Sunday, April 29, 2012

Book Review: Masquerade, by Cambria Hebert (seventh review for The 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge)

Here's my seventh review for this
wonderful challenge!!

For the rules and a list of hosting blogs,
just click on the challenge button in my sidebar.

There are great prizes involved,
so be sure to check out
the rules and consider joining in!

Title: Masquerade
Author: Cambria Hebert
Format: Trade Paperback, 360 pages
Publisher: Otherworld Publications
Published: December 16, 2011
Genres: YA Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy

This is one of those books that pulled me in the minute I saw the cover.  It's a very unique one, too!  Not every book with a gorgeous cover has a compelling story to match, however, but this one certainly does!   In fact, I found it so compelling that I had to read it obsessively until the very end!  Hebert's writing is tight, expressive, tantalizing.  She keeps the reader on the edge of the seat, while she throws out elusive hints.  The result? Non-stop delight, as well as a truly mesmerizing read! 

Heven, the book's main character and one of its narrators, is someone who not only elicits compassion, but admiration as well.  She has been horribly disfigured by an unknown assailant, and she remembers nothing at all of this attack.  She has no idea why she was attacked, either.  All she has are her nightmares, in which she relives the first few moments of her ordeal...  In spite of all this, she has attempted to live as normal a life as possible, although she does hide her face, either with her hoodies, or her long, blond hair. 

Heven was once a cheerleader, a member of 'the popular crowd', but that was Before.  Her best friend, Kimber, is the only one who has stuck by her.  She and Cole, her boyfriend, have been Heven's only source of support among their peers since the mysterious accident that gave Heven her scars. 

A crucial shift in the story takes place when Kimber catches Cole kissing another girl; at the same time, a handsome new student, Sam, starts school. 

As the book progresses, it becomes apparent that Kimber is not as supportive of Heven as she seemed to be, at first.  In fact, she has been jealous of Heven for a long time, and only now, when Heven is scarred, does she feel that she herself can be noticed.  

After Kimber's attempt to get revenge on Cole by dating Sam has the desired effect, resulting in Cole's reconciliation with Kimber, Heven is happy to be able to start a relationship with this mysterious new boy.   As they start to get to know each other, she doesn't believe he'll be interested in her because of her scars, but she's so wrong...

It's interesting to see how this novel starts off as a story of the cruelty and fickleness of high school life, but then becomes something more, as the supernatural elements are gradually introduced.  Sam is not what he appears to be -- at least, not exactly.  Yet, his love and devotion for Heven are all too real.  Heven herself is a remarkable individual, and we see her grow throughout the novel to become someone as awe-inspiring as Sam already is. 

There's an unexpected twist to the story, as well, which intensifies its  supernatural flavor.  While it isn't entirely surprising to me, being the veteran fantasy reader that I am, it does create a heightened sense of "otherworldliness" which I found utterly fascinating. 

The love story of Heven and Sam is one of the most beautiful I've read in a while.  Although Heven starts off as being very insecure because of her disfigurement, Sam makes her realize that inner beauty is much more important than outer beauty.  He tells her, over and over again, how beautiful she is in his eyes.  He is so tender and sweet to her...yet, he is all-male!   To me, he's the quintessential man -- romantic, loving, tender, strong, and always ready to protect and defend the woman he loves.

Hebert's story is highly original and unique.   For one thing, she has four different narrators telling the story: Heven, Sam, The Hate, and The Hope.  The last two are supernatural beings, but their identity is not revealed until much later in the novel.   I especially like the idea of contrasting these two.  It's amazing to see how an evil being twists the events taking place into something utterly depraved, while the same events, seen from the perspective of a good being, take on a shining beauty.  Furthermore, using these two narrators has the effect of drawing the reader along, turning pages to find out, among other things, just who and what these narrators are.

Sam's background story is another original element.  The events themselves are also uniquely Hebert's, as is her deft handling of them.  The world-building is also very original, and very well done. 

