Saturday, August 31, 2013

Shelf Candy Saturday #82: Wintercraft (Shadowcry), by Jenna Burtenshaw

Welcome to Shelf Candy Saturday!!

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

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

This week, I have chosen
two very different covers for
the same book!

(Wintercraft #1)
Jenna Burtenshaw
Trade Paperback, 278 pages
Headline Book Publishing
(Imprint of Hachette Livre UK)
May 20, 2010
Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Why do I love this cover?

There's nothing that catches my eye faster than the color blue!   So of course I was attracted to this cover.  However, there are other elements in this image that are equally fascinating -- such as the fact that the gargoyles seem to be guarding a mysterious entrance, which the hooded, cloaked figure has just successfully crossed. 

There's a mysterious castle in the distance, half-hidden in fog, while the magical blue mist gleams at the figure's feet.  Birds -- perhaps falcons -- circle around the sky overhead, which has a background covered in strange writing.  Superimposed on the dark arch, which is decorated with circles bearing unclear images, the following words appear: "An ancient secret, a deathly curse".

The font for the title is quite eerie-looking, and very effectively contributes to the overall effect of the cover.

This gorgeous cover was designed, for the UK paperback edition, by the very talented Tom Sanderson.  You can see more of his work at his website,, as well as at

(Wintercraft #1)
Jenna Burtenshaw
Hardcover, 320 pages
Greenwillow Books, Reprint Edition, US
(Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)
June 26, 2012
Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Why do I love this cover?

This is the cover for the US hardcover edition.  When I compare two different covers, I usually prefer one over the other, but in this case, I don't.  I like this one just as much as the one for the paperback edition!

This cover doesn't strike me as quite as eerie as the one above.  Besides,  it doesn't specifically seem to have any fantasy elements in it.  Instead, it looks more like a cover for a historical fiction novel.  Still, I can feel the silence, as the hooded, cloaked figure pauses before a line of arches, and looks beyond, to an uncertainly-defined landscape.  Snow is falling softly, and carpets the ground in front of the abbey.  This definitely adds to the appeal of this cover, since I love winter, although I've never seen snow in person.

The Gothic-style architecture is beautiful, and seems to belong to an abandoned abbey.  The same words that are superimposed on the dark arch of the paperback cover, also appear on this one, but right below the second Gothic arch, with the two windows above it.  Interestingly, the curse is mentioned first, and then the secret, which is the reverse order of the words on the paperback cover.

The font used for the title looks appropriately medieval, and I think it fits this cover just as well as the title "Wintercraft" fits the paperback cover.

The creator of this equally gorgeous cover is Sylvie Le Floc'h, who is a French designer working for Greenwillow Books.  She published a post on their blog, titled "How I Got to Greenwillow Books:Sylvie", on July 29, 2010.  Since she appears to have no website, I did some digging, and discovered an interview, for the blog That Cover Girl, which sheds some light on her creative process. 

What do you think of my choices?
Leave me a comment
and let me know!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Blog Tour Book Review: The Arrangement, by Mary Balogh

The Arrangement
(The Survivors' Club #2)
Mary Balogh
Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages
Dell, August 27, 2013
Historical Romance

Every novel written by Mary Balogh has a very special charm, as well as a unique enchantment, woven right into the plot.  This is why she's my favorite historical romance author!  Furthermore, she makes the English Regency period come alive, to the point that I really do wish I could live there.

Even when Balogh uses a plot device that is a staple of romance novels, she still somehow manages to make it seem fresh and original.  Her characters, as always, are very likeable, and, just as I wish I could live in the Regency period, I wish her characters were real people I could befriend.  That's how magical, how beautiful, how wonderful Balogh's novels are, and The Arrangement is no exception!  From the very first page, I was totally into the story, and loved every single moment of this tender, sweet romance, which is laced with Balogh's signature gentle humor.

