Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday #27: Winter's Light, by M.J. Hearle

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!!

(Winter Saga #2)
M.J. Hearle
Pan MacMillan Australia
Expected Publication Date:
May 1, 2012

From the Goodreads Synopsis

An ancient enemy is rising, but Winter is no longer the innocent girl who was fated to die at Pilgrim's Lament. She will not wait to be saved. She will do what she must to survive, even accept an unsavoury alliance with those who destroyed her love.

In the gathering darkness, the enemy of an enemy is not always a friend, and Winter must find the strength to stand alone and fight for the one she loves.

Having read the first exciting volume
in this new series,
I know the long wait for the second one
will be full of anxiety!!!
I want to see exactly what happens
with Blake and Winter!
I so, so want them to be
together forever....
Blake is simply wonderful,
showing his love for Winter in the
terrible choice he made at the end of
Winter's Shadow, the first book!
And Winter is just as much in love with him
as he is with her...
All I can say is that I sure wish
I had a time machine,
like NOW.

Click here for my review of

What books are you all
eagerly anticipating
this week?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

On My Bookshelves #16

My weekend book meme
highlights books that I own,
but have somehow
never gotten to,
as well as those wonderful books
I would love to re-read!!

Here's my special list
for this week!

Hardcover, 288 pages
December 1, 1996
Genre: Historical Fiction

From the Goodreads Synopsis

Hatchepsut was a remarkable woman. Born the eldest daughter of King Tuthmosis I, married to her half-brother Tuthmosis II, and guardian of her young stepson-nephew Tuthmosis III, Hatchepsut, the Female Pharaoh, brilliantly defied tradition and established herself on the divine throne of the pharaohs.

Joyce Tyldesley provides the reader with an intriguing insight into life within the claustrophobic Theban royal family in early 18th Dynasty Egypt.

I love the ancient Egyptian culture,
and this novelized portrayal
of a woman who dared to defy tradition
should prove fascinating reading!
I will certainly try to get to it
before this year is out!

Trade Paperback, 304 pages
Harper Voyager
May 11, 2004
(first published 1967)
Genre: Science Fiction

From the Goodreads Synopsis

Earth is long since dead. On a colony planet, a band of men has gained control of technology, made themselves immortal, and now rule their world as the gods of the Hindu pantheon. Only one dares oppose them: he who was once Siddhartha and is now Mahasamatman. Binder of Demons, Lord of Light.

I couldn't find the actual edition I own
on Goodreads,
so I picked this one, because of the
beautiful cover.
Zelazny is one of the recognized masters
of the SF genre, and I've owned
this book for a while now.
Sure looks like interesting reading!

Hardcover, 368 pages
Katherine Tegen Books
August 1, 2009
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

From the Goodreads Synopsis

Wyldcliffe Abbey School for Young Ladies, housed in a Gothic mansion on the bleak northern moors, is elite, expensive, and unwelcoming. When Evie Johnson is torn away from her home by the sea to become the newest scholarship student, she is more isolated than she could have dreamed.

Evie's only lifeline is Sebastian, a rebellious, mocking, dangerously attractive young man she meets by chance. As Evie's feelings for Sebastian grow with each secret meeting, she starts to fear that he is hiding something about his past...

This might sound like the typical YA romance,
but I can't help it -- I just
love this kind of thing!
A mysterious Gothic setting,
a dark hero, and
a lonely heroine...
I'm thinking there's just might be
a tortured male vamp involved...

Book Review: The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz

Title: The Four Agreements
Author: Don Miguel Ruiz
Format: Paperback, 160 pages
Publisher: Amber-Allen Publishing
Publication Date: November 7, 1997
Genres: Non-Fiction, New Age, Philosophy, Psychology

This small book contains some down-to-earth, very practical advice for everyday living, presented by a man who is an internationally renowned spiritual teacher, and formerly a neurosurgeon.  The book is supposedly based on the teachings of the Toltecs, an ancient indigenous people who lived in the area now known as Mexico.  According to Wikipedia, "The later Aztec culture saw the Toltecs as their intellectual and cultural predecessors and described Toltec culture...as the epitome of civilization..." This is a primer of the Toltec philosophy, detailing a path that is easy and hard to follow at the same time.  I had been hearing about this book for some time now, but had never picked it up.  It caught my eye while I was browsing in a bookstore recently, so I bought it.

