Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer

Bath Tangle is another wonderful, enjoyable novel by Georgette Heyer, the queen of regency historical fiction. A new Heyer novel is a book to be savored. I can’t think of a more perfect end to summer then to happily delight in another novel from one of my favorite authors.

I had just finished reading the wonderful biography of Heyer, The Private World of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge and was in the mood for a new Heyer. Luckily I had two on my pile to review and I chose to read Bath Tangle first.

Bath Tangle is the story of the tangled love lives of many charming characters. Serena is the high-spirited daughter of The Earl of Spenborough. After the Earl’s untimely death, he is left without a male heir, but does leave behind his 25 year old daughter Serena, and his even younger second wife, Fanny. Much to Serena’s dismay, her inheritance is tied up in a trust that is administered by the Marquis of Rotherham, her father’s good friend, and the man that she jilted before their marriage six years before. Serena and Fanny remove themselves to the Dower House, but Serena has a hard time with her cousin’s administering of the estate. Both ladies decide they would be happier with time away in nearby Bath. They lease a house and although they are still in mourning, they take limited outings to partake of the waters. It is during one of these excursions that Serena happens upon a man that she has not seen for six years, the only man she has truly cared for, but was unable to marry due to his circumstances. Hector is now a retired Major with an estate of his own, and is still as gorgeous as ever. At this point, love blooms for all characters, and their love lives become a “tangled” mess!

Heyer created brilliant characters in Bath Tangle. I LOVE the exuberant Serena. She was full of energy, lively, and always on the go. She loved to hunt and ride horses, and could care less what people thought of her. She also had clever dialogue with Rotherham that fairly crackled off of the pages. Whenever those two got together to fling insults, I couldn’t put the book down.

Rotherham was a wonderful “Mark I” Heyer hero in the vein of Charlotte Bronte’s Mr. Rochester. He is a dark and not handsome man who knows what he wants and fairly often gets it. He is a bit rough around the edges at times, but as he is a Marquis, all is forgiven and he is a prime target of all marriage minded mamas. This gets him into a tangle of his own.

I think my favorite character of all was Mrs. Floore. She is a secondary character that is a rich widow of a tradesman and proud of it. Her daughter has married well and is now a Lady who is ashamed of her mother’s background and vulgar ways, but not too ashamed to take her money to launch her daughter Emily into society. Mrs. Floore tells it the way it is and has decided to keep wearing the fashions of her youth in very bright colors. I thought she was hilarious.

I loved the bits of historical context sprinkled throughout the book. The Major has returned home as the Napoleonic wars are finished. Serena and Fanny love to gossip about Princess Charlotte her upcoming Royal Marriage. Caroline Lamb, the Duchess of Devonshire, and other notable Regency real-life characters are mentioned throughout the book. I loved it!

I just read about Bath Tangle again in The Private World of Georgette Heyer. Hodge states that Bath Tangle “has less actual comedy than the previous books. Instead there is an Austen like irony in its treatment of the linked problems of snobbery and money.” While I love Heyer’s comedies, I did love how this book reminded of the best of Austen, down to the Bath setting. This novel was written by Heyer in 1954 and Hodge also states that “This book is a watershed one. Before it, Georgette Heyer had sometimes played at turning the romantic conventions upside down; now she is beginning to look through them, and into the human heart.”

Overall, I love Bath Tangle. It is a wonderful romantic tale that will keep you guessing about how the relationships will become untangled by the stories ends. The characters were first-rate. If you have read all of Austen and are looking for something new to read in the same vein, I highly recommend Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer.

This is my nineteenth novel for The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2011.

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

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Private World of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge

Georgette Heyer was one of the most popular and prolific writers of the twentieth century. A native of England, Heyer established herself as a premier author of historical fiction and detective novels. She ultimately excelled at writing in one time period, the regency era, and her brand of “regency romance” spawned many imitators that couldn’t capture the magic and witty dialogue of the original novels.

