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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crusade by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie

Crusade by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie 5 of 5 stars.


For the past two years, Jenn has lived and trained at Spain's Sacred Heart Academy Against the Cursed Ones. She is among the few who have pledged to defend humanity or die trying. But the vampires are gaining power, and the battle has only just begun.

Forced to return home after death takes a member of her family, Jenn discovers San Francisco is now a vampire stronghold. As a lone hunter apart from her team, Jenn is isolated--and at risk. She craves the company of her fighting partner, Antonio: his protection, his reassurance, his touch. But a relationship with Antonio comes with its own dangers, and the more they share of themselves, the more Jenn stands to lose.

Then Jen is betrayed by one who was once bound to protect her, causing her to doubt all she has held as true. (Book blurb)

The hunters of Salamanca are an unlikely band of warriors, mix-matched in more ways than they could have ever thought possible. Some joined the team in hopes of finding their place in a topsy-turvy world, some casting their lot for the new Holy Crusade. But most--are in it for revenge.

As vampires take over nation after nation, spilling innocent blood, there are few who are willing to stand up for what is right. And fewer still who have the skills to do it. Those few would be the Hunters, banded together and trained hard in the art of killing vampires. Armed with holy water, wooden stakes, and crosses they wage a shadow war against the enemy of humanity. Even against their own countries.

Crusade is a bloody thriller. Action and suspense combine with mysterious and complex characters to set the stage for an amazing novel. Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie have done it again creating a magically written story that will keep the best of us flipping pages late into the night.

The interesting thing about Crusade is that it could almost be a sequel. The training is over, the relationships are already formed, and the battle is on. The way it is written informs you of all you need to know in order to follow the story, while still keeping you guessing. The first half of the book seemed to shine a suspicious light on almost all of the characters. I wasn't sure who I could trust and who I couldn't. Through changes in point of view and a series of flashbacks from the different characters, the pictures became clearer toward the end. These characters can't be called anything if not complex.

The writing is the perfectly paced and characterized voice of experienced authors who know how to tell a story. They bring light to several dark time periods (including their fictional one) with the use of well-made and greatly varied characters. One of my favorite parts, strangely, was Aurora's flashbacks. She has such an atmosphere of evil around her it was interesting to see how hard she tried to resist it all during the Inquisition when she was imprisoned as a Jew. She reminded me a bit of Katherine from the Vampire Diaries, one of those complex characters that really make you think.

The religious aspect in the book was also very nice to me. It wasn't just Catholicism, but so many other religions stewed together within the story. They all served to add even more depth to an already winding plot.

Overall, Crusade is an amazing book. If you like prissy, sparkling vampires it might not be for you. But if you like a fast-paced story full of action and an incredibly complex plot... You would love it! This is definitely one of my most suggested books of 2010.

For fans of: Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda

Many thanks to the publicist for sending me a copy for review!

To order from Amazon.com, please click here.


This blog is an Amazon Associates Affiliate. When you buy an item from Amazon.com after following one of our links to the site, we gain a small commission. However, this does NOT effect our opinion of the books. Thank you.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

News + Fantasy Reading Challenge SUCCESS!

Hello fellow bookworms! I am back more steadily in the blogosphere, I hope. And, yes, I know I say that alot. But I've finally finished off these courses and am hoping to have a break at least through December and January.

Anyway, I have exciting news. I have FINISHED the Fantasy Reading Challenge 2010 at the Obsessed level hosted by Royal Reviews! The exact date of completion was October 29, 2010. I'm sure I will have several more between now and the end date. You can see my reads here.

Also, I have a cool plan for an Advent thing in December. (You'll have to wait to find out what it is!) And, of course, I'm going to have some awesome giveaways for the holidays. --Check out the one I've got going on now! ^^ You can win a hardcover copy of Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl!

I really hate I missed out on all of the book blogger Secret Santa things. I did last year too, so I'm kind of upset about it. If anyone knows of one that I can still sign up for PLEASE let me know!

I hope all of my fellow Americans had an AMAZING Thanksgiving!

Best of wishes,


Guest Post: Author Christine Schulze on Self-Publitwshing and Christian Fantasy!