Although I will say that this is a very fascinating and profound book, one that should be re-read, and pondered upon, several times, I find that I can't wholeheartedly support its teachings, despite the fact that there is much I do concur with.  Besides, having read some of the Amazon reviews, I'm now wondering whether all this is really "ancient Toltec wisdom"...

Ruiz asks a very important question, although he does so toward the end of the book: are we really and truly free?  His answer is a resounding "no".  The reason for that is, according to these teachings, that we have an accumulation of negative programming, erroneous assumptions, emotional wounds, and cultural influences which we carry around in our minds.  All of these things keep us from seeing the world as it really is.  Interestingly, psychologists have been saying this very same thing for years now. 

The Toltecs were considered men and women of knowledge, and they founded a community of teachers known as naguals, based in the city of Teotihuacan, Mexico.  After the Spanish conquest, these teachings became secret, being handed down from generation to generation.  Don Miguel Ruiz, a nagual of the lineage of the Eagle Warriors, decided to publish this book in order to reveal this previously hidden knowledge.

The basic premise of Toltec philosophy, as expounded by Ruiz, is that the mind is always dreaming, whether a person is awake or asleep.  When awake, people participate in what is called "the planetary dream", a collective dream consisting of all the societal rules, beliefs, religions, and cultures on the planet.  In addition to this, there is each person's personal dream, each individual's inner programming.  Due to all this, adds Ruiz, we live as if in a fog, which the Toltecs called mitote, known as maya in Indian (from India) philosophy.  Both of these words mean "illusion".

In order to become free, one must break one's old "agreements", as well as adopt the four agreements recommended by Ruiz.  Thus, according to the author, a new dream will be created.

The first agreement is to be "impeccable" with one's words, since words are such powerful things.  They contain the power of creation.  The term "impeccable" comes from Latin, and means "without sin".  According to Ruiz's definition of sin, it's whatever a person does that goes against him or herself.  So "being impeccable with your words" means, to Ruiz, never saying anything derogatory about yourself.  The author adds that words are "the instrument of magic".  He extends this to others, as well, giving as an example the way that parents say negative things to their children, thus unintentionally imprinting them in their children's subconscious minds.  This is part of the personal negative programming referred to earlier.

The second agreement is to take nothing personally.  In practical application, if someone insults you, the insult really says something about the person who insulted you, and nothing at all about you.  In other words, if someone calls you names, that person is speaking out of his/her own prejudices, preconceived notions, and opinions.  They are attempting to send you their personal poison, and, if you take that personally, you take in their venom, thus becoming an easy prey for future insults, or worse -- even black magic, according to the author.  Conversely, if someone praises you, you shouldn't take it personally, either.  Whatever people think of you doesn't matter, according to Ruiz, because you know you're wonderful!

The third agreement is to avoid making any assumptions.  We frequently do just that, asserts the author, and then believe our own assumptions as the truth.  Then we engage in gossip, thus passing our personal venom on to others, and causing problems for ourselves as well as those who take in our venom.  He also cites the example of a couple who get married with different assumptions, or expectations, of what marriage will be like.  Problems arise when these assumptions are seen to be unreal, when the expectations of one spouse are not met by the other.

The fourth agreement is to do your personal best, which will vary according to your health or energy level at any given moment.  In other words, you should always strive to work at your maximum capacity, living your life intensely, no matter what you do.  This means to engage in action, and this will lead to happiness if you do it because of the action itself, without expecting any reward.  What he's actually recommending is to not let life pass you by.

In evaluating this book as a whole, I have to point out some major disagreements I have with the author.  

First of all, Ruiz states, in his introduction, "The Smokey Mirror", that everything and everyone is God.  I do not subscribe to a pantheistic philosophy or religion.  Objectively speaking, however, this can immediately be shown to be a false assumption made by most New Age gurus.  If everyone is God, why is there so much evil in the world?  Surely gods would not intentionally cause harm to their fellow gods!  

I do agree with Ruiz's assertion that the universe is made of light.  Well, the Judeo-Christian God did say, "Let there be light", after all.  Besides, findings in quantum physics bear this out.  Just because everything and everyone is made of light, though, doesn't mean that human beings are gods, or God. 

