Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Novel: History, Genres, and Personal Passion




To me, the phrase 'getting lost in a good book' refers specifically to entering the world of a fascinating novel.  After all, it's only in novels that a reader can experience an entire world, whether it's one existing only in the imagination of the author, or inspired by our 'everyday' world. 

The novel has a very definite history -- a fairly recent one, as a matter of fact.  In ancient times, there were other fictional styles, such as the epic poem.  The novel as it is known and enjoyed in our present time has been evolving for several centuries. 

The first book to use the term 'novel' was Palace of  Pleasure well furnished with pleasant Histories and excellent Novelles, a volume of tales published in 1566 by William Painter, an English author who was also a clerk of the ordnance in the Tower of London.

The term 'novel' competed for a long time with the term 'romance'.  It eventually became the accepted word for longer prose fiction -- at least, in English and Spanish.  The Spanish word is 'novela', which is interesting, considering that the word 'novella' is used in English to denote a work that is too long to be a short story, but not long enough to be considered a full-length novel, which traditionally has come to contain at least 50,000 words.

Longer fictional narratives had appeared before the 18th century.  Examples include Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron (1351 - 1353), Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur (c. 1469), considered to be the first English novel, and  Don Quixote (1605, 1615), also classified as a novel, by the Spanish Miguel de Cervantes.  For many scholars, however, it was the 18th century that gave birth to the modern novel.  The English printer Samuel Richardson published Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, circa 1740 to 1742. 

The growth of the middle class was the greatest factor contributing to the rise of the novel.  More people were not only able to read, but to purchase books, as well.   In England, this led to the flowering of great literature, with such classics as Henry Fielding's Tom Jones ((1749) and Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility (1811), and Pride and Prejudice (1813).   The 19th century was particularly rich in English masterpieces, with the publishing of Jane Eyre (1847), by Charlotte Bronte, Wuthering Heights (1847), by Emily Bronte, David Copperfield (1849 - 1850) and Great Expectations (1860 - 1861), by Charles Dickens, Vanity Fair (1848) by William Makepeace Thackeray,  Middlemarch (1871 - 1872) by George Eliot, and Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891) by Thomas Hardy.






Many great writers from various countries of the world, like James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Doris Lessing, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Joseph Conrad, Leo Tolstoy, Hermann Hesse, Thomas Mann, Fyodor Dostoyevski, Victor Hugo, and Marcel Proust have a firm place in the history of the novel.  These are writers of what is often termed literary fiction.  I have a passion for such fiction.  It not only totally enthralls me, but also carries me away into worlds that, while close to what we term 'reality', are not entirely real, because characters become immortalized in the reader's mind, and the plot's symbolic elements derive from the world of the archetypes.

The novel has evolved into many genres.  Besides that of literary fiction, I also greatly enjoy reading fantasy, science fiction, romance -- I especially like paranormal and historical romance -- Christian fiction, and young adult novels.  Some of these genres overlap.  As far as paranormal romance goes, I do prefer to read the young adult versions, since they are much cleaner.  (Obviously, I've never been a fan of D.H. Lawrence, who first started the fad for using profanity and graphic sex in novels.) 

Aside from The Twilight Saga, which I absolutely adore, I also love a particular book, not very widely known, which I read years ago, and have never forgotten.  Titled Tryst, it tells the story of a young girl, Sabrina, who falls in love with a ghost.  The book was written by American novelist Elswyth Thane,  and published in 1939. 

The fantasy and science fiction genres have contributed works as great as any in the literary fiction category.  Writers such as Robert Heinlein, whose Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) has long been a favorite of mine, and J.R.R. Tolkien, whose The Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954 - 1955) I consider one of my most precious treasures, have proven that novels in other genres can, and do, attain the literary stature of the more highly-regarded literary fiction, in spite of what many literary critics may say. 

Other important works in the science fiction and fantasy genres include Fahrenheit 451 (1951), by Ray Bradbury, Ender's Game (1985), by Orson Scott Card, and The Chronicles of Narnia (1949 - 1954), by C.S. Lewis.






