Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday #20: Under the Vale and Other Tales of Valdemar, by Mercedes Lackey

This is a weekly book meme, hosted by
which features future releases that we book bloggers
are eagerly anticipating!

Here's my pick for this week!!

Edited by Mercedes Lackey
Trade Paperback, 352 pages
Expected Publication Date: Dec. 6, 2011
Genre: Fantasy

From the Goodreads Synopsis

The Heralds of Valdemar are an ancient order, drawn from all across the land, from all walks of life, and at all ages, these unusual individuals are Gifted with abilities beyond those of normal men and women. They are Mindspeakers, FarSeers, Empaths, ForeSeers, Firestarters, FarSpeakers, and more. Sought and Chosen by mysterious horselike Companions, they are bonded for life to these telepathic, enigmatic creatures. With their Companions, the Heralds of Valdemar ride circuit throughout the kingdom protecting the peace and, when necessary, defending their land and monarch.

Now readers can travel to the world of Valdemar with Tanya Huff, Mickey Zucker Reichert, Fiona Patton, Rosemary Edghill, Judith Tarr, and others in these original stories, including an all-new novella from Mercedes Lackey.

Well, I've never read anything by Mercedes Lackey,
or by any of these other authors, either...
I must admit that
this beautiful cover has inspired me
to check out this book,
because I love horses, especially fantasy ones!!

Besides, I think it's about time
I became closely acquainted with these writers
I've heard so much about!!

What fantastic books are you all
eagerly anticipating this week?

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge 2011!!

I have just discovered this wonderful
annual reading challenge, hosted by

This is a truly beautiful blog that celebrates
the Christmas Spirit all year long!!
Since I happen to love Christmas myself,
I am totally enchanted by the idea of keeping
the spirit of the season alive throughout the year,
so I certainly want to participate in this challenge!

Michelle also has another terrific blog,

which is totally dedicated to historical fiction,
and that is a reading genre I do enjoy
from time to time.

This challenge began on Monday, November 21, 2011,
and will run through Friday, January 6, 2012.

Here are some additional details, copied from
The Christmas Spirit: 

Cross-overs with other challenges are
totally permitted AND encouraged!
These must be Christmas novels, books about
Christmas lore,
books of Christmas short stories,
books about Christmas crafts,
or (for the first time)children's Christmas books!

Visit this POST for a list of new Christmas books for 2011.

There are three reading levels, as well. 
The one I'm planning to do is the Mistletoe Level,
which consists of reading two to four books!

Additionally, there is a giveaway attached, so be sure to visit
Michelle's blog at the link above,
in order to get more information, as well as to link up,
since this is also a blog hop!

These are the books I will be reading!

(As a matter of fact, I've already started on the first one.)

Kaitlin O'Riley
Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages
October 1, 2011
Genres: Historical Romance,
Christmas Romance

Debra Dier, Eugenia Riley,
Amy Elizabeth Saunders,
Trana Mae Simmons
Mass Market Paperback, 440 pages
Love Spell
November 28, 1995
Genres: Historical Romance,
Christmas Romance

Mary Balogh, Sandra Heath,
Emily Hendrickson,
Emma Lange, Sheila Walsh
Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages
November 1, 1994
Genres: Historical Fiction,
Christmas Romance

Linda Lael Miller
Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
October 26, 2010
Genres: Historical Romance,
Christmas Romance

As you can see, I love reading Christmas romances,
whether they are short stories or novels!!

I can't wait to see what other participants will be reading!! 
(I have a feeling I might end up reading more than four books....)

If you would like to join in, just write your own post,
grab the button above
(Michelle has another one available
on the reading challenge post)
and don't forget to link up your own blog post!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Book Review: Winter's Shadow, by M.J. Hearle

Title: Winter's Shadow
Author: M.J. Hearle
Format: Trade Paperback, 432 pages
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Publication Date: June 1, 2011
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy

Mesmerizing, mysterious, and utterly compelling, this debut novel by Australian author M.J. Hearle totally immerses the reader in a strange, supernatural reality that is beautifully depicted.  

I had been trying to get the book for months, but the shipping charges from Australia were too unreasonable.  Finally, however, I was able to buy it at a great website I discovered.  When the book arrived, I delightedly plunged into the story.  