Another problem I have with the book is with Ruiz's definition of sin.  It's much too narrow; sin, as understood in religious belief, is not only the evil that one carries out against oneself, but also against one's fellow human beings.  Ironically, the author moves from this narrow definition to a larger one when he subsequently states that human beings too frequently use their words to tear others down.  He does attempt to clarify his concept of sin by stating that when you say something negative to someone, you're really saying it to yourself.  Still, this part is a bit confusing, and bears re-reading. 

The agreement I have the biggest problem with is the second one.  If I'm supposed to take nothing personally, what exactly does that mean?  I can see that dismissing an insult by a random stranger will contribute to my own peace of mind, hence, my own freedom.  However, what about betrayal by a business associate, or by my spouse?  Am I not to take such things personally, either?  Does this mean I should not react in my defense in the face of abuse by others, whether that abuse is verbal, emotional, or physical?  If someone beats me up, should I simply shrug, and go on about my business, telling myself that, well, the beating says something about them, after all, and has nothing whatsoever to do with me?  Should I continue to tolerate future beatings?  Are there such things as personal boundaries in Toltec philosophy?

With this agreement, it sure seems as if the author is attempting to exonerate those who do hurtful things to others.  So, if someone does something terrible to you, it's just because of their negative programming, and you should not get upset?  According to Ruiz, you shouldn't.  Okay... so that does away with conscience, in one fell swoop, doesn't it?  And if I do something hurtful to another person, that person should shrug it off, as well.  So that means there are no consequences to one's behavior, whether good or bad...  No one is to be held accountable for their actions, then, because they're just acting out of their previous programming.  Very inspirational stuff! 

Last but not least, I find the concept of "the planetary dream" objectionable, as well.  It's true that there are no perfect societies or governments in this world.  One culture may indeed stifle personal freedom, as opposed to another.  The mind may indeed be held prisoner by certain erroneous beliefs.  However, Ruiz (as a proponent of Toltec philosophy) lumps all of the rules, religions and cultures into one gigantic mess that supposedly restricts the freedom of the mind.  This is just too simplistic.  There must be societal rules, as well as systems of belief.  It is our personal responsibility to discern which of them are true, and liberate the mind, and which do not.  To say that they all enslave the mind is totally inaccurate.

There is a grain of truth in what Ruiz propounds in this book.  Each of his "agreements" does have some validity, especially the third and the fourth.  I also concur with the first, especially when extended to include others. 

I believe that the third agreement is possibly the most important of the four.  Making erroneous assumptions about people and situations can have horrible consequences.  In an unbalanced mind, possessed by its own delusions, it can even lead to mass shootings.  In this sense, I do agree with the author that a mind can be enslaved, causing what he terms "the dream of hell".

To sum up, although the ideas presented in this book do have some validity, I believe there are some concepts I simply cannot accept.  I'm planning to study this book to see how I might apply these four agreements.  Ruiz's deceptively simple recommendations do merit some consideration, in spite of all the objections I have raised.  Who knows?  I might end up revising my opinion of this book in the future, although I surely can't see myself ever accepting that all of us humans are God...


Where To Buy:  Amazon

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Shelf Candy Saturday #4: The Charmed Sphere, by Catherine Asaro

This wonderful book meme/blog hop
is hosted by

Stephanie @

The purpose of this feature is to display
a beautiful book cover,
with information, if available,
about the cover illustrator,
photographer, and/or designer.

For all the participation rules just click

This week, I'm showing some
cover love to:

Trade Paperback, 480 pages
Luna Books
(with Harlequin Books)
July 1, 2005
(first published 2004)
Genre: Fantasy

This is an incredibly beautiful cover!  There is tremendous energy in this composition, as the swiftly sweeping lines of the woman's robe echo the flowing lines of the tree.   Yet, this is gracefully controlled energy; power doesn't have to be brutal in order to be effective.  This is female power, born of the earth, in tune with the forces of nature. 

This illustration is full of light, and there's a floating feeling to it.  The woman's head is surrounded by a nimbus of light, since she is the focal point of the magic.  All the power radiates from her.

On the other side of the tree, a lone horseman has paused, apparently to gaze, mystified, at the light above the woman's head.  She is unaware of him as yet, so concentrated is she on her magic.

I love the soft, pastel colors -- the various shades of green, the gentle blue of the sky...everything about this cover just drew me in when I first saw it!  Of course, I bought the book right away!

