Thursday, December 31, 2009

All About the Brontes Challenge Reviews

Happy New Year to Everyone! Tomorrow is the official start to the All About the Brontes Challenge. If you would like to sign up, please go here for Challenge details and sign-up.

Please post your reviews for your Bronte related items in Mr. Linky below. Please put your name or blog name followed by the item reviewed. For example if I was going to post a review of Jane Eyre, I would put, Laura's Reviews (Jane Eyre). If Mr. Linky goes down as it does often, post your review links in the comments section.

Thanks everyone - I can't wait to read the reviews and discuss!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Giveaway - Cleaving by Julie Powell Audiobook

Anna, from Hachette Book Group, has graciously allowed me to host a giveaway for three copies of the audiobook of Cleaving by Julie Powell.

Book Description (from the publisher): Julie Powell thought cooking her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking was the craziest thing she'd ever do--until she embarked on the voyage recounted in her new memoir, CLEAVING.

Her marriage challenged by an insane, irresistible love affair, Julie decides to leave town and immerse herself in a new obsession: butchery. She finds her way to Fleischer's, a butcher shop where she buries herself in the details of food. She learns how to break down a side of beef and French a rack of ribs--tough, physical work that only sometimes distracts her from thoughts of afternoon trysts.

The camaraderie at Fleischer's leads Julie to search out fellow butchers around the world--from South America to Europe to Africa. At the end of her odyssey, she has learned a new art and perhaps even mastered her unruly heart.

My review of the audiobook is here. I think if you were a fan of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, you will also enjoy this novel.

Giveaway Details

Anna of the Hachette Book Group has been kind enough to offer three audiobook copies of Cleaving for this giveaway.

If you would like to enter this contest do any of the following:

1. Leave a comment on this post. You must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner. (1 entry)

2. Blog about this giveaway or post about it on your sidebar. (1 entry)

3. Become a follower or leave a comment that you already are a follower of this blog. (1 entry)

There are three ways to enter, but you can put all three entries as one comment.

I will be using to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents (Sorry!).

No P.O. Boxes.

The deadline for entry is midnight, Friday January 15th. Good luck!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession by Julie Powell (audio)

I wasn’t sure what to expect of this novel. I have heard nothing but praise for Julie and Julia, but have not yet read that novel. Cleaving is Powell’s second novel after Julie and Julia. It seems that fame and fortune does not always bring happiness. After becoming famous with the publication of her first novel, an old lover from college (that she cheated on her boyfriend at the time and now husband Eric with), D, has reappeared and brought passion and heartbreak with him. Although Julie loves Eric and he is considered the perfect husband, she cheats on him repeatedly with D. When Eric finds out, he gets a girlfriend of his own and overall their marriage is in deep trouble.

After they both give up their boyfriend/girlfriend, Eric and Julie have a strained relationship. Strained as Julie lives in an apartment during the week learning butchery for this novel. She also still fantasizes about D. The sad truth is, Julie did not break up with D because of her love for Eric, rather D broke up with her because she had rough sex with unknown men and told him about it. Even D has limits.

Mostly as I listened to this book, I just wanted to slap Julie and say, “Snap out of it!” Only I know she would have liked it after her way “too much information” monologues about how she liked it rough from D. It’s not that enjoyable to listen to someone bemoan the loss of a lover that they didn’t really love, but had great sex with, and how sad it is to be left with your wonderful, caring, soul mate husband.

The butchery part of the novel had interesting parts, but also suffered from too much information. Listening to Julie describing the details of pigs getting butchered was rather disgusting. It almost made me want to turn vegetarian. I did appreciate that she had a love for liver and had a slightly different recipe for it then I do. I may have to try it out! I also loved her quirky analysis of life versus Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I have never watched Buffy, but have friends who are obsessed so it was interesting listening to it.

Julie Powell reads the novel herself and does a fair job. It sounds like you are listening to her innermost thoughts . . . which sometimes I did not want to hear or really care about. She had an interesting interview at the end of the audiobook that provided some insight on the novel overall.

The last section of the novel finds Julie traveling around the world to learn more about butchery, but also it seems like she just wants to not be around her husband. The book ends, but there is not a clear resolution on what the future will hold for Julie and Eric.

Overall, the novel was slightly interesting, but not that great. The only thing that kept me listening was that Powell is overall a good writer, even if the story is not that interesting. It reminded me a lot of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, a novel I also did not enjoy. If you were a fan of Eat, Pray, Love, this novel may be for you.

I will be giving away three copies of this audiobook in a separate post so you can have a chance to judge for yourself!

Audiobook Source: Review Copy from Hachette Book Group. Thanks Anna!