The very appealing hero of this novel is Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh.  At the beginning of the story, he has fled his estate, Middlebury Park, in order to escape the matchmaking efforts of his female relatives -- his mother, grandmother, and three sisters.  They have, in fact, chosen 'the perfect wife' for him.  Vincent has met her.  And he certainly doesn't think she's perfect for him.  So, he escapes, and manages to eventually meet a young lady named Sophia, also known as 'The Mouse', who is in the middle of a most unfortunate situation: her relatives have totally disowned her.

Upon hearing of Sophia's predicament, Vincent offers her a marriage of convenience, since she has no other relative except for an uncle she has not seen in years.  According to their 'arrangement', each is free to go their own way at the end of a year.

So here we have the predictable elements of this novel -- the marriage of convenience, and the Cinderella story....except for one thing: Vincent is totally blind. 

Balogh has crafted a wonderful story in which there's little outward action present, but a lot of inner action instead.  We see the gradual transformation of Vincent from a man who does not feel free, due to his handicap, into someone who does.  We also see the gradual transformation of Sophia from a woman who thinks little of herself into someone who truly believes in herself.

How these wonderful events take place, how Balogh effects these transformations, is what makes this novel such a beautiful, magical one.  Balogh's keen psychological insight makes this possible.  She is a highly observant student of human nature, and this skill informs her dialogues, which abound with wit, as well as tenderness and subtly (and not so subtly) humorous incidents.

The fact that most of the 'action' takes place within the major characters, as well as the fact that a lot of the dialogue occurs on Vincent's estate, clearly place this novel in the tradition of Jane Austen.  The prose style is modern, of course, although Balogh also captures the flavor of the period.  

Sophia is perhaps more modern than women of her social class were at the time.  Vincent, too is more modern than men of the time. I did not find this anachronistic, however.  There must have been people living during the Regency period who did not follow all of the conventions of the time.  No one wrote novels about such people then, but that doesn't mean they didn't exist.  Balogh certainly makes it seem very possible.

The rest of the characters are also very well-done.  Although this book can be read as a stand-alone novel, it is in fact the second installment in Balogh's Survivors' Club series, so some of the characters in the first book are present in this one, as well.  There's one couple in particular whose story is told in the first book, The Proposal, which I can't wait to read!  All of Vincent's friends from the first book are wonderful! 

Vincent's family is no less wonderful! Far from being a stuffy, conceited aristocrat, Vincent's mother is very warm and inviting. So are his sisters.

I really liked Martin Fisk, Vincent's valet.  Although he works for Vincent, they have also remained very good friends.  I loved seeing his concern for Vincent's welfare, which was never overwhelming, as well as his loyalty to him.  At times, they act more like brothers.  

As with all of Balogh's novels, I had a hard time letting these wonderful people go at the end of the book.  I can see a re-reading coming in the near future....

The incomparable Mary Balogh has crafted yet another wonderful romance!  For those who enjoy the very best in historical romance, I heartily recommend this gently beautiful novel. Her characters are always unforgettable, and all of her novels are keepers!


Reviewer's Note

I'd like to thank TLC Tours for providing 
a review copy of this book,
as well as for including me in this tour,
which I have greatly enjoyed!

About the Author

Mary Jenkins was born in 1944 in Swansea, Wales, UK. After graduating from university, she moved to Saskatchewan, Canada, to teach high-school English, on a two-year teaching contract in 1967. She married her Canadian husband, Robert Balogh, and had three children, Jacqueline, Christopher and Sian. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, music and knitting. She also enjoys watching tennis and curling.

Mary Balogh started writing in the evenings as a hobby. Her first book, a Regency love story, was published in 1985 as A Masked Deception under her married name. In 1988, she retired from teaching after 20 years to pursue her dream to write full-time. She has written more than seventy novels and almost thirty novellas since then, including the New York Times bestselling Slightly sextet and Simply quartet. She has won numerous awards, including Bestselling Historical of the Year from the Borders Group, and her novel Simply Magic was a finalist in the Quill Awards. She has won seven Waldenbooks Awards and two B. Dalton Awards for her bestselling novels, as well as a Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mary Balogh Online

