Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review: Demon Princess Reign Check by Michelle Rowen

Demon Princess: Reign Check (Book 2)
by Michelle Rowen
Release Date: June 2010
2010 Walker & Company
ISBN: 978-0-8027-9549-6
Softcover Edition; 304 Pages
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Source: ARC from Publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Fresh from finding out that she is a demon princess, Nikki is looking forward to getting back to her regular high school life.  But when Rhys, the handsome king of the faery realm, decides to enroll at her school as a 'foreign exchange student', Nikki knows it won't be possible.  Coupled with this is a whole host of other problems: there's a new prophecy that claims she will destroy the world.  Her conflicted feelings for Rhys and her boyfriend, Michael, are getting in the way of their relationship.  Her best friend, Melinda, could be a demon-slayer-in-training, and her old crush Chris might know of her demon side.  Throw in a field trip to none other than the Underworld itself...and Nikki's going to be hoping for a rain check on more than just her homework!

My Thoughts
In Demon Princess: Reign Check, we again meet Nikki Donovan, the feisty and reluctant Demon Princess from Demon Princess: Reign or Shine.  She is trying to live a normal life and trying to ensure that no one at her high school discovers her secret, and that means ensuring that she doesn't lose control of her emotions.  With good intentions in mind, they quickly evaporate as soon as she spots the king of the faery realm in her high school.  To make matters worse, she gets into a heated discussion with a rival, and then her boyfriend Michael shows up to escort her to her father's realm under dire circumstances.

All of this makes for engaging reading.  I found Demon Princess: Reign Check to be extremely enjoyable, with a cast of engaging and believable characters.   While at first I didn't know what to think about Rhys, he grew on me and I have to admit he is one of my favourite characters in this novel.  I now have a hard time deciding as to whom I want Nikki to end up with in the end as both Michael and Rhys are amazing characters and being 'hotties' doesn't hurt either.  There was great chemistry and tension between all of the characters and I definitely empathized with all of them and felt a great connection to all of them.  Nikki is very believable as the reluctant Princess and her comments and thoughts about what is going on around her makes for some very interesting reading.  She is tough and strong and stubborn, but vulnerable at the same time especially as she learns to navigate the Underworld and deal with her strange powers. 

What I really liked about the plot development is how Ms. Rowen was able to strike a great balance between the Underworld politics and dynamics and Nikki being an ordinary teenage girl.  This is incredibly hard to do and she managed to do it quite well.  Nikki could be quite impulsive at times which makes her seem more real and helps advance the plot.  The plot itself, while good, seems to be building us up for future novels rather than a kick-butt kind of novel which is why I only gave it four out of five stars.  We learn a lot more about the characters and about the Underworld, but to be honest there is a lot less action in this novel. 

This was a fun, light-hearted read with a lot going for it in the sense that many of the issues were left open so you know that a third book in the series is a high possibility.  Ms. Rowen introduces us to a great new heroine, a new cast of intriguing characters, an interesting new world and I, for one, am looking forward to the next book in this series and learning more about Nikki, Rhys, and Michael.

Waiting on Wednesday

This weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, gives us a chance to highlight some upcoming releases we are interested in reading.  It also gives us a chance to check out some other upcoming books we may not have known about. 

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

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

To that end, Alienor coerces into matrimony two pawns - Juliana de Charnais, a plain and pious novice determined to regain her inheritance, and Guerin de Lasalle, a cynical, warworn mercenary equally resolved to renounce his.

The womanizing Lasalle and the proud Juliana are perfectly matched for battle not love - until spies and assassins conspire  to reverse their romantic features.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Upcoming Releases - June 28 - July 4

There are many books being released next month, but I decided to focus on just a few this week.  It's so easy to get distracted by what's being released that you can easily forget that TBR pile and move on to something new and exciting.  But it's time to FOCUS!  Here are some of the books I am interested in reading this week:

Ice Cold (Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles Series, Book 8)
by Tess Gerritsen
Release Date: June 29, 2010

In Wyoming for a medical conference, Boston medical examiner Maura Isles joins a group of friends on a spur-of-the-moment ski trip.  But when their SUV stalls on a snow-choked mountain road, they're stranded with no help in sight.

As night falls, the group seeks refuge from the blizzard in the remote village of Kingdom Come, where twelve eerily identical houses stand dark and abandoned.  Something terrible has happened in Kingdom Come:  Meals sit untouched on tables, cars are still parked in garages.  The town's previous residents seem to have vanished into thin air, but footprints in the snow betray the presence of someone who still lurks in the cold darkness - someone who is watching Maura and her friends.

Days later, Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli receives the grim news that Maura's charred body has been found in a mountain ravine.  Shocked and grieving, Jane is determined to learn what happened to her friend.  The investigation plunges Jane into the twisted history of Kingdom Come, where a gruesome discovery lies buried beneath the snow.  As horrifying revelations come to light, Jane closes in on an enemy both powerful and merciless - and the chilling truth about Maura's fate.

by China Mieville
Release Date: June 29, 2010

The Natural History Museum's prize exhibit - a giant squid - suddenly disappears.  This audacious theft leads Clem, the research scientist who has recently finished preserving the exhibit, into a dark urban underworld of warring cults and surreal magic.  It seems that for some, the squid represents a god and should be worshipped as such.  Clem gradually begins to realize that someone may be attempting to use the squid to trigger and apocalypse. And so it is now up to him and a renegade squid-worshipper named Dean to find a way of stopping the destruction of the world as they know it whilst themselves surviving the all out-gang warfare that they have unwittingly been drawn into...

Running Dark
by Jamie Freveletti
Release Date: June 29, 2010

Emma Caldridge is on mile thirty-six of the fifty-five-mile Comrades Ultramarathon in South African when a roadside bomb explodes.  Dazed and disoriented, she regains consciousness after the blast to find a man standing over her with a white plastic injector.  She feels the prick on a need and the rush of medication, but before she can react the man is gone.

