Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Upcoming Releases - November 29 - December 5

Hard to believe it's almost December, and soon we will be celebrating another New Year's.  I can't say that I will be sad to see the end of 2010 as there have been some major 'bleeps' along the path this year, but there have also been some great moments too.  I celebrate my kids and the growth I see in them every day; I love watching them grow and develop into young adults as it's just amazing.  My friends tell me I'll feel differently for a few years when they become teenagers (lol), but for now I can enjoy being around them and feel joy in their presence. 

As always, I love to scour the web for new and upcoming releases.  I haven't been able to do this feature for the past several weeks as I've been to busy at work, but thought it was time to get back into it again.  So, here a couple of books I am looking forward to reading that are being released this week:

Matched (Matched, Book 1)
by Ally Condie
Release Date: November 30, 2010

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

Shadowheart (Shadowmarch, Book 4)
by Tad Williams
Release Date: November 30, 2010

Southmarch Castle is about to be caught between two implacable enemies, the anchient, immortal Qar and the insane god-king, the Autarch of Xis. Meanwhile, its two young defenders, Princess Briony and Prince Barrick, are both trapped far away from home and fighting for their lives. And now, something is awakening underneath Southmarch Castle, something powerful and terrible that the world has not seen for thousands of years. Can Barrick and Briony, along with a tiny handful of allies, ordinary and extraordinary, find a way to save their world and prevent the rise of a terrible new age - an age of unending darkness?

The Sherlockian
by Graham Moore
Release Date: November 30

When literary researcher Harold White is inducted into the preeminent Sherlock Holmes enthusiast society, The Baker Street Irregulars, he never imagines he's about to be thrust onto the hunt for the holy grail of Holmes-ophiles: the missing diary. But when the world's leading Doylean scholar is found murdered in his hotel room, it is Harold - using wisdom and methods gleaned from countless detective stories - who takes up the search, both for the diary and for the killer.

The Darkfall Switch
by David Lindsley
Release Date: November 30, 2010

After a power cut kills dozens of people in the London Underground, engineer Dan Foster uncovers a web of deception centred on a department of the US administration. The blackout may have been initiated by accident, but the trigger is part of a scheme that someone is now desperate to conceal - even if it involves murder. Foster's probes take him to the headquarters of a powerful industrial corporation in the Rocky Mountains, where he finds the plot goes deeper than he could have possibly imagined. The question is: will he be able to unveil the ugly truth before it's too late?

A Piggly Wiggly Christmas
by Robert Dalby
Release Date: November 30, 2010

When the big MegaMart off the interstate starts to drain away business from Second Creek's historic town square, Laurie Lepanto approaches the mayor, Hale Dunbar-previously the proprietor of Second Creek's Piggly Wiggly supermarket-with a scheme to revitalize the area.

But when an electrical fire devastates the square's beautiful old buildings a week before Christmas, everything is thrown into chaos. It falls to the town's indefatigable army of matrons-the Nitwitts-to find a way to revive the holiday spirit and raise money to rebuild. It will take a miracle... But it's Christmas in Second Creek, where everyday miracles are a way of life.

Black Wings
by Christina Henry
Release Date: November 30, 2010

Escorting souls into the afterlife leaves Maddy little time for socializing-until devilishly handsome Gabriel Angeloscuro agrees to rent the empty apartment in her building. But when demons start appearing on Maddy's front lawn, she realizes there's more to her new tenant than meets the eye.

Lucid Intervals (A Stone Barrington Novel)
by Stuart Woods
Release Date: November 30, 2010

It seems like just another quiet night at Elaine's. Stone Barrington and his former cop partner, Dino, are enjoying some pasta when in walks former client-and all around sad sack-Herbie Fisher...with a briefcase containing $14 million in cash.

Herbie claims to have won the money on a lucky lotto ticket, but he also says he needs a lawyer-and after a single gunshot breaks the window above his head and send diners scrambling, Stone and Dino suspect Herbie might need a bodyguard and a private investigator, too.

The Millenium Set
by Stieg Larsson
Release Date: November 30, 2010

Purchase Stieg Larsson's internationally bestselling Millennium Trilogy.

Monday, November 29, 2010

YA Historical Fiction Challenge 2011

The Challenge

I am a huge fan of historical fiction and have already joined several challenges in that domain, so when I saw this challenge, I couldn't resist.  Hosted by Stephanie @ Books Are a Girl's Best Friend, she has also compiled a list of a variety of books that can help the newbie YA reader to find books to get started.  If interested, go take a look and sign up!!!

Levels:  You can choose any of the following levels to aim for. 1) Inquisitive- read 1-3 YA HF novel in 2011
2) Fascinated- Read 5 YA HF novels in 2011
3) Captivated- Read 10 YA HF novels in 2011
4) Head over heels in love- Read 15 YA HF novels in 2011
5) Addicted- Read 15+ YA HF novels in 2011

All books read for the challenge must be YA (or for slightly younger children.) For the purposes of this challenge, anything set in the past and centering around the historical period will count.

The challenge is open to everyone, and you do not need a blog to participate. 

It does not matter when the books were published or what time period they were set in.