I was initially disappointed by one thing -- the depiction of Heven's mother as a Bible-thumping, fanatical Christian.   This sounded too much like a stereotype.  As I read, however, I had to admit that I myself have encountered such people.  Stereotypes, after all, become stereotypes for a reason.  While she did care for her daughter on some level, Heven's mother was too caught up in her rather twisted ideology to see Heven as someone needing help and confidence-boosting, not condemnation.  My initial disappointment then shifted; I was now disturbed that this woman could not see her own daughter's emotional needs.

There's one very special character in this novel, aside from Sam and Heven, of course, and that's Heven's grandmother, whom she calls "Gran".  Gran is Heven's paternal grandmother, so she doesn't really get along with Heven's mother.  She becomes the one relative that Heven can rely on for the emotional support and understanding that her mother seems incapable of giving her.  Needless to say, I love Gran as fiercely as Heven does!  When the tension between Heven and her mother (I don't recall her ever being named in the novel) escalates almost unbearably, Heven turns to her Gran, and is immediately welcomed into her warmly loving arms.

The central villain in the novel is very convincingly evil.  Of course, I hated this character!  A skilled author has to make sure to have properly evil villains, and Hebert certainly doesn't disappoint.  Heven is in very real danger from this villain, and I spent some very tense moments while reading about what this character was eager to do to her!

The initial mystery to the story is who, or what, Sam is.  Hebert keeps the plot relentlessly moving, the mystery deepening as the reader desperately wonders what, exactly is going on.  I found it very addictive reading, indeed!

In short, this is a highly entertaining, enchanting novel, one that also makes some very important points about true beauty, the value of sincere friendship, and the power of love to transcend all obstacles.  Hebert's novel is definitely in the YA genre, yet, I firmly believe that it will also appeal to adults, precisely because of these themes. 

This book now forms part of my favorites shelf!  I love the characters, the plot, and how everything is tied together in the end, yet, everything points to the next book in this series, Charade, which I am eagerly anticipating!


Where To BuyAmazonBarnes & Noble

Cambria Hebert

On My Bookshelves #26

My Sunday 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 are my picks for this week!


(Hereafter #1)
Hardcover, 404 pages
June 7, 2011
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

From the Goodreads Synopsis

Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she's dead. With no recollection of her past life--or her actual death--she's trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but "will" him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.

This sounds like a very romantic tale!
I've always been fascinated
by stories of haunted romance,
so this is a must read for me!


(Dark Visions 1 - 3)
Trade Paperback, 730 pages
Simon & Schuster
Sept. 3, 2009
(first published Nov. 1, 1998)
Genre: YA Parnormal Romance

From the Goodreads Synopsis

Kaitlyn Fairchild has always felt like an outsider. Her haunting eyes and prophetic drawings have earned her a reputation as a witch. But Kait's not a witch: she's psychic. Tired of being shunned, Kait accepts an invitation to attend the Zetes Institute, where she can study with other psychic teens and have a fresh start.

This is another must read!
L.J. Smith has long been
one of my favorite authors,
so I really have to
do my best to get this one
under my belt this year!!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Shelf Candy Saturday #17: National Velvet, by Enid Bagnold

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

Here's my pick for this week!

Paperback, 246 pages
(an imprint of Egmont
Children's Books Limited)
(originally published in 1935)
Genre: Horse Fiction, YA

Why do I love this cover?

Well, first of all, I love horses!  ( I guess that's pretty obvious by  I first started reading books about them around the age of 11 or 12, and, for several years thereafter, I devoured every horse-related novel I came across!  I not only read National Velvet, but also most of The Black Stallion books, by Walter Farley, Man O'War, also by Walter Farley, the Flicka trilogy (My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead, Green Grass of Wyoming), by Mary O'Hara, King of the Wind, by Marguerite Henry, and many other assorted horse stories.

Next, I think the horse on this cover is superbly painted!  He has a beautiful profile, with all those delicately shaded areas.  His nose looks so soft...I feel as if I could almost touch it, and can even imagine him softly snorting, as he stands next to his owner, Velvet.  Oh, I want to pet him so badly...