At the same time Somali Pirates in the Gulf of Aden have attacked a cruise ship, and the one person, Edward Banner of Darkview who could help Emma, is busy dealing with the cruise ship attack.

However, according to intelligence sources, the ship is carrying cargo far more valuable than wealthy passengers - something that could be a new weapon of unknown origin.  Banner asks Emma to infiltrate the ship and use her professional expertise to identify it.  When she learns that special agent Cameron Sumner - a man who has saved her life in the past - is among the hostages, nothing will stop her from getting onboard, no matter the cost.

Ghost Shadow (Bone Island Trilogy,
Book 1)
by Heather Graham
Release Date: June 29, 2010

Katie O'Hara finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into a gruesome years old murder, gruesome warnings from a spectral friend become more and more insistent.  But Katie is compelled to discover the truth.  Could David Beckett really be responsible for his fiancee's murder?

And worse.  Is David, the man she is compelled to turn to for help, responsible for the body count rising in the Island of Bones?  A place, where, as in the past, the dead are posed in macabre tableaux from the history.

Katie knows that the danger is increasing by the moment - especially as she finds herself irresistibly drawn to David.  His fiancee's murder wasn't the last and Katie's could be next.

Scorpion's Bite (Lily Sampson Series, Book 3)
by Aileen G. Baron
Release Date: July 1st, 2010

It is 1943 and the world is at war.  Archaeologist Lily Sampson has been sent to TransJordan, by the OSS, along with Gideon Weil, the famous director of the American School of Archaeology in Jerusalem.  As part of their survey, they roam the beautiful, silent, transJordanian desert where the indelible present of Lawrence of Arabia still lingers, and where the ancient Nabateans once rules an empire from their capital of Petra.  Soon Lily and Gideon are stranded in the Wadi Rum, and their Bedouin guide is murdered.  When Gideon is accused of the crime, Lily must clear him of the accusation.

Lily discovers that two oil pipelines run from Iraq through the desert to the ports on Mediterranean, one through Trans-Jordan that supplies the Allies and one through Syria that supplies the Nazis.  Syrians and Vichy French are raiding across the border, threatening to destroy the Trans-Jordan pipeline.  Lily discovers their real mission is to help safeguard the Trans-Jordan pipeline and to prevent oil from reaching the Nazis through Syria.  At the same time, Lily learns of a Nazi plot to kidnap and kill the eight-year-old King Faisal of Iraq and take over Iraq.

Now, Lily and Gideon must act to protect the Trans-Jordan pipeline, sabotage the Syrian line, and rescue Faisal to help prevent the Nazi takeover of Iraq.

Life, After
by Sarah Darer Littman
Release Date: July 1st, 2010

Everything changes for Dani and her family when a truck loaded with explosives detonates outside the AMIA building in Buenos Aires, Argentina, killing her beloved aunt and unborn cousin.  Because of the ensuing political upheaval, economic hardship, and emotional toll, Dani's family moves to the U.S.  It is a terrifying place - new school, new language, new hardships - and Dani's angry father is turning into a stranger, more so everyday.  Just when she thinks she is about to lose it, she befriends Jessica, one of the girls who has been cruelly teasing her since she arrived.

It is the most unlikely of friendships.  Jessica is wealthy, groomed, spoiled.  But Jessica has a past that only Dani can understand.  She lost her father in 9/11.  It is a friendship that allows them to heal in unexpected and suprising ways, and changes them and their families forever.

The Ancient Curse
by Valerio Massimo Manfredi
Release Date: July 2, 2010

In the middle of the night at the Museum of Volterra, young archaeologist Fabrizio Castellani is immersed in his work - research in the famous Etruscan statue known as 'The Night Shadow'.  Completely engrossed, he is startled by the phone ringing.  An icy female voice warns him to abandon his work at once.  A series of gruesome shortly follow, throwing the people of Volterra into a panic.  The victims - all inovlved in the desecration of an unexplored tomb - have been torn to pieces by a beast of unimaginable size.  Fabrizio is in charge of excavating this Etruscan tomb.  Fabrizio is joined in his fearless investigation of the past by Francesca Dionisi, a vivacious young researcher, and foremost by Lieutenant Reggiani, a brilliant carabinieri officer assigned to the case.  Fabrizio is convinced that a single event set of the entire chain of events.  What is hiding inside the enigmatic statue? What lies behind the bloodthirsty rage that has lain in wait all these centuries?  What tragedy is hidden behind the inscription?  Will Fabrizio manage to unravel these secrets without being sucked into the spiral of violence himself?

Wicked Girls
by Stephanie Hemphill
Release Date: June 29, 2010

Ann Putnam Jr. plays the queen bee.  When her father suggests that a spate of illnesses within the village is the result of witchcraft, Ann grasps her opportunity.  She puts in motion a chain of events that will change the lives of the people around her.

Mercy Lewis, the beautiful servant in Ann's house, inspires adulation in some and envy in others.  With a troubled past, she seizes her only chance at safety.

Margart Walcott, Ann's cousin, is desperately in love and consumed with fiery jealousy.  She is torn betwen staying loyal to her friends and pursuing the life she dreams of with her betrothed.

With new accusations mounting daily against the men and women of the community, the girls will have to decide:  Is it too late to tell the truth?
Monday, June 28, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

School is almost finished, my reports are done, my marking is finished, commencement is tomorrow night, and I feel like a bird that has been released from its cage.  I almost don't know what to do with myself as it's been so long since I haven't felt that stress on my shoulders to do my job.  I'll get over it pretty soon, but right now I'm indulging in some reading that I haven't allowed myself to do in a while.  I returned some library books today, only intending to drop off the books without looking around.  Like that was going to happen!!  At least I only walked out with four books instead of the ten I wanted.  I started reading Wondrous Strange in the car on my way home.  And before anybody gets upset about my driving habits, I got stuck in construction and had to sit there for twenty minutes while they unloaded all these big concrete sewage blocks and the traffic was blocked; I did NOT drive while reading (I'm just grateful I had something in my car to do while I waited.)  The problem is now I've abandoned the other books I've been reading in favour of this one which is almost finished.  (Sigh!)