I discovered Georgette Heyer’s novels about four years ago and was very excited. Her novels reminded me of Jane Austen’s and I soon discovered that each novel I picked up seemed to be even better than the previous novels. I became curious about Georgette Heyer herself. She was an extremely private person and not much information is known about her. I jumped at a chance to read and review a biography of one of my favorite authors.

The biography, The Private World of Georgette Heyer, was first published in 1984 by author and fan Jane Aiken Hodge. This was just 10 short years after Heyer’s death, which allowed Hodge to be able to interview surviving family and friends for her biography, as well as to review and include letters from the ultra private Heyer herself. Heyer first became a published author at the age of nineteen.

Heyer famously deflected any attention while she was alive and soon had an alias when she married Ronald Rougier. She did not consent to interviews, meeting fans, or any sort of press. This would make it rather difficult to construct a biography, but Hodge achieves it by looking through Heyer’s publications. Georgette Heyer had said that you could find her by looking through her works, and indeed you can. Hodge makes a good illustration of what was going on in Heyer’s life when she wrote each of her novels.

Georgette Heyer started with historical fiction, but also wrote some contemporary novels and mysteries at the beginning of the career. I was intrigued by the summaries of the contemporary novels that were later suppressed. I would LOVE to read them. I hope they will be released one of these days. Heyer dedicated herself to meticulous research and became the expert on all things Regency. She found her most success with her regency romantic novels, and took it upon herself to make sure all facts found within them were accurate. She also seemed to enjoy finding colloquial phrases for her characters to use. Reading about her dedication for accuracy in these phrases made me appreciate them in her novels much more than I had previously. I was amazed reading about her research library in her home and wish I could have seen it for myself.

Heyer battled with plagiarist and tax collectors for most of her life. It really made me angry that authors so blatantly stole her works, but she wasn’t able to do anything about it as it would cause too much publicity.

The Private World of Georgette Heyer is a book I want to reread and keep by my side for reference as I continue to read Heyer’s works. I really enjoy the illustrations throughout the text which showed many of the sources that Heyer used for illustrations of period garb, carriages, etc.

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Flight" - The Steinbeck Classics Circuit Tour

I am honored to be a part of the The Classics Circuit Tour on literary master, John Steinbeck. I have read and enjoyed several of his novels including East of Eden, Of Mice and Men, and The Red Pony. I must admit that I had a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with The Grapes of Wrath in high school. I really need to reread it again now that I'm older .. . but I just can't quite convince myself!

I enjoyed Steinbeck's story "Flight" in high school, college, and in several short story collections I've read since then. In order to prepare myself for this tour, I reread the story and also looked for my review that I typed up for my American Literature class in at Michigan Technological University back in 1999. I loved American Lit as we had an awesome professor. As part of the class, you had to write a brief summary of each story/poem/book that we read in class. I enjoyed doing it and it was part of the reason I wanted to start my blog many years later. I enjoyed my impressions from 1999 and decided that my retro review would be interesting to post . . .

Flight Review from 1999

Steinbeck was a writer that carried on the naturalistic tradition from the previous century. In other words, he wrote about how a person’s life is shaped by the world in which they live in, that there is nothing that one can do to stop events from occuring, and that nature is indifferent. I believe that these are all characteristics in Steinbeck’s story, “Flight,” and in his novel, The Grapes of Wrath.

Even the beginning of Steinbeck’s story, “Flight” seemed reminiscent of earlier naturalist authors such as Ambrose Bierce and Stephan Crane in that in each of their stories, they start by setting up a scene with complete and vivid description. I really like this as it allow the reader to understand what naturalistic environment the main character is coming from. In “Flight,” the beginning scenery sets up the fact that Pepe`, the main character has come from a poor, and harsh environment.