Fantastic Fiction: Mary Balogh
Dear Author: Balogh Novels Reviewed

For the complete tour schedule,
simply click on the button below!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen
Trade Paperback, 325 pages
Wordsworth Editions
May 5, 1995
Classics, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Romance

Book Synopsis: Few readers have failed to be charmed by the witty and independent spirit of Elizabeth Bennet. Her early determination to dislike Mr Darcy - who is quite the most handsome and eligible bachelor in the whole of English literature - is a misjudgement only matched in folly by Darcy's arrogant pride. Their first impressions give way to truer feelings in a comedy profoundly concerned with happiness and how it might be achieved.

This novel is a standard part of every high school English Literature course, and that's when I first read it -- when I was a high school student.  Actually, I never quite finished it; at the time, I thought it was boring.  I now think my reaction was due to the fact that I had finished Jane Eyre shortly before I started Pride and Prejudice, and was comparing the two novels.  However, after a second, recent reading, I was feeling pretty much the same way I did when I read it the first time.  So I prepared to write a negative review, with much trepidation, since this novel is a beloved classic.  I wrote an entire, mostly negative review, but was not satisfied with it.   In fact, I had the gnawing doubt that I was somehow missing something.

I decided to go back and read the novel one more time.  For some reason, this second re-reading experience was, surprisingly, a very refreshing one.  What seemed to me dull and tedious the first time, now sparkled with wit and ironic humor.   Austen is a very sharp observer of the foibles of human nature, and this is very apparent in the dialogues between the various characters.  Somehow, it didn't strike me that way during my first re-reading. 

I think the difference this time around was that I totally relegated Jane Eyre to the background, and read Pride and Prejudice on its own terms.  They are two very different novels, after all, with different aims, and written years apart from each other. 

Chapter One of Pride and Prejudice opens with one of the most well-known, and humorous, sentences in literary history: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."  The rest of the chapter introduces the reader to Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, who reside at the Longbourn estate.  They are members of what is known as the landed gentry.  All of Austen's novels revolve around the lives of this British social class.

Mrs. Bennet is the epitome of the shallow, silly type of woman who thrives on gossip, and whose opinion of people, especially men, hinges on how rich they are.  Her life-long ambition is to see all of her five daughters married off to wealthy men, which will then raise her status in the society of the time. 

Mr. Bennet, meanwhile, has resigned himself to being married to such a frivolous woman, expressing his discontent through subtly sarcastic comments that his empty-minded wife always fails to understand.  My impression of his character is that he would prefer to be left alone as much as possible, spending most of his time in his library.  He is therefore not a very active husband or parent, preferring to observe from the sidelines, make some sharp, witty, comment, and go back to his books.

This opening chapter is indeed quite humorous, and the dialogues between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet display Austen's sharp wit in all its glory.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Shelf Candy Saaturday #82: Lady of Devices, by Shelley Adina

Welcome to Shelf Candy Saturday!!

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

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

This is my choice for this week!

Lady of Devices
(Magnificent Devices #1)
Shelley Adina
Trade Paperback, 210 pages
May 31, 2011
Historical Fiction, Steampunk,
Young Adult Fiction

Why do I love this cover?

This cover has a very vibrant, realistic, and yet, fantastical look.  It also gives me  an exciting feeling that something very mysterious is going on.  The young woman seems to be in some sort of laboratory.   A strange, blue glow permeates the entire background, and appears to be coming from a beaker to the woman's right.   It's echoed in the glowing bubbles of weird vapor coming out of the golden cup she's holding.

I love the tall, very unusual hat this lady is wearing.  It looks a bit like a pirate hat.  I only wish it weren't partially hidden by the title...Still, I think it makes quite a fashion statement! 

Her makeup, while garish, also lights up her face, as she concentrates on whatever concoction she's working on, with an elongated instrument that resembles a combination of scissors and tweezers. 

The dainty golden cup she's holding in her left hand is so beautiful! 

Other details I love are her well-manicured nails, the crochet arm coverings, and the fur-trimmed coat.