The challenge starts on 1st January 2011 and ends on December 31st and you can sign up anytime.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Review: The Mermaid's Mirror by L.K. Madigan

The Mermaid's Mirror
by L.K. Madigan
Release Date: October 4, 2010
2010 Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Hardcover Edition; 320 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-547-19491-2
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Lena has lived her whole life near the beach - walking for miles up and down the shore and breathing the salty air, swimming in the cold water, and watching the surfers rule the waves - the problem is, she's her whole life just watching.

Yet something keeps drawing Lena to the water...an ancient, powerful magic. And one morning, Lena catches sight of this magic: a beautiful woman - with a silvery tail.

Now nothing can stop Lena from seeking the mermaid, not even the dangerous waves at Magic Crescent Cove.

And soon...what she sees in the mermaid's mirror will change her life forever.

My Thoughts
I felt a deep connection with Lena, possibly because I feel the same powerful draw to water that she feels, and can completely identify with her feelings when it comes to the mystery and magic and pull of the water.  I understood her blind panic when her father threatened to move the family away from the ocean and into the city as I would have felt the same thing.  I have always thought that one is born with that connection to water and when you feel that pull it is very hard to resist.  When I read about men needing to go to sea, I have always understood the reasoning behind it and the longing to return when they are on land.  I am born a Pisces, so maybe that has something to do with that too.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and the characters that surrounded Lena.  As a sixteen-year-old girl, she never felt completely at ease in her world and could never understand why.  When she began sleepwalking and waking up on the beach in the middle of the night, she was terrified there was something horribly wrong with her, something that had to do with her mother who died under mysterious circumstances years ago, circumstances no one was willing to discuss with her.  As she attempted to learn the secrets to her mother's past, she also had to evaluate her own feelings and to take a good look at herself in the process; I enjoyed watching her develop from a child into a confident teenager during this process. 

I loved Ms. Madigan's lyrical writing style and found it very easy to connect with the characters and the storyline because of it.  She fed us little tidbits of information at a time, little teasers, just enough to keep the reader interested, and because of that, I was rooted to the novel from beginning to end.  I liked how Lena questioned her relationship with her boyfriend, Kai, wondering why she didn't feel some of the feelings for him she thought she should. It's good to see that in a novel as early relationships are often about self-discovery and not about finding 'happily ever after'.  There are very few people I know who have married their high school sweethearts.   I also liked how she put her friends first, and stood up for herself.  She was also caring and sympathetic, worried about her friend, Pem, who was diving quickly into a relationship with a boy two years older than herself.

One of the highlights of the book was the visit to the mer village.  I was fascinated by this other world, particularly as I don't think I have read another book like it.  I was thinking about all the books I have read and I think I have avoided mermaid books for some reason.  One of the things that did bother me was Lena's relationship with Nix; not the relationship itself, but the 'love at first sight' concept that I thought was going to be avoided in this novel, and wasn't.  I was somewhat disappointed by that and it did ruin it a little bit for me.  Don't get me wrong; it's not that I don't ever want to see Lena and Nix get together or anything, it's just I prefer the getting to know each other concept of love, and seeing love develop, not the infatuation type of love and "I love you" right now kind of love.    Does that even make sense? 

The Mermaid's Mirror was an interesting tale of young love, hope rediscovered, and friendship.  I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end and am definitely looking forward to the sequel when it is published next year.

L.K. Madigan's first novel, Flash Point, won the William C. Morris Award (YALSA).

How Well Read Are You?

This is the kind of thing I really love!  Give me a list and I love looking through it to see what I have accomplished; it also gives me a challenge and a goal to complete.  This list was compiled by the BBC, which I found on Inside of a Dog, and it apparently includes many contemporary and classic titles that if read, would make you well read.  I'm not sure if I agree with all of the selections listed, but that would make an interesting post for another day.

According to the BBC, most people have not read more than 6 books found on this list.

•Copy this list.
•Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety.
•Italicise the ones you started but didn’t finish or read only an excerpt.
•Tag other book nerds.
•Highlight the ones that you have but haven't read. They are probably in your TBR stack/on your shelf at the back because someone said you should read them.

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
The King James Bible
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Nineteen Eighty Four (1984) – George Orwell
His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
Complete Works of Shakespeare
Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
Middlemarch – George Eliot
Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott FitzgeraldWar and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
Emma -Jane Austen
Persuasion – Jane Austen
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
Animal Farm – George Orwell
The DaVinci Code – Dan Brown
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Atonement – Ian McEwan
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Dune – Frank Herbert
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas (en francais)
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
Dracula – Bram Stoker
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
Ulysses – James Joyce
The Inferno – Dante
Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
Germinal – Emile Zola (en francais)
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
Possession – AS Byatt
Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert (en francais)
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery (en francais)
The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
Watership Down – Richard Adams
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas (en francais)
Hamlet – William Shakespeare
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
Les Miserables – Victor Hugo (en francais)

Okay, I have read 45 of these books, with several on the partial read list, and others are still sitting on my shelf.  Some of these were required reading for high school and university, which is probably the only reason I read them in the first place as I don't think I would have otherwise.  And that would have been a shame as, for example, I loved Germinal and became a huge Zola fan, but would not have read it if I wasn't forced in university. 
Luckily, I have actually heard of all of these books, and I am happy about that as I do consider myself a well-read person.  When I was young, I went through a stage where I adored reading about animals talking like humans, which is why I read The Wind in the Willows.  I completely avoid these books today though, which is weird.  Something must have happened to turn me off of them, but for the life of me, I don't know what it is. 