This story seemed to be a story of Pepe`’s journey from boyhood to manhood, which is facilitated by a cold and indifferent world. At the beginning of the story, Pepe` is cheerful and good-natured boy with a knife as his only valuable possession. After a dispute, he kills a man who was making fun of him, and in running of his life, he becomes a cold and serious man. In the harsh environment of the mountains to which he tries to escape in, it is easy to see that nature has no sympathy for him, a rattlesnake tries to bite him, and a mountain lion watches him as though Pepe` might make a nice snack. Also, the men who are chasing him seem to have no sympathy to Pepe` as a human being, they never try to offer him an alternative rather than death.

I liked this story with its stark naturalistic description and story line. I also like how Steinbeck ended it with Pepe` standing up bravely against the forces that were out to get him. This seemed to complete Pepe`’s transition to manhood.

Thoughts from 2011
I agree with my previous review of Flight. As I read the story this time around, I was struck by the many start contrasts that Steinbeck has written into the description in this story. Everything is white and black visually, but the story itself is a shade of grey. True Pepe' did kill a man in anger after being provoked, but did he deserve to then be brutally killed himself?

As a mother, I thought about Pepe's mother and how she said he was now a man after killing another and how she helped him go on the run. I wonder if I would saddle one of my sons up after such a crime knowing that they would not get a fair shot in the justice system . . . . and maybe I've just answered my own question!

I also thought this story was very similar to the Johnny Cash song, "Don't Take Your Guns to Town, " although Pepe' had a knife rather than a gun. It could be Pepe's theme song.

I think overall, "Flight" is a riveting story that truly represents Steinbeck's style artistically and also on a social justice front.

Have you read "Flight?" What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick (audio)

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick was one of my top ten reads of 2010. It was chosen by one of my fellow FLICKS book club members for our August book. I decided to listen to an audiobook version for a different take on the novel. For a review of the novel as well as a more in depth look at the plot of A Reliable Wife, check out my original review of the novel.

A Reliable Wife adapted well for an audiobook. It was narrated by Mark Feuerstein, who has one of those voices that I can’t stop listening to. He did a superb job. I loved listening to his reading of the description and narrative and he did unique voices for the difference characters as well.

One negative of this audiobook that I luckily had read it before and knew that it was a very sensual novel, or aka something I couldn’t listen to while doing dishes or driving the kids around. As I listened to it this time I thought, wow Ralph Truitt sure thinks about sex A LOT. A buttoned up Victorian age tale, A Reliable Wife is not.

I loved the stark description in the novel; it was almost hypnotic to listen to. The book did not give a good picture of Wisconites; there are a lot of people that go crazy from the long winters as well as a lot of hidden lust. But even today if you scratch the surface of any little Midwestern town, you may find more truth to this than one would think.

I loved this novel again and was riveted by the tale. I couldn’t remember the exact details of how it ended so I listened to it in breathless anticipation to know how it all ended. My only annoyance was how Ralph Truitt sends to Chicago ALL OF THE TIME for items such as silk for the wedding dress roses, candy, to visit “ladies of the night,” etc. If the novel takes place in roughly the Ashland area as it seems from the description, it would have been closer to take a train to Duluth, Minneapolis, or heck Milwaukee (which you have to go through on the train to get to Chicago). Some items such as this seemed off, but would probably only annoy someone like me that lives in Wisconsin.

My book club had a mixed reaction to A Reliable Wife. While some loved the anti-heroine Catherine Land and the unique plot, others did not like that it wasn’t a happy novel.

I loved the novel and I think that this was a brilliant audiobook version of A Reliable Wife. I think it would make an excellent movie (although it will have shades of the movie Original Sin that starred Antonio Bandaras and Angelina Jolie). I’ve heard rumors that a movie is in production, does anyone know anything further?

This is my eighth item for the Audiobook Challenge and eighteenth item for the Historical Fiction Challenge.

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Winner of Remember Me by Cheryl Robinson

Patricia of It's Time to Read Mamaw is the lucky winner of Remember Me by Cheryl Robinson. Patricia was chosen using random.org and has been notified via email. She has one week to respond with her mailing address or a new winner will be chosen. Congrats to Patricia!

