Friday, February 28, 2014

Leap Into Books Giveaway Hop!!

Welcome to this terrific giveaway hop,
sponsored by

My own giveaway is international, 
which means that your book 
will be delivered by
Before entering, just make sure that TBD
delivers to your country.
You can do that by clicking HERE.

Here are the AWESOME choices!!

 The books above are all YA bestsellers!
However, if none of these
grabs you, there's an alternate prize...
just be sure to enter
the Rafflecopter below, and don't
forget to read the Terms & Conditions!!

Good luck to you all!!
Be sure to visit all of the 
 participating blogs,
and enter their great giveaways!!


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Book Review: Rapture, by Lauren Kate

(Fallen #4)
Lauren Kate
Hardcover, 448 pages
Delacorte Press, June 12, 2012
Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Book Synopsis:   The sky is dark with wings. . . .  Like sand through an hourglass, time is running out for Luce and Daniel. To stop Lucifer from erasing the past, they must find the place where the angels fell to earth.
Dark forces are after them, and Daniel doesn’t know if he can do this—live only to lose Lucinda again and again. Yet together they face an epic battle that will end with lifeless bodies . . . and angel dust. Great sacrifices are made. Hearts are destroyed.
And suddenly Luce knows what must happen. For she was meant to be with someone other than Daniel. The curse they’ve borne has always and only been about her—and the love she cast aside. The choice she makes now is the only one that truly matters. In the fight for Luce, who will win?
The astonishing conclusion to the FALLEN series. Heaven can’t wait any longer.

My Review

It's been more than a year since I read the third book in this series, Passion, so I felt somewhat disoriented as I began Rapture, which is the last in the series.  I was tempted to go back and reacquaint myself with the first three books, before going on with this one. But then I just decided to plunge in.

Luce's journey with Daniel in this book has a very worthy goal --  they must stop Lucifer before he completely erases the past 7,000 years, by going back to the original site of the angels' fall, in order to make sure that his plan does not succeed.

I was primed for the journey.  I was ready to immerse myself once more in this supernatural world, desperate to find Luce's curse lifted, which would permit her and her angel boyfriend, Daniel, to love each other freely.

The beginning of the novel was exhilarating, as the two young lovers, along with most of their friends from the previous books, set off on their quest.  They had to collect three ancient relics, bringing them together at the right time and place, in order to thwart Lucifer.  Daniel dispatches two groups in search of two of these relics -- one to Vienna, and one to Avignon, while he and Luce search for the third in Venice.  (I must inject a little digression here.....the text refers at first to "Avalon", which is, of course, a mythical place; the name is later corrected to "Avignon".  I wonder if any other readers have noticed this.)

Surprises and twists abound in this book, and ancient enemies suddenly turn into allies, while a new cast of characters is introduced -- the Scale, a group of angels whose main task is to make sure that certain rules are enforced, that a divine balance is maintained.  This should mean that they are part of "the good guys"; after all, they are on God's side.  I was shocked to discover that they really weren't that good.  Their actions were, instead, ruthless and cruel.  They flew about dressed in very black cloaks, which could be used to  constrict a captive's body.

This book moves very swiftly -- the writing flows inexorably; the pace is relentless.  The chapters dealing with Daniel and Luce's search are beautiful in scope, as well as touchingly sweet without being too much so.

There's plenty of action in this novel, as well, as the group of angels -- and demons -- on Daniel's side battle the Scale, who, incredibly enough, seek to stop them from fulfilling their quest.  In the process, Daniel, Luce, and "the gang" encounter a new character, Dee, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Miss Sophia, a villain from Fallen, the first book in the series.

I really liked Dee!  She was everything that Miss Sophia was not -- kind, sweet, loving, as well as brilliant, and very resourceful.  She immediately became the group's guide, leading them to the place where all three relics were finally united, and the answer to the location  of the angels' ancient fall was found.

Although the settings were beautifully described, and the plot action-filled, there were several things that, in the end, turned this book into a pretty disappointing read.