This wonderful meme, hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books, usually helps me to keep focused on what I read, on what I am reading, and on what I need to read in the upcoming week.

What I Finished Last Week:

Under the Dragon's Tail by Maureen Jennings - In celebration of Canada Week, an English author who now calls Canada home, this is book 2 of an historical mystery series set in late 19th century Toronto. 

Evermore by Alyson Noel - Another one of those books I got at the library and read it immediately.  An interesting read, but not quite what I expected.

Folly by Marthe Jocelyn - Another Canadian author, Folly was another of those books that was interesting, but not quite what I expected.

What I am Currently Reading:

Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston - Another Canadian author.

The Chamber of Shadows by Justin Richards

Demon Princess: Reign Check by Michelle Rowan - Another Canadian author.

What I Intend to Read:

Grace Under Pressure by July Hyzy

What treasures are you reading this week?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Review: Under The Dragon's Tail by Maureen Jennings

Under the Dragon's Tail (Detective Murdoch, Book 2)
by Maureen Jennings
1998 St. Martin's Press
Hardcover Edition; 243 Pages
ISBN: 0-312-19348-3
Genre: Mystery
Source: Local Library

3.5 / 5 Stars

Dolly Merishaw is a midwife and an abortionist, who in both instances carries out her craft in secrecy.  To her come every level of the city's women, either to rid themselves of their unwanted pregnancies or to give birth to the children who for one reason or another they cannot acknowledge.  Her clients include dancehall girls and the wives of the city's leaders, and she regards them all with the same mixture of contempt and greed.

Dolly is a slut and a drunkard.  She is cruel to the two small boys who live with her and her deaf and mute daughter.  If the opportunity presents itself, she's not above  a clumsy effort at blackmail.  When she is found beaten to death, readers once again meet William Murdoch, the eminently likable police detective.  We step into the fullness of life he leads beyond his very competent police work.

My Thoughts
Like Maureen Jennings first novel, Except the Dying, I found Under the Dragon's Tail to be a very enjoyable read of 19th century Toronto and the life of its citizens.  Like anyone who is passionately interested in history, I am really enjoying these glimpses of the past into a place close to where I grew up.  As I've mentioned before, these books have set me on a new course in my study of history and I have developed a new passion for learning about my own past rather than just the history of Europe which has always been my great historical passion.  I have since spent many hours reading websites full of interesting historical facts about Toronto.

Once again, Ms. Jennings has created a cast of believable characters.  I simply adore William Murdoch as the police detective; he is someone who has lost his fiance in a typhoid epidemic and is incredibly lonely.  He engages in dancing lessons in the hopes of meeting suitable young ladies and his encounters with other ladies is simply brilliant.  As a detective, he sometimes reminds me of Pitt from the Anne Perry series, another characters whom I love.  Murdoch is respectful, but doesn't bow down before the gentry in order to ask the necessary questions. 

The descriptions of Toronto during these days are simply amazing, from the characters to the actual descriptions of life itself.  Sometimes it is difficult to take as we remember how difficult it was for immigrants to find jobs and the stories of children and adults starving in the streets is heartbreaking.  Dolly, the murdered woman, was a despicable woman, and my heart just went out to the people who lived under her roof and had to deal with her drunkenness and her terrible behaviour towards them.  And to think there was no social justice system at this time to help children in these situations must have made their lives absolutely miserable.  It made the contrast towards the gentry that much sharper and I'm not if that just happened or if it was intentional by the author.  Although I felt sympathy for Mrs. Pedlow, I certainly didn't like her as she had everything going for her and everything to lose if her secret was ever found out.

Despite all this, one of the reasons I gave this novel three and a half stars out of five, is the mystery itself was predictable and I figured it out pretty quickly.  TAlthough I guessed the whodunit, one of the reasons for why the person did it, I didn't guess at, so that was fairly interesting.  The actual police investigative work kind of took a backseat to a lot of the social events in this novel rather than focus on the murder/mystery.  But there are so many other things going on, that I still found it interesting and enjoyable.

Under the Dragon's Tail is an interesting tale of life in 19th century Toronto.    From ballrooms, to dancehalls, to mansions, to bike races, and a mystery involving a dead midwife/abortionist, there is plenty in this novel to keep a reader interested.  Despite a somewhat weaker mystery, I still found the novel engaging and there was a range of quirky characters that I found truly fascinating.  I am definitely looking forward to reading the next few novels in this engaging series.

Review: Evermore by Alyson Noel

Evermore (The Immortals, Book 1)
by Alyson Noel
Release Date: February 3, 2009
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-53275-8
ISBN-10: 0-312-53275-X
Softcover Edition; 306 Pages
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Local Library

3.5 / 5 Stars

After a horrible accident claims the lives of her family, sixteen-year-old Ever Bloom can see people's auras, hear their thoughts, and know someone's entire life story by touching them.  Going out of her way to avoid human contact and suppress her abilities, she has been branded a freak at her new high school - but everything changes when she meets Damen Auguste.

Damen is gorgeous, exotic, and wealthy.  He's the only one who can silence the noise and random energy in her head - wielding a magic so intense, it's as though he can peer straight into her soul.  As Ever is drawn deeper into his enticing world of secrets and mystery, she's left with more questions than answers.  And she has no idea jsut who he really is - or what he is.  The only thing she knows is that she's falling deeply and helplessly in love with him.

My Thoughts
I thought Evermore was an engaging novel full of romance, quirky characters, and some interesting plot developments.  I was certainly engaged right from the beginning and had difficulty putting it down.  That being said however, I did feel like I had read this book before as there was nothing new or really original about the storyline. 

