Sunday, April 20, 2014


This beautiful painting is part of
the Isenheim altarpiece,
which is now on display at
 the Unterlinden Museum at Colmar,
in Alsace, France.
The artist is Matthias Grunewald,
and he painted it around 1506 to 1515.

May His Divine blessings
fill your life with joy and peace!!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Stacking The Shelves #34: Dark Lycan, Vampire Academy, Falling, Coping, Landing, Change Your Brain Change Your Life, The Unmistakable Touch of Grace

Welcome to
Stacking The Shelves!!

This is a weekly event hosted by Jennifer, Lili,
Stephanie, Helen, and Tynga @ Tynga's Reviews!

As the title implies, this is all about
sharing the books you're adding
to your shelves, be they physical or virtual.
For the complete rules, and to sign up,
just click on the link above.

Here's this week's haul!!  
(Yet another very eclectic one!)

Books Purchased

Click on each cover picture for the 
Goodreads or Amazon page about each book.

This is the book that precedes the one
I featured in my previous STS post:
Dark Wolf.  I love Feehan's
Carpathian series!!  Well, they do call
her "The Queen of Paranormal Romance"!

I think I might have a paperback copy of
this novel somewhere, but I just
couldn't resist getting the hardcover...
I'm a HUGE fan of hardcovers!!

This looks absolutely fascinating!!
I love to read psychology and self-help books,
and this one attracted me because
I do need some help with stress.
Heck, who doesn't?

I had heard of this author before, but
had never read any of her books.
This one grabbed my attention right away!

Books For Review

These books were sent to me by the author, 
J. Bennett, for a tour being sponsored
This is an exciting, very well-written, 
dystopian/science fiction series!
I've already reviewed the first one, which
is titled Falling, and it was awesome!!

What do you think of my haul?
What wonderful books have you
stacked on your shelves
this week?

Shelf Candy Saturday #113: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, by Howard Pyle 

Welcome to Shelf Candy Saturday!!

This weekly feature
showcases beautiful book covers,
and provides information,
if available, on their very talented creators!

For more information
about Shelf Candy Saturday,
just click HERE.

Here's my choice for this week!!

 The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
  Howard Pyle
Trade Paperback, 320 pages
Capricorn House Publishers
January 1,1931
(first published 1883)
Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Why do I love this cover?

When I first came across this cover, I thought it was one for one of those collector's leatherbound editions.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this was a paperback!  I believe it's a reprint, though, because I've seen the hardcover edition on Abebooks. 

The cover design is made up of elaborate patterns, on a brown background, which immediately suggests the forests in which Robin and his gang used to hide.  There’s a heraldic drawing at the top of the cover, which depicts two fierce, battling creatures -- a griffin, and a lion, with a flaming torch between them.  At the bottom of the cover, there’s another heraldic design, which incorporates a pair of wings, a shield engraved with a monogram, and, above that, a disembodied hand carrying a red heart. 

The rest of the cover is filled with very intricate line drawings suggesting foliage.

This masterpiece of a cover was created, I’m happy to report, by the great American illustrator and author, Howard Pyle.  Of course, his name appears right on the cover, but I had no idea, until I did a Google search, that he was also responsible for the book’s cover and interior illustrations!  I suppose he must have done the font used for the title and his own name, as well.  This font has the appropriate medieval look, and the letters even appear to be embossed in gold. 

Here are some samples of Pyle’s beautiful style, which does remind me somewhat of the work of Albrecht Durer, whose style I adore.  These are interior illustrations for The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and a book about King Arthur.  (These images are from Wikimedia Commons.)

 "Sir Kay breaketh his sword at ye Tournament"
(An Arthurian illustration)

Frontispiece Illustration
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

About the Artist/Author

Howard Pyle
(March 5, 1853 - November 9, 1911)

He was an American illustrator and author, born in Wilmington, Delaware, although he spent the last year of his life in Florence, Italy.
He was interested in drawing and writing since childhood, and his mother encouraged him to study art.  He was a student of F.A. Van der Weilen in Philadelphia for three years, and also took some lessons at the Art Students League of New York.
Sometime after the year 1900, he founded his own school of illustration, after having taught at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry (now Drexel University) for about six years.
His students included many notable artists, such as N. C. Wyeth, Frank Schoonover, and Elenore Abbott.  He worked for many magazines, but is primarily known as illustrator and author of books for children and young adults.

Online Links
Delaware Art Museum
One Hundred Years of Illustration 

What do you think of my choice
this week?
Leave me a comment and 
let me know!  