Everything Austen Challenge Wrap-Up

I have loved being a part of Stephanie's Written Word's Everything Austen Challenge. I already had a great love for everything Austen and this challenge was really a good excuse to immerse myself in all things Austen over the last six months. It was also a fantastic opportunity to share opinions around the blogosphere and to learn about new and exciting Austen spin-off novels. I have a lot more Austen books on my TBR list.

I also joined Laurel Ann at Austenprose's Everything Austen Challenge X 2, which required one to read/watch/listen to twelve Austen related items. At the end of the day, I managed to read/watch/listen to (drumroll please) seventeen Austen related items.

My items were as follows:


Listened (audiobooks):


I did pretty good with sticking to my lists on this challenge and did everything on them, except for I didn't read Jane and the Wandering Eye by Stephanie Barron. I have read the first and last books of the fabulous Jane Austen mystery series by Barron, but I really need to read a couple of the middle books that missed. I also have Lady Vernon and Her Daughter by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway that I won from Austenprose during the Lady Susan Soiree. I meant to read it as part of this challenge, but ran out of time. Look for my review on this book sometime in the next month or two.

Overall I LOVED this challenge. I have enough things left to do that I would be read for a second Everything Austen Challenge. My only hope is that Stephanie will host this fantastic challenge again next year!

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

I read Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict two years ago and enjoyed it. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict is the story of Courtney Stone a modern day woman who wakes up one day as Jane Mansfield in Regency England. The ending definitely left me wanting more and I was very excited to learn that the parallel story of what happened to Jane Mansfield in LA was coming out this year.

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict starts with the rather rude awakening of Jane Mansfield in Courtney Stone’s life and body in L.A. Jane is startled awake by the sound of an alarm and can not believe all of the changes that have occurred in the past two hundred years. Besides the technological changes, the changes in how relationships are conducted, and the freedom that women now have, confound Jane. She learns how to live in the modern world and also how to straighten out Courtney’s muddled life. I loved the details of how Jane experienced the 21st century.

I enjoyed the novel, but I wish I would have read it directly after I read Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and not two years later. I had many questions as I read Rude Awakenings as I couldn’t quite remember the fine details of the first one and unfortunately I read a library copy of Confessions so I couldn’t flip it open and take a look. I did like how we got to see the other side of the story from Confessions and it had a good ending.

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict is my seventeenth and final item for the Everything Austen Challenge.

Book Source: I won an autographed copy from Austenprose. Thanks Laurel Ann and author Laurie Viera Rigler!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

I started this challenge determined to read two Christmas novels, but I ended up reading five Christmas novels, none of which were on my original list. I am not very good at sticking to lists . . . but I already knew that!
The Christmas novels that I read for this challenge are as follows:
I enjoyed all of the books, but I think my favorite was the light and entertaining Once Upon a Christmas by Diane Farr. I enjoyed Knit the Season as a third addition to the Friday Night Knitting Club series and I really enjoyed listening to Christmas Classics. I may need to listen to Christmas Classics again next year!
Thank-you to Michelle at The True Book Addict for hosting the Christmas Reading Challenge. I hope you host it again next year!

Knit the Season by Kate Jacobs

Knit the Season is the third novel in the Friday Night Knitting Club series by Kate Jacobs. I first read the Friday Night Knitting Club this past spring for my book club. I quickly read Knit 2 to find out what would happen next. I was very excited to read on Suko’s Notebook that there was a new third novel in the series and it was a Christmas book. I love Christmas books!

Knit the Season picks up right after Knit 2 ends. Dakota Walker is becoming quite the young woman and is trying to determine what direction her life should take. Should she spend this Christmas with her family or take a wonderful intern opportunity at a great restaurant? Peri, Darwin, Lucie, KC, Catherine, and Dakota all help Anita plan her third wedding to her beloved Marty. Anita’s putz of a son, Nathan, has managed to thwart the previous attempts at a wedding. James tries to put away the memory of Georgia and move on with his life, while Catherine must decides whether to risk it all for love with Marco. The novel runs from Thanksgiving until New Year’s, therefore it is the perfect holiday novel!

I loved this novel as I love all of the characters and really enjoyed learning more about them. My only hope is that there will be more future novels. I wish that the novel would have been longer as characters such as Darwin, Lucie, and KC were very much relegated to the background. Also I like how the characters reflected on favorite past memories of Georgia, but I hope that future novels will move on from Georgia.

I’m not sure I would recommend this novel to someone who has not read the previous two books. I don’t think you would get the same amount out of the book if you didn’t have their background from the previous novels.

Overall, this was a great addition to the Friday Night Knitting Club series. This is my fifth and final book in the Christmas Reading Challenge.

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Once Upon a Christmas by Diane Farr

I love Christmas Regency Romances. They are my favorite Christmas books that I turn to year after year. I love the Regency setting, and the nice romance stories set during the Christmas Season. Ana from Aneca’s World had a list of suggestions on her blog and I chose Once Upon a Christmas by Diane Farr.