His mane is stirred by a strong breeze, and this is echoed in Velvet's hair.  They're both looking toward the sunset, or is it the dawn?  This is not only very realistic, but also tells me that horse and rider are united in the pursuit of one goal.  The cover symbolically depicts this, adding to my admiration of this artist's skill!

Velvet, the main character in this book, calls her horse "The Pie", because he's a piebald.  According to Wikipedia, a piebald can be any animal "...that has a spotting pattern of large unpigmented, usually white, areas of hair, feathers, or scales and normally pigmented patches, generally black."  If you take a look at the left-hand edge of this cover, you'll see that the horse has dark patches along his neck.  I'm glad the artist didn't place any patches on his face, though.  I think it looks so beautiful as it is -- just plain white!

The artist who created this
gorgeous cover is

You can see many of his
paintings at the link above.
I tried to find this particular
book illustration, with more information
on how it was created,
but was unable to.
I did find another site with
other book illustrations by
Chapman, but am wondering if
this is the same person.
You can find those illustrations

You can access Chapman's
website HERE.

So what do you think 
of this cover?
What beautiful cover(s) 
are you featuring this week?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

MASQUERADE Read-Along: Fourth and Final Week's Discussion Questions

This is an interesting, fun event,
hosted by the blogs shown above!
To participate, just click on
the button in my sidebar, which will
take you to Cambria's blog,
where you can get all the rules.
You can still join in,
although the read-along ends
this week.
The giveaway winners
will be announced by Cambria
on May 3rd, so be sure
to visit her blog on that date!

For this fourth and last round
of questions, 
the hosting blog is

Week 4: Chapters 24-31
Final Discussion Questions

1. Heven develops a new “supernatural power”. She remarks that it isn’t that exciting of a power. Is this a power you would like to have?  If not, what kind of supernatural power would you like to have?

Oh, I think it's definitely an exciting power!  As for having it myself, I'm not quite sure... This power could be quite useful, because then you'd know when someone was lying to you, or really being sincere.  On the other hand, it could also be very overwhelming.  At some point, I think I would want to lock myself up in a room for a while, just so I could get a break from the sensory assault.

As for what supernatural power I would like to have, I think it would be the power to teleport anywhere in the world.  This would be sort of like "beaming over", as characters did on "Star Trek", but without a transporter.  It would be so convenient!  I'd be able to visit any city in the world!  No more transportation hassles! 

2. Which character do you think makes the biggest internal change throughout the course of this book?  Is there a situation in your life that you can reflect back on as an experience that changed your life for the better?

Heven, of course!  She goes from being someone who is totally afraid of facing people, wanting to hide all the time, to someone who is courageous and increasingly self-confident.  At the beginning of the novel, she has allowed her scars to define her as a person.  Toward the end of the novel, even before they've disappeared, even before she's acquired this supernatural power, she's already begun to blossom into a very different person.

As for a situation in my life that changed it for the better, the first one that comes to mind is the day I decided to start a book blog!  I had never thought of doing such a thing before, but a co-worker encouraged me to do it.  I'm so glad I followed her advice!!  I've enjoyed every minute of the time I've spent blogging!  I've learned quite a few fascinating "techy" things (although I'm by no means an expert!), met some very nice people along the way, participated in giveaways (winning several books!), hosted my own, and now, I'm a member of this awesome read-along!  So heck, yeah, becoming a book blogger has definitely made my life much better!!

3. Who is your favorite character and why?

I have two favorite characters: Heven and Sam.  (Naturally!)

I like Heven because I can relate to some of her insecurity.  I wasn't exactly a member of 'the in group' when I was in high school.  I've always been a bit on the shy side, and felt very awkward around boys at the time.  Also, I didn't get a chance to date until I turned 18, because my parents were very strict.  Add to that the fact that I usually had my nose in a book... you get the picture.