I assume the lettering was also done by the artist.  It beautifully complements the glowing illustration!  The letters in the author's name are raised, so they really stand out.

I was able to find the artist pretty quickly, too, which pleased me immensely!  Her name is Stephanie Pui-Mun Law.  She works in watercolors and acrylics.

Here's some biographical information about her, from her website:

Artist's Self Portrait

Stephanie Pui-Mun Law has been painting fantastic otherworlds from early childhood, though her art career did not begin until 1998 when she graduated from a program of Computer Science. After three years of programming for a software company by day and rushing home to paint into the midnight hours, she left the world of typed logic and numbers, for painted worlds of dreams and the fae.

Her illustrations have been for various game and publishing clients, including Wizards of the Coast, HarperCollins, LUNA Books, Tachyon Books, Alderac Entertainment, and Green Ronin. She has authored and illustrated Dreamscapes (2008, North Light Books) and a followup Dreamscapes: Myth & Magic (2010, North Light Books), a series on watercolor technique for fantasy. Her work also regularly appears in Realms of Fantasy Magazine.

Ms. Pui-Mun Law has a blog, as well.  You can visit her at:



Friday, January 27, 2012

TGIF at GReads #4: Buy or Borrow?

It's TGIF time!!!!

Happy Friday,
Fellow Book Lovers!!!!!

This blog hop is hosted by Ginger,
at the awesome 

Each Friday, a question is posted, and the 
week's blog posts are re-capped.
To join in the fun,
just publish your own post,
and then link up to the hosting blog's hop page!

Here's this week's question:

Buy or Borrow:
Where do the books that you read
come from? The bookstore? 
The library?
Do you prefer to own a book,
or have it on loan?

Oh, I definitely have to own my books!!  For me, there's no other option.  Furthermore, my books have to be the printed versions.  I absolutely refuse to read ebooks!  I don't want a Kindle or a Nook.  I need to own a physical book.  So, there are lots of them all over our apartment, which drives my non-bookworm husband to distraction sometimes...

I can still remember the first time I went to the library with my mom, at the age of eleven.  One of the books I picked out was a collection of Arabian fairy tales (I think it might have been the Arabian Nights, simplified for children).  Well, I really got attached to that book!  So, the day we had to go return it was a sad one for me.  I had to say good-bye to a book I had already started to love as my own... 

I did continue to go to libraries after this initial experience, but I told myself that I'd start collecting books as soon as I was old enough to make my own money.  Thus my personal library got started, and just grew and grew... I haven't been to a public library in years!  (Another reason I stopped going was the...er...rather large late fines I used to get...)

I buy most of my books online -- from either Amazon, eBay, or The Book Depository.  However, from time to time, I do visit my local Barnes & Noble.  Occasionally I go to a great indie bookstore, Books & Books, which is in the same area of the city as B&N.  Books & Books is great because it hosts author events 365 days a year!  Of course, I only attend if I'm interested in the book and the author.  Authors present their books, answer questions from the audience, and then have a signing session, in which attendees can get their picture taken with the author!  I haven't gone to one of these in a while, though, because books purchased at these events are more expensive...

I don't like to read books borrowed from other people, either, nor do I lend mine out.  Once, in high school, I lent a classmate a paperback copy of my very favorite book, Jane Eyre.  Needless to say, when I got it back, it wasn't in the same condition...  I haven't lent anyone one of my treasures again!!

By the way, since I'm so possessive with my books, I make sure they're officially mine.  I print (by hand) my name and the year of purchase on the inside front cover, if the book's a paperback.  If it's a hardcover, I paste a bookplate on the first page, next to the inside front cover.    Oh, and I love to laminate my books, too!  I buy rolls of plastic laminate from Amazon, and cover my books with it. 

Yes, I'm an obsessed bibliophile.  I freely admit it!   And I have proof.  Just take a look...

These are all on top of my night table,
as well as part of the headboard.

Floor to ceiling bookshelves in our bedroom!

These are on top of my dresser!

This week at
 A Night's Dream of Books

Book Recommendations

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

Wishlist Wednesday #1
Magician: Apprentice,
by Raymond E. Feist

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wishlist Wednesday #1: Magician:Apprentice, by Raymond E. Feist

This intriguing book meme/blog hop
is hosted at the fabulous blog,

Here's some further information:

"Wishlist Wednesday" is a book blog hop where we will post about one book per week that has been on our wish list for some time, or just added (it's entirely up to you), that we can't wait to get off the wishlist and onto our wonderful shelves.

