Santángel, chancellor to the court and longtime friend of the lusty King Ferdinand, has had enough of the Spanish Inquisition. As the power of Inquisitor General Tomás de Torquemada grows, so does the brutality of the Spanish church and the suspicion and paranoia it inspires. When a dear friend's demise brings the violence close to home, Santángel is enraged and takes retribution into his own hands. But he is from a family of conversos, and his Jewish heritage makes him an easy target. As Santángel witnesses the horrific persecution of his loved ones, he begins slowly to reconnect with the Jewish faith his family left behind. Feeding his curiosity about his past is his growing love for Judith Migdal, a clever and beautiful Jewish woman navigating the mounting tensions in Granada. While he struggles to decide what his reputation is worth and what he can sacrifice, one man offers him a chance he thought he'd lost.the chance to hope for a better world. Christopher Columbus has plans to discover a route to paradise, and only Luis de Santángel can help him.

My Thoughts
I am a huge fan of historical fiction and love learning about time periods of which I am not so familiar.  While I am very familiar with the Inquisition itself, and know quite about it in other parts of Europe, I have to admit that I am not as versed with the Spanish Inquisition, in particular, how the Jewish people were treated during this time period. 

Conversos were Jewish people who had converted to Christianity during these troubled times, but were often treated with suspicion and often brought in by the priests of the Church for questioning.  It was illegal to have any Jewish trappings in one's household, including Jewish books, vestments, candles, statues, and so on.  Any suspicion would be treated severely and could result in torture and death.  Luis de Santangel, the main character in the novel, is a third generation Converso, a close associate of King Ferdinand, with many ties to the throne and to many high ranking people the land, as well as chancellor of Aragon.  Yet, he is attracted to the Jewish faith and its teachings and secretly meets at night with a few others to discuss things he would not dare to discuss during the light of day.  When one of the men betrays one of the others, and that man is tortured and killed, Luis is afraid of what that man might have said to implicate him and the others.  Thus begins a long arduous path to discover the truth and clear his name.  Unfortunately, he has to undergo some personal losses and tragedies before everything comes to its conclusion.

I was totally fascinated by the events in this novel, shuddering at quite a few of them.  Mr. Kaplan writes with great skill in that he manages to convey the atrocious and horrifying events that some of the people went through without being overly graphic and bloody.  I actually think that made it worse for me as my imagination could picture the scenes so vividly I was overwhelmed at times.  The scenes when the Jewish people were evicted from Spain were just heartbreaking and so many men, women, and children were killed, or left to face a new life from the one which they have known for generations. 

While I admired Luis for how he dealt with some things, I didn't feel connected to his character like I did with some of the others such as his brother Estefan or Judith, whom I admired considerably.  While some scenes, like the one where he breaks the table after a certain event, I could understand and feel empathy, some of the scenes I felt disconnected, such as the one where he had to leave his son behind in the church.  You would think that such a scene would convey powerful emotions.  I know that I would be kicking and screaming the cell down before I would ever leave my child behind.  Is it a sign of the times that I just didn't understand, that Luis did what he had to do to protect his child, and the disconnectedness was his way of protecting himself?  It's hard to say, but maybe I'm more of a coward than he is.  I also thought Luis' son Gabriel was a bit spoiled and selfish, also a sign of the times?

Judith was an amazing woman who had to make some extraordinary choices in order to make her way in a man's world, and I admire her so much for what she did and the choices she made.  She is a woman I would have loved to sit down and share a cup of tea with and discuss love and life as she would be someone who would have something interesting to say. 

I loved the historical setting of this novel and would recommend By Fire, By Water to anyone who is interested in reading about powerful events that have shaped our current world and the people who have helped shape them.  Did I mention that Cristobal Colon is also a good friend of Santangel and plays an important role in this story?  By Fire, By Water is an excellent debut novel by Mitchell James Kaplan.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

WOW: Witches & Warlocks, Gotta Love 'Em!!

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine.  I get to share my excitement over some upcoming releases with you and hope you are interested.  Voila a few I am looking forward to this week:

The Emperor of Nihon-Ja (Ranger's Apprentice, Book 10)
by John Flanagan
Release Date: April 19, 2011

(This one is for my son who has been devouring these books.)

Months have passed since Horace departed for the eastern nation of Nihon-Ja on a vital mission. Having received no communication from him, his friends fear the worst. Unwilling to wait a second longer, Alyss, Evanlyn, and Will leave their homeland behind and venture into an exotic land in search of their missing friend.

When they finally catch up with him, they find Horace entangled in a military coup. Determined to protect the imperial throne, Will and his band of Araluens must piece together and train a force in order to fend off the master Senji warriors intent on overthrowing the emperor.