In very recent years, the incredibly widespread popularity of The Twilight Saga, by Stephenie Meyer, and the Harry Potter books, by J.K. Rowling, has, quite literally (pun intended) put the young adult genre on the map.  While these books are disdained by most critics of 'high literature', it's undeniably true that they have touched the hearts and minds -- not to mention the souls -- of millions of readers.  They have also ignited an increased love of reading among teens and young adults.

In Christian fiction, which I am admittedly least familiar with -- a situation I fully intend to remedy -- I can point to two great classics, written by the American minister/novelist Lloyd C. Douglas.  The first is Magnificent Obsession, published in 1929; the second, The Robe, published in 1942.  It's a historical novel about the crucifixion of Jesus.  Suffice it to say that the movie version, starring Richard Burton, does not do it justice at all, since it distorts the character of the protagonist, Marcellus, so that it's a mere caricature of the original in the book.

Although I do sometimes read short-story anthologies, it is novels, with their greater length, that I most enjoy.  As I stated above, a novel can completely absorb the reader in a fictional world, and characters have more room to develop.  The experience of being so totally immersed in a novel that one suddenly looks up, dazed, realizing that there's a world out there, beyond the pages of the book, and that hours have somehow passed in the blink of an eye, is a delightfully disconcerting one!  It's also a stimulating, yet, in a way, relaxing experience for the human brain. 

I am surrounded by books at home.  In fact, no one can currently sit on our living room couch, because it's loaded with stacks and stacks of books!  There are also five floor-to-ceiling shelves in the living room, plus three in our bedroom, plus my night table.... (My husband's night table is taken up with one of his several laptops.)  I don't know how many of the books I own are novels, but I would venture to say that a large proportion of them are.  So I am, and happily so, totally surrounded by other worlds, other realities, which I can enter by simply opening the gates of one of these novels, and beginning the journey with the turn of a page...

I wonder if the delight of the novel is known in other parts of our vast universe.  Do other intelligent species enjoy the wonders of this beautiful art form?  If such a species indeed exists (are you out there, Mr. Spock?), I believe they must, sooner or later, develop something that closely resembles the novel.  Any being endowed with human-like intelligence cannot fail to invent and develop fiction, and especially, the longer form of narrative.  It is, after all, fiction that makes 'the real world' more tolerable, more meaningful, and, ultimately, more humane.





Sunday, April 24, 2011

HAPPY EASTER!!!!







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 23, 2011

Book Review: Angelfire (third novel for "The Descent of the Angels Reading Challenge")



I have finished reading my third angel book for
"The Descent of the Angels Reading Challenge".

It's been very entertaining and enjoyable
thus far, with very inventive plots
and great characters conjured up by each author!

Now I have 9 more books to go!
Onward and upward!
(Pun very much intended...)




Angelfire
Author:  Courtney Allison Moulton
Hardcover, 453 pages
Published by Harper Collins,
February 15, 2011
Reading Genre: Paranormal Romance, YA



What an exciting, very original take on angels this book is, with a strong female hero, as well!  It was quite hard to put down, since page after page of action kept me truly on the edge of my seat, reading late into the night, as battle after battle erupted, with hardly any respite to give me time to draw breath... 

Elisabeth Monroe, better known as Ellie, is a very likable character.  She is a good student, and apparently a very normal, average girl, whose seventeenth birthday is just around the corner.  She has some great friends.  There's just one problem -- she also has horrible nightmares in which she's someone else -- a fierce warrior who wields sickle-shaped Khopesh swords, and hunts creatures known as "reapers", in another dimension known as the "Grim".   

One day, a strange, intense-looking boy suddenly appears, and Ellie somehow feels she knows him, although she can't recall ever seeing him before.  He's gone in a flash, before she can speak with him.

Things get started when Mr. Meyer, one of Ellie's teachers, is found brutally murdered.  The entire school in in shock, while Ellie goes into a mild depression.