Thank-you to Cheryl Robinson for the great interview (and great book about friendship) and thank-you to Penguin Group for offering the book as a giveaway. Thank-you to TLC Tours for letting me be a part of the tour and most of all thank-you to all who entered the giveaway and spread the word about this book.

There is still one current giveaway posted on my right sidebar.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Interview with Cheryl Robinson, author of Remember Me

I recently read a great new novel about the changing tides of friendship with vivid and intriguing characters, Remember Me by Cheryl Robinson. I am more than a little honored that Cheryl Robinson agreed to be interviewed on my blog!

Read ahead for a interesting and wonderful interview.

Today is the last day to also enter a giveaway of one copy of Remember Me. For a chance to win, leave a comment on my review of Remember Me. For an extra chance to win, leave a comment on this interview along with your email address. Good luck!

LAG: Have you ever had a friendship like Mia and Danielle’s (best friends and then estrangement)?

For my first two years of college, I went to an out-of-state university, and it was a slightly intimidating experience, especially my first year. During that time, I befriended a young lady who was from the area. She lived in my dorm on the same floor as I did, and we quickly became best friends. But toward the end of my freshman year, our friendship ended abruptly. There was nothing that either one of us had done to the other. It was just over, and I didn’t completely understand why. I had an idea, but I was confused as to why what I thought it may have been would affect our friendship. In retrospect, however, I realize that she’d been going through some things that year that were extremely difficult for her. And when I found out exactly what she was dealing with, I guess she may have been embarrassed. I just know that I think about her a lot. She was a lot of fun to be around, very smart, and she had such a kind spirit. I hope she’s doing well. I find estranged friendship interesting. I imagine most people have had a close friend that they’ve lost touch with or grown apart from. In the book, there was a particular reason for the estrangement, but often it’s just due to time apart and/or distance.

LAG: I love Mia and her vibrant personality. Was she based on anyone you know?

Her high school experiences were based on my sister’s high school experiences. Most of the issues in the book that Mia dealt with at Our Lady of Glory in the seventies, my sister also dealt with at Our Lady of Mercy during that same time period. For example, the racist math teacher changing her test actually happened to my sister, and the teacher was eventually fired. Being pushed into the pool by the swim teacher who was frustrated at Mia for being so fearful of the water happened to my sister also. And then some of Mia’s college experiences also happened to my sister. (Side note from LAG - that is terrible!!!)

The adult Mia is completely fictional. She’s how I imagined Mia would grow up and behave, especially since the issue of social class weighed so heavily on her mind. She never felt good enough, because her friends’ parents had professional positions and money, and her parents were in the lower income bracket and worked blue collar jobs. Every child brought up that way wouldn’t necessarily feel the same way Mia did, especially since Mia’s parents made sacrifices to provide her with such a good education, but Mia longed for material things as well.

LAG: I really enjoyed your Detroit setting for the novel. I see that you live in Florida now (like Danielle). Do you often revisit Detroit? Are the restaurants you describe real? I admit I got hungry while reading this book and wanted to try them out!

CR: I haven’t been back to Detroit since 2008. I don’t really like to fly. My sister still lives in Detroit and so does one of my best friends, so I stay connected in that way. Yes, the restaurants mentioned in the book are real. I laughed when you mentioned getting hungry while reading my book, because I could relate. I got hungry while reading The Help. A caramel cake was referenced so much that I stopped reading and went online and searched for a bakery and ordered one. Ironically, I found the same bakery that supplied the cake to the movie set for The Help. It’s also the bakery I’m ordering the Red Velvet cake from for the book club giveaway that’s being sponsored by TLC Book Tours in September. So, if any of your readers are also a member of a book club, they should enter the contest.

LAG: I really enjoyed reading about “The Sophisticated Readers of Oakland County” book club. Is this a real club or based on a real book club? I’ve never been in a book club that large . . . or that sophisticated! Do you visit book clubs yourself?