Ever is an interesting character who suffers from a great amount of guilt from the car accident in which her family was killed.  This same car accident also developed in her the psychic abilities she so despises which makes her an outcast at school as she forces herself to wear hoodies, an ipod, and other assorted dress to drown out other students and their auras which often overpower her.   She is full of anger, guilt, torment, happiness when she sees the ghost of her sister Riley, and empathy for others.  But at times she drove me crazy with her teenage angst and her avoidance and meanness towards others.  Although I understood her pain, I couldn't understand how she treated other people at times and I did find it somewhat annoying.  I really liked her friends Miles and Haven though, as I found them quirky and interesting and real.  Although Haven could be mean sometimes to Ever, I understood where she was coming from as Ever wasn't always very forthcoming or open in her explanations or in her feelings.  It made me want to shake her at times.  Miles just made me laugh; he is just such an interesting character.

Damen, although he was supposed to be mysterious and sexy, was too mysterious for my liking.  There was something off about him in this novel.  Maybe it was because the information about him seemed too vague and whatever explanations we did get seemed kind of unbelievable and not fully explained, at least from my point of view.  I found him to be too hot and cold, and the way he was flirting with other women would have made me angry as well, especially if he kept telling me he liked me and kept looking at other women the way he did.  We did get the explanation for the flower symbolism towards the end, and maybe I would have researched it a lot sooner than Ever did on the internet, but the whole thing would have annoyed me too. The one thing I was thankful for is that this was not a vampire novel; don't get me wrong, I love vampire novels, but I just wanted to read something different and this part at least met my expectations.

Although I found the plot to be cliched at times, I still enjoyed myself while reading it and it was certainly engaging.  Yes, I found it predictable, but that didn't matter too much to me as I was engaged right from the beginning.  It was not the sole reason why I gave this novel three and a half stars. 

I found Evermore to be an interesting and enjoyable, although predictable read.  What I did find lacking in this novel was the character development, not so much in Ever, but more in Damen, whom I didn't really like and didn't understand at all.  I had issues with the ending as I felt there were too many unanswered questions, but I will probably read the next book in the series just to see if it gets better and to see if any of my questions get answered.  I would also like to see if Damen and Ever develop more depth to their characters as there is a lot of potential to this storyline.
Friday, June 25, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

It's Book Blogger Hop Time again!

I am finally finished exams!  No more marking, marking, marking!!! Yippee!!!!!!!!!    Only three more days to go and it's holiday time and I can relax for a while until it all starts up again in September.  I love my job, but I am in dire need of a holiday.   Here's to wishing all the students a happy summer holidays.  And graduates, meilleurs voeux pour l'avenir!  Sorry everyone, I teach French so it's easier for me to do that in that language.

Jennifer @ Crazy For Books hosts an awesome meme every week that gives book bloggers a chance to meet other book bloggers, find other new and interesting sites, and visit other blogs so we can discuss the subject we love best, BOOKS.  If you're interested, head on over to Jenn's blog and sign up.  It's that easy.

Have a great weekend everyone!  I know I will, G20 and G8 summit notwithstanding.
Thursday, June 24, 2010

Review: Folly by Marthe Jocelyn

by Marthe Jocelyn
2010 Tundra Books
ISBN: 978-0-88776-929-0
Hardcover Edition; 250 Pages
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Review Copy from Tundra Books
Release Date: May 11, 2010

3 / 5 Stars

It is the late 1800s, and a few moments of folly lock together the destinies of four people.  Mary, who begins "exceeding ignorant" (apart from what a girl can learn from family mayhem, a dead mother, and a grim stepmother), but who learns more than she'd like to about lust and betrayal in the fine London house where she works as a servant.  Eliza, another maid, is Mary's nemesis - but who is the betrayer and who betrayed?  A teacher named Oliver avoids feeling anything, while knowing too well what matters.  And then there's the fostered boy, James, torn away from the only family who cares for him to grow up in the stern confines of a foundling home.  What chance does he have without knowing his roots?

My Thoughts
One of the things that first intrigued me about this book was the cover.  I'm not usually a cover person, but I found it really interesting and somewhat disturbing at the same time and I wanted to read the book Folly to see what it was all about.  To be perfectly honest, I still find the cover somewhat more interesting than the actual storyline.  I don't mean to imply that I didn't like the story, I just found it predictable and definitely not what I thought it would be. 

The novel is told through the points of view of four characters.  There is Mary Finn, Eliza (a maid), James Nelligan (an orphan boy), and Oliver (a teacher at the orphanage).  This is one of the strengths of this novel as I found the viewpoints of the different characters to be interesting and unique; but I don't usually mind books that do this kind of thing.  I did have a difficult time connecting with most of the characters in this novel however, and especially took a dislike to Eliza whom I didn't understand at all.  I found her to be conniving, immature, and just plain silly.  I really liked James Nelligan though, and could have hugged him if I could.  The scene where his foster mother drops him off at the foundling home just tore at my heart and I felt my heart wrench for all those poor children who had to go through such a difficult time.  One of the main themes in this novel was to bring attention to the amazing work of the foundling home establishment and the lives they saved over the years.  This part of the novel I truly enjoyed learning about.

One of the things that caused confusion in this novel was the lack of detail.  I found the events were choppy and important details were left out of the narrative.  It was a little confusing as to how the characters just ended up at one place from another and I really wanted to know the story about how they got there and what happened.  This was disconcerting to say the least and I didn't enjoy this aspect of the plot development at all.  There were some good moments in this novel, but unfortunately they were clouded over by moments of confusion for the reader. 