Just after midnight, on her birthday, she sneaks out of her parents' house, onto the front porch, after witnessing another of the endless arguments between them.   Restless, she decides to go for a walk around the block.  This is, after all, a quiet neighborhood, where no crimes have ever taken place.  As she starts down the street, she hears a low, unexplained rumble, and a streetlamp goes out.  And then...Will reappears.

The rumble belongs to a reaper, invisible to Ellie's eyes. 

Will forces her into the Grim, and she can now see the monster clearly.  She is calm, unafraid.  She 'calls' her weapons into her hands, and a frightening battle ensues, in which she is no longer herself, but a mighty warrior, intent on annihilating evil.  She succeeds brilliantly, then blacks out.  Ellie is not an "average" girl at all!

The background details on Will and Ellie gradually unfold as the novel moves along.  Will has been her guardian, or bodyguard, through many lifetimes, and she has always fought reapers, evil creatures that kill humans, sending their souls to Hell.  She has died many times, but is always reborn, although, in this life, her memory has not returned as quickly as it has in previous ones.  But just who is Ellie, really?   She is the 'Preliator', the only being destined to fight the reapers and destroy them.

The plot intensifies even more when a mysterious artifact, known as the 'Enshi', is discovered in the house of a reaper, one of the kind that can pass as human.  This artifact has the potential to annihilate the Preliator, so it must either be destroyed, or buried where the reapers cannot find it.  Thus begins the final quest, the final battle.  In the process, Ellie is revealed to be something more than a warrior...and the budding love between her and Will is a forbidden one...

One of the things I greatly enjoyed about this book was the tension created as Ellie struggled to fulfill the duties of her office, while at the same time, continue with her everyday human existence, as if nothing unusual were going on.  Moulton deals with this in a very creative manner, inventing very plausible explanations for the consequences of Ellie's battles with the reapers.

Another delightful aspect of the book is the easy camaraderie between Will and Ellie.  At no point in the book does he treat her in a condescending manner.  In fact, he becomes her fighting coach at the beginning of the novel.  He trains her to fight for herself, seeking to help her remember her warrior skills.  He is her protector only in the sense that he covers her back during the endless battles with the reapers.  When they both begin to realize that they love each other, that love is based on respect and trust. 

Will and Ellie are both such compelling characters!  Will is tough, but yet, tender and gentle with Ellie.  He is sweet and honorable, totally loyal to her.  He has loved her for centuries, but has remained firm to his own duty toward her.  He's also very attractive, and Ellie doesn't fail to notice that.  In fact, he's a total hottie!  Ellie herself comes across as a very nice, good girl who is somewhat naive.  She quickly emerges as a very tough character, however.  When she later realizes that she has fallen in love with Will, she gives herself entirely to that love, even though Will tells her they cannot be together.  This is another element in the book that builds tension.  I wanted them to be able to have a love relationship!  I wanted it desperately! 

There are memorable minor characters, as well, such as Kate, who is Ellie's best friend, and Nathaniel, an immortal allied to Will, who is an expert in ancient languages.

The one problem I had with the book was that i found Ellie's true identity -- which I will not reveal here -- incompatible with her long chain of incarnations.  Until I discovered that, I was all set to give the book five stars.  This one thing was the fly in the ointment, though.  I felt disappointed that the author didn't seem to be aware of what I consider to be a glaring inconsistency.

Still, I will say that Moulton's skill as a writer is admirable.  Her story grabs the reader very early on, and doesn't let go until that final confrontation between good and evil.  Add to that two very engaging lead characters, a bit of romance, and the book is certain to please most readers! 

I will definitely be looking forward to the next book in the series!


MY RATING:






Friday, April 22, 2011

Another GREAT Giveaway at "Legacy of a Writer"!!







Bound by Guilt
C.J. Darlington


I was doing some blog browsing a while ago,
and came across another terrific giveaway
at Legacy of a Writer!