The composition and overall lighting of this image are expertly handled, as well.  The viewer's gaze is first riveted by the bubbles rising out of the golden cup, then moves to the woman's face, and is led effortlessly to the glowing beaker, her hat, her hands again, and back again.  No matter where the eye first starts, though, the composition and lighting are sure to lead it all over the cover.

The font used for the title and author's name has a definite Art Nouveau influence, and is just perfect for this cover!

The overall impression I get from this image is of a brilliant, very feminine,  and very determined young woman, one who is definitely not to be trifled with!  I'm itching to pick up this book so I can become immersed in what will surely be a great adventure!

Thanks to Brian Joseph @ Babbling Books, I know who the artist is: PhatPuppyArt!  It's unfortunate that this highly talented digital artist has chosen to be known through a nickname, and gives no personal information whatsoever.   He or she does have some impressive clients, though.

Here's another cover done by PhatPuppy Art, for another highly talented person -- YA author Amanda Hocking!  I was disappointed to discover that this book was never published....however, Hocking incorporated some of the characters and elements into the Watersong series, which I do own (except for Forgotten Lyrics, which is an ebook)!

This is the link for the artist:

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

Friday, August 23, 2013

Book Blogger Hop #32 (8/23 - 8/29): How did you get started setting up your blog?

Welcome to the new
Book Blogger Hop,
hosted by Billy @
He took over this hop from
Jennifer @ Crazy For Books.
I'm so glad he decided to
continue with this weekly feature!
For more information, click HERE.

What to Do

1.) Post on your blog answering this week's

Book blogging is more than
just reading.  Who helped you
set up or run your blog?
Or did you do it all yourself?

2.)  Enter the link to your post in the
Linky list on Bill's blog.

3.)  Visit other blogs on the list and
comment on their posts. 

4.)  Be sure to find out next week's
question when you visit Bill's blog!

My Answer

I got into blogging due to a suggestion from a co-worker, back in July or August, 2010.  I did everything myself, except for the header, the blog buttons, the template, and the background.  The last two are from the Blogger interface, although I did combine them into one cohesive look. 

Sharing the writing of blog posts with one or more bloggers has never been an option for me.  I've always preferred to run my blog myself.  Admittedly, it's very time consuming, but maintaining creative control as much as possible is very important to me. 

Since I didn't have much experience with computers when I started out, I did some online research first.  I soon got tired of that.  I knew I really wanted to get myself a book -- a printed one -- that would help me learn how to set up a blog.  Also, I picked Blogger as my blogging platform, simply because it was free. So this is the book I chose:

This was a very, very helpful book.  It was full of great illustrations and steps that walked me through setting up my blog with the Blogger interface.  This interface has since been updated by Google, so anyone wanting to start out using it would have to get a more recent edition  of this book, which I haven't been able to find.  Fortunately, the new interface is not that hard to use.  Once you've learned the information in this book, you can easily transfer it to the new interface. 

After I was pretty sure I had a handle on the basics, I actually got started.  I went through several Blogger templates, finally settling on the "Picture Window Template".  Of course, with the help of the book, I did some customizing.  I also picked out a background I knew I could love, because of all the blue!  The creator is merrymoonmary, and the image is still available on Blogger.  If you'd like to see it, just click on her nickname.

Another helpful resource for me has been the feature Book Blogging 101, at the blog Parajunkee's View.  Rachel, the creator of the blog, always has wonderful tips, especially for beginning bloggers.  So I'm very much indebted to her, as well! 

This week's post is extremely helpful for us book bloggers.  Just click on this link to take a look: Essential New Tools for Book Bloggers.  Recently, Rachel has added a section to this post, titled "Book Blogger News", which is very interesting, as well. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Book Review: Spellcaster, by Claudia Gray

(Spellcasster #1)
Claudia Gray
Hardcover, 389 pages
Harper Teen, March 5, 2013

The cover of this book mesmerized me the minute I first saw it.  That blue flame poised on the girl's hand, the way she's totally focusing on it....I immediately wanted to find out more! 