Friday, April 18, 2014

Book Review: Untie the Strong Woman: Blessed Mother's Immaculate Love for the Wild Soul, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Untie the Strong Woman: Blessed Mother's Immaculate Love for the Wild Soul
Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Trade Paperback, 374 pages
Sounds True
Sept. 1, 2013 (first published Jan. 1, 2011)
Christianity, Feminism, Mythology, Nonfiction, Philosophy, Poetry, Religion, Social Justice, Spirituality

Book Synopsis:  "There is a promise Holy Mother makes to us," proclaims Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, "that any soul needing comfort, vision, or strength can cry out to her, and Blessed Mother will immediately arrive with veils flying. She will place us under her mantle for refuge, and give us the warmth of her most compassionate touch, and strong guidance about how to go by the soul's lights." Untie the Strong Woman is Dr. Estes's invitation to come together under the shelter of The Mother-whether she appears to us as the Madonna, Our Lady of Guadalupe, or any one of her countless incarnations. This unforgettable collection of stories, prayers, and blessings includes: "The Drunkard and the Lady"- a story of unexpected miracles that arise from the mud and soil, "Guadalupe is a Girl Gang Leader in Heaven"- a poem of resistance and hope, "The Shirt of Arrows"- a love that is invincible no matter how many times we are wounded, "The Black Madonna"- she who stands at the juncture between two worlds and protects us as we enter the dark places.

Why does the face of Our Lady appear in the most humble and unexpected places? Why does she burst forth into every culture no matter how hard authority tries to suppress her? It is because no bonds can prevent her from returning to those who need her most. With Untie the Strong Woman, Dr. Estes invites you to encounter the force of Immaculate Love, "So that your memory of Her is renewed, or that the knowledge of her miraculous, fierce, enduring ways is drawn into your heart for the very first time."

 My Review

Before discovering this beautiful, moving work, I had only heard of Dr.  Estes through her previous masterpiece, Women Who Run With The Wolves, which I must admit I have yet to read, although I do own it.

The present book is a loving tribute to Mary, the mother of Jesus, but it goes beyond that, for Dr. Estes connects the Blessed Mother to the Divine Feminine.  Thus, she is really the Great Mother Goddess, prevalent in all human cultures throughout the centuries, and known by many names.

It's really fascinating to see how much this love of God as Mother has come to the surface in recent years.  Although I share the author's religion -- Catholicism -- I'm not completely comfortable with Estes's take on this, since the Virgin Mary has never been a goddess.  She was born a human being, just like the rest of us, except that she was chosen to be the mother of the Messiah.  Still, I can't help but be drawn to this book, because somehow, it speaks deeply to me.  I suppose there's just something in the human soul that yearns for a mother's nurturing, fierce love.  And that's just how Estes pictures Mary, and the Divine Mother -- as a fierce, yet tender warrior, always ready to protect her children.

At the beginning of each chapter, there are photographs of the author's own collage artwork, done in honor of Our Lady, and as a memento of prayers answered.  The cover of the book depicts Our Lady of Guadalupe, done in the beautiful style of Mexican muralist George Yepes.
It was this beautiful cover that initially attracted me to this wonderful, profoundly spiritual, yet profoundly earthy, book.  The woman on this cover is a tender, yet strong, warrior mother.  She is of her people, a woman of great moral courage, of strength in the face of injustice.   She has suffered, and triumphed.  She is holy, and loving, and proud, and she will never be defeated, never be completely blotted from human history.  The author emphasizes this point many times throughout the book.

It wasn't just the cover that attracted me, though; when I picked up the book, which I found in a Barnes & Noble store I visited recently, and opened it, the most delicious book smell wafted from its pages.  I don't know what kind of paper has been used for this treasure, but it has certainly helped me love this book!  From the moment I first saw it standing proudly on a bookshelf, I felt it calling to me.  Grabbing it, I went straight to the snack section of the store, quickly found an empty table, and proceeded to get lost in the wonderfully-scented pages, that were filled with gentle eloquence.

There are many short, as well as longer, chapters in the book, in which Estes vividly details, in her unique, lyrical style, the many facets of the Divine Mother.  She writes at length about Our Lady of Guadalupe, and in one of the more touching chapters, "The Drunkard and the Lady", tells the story of a drunk with stone mason skills who helps her build a shrine to Guadalupe, under the title of "La Conquista" ("The Conquest").  Long before he had finished the shrine, the man had stopped drinking -- completely.  

Another beautiful, yet poignant chapter, "Our Lady Behind the Wall", tells the story of the mural at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in North Denver.  This mural, which depicts the Lady with the Indian saint, Juan Diego, has been hidden behind a wall for several years now. 