After suffering the devastating loss of her family, Celia Delacourt finds herself suddenly swept away to the Delacourt estate by her distant relation the Duchess of Arnsford. The Duchess would prefer Celia refer to her as Aunt Gladys. The Duchess takes her under her wing determined to train her to be a proper lady. Celia begins to wonder what motivates the Duchess as she has four unmarried daughters of her own.

Jack Delacourt is the only son of the Duchess. He becomes suspicious when his mother summons him home for Christmas. He devises a plan to show up and act insane to scare away whoever his mother has waiting for him as a future bride. His act soon works on Celia, convincing her that he is insane. Jack is unsure whether he wants this as he soon finds himself falling in love with Celia.

Overall it was a great, light, Christmas regency romance. I found it to be very enjoyable. The characters were great. I only wish it would have been a little longer to find out what happened to the Duchess.

This is my fourth novel for the Christmas Reading Challenge.

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy by Sara Angelini

If I had one word to describe The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy, it would be “Hot!” This novel is a fun, fast, and highly enjoyable read. A modern day Pride and Prejudice, The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy is the story of Will Darcy, a young judge in California, and the impossible new attorney in his courtroom, Elizabeth Bennet.

Misunderstandings separate the two at first, but over time they discover that their two passionate natures are ultimately drawn together. Will they find a way to work out their careers and differences to end up together forever?

I really enjoyed this novel, mostly because I loved the two main characters, Will and Elizabeth. Author Sara Angelini was able to take two beloved Regency characters and create two realistic modern creatures that are able to battle wits and share passions that their Regency counterparts only wish would have been possible.

I really enjoyed reading of the modern incarnations of the characters of P&P. They all made sense and a few were laugh out loud funny. My favorite was Bill Collins, habitual offender for solicitation of prostitutes. I also enjoyed that the plot didn’t stick too closely to P&P. The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy was its own novel that left me reading far into the night to find out what would happen next. I also loved how it was implied that the current Darcy was a descendent of the original Darcy.

The courtroom setting of the novel was fantastic. I also loved how the story switched between Darcy’s point of view and Elizabeth’s. It was great to see what they were both thinking . . . as I’ve always wondered when I read the original Pride and Prejudice what exactly was going on in Mr. Darcy’s mind.

Overall, The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy is a sexy, smart modern story of pride and prejudice. It is an entertaining love story that is not to be missed!

The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy is my sixteenth item in the Everything Austen Challenge.

Book Source: Author Sara Angelini and Source Books Review Copy. Thank-you!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Classics: Stories for the Whole Family by Charles Dickens, etc. (Audio)

A Christmas can not go by it seems where I don’t read or watch A Christmas Carol. I’ve seen the play numerous times and love the old versions of the movie. This year I decided to try something new and listen to an audiobook version of A Christmas Carol. I selected Christmas Classics: Stories for the Whole Family at the library as it not only had A Christmas Carol on it, but several other Christmas favorites.

The audiobook included the following stories:
1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
2. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
3. Is There a Santa Claus? (Yes, Virginia . . . ) by Frank P. Church
4. A Visit from Saint Nicholas (‘Twas the Night Before Christmas) by Clement C. Moore
5. A Winter Walk by Henry David Thoreau
6. The Seven Poor Travelers by Charles Dickens
7. The Fir Tree by Hans Christian Anderson
8. Santa Claus at Simpson’s Bar by Bret Harte
9. What Christmas is As We Grow Older by Charles Dickens

There are various readers during the course of the audiobook. I thought they did a great job, particularly the eerie reading of the ghosts in A Christmas Carol. My only complaint is that I really would have loved a reader with a great British accent for A Christmas Carol.

A Christmas Carol is a striking story each time I read, listen, or watch it. The story of a man getting to see the effects of his miserly ways on others and how he is perceived is riveting. I love that he is able to change his entire lifestyle and become a force for good. It’s a relatively simple tale, but it is wonderfully infused with the Christmas spirit. The only thing I don’t like about the story is the very beginning. It goes on and on about how Marley is as dead as a doornail. I think I understood he was dead from line one, but I know how Victorian authors needed to give you ten times the description that you really needed on occasion. Does anyone else feel this way about page one, or am I the one that is being a Scrooge here?

I love The Gift of the Magi. It’s been a few years since I’ve read it, but it still had its charm. Two people in love who in turn give up their prized possessions to give each other a good Christmas gift is such a touching story. I love the twist at the end.

I hadn’t read The Fir Tree since I was a kid. It was nice to listen to it again even though it is a bittersweet tale of a tree that always wants more than it can be and doesn’t enjoy life as he has it. It’s a good moral story.