The story started me off on the edge of my seat.  Nadia Caldani, the protagonist, is a young woman traveling from Chicago with her father and little brother.  They are headed to the fictional town of Captive's Sound, which, from the descriptions in the novel, appears to be located somewhere in the northeastern part of the country.  As they get closer to the town, Nadia begins to sense the presence of a very strong, yet invisible, magic barrier, which her family is entirely unaware of. 

Nadia is able to sense this barrier because she's a witch.  Her father and brother are unable to because, in this novel, only females can be witches and perform magic.  It's a hereditary thing, passed down from mother to daughter.  Men are completely non-magical (although there's one notable exception in the story).

Suddenly, Nadia and her family are involved in an accident, as their car slams into the invisible barrier, nearly sinking into the nearby river.  Thankfully, they are rescued by a young man who appears out of nowhere....

As the story progresses, the reader is introduced to a fascinatingly complex series of events and cast of characters.  Captive's Sound is heavily steeped in evil magic, and Nadia knows she has to do something to counteract the horrible spells that have engulfed the town in a depressing, oppressive fog.

The problem is, Nadia is not a fully-trained witch.  Her mother abruptly abandoned the family one fine day, leaving her daughter's training incomplete.  She also left three devastated people behind, which is why Nadia's father decided a fresh start would be the best thing for himself and his three children. 

This novel has gotten some mixed reviews, but I sure don't know why.  It grabbed me from the very beginning, and I simply couldn't let go!  All of the ingredients that make for exciting, page-turning reading are present in this story -- compelling, fully fleshed-out characters, unexpected twists and turns, and lots of fascinating, even mind-boggling magic! 

I especially enjoyed the characters. 

Nadia received a major emotional blow with her mother's desertion, but yet, she strives to remain a pillar of strength for her father and brother.  She is totally committed to protecting her family, as well as the entire town, from the insidious evil perpetrated by the villain of the story.  She is courageous, loving, persistent, resourceful, and yet, vulnerable in an endearing way.  I like her immensely! 

Mateo Perez is the young man who rescues Nadia's family.  Interestingly, he, too, has lost his mother.  In his case, it's because of a strange curse that passes from generation to generation, on his mother's side of the family, giving him the ability to have prophetic dreams.  He is just as courageous and resourceful, as Nadia, and is a total sweetheart.  Need I mention that he's drop-dead gorgeous?  I totally adore him!  

Mateo and Nadia are inexorably drawn to each other from the moment they meet, although their relationship develops gradually.  Claudia Gray has woven their blooming romance into this fascinating tale with deceptive ease.  There is no "insta-love" here.  They are unexpectedly pulled together through a magical bond, and their friendship slowly deepens into love. 

What I really like about their relationship is that they work together as equals, even though each possesses skills that the other doesn't.  At no time does Mateo treat Nadia in a condescending manner.  In fact, they totally respect each other, as well as displaying tenderness and understanding.  This was a very mellow, beautiful thing to read.

Another very compelling character is Verlaine, a girl from the local high school.  Considered an outcast, she is either bullied or ignored by nearly all their classmates.  I really felt for her, especially, since, as I got to know her better, I saw that she was a great person -- compassionate, loyal, and  tender-hearted.  Mateo and Nadia befriend her, and together they all attempt to fight against the powerful evil that seems to be more than they could possibly handle.

And the villain....oh, the villain!  I won't identify that person here, but this character is very well drawn, being appropriately sinister, while seeming innocent and inoffensive on the outside.  This villain is a totally evil person, with no scruples whatsoever, no concern for the welfare of the people of the town.   Furthermore, this person is in the service of "The One Beneath", which is an obvious reference to Satan himself, although that dreaded name is never once mentioned in the narrative. 

The setting of the novel, as well as the events that took place, gave me a feeling of oppression, of doom and gloom.  The descriptions of the houses, the countryside, everything contributed to the overall feeling that something very sinister was behind all the unsettling events taking place in the town.  However, there was always a ray of hope, as the three main characters bravely sought solutions to each obstacle thrown in their path. 