I am Canadian, and what little Canadian girl has not heard of Anne of Green Gables?  I read the entire series by the time I was ten and am now passing off the books to my daughter (and the films).  The Chronicles of Narnia also passed through my childhood and I have just given that series over to my son and daughter as well.  I am totally excited over The Voyage of the Dawntreader opening up over the Christmas holidays and can't wait to see the newest intallment.

Even as a child, I preferred a good ghost story or paranormal story to anything else.  I hunted for them hungrily (and still do), and when I discovered fantasy and science-fiction, well...a whole new world was opened.  I was, and continue to be, a very eclectic and prolific reader, never focusing on any one genre, choosing whatever catches the eye, there are still some things I can never turn my back on.

So, take a look at this list and tell me how YOU did.  I'm pretty sure that most book bloggers and readers would probably have reader far more than six books on this list.  What do you think?

Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

My goal for 2010 was to read 100 books and I read quite a bit over that.  I stopped counting at 120, but it is not unusual for me to read that many books in one year.  I am a prolific reader, but I don't like to post about every book I read on my blog as it makes it seem more like a job and I don't ever want to make reading seem like a chore.  I would like to aim for 150 books this year and I know this is doable.    So, it is game on!!!!  Who knows?  Maybe I can reach 200 books in one year.  Except for the past couple of years, I don't think I've ever kept track of exactly how many books I've read in one year so this should be interesting.  The only challenge getting in my way is kids and work, kids and work, kids and work....you get the picture. (And sometimes hubby too (lol))!!!

Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge hosted by The Book Vixen


•Runs January 1, 2011 through December 31, 2011 (books read prior to 1/1/11 do not count towards the challenge). You can join at anytime. You can sign up on The Book Vixen’s blog.

•The goal is to outdo yourself by reading more books in 2011 than you did in 2010. See the different levels below and pick the one that works best for you. Nothing is set in stone; you can change levels at any time during the challenge.

•Books can be any format (bound, eBook, audio).

•Re-reads and crossovers from other reading challenges are fine.

•You can list your books in advance or list them as you read them. It is not required that you review the books you read for this challenge but feel free to do so.

•Post this reading challenge on your blog so you can keep a list of the books you’ve read for this challenge. Please include a link back to this post so readers can join the challenge too.

•You do not have to be a book blogger to participate. You can keep tabs on books you’ve read for this challenge on Goodreads or LibraryThing if you’d like (maybe make a shelf for “Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge”). If you are not on either of those sites then you can list the books you read for this challenge in the comments on my wrap-up post, which will be up at the end of 2011.


Getting my heart rate up – Read 1–5 more books
Out of breath – Read 6–10 more books
Breaking a sweat – Read 11–15 more books
I’m on fire! – Read 16+ more books

I've decided to go for I'm on fire! and read 16+ more books than last year.  Last year I took a course in the summer and went on two trips which hampered my reading.  No course and no trips this year and I should have a lot more time for reading, hopefully.  Painting my house might get in the way, but really, who doesn't make time for reading at least once per day?  That's what an addiction is all about, isn't it?
Thursday, November 25, 2010

Working with CSN Stores is Always Great!


It's always great to be able to work with CSN Stores and I was happy to have been contacted yet again to review another great product from one their stores. I'm sure most of you are familiar with the 200+ stores that CSN has to offer and all of the choices available, in all price ranges, which meet the needs of any consumer. My husband and I have been searching for sling backpacks for our children for quite a while now, in particular the larger bags that can carry all of their karate and jiu jitsu equipment for their training days.  It has come to the point where the kids need separate bags from each other, and they need ones with multiple containers for the various items, such as belts, water bottles, mouth guards, and so on, that are needed for this sport.  My daughter is also in need of a desk and bookcase (who isn't?), my son is in need of some bulletin boards and would love some space murals, and I am looking for some more wall scuptures to decorate my home, all of which can be found on the CSN Stores website.

Baggallini Urban Backpack in Crinkle Nylon
Piel Small Drawstring Backpack

I have typically found ordering from CSN Stores to be particularly easy, and the last thing I ordered, a wall sculpture, came within days, and came very carefully packaged and bound. Many items include free shipping and the sales, if you are willing to shop around, can be great. With Christmas just around the corner, I am sure you can find something for everyone!   I am looking forward to sharing with you another great product review from CSN Stores.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Review: The Lies That Bind by Kate Carlisle

The Lies That Bind (Bibliphile Mystery, Book 3)
by Kate Carlisle
Release Date: November 24, 2010
2010 Obsidian Mystery
Paperback Edition; 294 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-451-23169-7
Genre: Mystery
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

4 / 5 Stars

When it comes to rare books and antiquities, Brooklyn Wainwright is a master.  That's why she has returned to San Francisco to teach bookbinding class at Bay Area Book Arts.  Unfortunately, BABA director Layla Fontaine is a horrendous host who pitches fits and lords it over her subordinates.  With the help of her beau, Derek Stone, Brooklyn manages to put on a brave face and endure.

But someone else is not so forgiving.  Layla is found dead from a gunshot wound, and Brooklyn is bound and determined to investigate.  But when Layla's past ends up intertwined with Derek's, Brooklyn realizes that the case is much more personal than she thought - and the killer might want to close the book on her for good.