One of these was the characterizations, especially in regards to Luce.  Throughout the series, it's frequently repeated that she's the one most important person in this whole cosmic drama.  I would have expected that such an important person would have taken a greater lead in  this novel's events.  Instead, she basically flies around with Daniel and the rest of their group, and keeps getting rescued.  Her one great accomplishment is retrieving one of the relics from an underwater location.  She is also kept in the dark much of the time, until Dee tells her that it's time for her to 'wake up'. This is a veiled reference to Luce's true nature, which the reader discovers toward the end of the book.  I think that the author was also giving her readers a veiled message -- we must all wake up to our true nature.  This points to a decidedly New Age reference, as this is a frequently repeated axiom in New Age philosophy. 

This brings me to another problem I see with this book, and indeed, it's apparent from the very beginning of this series.  The evil characters are really not that evil, while some characters -- such as the Scale -- who should be good, really aren't.     

I had already felt some rumblings of discontent with the second book in the series -- Torment.  Aside from the slowness of the plot, I also objected to finding an angel and a demon having a romantic relationship.... Even if one is not religious, it should be obvious, from an entirely logical standpoint, that angels and demons are diametrically opposed, where ethics is concerned.  

The very fact that Daniel and his angel friends are "fallen" should point to another very obvious point: fallen angels are, in fact, demons.  These are two different names for the same entity, and they are used as synonyms in Christian tradition.  Yet, according to Kate, her fallen angels are actually angels who have not yet committed themselves to siding with either Heaven or Hell.  Again, this sounds totally absurd.  There are indeed gray areas in human affairs, but we are supposedly dealing with cosmic entities here.  In the grand universal view, there are no gray areas; evil is evil, and good is good. 

In fact, this series opens up a whole can of worms as to the nature of good and evil, even when one considers the so-called "gray areas".  When is a certain action really and truly evil?  I don't think that Kate takes a firm stand on this point.  She even goes as far as to justify an intrinsically evil action that takes place toward the end of the book, because of its supposedly beneficial consequences. This particular incident was so repulsive to me, I nearly stopped reading the book right then and there.

In addition to the above two objections, I think that Kate simply takes too many liberties with what is essentially a Christian worldview.  Perhaps I shouldn't judge her writing based on Christian standards; she does not market herself as a Christian writer, after all.  However, if an author is going to use concepts and iconography belonging to a certain spiritual tradition, then that writer should respect these concepts by presenting them as they were originally conceived in that tradition.  What's happening here is that Kate has imbued this novel -- as well as the entire series -- with New Age elements, which are superimposed on what initially appear to be Christian concepts, events, and characters.   

Of course, there's nothing wrong with lacing a novel with elements of New Age philosophy, if these are in line with the author's beliefs.  However, populating a novel with characters based on the Christian tradition, and having them act as if they were from a pagan tradition instead -- the ones in this novel resemble the supernatural beings from Greek mythology, for instance -- simply does not work.  Yet, some of the scenes in this novel have Christian settings, such as Mount Sinai, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

So why didn't Kate simply use settings from Greek mythology?  Why didn't she classify her characters differently -- as nymphs, satyrs, ancient gods and goddesses, as well as demi-gods and demi-goddesses?  Why didn't she mention places sacred to the Greek deities, such as Mount Olympus, olive groves, and underworld caves, instead?

Adding all this to the illogical reversal of good and evil, which really makes the characters come across as very morally ambiguous, even though they're angels and demons, created, for me, a highly uncomfortable reading experience in several passages throughout the novel.  Naturally, this would affect the characterizations, which were thus not as effective, in my opinion, as they could have been.

So, in spite of the wonderful writing style and deft plotting, in spite of my love for the characters -- especially Luce, Daniel, and Arriane -- I have to honestly say that I did not enjoy this book as much as I was expecting to.