As for Sam, he's so gorgeous, so adorable, so...everything!  He's my ideal boyfriend, rivaling Edward Cullen of The Twilight Saga!  After all the horrible experiences he's gone through, he can still smile, and be a decent 'human' being.  He's so sweet to Heven, so willing to give even his own life so that she can live... Heven finds a little bit of Paradise in his arms, because he's romantic, he supports and encourages her, and is completely devoted to her!  She doesn't have to worry that he'll be a jerk, nor does she have to wonder whether he's cheating on her.  Sam is every girl's ideal boyfriend, who will eventually become every woman's ideal husband!!  I love Sam!!!!!

4. When the book ends the reader has an idea of what the next book will involve. Do you think the book ended in the appropriate place?

Yes, I think it did.  There's an upcoming trip, and a secret mission, so the reader is left wanting to continue to see if this mission will be successful.  Of course, there will be danger at every turn, so that means plenty of conflict.  The idea of a quest has always intrigued readers (including me!), and Cambria has hooked us with the anticipation of this journey, which will bring new challenges to our hero and heroine! 

5. Do you have any predictions for the next book in the series, Charade?

Well, I believe that Heven's relationship with her mother will come to a crisis point.  Heven may very well be forced to choose between her mother and Sam.  I also think that Gran will side with Heven, defend her, and perhaps even hide her or help her escape somewhere with Sam. 

I'm also expecting a lot of twists and turns as Heven and Sam go on this quest, this mission they've promised to complete.  I'm sure Logan, Sam's brother, will be playing a pivotal role in this second novel, as well.  Maybe others of Sam's kind will join them.  They'll most likely encounter those who will try to stop them from carrying out their mission, too. 

In short, I think we're in for a wild and very addictive ride!  I can hardly wait!! 

6. Did you enjoy participating in this read-along?  Will you join in future read-alongs?

A great big "Yes!!" to both questions!  I've enjoyed this tremendously!  It was fun going to different blogs to compare answers with other participants.  I do regret not having the time to visit every single blog, but, now that this event is over, I plan to go back to the first week's questions, and visit those blogs I didn't get to the first time around.  I'll be doing this with the other three weeks' questions, as well.

I am definitely going to join in any future read-alongs I might come across!  If any of you who participated in this one hear of any new ones, please do let me know!  I'll also do a Google search to see if there are any good ones going on, or about to start.  If there are, I'll inform the rest of you guys!  

Of course, I'm sure that Cambria will want to have another read-along for Charade, the next novel in this series.  So I'm eagerly looking forward to that!!  In fact, this will help me feel less sad about the end of the current read-along. 

I'd like to thank Cambria Hebert for writing Masquerade, coming up with the idea of this read-along, and participating in it right along with her readers!!  It's not every writer who does something like this!  I'd also like to thank the wonderful read-along hosts for their part in giving us readers such a great experience!

See you at the next read-along!! 

Since this is a blog hop, be sure to visit 
the other participating blogs
to see how they answered.
Also, I'd love to get your comments
on my own answers!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday #36: Tempest Unleashed, by Tracy Deebs

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!!

(Tempest #2)
Hardcover, 352 pages
Walker Childrens
Expected Publication:
June 5, 2012
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance,

From the Goodreads Synopsis

Tempest Maguire is happy with her decision to embrace her mermaid nature and live among her mother’s clan within the ocean’s depths. Even though training to one day ascend the throne for the aging mermaid queen is rigorous, she finds refuge in the arms of Kona, the selkie who first opened her up to her mermaid side. But when word comes that one of her brothers has been gravely injured on land, Tempest immediately rushes to his side—which also brings her back to her old flame, Mark.

I have the first book
in this new series, and I 
am planning to read it at some point
this year...
So of course I'll want to have
the second one as soon as it's published!
The covers of each book
are beautiful, 
although I must say I do 
prefer the the first one, because
I just love that tattoo on her back!
Mermaid stories have always
captivated me,
so I'll have to literally dive
into the first book soon! 

What incredibly exciting books
are you all
eagerly anticipating
this week?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

On My Bookshelves #25: The Paid Companion, by Amanda Quick (Jayne Ann Krentz)

My Sunday 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 pick for this week!