CR: The Sophisticated Readers of Oakland County isn’t a real book club, and it’s not based on a real one either. But I do know of book clubs that are that large and even larger. Many book clubs these days have Web sites and sponsor annual literary events as a way for readers to meet authors, so I did keep those book clubs in mind when framing my fictional book club. I definitely visit book clubs, and I do a lot of teleconferencing with book clubs as well. I have a link on my Web site that book club members can use if they’ve selected one of my novels for their monthly read and would like to invite me to their monthly meeting.

LAG: Does it bother you that Publishers Weekly describes your work as “urban fiction?” Do you think literature featuring African American characters is unfairly segregated into categories such as “urban fiction” rather than just described as literature or “women’s fiction?” “Women’s fiction” itself as a category has also come under fire over the past few years. Do you have any thoughts on this?

Literature featuring black characters is only segregated into “urban fiction” when the author is also black. The Help is not classified as “urban fiction” and two of the three main characters are black, nor is The Secret Life of Bees classified that way, and those are just two examples but there have been more. I don’t write “urban fiction.” The term “urban fiction” seems more fitting for authors who write a genre of fiction referred to as “street lit,” where the tone is often dark and focuses on drug dealing or some other form of the underworld, and profanity, sex, and violence are used to make the material feel more authentic. Unfortunately, a lot of black authors have been classified as urban authors when we’re not. And our books have been classified as “urban fiction” when they’re not. I’d prefer for my books to be classified as contemporary literature or just literature. As for Publishers Weekly, I would imagine they’re printing the author’s information that’s been supplied to them by the publisher.

As for the issue of “women’s fiction” I’m not sure which issue you’re referring to. I’m assuming it may be the one about the New York Times in which certain high profile women’s fiction authors stated that the New York Times prefers reviewing books written by male authors. If that’s the issue, I haven’t really thought about it as deeply as I’ve thought about the “urban fiction” issue. Being reviewed in the New York Times would be wonderful, especially if I was fortunate enough to receive a positive review, because my book would receive more attention, which would probably lead to a larger number of readers as well as a more diverse group of readers, and that’s been a goal of mine for a long time. But for me, I think I focus more on how my books are being promoted in general, starting with the book cover. The book cover I have for Remember Me was the first of my book covers that I really liked and felt was pretty. But honestly, I gravitate more toward books that don’t have people on the cover at all. If they show people, I don’t want to see their faces, because for me that’s all part of the illusion of the story by imagining what the main characters look like.

I really want books written by black authors to have just as wide of an audience and appeal as any other book. A great article on this very subject was written by Bernice McFadden. Here is the link for anyone interested in reading further. http://www.theroot.com/views/african-american-writers-marginalized-publishing-industry-practices .

LAG: What are you currently working on? I’d like to read more of your novels!

I’ve written a total of seven novels so far; six have been published by Penguin/NAL Trade. When I Get Where I’m Going was released in 2010, and it centers around three estranged sisters. The story is primarily set in Detroit as well. Sweet Georgia Brown is another one of my novels about a humble housewife determined to become a household name. Georgia starts competing on the radio for ratings against her radio host husband. I’m also currently working on a new book that I’m so excited about. I’m always excited about a new storyline and new characters, but this one is very special to me for a few reasons; the first being that it’s a return to writing in first person. I haven’t written in first person since my second novel was published in 2005. Also, my next book is set in the Dallas/Fort Worth area instead of Detroit, and in a strange way, I feel like I’m relocating. I lived in the DFW area for four years and still have many friends there so it feels like home. I’m hoping that readers will find the characters in my next novel fun, quirky, honest, and real.

LAG: What are some of your favorite authors/books?

CR: I would like to say there are way too many to name, because I do feel like there are way too many for me to name. But I will name a few. Though I’ve never met her personally, Terry McMillan was an inspiration to me before I started writing and still continues to be. I also regularly read books written by Electa Rome Parks, Jennifer Weiner, Jodi Picoult, Harlan Coben, Connie Briscoe, and Kimberla Lawson Roby.