This was a quick read, and although I thought the story was fine, I would have liked more character and plot development and definitely a lot more emotion in the characters.  I need to feel connected to the characters and unfortunately I didn't feel that connection in this novel.  The interesting descriptions of the life of children in an early foundling home however, do make this novel one to read; it certainly makes you think about how unwed mothers and their babies were treated during these unstable times.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Upcoming Releases - June 21-27

It's hard to believe this is already the last week of June.  I'm typing this and wondering, Where did the month go? It's crazy how fast everything seems to fly the older you get.  Remember those hot, humid days of summer when you were young and you thought summer would never end?  I remember even looking forward to going back to school. Today, it always feels like I just finished work yesterday and suddenly it's September and we're heading right back into fall and the dark days of winter (shudder).  Although it's nice to think about curling up in front of a fire with the snow falling down outside, I would much rather be at my campsite curling around that fire knowing it's still the middle of summer and I don't have to shovel a foot of snow in my driveway the next time I look out the front door.

Here's something to look forward to this week; another great week of upcoming releases.

Dark Flame (Immortals, Book 4)
Alyson Noel
Release Date: June 22, 2010

In this latest installment, Ever is helping her friend Haven transition into a life as an immortal.  But with Haven drunk on her new powers and carelessly putting them all at risk, their friendship becomes more and more strained.  At the same time, Ever delves deeper into magick in order to get control over her enemy Roman and free Damen from his power.

Broken (Grant County Series, Book 7)
by Karin Slaughter
Release Date: June 22, 2010

When the body of a young man is found buried deep beneath the icy water of Lake Grant, a note left under a rock by the shore points to suicide.  But within minutes, it becomes clear that this is no suicide.  It's a brutal, cold-blooded murder.  Special Agent Will Trent, brought in to help with the case, is immediately confronted with a wall of silence.  Grant County is a close-knit community with ties that run deep, and the only person who can help with the case is already dead.

Montacute House
by Lucy Jago
Release Date: June 22, 2010

Witchcraft, politics, and religious ambition combine in this gripping and wonderfully realised novel set in Somerset of the 1500s.

The Palace of Impossible Dreams (The Tide Lords, Book 3)
by Jennifer Fallon
Release Date: June 22, 2010

The Tide Lords have gathered in Jelidia and find they must find the Chaos Crystal that brought them to this world.  It is discovered that Elyssa, Scard Crasii, Warlock's cruel immortal mistress knows the location of the chaos crystal and with every immortal searching for the crystal the stakes are high.

The Waiting Room
by F.G. Gottam
Release Date: June 24, 2010

Martin Stride is a retired rock star, enjoying the quiet life with his young family on their beautiful estate.  On the edge of his grounds lies a derelict Edwardian railway station waiting room once used to transport troops in The Great War.   Silent for many years, it has become a playground for Martin's children but they won't go near it.  Strange occurrences lead in the waiting room lead Martin to seek the help of TV's favourite ghost-hunter Julian Creed.  But Creed's psychic ability is a fabrication to attract viewers.  He doesn't believe in the paranormal.    Until he spends a night in The Waiting Room.

by Carol Lyngh Williams
Release Date: June 22, 2010

Hope's life is turned upside down when her older sister Lizzie becomes an elective mute and is institutionalized after trying to kill herself.  Ever since their dad died Hope and Lizzie have relied on each other from a young age.  Their mother is a reluctant and unreliable parent at best, who turns tricks to support the family. Throughout the course of this lyrical and heartbreaking narrative readers and Hope discover that the mother is prostituting Lizzie and it's up to Hope to bring the truth the light to save her sister.
Monday, June 21, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's been so crazy at work lately I haven't really had the chance to indulge myself in reading these past several weeks and I feel like I've really neglected my blog.  I just had a makeover to a lovely new design by Emily at Blogaholic Designs (thank you Emily!!!) but haven't had a chance to really work with it as of yet and I'm starting to feel really guilty.  Summer holidays are coming soon and I can't wait, although the course that I was supposed to take that was supposedly cancelled is now back in session (just found out this morning with a lovely Monday morning email) and I'm not looking forward to doing it even though I need to do it for my job. 

So, when life is stressful everywhere else, where do I head?  The library or bookstore of course.  I was thrilled to finally get my hands on Evermore and am almost finished.  So I snuck in a few minutes of reading in between marking projects.  What else would be new?  I did it studying for exams all through university too and I did fairly well so I figure why stop now.  It's amazing how we have to justify everything even as adults, isn't it?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila over at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.  It's such a great way to keep focused on what you have read, what you are are currently reading ('cause if you're like me you have at least five books on the go at once), and what you want or need to read in the upcoming week.   Come check it out!  It's also a great way to discover new books, new authors, and new blogs. 

This is what I read this week:
Folly by Marthe Jocelyn   - Review to be posted this week.

Evermore by Alyson Noel - Review forthcoming.  I am almost finished which is why I put this book in this category.  I am loving it!!!

Sea by Heidi R. Kling - I loved this book.  You can read my review here.  Look for my forthcoming giveaway of an ARC of this book to be posted this week.

I am currently reading:
Flirting With Forever by Gwen Cready

Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony

Planning to Read:
The Kings of Clonmel by John Flanagan

Spirit by Andrew Feder

What are you reading this week?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

It's Friday!  It's Book Blogger Hop!

This is a great way to discover some new blogs, make new friends, and discuss everyone's favourite subject, BOOKS!  Head on over to Crazy for Books and see what it's all about.  You can find great contests, read some wonderful author interviews, learn about upcoming releases you may not have heard about, check out reviews, and a whole lot more.  And it's all about books!!!!

I would also like to thank Emily at Blogaholic Designs for her lovely makeover of my blog.  Also to Simply Stacie and Kelly's Lucky You for hosting such a wonderful contest.  Thank you ladies!!!!   It's been a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to playing around with the design and seeing exactly what I can do with it.
Thursday, June 17, 2010

Giveaway: ARC of They Called Themselves the KKK

Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group, I have two free ARC's of Susan Campbell Bartoletti's book They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group to give away to two lucky readers. 

Susan Campbell Bartoletti is the Newbery Honor-winning author of Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow as well as the winner of the Robert F. Sobert medal for Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine.  I was very fortunate to receive a copy of They Called Themselves the KKK;  you can read my reivew of this amazing book here.