A Discovery of Witches
By Deborah Harkness
Release Date: February 8, 2010

A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell
Monday, January 24, 2011

Mini-Review: Time to Catch Up Reviews

Due to an extremely busy work schedule, I've decided this year to post mini-reviews on books that I read for pleasure, or worded differently, books that I've chosen myself and were not sent by a publisher or an author.  I found myself focusing too much on reviews books last year that I was relegating books that I really wanted to read to a TBR pile and regretted it.  So this year I will be reading at least one book for every two that I review from my own pile of books.  Here are some of those books:

I chose Ruined by Paula Morris because the idea of its being a ghost story set in New Orleans seemed rather intriguing.  Rebecca is sent to live in New Orleans for six months with her 'aunt' while her father travels to China on business and finds herself caught in the center of a mysterious curse that somehow involves her and her family, although she has no idea how or why.  Living in a creepy old house, attending an exclusive girls' academy, and surrounded by centuries of tradition, Rebecca is treated like an outsider and an outcast until she meets her one and only friend, a girl named Lisette, who also happens to be a ghost.  Thrust into scenarios she doesn't understand, everything meets one night as Rebecca finally realizes her life is in grave danger and she must unravel the secrets in order to survive.  This was an interesting story and I was fascinated by the culture and traditions of New Orleans as I love that city.  While the ending didn't quite live up to the hype and suspense that I thought it would and the ghost story was a little predictable, I found the characters quirky and fun, and the storyline to be interesting nonetheless.  I have always been a sucker for a ghost story!!

As usual, Buckingham Palace Gardens (Book 25, Thomas Pitt Series) by Anne Perry, delivered its usual twists and turns as Pitt, now working for Special Branch, tries to discover who murdered a prostitute after a party in Buckingham Palace with His Royal Highness.  Due to the sensitive nature of the case, and the involvement of the Prince, Pitt and Narraway are forced to use all of their resources and their skills to solve the sensitive case quickly.  I was a little disappointed that Charlotte's involvement in the story was almost at a minimum, but I adore Gracie and as she has matured and grown throughout the novels, her roles have become more daring and dangerous.  One of the things I love about Anne Perry's novels is the amazing character development and the breaking of idealization and both Pitt and Gracie have to grapple with the realization that their own ideals of the monarchy are completely flawed.   Pitt has to weigh justice very carefully in this novel and has to make some very difficult decisions:  Is justice always the most important thing, or should one ruin himself in the face of justice? And could he ever look Charlotte in the eye again if he chose not to do the right thing?

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver is probably one of the best books I've read this year.  Sam Kingston, after dying in a car accident, relives the last day of her life over and over again, trying to figure out what she has to do right and is given a second chance to discover the mystery surrounding her death.  As she relives each day over and over, she unmasks the truth one step at a time until she discovers what really matters in her life.  I pretty much devoured this book in one sitting, and fell in love with the characters, their flaws, and the story.  It really made me reflect on my own life and what legacy I would leave behind if I were to die tomorrow; it definitely was not a pleasant thought and I've been thinking a lot about how I can change my own life and how I treat others in a more benevolent way since I've finished the book.   This book is so beautifully written, with a very complex message, even knowing the outcome, you can't help but feel good about the ending.  It's just such a heartbreakingly beautiful story that I wish never ended.

I learned a lot about William Shakespeare in the novel Mistress Shakespeare by Karen Harper.  An avid historian and former college and high school English instructor who also wrote her master's thesis about one of Shakespeare's plays, All's Well That Ends Well, Karen Harper brings the Tudor era vividly to life as she portrays Shakespeare's life through the eyes of his mistress, Anne Whateley. Ms. Harper plays on the long-held controversy as to who was Shakespeare's muse and who was his real wife as the records are sketchy and unclear.  Personally, I really enjoyed the descriptions of life during the Tudor era in this novel and enjoyed reading about Shakespeare's life; the playhouse scenes, the village scenes, the descriptions of everyday life, the sad truth about childbirth and childrearing, his family life, about Stratford, and everything about daily life.  Mix all this in with the court intrigues of the Earl of Essex and the Earl of Southampton and the various other intrigues that happen daily at court, and you have a story rich with suspense and intrigue, romance and passion, and thrills and desires.  I found all of the characters and their various passions and triumphs to be absolutely fascinating and it definitely sent me to the Internet a few times to look up some historical facts I needed to know.  I am looking forward to reading more novels during this time period, something that used to be a real passion of mime, but something that I have long neglected.  This time period is just so fascinating!!!
Saturday, January 22, 2011

IMM: Some Interesting Reads

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren and is a great way to share what you have received in the mail for review, bought, and borrowed from the library.  The library is a great place to borrow books, but it is also my downfall as I have yet to find a way to walk out with only one or two books.  Anyone who knows the secret, please share as I haven't yet found it. 

Books for Review:
Sudden Moves by Kelli Sue Landon
The Soul Mirror by Carol Berg
Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Books Bought:
I am on a book buying ban at the moment as I have way too many other books to read.  Once I get through some of the other books, then I will head back to the bookstore and indulge on some of the books I am dying to purchase.  This does not count the two gift certificates I am saving up for some special books I am waiting for however, so you may see the occasional book I have purchased in the upcoming weeks.  It refers to books I purchase with my own money only.