As for favorite books, there have been so many book that I’ve enjoyed. I read a lot on my Kindle. I loved The Darkest Child by Delores Phillips so far it’s been the only book she’s written. I keep checking to see if she’s releasing another novel any time soon. When I read The Last Child by John Hart, I couldn’t stop reading until I finished. I just had to know what was going to happen next. I also thoroughly enjoyed The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and the success she’s receiving from her first book is very admirable to say the least. Can you imagine having your first book become such a success? That’s what happened to my character, Danielle. It’s funny because I was given The Help as a gift in 2009, but I didn’t get around to reading it until a couple months ago, and the only reason I started reading it then was because I didn’t want to see the movie before I read the book. But as I was reading the book I kept wondering what took me so long to start reading it in the first place, because that’s how much I enjoyed it.

Laura, I wanted to thank you for reviewing my latest novel, Remember Me, and for extending yet another opportunity to meet the readers of your blog through this interview. Both have truly meant a lot.

LAG: Thank-you Cheryl! I throughly enjoyed Remember Me and am more than happy to spread the word about what a great book it is. I look forward to reading more of your books in the future! Thank-you for your thoughtful answers to my questions, you've given me more than one item to think about!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey Review and GIVEAWAY!

Becoming Marie Antoinette is the first in a planned trilogy about the tragic French Queen, Marie Antoinette. This novel covers Antoinette (or Maria Antonia as she is known in her native Austria) from her girlhood and the planning of her marriage to the Dauphin of France to her marriage and ends when her and Louis become King and Queen of France.

Maria Antonia is the youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria’s sixteen children. Maria Theresa is a powerful figure and has determined to use her numerous children to make advantageous marriages to maintain peace in Austria. Due to her age, Antonia is chosen to marry the Dauphin of France. It takes awhile to totally convince the King of France of this idea and Antonia is forced to go through a total make over, including braces on her teeth (painful!), and changes to her hair, clothes, and education. Finally Antonia is formally engaged, married by proxy, and then married in France. Unfortunately, her new husband is more interested in hunting, eating, and making locks then he is in consummating the marriage. Now known as Marie Antoinette, she is forced to make her way through the treachery of the politics at Versailles and slowly finds herself falling in love with her husband.
Becoming Marie Antoinette is a straightforward look at Marie Antoinette’s rise to power. It’s a little sad at how optimistic both her and Louis are as they become the King and Queen of France knowing how it will all end. I’m very interested though on how this trilogy will continue in the future!

I like how this novel was a look at the early years of Marie Antoinette. So much is focused on the scandal and tragedy of her later years that it is almost forgotten that she was the daughter of such a powerful monarch. I would love to read a book on Empress Maria Theresa! She also had an interesting story about when a young Herr Mozart came to play at court when she was a child.

I was disturbed that she was forced to wear braces. I didn’t even know they had them at that point in time. It must have been so painful! I also thought it was strange with such a powerful mother that she neglected her daughters’ education so much. It makes one wonder if Marie Antoinette would have received a better education if it would have helped her out later in life.

I must say I was disturbed by one thing the most . . . that people were allowed freely go to the bathroom all over Versailles not in chamber pots. I can’t imagine how that must have smelled. That is terrible!!

Overall, I enjoyed Becoming Marie Antoinette and it left me wanting to read more about Marie Antoinette and her family!

I read this book as part of TLC Book Tours. The rest of the stops are at listed here.

Becoming Marie Antoinette is my seventeenth book in the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2011.

Book Source: Advance Review Copy from Random House. Thank-you!

Giveaway Details
Random House is going to send one lucky winner a copy of Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey.

If you would like to win a copy of Becoming Marie Antoinette please leave a comment about what intrigues you about the novel.

As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.

For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using random.org (or a monte carlo simulation in excel) 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 September 2nd.