One last thing that bothered me was the rather disappointing ending, which came across as too predictable, as well as entirely arbitrary.  The novel just didn't have to end the way it did; with all the glory of Heaven, and the sordidness of Hell, having been so imaginatively displayed, surely the author could have come up with something much more in keeping with the whole grandness of the plot.  

Besides, Luce and Daniel are given the alternative of choosing Love, instead of Heaven or Hell.  It's absurd for Love to be considered a third alternative!  Heaven is the domain of Love, according to the Christian tradition, because God is the Supreme Lover.  The God portrayed in this novel, however, doesn't seem to believe this.  Again, this God does not even resemble the one in the Christian tradition at all.  Kate has instead decided to present a deity who could have been lifted from any of the tales of Greek mythology.

One positive thing I can say about the series, however, is that it has sparked in me a great interest in the Watchers and Nephilim, which has stimulated a need to research such matters.

To sum up, I would have to say that I am very disappointed in this novel, and, in fact, it is making me re-evaluate the entire series, as well.  In spite of their classification as young adult fiction, I would instead recommend these books to adults, due to their spiritually confusing content. 

This novel would be perfect, I think, for readers who don't mind inconsistencies such as the ones I have pointed out above, and are willing to simply go along with the plot, enjoying the story as written.  For me, however, the spiritual inconsistencies, as well as that one evil event, made this novel a less than enjoyable reading experience.



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Waiting On Wednesday #94: The Perilous Sea, by Sherry Thomas

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 Perilous Sea
(The Elemental Trilogy, #2)
Hardcover, 432 pages
Balzer + Bray
September 16, 2014
Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Book Synopsis

From acclaimed author Sherry Thomas comes the striking sequel to The Burning Sky, book two in the Elemental Trilogy, for fans of Cinda Williams Chima, Rae Carson, and Kristin Cashore.
After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.

Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.

Why am I waiting on this book?

I'm a lover of fantasy fiction, 
especially of the young adult variety!
Although I have not read the
first book in this series, I've heard great
things about it, and do have it
on my Goodreads TBR shelves, as
well as on my Amazon wish list.
Besides, one look at that cover was all
I needed to want to read this one, too!!!

What do you think of my 
choice this week?
What fascinating book(s) are  
you waiting on?



Monday, February 24, 2014

Blog Tour: Spotlight/Excerpt/Giveaway!! Vampire Most Wanted, by Lynsay Sands

Welcome to this stop on the tour for
Vampire Most Wanted
presented by
Bewitching Book Tours!!

About the Book

Vampire Most Wanted
(Argeneau Series, #20)
Lynsay Sands
Mass Market Paperpack, 384 pages
Avon Books, Feb. 18, 2014
Humor, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy

Book Synopsis:   For Basha Argeneau, anything is better than facing her estranged family. Even hiding out in sweltering southern California. But when a sexy immortal in black shows up determined to bring her back to the clan, she'll do anything to keep far, far away from the past she can't outrun.

Marcus Notte isn't here to play games—especially not with someone as crazy as the infamous blonde. Asked by Lucian Argeneau to bring her back for questioning, Marcus is determined to carry out Lucian's request—no matter how the seductive little mind-reading vamp feels about it.

Basha doesn't mind fighting fire with fire, especially with a hot immortal involved. But if he wants to take her away, he'll have to catch her first....