Books From the Library:  (I love and hate this place as it interferes with my regular reading schedule!!!)
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Daemons Are Forever by Simon R. Green
The Edge of the World by Kevin J. Anderson


Journals 'Out Loud': Guest Post by Louise Palanker

Journals: Out loud

Louise Palanker is a renowned film producer, stand-up comedian, and radio host.  Knowing there was a market out there for teens to ask questions about personal questions about their lives, Louise created Journals to "grow a strong, supportive community that fosters open dialogue between parents and teens about the tough questions of growing up: boys, girls, friends, dating, popularity, love, sex, and family issues."  The free app is available for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad and includes an advice section for Louise to answer questions everyday as well as a lockable diary with writing prompts to help kids overcome their fears of expressing themselves.  An update even allows you to download what you have written to Facebook or other blog sites if you wish to share what you have written.  Over the holidays, the number of listeners and users has grown significantly.  Louise's "Journals: Out Loud" also features a team of teens who assist Louise as she answers listeners' questions.  You can listen on BlogTalkRadio and UStream on Tuesdays 8-9 pm (Pacific).  Following the post, you will find a couple of sample shows, so stay tuned.

Louise Palanker: The story of her top selling teen app Journals

I was motivated to write Journals when I found my father's World War II Journal after he passed away. While I was growing up, Dad would tell me that I could read his journal when I got a little older. But the years went by, I moved to California and my Dad passed away.

I found the journal one Thanksgiving and I was immediately moved to share it. I decided to write from the point of view of me, at 12, had I, in fact, found and read the journal then.

So, Journals is the story of 12-year-old Lanie Spurdle whose world comes into sharper focus as she writes in her own journal and secretly reads her father's.

I became inspired to turn the book into an app as soon as I got my first iPhone and started exploring the app store. I'm a bit of a gadget girl and it was instantly clear to me that authors could use this device to bring books into the hands of children.

What is also so compelling about app development is the ability to a) continuously make improvements on your product through the submission of app updates, b) receive immediate feedback from readers through the user reviews c) Offer added value technologies that enhance the reader's experience and d) Turn your book into an active conversation.

Since I have been mentoring young people throughout my adult life, I asked my programming genius, Ian Broyles, if he could create, in the app, a dialogue between me and the reader, where kids could ask me questions about the topics which challenge Lanie: Boys, friends, parents, bullies, puberty, love and other tough and fascinating things like life.

The questions are now pouring in and kids are not only talking to me, they are communicating with and offering support to each other. We've created a community!

Additionally, within the app, I challenged Ian to create a diary for the user. Readers can now instantly become writers with their own diary which is not just a blank page. It poses prompting questions such as: Today I learned... Today I hope... Today I am angry at... Today I understand...etc.

The Journaler can choose the question which best applies to her or his day and start writing. Our next version of the app update will contain a diary lock.

A recent update allows Journalers to upload their entries to Facebook and other blog sites if they feel inspired to share what they have written.

The most exciting aspect of turning the book into an app is the community we have created which gives voice to kids' concerns and questions. Growing up is so dreadfully hard that most of us have tucked the pain of it all into a safe and far away spot from where it can no longer hurt us. But for kids who are right in the middle of it all, it's very raw and very real.

I think that when they write, kids are looking for confirmation that they are OK. I get a lot of questions about boys and "How do I let him know that I like him?" And I get a lot of questions about friendship and how to fit in.

One of my strong tenets is to emphasize kindness. Tweens and Teens are in such a severe state of survival mode that there is a powerful instinct towards cruelty. I got a letter yesterday from Erin who is noticing that one of her friends is becoming a bully:

Question from Erin
Hey weezy! My bff has a friend who used to be my bff 2 but then she started acting like a “bully”. We are friends but she can be really, really mean. Should I go along with it or tell my other bff?

Weezy: Tell the bff who is becoming a bully, that you liked her much better when she was nice.
Someone said this to me once and it had a huge impact. I wasn’t turning into a bully, I had just become very “bully resistant,” where kids had been so mean to me that I had developed “an edge.” I’m sure it was a tone of voice thing. But my friend, pulled me up short and she just helped me realize that this was NOT who I wanted to become. I was not going to let bullies turn me mean. So, tell your friend. Let her know that she is just starting to come off as really mean and you know that’s not who she really is.

I will more than likely hear back from Erin as she updates all of us on how this situation is unfolding. I will also hear from other kids who have an opinion about Erin's BFF or want to share a similar experience or offer an opinion or support.

To check out or join the conversation, you can download Journals to your iTouch, iPhone or iPad, or you can go to and click on Advice.