"Hullo, and thanks so much to Arya for having me here today! My name is Christine E. Schulze, and I am a new, starving author of YA and middle grade fantasy and Christian fantasy.

One topic Arya thought my readers might be interested is why I have chosen to self-publish. Self-publishing can have a bad wrap, but do not think I am not very serious about my craft. Quite the opposite, and though I do hope to get into a major publishing house, I am glad for the self-publishing experience, which has taught me loads.

My publishing experience started when I was a freshman in college. I was working at the Success Center at Southwestern Illinois College as an English tutor. My mom came in one evening with this excellent letter of acceptance for my YA novel, The Prism of Ashlei, from Tate Publishing. I was so elated! Until I learned they wanted me to pay a fee to do so; though they promised to return the cash once I sold 5,000 copies of my book, the fee was a lot of money to me as a new college student.
Now, I am a stubborn person and SO wanted to be published, so needless to say, I really wanted to give in. It wasn’t others’ advice, warning, and common sense which changed my mind though. It was the fact that, if I gave in and paid such an exorbitant amount—which I didn’t really have, by the way, unless I gave up college—I was basically saying to myself and all the world that I wasn’t good enough to make it to a real publishing house. A serious author should never have to pay money to get published. I don’t fault those who do, but it wasn’t for me. (I’m quite glad I didn’t pay also because I’m learning how hard it is selling your first copy, let alone 5,000!)

Now, the same could be argued for self-publishing; wasn’t I saying I couldn’t make it in the real publishing world? Well, first off, not long after I turned down Tate, which left me really bummed out, I received an offer for a contract with Writers-Exchange e-publishing for another YA novel of mine, Golden Healer, Dark Enchantress. Though I really wanted to see my work in print, I was up for getting my name out there with a few ebooks. The ebook released earlier this year, and I am really glad I decided to work with this e-publisher. Through working with Laura Shinn, Sandy Cummins, and Jenna, all brilliant editors, I learned much about how to polish my own work. They guided me through the first chapter, and I did the rest. I must have caught on quickly too, because they didn’t make many changes to the rest of the book once I’d edited.

Well, at some point, I discovered Createspace, a self-publishing company affiliated with Amazon. They are great because you don’t have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars. You actually don’t pay a thing, except to order a proof copy of each book before it officially goes to print. I was intrigued by the idea of getting to make my own cover art, design the interior of my books, etc. Laura Shinn helped me learn about creating PDF files and made a template for me, as well as assisting me in the art of making cover art files. Without her help, I could not have self-published, so God bless you, Laura, for that.

I think I originally intended just to self-publish a few books, sort of as an experiment to see if I could help spread my name that way, and partially just as something I did for myself because I wanted to. Maybe I got a little carried away, self-publishing three of my favorite and best series. However, someday, when I get renowned through a traditional publisher, those books will be out there, waiting for my fans to delve into. I definitely don’t regret the experience or all I learned, though I hope those books too are someday picked by a traditional published. The best part was designing everything and making both the paperback and ebooks available at really reasonable prices to my readers. For my favorite series, The Gailean Quartet, I actually came up with two separate book covers for each book, front and back. The back cover is like a surprise, containing some of my original, hand-drawn illustrations of the characters; which ones depends on which version of the book you buy. I realize I’ve done things a little backwards—creating collectors’ items and THEN trying to be famous. But, like I said, it was a fun experience, and the stuff is out there when readers want it.

That said, I’ve since worked with smaller presses like Old Line Publishing, who did Bloodmaiden, as well as Victory Tales Press; I’m involved in several of their anthologies, and my anthology Bloodmaiden: a fantasy anthology, was actually one of their first releases. I learned much from Rebecca Vickery, the editor there as well.

So, in the end, I am applying all I’ve learned over these past couple of years to perfect a manuscript, a middle grade fantasy called The Last Star. I feel a lot more confident now in its being polished to send to agents and editors. My boyfriend has also taught me much on query letters and helped me perfect my own for the book (he was also my photographer for Bloodmaiden’s cover, which is one of my best; thanks, sweetie!). When I’m ready to start submitting the manuscript in a few months, well, pray and cross your fingers! That will be the start of a whole new adventure.