The cover, of course, was what first attracted my attention.
I just love beautiful book covers!
The plot sounds so very touching, too.
It's the story of an unwanted teen who gets shuffled around,
from foster home to foster home,
only to finally end up traveling the country
in an RV, forced to steal books
by the family she has been placed with.
Now there's an interesting twist!
I also like the wordplay in the novel's title.
Some time after living the life of a book thief,
Roxy, the protagonist, meets
Abby Dawson, a divorced cop whose ex-husband
has won custody of their only daughter.
Abby is fighting hard to be able to see her.
Here are two suffering people, brought together
by rather unusual circumstances,
both dealing with guilt and forgiveness.
What a compelling story!
Wel, I am definitely entering this giveaway!

For Katy's wonderful interview of author C.J. Darlington,
as well as the giveaway entry page,
click HERE.  

For the book's Amazon page, which contains
several five-star reviews,
click HERE.

For more information on the author herself,
who was the winner of the
2008 Operation First Novel contest,
sponsored by the
Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild,
just go to her website, at










MANY THANKS TO KATY AND C.J.!!!

GOOD LUCK TO ONE AND ALL!!






Monday, April 18, 2011

Book Review: Waterfall, by Lisa T. Bergren

Waterfall
Lisa T. Bergren
Trade Paperback, 369 pages
David C. Cook, 2011
Reading Genre: Christian fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction, YA Fiction


Reviewer's Note:  This book was a giveaway prize at Legacy of A Writer, and I won it!!  The author sent me an autographed copy!  This is the first time I review a book I've won in a giveaway, and it won't affect the honesty of my review; if I feel a book is not quite up to par, I will state this, regardless of how I obtained said book.


Although time travel is considered a staple of the science-fiction genre, I would really classify this novel as more of a science fantasy, since it doesn't go into technicalities.  It's also a rip-roaring adventure and tender romance, all rolled into one!

I entered the giveaway because the beautiful cover immediately attracted me.  Then I read the plot synopsis, and I decided I had to try to win this book!

Two young sisters, Gabriela and Evangelia Betarrini, whose parents are renowned Etruscan scholars, are in Tuscany, Italy, one summer.  Their mother has been trying to obtain permission to begin an archaelogical dig.  Sadly, the girls' father passed away several years before this trip, so he is not with them.

The sisters don't quite share their parents' passion for ancient artifacts; in fact, they're bored, wondering how they will ever meet boys if they're unable to go into the nearby city of Siena.  In their restlessness, they wander around the site while their mother starts arguing with an Italian official who has suddenly appeared on the scene,demanding to see proper documents.  So Gabi and Lia innocently venture into an ancient tomb, coming upon a set of strange handprints carved into one of its walls....

Of course, they place their hands over these handprints, which are curiously hot to the touch.  Everything suddenly seems to shift weirdly, and Lia disappears....while Gabi emerges alone from the tomb, to find herself in the very midst of a battle between two rival Italian families -- the Forellis and the Paratores.

Gabi is taken to the Forelli castle by Marcello Forelli, heir to the title of lord of the castle and its surrounding lands.  It doesn't take long for him to realize that he's attracted to Gabi.  Unfortunately, he's already betrothed to Lady Romana Rossi, and their marriage will be vital to an alliance between the Forelli family and the city of Siena.  However, things do start to change after a while...by the time the novel is drawing to an end, Marcello and Gabi are hopelessly in love, and Gabi is extremely reluctant to return to the 21st century.

During the course of the story, the young time traveler demonstrates her great sword-wielding skills, even saving Lady Rossi's life at one point.  She also becomes instrumental in saving her sister from the cruel Lord Paratore, in exchange for an apparent betrayal of the Forellis.  Lia is rescued, and the tables are turned on the evil Paratores.  Not to be outdone, Lia uses her own skill in archery to help the Forellis defeat their foes.  The Betarrini sisters are then hailed as heroes, and become known as "the she-wolves of Normandy", since that was the land Gabi had already claimed they were from.