My Thoughts
This third installment to The Bibliophile Mystery Series, The Lies That Bind, was very interesting and a lot of fun.  I enjoyed the variety of characters and learned a lot about the intricacies of bookbinding and restoring precious old books along the way.  Who knew working with books could be so dangerous?

Although touted as a mystery story, I certainly enjoyed this novel for many reasons.  The humour and witty sarcasm made me laugh and the continuous interruptions to our lovebirds, Derek and Brooklyn, as they tried to get together for date after date was comical.  There did come a point in the novel though, where I was feeling like the interruptions were overdone and wanted to get the romance going.  There's only so much of that a reader can take in one novel.  Brooklyn was a sympathetic character who was feeling like someone was out to get her as she always seemed to be around to discover the bodies.  Her cries of "Why me?" certainly found a sympathetic ear in the gorgeous Commander Derek Stone, who returns in this novel as Brooklyn's love interest.  Maybe in the next book, these two will actually get to have a complete date.  Brooklyn does send out some sparks, some not so friendly, as she decides to investigate on her own.  I personally love the scenes where she and Derek discuss some of the risks she has taken and why she should not do that anymore as it's not good for his heart.  How funny!!

I also loved Brooklyn's hippie family, especially her mother, whose various interests change on a continuous basis.  I just found the humour that surrounds the darker elements in this novel, really lightens the mood and makes the novel, which could be dreary, into something fun and entertaining.  And the body count does add up in this novel where it would seem that one should be afraid to go to work at BABA as it would not be safe.  While I did find some elements to be predictable, it did take me a little while to guess the murderer in this who-dun-it and even then, I wasn't sure until the end.  It was a clever little novel with a lot of funny moments that tend to steer you in the wrong direction. 

I really enjoyed this novel, especially Brooklyn's family and the ever-so-sexy Derek Stone.  There were a lot of humourous moments and its quirky characters made it fun and entertaining.  Although it could be classified as a stand-alone novel, I highly recommend reading the first two novels in this series, Homicide in Hardcover and If Books Could Kill, before reading this one.  I am definitely looking forward to reading Murder Under Cover when it releases in  May 2011.

WOW: A Discovery of Witches

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine, where we highlight upcoming releases we can't wait to read.  I love this meme because I always find something I didn't know was going to be published, or some new author waiting to be discovered.  Come take a look and see!!

A Discovery of Witches
by Deborah Harkness
Release Date: February 8, 2011

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.

I just love this kind of stuff, don't you?
Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Review: The Emperor's Tomb by Steve Berry

The Emperor's Tomb (Cotton Malone, Book 6)
by Steve Berry
Release Date: November 23, 2010
2010 Ballantine Books
ARC Softcover Edition; 464 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-345-50549-1
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

4 / 5 Stars

The tomb of China's First Emperor, guarded by an underground army of terra cotta warriors, has remained sealed for more than 2,000 years. It is regarded as one of the greatest archaeological sites in the world, yet the Chinese government will not allow anyone to open it.  Why?

Malone's life is shattered when he receives an anonymous note carrying an unfamiliar Web address.  Logging on, he sees Cassiopeia Vitt, a woman who's saved his life more than once, being tortured at the hands of a mysterious man who has one demand: Bring me the artifact she's asked you to keep safe.  The only problem is, Malone doesn't have a clue what the man is talking about, since Cassiopeia has left nothing with him.  So begins Malone's most harrowing adventure to date - one that offers up astounding historical revelations, pits him against a ruthless ancient brotherhood, and sends him from Denmark to Belgium to Vietnam and then on to China, a vast and mysterious land where danger lurks at every turn.

My Thoughts
I have always enjoyed the Cotton Malone books, partly because their archaological discoveries have always fascinated me with their possibilities.  This book is no exception in that area as the terra cotta warriors and the possibilities that go long with that archaeological site have long since been an endless source of speculation for anyone who has followed it.  Furthermore, the terra cotta exhitibition is currently in Toronto, and this has whetted the appetite for things cultural and historical relating to China.  So many people have forgotten that China used to be a world leader in so many inventions, including the drilling of oil, and this novel really tries to highlight how advanced this cilization used to be in comparison to the rest of the world.

If you are looking for a lot of archaeological discoveries in this novel however, you will sorely be disappointed, as The Emperor's Tomb is much more political than his other novels.  I'm not saying his previous novels did not deal with the political nature of countries and societies, but this one mainly deals with the political strife that exists in China at the moment.  While there were some archaeological activities in this novel, there were no great discoveries and intricacies as found in his previous novels.  Once I realized this, I found myself absorbed in the Chinese political system, and the strife that currently exists; how much of this is factual or invented I have no way of knowing as I have never specialized in China and its history, but I found it fascinating.  The stories relating to China's first emperor, Qin Shi, the rise and fall of the eunuchs, the differences between Legalism and Confucism, all led to some very interesting reading. 

Ni Yong is the character I found the most interesting in this novel.  Being in the middle of a vast political struggle over who would succeed as the next leader of China, I found him endearing,sympathetic, courageous, and determined to do right by his country.  To see him deal with internal conflicts as to what would be the right thing to do for his people was fascinating, and I developed an admiration for him that I could not develop for the other characters.  How Malone and Vitt got involved in this story was somewhat flimsy, but I accepted it for the sake of the story;  they really had no reason to be there other than Malone is the main character in the story.  And I can't fathom that sneaking into China is as easy as they make is out to be in this novel or it would be done on a regular basis.  Or am I really that naive?  Having a knowledge of The Venetian Betrayal would have led to better understanding of some of the byplay that occurred in this novel as the return of Viktor Thomas did present some difficulties between Vitt and Malone.  If you haven't read the previous novel, you may have missed some of the subtle inuendos and some of the hints that came from the previous novel, and they were woven into this story so the previous connections did have a role.