I’ll admit that I skipped The Seven Poor Travelers. I listened to it for awhile and grew quite bored and skipped the rest. Truthfully, I haven’t been very keen on any of Dickens’s other Christmas tales besides A Christmas Carol and I love Charles Dickens.

Overall this was a great audiobook collection of favorite Christmas stories. This is my third item for the Christmas Reading Challenge.

Audiobook Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Willoughby’s Return by Jane Odiwe

Willoughby is the Austen bad boy that I can’t quite find it within myself to hate. He does more despicable deeds than most Austen bad boys (he impregnated and left Eliza and then ditched Marianne for a lady with more money!), yet he comes clean with Elinor and tells her that he did indeed love Marianne, but had to marry for the money. This leaves me with sympathy in my heart no matter how heard I try to hate him, I think about how he has been punished for his misdeeds by never being able to be with the one woman that he truly loves. It also doesn’t help that Greg Wise is such a very handsome and wonderful Willoughby in the 1995 version of Sense and Sensibility.

I couldn’t wait to read more about Willoughby, Marianne, and the rest of my favorite Sense and Sensibility characters in Jane Odiwe’s sequel, Willoughby’s Return. Just the title excited me with the thought of Greg Wise, I mean Willoughby, striding back into the scene.

The novel did not disappoint and was quite simply, a superb sequel to Sense and Sensibility. Marianne Dashwood found love and romance of another sort with Colonel Brandon at the end of Sense and Sensibility. At the beginning of Willoughby’s Return, they are still happily wedded with a young son, James. The only wrench in their happiness is that Colonel Brandon still finds himself drawn away quite often to help Eliza and her small daughter Lizzy. Marianne finds herself jealous of the unknown Eliza, who no only had Willoughby’s love, but also is the spitting image of her mother, Colonel Brandon’s first love. I love how the first Eliza’s portrait with Colonel Brandon’s brother still hangs at the top of the stair. It gave me an almost Rebecca like quality to the specter of Eliza, Brandon’s lost love.

Colonel Brandon and Marianne are distressed by the news that Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby have inherited Allenham after all and will soon be moving to the neighborhood. Sad at the constant absences of her husband, Marianne soon finds herself feeling the old feelings again and being tempted by Willoughby. Will she succumb to temptation or find her way back to Colonel Brandon?

This story is also the romance of Margaret. Margaret has now grown up and has the same temperament as Marianne. She is searching for her one true love. Colonel Brandon’s nephew, the dashing Henry Lawrence, has moved back to England and Marianne is determined to set Henry Lawrence and her sister up. Henry is friends with Mr. Willoughby. Will he live to make the same mistakes as Henry or will he find true love?

My favorite character in Sense and Sensibility is Elinor. She is now a happy wife and mother of two, but this is not her story. She is only seen briefly. I wish there would have been more of her, but I realize that would be a different story.

Overall this book was a terrific read that I really enjoyed. I highly recommend it to all lovers of Sense and Sensibility, Austen, or just a wonderful romance. This is the best sequel to Sense and Sensibility that I have ever read! The characters are captured perfectly and the story is wonderful.

Willoughby’s Return in my fifteenth item in the Everything Austen Challenge. We’ll see if I can get a couple more in before the end of the month!

Book Source: I won this autographed copy of the book during a great giveaway on author Jane Odiwe’s fantastic blog.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

And the Winners Are . . .

The two lucky winners of The Rose of York: Love and War by Sandra Worth are J.Kaye of J.Kaye's Book Blog and Christy of Christy's Book Blog. Winners were chosen using the power of

The two lucky winners will receive autographed copies of the novel as provided by Sandra Worth once they send me an email with their mailing addresses (I have already contacted them via email).

Thank-you to Sandra Worth for providing me with a review copy and also for providing the two copies for this giveaway. I love Sandra Worth's novels! If you would like to learn more about her or her novels, please check out her website. Thank-you to everyone who participated in this giveaway.

Sad that you didn't win? I currently have two giveaways going for the audiobooks of True Compass by Edward M. Kennedy and Live for Your Listening Pleasure by David Sedaris. Lovers of historical fiction stay tuned, I will have a giveaway for Roses by Leila Meacham posted sometime in the beginning of January.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Giveaway ends TONIGHT for The Rose of York: Love and War by Sandra Worth

This is just a friendly reminder that the giveaway for two autographed copies of Sandra Worth's wonderful historical fiction novel The Rose of York: Love and War ends tonight at midnight. Details can be found at this link. Don't miss out on a chance to read the story of a young Richard III from a different point of view. What if Richard was not a hunchbacked murderer, but was instead a gallent young night with one true love, the beautiful Anne Neville? Caught between the opposing forces of the houses of York and Lancaster, Richard grows from a young boy to a young warrior. This is a must read for all lovers of historical fiction.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Giveaway and Review: Live for Your Listening Pleasure by David Sedaris (audio)

Live for Your Listening Pleasure is a hilarious series of short stories written and read by David Sedaris in front of many different live audiences. While one story is a humorous fable of a cat and a baboon in a grooming saloon, the other stories are autobiographical tales or observations on life. I found them all very funny and quite enjoyable. I listened to it on a business trip to Milwaukee earlier this week and it had me laughing out loud during several points.