The heroine of the novel, Winter Adams, is a seventeen-year-old high school student living in the town of Hagan's Bluff.  After an eerie prologue set in Paris, in the year 1878, Winter's story opens, at the dilapidated ruin known as Pilgrim's Lament, once a thriving church.  She has an assignment to take some photographs of the church's interior, as well as exterior, for her school newspaper. 

Once inside the church, Winter becomes intent on photographing a broken, but beautiful, stained-glass window.  When she positions herself in front of the window, which looks out upon a graveyard, she sees...him.  His profile is partially visible to her, so she notices right away that he is an utterly beautiful young man.  Instinctively, she takes a picture of the handsome stranger, and, when he turns fully toward her, his eyes locking with hers, she becomes so nervous that she stumbles backward, away from the window, but right into a rickety old church column.  Showers of dust from the ceiling cascade around her.  Suddenly, a heavy beam starts to fall toward her... 

She awakens in his arms, outside the church, with no memory of how she got there.  And she is captivated by his masculine beauty, his emerald eyes...  Once her confusion has cleared somewhat, she suddenly realizes that he has actually saved her life. 

His name is Blake Duchamp, and Winter has never seen him in town before.

The setting of this novel has everything a paranormal romance fan could want -- mystery, suspense, supernatural beings, that all-encompassing Gothic atmosphere...as well as a story of forbidden love.  It's all been done before, some readers might object.  Well, the ingredients I've mentioned are typically part of a paranormal romance.  That's the nature of the genre, after all.  The important point is what the author does with those ingredients, what makes a particular novel so captivating that the reader is unwilling to come up for air until the story is over.  Hearle takes those ingredients and uses them to weave a tale that will simply not let go until the very end.

This is also a tale full of symbolism and metaphor.  The young adult genre is usually considered to be light fare by most adult readers, but a cursory reading of  currently bestselling titles should dispel that notion at once.  Underneath a superficially "juvenile" story, adult themes are dealt with, often with deeper implications being involved.  Winter's Shadow is a case in point.  The broken stained-glass window, for instance, is a very appropriate metaphor for Blake himself.  He is gorgeous and very alluring, yet there is something broken about him, something inherently flawed -- or so it would seem.  As the story unfolds, we see his true self shine through that apparent flaw, just as the sun shines through a stained-glass window, even a broken one.  We also see that he is, indeed, psychologically broken.  But then, so is Winter.  The broken window metaphor thus encompasses her, as well.  The allusion of a flawed diamond comes to mind here.  Don't we often, in real life, encounter people who are at first sight, "flawed", only to discover their inner beauty as time passes?  While this might sound excessively romantic and idealistic to some, I can't stress this enough.  I am, after all, a hopelessly romantic idealist...

In any novel or short story, the characters must be interesting.  Blake and Winter certainly are, in a very endearing sort of way.  They both hide painful pasts, thus sharing a psychic bond.  They are both not quite sure of themselves.  Winter is the shy, introverted type of girl who has not had much luck with boys, in contrast to her bubbly friend, Jasmine, who has already weathered several relationships.  Blake is the solitary hero who has just bought a house rumored to be haunted.  Winter soon finds out that something scary rattles away in the attic...

The romance between Blake and Winter builds up slowly, with lots of suspense and teen angst.  When it blooms, it is both tender and fraught with danger.  Both care deeply about the other, although Blake's love for Winter is most strongly revealed towards the end of the novel.  His greatest concern is to keep her safe, as hers is to defend him to anyone who might present any obstacles to their love.  Since this is a young adult novel, there are no heated sex scenes, but Hearle does convey the intensity of their love in other, equally effective ways.  The passion is present nevertheless!

Hearle has obvious influences from such Gothic masterpieces as Jane Eyre, but again, he uses them for his own purposes.  One of the book's strong points is the mythological world created by the author.  It provides a very original framework for his story, as well as fascinating speculation on the delicate balance between life and death.

I was just as interested in the flashback chapters -- which continue the story first introduced in the prologue -- as I was in the main story.  They provide very important background information about Blake.  Rather than being mere interruptions, they add immeasurably to the main story, as well as making a great parallel story in themselves.  Through them, the reader discovers just what sort of being Blake is, and how truly dangerous he could be to Winter, if he chose to allow his supernatural nature to assert itself. 