While I enjoyed a lot of the action scenes in this novel, there were some moments that were not quite so believable, such as the museum in Antwerp that burns down (remind you of the museum that burns down in The Venetian Betrayal anyone?).  Some of the torture scenes put a grimace on my face with the inventive use of rats and water, and to think these were common ways of torture in China in the past is kind of scary.  Humans are so creative sometimes, just not in a positive way.  And the scenes where a man becomes a eunuch?  I don't think my husband would have read those ones, but kept right on going.  They were pretty graphic, and now I know exactly how it was done.  Ugh!!!! 

One of things I really did like was how Mr. Berry used this novel to highlight the disappearance of thousands of children in China every year.  As Vitt was hired to search for a little boy who was taken from his home for political purposes, the author uses this storyline to highlight this horrible problem that is occurring in China in the present day.  Also, the debate between abiotic and biotic oil sent me to the computer to do some research and the result was absolutely fascinating.  I have developed a newfound interest in this debate and Mr. Berry also wrote this novel to highlight this current international problem and heated debates are occuring worldwide.  Absolutely fascinating stuff, and I couldn't help but think of the possibilities if the theories in this novel are, in fact, true. 

The Emperor's Tomb brought so many ideas and theories together in one novel, highlighting a lot of the problems and strifes that currently exist in China.  It made for some fascinating and interesting reading with regards to China's political structure and system, including many of the strengths and weaknesses that exist wherewithin.  There were some very interesting moments in this novel, but I did find it predictable, and I don't really feel that Malone, Vitt, and Thomas were used in this novel the way Mr. Berry intended.  I felt like they were there simply because this is a Cotton Malone novel and he has to be in it, and the reasons for these three characters to be present in the novel were flimsy at best.  That being said however, there were still great moments in this novel, with all of Mr. Berry's usual thrills and quick-paced action that his readers are accustomed to reading.  And having read all his previous novels, I will continue to look forward to his future novels with anticipation to see where Cotton Malone ends up next. 
Monday, November 22, 2010

2011 Debut Author Challenge

2011 Debut Author Challenge

I have decided to participate in the 2011 Debut Author Challenge, hosted by The Story Siren, where the objective is to read at least twelve (12) Young Adult or Middle Grade authors from January 2011 to December 2011.  You can definitely read more than this if you want to however, which should not be a problem. I know from participating in a YA challenge last year that I easily met the 25 books for which I signed up, as I do tend to read a lot of Young Adult and Middle Grade authors.   This one is a little different though, as the authors must debut their novels in 2011, although they can be previously published in another area. 

For more information, check out The Story Siren and all the particulars about this challenge on her blog.  Go sign up, and get reading!!! 

Here are some of the authors I plan on reading this year:
Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey
The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
Entwined by Heather Dixon
Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton
Moonglass by Jesse Kirby
Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
Haven by Krish Cook

I am really looking forward to this!!!!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, Book 1)
by Cassandra Clare
Release Date: August 31, 2010
2010 Margaret K. McElderry Book
Hardcover Edition; 481 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-4169-7586-1
Genre: Young Adult Historical/Paranormal
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Tessa Gray descends into Victorian London's dark underworld to search for her missing brother, with the mysterious Shadowhunters as her only allies.

My Thoughts
While I truly did enjoy this book from beginning to end, and thought there were some really great elements in this story, I did feel like there was something missing, although I couldn't quite put my finger on it.  The story was entertaining, full of suspense, quick-paced, and although I enjoyed the set-up for future storylines, I felt like something was missing at the heart of the story. 
First of all, it took me quite a while to feel anything for Tessa, and a feeling of connection with the main character has always been really important to me when becoming involved in a story.  While I felt sorry for her plight, I just couldn't quite feel that connection with her, and the necessary sympathy that needed to come with her situation.  While I thought she had guts, courage, and determination, and I liked how she was also searching for information on her situation and the people around her, I did think she was a little cold and didn't quite show the sympathy she needed.  Luckily, that changed around the halfway mark in the story and I could feel myself warming up to her gradually as the story unfolded and I was happy about that.  I just felt like there was some 'soul' missing to Tessa.  However, I really enjoyed Will and Jem and couldn't get enough of those two characters.  The image of 'light and dark' kept coming to mind and I was enthralled by their stories and their personalities.  Although Will could be cruel and I was never sure of his loyalties, I always seem to be attracted to the darker personalities as I find them more interesting.  I also think that because Ms. Clare only gives us teasing clues as to his history that it makes him that much more interesting as well; there just seems to be so much depth to Will's character that I can't wait to learn more about him.   
The setting of the story always puts me in mind of Gail Carriger's London, and I love this setting.  I love how everything seems so dark and secretive, with glamours and magic, and a secret side to London that only a select few know about.  I have always been attracted to stories about ancient powers, and secrets, and magic, so this kind of story is right up my alley.  While I did find some aspects to the storyline somewhat predictable, I am happy to say the moments were few and far between, and the twists and turns make this novel edgy and creative and fascinating.  I found the clockwork army to be quite creepy and as the novel reached its final resolution, there were some things that happened that were unexpected and creepy.  Loads of fun!
One of the things I did enjoy in this novel was the interplay amongst the young ladies in this novel to behave like young ladies or to be shadowhunters, something that is very contradictory.  I think Ms. Clare did a wonderful job highlighting the dichotomy between the two and the conflict this would present to young ladies brought up during this time period.  There were some edgy moments which definitely brings out the mannerisms and attitudes of people who lived at this time.   Tessa and Jess were two very different young ladies and I love how Ms. Clare plays them off of each other; yet, Jess could be as strong and capable as any shadowhunter out there. 
While there were some things I thought were missing from this novel, there were so many wonderful and great things about it too.  I love the setting and the many different characters make the interplay fun and interesting.  There was suspense, mystery, action, twists and turns, and even some romance.  I am definitely looking forward to the next novel in this series, Clockwork Prince, in 2011.