(Jayne Castle, Jayne Ann Krentz)
Hardcover, 432 pages
Putnam Adult
May 3, 2004
Genre: Historical Romance

From the Goodreads Synopsis

The Earl of St. Merryn needs a woman. His intentions are purely practical-he simply wants someone sensible and suitably lovely to pose as his betrothed for a few weeks among polite society. He has his own agenda to pursue, and a false fiancée will keep the husband-hunters at bay while he goes about his business. The simplest solution is to hire a paid companion.

Finding the right candidate proves more of a challenge than he expected. But when he encounters Miss Elenora Lodge, the fire in her golden eyes sways him to make a generous offer...

This book is sitting right on one
of my living room bookshelves, and
I simply can't believe I haven't read it yet!
But then, I have to say that
about a lot of the books that I own...
I bought this one at a
Barnes & Noble near my house,
and it was several years ago...
Well, now that I've checked out the
plot again, maybe I'll get
to it this year!


Book Review: The Vampire and the Virgin, by Kerrelyn Sparks (sixth review for The 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge)

Here's my sixth review for this
wonderful challenge!!

For the rules and a list of hosting blogs,
just click on the challenge button in my sidebar.

There are great prizes involved,
so be sure to check out
the rules and consider joining in!

Title: The Vampire and the Virgin (Love At Stake #8)
Author: Kerrelyn Sparks
Format: Hardcover, 345 pages
Publisher: Avon
Published: March 9, 2010
Genres: Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy

Reviewer's Note:  I decided I wanted to own the hardcover edition of this book.  However, I have included links to the mass-market paperback edition, for those who prefer that format.

The paranormal world created by Sparks contains a great combination of elements that guarantees a very entertaining, addictive read.  I certainly enjoyed this novel!  Her characters are not only believable, but very realistic, and funny, to boot!  I'm so glad, too, because I don't like the more traditional, horror-style vampire.  The vampires in Sparks' Love At Stake series are anything but! 

This is the eighth book in the series.  I've read three so far, and not in order, either, which is not good, although the books are also enjoyable as stand-alone novels. 

Robert McKay (known as 'Robby') is the wonderful hero of this installment.   Of course he's noble and brave.  Of course he carries hidden wounds from his past.  And of course he's devastatingly handsome.... While these might sound like the typical romance novel cliches, I don't mind them at all! 

The heroine, Olivia Sotiris, is just as wonderful, and she's the perfect match for Robby, for she, too, has a painful past.  Furthermore, they find each other on Patmos, a Greek island, on a moonlit night, near the beach...

Robby has traveled to the island on orders from his supervisor at McKay S & I, a security company dedicated to the fight against the Malcontents, who are the evil vampires in Sparks's world.  Robby is one of the good Vamps, but he wants revenge for his torture at the hands of Casimir, the leader of the Malcontents.  He's so obsessed with this that he's even endangering covert operations.   He's sent to Patmos so he can at least calm down, since he flatly refuses to see a therapist. 

Enter Olivia, FBI psychologist, who's been trying to escape the harassment of one Otis Crump, a dangerous serial killer responsible for the rape and deaths of thirteen women.  Although he's serving three life terms, he still manages to terrorize her, and she fears it's because he has an accomplice...

Olivia has also been sent to the island on orders from her FBI supervisor, who is worried for her safety.  She goes to stay at the home of her Greek grandmother, Eleni Sotiris, who is affectionately known as "Yia Yia" to her friends and family.  Olivia and her supervisor hope that Crump will not be able to trace her there.  The problem is, that's exactly what Crump does.  Frightened not only for herself but for her grandmother as well, Olivia packs them both up and hastily catches a flight back to the States.  Robby initially believes that she has abandoned him, but then decides to pursue her.

The love story is very well woven into the novel's action-filled plot.  As Robby and Olivia struggle to have a viable relationship, one filled with danger and a very important secret, events escalate; Casimir, who had been in hiding, makes his move at last...and innocent people start dying.  The good vampire and the FBI psychologist must work together to stop the killing, and Olivia must come to terms with what Robby is, when she does at last find out. 