Yet another chapter, "Massacre of the Dreamers: the Maiz Mother" ('maiz' means 'corn') tells the sad legend of the wholesale massacre of Moctezuma's dreamers, by Moctezuma himself, in a vain attempt to stop the prophetic dreams about the brutal colonization of the Americas.  The Corn Mother was then known as "Xilonen".

There's also a chapter dedicated to the Black Madonna, as well as another on "The Marys of Mother Africa".  In the chapter on the Black Madonna, she tells of how her Swabian grandmother, Katerin, rescued blackened pieces of wood that were left after fires burned down, calling them her Black Madonnas, because they had an uncanny resemblance to the overall shape of Our Lady.  These she would plant in her vegetable and wheat fields, which would then flourish.

Perhaps the most difficult chapter for me to read was the one titled, "Post-Abortion Compassion: 'The Children She Got That She Did Not Get'".  This line in the title comes from a Gwendolyn Brooks poem, "The Mother".  Dr. Estes had a chance encounter with the poet, as she was flying to Chicago's O'Hare Airport once, and the two of them discussed the poem, in which Brooks regretfully alluded to her own abortions.

In another chapter, Estes relates the Good Friday ritual of "Pesame" ("I am sorry" is an approximate translation), in which a statue of the Madonna is brought down from an alcove in the church, and placed outside the altar rail, in the church's nave.  The congregation then slowly comes forward, to either tenderly touch the statue, or to place a warm shawl over her head, or a cup of water at her feet.  All the people come to the church in silence, and sit with her in silence, to console her for the death of her Son.  I had never heard of such a ritual before; it's obviously part of Mexican Catholic spirituality.  I found it very moving and beautiful.

Another chapter tells of the tradition of "La Posada" ("The Inn"), in which, every Christmas, a family portraying the Holy Family goes from house to house, being turned away, until at last they come to the designated house where they will be welcomed with open arms.  Along the way, they sometimes meet up with folks who, moved with compassion, forget that they are supposed to turn away the travelers, and eagerly ask them to come in, to the amused consternation of the participants.     

There are many stories throughout this book, which is a wonderful combination of things -- memoir, history, spirituality, philosophy, and poetry written by the author, which she weaves into several chapters.  In a style that is unique, tender, and full of rich metaphors, Estes pulls the reader along, delving into the recesses of the heart and soul, as she touches the sacred and brings it to life, inspiring us to marvel, to ponder, to enter into the mystery ourselves.

Estes ties the story of the Great Mother with the stories of all those who suffer and struggle for justice -- from her own Mexican ancestors, to women in Africa still enduring abuse, to the Russians who finally were able to tear down the Berlin Wall, to those who were killed during the Holocaust.  She tells these tales simply, with no vindictive rage, but with the firm stance of one who presents these horrors to the reader, one who serves as witness.  And the Great Mother grieves....

Some readers might be put off by the fact that the book has a heavy Catholic influence, while more traditional Christians might object, as I do, to the idea of the Virgin Mary being divine.  But then, the concept of the Divine Mother is something universal, something that speaks to a very deep yearning within the human heart, so I would say that everyone and anyone can read this book.  There's something about the idea of God the Mother that is, quite simply, immensely appealing, in spite of its controversy.  This book is sure to charm and ensnare the unsuspecting reader, whatever their views on the Divine Feminine.  Totally fascinating in its grand scope, it's sure to become a spiritual classic!


 About the Author

 Clarissa Pinkola Estes

 An American poet, Jungian psychoanalyst and post-trauma specialist who was raised in now nearly vanished oral and ethnic traditions. She is a first-generation American who grew up in a rural village, population 600, near the Great Lakes. Of Mexican mestiza and majority Magyar and minority Swabian tribal heritages, she comes from immigrant and refugee families who could not read or write, or who did so haltingly. Much of her writing is influenced by her family people who were farmers, shepherds, hopsmeisters, wheelwrights, weavers, orchardists, tailors, cabinet makers, lacemakers, knitters, and horsemen and horsewomen from the Old Countries.

Online Links


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Waiting On Wednesday #101: Magic Breaks, by Ilona Andrews

This is a weekly event hosted by
It showcases future releases which
we book bloggers
are eagerly anticipating!!

Here's my choice for this week!

Magic Breaks
 (Kate Daniels, 37)
Hardcover, 400 pages
Ace Hardcover
July 29, 2014
Paranormal Romance, Suspense, Urban Fantasy

Book Synopsis

  No matter how much the paranormal politics of Atlanta change, one thing always remains the same: if there’s trouble, Kate Daniels will be in the middle of it…

As the mate of the Beast Lord, Curran, former mercenary Kate Daniels has more responsibilities than it seems possible to juggle. Not only is she still struggling to keep her investigative business afloat, she must now deal with the affairs of the pack, including preparing her people for attack from Roland, a cruel ancient being with god-like powers. Since Kate’s connection to Roland has come out into the open, no one is safe—especially those closest to Kate.