2010 National Book Award Winners

The winners of the 2010 National Book Award were announced on November 17th at the 61st National Book Awards Benefit Dinner and Ceremony, held in New York City.  All of this year's finalists received a bronze statue and a $10 000 prize in honour of their contributions and achievements to literature.   Here are the highlights of the ceremony:


Fiction - Winner 

Lord of Misrule
by Jaimy Gordon
Release Date: November 15, 2010

Horseman Tommy Hansel has a scheme to rescue his failing stable: He’ll ship four unknown but ready horses to Indian Mound Downs, run them in cheap claiming races at long odds, and then get out fast before anyone notices. The problem is, at this rundown riverfront half-mile racetrack in the Northern Panhandle, everybody notices—veteran groom Medicine Ed, Kidstuff the blacksmith, old lady “gyp” Deucey Gifford, stall superintendent Suitcase Smithers, eventually even the ruled-off “racetrack financier” Two-Tie and the ominous leading trainer, Joe Dale Bigg. But no one bothers to factor in Tommy Hansel’s go-fer girlfriend, Maggie Koderer. Like the beautiful, used-up, tragic horses she comes to love, Maggie has just enough heart to wire everyone’s flagging hopes back to the source of all luck.


I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita

So Much for That by Lionel Shriver
Great House by Nicole Krauss

Nonfiction - Winner

by Patti Smith
Release Date: November 2, 2010

In Just Kids, Patti Smith’s first book of prose, the legendary American artist offers a never-before-seen glimpse of her remarkable relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the epochal days of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel in the late sixties and seventies. An honest and moving story of youth and friendship, Smith brings the same unique, lyrical quality to Just Kids as she has to the rest of her formidable body of work—from her influential 1975 album Horses to her visual art and poetry.


Cultures of War by John W. Dower

Poetry - Winner

by Terrance Hayes
Release Date: March 30, 2010

In his fourth collection, Terrance Hayes investigates how we construct experience. With one foot firmly grounded in the everyday and the other hovering in the air, his poems braid dream and reality into a poetry that is both dark and buoyant. Cultural icons as diverse as Fela Kuti, Harriet Tubman, and Wallace Stevens appear with meditations on desire and history. We see Hayes testing the line between story and song in a series of stunning poems inspired by the Pecha Kucha, a Japanese presenta­tion format. This innovative collection presents the light- headedness of a mind trying to pull against gravity and time. Fueled by an imagination that enlightens, delights, and ignites, Lighthead leaves us illuminated and scorched.


By The Numbers by James Richardson
The Eternal City by Kathleen Graber

One with Others by C.D. Wright
Ignatz by Monica Youn

Young People's Literature - Winner

by Kathryn Erskine
Release Date: April 15, 2010

In Caitlin’s world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That’s the stuff Caitlin’s older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon’s dead and Dad is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger’s, she doesn’t know how. When she reads the definition of closure, she realizes that is what she needs. In her search for it, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white—the world is full of colors—messy and beautiful.


Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers
Dark Water by Laura McNeal

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Congratulations to all of the winners and the finalists of this year's National Book Awards!!!!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Operation Thriller - Five Thriller Writers Tour With USO

Five of today's most critically acclaimed thriller writers (left to right) Douglas Preston, Steve Berry, David Morrell, James Rollins, and Andy Harp posed for a group photo during a USO meet-and-greet in Kuwait on November 8, 2010. Part of a week-long USO tour entitled "Operation Thriller," the authors were in the Middle East extending America's heartfelt thanks to US troops.

Follow Friday! and Book Blogger Hop

Welcome to Curling Up By The Fire!! 

I am participating in Follow Friday, hosted by Parajunkee's View, and The Blog Hop, hosted by Crazy for Books.   Both of these are great ways to discover new blogs, do the social network thing, take a look at some of the fantastic things that are happening in the book blogging world, and to discuss one of our favourite topics, BOOKS!

Today's question is:  How long have you been blogging?

I first started my blog at the end of December last year, but really had no idea whatsoever as to what I was doing.  I have been a book reviewer for several years, and just needed another outlook to promote the books, and the authors, and other interesting news in the publishing world, and this looked like such an interesting way to do it.  At first, I don't think I was really serious about it, mainly because I was unsure about how to approach things technically, but as the year progressed, I found I enjoyed it tremendously.  It also renewed my love for writing and I've been seriously considering trying my hand at story-writing again.  Unfortunately, I don't get to spend as much time on my blog as I would like as I have a really demanding job, and two young children.  Reading needs to take a back seat to the 'bread and butter', but I do what I can.  I am also hoping to spread a bit into product reviews as I really enjoy doing that as well.  Hopefully, I will enjoy many future years of book blogging, writing, and reading.