Have I already mentioned how much I enjoyed this novel?  This is the type of fun read that keeps one glued to the pages, frantically turning them until one gets to the end. 

The secondary characters are just as memorable and fleshed-out as the principal ones.  I especially like J.L. Wang, Olivia's best friend and co-worker at the FBI.   I also like Carlos Panterra, the shape-shifter who's an equally good friend to Robby.  And how could I forget Phineas?  He's one of the Vamps, a self-styled "Love Doctor", who gives Robby the most hilarious love 'advice', while he himself must try to deal with a mortal woman who keeps rejecting his advances.  I also loved Eleni Sotiris.  (Here's another literary grandmother to love, right along with Gran in Cambria Hebert's YA novel, Masquerade!)   She cares deeply for Olivia, and is intent on introducing her to every eligible bachelor on the island of Patmos.  Although very sweet and loving toward her granddaughter, she's also stern at times, especially when Olivia first starts getting to know Robby.

The sinister Crump is also unforgettable as the evil, totally delusional serial killer, who insists that he and Olivia are destined to be together for eternity. 

To sum up, I would highly recommend this book as a very entertaining, totally addictive read!   I'ts definitely going on my favorite romances shelf.  If it were ever made into a movie, I'd be the first one lining up at the movie theater door!! 


Where To Buy:   Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Kerrelyn Sparks

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Shelf Candy Saturday #16: Winter's Tale, by Mark Helprin

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

I am again contrasting
two covers this week.
One is for the hardback edition,
while the other is for 
the trade paperback edition.

Hardcover, 673 pages
Harcourt Brace & Company
September 20, 1983
Genres: Romance, Literary Fiction,
Magic Realism

Why do I love this cover?

I think it's so magical...  First of all, there's all that glorious blue in various shades that go from dark blue to a bright, celestial blue.  Then there's the horse, hovering over the city of New York, with stars in its body.  This is a reference to the constellation of Pegasus.  The city itself has been transformed into a surreal, misty winter landscape.  The combination is nothing short of stunning, hinting at the literary wonders to be found inside the book. 

I also love the font used for the title and author's name, as well as where these two lines are placed.  They fit right in, not obstructing the images at all.  The font reminds me of the hand printing style used by architects on their plans, which I've seen in the past. 

I had heard of Mark Helprin some time back, and, intrigued by the story, looked up the book on Goodreads, Amazon, and eBay.   When I saw this gorgeous image, I knew I had to have this specific edition of the novel!  This cover has two of my favorite things in life -- a horse and the color blue! 

I was able to locate an excellent copy on Amazon a couple of years ago.  Since I had a promotional offer at the time, the total price I paid was $21.04.  I've seen it on eBay recently for over $60.00, since this is a first edition.  I think I got very lucky!

Mark Helprin
Trade Paperback, 748 pages
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
June 1, 2005
Genres: Romance, Literary Fiction
Magic Realism

I would probably have bought this edition, had I never seen the hardback edition.  This is a really nice cover.  I'm a huge fan of black & white photography (although this one does seem to have a slight greenish tint), and this is a very well done sample.  I love those shafts of sunlight!  However, this cover doesn't give me the aesthetic and magical pleasure that the first one does.  The first cover makes me want to get right into the story, while this one makes me think that the book might be interesting, but without the necessary ingredient -- fantasy -- that I prefer in my fiction.

The photograph of New York City
on the bottom of the hardback cover
is titled "Park Avenue", and was taken
 in 1936 by
William Thomas.
It was provided by
Unfortunately, I was unable to find
information about the photographer, since I encountered several people
with the same name
when I did my Google search.
I wasn't sure which one of them was
the one who took this particular photo.

The beautiful jacket design is by
Fred Marcellino.

Here are two websites with
information about him:

The following link, found at
Pulcinella Press,
will take you directly to a collection
of book jackets
designed by Marcellino:

So what do you think 
of this cover?
(The blue one, specifically!)
What beautiful cover(s) 
are you featuring this week?