Chapter One Excerpt

     Divine saw her latest customer out, surprised to note that there was no one outside her door waiting for a reading.  It was the first time that day that there was no line outside her RV.  A glance at her watch explained why -- it was dinnertime.  That was the only time she ever had a lull in customers.  Right now the food stalls would have ridiculously long lines as everyone at the fairgrounds converged on them in search of greasy treats to power the rest of the evening's rides and fun.  Which meant she had a few minutes to catch her breath and relax a bit.
    She'd barely had the thought when she spotted a couple of women moving purposefully toward her trailer.  After a brief hesitation, Divine quickly flipped "Back in five minutes!" sign, let her screen door slide closed, and descended the few steps to the ground.  Ignoring the fact that the women were looking alarmed and rushing forward, she slipped around the side of her RV.  Most customers would have stopped then, sagged with disappointment and waited, probably impatiently, but waited just the same, so Divine was a little surprised when her arm was grabbed from behind.  She was more surprised, however, by the strength in the hand that latched onto her....until she turned and noted that it wasn't one of the women at all, but a man.
    A couple inches taller than her, dark-haired and good-looking, he was built like a linebacker.  He was also looming over her, deliberately invading her space in a threatening manner as he growled, "What the hell did you say to my wife?"
    Divine rolled her eyes with exasperation, wondering how she was supposed to know since she didn't know who his wife was.  She was about to say as much, but then realized that there was something familiar about the man, and quickly slipped into his thoughts.  A heartbeat later, she was relaxing.
    "Allen Paulson," she murmured his name, getting an almost childish satisfaction when his eyes widened incredulously.
    "How do you --?"
    "I told your wife that you were having an affair with your buxom, blonde, twenty-year-old secretary, Tiffany," Divine interrupted sharply, silencing him at once.  "I told her that this Tiffany was pushing for marriage and that you, not wanting to lose her, but unwilling to give up your wife's money, preferred widowhood to divorce.  I told her about your plans to bring about that widowhood on your upcoming vacation.  I believe it was either her drowning or suffering a fall while camping in Yosemite National Park?"  She tilted her head.  "As I recall, that trip was scheduled for this week, wasn't it?"
    When his mouth dropped open and his hold on her arm eased, Divine added, "I'm guessing by the fact that you're here, rather than in Yosemite, that she listened to my advice to make an appointment with her lawyer the next morning to change her will, as well as to remove you as the beneficiary on her life insurance."
    His hand dropped away, falling limply by his side.
    "No doubt she also listened to my advice and hired a private detective.  I gather she sent him to get photographic proof of your infidelity at that cheap little motel you like to take your secretary to every day at lunchtime?"  She slipped into his thoughts briefly, read the answer in the chaos there, and smiled with satisfaction.  Not only had the wife done that, she'd then taken the proof straight to a good divorce lawyer.  The woman was now safe and on her way to being single again.  After that, though, the woman had told her dear hubby that the fortune teller at the carnival was the one who had given her the heads-up and put her on this path and it had been the best twenty bucks she'd ever spent.
    Which was why Divine had an irate and soon-to-be-divorced and destitute husband on her hands.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Shelf Candy Saturday #104: Tau Zero, by Poul Anderson

Welcome to Shelf Candy Saturday!!

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

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

 Once again, I'm showcasing
two slightly different
versions of the same cover!!

Tau Zero
Trade Paperback, 192 pages
Gollancz/Orion Publishing
January 1, 2006
Science Fiction

Why do I love these covers?

I have seen very, very few Gollancz covers I didn't like.  This publisher simply has amazingly good covers!  This one (in both versions) is no exception; it's dramatic, very aesthetically pleasing, has lots of BLUE.  True, there's quite a bit of white in it, as well, but the color blue does predominate.

Aside from that most beautiful of all colors, I love the dynamic composition!  That thick, mist-filled ray shooting down, from an undefined area of space -- not sure if that's a planet or spaceship it's coming from -- to the lower right-hand corner of the cover, is powerfully intense.  On the first cover above, this ray is more defined, with a streak of concentrated energy zapping through it like lightning.  This ray seems to have been caused by a mysterious explosion, and is mirrored by similar explosions taking place near the upper right-hand corner of the cover.

There are several planets in this image; the strange circle enclosing part of a mathematical equation echoes the repeated circles of the planets.  The circle in the upper cover has gradations all around it, which are missing from the circle in the lower cover.  I wonder why.... 

The second, lower cover has some very distinct, strange design outlines surrounding the circle.  I'm not sure what these represent, but they do remind me somewhat of some of the Nazca lines, which are huge images made by ancient people in the Nazca Desert, located in southern Peru.      