Question #2: Since Thanksgiving is coming up next week, let's use this week's Hop to share what we are most thankful for and what our holiday traditions are!

I am Canadian, so I celebrate Thanksgiving in October, but that doesn't mean I can't share what I am most thankful for.  I am always thankful for my family and friends.  My dad had a terrible year with another bout of cancer, and I am grateful he is still around to celebrate Thanksgiving with us.  My mom had a difficult time trying to take care of my dad, with all of the appointments and chemotherapy sessions, and so on, and I am so glad that is in the past and they can move on and enjoy their cruise in January with peace. 

I am always grateful for my wonderful and amazing hubby and two kiddies, who are the light of my life.  I am on my way home shortly to spend some time with them and have a family evening together, somethin we all enjoy very much.  I am also grateful for the successes I have had this past year, including the success of my blog, and to you, my followers, who have made it a success. 

Our typical Thanksgiving tradition is spending the weekend at our trailer (remember we're talking October here), as we spent out last weekend at the park with friends, and then we close up for the season.  We always have a big campfire and get-together on the last night.  It's a lot of fun and we have a fantastic time.  My extended family and I usually get together in the following weeks to celebrate Thanksgiving with some home-cooked meals, usually at our house.  It's fun, simple, and relaxing.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the United States!
Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wow: Always a Witch

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine.  It's such a great way to discover upcoming releases you did not know were being released and to get excited, yet again, over books.
Here is another review copy I received in the mail and had no idea it was being released next summer.  Take a look:

Always a Witch (Witch, Book 2)
by Carolyn MacCullough
Release Date: August 1st, 2011

Since the gripping conclusion of ONCE A WITCH, Tamsin Greene has been having nightmares. Though she should be enjoying her new boyfriend, Gabriel, or discovering more about her newfound magical "Talents," she's too busy dealing with her sister, Rowena's bride-zilla wedding demands and worrying about the resurgence of her enemy, Alistair Knight. But most of all, Tamsin is haunted by her grandmother's prophecy that she will soon be forced to make a crucial decision. A choice so terrible, that it could destroy her family forever.

When Tamsin discovers that Alistair successfully went back in time to Victorian Era New York, in order to destory the Greene family, she's forced to follow him into the past. Stranded all alone in the 19th century, Tamsin soon finds herself disguised as a lady's maid in the terrifying mansion of the evil Knight family, bustling about as a servant, avoiding the watchful eye of the vicious matron, La Spider, and fending off the lascivious advances Liam Knight. As times runs out, Tamsin's brash demeanor and sardonic wit place her in the center of the fray as both families square off in a thrilling display of action and magic. And to her horror, Tamsin finally understands the nature of her fateful choice.

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, and can't wait to read this one.
What fantastic book did you discover this week?

Debbi Mack 20 Questions Blog Tour

Debbi Mack 20 Questions Blog Tour 

I am thrilled to host Debbi Mack, author of Identity Crisis and Five Uneasy Pieces, on my blog Curling Up By The Fire today, as part of her 20 Questions Blog Tour.  It is a unique way to get to know Debbie and some of the influences and steps she took to writing her novels.  Welcome, Debbi!

Question 17: Has your background as a lawyer influenced your writing or publishing career?

Thanks, Stephanie, for asking that question and hosting me here at Curling Up by the Fire. Having a background in law has significantly influenced my writing and publishing career.

First, there's the obvious way it's influenced my writing. My protagonist is a lawyer. I didn't make her a lawyer because of the old maxim "write what you know." I made her a lawyer because I wanted to distinguish her from other hardboiled female protagonists. Most of them were private investigators. I made my character Sam McRae a lawyer to make her different from the others.

Doing that didn't necessarily make the storytelling part easier. If anything, it made it a bit more difficult. First, I had to get the legal details right (or other lawyers would laugh about it, possibly ridicule my work, which was something I definitely didn't want). Now, being a lawyer doesn't mean you know every single thing there is to know about the law. Being a lawyer means you know how to identify legal issues and look things up. And after you look things up, it's knowing how those things apply to your case.

So, in writing my first novel IDENTITY CRISIS, I had to think about all the legal implications involved in the scenario I depicted. I was writing about identity theft, so I had to figure out if any laws existed at the time that made it illegal. At the time, there were few (if any) laws that applied specifically to identity theft. So I looked a bit deeper into laws that dealt with fraudulent activity. Also, laws that dealt with theft in general. I tried to think about how any of those laws might apply.

Now, mind you, I did this as background research for the novel. I never intended to write a treatise on the subject. I did the research to satisfy myself that there wasn't a plot development in there that I might be overlooking. I did it to make sure there wasn't an obvious charge the police might bring against the alleged identity thief (one that would significantly affect the story, anyway).

In short, being a lawyer has made me more careful about my research and finding out the things that I don't know about a subject. Because when you come down to it, sometimes you simply don't realize you don't know something until you research it. Being a lawyer (and a librarian, actually) has made me more aware of my limitations in this regard.