This novel is a total delight!  Gabriela is such an engaging character!  Beautiful, strong, resourceful, determined, and yet, sensitive and fiercely devoted to her sister, she is the perfect partner for the very handsome, and equally appealing Marcello, whose tender love and sweet admiration for her captures the reader's heart, as well.

Luca, Marcello's cousin, is also very appealing, although he's not the intense type.  He's fun-loving and charming, a perfect foil for Lia, who is the artistic sister.  Their romance will, I hope, be further developed in the next installment of this, The River of Time Series.  I will be watching for the release of the next book, titled Cascade!

One of the things I greatly enjoyed about this book was the portrayal of a courageous, strong, yet very feminine young woman.  It's wonderful to see such a terrific example of a truly memorable female character in young adult fiction!

The plotting is another element I really enjoyed, as well.  There's heart-pounding adventure and suspense, as well as tender, romantic moments.  As if this weren't enough to enchant me, there's quite a bit of humor, too.  The clash of cultures and time periods provided some very funny situations and dialogues!

Last but most definitely not least is Gabi's at times hesitant reliance on God to pull her through.  She poses questions to Him throughout the novel, wondering if this unexpected foray into the past is somehow part of His plan for her and Lia.  I found this quite touching.

In short, this was a fantastic read!  I'm sure it won't be long before I'm tempted to pick up this book and read it again, because I absolutely love it!!  In fact, I think I might just do that, so as to make the waiting for the second book more bearable! 

MY RATING: 







Saturday, April 16, 2011

Book Review: "His Immortal Embrace", A Vampire Anthology

His Immortal Embrace
Authors: Hannah Howell, Lynsay Sands,
Sara Blayne, Kate Huntington
Trade Paperback, 304 pages
Kensington Publishing Corp.
September, 2003
Gothic Fiction, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Vampire Romance



OVERALL RATING:



The first story in this volume, "The Yearning", by Hannah Howell, takes the reader to Scotland, in the year 1435.  Sophie Hay, the rather eccentric, witty protagonist, is in search of an old manuscript left by an ancestor, Morvyn Galt.  It concerns a 400-year-old curse laid on the MacCordy family by Morvyn's sister, Rona, who had been betrayed in love by a MacCordy, and with a child on the way, to make matters worse. 

Ever since she pronounced this curse, all of the firstborn MacCordy men have turned into vampires when they reach adulthood.  Ironically, all of the Galt women have been cursed as well, for all their love affairs are doomed to end, with no marriage in sight.  

Sophie makes it her mission to save the current MacCordy heir, Alpin.  How she eventually manages to accomplish this, falling in love with him, and he with her, makes for some truly enjoyable reading.  I only wish this had been an entire novel, instead of a story.  That's how "verra" much I loved it! Sparkling with wit and humor, this is a story I will not soon forget!

MY RATING: 


The second story, "Bitten", by Lynsay Sands, is another great read.  It's not typical of her usually very funny writing, as exemplified by her Argenau novels.  This story is a more dramatic one, along the lines of the lonely, tortured vampire who believes himself unworthy of love.  In other words, this story has the age-old, and very addictive, "Beauty and the Beast" theme.  Music to my eyes! 

Keeran, the vampire of the tale, lives a solitary existence in a seaside Scottish castle, attended by the elderly MacBains.  He can get no other servants to work for him, due to their fear of him.  Everything changes, however, when he saves Emily, shipwrecked on her way to an arranged marriage to a man she does not love.

Emily turns Keeran's life upside down.  She brings light to his hitherto dismal existence.  She turns his gloomy castle into a real home, having convinced the villagers to help her do so with their work of refurbishing and cleaning.  He has no choice but to fall in love with her!

Toward the end of the story, I was moved to tears by Emily's creative gift to Keeran, which finally convinces him that he is, indeed, worthy of love...

The incomparable Sands has penned a very sweet, poignant tale that I will most likely read again!

MY RATING:



The next tale, "Stranger In The Night", by Sara Blayne, is another beautiful,  memorable tale, set in England. 