Listen or watch the ‘Journals: Out Loud’ podcast:

For a free I Tunes download of Journals: Middle School Love and War, visit:

For more info on Louise Palanker and Journals, please visit:
Thursday, January 20, 2011

Enquiring Minds Want to Know

I really enjoy this meme as it gives me a chance to talk about myself, something I don't often do.  I tend to be somewhat of a private person in nature, but I don't mind sharing SOME things about my life and what I like and dislike.  I do spend a lot of time on the computer, blogging and for work, and I do like reading other blog posts when people talk about their rants and raves and what they like to do or not do or when they do things that are embarrassing or funny.  It's always interesting to read the more personal sides to bloggers.

Enquiring Minds Want to Know

Check out Dollycas's Thoughts for some other fun answers to the following questions!

Question #1:  What is the outside temperature where you are today?

It is a balmy -12 °C or 10 °F.   That is a lot better than the -21 °C  t was this morning, with a wind chill of -31°C.

Question #2:  Do you participate in any winter sports or hobbies like skiing or snowmobiling, etc?

I used to be an avid downhill skiier until I fell on a black diamond several years ago trying to be a good samaritan and wrecked my knee.  I have since had surgery and while my knee is healthy I am afraid to ski.  It's a psychological thing only and I probably just need to fall again in order to realize it was a once in a lifetime fluke, but I can't help feeling totally paranoid about the whole thing.  Sometimes the whole fall/scenario replays in my mind and it freaks me out.  My kids are also avid skiers, and we live within twenty minutes of two great ski hills and forty minutes from two others so my kids have been skiing since they were small.  They have been clamouring to go so I will just have to grit my teeth and tackle that hill again.  (with my eyes closed!!)

Question #3:  If you had to choose between a week long stay in a mountain lodge with lots of snow, activities, friends, food and beverages or a week alone on a deserted white sand island with just a bag of books and food and water which would you choose?

While the mountain lodge sounds appealing, the snow certainly doesn't anymore.  I'm sorry to say I would pack my bags, my books, and whatever else I needed and would be gone on the next flight out of here and be on the beach as soon as possible.  Alone?  Never a problem.  I am a mom with two kids and a demanding job.  Being alone for a week would be a gift and I would treasure it, even if I would miss my family terribly.   I have no problems being alone as long as I have my books.

Support Your Local Library Challenge 2011

Support Your Library Challenge 2011

Oh, yes, I'm an addicted challenge person, but since I'm on a book buying ban for quite a while, I am borrowing a lot of my books from the library.  So this challenge is perfect for me!!!!

Support your local library is hosted by Jamie @ Book Junkie's Bookshelf.


1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate. Just create a post for the challenge and link to your challenge post in the linky below.
2. There are four levels to this challenge...Pick your poison:
--The Mini – Check out and read 30 library books.
--"Fun" Size – Check out and read 40 library books.
--Jumbo Size – Check out and read 50 library books.
--Mega Size – Check out and read 51+ library books.
3. Audio, Re-reads, eBooks, YA, Young Reader – basically any book counts just as long as it is checked out from the library. Books MUST be checked out like with a library card, books purchased at a library DO NOT count.
4. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.
5. Crossovers from other reading challenges count.
6. Challenge begins January 1st 2011 and goes thru December 31 2011.

I am going for the Mega-Size Challenge and hope to read far more than 51 books. 
Wednesday, January 19, 2011

WOW: Eona & Madame Tussaud

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine, where we highlight upcoming releases we can't wait to read.  Here are a couple I am definitely looking forward to reading:

Eona: The Last Dragoneye (Book 2, Eon Series)
by Alison Goodman
Release Date: April 19, 2011

Eon has been revealed as Eona, the first female Dragoneye in hundreds of years. Along with fellow rebels Ryko and Lady Dela, she is on the run from High Lord Sethon's army. The renegades are on a quest for the black folio, stolen by the drug-riddled Dillon; they must also find Kygo, the young Pearl Emperor, who needs Eona's power and the black folio if he is to wrest back his throne from the selfstyled "Emperor" Sethon. Through it all, Eona must come to terms with her new Dragoneye identity and power - and learn to bear the anguish of the ten dragons whose Dragoneyes were murdered. As they focus their power through her, she becomes a dangerous conduit for their plans. . . .

Madame Tusssaud (A Novel of the French Revolution)
by Michelle Moran
Release Date: February 15, 2011

The world knows Madame Tussaud as a wax artist extraordinaire . . . but who was this woman who became one of the most famous sculptresses of all time? In these pages, her tumultuous and amazing story comes to life as only Michelle Moran can tell it. The year is 1788, and a revolution is about to begin.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Upcoming Releases - January 17 - 23

I don't think there will be a week in January where I will not be looking forward to many new releases.  This is going to be quite a year for upcoming releases.  Take a look to see what is going to be released this week:

Shadowfever (Book 5, MacKayla Lane Series)
by Karen Marie Moning
Release Date: January 18, 2011

In Dreamfever, Karen Marie Moning has left listeners with the most heart-stopping cliff-hanger to date. Shadowfever will answer all the questions fans have been dying to know in the final chapter of MacKayla Lane's shockingly suspenseful and deeply satisfying adventure.