Being a lawyer has also made me more aware of logical inconsistencies. As a result, I tend to look for ways that the plot fails to hang together or lack of justification for a character's actions. Legal training attunes your mind to notice when things don't quite add up. It forces you to seek solutions that make sense. The legally trained mind won't settle for illogical actions by a character nor will it be happy with plots that unravel or fail to resolve well.

In addition, my legal training has reinforced my tendency to outline. Throughout law school, we were encouraged to create outlines of our course material. These outlines were our study guides. I've always been an outliner, anyway. It goes with my tendency to take a step-by-step, rational approach to problem solving.

I tend to think of writing a mystery as, not only an exercise in creativity, but also an exercise in problem solving. If a mystery is like a puzzle, then a rational approach should help suggest its solution. My job as the author is to know the solution, but hide the proverbial ball. What I do is reason out how and why it happened, then create obstacles and red herrings that take readers in different directions. By doing this, the clues (necessarily) will get sprinkled in along with other possible solutions. The trick is to make those other solutions equally (if not more) logical under the circumstances.

Being a lawyer also gives me an amazing mental repository of material. Storytelling is all about conflict. Lawyers deal with real and potential conflict as a matter of course. For every case that exists, I could probably come up with a scenario in which someone would commit murder. (Pretty gruesome thinking, huh? Well, lawyers have a tendency to see the bleak side of human behavior. We're a little like cops that way.)

I could probably name all sorts of ways in which being a lawyer has affected my writing, but I'll move on to publishing instead.

First, let me tell you what being a lawyer hasn't done. It hasn't made me well-equipped to vet my own contracts. (I still won't do that. A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. I'm no fool. ) It hasn't made me an expert on copyright law. It hasn't familiarized me with standard publishing contract provisions or with industry customs.

It has, however, made me more aware of the need to know about these things. It's caused me to inquire into them. As usual, I've taken a logical approach and tried to research what I can about the subject. I've learned from other authors (though, frankly, many of them don't really understand the issues so much as their effect on them) and gone to a seminar or two on copyright. I've learned enough to know that there's plenty I still don't know and understand. Copyright is a highly complex subject – even legal practitioners that specialize in it get muddled over the details.

In any case, I know (now) that when I sign with a publisher, I'm entering a licensing agreement. My rights are still mine, I'm just licensing their use to another. This licensing arrangement allows them to publish my work. If we're talking about a traditional publisher, the license granted is exclusive (i.e., for that publisher alone). If we're talking about reputable self-publishing outfits (e.g., CreateSpace, et al.), the license granted is non-exclusive (i.e., the work can be published by others without limitation).

I know that I alone hold the copyright. And the copyright takes in many forms of expression. My copyright includes not only print books, but audiobook rights, e-rights (this has become a HUGE sticking point when deciding to sign with a publisher), adaptation rights (particularly, for movies or television) and translation rights, just to name a few.

I also know from my research and experience that good writing can be marketed, promoted and sold by individuals. I did it as a freelance writer, so it stands to reason that I should be able to do it as a fiction author.

I realize that operating as an indie author isn't easy. I realize there are obstacles to overcome (particularly on the print book distribution front). However, I've also seen the future (or really the present) in ebooks. I know that if I take a logical approach to my marketing and promotion, that I can distribute and sell ebooks with much less problem than their print counterparts.

In that way, my legal background and my resulting inquiries have made me more aware of my own power. My content is mine and nothing can change that. And I won't sign any deal that isn't worth my while. Why? Because I'm the creator. Without me, the publishers have nothing.

While traditional publishers used to wield (one might even say monopolize) the ultimate power of allowing an author to become published, now their power's slipping. Why? Because authors can do for themselves more easily now. With print-on-demand technology and ebooks, authors are no longer locked out. In fact, they hold the keys to their own success. They still have to work hard at marketing and promotion, but they'd have to do that, anyway.

My legal knowledge has helped me realize that I'm far from helpless. In fact, that knowledge has helped me realize that all authors with good stories to tell have it in themselves to make a living in this business.

* * * * *
Thanks for reading, everyone! Don't forget to leave a comment with your email address if you'd like to enter the drawing for the 10 autographed copies of IDENTITY CRISIS I'm giving away. (One entry per person, but comment as often as you like.)

The drawing will be held on my blog My Life on the Mid-List after the tour is finished. Check my blog for the entire tour schedule.

And please join me at my next stop tomorrow: The Little Blog of Murder.

* * * * *

Debbi Mack is the author of IDENTITY CRISIS, a hardboiled mystery and the first in a series featuring lawyer Stephanie Ann "Sam" McRae. She's also a short story writer whose ebook anthology, FIVE UNEASY PIECES, includes the Derringer-nominated "The Right to Remain Silent," originally published in The Back Alley Webzine. Debbi's work has also appeared in two of the CHESAPEAKE CRIMES anthologies.

Be on the lookout for her next Sam McRae novel, LEAST WANTED, which will be published soon (in print and ebook versions).

Debbi practiced law for nine years before becoming a freelance writer/researcher and fiction author. She's also worked as a news wire reporter covering the legal beat in Washington, D.C. and as a reference librarian at the Federal Trade Commission. She lives in Maryland with her husband and three cats.

You can find out more about Debbi on her Web site and her blog My Life on the Mid-List. Her books are available on Amazon, BN.com, Smashwords and other sites around the Web, as well by order at stores. You can also buy autographed copies of her novel from her Web site.