Throughout the novel, the brooding, rather oppressive atmosphere continually contrasts with and intrudes upon that mundane reality we are all too familiar with -- the daily routines of life, such as getting ready for school and work, dealing with inquisitive relatives (such as Lucy, Winter's sister), etc.  Towards the end of the novel, it appears as if all the oppression has lifted, as if "reality" has, indeed, won, as life seems to move on...

Nothing could be further from the truth.   There are, instead, many unanswered questions at the end, which I must say was certainly mind-blowing, as well as totally unexpected.  Since the sequel, Winter's Light, is set for publication in May, 2012, I am very eager to find those answers!  Indeed, I am waiting with bated breath.  Hearle has already delighted me once, and I'm sure he won't fail to do so again, for the story of Blake Duchamp and Winter Adams has now joined the ranks, in my mind, of other memorable fictional couples, such as Edward Rochester and Jane Eyre, as well as Edward Cullen and Bella Swan!


M.J. Hearle

To purchase this book at the lowest price available so far, just click HERE!! 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Follow My Book Blog Friday Hop #13

Happy Follow Friday!!

This weekly feature is hosted by
Rachel at Parajunkee's View 
Alison at Alison Can Read,
 which you really must go and check out!!

You can find the rules at the links above.
Join in the fun and make new blogging friends!!

This week's featured blogs are:


This week's question is:

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.
so we want to know what
you are thankful for –
blogging related of course!
Who has helped you out along the way?
What books are you thankful for reading?

This is not only an interesting question, but a spiritual one, as well.  To begin with, I'm very thankful for this topic, because it gives me an opportunity to pause and reflect, and we all need to do that from time to time.

Well, when it comes to blogging, the very first thing I'm thankful for is the fact of blogging itself!  However, I'd have to go further than that -- I'm thankful for the very existence of the Internet.  Without it, there would be no such thing as blogging, no social networking at all, no place to share my love of books on a worldwide basis.  So...yay for the Internet!!! 

I'm also very thankful for the Blogger platform, which is the one I use.  Barring occasional glitches, it has worked out very well for me!   Also, it has the GFC widget, which I think makes networking with other bloggers so much easier.  It also allows one to keep better track of one's followers.  This is especially useful for those who are definitely not computer geeks, like me.

I'm very grateful to Rachel at Parajunkee, and Alison at Alison Can Read, for hosting this fantabulous blog hop!  Without it, many of us wouldn't get a chance to meet each other!! 

Of course, I also have to mention some very special friends in the blogosphere.  These are supportive people who have delighted me with their wonderful, very interesting comments, as well as their pleasant personalities!  Their blogs are just as terrific as they are!  Here's a list, and I sure hope I haven't excluded anybody!  (My apologies to anyone I might have missed.  Do leave a comment, and I'll include you at once!)

Giselle @ Xpresso Reads

Thanks to this blog hop, I have just met
two more wonderful bloggers!


Amanda @ Book Love 101!!!!

I am also very, very grateful for my love of reading!!  Without that, I wouldn't be blogging about books in the first place!  My passion for reading is something I was simply born with.  No one else in my family loves books as much as I do -- not even my Mom, who used to carry a book around with her everywhere she went, when she was younger.  But she's not an obsessive book buyer.  Me?  Well...if Amazon and eBay were to give out awards for the customers who purchase the most books, I'm sure I'd win first prize!  Bookstore salespeople know me very well, too.  When I call one bookstore located a mere block from my job in downtown Miami, I say, "This is Book Addict!  I'm looking for this particular book...."  (Of course, they know my real name, too.  Lol.)

I am especially thankful for the following much-beloved books!  They have not only provided me with many hours of pure reading delight, but they have completely transported me from this boring reality I have to live in...

Charlotte Bronte

J.R.R. Tolkien

Stephenie Meyer

J.K. Rowling

Charles Dickens

Tom and Sharon Curtis

Elswyth Thane

Robert A. Heinlein

Daphne Du Maurier

Thomas Hardy

Ray Bradbury

Gee, I guess I'm truly blessed!
What are you all thankful for?

Thursday, November 24, 2011


May you all have a wonderful holiday,
full of great food and family love,
and may blessings galore 
surround you and yours
(such as lots of books!) 
in the year to come!

Here's a great Thanksgiving read!
(It includes Christmas and
New Year's, as well!)