Georgiana Thornberry is a 19th-century nerd.  She has neither time nor patience for shallow social pursuits, and no interest in glamour.  Her one passion is finding and collecting ancient artifacts.  In fact, she is participating in the excavation of a Celtic fort in Surrey when her Uncle Godfrey unexpectedly summons her to Alverstone Manor, a ruined mansion in Charnwood Forest.

It is there that Georgiana comes across a cave, in which she finds an ancient amulet, forged by one Estelle Touissant.  In the manor's ruins, she also encounters a most unusual, wildly attractive (of course!) gentleman, Julius Lathrop, whom she discovers to be a vampire.  He, too, has been cursed,and the amulet found by Georgiana is vital to the lifting of the curse.

The writing style, dialogues, and characterizations all brought Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters to mind, making me love this story even more.  And no wonder, since Blayne is known for her Regency romances!

MY RATING: 



The fourth and last story, "The Awakening", by Kate Huntington, was an utter disappointment, although it's as well written as the previous three.  It has more of a Gothic feel to it than they do, as well.  In fact, it comes closer to the horror genre than is comfortable for me to tolerate.  It also raises some rather deep philosophical questions, dealing with the meaning of life and death, as well as the creative spirit.  Such themes interest me greatly, and I would have loved the story because of them, had it not been for several glaringly immoral elements contained therein.

The tale is about two women artists -- one a sculptor, and the other a painter, living in England, in the year 1814.  The sculptor, Cordelia Layton, has been living with her lover, Adrian Lucerne, who is suspected of being a vampire, for many years, scandalizing the society of the time. Their residence is near the wild moors of Lancashire.  This is the first objectionable element-- I do not like the idea of people living together for years without benefit of marriage.  I know that this view is an unpopular one, but I feel very strongly about this.

Thalia, Cordelia's niece, has come to visit, alarmed by her aunt's failing health.  She eventually discovers that this is due to Lucerne, who has regularly drunk from Cordelia during their years together.  There are more objectionable elements coming up here -- Lucerne has had a string of lovers throughout the centuries, and he has always drunk from them.  They have all died in the end, Lucerne having to quietly bury each one himself.  Although he does feel some remorse for these deaths, it is apparently not enough for him to attempt to stop this pattern of attaching himself to human women, feeding on them until they are eventually too weak to go on living. In Cordelia's case, he has also fed on her creative fires.  Huntington's vampires cannot create.  So they enjoy the creative act vicariously, through the artist they slowly consume....  (Shivers!)

Another objectionable element in this story is the way Cordelia is buried after her inevitable death.  It's a pretty grisly scene.  I don't know how I could possibly have made myself read it...

Then, incredibly, Thalia's growing feelings for Adrian explode; she and Adrian become lovers, right after her aunt's burial!  This was the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak.  There's very little regard for human life and love.

I can only say that I absolutely loathe this tale!  I heartily wish it had not been included in this otherwise wonderfully romantic volume!

MY RATING:





Book Review:" Shades of Gray", by Amanda Ashley

Shades of Gray
Author: Amanda Ashley
Mass Market Paperback, 390 pages
Published by Love Spell, 1998
Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Vampire Romance


Book Synopsis Bound by chains, the vampire had slept for 100 years, locked in pain and hunger, until the scent of one woman's blood recalled him to life. Lost in darkness, Grigori finds new sustenance in the light of Marisa's love, and new purpose in his life. Only he can protect her from the evil that stalks the night. Grigori vows to show Marisa that not all the undead are monsters, and that somewhere between the black and white of damnation and desire lay infinite shades of gray.




My Thoughts


Marisa Richards, the novel's protagonist, attends the Roskovich Carnival, a small circus visiting Los Angeles, California, which is her hometown.  There she encounters a strange exhibit: "Count Alexi Kristov, Oldest Vampire in Existence".  She also meets the mysterious and very attractive Grigori Chiavari, who claims to be a magician. 