This audiobook is short, only one CD that is approximately 75 minutes long. Sedaris does a great performance and reading with all of the right pauses for maximum laughter and enjoyment. There are some adult themes to some of the stories so it is not appropriate for young children.

The only section I found not funny was a joke about breast milk. I thought it was just gross and not funny. Otherwise everything else was great. It makes up the uneven Sedaris Christmas book I read earlier!

Overall, if you are looking for a good laugh and great observations on life, I highly recommend this audiobook.

Audiobook Source: Review Copy from Hachette Book Group. Thank-you!

Giveaway Details
Now for the details you are really looking for . . .Anna of the Hachette Book Group has been kind enough to offer three audiobook copies of Live for Your Listening Pleasure for this giveaway.

If you would like to enter this contest do any of the following:

1. Leave a comment on this post. You must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner. (1 entry)

2. Blog about this giveaway or post about it on your sidebar. (1 entry)

3. Become a follower or leave a comment that you already are a follower of this blog. (1 entry)

There are three ways to enter, but you can put all three entries as one comment. I will be using to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents (Sorry!).

No P.O. Boxes.

The deadline for entry is midnight, Friday January 8th. Good luck!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Giveaway and Review: True Compass by Edward M. Kennedy (Audio)

No matter what your political persuasion is, you have to admit that Ted Kennedy lived a fascinating life. I wasn’t sure what to expect of this memoir. I had attempted at one point to read each of the Clinton’s respective biographies only to toss them aside once I determined they were mostly political pandering. True Compass is not a “political” memoir per say, instead it is an engrossing story of a man at the end of his life who is looking back on the events that shaped him for the good and the bad. I found the book to be many things, but what surprised me most is that is there were several excellent sections and chapters (such as “The Living Rose”) where Kennedy has some really deep, well-written thoughts on life that brought a tear to my eye.

True Compass is a long audiobook (17 CDs), but I found myself deeply interested and engrossed as if it were a non-fiction novel. John Bedford Lloyd read the novel. While he lacks Kennedy’s distinctive Boston accent, his voice for me became Ted Kennedy’s. He did an excellent job.

My husband is not a fan of the Kennedys, but while I was listening to this novel, he would often stop and listen to the sections too as he found them interesting. I must admit thought, that some of the interest was because Kennedy’s life is so very different from our own. Descriptions of sailing yachts, taking first communion from the Pope, etc. shows as Fitzgerald once said, “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.”

That aside, I found the description of the historical events of Kennedy’s life, especially the turbulent 1960’s, to be riveting. This novel is the modern history of the United States, as seen through one very prominent man’s eyes. In interest of full disclosure, I was a tad bit bored of the 1970’s and 1980’s political discussion.

My favorite parts of the book were when Kennedy not only described a historical event or piece of legislation, but talked about his feelings on it personally. The highlights of the book were these personal touches and moments of great prose and deep thought.

I admire that although Kennedy did live a life of privilege; he was deeply thoughtful and concerned about the common man and took this concern to the Senate. I also greatly admire how he took care of the fatherless nieces and nephews and really made family a priority.

He does talk about Chappaquiddick in this novel, but only briefly. He has brutally honest thoughts about it and one great line that was something along the line of “Atonement is an act that never ends.”

Kennedy a very spiritual man and as a Catholic myself, I enjoyed his thoughts on faith. I also liked the love story between his second wife Victoria and himself. She sounds like a great woman, and the perfect one for him. I also liked how he talked about his first wife Joan, but never in a negative light.

Overall, this book is a fascinating look at Ted Kennedy’s life and the modern history of the United States. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

Audiobook Source: Review Copy from Hachette Book Group. Thank-you!

Giveaway Details
Now for the details you are really looking for . . .Anna of the Hachette Book Group has been kind enough to offer three audiobook copies of True Compass for this giveaway.

If you would like to enter this contest do any of the following:

1. Leave a comment on this post. You must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner. (1 entry)

2. Blog about this giveaway or post about it on your sidebar. (1 entry)

3. Become a follower or leave a comment that you already are a follower of this blog. (1 entry)

There are three ways to enter, but you can put all three entries as one comment. I will be using to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents (Sorry!).

No P.O. Boxes.