November 1, 2011
Genres: Holiday Romance, Contemporary Romance

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday #19: Rapture, by Lauren Kate

This is a weekly book meme, hosted by
which features future releases that we book bloggers
are eagerly anticipating!

Here's my pick for this week!!

Hardcover, 432 pages
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Expected Publication Date:
June 12, 2012
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance,
Urban Fantasy

From the Goodreads Synopsis

In RAPTURE, the highly anticipated fourth and final novel in the FALLEN series, Luce and Daniel are together . . . but for how long? Can history be rewritten? Or are some punishments eternal?

This is an absolute must for me!!
I have already read, and own, the first three novels
in this exciting series,
so of course I have to close it out with book 4!!

I love Daniel and Luce, and want them to
live happily ever after, naturally.
I'm on pins and needles wondering how Kate
will take them to that magical land
of everlasting happiness...
Ah, bliss....

And a gorgeous cover like this one
makes the wait even more
(Interesting, isn't it, that Luce 
is wearing a white dress in this one?)

What fantastic books are you all
eagerly anticipating this week?

Sunday, November 20, 2011


This giveaway hop is being hosted by


This hop is a bit different from other giveaways,
 in that it's easier to enter!

More than 300 blogs are participating!!!
So head on over to the links above and get the
information in order to enter!!

Here's another fantastic giveaway hop, hosted by


The rules for this hop are slighlty different from the first one,
but there are already more than 200 participating blogs!!!
Yours truly will also be joining in,
so keep an eye out for my giveaway hop post,
coming soon!!

These giveaway hops are a wonderful opportunity
for us bloggers to appreciate our faithful followers,
and to spread some holiday gift-giving spirit!

So be sure to join in and spread the love!!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

On My Bookshelves #9 (11/19 - 11/21)

This new weekend feature, hosted here, 
highlights the books that 
we have somehow never gotten to,
as well as those wonderful books we would love to re-read!!

If you'd like to join in, write your own post,
grab my meme button
(or create your own),
and add your post link in the Linky widget!

Have fun hopping over to other blogs
to see what books others want to either read or re-read!

Here's my list for this week!

Charlotte Bronte
Hardcover, 596 pages
Everyman's Library
January 15, 1991
(first published in 1847)
Genres: Romance, Gothic Fiction, Classics,
Literary Fiction

From the Goodreads Synopsis

Charlotte Brontë’s novel about the passionate love between Jane Eyre, a young girl alone in the world, and the rich, brilliant, domineering Rochester has, ever since its publication in 1847, enthralled every kind of reader, from the most critical and cultivated to the youngest and most unabashedly romantic. It lives as one of the great triumphs of storytelling and as a moving affirmation of the prerogatives of the heart in the face of disappointment and misfortune.

This is one of my several copies of
this immortal masterpiece.
I love this book so much
that I have collected several editions of it,
each with a different, and beautiful, cover!

I think it's definitely due for another re-reading,
since I will never get tired of
reading about Jane and Edward's love!!

Cynthia Hand
Hardcover, 435 pages
Harper Teen
January 4, 2011
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Urban Fantasy

From the Goodreads Synopsis

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side....

I couldn't quite finish this book
the first time around...
I know why, but can't give out the reason
because it would be a major spoiler.
I will definitely go back to it, though,
because I've read the synopsis for the sequel,
and it looks like my big question
will get a satisfacory answer there!

A.S. Byatt
Trade Paperback, 352 pages
March 31, 1993
(first published in 1990)
Genre: Non-Fiction, Literary Criticism

From the Goodreads Synopsis

Whether she is writing about George Eliot or Sylvia Plath; Victorian spiritual malaise or Toni Morrison; mythic strands in the novels of Iris Murdoch and Saul Bellow; politics behind the popularity of Barbara Pym or the ambitions that underlie her own fiction, Byatt manages to be challenging, entertaining, and unflinchingly committed to the alliance of literature and life.

I really must get to Byatt's work.
She certainly has a stellar literary reputation!
One of my favorite genres is, after all, literary fiction.
This book is not fiction, however,
but a collection of essays analyzing the work of
various writers in the genre.

I think it's about time I began incorporating non-fiction
into this blog, although I would much prefer
to start another blog dedicated exclusively to it.
Unfortunately, my time is pretty limited,
so I might as well include such books
in my present blog!

What fabulous books are waiting
on your bookshelves
to be read or re-read?