For the participation rules,
please click on the link above.

Here's my choice for this week:

(The Riftwar Saga #1)
Trade Paperback, 336 pages
December 1, 1993
(first published 1982)

From the Goodreads Synopsis

Midkemia is a Tolkienian realm, a European- Medieval series of kingdoms in which magic is prominent, and where men share the earth with dwarves and elves. Feist's genius was inventing another sword and sorcercy realm based more closely on eastern models, the Empire of Tsuranuanni, as vast as Ancient China, as formalised and devoted to the arts of war as a samurai Japan. A magical rift in time-space brings these two worlds clashing together, and the young boy Pug and his soldier friend Tomas are thrown into the ensuing maelstrom of invasion and epic battle, before embarking on a more fundamental magical journey towards the very roots of evil itself.

Ever since Tolkien, I've been smitten with epic fantasy, although there are other genres I love, as anyone who has followed this blog for some time will know.  

This is the type of fantasy I first think of when the word is mentioned.  Nowadays, we have such things as 'urban fantasy', but to me, the epic variety is the best, not to mention the boldest. 

Feist is one of the giants in this genre, and I have to confess that, although I'm well aware of that, I have yet to read any of his works.  This particular one marks the beginning of the legendary Riftwar Saga, and I definitely want to get this first volume for my already bulging bookshelves, so I can experience this masterpiece of fantasy writing!  And then, of course, I will want to go on to the sequels!

When I put this book on my Goodreads TBR bookshelf, I also made sure to pick a beautiful cover.  That's always important for me!  This one reminds me of King Arthur and Merlyn.

As Tolkien himself said in The Hobbit, "...the road goes ever on..."

What's on your wishlist
this week?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On My Bookshelves #15

My weekend book meme
highlights books that I own,
but have somehow
never gotten to,
as well as those wonderful books
I would love to re-read!!

Here's my special list
for this week!

The Fire and the Rose
Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages
Star Trek
November 28, 2006
Genre: Science Fiction

From the Goodreads Synopsis

Spock, displaced in time, watches his closest friend heed his advice by allowing the love of his life to die in a traffic accident, thereby preserving Earth's history. Returning to the present, however, Spock confronts other such crises, and chooses instead to willfully alter the past. Challenged by the thorny demands of his logic, he will have to find a way to face his conflicting decisions.

When I first encountered the original
Star Trek series, via reruns
while visiting a friend addicted to
old TV shows,
I was totally mesmerized...
I especially found Spock
totally fascinating,
with his inner battle between
logic and emotions.
So here's another one for that
reading challenge!
I've just GOT to get to this one
this year!!

The Star to Every Wandering
David R. George III
Mass Market Paperback, 320 pages
Star Trek
February 27, 2007
Genre: Science Fiction

From the Goodreads Synopsis

James T. Kirk, displaced in time, allows the love of his life to die in a traffic accident, thereby preserving Earth's history. Returning to the present, he continues a storied career as a starship captain, opening up the galaxy. But as he wanders among the stars, the incandescence that once filled his heart remains elusive.

Captain Kirk is no less fascinating
than Spock, although I never
liked that he was quite a player...
Once, though, he met a woman he truly loved.
And thereby hangs a tale.

This is another one for ye olde reading challenge!!

Provenance of Shadows
David R. George III
Mass Market Paperback, 640 pages
Star Trek
August 29, 2006
Genre: Science Fiction

From the Goodreads Synopsis

For Doctor Leonard McCoy, life takes two paradoxically divergent paths. In one, displaced in time, he saves a woman from dying in a traffice accident, and in doing so alters Earth's history. Stranded in the past, he struggles to find a way back to his own century. But living an existence he was not meant to, he will eventually have to move on, and ultimately face the shadows born of his lost life.

This is actually the first book in
this trilogy, but I
placed Spock first because he's the one
who fascinates me the most.
McCoy completes the group of three
close friends I have grown to love
as I have watched these episodes, and
he's the necessary balance
between Kirk and Spock.

These three books will be under my belt
by the end of the year,
or I will voluntarily resign from Starfleet!!