Contributing to the creepy thrills is  all the great magic conjured by Gray's imagination -- spells of liberation, one of which helped Nadia escape from magical spiders at one point in the story (and how I hate those nasty little creatures...), spells of forgetting, of controlling the elements, even of changing a person's appearance so completely, they would be mistaken for someone else, spells of levitation, such as the one used to lift a car out of a sinkhole....  This is truly the stuff of fairy tales!  As I read, I felt as if I had fallen into a fairy tale, albeit in the modern world.

The spells are very interestingly concocted, as well.  Instead of the stereotyped weird ingredients, or magical potions and elixirs, each spell's "ingredients" consist of memories, each of which has a specific theme.  All of them are then combined to create the spell.  I've never come across anything like this before!  This is not only beautiful and very creative, but also quite moving. 

The climax of the story is open-ended, but that's because the sequel, Steadfast, is slated for publication next year.  (In fact, I featured it in last week's "Waiting On Wednesday" post.)  I already have it on my wish list, and will be eagerly buying and devouring it as soon as it's released! 

I heartily recommend this novel to all paranormal romance and urban fantasy fans!  Believe me, you will absolutely enjoy this story!  You will cheer for the three heroes as they battle their formidable opponent, and will stay up into the wee hours, telling yourself in vain that you'll only read one more page....until you discover that's it's 3 AM, and you've devoured four chapters without even being aware of it!


Claudia Gray

Online Links

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Waiting On Wednesday #88: Endless, by Jessica Shirvington

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

Here's my choice for this week!

(The Violet Eden Chapters #4)
Hardcover, 480 pages
Sourcebooks Fire
October 1, 2013
Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy,
Young Adult Fiction

Goodreads Synopsis

Violet Eden thought she was getting things under control. Then all hell breaks loose-literally. In the war between angels and exiles, she's about to face the biggest baddie of all time. Except she's not nearly ready.

The dark exile Phoenix is still messing with her head-not to mention her heart. And her undeniable attraction to Lincoln has gotten downright dangerous. When Hell unleashes its worst, Violet must embrace every facet of her angel self to save the people she cares about and the world as she knows it. But death is not the worst thing she will face...

Why I'm waiting on this book!

This is a very exciting series,
and I've been collecting the books,
hoping to be able to read them sometime soon...
Alas, I have so many I want to read!
This one features angels, fallen or not,
and these are some of my favorite
paranormal creatures.
I also love the fact that the heroine
along with her allies, 
must do battle with denizens of Hell!
As for the love triangle,
well, I can put up with that,
as long as I can get plenty of action! 

What do you think of my choice?
What super exciting book(s)
are you eagerly anticipating?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Shelf Candy Saturday #81: Toward the Gleam, by T.M. Doran

Welcome to Shelf Candy Saturday!!

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

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

This is my choice for this week!

Toward the Gleam
Hardcover, 481 pages
Ignatius Press
March 1, 2011
Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Mythology,
Philosophy, Tolkien-based Fiction

Why do I love this cover?

The first thing that caught my eye, when I first came across this cover, was the similarity of the illustration in the top compartment to an illustration created by the incomparable and revered J.R.R. Tolkien.  Since this great man is one of my favorite writers, since I passionately love his fictional world and characters, I knew I had to take a closer look!

The plot of this very intriguing novel does owe much to Tolkien's enchanting fantasy world.  Thus, it was only natural that the cover for this book should have recognizable Tolkien elements in it. 

The illustration I've already mentioned is lovely.  The one in the lower compartment is more stark, more modern-looking.  The spider in one corner, and the spider's web in the other, are a clear reference to Shelob, the frightening, giant spider which appeared in The Two Towers, the second novel in Tolkien's trilogy.  It seems that the inclusion of these elements is also meant as a metaphor, referring to the machinations of the major villain in the plot.  They might also refer to the ingeniously-crafted intellectual deceptions of the evil philosophies explored in the novel.