I don't know about you, but I wanted to throw book 4 against the wall in frustration when I finished it because the suspense almost killed me.  Soon we will have all the answers!!!!

The Witch's Daughter
by Paula Brackston
Release Date: January 18, 2011

In the spring of 1628, the Witchfinder of Wessex finds himself a true Witch. As Bess Hawksmith watches her mother swing from the Hanging Tree she knows that only one man can save her from the same fate: the Warlock Gideon Masters. Secluded at his cottage in the woods, Gideon instructs Bess in the Craft, awakening formidable powers and making her immortal. She couldn't have foreseen that even now, centuries later, he will be hunting her across time, determined to claim payment for saving her life.

In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life. Her solitude abruptly ends when a teenage girl named Tegan starts hanging around. Against her instincts, Elizabeth teaches Tegan the ways of the Hedge Witch, in the process awakening memories - and demons - long thought forgotten.

Prophecy: Clash of Kings (Book 1, Merlin Series)
by M.K. Hume
Release Date: January 20, 2011

Amid the bloody battlefields of Britain, Merlin is marked for greatness...

In the town of Segontium, a fugitive is washed ashore. He brutally rapes the granddaughter of the king of the Deceangli tribe, leaving her to bear his son, Myrddion. Spurned as a demon seed, the boy is raised by his grandmother and he is apprenticed to a skilled healer who hones his remarkable gift. Meanwhile, the High King of the Celts, Vortigern, is rebuilding the ancient fortress at Dinas Emrys. According to a prophecy, he must use the blood of a demon seed to make the towers stand firm. Myrddion's life is in jeopardy. But the boy has a prophecy of his own and a richer destiny to fulfil. Soon Vortigern shall be known as the harbinger of chaos, and Myrddion must use his gifts for good in a kingdom besieged by evil. So begins the healer's journey to greatness...

Midnight (Book 2, Jack Nightingale Series)
by Stephen Leather
Release Date: January 20, 2011

Jack Nightingale found it hard enough to save lives when he was a cop. Now he needs to save a soul - his sister's. But to save her he has to find her and they've been separated since birth.

When everyone Jack talks to about his sister dies horribly, he realises that someone, or something, is determined to keep them apart.

If he's going to save his sister, he's going to have to do what he does best - negotiate. But any negotiation with the forces of darkness comes at a terrible price. And first Jack must ask himself the question: is every soul worth saving?

How To Woo A Reluctant Lady
by Sabrina Jeffries
Release Date: January 18, 2011

When a charming rogue proposes she marry him to meet her grandmother's ultimatum, the Sharpe clan's strong-willed sister makes a tempting counter-offer that preserves her inheritance and ignites his imagination.

Lady Minerva Sharpe has the perfect plan to thwart her grandmother's demands: become engaged to a rogue! Surely Gran would rather release her inheritance than see her wed a scoundrel. And who better to play the part of Minerva's would-be husband than wild barrister Giles Masters, the very inspiration for the handsome spy in the popular Gothic novels she writes? The memory of his passionate kiss on her nineteenth birthday has lingered in Minerva's imagination, though she has no intention of really falling for such a rakehell, much less marrying him. Little does she know, he really is a covert government operative. When they team up to investigate the mystery behind her parents' deaths, their fake betrothal leads to red-hot desire. Then Minerva discovers Giles's secret double life, and he must use all the cunning tricks of his trade to find his way back into her heart.

After Hours (Book 3, The Party Room)
by Morgan Burke
Release Date: January 18, 2011
THE PARTY ROOM. On Manhattan's Upper East Side. Everybody's fabulous. No one gets carded. Then someone dies.

Kirsten is still recovering from the death of her best friend, Samantha. And trying desperately to forget that she hooked up with Kyle -- before she knew he was the Prep School Murderer. Kirsten's out every night hitting the clubs and the Party Room. She's partying hard to forget the pain.

Then one night in the Hamptons, Kyle shows up. He tells Kirsten a different story. He's not the one who killed all those girls. Kirsten wants to believe him.

But then, it's too late....

Other Eyes
by Barbara D'Amato
Release Date: January 18, 2011
Blue Eriksen is a famous forensic archaeologist based at Northwestern University. She and her team are traveling the globe, testing mummies to research the use of hallucinogens in the development of ancient religions. Armed with evidence from ancient peoples, Blue has become convinced that psilocybin--a hallucinogen derived from mushrooms--can prevent or cure drug addiction. She hopes to develop testing and treatment centers.