As Roland’s long shadow looms ever nearer, Kate is called to attend the Conclave, a gathering of the leaders from the various supernatural factions in Atlanta. When one of the Masters of the Dead is found murdered there, apparently at the hands of a shapeshifter, Kate is given only twenty-four hours to hunt down the killer. And this time, if she fails, she’ll find herself embroiled in a war which could destroy everything she holds dear…

Why am I waiting on this book?

This is yet another great series that
I want to dive into!
The covers are awesome, and
this series features a kick-butt heroine
who has her hands full dealing
with all the supernatural baddies,
as well as all kinds of magical mayhem.
The fact that these books are actually 
written by a husband and wife
team makes them even more appealing!!

Of Beast and Beauty Read-Along: Week 2 Discussion Questions

Welcome to Week 2 of 
the Read-Along for the bestselling
YA novel, Of Beast and Beauty,
brought to you by
A Night's Dream of Books and
The Read-Along will run from 
April 1st to April 30th, 2014!!

Of Beast and Beauty
Hardcover, 400 pages
Delacorte Press, 
July 23, 2013
Dystopian Fiction, Fairy Tale Retellings, 
Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction, 
Young Adult Fiction

Week 2 Discussion Questions
Chapters 7 - 13
Vonnie's Reading Corner
April 16th

1.) The Smooth Skins live under a dome.  Why is that?

The dome is made of specially treated glass that blocks the sun's rays.  This is necessary because the sun in this part of the galaxy is much stronger than  the one in our solar system.

The dome keeps the city from being too hot in the summer, and too cold in the winter.

2.) What would happen if the dome ever got damaged?

The Smooth Skins would probably try to repair it as soon as possible.  Unfortunately, if this were to happen in the city of Yuan, Isra's advisors would also take that as a sign that she, as queen, would have to make the ultimate sacrifice, in order to ensure that the city would continue to be protected in every possible way.

3.) Why does Isra want to spend time gardening with Gem?

He's told her that he has a lot of knowledge about plants and herbs, especially healing ones.  So she wants his help in planting healing herbs that will cure mutations, as well as prevent them from happening in the first place.

4.) Why does Gem want to spend time with Isra?

At first, he doesn't want to spend any time with her, but has no choice.  Since he's her prisoner, he has to help her with the garden.  He pretends to know more about plants than he really does, in order to get a chance to be outside and possibly get to steal some of the roses, then escape and take them back to his people.

5.) What is actually happening as they spend time together?

They start to learn more about each other.  Gem begins to see that Isra is not at all cold and cruel, as he had originally thought; she's really very sweet and compassionate.  Isra begins to see that Gem is not the animal she had thought he was.  He's actually very gentle, as well as intelligent.  In short, they gradually begin to like and respect each other.

6.) What are your thoughts on Bo?  Are his feelings for Isra genuine?

Bo is, I think, a pretty confusing, as well as confused, character.  I don't think he himself really knows what he wants.  He is very easily manipulated by his father, Junjie, who was the late king's chief advisor.  Bo appeared to have a crush on Isra, at first.  But I think he really doesn't have any romantic feelings for her; it's just that his father expects him to marry her, so he's tried to love her.  It seems that he simply likes the queen as a person, but is not madly in love with her.  

7.) Discuss how mutated Smooth Skins are treated.

They are outcasts, confined to the Banished camp, which is located  on the outskirts of the city.  They are fed and watered like animals.  Also, they're not allowed to own shops or work in the orchards, nor are they allowed to have children or seek the help of the city's healers.  
8.) What are the reasons behind Isra's tea poisoning?

This was done 'for her own good', in order to keep her from seeing the true state of affairs in the city of Yuan.  It was especially supposed to prevent her from seeing how the Banished were being treated.

9.) How long do you think this has been going on?
Isra remembers the day of the fire in the tower.  During this incident, she hit her head on a table, and lost consciousness.  Shortly after that, she lost her sight.  She was 4 years old at the time.  So the poisoning must have begun right around that time.  She's 17 now, which means the poisoning has been going on for 13 years!

10.) Why is it only the women of the royal family 
being sacrificed to the roses?

At this point in the book, I'm not sure, but I suspect it's because of male chauvinism.  The kings of Yuan have probably selfishly saved themselves at the expense of their wives' lives.  After all, look at the way Isra has been and is being treated -- as someone who really is incapable of ruling.  Junjie and her own  father are indirectly responsible for Isra's low opinion of herself.