Main Entry: Please leave a comment on this post with your email address.

Extra Entries:
- Follow Curling Up by The Fire (+2 Old Follower; +1 New Follower)
- Share this giveaway on a social network of your choice - Please post the link (+1 for each)
- Follow Curling Up by The Fire on Twitter (+1) - Please leave your Twitter name as I'm new to Twitter and am just learning the ropes so please be patient with me here. (If you feel uncomfortable with this, you can just email me your Twitter name.)

This giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the United States.  I apologize to my international readers, but I promise there will be another contest coming for you soon.

The contest deadline is midnight on July 3, 2010.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Upcoming Releases - June 14 - 20

This is such a hectic week at school, the final one before exams, and there is so much to do that I almost forgot about this post. I helped chaperone prom last Friday, which was very interesting.  I don't really remember my own prom, it seems so long ago, and I am amazed at how much money these students spend, they stay for dinner, and they leave right afterwards.  It blows me away.  I also got a new blog look that I am absolutely thrilled about, but have not yet had a chance to do anything with, even thank Emily who was such a great help in putting this new look together.  I can't wait to get my hands on my blog and begin putting the finishing touches on it.  Thank you Emily so much!!!

But I actually enjoy doing this post as it helps me focus on books that are being published and I use it as a list of books that I really want to read, especially if I have not yet purchased or borrowed them from the library.  So I decided to take a break from marking and take a sneak peek at what is being released this week.  This is what I found:

The Ogre of Oglefort
by Eva Ibbotson
Release Date: June 14, 2010

When a Hag, an orphan boy and a troll called Ulf get sent to rescue a princess from an ogre, they expect it to be a fairly standard magical mission.  But the ogre is depressed, the princess doesn't want to be rescued - and the ogre's dead wife is turning in her grave.  The Norns who rule their fates decide to take things in hand - will the ogre meet a bloody end, or will he get a happy ending?

This one is for my son.
The Confession of Catherine Howard
by Suzannah Dunn
Release Date: June 15, 2010

Eighteen-year-old Catherine Howard thought she could have it all.  Told twenty years later from the perspective of her friend, the novel tells the life of this damaged, dangerous, and short-lived Queen.

by Heidi R. Kling
Release Date: June 15, 2010

You can read my review of this novel here.

This is Where We Live
by Janelle Brown
Release Date: June 15, 2010

This is the story of Claudia and Jeremy, a young married couple who are on the verge of making it.  Her first film was a sensation at Sundance and is about to have its theatrical release, and he's assembled a new band is a few songs short of a new album.  They've recently purchased a new home with the magical assistance of an adjustable-rate mortgage.  But a series of seismic events - the tanking of Claudia's film, the return of Jeremy's ex-girlfriend, and the staggering adjustment of their monthly mortgage payments - deal a crushing blow to their dreams of a bohemian life and their professional aspirations and make them questions their values and their shared vision of a future.

The Day I Died
by Polly Courtney
Release Date: June 15, 2010

A story of losing one's memory and trying to figure out the truth of who she is.

The Reinvention of Moxie Roosevelt
by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
Release Date: June 15, 2010

Moxie Roosevelt Kipper has endured thirteen years of being an ordinary girl with an unordinary name.  Now that she's entered boarding school, the time is ripe to reinvent herself.  But at boarding school, Moxie isn't the only one who isn't what she claims to be.

Holy Water
by James P. Othmer
Release Date: June 15, 2010

A funny novel about downsizing, outsourcing, globalization, third-world dictatorships, and vasectomies.  As a big fan of The Futurist, I am looking forward to this novel.
Sunday, June 13, 2010

Review: Sea by Heidi R. Kling

by Heidi R. Kling
Release Date:  June 10, 2010
2010 G.P. Putnam's Sons
ISBN: 978-0-399-25163-4
Softcover Edition; 336 Pages
Genre: Young Adult
Source: ARC from Penguin Canada

5 / 5 Stars

Sienna Jones has had a hard time dealing with the loss of her mother three years ago in a place crash over the Indian Ocean.  Nightmares and fears of the ocean and planes haunt her.  So when her father asks Sienna to join his international relief team for two weeks of her summer vacation to help tsunami orphans cope with their losses, she thinks he must be kidding or crazy or both.

What she finds there is the most handsome boy she's ever seen.  Their connection is instant and true, so when he hears word that his father may have survived the awful tsunami after all, Sienna doesn't hesitate to run away with him to the epicenter of the tsunami disaster.  She knows they're taking a huge risk, bu she doesn't expect that what they find might break both their hearts...

My Thoughts
Sea is the debut novel by Heidi R. Kling and I absolutely loved it.  It is a compelling jaunt to another culture, and another world, where we get a look at the lives of troubled young orphans whose lives were turned upside down in the aftermath of the terrible destruction of the tsunami that destroyed everything these people have ever known.  I found it heartbreaking, but at the same time, I found it to be joyful and hopeful. 

Sienna is a wonderful principal character and I connected with her immediately.  I think anyone who has lost someone important in their lives will connect with Sienna and her grief as she tries to identify with a world that terrifies her.  She demonstrates a lot of growth as a person throughout this novel and I felt like I was right there along with her as she experienced these remarkable things in her life, things that made her open her eyes to the possibility of life going on after her mother's death.  She demonstrated compassion and courage in a lot of situations, even one so simple as using the washroom.  I am well-travelled, but even I blanched the first time I had to use a washroom the way it was described to Sienna in the book and it brought back a lot of memories of my earlier travels and my mortification as I realized that people do not live the way that I live at home.