Leeuwarden Ltd. is the cover name for a deeply secret international organization that facilitates the production, delivery, and sale of illegal drugs worldwide, much as OPEC facilitates the sale of oil. Leeuwarden considers Blue a long-term threat and sends Felix Hacker--one of their enforcers--to kill her. Blue has no idea she's being stalked and prepares for a dig high in the Peruvian mountains...

Monday, January 17, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey.  It's a great way to share the books you've read, and the ones you're currently reading, and to take control of that TBR pile to see what you need (or want) to read next.

One of my goals this year is to read more books from my own personal shelves rather than always review copies, and so far I'm succeeding quite well.   I find it a joy to search through the shelves looking for books I've been wanting to read for awhile but couldn't because of other obligations and I've started putting them in order of to-be-read.  It's been fun!  And I've forgotten about some of the books I had on my shelves too.  I was like, "When did I buy that one?"  Oops.

What I Read This Week:
The Ancillary's Mark by Daniel A. Cohen
Delirious by Daniel Palmer (& Giveaway, so check it out!)
Ruined by Paula Morris
Buckingham Palace Gardens by Anne Perry

The reviews of the books I read off the shelves, such as for Ruined and Buckingham Palace Gardens, will be posted as a mini-review wrap-up once I complete five or six such novels.  Due to an extremely busy work schedule, I thought this would help lessen the load.  Does anyone else have any hints to do this better?  I'm at a loss otherwise. But I want to keep blogging fun, and not make it tedious where I don't want to do it.

What I am Currently Reading:
The Discovery of Socket Greeny (ebook) by Tony Bertauski - I'm having fun with my new ereader.
Blood Spells by Jessica Andersen
By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan
Mistress Shakespeare by Karen Harper
Darklight by Lesley Livingstone

I know I read a lot of books at once, but I put it down to genetics as my mother does the same thing.  I tried to do the 'read once book at a time thing', but that lasted all of five hours before I gave up.  I guess I need a lot of variety.  The only time I keep reading is when I hit page 200 or so and then I read straight through to the end.  My husband thinks I'm nuts as he will only read one book, one series at a time.  If he has to wait two weeks for the book to arrive in the mail, he won't read anything else.  In two weeks, I would literally be climbing all the walls in my house without a book, and probably driving everyone around me insane.  Any thoughts on that? 

Up Next:
Blue by Lou Aronica
XVI by Julia Karr
Tempted by Fate by Kate Perry
Encore Edie by Annabel Lyon (I'm curious to read a young adult novel by the author of The Golden Mean; it should be interesting. I actually didn't know she wrote young adult lit until I got this review copy in the mail.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Year's Resolution Blog Hop Winners

Winners of the New Year's Resolution Blog Hop!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the New Year's Resolution Book Blog Hop as it was a great success!  And I'd like to especially thank our three hostesses for putting on this hop.  I hope everyone had an enjoyable time checking out some new blogs as well as the old and faithful, and seeing what books you could possibly spend your new GCs that you received for Christmas.  Without any further ado, here are the winners:

Winner of $25 GC to is:


Winner of up to $15 worth of books from Book Depository is:

Cass (Words on Paper)

Congratulations to everyone!  Welcome to all of my new followers, I hope you will stay around a little while and see what kinds of things are happening on Curling Up By The Fire.  And to my old and faithful followers, you guys are the absolute best!!!

Don't forget to sign up for my Delirious by Daniel Palmer contest!  And look for my upcoming contest - win a copy of XVI.

IMM: When It Rains...And Time to Stay out of the Library

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren.   It's been an interested week for receiving things in the mail and I got a few goodies I definitely wasn't expecting.  I also need to stay out of the library, I really went to pick up ONE book that was waiting for me, and came out with around seven and that was really holding back. 

For Review:
Angel at Dawn by Emma Holly
XVI by Julia Karr
Close to Famous by Joan Bauer
Beyond Blonde by Teresa Totem
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Encore Edie by Annabel Lyon
No Passengers Beyond This Point by Gennifer Choldenko
Chime by Franny Billingsley
Matched by Ally Condie
The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
The Betrayal of Maggie Blair by Elizabeth Laird
The Ark of Adams by Jack Kane
Subject Seven by James A. Moore

From the Library (I took these out before a nice big box from Penguin arrived!)
Darklight by Lesley Livingston
Execution Dock by Anne Perry
Eternal Kiss of Darkness by Jeaniene Frost
Dragon Wytch by Yasmine Galenorn
Mistress Shakespeare by Karen Harper
Buckingham Palace Gardens by Anne Perry

This has been a busy week and boy, do I have a lot of reading to do!!!!!  What have you received this week that I should add to my TBR pile? 
Friday, January 14, 2011

Review: The Ancillary's Mark by Daniel A. Cohen

The Ancillary's Mark
by Daniel A. Cohen
Release Date: November 4, 2010
2010 Black Rose Writing
Softcover Edition: 245 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-935-60576-8
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

The legend of the Ancillary flower has existed for centuries.  Foretold to bring out the limitless potential of its bearer, the flower and the legend have been forgotten by many.  Recently, strange events in a shrouded Tibetan town have sparked rumors among those who still believe.