Nazca lines: The Heron
(photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons)

It seems as if the cover artist wanted to convey the fact that an alien civilization is involved in the plot of this novel.  Whatever these designs represent, they definitely create an aura of mystery that enhances the fascinating artwork of this stunning cover.  This holds true especially for the second cover, where the designs stand out more. 

The font used for the title and author's name is simple, unadorned, and I like the fact that, on both covers, it does not overwhelm the turbulent images.  I also like the very thin frame around the author's name, as well as the words, "SF MASTERWORKS", at the upper left-hand corner of each cover,  There's a small, red orb at the end of these words.  All of these are very nice, classic design touches.

In short, this cover, although very dynamic, and definitely exciting, is still very tastefully designed.  I wonder why there are two slightly different versions of it....perhaps the lower one was released first, then recalled, and the upper one was published, with some modifications.  Both, however, are extremely appealing!

Unfortunately,  I have not been able to locate any information on the cover artist, since no preview of this novel is available through the Amazon reader.  I hope to find out who the artist is when this book joins my collection! 

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

Friday, February 21, 2014

Blog Tour: Interview! The Unholy, by Paul DeBlassie

Welcome to this stop on the tour 
for The Unholy
presented by 
Bewitching Book Tours!!

About the Book

The Unholy 
Paul DeBlassie III
Trade Paperback, 202 pages
Sunstone Press, August 1, 2013
Metaphysical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Urban Fantasy  

Book Synopsis:  A young curandera, a medicine woman, intent on uncovering the secrets of her past is forced into a life-and-death battle against an evil Archbishop. Set in the mystic land of Aztlan, "The Unholy" is a novel of destiny as healer and slayer. Native lore of dreams and visions, shape changing, and natural magic work to spin a neo-gothic web in which sadness and mystery lure the unsuspecting into a twilight realm of discovery and decision.

Print Edition
 Kindle Edition

Paul DeBlassie III, PhD.

Author Interview

Maria:  This book is inspired by your thirty years of experience as a psychotherapist, dealing with what you call “the dark side of religion”.  Could you elaborate on just what this dark side is, and how it has affected your clients? 

Paul:  The dark side of religion is the use of spiritual energy or power by organized religion in a way that hurts people. You see it when priests get people to believe in God, to trust the church, to trust the priest, and then the person is used and abused all because they have trusted. I’ve had patients say, “I feel like I’ve been abused by God.” It’s how it’s registered in the deep unconscious mind…to be abused by religion is to be abused by God. I’ve been helping patients for over thirty years heal from the dark side of religion. In The Unholy, a young woman is face-to-face with the dark side of religion and has to decide to do what she has to do or forever be haunted.
Maria:  Why did you think it more important to write a novel dealing with this topic, as opposed to a self-help book?
Paul:  A self-help book appeals to the conscious mind; a novel, its story and symbols, move into another realm that bypasses defenses. It gets to you in a way that you can’t stop. You can stop it by stopping reading The Unholy. People have said it was too much, needed to put it down then come back; others have wrapped themselves in a cozy blanket, sunk into the story, and let it speak to them no matter what.
Maria:  What do you see as the central conflict in The Unholy, and how is it embodied in the two main characters?

Paul:  Destiny as healer and slayer pivots itself in the drama of a young woman’s life. Do we fulfill what we are meant to do or do we back away and run? It’s a dilemma for us as vulnerable human beings. The Unholy captures fear and potential, to run or to face the ghost and deal with what you need to deal with.
Maria:  Do you see patriarchal values as inherently evil, as opposed to matriarchal ones?  Why or why not?  Do we need a balance of both?

Paul:  Any values are evil if they are used to oppress, to use and abuse. Mothers can be devouring, not let go, consume their children so they don’t have a life. In The Unholy it’s the father, paternal values gone awry via religion. It’ll eat you alive out of a need you have to belong and to find salvation or to find a way out of the complexities of being human. The Unholy…it pivots good and evil, and the way balance is achieved by going into the dark forest, sinking into self, and seeing what emerges from behind the trees.