The deadline for entry is midnight, Monday January 4th. Good luck!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Roses by Leila Meacham

Roses is an engrossing family saga that spans the twentieth century that I literally found myself unable to put down. The Toliver, Warwick, and DuMont families are the three founding families of Howbutker, Texas in the 1800s. The Tolivers are cotton farmers, the Warwicks are timber giants, and the DuMonts are clothing department store magnates.

The novel starts in 1985. Mary Toliver DuMont is dying and decides to change her will at the last minute so that future generations will avoid the “Toliver curse.” These changes have lasting repercussions with her family and friends. The novel then switches to her girlhood in the early twentieth century to answer the mystery of what the curse encompasses. The second part of the novel is Percy Warwick’s story, and the third part of the novel is set back in 1985 with Mary’s Great-Niece Rachel’s story. I won’t get too much more into a plot summary here as I don’t want to ruin the novel for anyone!! Let’s just say there is a mystery, a great passion, and a lot of tragedy.

The Tolivers and Warwicks are descendants of the Lancasters and the Yorks, feuding houses during the War of the Roses. I love reading about the War of the Roses, so this was an added bonus when I read this novel. I love how the tradition of the families is to give a red rose when asking for forgiveness, a white rose when granting forgiveness, and a pink rose if all is not forgiven. The symbolism of it was striking through the generations.

I love family sagas and I loved this novel. I couldn’t stop reading it as I wanted to know what would happen next. It was a multi-generational soap opera that I thoroughly enjoyed. I really liked all of the characters (well except for Mary’s Mom . . . what a drama queen!). A couple characters that I found one-dimensional redeemed themselves and took on new dimensions by the novels end (Lucy). I really enjoyed the character growth and development. I also loved how Mary reminded me strongly of Scarlett O'Hara and Percy Warwick reminded me of Rhett Butler, two of my favorite literary characters.

Overall I enjoyed thinking about how families go all crazy when someone dies and there is money to be had. It all could go so differently if one realizes that the rich relative has a free mind and can do whatever they would like with the money. When you grow bitter from expectations and disappointments, it’s a rather sad way to spend life.

SPOILER ALERT. The only thing I didn’t like about the novel was Mary’s rushed wedding. Why didn’t she wait for her true love? I know the times were different, but I was aggravated at this scene. I almost needed a bit more of Mary’s thought process.

This book will be published on January 6, 2010.

Book Source: Advance Reading Copy from Miriam at Hachette Book Group. Thank-you!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Winners of the Say You're One of Them Audiobook Giveaway!

Congrats to Enyl, Diane of Bibliophile by the Sea, and Jaime of Copper Llama Studio. Thank-you to all three of you for being followers and for entering this great giveaway, courtesy of Hachette Book Group. You have each won an audiobook copy of Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan. I will forward your information to Anna at Hachette Book Group once I hear back from you. If I hear nothing back for a week, I will select a new winner. All winners were chosen using the power of

Say You're One of Them is a powerful novel about different families living through turbulent times in different African Nations. It is not easy reading or listening due to tramatic events described, but I think it is important that we are all aware that such events do occur in our world.

Didn't win Say You're One of Them? There is still a giveaway going on until December 18th for the wonderful historical fiction novel, The Rose of York: Love and War by Sandra Worth. I will also be posting another audiobook giveaway later on this week so stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Favorite Classic Christmas Movies

My love for Christmas movies started when I was a child. During the month of December, our entire family would gather on Sunday evenings, eat popcorn, and watch our favorite classic Christmas movies.

My siblings and I loved It’s a Wonderful Life and I still consider it one of my all time favorite movies. We used to watch it all year long, even in the summer! Now that I’m old age 31, I actually tear up when George thinks his life is not worth living, but then discovers how important his life is to so many people. It is a wonderful life after all.

I love White Christmas and Holiday Inn as well. I just love Bing Crosby. I think I can sing all of the songs from White Christmas and pretty much have the entire movie memorized. Luckily my husband loves this movie as well so we usually watch it on Christmas. Our TV has been taken over by children’s Christmas classics this year so we’ll see how it goes. White Christmas and Holiday Inn are fun movies, with great music, great dancing, and great romance.

The Bishop’s Wife stars Cary Grant as an angel. Enough said. A Miracle on 34th Street reaffirms my belief in Santa Claus for the child in me every time I see it. Although I like to watch it close to Thanksgiving as it has the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade as a central theme.

I love all versions of A Christmas Carol, but I really like the old version from the 1930’s the best. A Christmas Carol is a great story and really brings out the true meaning of Christmas for everyone. I love it!

A Christmas Story is definitely a new classic, but it is hilarious. Who can forget the leg lamp? The tongue on the flagpole or other favorite moments?