Another topic Arya said her readers might be interested in is why I write not only fantasy, but Christian fantasy as well. I think the best way to sum that up is to use a reply I used in another interview, so without further ado:

I have always loved fantasy. I love being able to create new worlds, peoples, characters. I just can’t write realistic fiction because it limits me too much. Plus, I really love how almost all of my books—all thirty-plus of them—connect in some way, shape, or form.

The “Christian” aspect comes in because, as a Christian, I feel I should give something back to the God who blessed me with talents of writing. That said, most of my work is NOT preachy; I try to incorporate any Christian aspects so that they flow naturally with the characters and story, instead of seeming awkward. In the words of Briana from The Book Pixie, another young lady who reviewed Bloodmaiden:

“Another thing I loved was the incorporation of religious elements. They were subtly done so that a Christian like me would pick up on them; however, they weren't blatantly obvious enough to detract from the story for those non-religious readers out there.”

This is exactly what I aim for, so I was glad to here it from another reader. Many of my books simply contain Christian virtues like the importance of friendship, forgiveness, love, redemption, or self-sacrifice. Others do talk about God, but mostly in an allegorical sense, like Aslan from Narnia. For those looking for a more obviously Christian read, my short book, The Pirates of Meleeon, does refer to God directly, and salvation is a big part of that book. For the most part though, my books will still appeal to as wide an audience as regular fantasy. I do plan to wrap up all my books with a final book, Carousel in the Clouds, which draws on the book of Revelation to bring an end to all worlds. Though the book is already finished, I have much else to do before it too is published.

Well, that about wraps things up. Thanks so much to Arya for having me here, and I hope you all get the chance to sometime read Bloodmaiden or other of my works for yourself.

God bless and happy reading!

P.S. Arya, your name is beautiful; look for it in a book someday!"

Thank you so much, Christine, for taking to time to share some about yourself and your books with my readers! 

To find out more about Christine you can check out her Goodreads page and blog by following the links below.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tea Beyond Rose Series Juliet Tea Pot - CSN Stores!

Tea Beyond Rose Series Juliet Tea Pot 4 of 5 stars.
CSN Stores 4 of 5 stars.

The Tea Beyond Rose Series Juliet Tea Pot is definitely beyond beautiful! It is very elegant and glimmers in the light. However, it is much smaller than I expected. I might should have looked more closely at the measurements online, but I assumed it was a full sized tea pot. It holds about 3 small (6oz.) cups of tea without the strainer in. The lid feels a little wobbly when I put it on as well. It does make a great cup of tea though! Another thing that bothers me about it is that it is hard to clean the spout. I may have to buy something especially tiny to clean it with. After a couple of uses it started to look tea-dingy around the end.

The people at CSN Stores are terribly nice and the selection is amazing. But there was a bit of trouble with the shipping. The billing address and the shipping address were different. The billing was to my grandmother's house and the shipping was to me. Anyway, on my birthday my grandmother gave me a mixed up tea set. The tea pot looked just like this one, and I had shown it to her before. I asked her about it, and she said that she had ordered it off ebay. It turned out later that she hadn't ordered a tea pot and the tea pot was sent to the billing address. I was a bit uncomfortable that the item was shipped to the wrong place, but I'm not exactly sure if that was the store's fault or FedEx.

I wouldn't hesitate to work with CSN Stores again, though. As for the tea pot I do think it is adorable. If you are only going to be making tea for yourself and maybe one other person, it should work fine for you. The rose detailing is precious and the tea it makes is delectable.

To order the Tea Beyond Rose Series Juliet Tea Pot from CSNStores.com, please click here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Blog Tour: Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl

Today is devoted to Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl. You can read my review of the beautiful novel, read a guest post by the amazing author, and enter to win a copy of this absolutely stunning hardcover book.  Find out more about the book and the blog tour here. Don't forget to enter the giveaway and leave Michaela a comment!

Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl 5 of 5 stars.

How Princess Victoria became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel.