Shortly thereafter, on the evening news (this is a modern-day vampire tale), Marisa is shocked to learn that the bodies of four women, drained of blood, have been discovered at the Los Angeles Zoo.

At this point in the novel, Ashley also hints at a long-standing enmity between Kristov (whom the reader learns has awakened, and is the one behind the mysterious murders) and Chiavari.  The novel's subsequent events bear this out.

Marisa feels an increasing pull toward Grigori, and they begin dating.  Then, another character enters the picture -- Edward Ramsey, vampire hunter.  He tries to warn Marisa about Kristov and Chiavari, and she discovers that Grigori is also a vampire.  She finds this hard to believe at first.  Then she begins to doubt her safety when she's with him, which prompts her to attempt to fight her growing feelings for him.

So far, this is a very interesting plot.  I love it when Ashley contrasts a vampire who strives to do good, despite his nature, and one who is totally evil.  The title is a reference to this.  Therein lies the fascination, as I have already pointed out in one of my literary musings, on the subject of the vampire as metaphor.

Unfortunately, I don't think this is one of Ashley's best books. There are at least three important reasons for this.  The first is the fact that Grigori actually wanted to become a vampire, in order to exact his revenge on Kristov.  I can't wholeheartedly love or empathize with a character who possesses such a glaring moral defect.  It would be understandable for Grigori to feel hatred toward Kristov; however, his decision to purposely become a vampire in order to kill Kristov makes him almost as evil as Kristov himself.

Second, I was totally disgusted by the way one of the characters was "disposed of" so that the two leads could be together without any impediments. Furthermore, Marisa doesn't blink an eye when this character is taken out of the picture. She should have been appalled as well as repelled by Grigori's approval of this. I wasn't expecting such a thing from the author.  I have read several of her novels in the past, and she clearly possesses a strong, Christian-based sense of ethics.  In fact, I would say she probably stands alone among vampire romance authors writing for adults, in this respect.

A third reason, less important in the moral sense, but not in the literary one, is the attraction between Grigori and Marisa.  Ashley's couples usually share some very powerful chemistry.  The attraction between these two, however, seems lacking in some way.  It just didn't strike me as very believable, especially when compared to that of other couples Ashley has presented in her novels. (I'm thinking of my two favorite ones, A Darker Dream and Midnight Embrace.) 

The addition of Ramsey as a rival for Marisa's affections didn't ring true, either.  In fact, Grigori, Marisa, and Ramsey totally fell flat as the novel moved along, too.

Although I did finish the book (I don't think I've ever left one of Ashley's novels unfinished), I did not enjoy it as much as I would have expected to, considering the author.  Amanda Ashley is still one of my favorite vampire romance authors, however.  It's unfortunate that I can't give this book a higher rating, but I am committed to giving honest reviews.  I can only wholeheartedly praise a book when I truly believe such praise is merited. 



MY RATING:







Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Twilight-Inspired Book Covers for Classics? Why not?



There is a series of five classics -- four novels and one play --
with covers that were supposedly inspired
by those of The Twilight Saga.
They have been produced by Harper Teen,
and are meant to attract young adults to
the perennial classics of English Literature.

Some people are not very happy about these covers.
They somehow consider it insulting
that time-honored classics should have to be promoted
under the Twilight banner.

I honestly don't see what all the fuss is about.
These covers are absolutely
gorgeous!


So here they are -- "The Twilight Classics"!

















These covers are quite beautiful!!  
I can't say it enough!
The colors are indeed similar to those in 
The Twilight Saga's four volumes,
except for the rather obvious fact that 
the color green is not much in evidence
on the Twilight covers. 
If the same artist designed these,
as well as the Twilight ones, 
then it stands to reason that there would be 
some similarity of style.  
Well, there's nothing wrong with that!