I really love old movies, and Christmas old movies are amongst my favorites. What is your favorite classic Christmas movie? Sound off below and vote on the poll on the right sidebar!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer

Mistaken identity, intrigue, and romance are only a few of the plot lines that make These Old Shades a fascinating read. Justin Alastair, the Duke of Avon, is a handsome, clothes obsessed, self-professed rake. He literally runs into Leon, a young urchin who is escaping his abusive brother one evening. Alastair rescues Leon, takes him under his wing, and finds a part of himself that he never knew existed – a nurturing, fatherly side. He also knows a dangerous secret about Leon that could help him to defeat his mortal enemy.

I love Georgette Heyer. I first discovered her novels three years ago when I was browsing at my local library. I can’t believe I hadn’t discovered her before that time. She writes captivating regency romances that are the next best thing to a new Jane Austen novel. Her descriptions and knowledge of period detail is spot-on and wonderful.

These Old Shades is set slightly before the Regency period and before the French Revolution. The book mostly took place in France and I loved reading about intrigue amongst the upper echelons. I also loved how Justin Alastair and his brother Rupert were so clothes obsessed. I could just see Justin with his quizzing glass raised, with his lavender coat, and jeweled high heels. It definitely makes for a unique main character.

The characters were very interesting and I liked the mystery. The book did run a bit slow in some sections, but overall it was a great read. I highly recommend this book and all Georgette Heyer novels to lovers of historical fiction, and especially regency romance. If you are looking for something new after the end of the Everything Austen Challenge, a Heyer novel might just be the thing.

I love the inside covers of this book and how it shows all of the covers of the newly released Heyer novels. They are very nice looking. I am really happy that Sourcebooks is releasing Georgette Heyer’s novels in such a great format.

Book Source: Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Major Plot Points on Book Covers and Daphne Du Maurier Novels Now in Print!

Daphne Du Maurier is one of my favorite authors of all time. I first discovered her when my friend Stephanie loaned Rebecca to me when I was 14. I was smitten and have since read Rebecca several times. At that time, Rebecca and I think Jamaica Inn were the only two Du Maurier novels currently in print. I have spent the years since then searching for her novels in used books sales and antique stores and have a good collection.

I was more than a little excited when I stopped by Sam’s Club yesterday and noticed beautiful new publications of three of my favorite Du Maurier novels, Frenchman’s Creek, My Cousin Rachel, and The King’s General. I checked the publisher and noticed it was Sourcebooks, one of my favorite publishers. I think it is wonderful that such wonderful books are now in print for others to discover. I can now get them as gifts for family and friends!

My only complaint was that a MAJOR plot point was revealed on the back cover of The King’s General. When I first read The King’s General, I had no idea what was going to happen. It is a historical fiction novel set during the English Civil War and starts off with the romance between a high spirited girl named Honor and a captivating man named Richard. Not to far into the book, a shattering event takes place and totally changes the novel. I was very surprised by this event and it really made the book for me. I thought Du Maurier had been fearless and original to take the novel in that direction. Unfortunately, readers of the new novel will not be able to experience the surprise as it is spelled out on the back cover. Have you ever had this happen to you before when you read a novel? I’ve had this happen a few times this year. I want the novel blurb to be captivating, but I also don’t want it to ruin the plot! Comment Below!

My Cousin Rachel is the novel that Rebecca fans must read. It is another psychological thriller that will leave you guessing until the very end. Frenchman’s Creek is a wonderful historical fiction romance involving a woman named Lady Dona St. Columb who discovers herself as well as the love of a sexy French pirate. I also love the 1940’s movie version starring Joan Fontaine and the 1990’s Masterpiece version starring Tara Fitzgerald. I plan on picking this for my book club sometime in the New Year and am happy that there will be more readily available new versions of the novel!

These three novels are some of Du Maurier’s best novels. I highly recommend them, but please – do not read the back cover blurb on The King’s General!

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Classics Circuit: Christmas Storms and Sunshine by Elizabeth Gaskell

I am honored to be a stop on The Classics Circuit today. The Classics Circuit is a wonderful way in which classic authors enjoy the honor of being celebrated on blogs in the way that new authors are when they release a new book.

I was very excited that Elizabeth Gaskell was chosen to be so honored. I first read an Elizabeth Gaskell novel when I was a teenager obsessed with everything Bronte and read her Diary of Charlotte Bronte. At that point she was “Mrs. Gaskell” and I read that she was a famous novelist and wondered what novels she had written. It wasn’t until the wonderful Wives and Daughters mini-series was going to air on Masterpiece Theatre that I finally read that novel and loved it. I then read Cranford and Lady Ludlow and Other Stories in preparation of Cranford also appearing on Masterpiece Theatre. I have enjoyed what I have read of Gaskell and hope to read more.