Jacob Deer is a quirky young man, bound for college, with an accentric old librarian for a best friend, an obsession with sitting down in elevators, and a strange birthmark on his hand that's shaped mysteriously like the markings on the Ancillary's petals.  When Jacob's mentor Mr. Maddock reveals to him his connection with the legendary Ancillary, it sets in motion a series of events that sends Jacob and his friends across the world.  Jacob must face off against a vengeful maniac for the fate of the flower, the legend, and all mankind.

My Thoughts
The Ancillary's Mark was an interesting book, with many twists and turns and definitely non-stop action.  I enjoy anything where there are old secrets to be found in libraries, old books that have to be read in order to discover and solve clues, and there was some of that to be found in this novel.  What I especially enjoyed, were the quirky and fun-loving characters.

Jacob and I would definitely have been friends and found a lot to discuss.  As soon as I read about the way he bookmarked his novels, I had to laugh out loud as I used to bookmark my books in a certain way when I was younger as well.  While Jacob bookmarked his books according to his emotions, I tended to do it according to how well I liked the book.  Jacob is a fun-loving character and totally quirky.  He prefers to sit in elevators and walk in the middle of the street so neither side would feel neglected.  I had to laugh out loud as I pictured people's faces at seeing someone sitting in an elevator and I wondered how I would react.  I know I definitely would not spend an hour going up and down as one man did discussing philosophy.  You know, I am almost tempted to try it the next time I am in an elevator!  What I especially liked about Jacob is although he is almost self-effacing, he takes control of situations and has many leadership skills which become more developped as the novel progresses. 

Clark is another character I absolutely adored and I love how he stuck to Jacob throughout everything.  The quirky and witty dialogue really comes out in this character and I really enjoyed how he mixes up the different slang and dialects in order to hide who he truly is and what he can really do.  It makes for some fun and interesting reading!  Sophia is a strong and independent characters, and while I didn't really like her in the beginning, she definitely grew on me, and demonstrated a lot of her own unique skills that complement Jacob.  And to see Jacob become confident as a man as he realizes how much he cares for Sophia and stand up for that love was an interesting process as well.

While the plot is full of twists and turns and non-stop action, I did find myself somewhat frustrated at times as I don't feel events were always fully explained and the reader was left to read a lot between the lines.  While I don't mind this, sometimes the gaps were a little too much and I would have liked a little more explanation about certain things, especially concerning the Ancillary flower.  Mr. Cohen's writing is exciting and suspenseful, but also abrupt, leaving too much to the reader to guess and make connections. 

The Ancillary's Mark was an enjoyable novel, with suspense, action, mystery, and romance.  I really enjoyed the ending as it was not was I expected; the running theme of this novel, exploring one's potential and developing that potential without supernatural help, ran through to the end and I was satisfied with the ending.    Basically, everyone has the potential to be someone great as long as he has the courage to develop it and use it, something I found inspiring and insightful.  If you enjoy a good fantasy novel, you will definitely enjoy The Ancillary's Mark.

Book Blogger Hop

Hi everyone!  It's been a great week this week and I am looking forward to a wonderful couple of months ahead with regards to reading and blogging.  I have made a few resolutions regarding my reading and one of those things is to add some more personal reading to my agenda instead of always focusing on reviews all of the time.  It's actually brought some life and interest back into my reading and I am looking forward to attacking some of the books I have been putting off because of reviews.  I just finished one and am currently in the middle of another, which I can't wait to return to, and it's been a long time since I've had that eager feeling to return to a book.  I'm looking forward to sharing some of those "mini-reviews" with you.

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jennifer @ Crazy for Books and is a great way to connect with other book blogs.  You can find many interesting topics about books and book blogging, discover new authors and new books, and talking about anything concerning books for hours.  Check it out and have fun!

Question for this week"Why do you read the genre that you do?  What draws you to it?"

My Answer:  I read many different genres for many different reasons.  I have always loved the paranormal because as a child I thought it would be really cool to be a witch and have all of these powers.  As an adult, I am still fascinated by things I can't explain, probably even more so, and I am drawn to books that contain an element of the paranormal.  I am drawn to fantasy and science-fiction because of the possibilities that exist and because I am always in awe of the creativity of those authors who can create entire new worlds and civilizations and build stories and characters into those worlds.  I also think the escape from what I normally do in my job is a big draw as I want to read something completely different.  And what is different than flying in spaceships and doing magic tricks?  Love it, love it, love it!!!
Wednesday, January 12, 2011

WOW: Darkness Becomes Her & Stay

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine, where we highlight upcoming releases we are looking forward to reading.  With everything I have to read, it's amazing I still have time to browse the upcoming release sections of various book publishers, but it's something I enjoy doing.  Here are a couple I can't wait to read:

Darkness Becomes Her
by Kelly Keaton
Release Date: February 22, 2011

Ari can't help feeling lost and alone. With teal eyes and freakish silver hair that can't be changed or destroyed, Ari has always stood out. And after growing up in foster care, she longs for some understanding of where she came from and who she is.