London, 1836. Seventeen-year-old Liza's dreams of her society debut are dashed when her parents are killed in a tragic accident. Alone and penniless, she accepts the positions of lady's maid to the young Princess Victoria and steps unwittingly into the gossipy intrigue of the servants' world below-stairs as well as the trickery above. Is it possible that her changing circumstances may offer Liza the opportunity to determine her own fate, find true love, and secure the throne for her future Queen? (Book Blurb)

Elizabeth Hastings's life is turned completely upside down when after her parents death she is forced to go to work as Liza the maid. But Liza didn't know what she was getting into when she applied for the job of maid in Princess Victoria's household-the dilapidated Kensington Palace. As Liza sees the people of the palace all trying to buy her loyalty, she realizes that there is more than one conspiracy going on in the palace. It soon become obvious that Liza is needed to help keep Victoria's throne safe from the greedy hands of those around her. However, Liza couldn't do it alone. A young princess like Victoria needs more than one ally in the world. But what could a former maid, newspaperman, and a street urchin (minus the street) possibly do to tilt the scales of power in this game of intrigue?

Prisoners in the Palace is a lush Victorian novel that waltzes us through the the life and hardships of the Princess Victoria as she fights for her crown before she even learns the importance of it. With engaging writing and beautiful scenery, it is a must for any true Victorian era fan. Romance, intrigue, and dangerous secrets lurking in the shadows. What more could a girl want?

The first thing I have to say is that Chronicle Books deserves some sort of award for the amazing cover they put together for this book. It has a brilliant foil outer cover with a beautifully patterned hard-cover. Even the inside pages of the book are to die for. I would definitely suggest buying this book if for nothing more than a collectors piece. But it is must more than just a pretty book.

Michaela MacColl's writing truly draws you into the time period and setting. I could honestly hear the English accents and see the beautiful dresses and gardens coming alive before me. The story is a fun twist on history that leaves you with a good feeling after reading it. Although I admit that I was a bit annoyed by the way some of the characters were portrayed in the beginning. After recently watching The Young Victoria (and falling madly in love with it, mind you) I wasn't expecting to see Victoria betrayed as such a brat, even in the start. For a while it seemed like the only character with half a brain was the main, Liza. The story did change, however, as the author introduced us to the complexities of it and the various other characters. Victoria's courage grew and she soon became the feisty young queen I imagined her to be.

Over all, the book was truly enjoyable, and I adored many of the characters. I would suggest this book to any lover of a good Victorian novel.

To order this book from Amazon.com, please click here.

Michaela's Guest Post:

"Arya, thank you so much for sharing your lovely readers for this stop on the Prisoners in the Palace Blog Tour.

One of the best things about writing historical fiction is doing the research on site.  Even if I didn’t love to travel, it’s critical if the book is to have that extra zing that convinces readers that they are in the scene.

I went to London with a close friend to visit Kensington Palace, Fleet Street and Windsor Palace. 

While I was writing the first draft, I had been frustrated whenever I tried to figure out the floorplan for Victoria’s rooms. I found plans for 50 years earlier and then for the way it is now… What happened in between?  A helpful docent explained it for me. Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, didn’t get along with her brother in law, the King.  He allowed her to stay in Kensington Palace, the dumping ground for his poor relations. She was always complaining that the rooms were inadequate for the heir to the throne. He refused to give her any more space. The Duchess, not being known for her tact, just took them. (When the King found out, he was furious. He threw a fit at his birthday party – but that’s another story and a deleted scene in the novel). Since the Duchess took the rooms without permission, there weren’t any plans. So I’m out of luck unless I go and walk the halls. I’m so glad I did.

The other thing that happens when you visit your locations is that you find details that create sub-plots and minor characters. Once I saw the little guard house, I realized that I needed to add a drunken porter who never was awake to open the door.  There’s a stone circular kitchen where I just had to place Simon the the footman, sitting on a bench with his sleeves rolled up, tossing back an ale.  And I was lucky to see a recreated bedroom of the Duchess and Victoria (they shared a room until Victoria was eighteen). The crystal bowl of bon bons gave me a whole story about stolen candy and false accusations.

I recently went to Italy with my daughters. We went on a New Moon tour in Volterra. The guide was a local and she showed us all the places described in the book. Then she brought us to a spring in the lower part of the city and told us how her grandmother used to do her laundry there. And where the water spills out of the cisterns, there’s a hidden entrance. She used to climb through into tunnels that led up through the cliffs to the upper city. My daughter asked why the author of New Moon didn’t use that in her books. The guide laughed and said that Stephanie Meyer never came to the city. Not once. I think she missed a great detail!