Gaskell is a master at writing the minutia of small town life in Victorian England. “Christmas Storms and Sunshine” is a short story from 1848 that is an excellent example of this. Mr. Hodgson is the chief compositor of the democratic Examiner paper in town while Mr. Jenkins holds the same position at the Tory Flying Post paper. Both are married men and both happen to reside in the same house in different apartments.

The political argument of the men is taken up by the wives. Although they live in the same house, they are determined to not get along. One Christmas Eve both are preparing for their Christmas celebration the next day. Mrs. Hodgson has an 18-month old son, while Mrs. Jenkins would like a baby, but only has a beloved cat. Mrs. Hodgson is discovered by Mrs. Jenkins to be beating her beloved cat over eating some leftover mutton that he found in her open cupboard. She is not pleased.

Shortly thereafter, Baby Hodgson is discovered to not be breathing properly and to be stricken with the croup. Time is of the essence and Mrs. Hodgson has to bug Mrs. Jenkins for help (after having just beaten her cat). Will Mrs. Jenkins forgive Mrs. Hodgson? Will Baby Hodgson be okay? You will have to read the story to find out.

I love one of the last lines of the story, “If any of you have any quarrels, or misunderstandings, or coolnesses, or cold shoulders, or shynesses, or tiffs, or miffs, or huffs, with any one else, just make friends before Christmas, - you will be so much merrier if you do.” What a great thought for the holidays.

Overall, I loved this short story. It had a great theme for the holidays and it also showed Gaskell’s skills at capturing not only small town life, but the emotions of the two main characters.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Most Romantic Character in Literature

After a month long (and very scientific) poll on this blog, the most romantic character in literature is (drum roll please) JAMIE FRASER of the Outlander Series. This poll was conducted in response to Entertainment Weekly’s Shelf Life Blog on the topic of the results of a British poll in the Daily Telegraph. Confused? I did not believe in the results from the poll (as seen in this post) so I created my own poll and added Jamie Fraser, Edward Cullen, Captain Wentworth, and Colonel Brandon to the original 10 romantic characters. The top romantic heroes are as follows:

1. Jamie Fraser, Outlander (22%)
2. Edward Rochester, Jane Eyre (18%)
3. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Pride and Prejudice (13%)
4. Captain Wentworth, Persuasion (11%)
5. Rhett Butler, Gone With the Wind (10%)
6. Edward Cullen, Twilight (7%)
7. Mark Darcy, Bridget Jones Diary (5%)
8. Colonel Brandon, Sense & Sensibility (5%)
9. Henry DeTamble, The Time Traveler’s Wife (5%)
10. Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights (2%)
11. Richard Sharpe of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series (1%)
12. Gabriel Oak, Far From the Madding Crowd (1%)

Captain Corelli of Louis de Berniere’s Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Rupert Campbell Black of Jilly Cooper’s The Rutshire Chronicles received zero votes.

Jamie Fraser had a run for his money with Mr. Rochester, but won in the end. I thought it was very interesting that Captain Wentworth came in a close fourth to Mr. Darcy. It seems that readers of this blog esteem him as highly as I do. Persuasion ties with Pride and Prejudice as my favorite Austen novel. The letter that Captain Wentworth writes to Anne is one of the most romantic moments in literature. I was also glad to see Heathcliff so far down on the list, although I did agree with one comment that although he is not a likeable character, one must admit that he does pursue Cathy with his full passion. I still know nothing about Richard Sharpe, but I saw that he will be in a couple of episodes of Masterpiece Classic this spring so I will have a chance to learn more about him.

I agree with my readers that Jamie Fraser is the most romantic character in literature. He is a handsome Scot that runs around in a kilt in Outlander, but he is much more than that. He is a man with deep passions and loyalty that inspires love in not only his soul mate Claire, but in a wide variety of people. His love for Claire grows through the years through trials and tribulations and still remains passionate when they are in their 50’s.

I dream of a day when I will be able to see Jamie Fraser in a movie or even better, an HBO mini-series. The photos I have on here were gleaned from other blogs that suggest that Gabriel Aubry or Gerard Butler would make a good Jamie. I’m not convinced, but I don’t have any good suggestions besides picking an unknown actor. What are your thoughts on an actor to play Jamie?

Still not convinced that Jamie is the most romantic character in literature? Here is one of my favorite quotes from him to Claire (in Dragonfly in Amber). If this does not convince you, I don’t know what will!
I will find you,” he whispered in my ear, “I promise. If I must endure two hundred years of purgatory – two hundred years without you – then that is my punishment, which I have earned for my crimes. For I have lied, and killed, and stolen; betrayed and broken trust. But there is one thing that shall lie in the balance. When I stand before God, I shall have one thing to say, to weight against the rest. Lord, ye gave me a rare woman, and God! I loved her well.”