I really enjoyed the interactions of the secondary characters in the novel.  I like the relationship that Sienna has with her father as it's so real; this is not a novel about teen angst and fighting with her parent, but about reconnecting with her world and I really enjoyed that.  I would have loved to have gotten to know Tom a little better as he seems like quite a character, but it really wasn't about him.  The relationship between Sienna and Deni was sweet and romantic; every girl should have a romance like that in her life.  Both Sienna and Deni shared devastating losses in their life and were able to share that loss with each other.  They were able to communicate and help each other deal with the grief that comes with such devastating loss and understand how the other person feels.  I understood right away why Sienna would want to help Deni in his search for his father as without hope we would wither and die.  I like how impulsive they are, how they just want to hop on a plane and go, as it shows how young they are and the impulsivity of youth.

The setting itself was extremely interesting.  I love the cultural tidbits that are included and the behaviours and norms one must follow if one is to fit in, especially the doctors if they want to be allowed to return to do their missionary work.  While we heard so much about the tsunami during the actual event and in the weeks that followed, very little was heard months afterward and this book is great for explaining some of things that were still occurring even six months after.  It is important that these things are not forgotten and are brought back to our attention as help is always needed.

Sea was a fantastic debut novel and I enjoyed it tremendously.  It captured my attention right from the beginning and I had a difficult time putting it down.  It was a sweet, romantic novel, set in the midst of devastation and chaos, but demonstrates the power of love and hope and how people can help each other heal.  I am definitely looking forward to more novels by this author.

$ 40 Giveaway from CSN Stores

Giveaway!  Giveaway!

I was recently contacted by CSN Stores and have a wonderful giveaway to offer one of my lucky readers.  I was familiar with the company, having looked at their website before, but this time I literally spent hours looking through many of their various items and found everything from bookshelves (one of my favourite categories) to patio furniture to lights to office supplies and dining ware.  There are so many items available, at every price level, that it would be difficult not to find what you are looking for.  With over 200 shops from which to choose, many with their own specializations, you can pretty much find exactly what you are looking for.  It was very easy to order and many items included free shipping in both the U.S. and in Canada.

Here are some items you can purchase for $40.

6-Quart Popcorn Maker 36.99 (For when reading good books!)

Zojirushi Thermal Carafe - 34 oz - 26.99 (We use these when travelling!)

CSN Stores has generously offered to give one of my lucky readers one $40 gift certificate to use at any of their stores.

Mandatory Entry: Please comment on this post with your email address.

Extra Entries:
- Become a follower of Curling Up By the Fire (+1 New Follower; +2 Old Follower)
- Share this giveaway on a social network of your choice.  Please include the link in your comment. (+1 for each place you share this giveaway.)

This giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada residents.  Deadline to enter is midnight on June 30th.

Good luck everyone!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

It's time for another HOP!

If you are interested in playing along, head on over to Crazy for Books,
sign up, and visit as many blogs as you like.  It's a great way to
meet new friends, discover some fantastic blogs, and just generally
join in a very supportive and fabulous community.  Oh, and you
also get to talk about BOOKS!

I am away at Prom tomorrow night; not mine as those days are long gone,
but I just wanted to mention that it may take me a few days to visit
everyone's site.  I'll be busy blowing up balloons, playing with the helium machine, 
decorating the hall, and getting ready for a group of very
excited high school students.

Oh, the drama of prom!!  I'm sure it was a big deal when I
was in school, but to be honest I just don't really remember. 
Isn't it amazing how we forget things like that?  
Especially as I'm sure it was such a big deal at the time.

Review: Ravished by a Highlander by Paula Quinn

Ravished by a Highlander
by Paula Quinn
2010 Forever
Release Date: May 1, 2010
Trade Paperback; 368 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-446-55238-7
Genre: Historical Romance
Source: Review Copy from Forever

4 / 5 Stars

Davina Montgomery is no ordinary English lady.  For her own protection, she's been locked away from society, her true identity the Crown's most closely guarded secret.  Until a shocking betrayal - and a bold rescue - land her in the arms of a fierce highlander, a powerful warrior whose searing gaze and tantalizing touch awaken her body and soul.

As the firstborn son of a powerful Scottish laird, Robert MacGregor has no loyalty to the English throne, but he's not the kind of man to leave a woman in distress.  He vows to deliver Davina to safety, unharmed and untouched.  Yet one stolen kiss leaves them both smoldering with desire...and desperate for more.  With Davina's secret threatening to destroy his clan, Rob must choose between everything he holds dear and the one woman he can't live without.

My Thoughts
Ravished by a Highlander was an enjoyable historical romance; it was full of enjoyable and quirky characters, romance that I loved, enough drama that I was satisfied, and full of historical facts about Scottish history that I have always found fascinating. 

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this novel is the depth of the characters and their character development.  I will admit that the idea of Scottish highlander men who are totally fit for battle, having trained since they were small, certainly causes a thrill and I can always picture myself in the rugged mountains envisioning the scenes where they practice and test each other's skills at arms.  The cover of the book certainly helps one envision them as well and makes you want to get into the book to find out what those Scottish men are up to this time.  Not having read any of Ms. Quinn's previous novels, it was a treat to be introduced to the rugged MacGregor clan and its diverse personalities.  The MacGregors are certainly interesting characters and I love the fact that the women are equally strong in this family.  Davina herself was a delight as she displayed a carefree attitude to the world, one who took every day and just embraced it, but at the same time stood up for herself and her beliefs, even against the strong personalities of the MacGregors.  You have to admire her for that.  Both Robert and Davina faced some difficult choices and it was interesting to see the byplay between loyalty for one's clan and love for one another and how you sometimes have to sacrifice one for the other.

I found the love and romance between Robert and Davina to be great.  They had a wonderful emotional connection and I enjoyed how it grew slowly and developed over the course of the book. This is one of the strengths of this novel.  I do have to admit that one of the things I found somewhat unbelievable however, is the subplot, and this is the reason why I only rated this novel a four instead of a five.  I found it difficult to believe that someone like Davina could be hidden away for twenty-four years without anyone knowing about it.  I also found it somewhat unbelievable that a man like Gilles could be felled the way that he was considering the type of man that he was;  everything happened a little too easily for it to be believable.  