If the publishers wanted a "similar look"
when they commissioned the covers for the classic novels, 
with the purpose of attracting a teen audience, 
I for one think this is a wonderful idea!
After all, these five books are love stories,
with the sole exception of Wuthering Heights,
which is really a tale of misplaced revenge. 
(The only thing I love about this book is the cover...)
Does putting such covers on these classics
mean that Twilight is on an equal literary footing with them?
Well, that's a loaded question...
If one looks at the writing style in which the listed classics were written,
and compare them with Twilight, 
obviously not.
However, if one looks at the dynamics of the plots
of these books, and the Twilight books,
one can't help but notice that the characters and events 
in all of them evoke some very, very similar
emotions.  They all touch the heart.  They all provide
that powerful catharsis present in all 
great literature, the grand drama that stirs the 
emotions, thus changing the reader forever.
These books all possess that elusive quality
that makes them timeless.
Is The Twilight Saga already a timeless classic?
Without a doubt.

So I am very pleased and happy that these five classic
novels have been designed in this style.
Whether or not it's similar to that
of the Twilight books, it's still quite fitting.
Love, after all, has always been linked to the color red,
especially in such flowers as roses or tulips.

Of course, I am collecting them all, not only
for the covers, but for what is contained
within each book.

The only one I'm missing at this point is
Sense and Sensibility,
but it won't be for long... it's in my Amazon 
Wish List, waiting for me to bring it home! 







Saturday, April 9, 2011

Favorite Author: Hermann Hesse





July 2, 1877 - August 9, 1962


Along with Tolkien, Hesse was one of my favorite authors during my college years.  (In fact, both of them still are.) 

I read several of Hesse's books in quick succession, immediately becoming obsessed with them.  Moreover, they struck me as peculiarly strange.  As a lifelong fan of the fantastic and unusual, I felt quite pleased, while recognizing, at the same time, that Hesse's brand of fantasy was not quite of the fairy tale variety.  Instead, his works deal with such existential issues as the spiritual/psychological search for meaning, deriving their characters and plots from archetypal myths.  The reason for this is Hesse's close affiliation with the great Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Gustav Jung, whose seminal work on the unconscious mind and its affinity for myths gave birth to his famous theories of the archetypes, as well as the collective unconscious, which have proved to be highly accurate depictions of the workings of the human psyche.

Born in Germany, Hesse later moved to Switzerland, becoming a Swiss citizen in 1923.  He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946.

As a young man, he read Goethe, Schiller, and other German Romantics such as Holderlin and Novalis. He also read several texts on Greek mythology.  He thus began his writing career as a poet, although he would later write several novels.  He was also influenced by Hindu and Buddhist philosophy to some extent, as is apparent from one of his most popular novels, Siddhartha, which was very influential during the 1960's counter-culture movement in the United States.

Hesse also produced several paintings and drawings, but is known primarily as a writer.

Here are some notable quotes from this great author:

“You are only afraid if you are not in harmony with yourself. People are afraid because they have never owned up to themselves.”

“In each individual the spirit is made flesh, in each one the whole of creation suffers, in each one a Savior is crucified.”

“It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is.”


These are my favorite Hesse books.










This novel, first published in 1930, beautifully depicts the
tension and conflict between the flesh and the spirit.
It tells the story of two medieval men,
named in the title, one of whom is a contemplative,
content with the spiritual life,
while the other is a restless artist,
 whose quest is of another type: that of art and the emotions.






 Also known as The Glass Bead Game,
this utterly fascinating novel
chronicles the life of Joseph Knecht, a young musician
who is chosen to reside in Castalia,
a fictional European province reserved strictly
for the life of the mind.
The Castalian Order is a quasi-monastic group of men who devote themselves to playing The Glass Bead Game,
mastery of which requires
years of study in music, mathematics, and cultural history.
My only quibble with this plot is that women are not included
in this intellectual utopia!
The novel was first published in 1943.





This is the story of Siddhartha, the son of a Brahmin,
whose search for enlightenment
takes place during the time of Gautama Buddha
(most likely between the fourth and seventh centuries, BC).
In order to write this profound novel, Hesse
immersed himself in the study of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy.
The book was first published in 1922.