Her search for answers uncovers just one message from her long dead mother: Run. Ari can sense that someone, or something, is getting closer than they should. But it's impossible to protect herself when she doesn't know what she's running from or why she is being pursued.

She knows only one thing: she must return to her birthplace of New 2, the lush rebuilt city of New Orleans. Upon arriving, she discovers that New 2 is very...different. Here, Ari is seemingly normal. But every creature she encounters, no matter how deadly or horrifying, is afraid of her.

Ari won't stop until she knows why. But some truths are too haunting, too terrifying, to ever be revealed.

by Deb Caletti
Release Date: April 5, 2011

Clara's relationship with Christian is intense from the start, and like nothing she's ever experienced before. But what starts as devotion quickly becomes obsession, and it's almost too late before Clara realizes how far gone Christian is--and what he's willing to do to make her stay.

Now Clara has left the city - and Christian - behind. No one back home has any idea where she is, but she still struggles to shake off her fear. She knows Christian won't let her go that easily, and that no matter how far she runs, it may not be far enough....

What have you found that you would like to share with us and help destroy our TBR piles?
Monday, January 10, 2011

Review: Delirious by Daniel Palmer & GIVEAWAY

by Daniel Palmer
Release Date: January 25, 2011
2011 Kensington Books
Softcover Edition; 371 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-7582-4664-6
Genre: Suspense/ Thriller
Source: ARC from Author

4.5 / 5 Stars

One day, Charlie Giles is an up-and-coming electronics superstar. The next, he's a prime homicide suspect as his former employers are picked off one by one. Charlie watches his life unravel as his company and inventions are wrenched from his control, and his family is decimated. With nowhere else to turn, he enlists his schizophrenic brother to uncover the dark family secrets that lie at the heart of the unfolding terror.

My Thoughts
Delirious was a psychological thriller that grabbed me by the first page and didn't really let go until the very last past.  It was fast-paced action with an abundance of twists and turns that pretty much kept me guessing until the end, with a twist of romance and nostalgia thrown in. 

Charlie was a fascinating character to connect with and learn more about.  At first, I wasn't really sure if I liked him very much as he was very hard-nosed and did not hesitate to fire someone when they messed up in their jobs, not really giving anyone a second chance to redeem themselves.  He was someone who tended to live to a particular schedule and if anyone messed up that schedule, they didn't belong in his life.  However, special privileges were granted to Charlie that were not granted to other people in the company, privileges such as bringing his dog to work and other little things that must have created some envy from fellow employees.  It was truly fascinating to watch Charlie's downhill turn as he turned into a prime suspect when top secrets in his company were leaked to another company.  As he kept finding notes written in his hand that he didn't remember writing, he began to think he was becoming paranoid or worse, he was succumbing to the family curse and becoming schizophrenic like his father and brother before him.  I didn't know what to believe most of the time and often wondered myself whether Charlie was delusional or not.  Flashbacks of the film 'A Beautiful Mind' kept playing over and over in my head while I was reading.

The relationship between Charlie and his brother Joe was equally fascinating.  I loved all of the little nuances that could only be or develop between brothers in this story, and I really enjoyed Charlie's awakening reality as he realizes just exactly what a treasure he has in his brother and how he didn't really know him at all, and how much of that was his fault.  There were moments in here that any sibling could relate to and I felt myself wanting to call my own sisters just to tell them that I missed them and that I appreciated them. 

You can't have a suspense novel without a little romance and Dr. Rachel enters Charlie's life because she is Joe's psychologist and is the one Charlie enlists for help when he thinks he is becoming delusional.  As Rachel is swept into Charlie's world, she also begins to question Charlie's frame of mind, wondering how far someone will go to deny what is in front of them.  There are plenty of sparks between Charlie and Rachel to add an interesting love triangle and add a few extra twists and turns to an already convoluted plot.

What I also liked about this novel is the use of technology and the descriptions; Mr. Palmer certainly knows his technology.  Anyone reading this novel will fully understand when I state that I will be very leery using an Internet Cafe in the future because of this novel.  The technology was a big part of the novel, but unlike some novels of this genre, it didn't overpower and take away from the plot or the great writing.

Delirious is a great debut novel by a welcome new author to the genre.  With many twists and turns that will surprise the reader and take them down paths they did not expect, Delirious is sure to delight and please and thrill.  I am looking forward to reading future novels by this author.

GIVEAWAY: One lucky reader will win one signed copy of DELIRIOUS by Daniel Palmer.

Mandatory Entry: Please leave a comment below with your email address.  Contest is open to US/Canada residents only.  Contest expires 01 February, 2011.

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