For more details about Prisoners in the Palace visit my website, www.michaelamaccoll.com. Thanks for listening!"

Isn't she awesome!? Which is why you need to enter the giveaway to win a copy of Prisoners in the Palace

This blog is an Amazon Associates Affiliate. When you buy an item from Amazon.com after following one of our links to the site, we gain a small commission. However, this does NOT effect our opinion of the books. Thank you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Anna Levine Tour: Freefall Giveaway Winner!

The winner of an awesome copy of Freefall by Anna Levine is... Carla from Library Mosaic! Congrats, Carla! I know you are going to love it! Freefall is one of my favorite books of the year.

Aggie is eighteen and getting ready to do her service for the Israeli Army. She could get a cushy assignment--maybe pushing paper somewhere--or she could just take her chances. Only, Aggie isn't like that. Despite her small size and the fact that she needs to gain weight to even make the grade, and despite the total disbelief of her entire family (except her grandmother, who is an old freedom fighter and don't you forget it), Aggie is trying out for an elite combat unit.

Ben--Aggie's crush of the moment--isn't at all convinced that she's making the right choice. Shira, Aggie's best friend forever, is bewildered (and perhaps a bit too interested in Ben). Then there's Noah. And the serendipitous snow. And a good-bye kiss that turns into, well, a real kiss.

Luckily for Aggie, her backbreaking, sand-in-mouth, completely-lost-in-the-desert training produces an unlikely dividend: friends. The kind she never imagined she could have. The kind you'd go to war with--and for. (Book blurb)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Blog Tour: Author Interview with Anna Levine + Giveaway

 Good morning, all! Today I would like to introduce you to one of my new favorite authors. Meet Anna Levine, author of Freefall one of the best books released this year. Her book honestly blew me away! Its been a couple of weeks since I read it and scenes are still randomly playing through my mind. Its been a while since I've read a book that good. Enjoy!

1. What is Freefall about?
Freefall is a story about an eighteen-year-old Israeli girl, Abigail Jacobs. As Aggie’s mandatory military service approaches, she decides she wants to try out for a combat unit. She’s under weight, but that doesn’t hold her back. She gains the weight and faces the grueling physical, emotional and mental challenges of pre-army training. Her family, her friends and her then boyfriend think she’s out of her mind. She proves them wrong. Freefall is about what it’s like growing up in Israel from the challenging family relationships, changing friendships, mandatory army service and the experience of falling in love for the very first time. This is my third book set in Israel. All my stories feature strong female protagonists who are told that they can’t, no way, impossible. Then they set out to prove everyone wrong.

2. Who was your favorite character (aside from the main!) and why?
Noah! Noah’s got a sensitivity about him that I just love. I admire his strength of character and the way he tries to adapt himself to the situations he finds himself in.

3. Which sparks your interest and imagination most: Heroes, villains, or anti-heroes?
Villains are the hardest. I mean, a good story needs a really nasty villain with lots of personality somebody you love to hate. I always ‘wrestle’ with my villainous characters. I think a good villain is someone who makes you doubt yourself. In the bus scene, when the guy next to Aggie puts his arm around she is both flattered and excited by the idea of him being attracted to her but at the same time is appalled that he thinks he can just take whatever he wants and that she, for a second, wanted it!

4. What is your favorite quote and why?
My favorite quote: “There are moments in life when you have to jump.”
I love this idea. I think you have to be ready to take chances in life, and especially as a writer you need to be willing to jump and be daring. One of the hardest things about being a writer (and this includes the last question

5. Any advice for struggling writers? Is being able to free yourself from what other people may think of you because of what you’ve written. I think the thing which holds back most writers is the fear of being honest. Go for it! Don’t hold back. Your readers will respect you for it.  

Thank you so much, Anna!
To order Freefall from Amazon.com, please click here.
Read my review of Freefall here.
Check out Anna Levine's website here.
Follow the Freefall blog tour  here.


To enter to win a copy of Freefall by Anna Levine all you have to do is fill out this form.
+1 entry if you comment on this post
+1 entry if you comment on the review

This giveaway IS international.
13+ years of age to enter!

Deadline is November 14, 2010 @ 12:00am EST!

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