Ravished by a Highlander was a fast-paced, enjoyable read with clever and enjoyable characters.  Seventeenth century Scotland is an interesting period of history and Ms. Quinn introduces us to a memorable cast of characters in order to bring this era to life, using a mix of fact and fiction.  Historians will enjoy this romp through time while romance lovers will not be able to get enough of Robert and Davina.  I am definitely looking forward to the next book in this series, Seduced by a Highlander, featuring Tristan MacGregor, Robert's younger brother.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It's a great way to take a look at those upcoming releases we are drooling over and to share some of the books we are anxiously awaiting with others.  It's also a great way to check out what other bloggers have found that we have missed or did not know about.  I know it's been difficult for me to focus on what I currently need to read as there are so many great books on the horizon being released.  My Tuesday feature Upcoming Releases helps me to take a look at what is being released during that week and helps me to stay more organized in my reading.  I still can't help that 'squeal' though when I notice something new that I have been waiting for for a long time is finally being published.  

One of the first Science Fantasy series/writers that I read, other than Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar Tapestry, was Terry Brooks and I was thrilled to discover that he is releasing a new fantasy series, the Legends of Shannara.  I have begun to read The Sword of Shannara (it's hard to believe it was first published in 1977), although I had to put it aside because of some other obligations, but it's still sitting on my nightside table, patiently waiting for my return.  With this new book being published, I am putting it at the top of my TBR pile.  

Bearers of the Black Staff (Legends of Shannara, Book 1)
by Terry Brooks
Release Date: August 24, 2010

The Genesis of Shannara trilogy - Armageddon's Children, The Elves of Cintra, and The Gypsy Morph - charted the fall of our own world into the hands of once-men and demons - and the escape of a few humans, Elves, and others into a remote mountain valley walled in by impenetrable magic.  For five-hundred years the survivors have lived peacefully, learning to coexist and to build a new world with the limited resources and skills available to them.  Now the magic that has kept them safe for so many centuries is wearing down.  Frightening creatures are penetrating the barriers and wreaking havoc on the valley within.  It is time for the four peoples to stand together and create the new world of Shannara.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Upcoming Releases June 7 - 14

It's been one of those weeks at work where it's been so crazy that I've been using my downtime to take a look at upcoming releases and fantasizing about holidays and freetime and looking forward to that time when I can sit down and read just for pleasure, without the pressure of work on my back.  It's coming soon and I can't wait.  No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers'...wait, I am the teacher!   Anyways, here are a few books that my family and I are looking forward to this week.

The Hidden Heart of Emily Hudson
by Melissa Jones
Release Date: June 7, 2010

London, 1862.  Emily aspires to be an artist.  Full of spirit and energy, she is too outspoken for the stuffy drawing rooms in which she finds herself confined.  Under the patronage of her cousin William, she struggles against the bonds of her time.

by Meg Cabot
Release Date: June 8, 2010

Sick of hearing about vampires?  So is Meena Harper?

But her bosses are making her write about the anyway, even though Meena doesn't believe in them.

Not that Meena isn't familiar with the supernatural.  See, Meena Harper knows how you're going to die.  

But not even Meena's procognition can prepare her for what happens when she meets - then makes the mistake of falling in love with - Lucien Antonescu, a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side.

The Passage
by Justin Cronin
Release Date: June 8, 2010

Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger.

Passing Strange (Book 3, Generation Dead)
Daniel Waters
Release Date: June 8, 2010

I have been waiting for this book for quite a while now.   This latest installment is about Karen, one of my favourite characters in this series.

Book of Shadows
by Alexandra Sokoloff
Release Date: June 8, 2010

All homicide detective Adam Garrett's beliefs about the nature of reality will be tested as he is forced to team up with a woman he is fiercely attracted to but cannot trust, in a race to uncover a psychotic killer before he strikes again.

A Colourful Death (Cornish Mystery, Book 2)
by Carola Dunn
Release Date: June 8, 2010

Eleanor Trewynn is a recently retired widow who has moved to a small village in Cornwall.  Life in this small village is anything but dull and soon Eleanor finds herself investigating a murder and discovering secrets. 

The Tilting House
by Tom Llewellyn
Release Date: June 8, 2010

This one is for my son and daughter.

Brothers Josh and Aaron Peshik are about to discover that their new home with the tilting floors hides many mysteries.

The Queen's Daughter
by Susan Coventry
Release Date: June 8, 2010

Joan's mother is Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, the most beautiful woman in the world.  Her father is King Henry II, king of England.  She loves them both - so what can she do when she is forced to choose between them?  As he parents' arguments grown ever more vicious, Joan begins to feel like a political pawn.  When her parents marry her off to the king of Sicily, Joan finds herself with a man ten years her senior.  She doesn't love him, and she can't quite forget her childhood crush, the handsome Lord Raymond.  As Joan grows up, she begins to understand that her parents' worldview is warped by their political ambitions, and hers, in turn, has been warped by theirs.  Is it too late to figure out whom to trust?  And, more important, whom to love?

A Bad Day for Pretty (Stella Hardesty, Book 2)
by Sophie Littlefield
Release Date: June 8, 2010

Stella Hardesty, avenger of wronged women, is getting cozy with Sheriff 'Goat' Jones when the tornado that is blazing a path of destruction through town blows his scheming ex-wife, Brandy, through the front door.  Adding to the chaos, the tornado destroys the snack shack at the demolition derby track, pulling up the concrete and unearthing a woman's body.  The main suspect is Neb Donovan.  Stella doesn't believe the gentle man could kill any woman, so she agrees to look into the matter for his frantic wife. 

Blind Fury (Anna Travis, Book 6)
by Lynda La Plante
Release Date: June 10, 2010

Another multiple murder thriller by a fantastic author.

What books are you looking forward to this week?