Good luck!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries by Emma Thompson

Sense and Sensibility is one of my all-time favorite movies. I think it is the most perfect Austen adaptation that has been put to film. It was therefore with much interest that I read The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries.

The introduction is written by Lindsay Doran, the producer of the film. The introduction was very interesting and told a great story of how Ms. Doran came to love Jane Austen and Sense and Sensibility in particular. She really wanted to put it to film and had the genius idea of having Emma Thompson write the screenplay. While Emma Thompson thought other Austen novels such as Emma and Persuasion would perhaps make better movies, Lindsay Doran was set on Sense and Sensibility.

It took many years, but Thompson wrote a great script that perfectly captured Austen’s wit in a screenplay format. The screenplay reads just like the film with no surprises. Great pictures are shown throughout.

Thompson’s diary has the day-to-day adventure of putting together the film. The most surprising fact was that the studio wanted to put out a novelization of the movie . . . which seems ludicrous when you have Jane Austen’s original masterpiece. Emma Thompson agreed and luckily that travesty never happened. It’s also amusing reading about how the movie was put together. It’s always funny to me that movie scenes are filmed completely out of sequence. So much depended on the weather and although it looked romantic, sounded horrible for Kate Winslet.

The Appendix also included a prize-winning letter written by Imogen Stubbs in the character of Lucy (Steele) Ferrars to Elinor some years after Sense and Sensibility. It was quite hilarious. I wish she would write a S&S spin-off about the later-day adventures of Lucy.

Overall, The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries is a wonderful read for a lover of the movie and film.

This is my fifth item item in the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge.

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library (although I think I need to buy a copy for myself!)

Winner of A Wife for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen

The lucky winner of A Wife for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen is Deb of Shady Lady. Deb was chosen using random.org and has been notified via email. She has one week to send me her mailing address. If I don't hear from her within that time frame, a new winner will be drawn!

Thank-you to Mary Lydon Simonsen for the great guest blog, Sourcebooks for providing the book for this giveaway, and everyone who left great comments!

I still have one current giveaway for Remember Me by Cheryl Robinson posted on the right sidebar. . . and stay tuned for a new giveaway that will be posted tomorrow!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Remember Me by Cheryl Robinson Review and GIVEAWAY

Remember Me is a poignant tale of two woman, best friends as girls and young women, and then estranged as adults. After a tragic accident, the two women unexpectedly meet up again and have to face the past before they can continue into the future.

Mia is a teenage African American girl in 1970’s Detroit. She has a difficult relationship with her father, and her parents decide to send her to a private Catholic all-girls school after she gets in trouble for holding hands with a boy on the school bus. As part of a small group of African American girls at her new school, Mia is taunted by her peers as well as a teacher who has a problem accepting black students and treating them as equals. A white loner student, Danielle, stands up for Mia and helps her to prove her case against the teacher. Danielle has recently lost her mother and is having difficulty at home with her racist father and his new wife and children. Mia and Danielle soon become fast friends.

In 2010, Mia is a wealthy cancer survivor living in a plush Detroit suburb. Her daughter, Alex, is her high school valedictorian and has been accepted on a full academic scholarship to the University of Michigan. Life suddenly comes crashing down upon Mia when she discovers her husband’s infidelity and financial misdeeds at his brokerage firm. Mia finds herself starting over as a teacher at fifty.

Danielle is a very successful author living in Florida with her ex-actor husband and her daughter Tiffany. Danielle has no close friends and indeed the closest relationship she has is with her dog. She seems to push away her husband and has difficulties having a relationship with her daughter as she seems focused on her daughter’s weight problems.

A tragic accident soon brings the two ex-friends back together. What caused their estrangement as young women? Will they be able to resolve their differences and move on together as friends?

I loved this novel’s format. It flashed back and forth from the present to the past to tell the story of the two women and their friendship. Mia and Danielle were both interesting characters in their different ways, but I must admit that I enjoyed reading about Mia the most. I loved her vibrant personality and how she was able to take life by the horns and move through difficult situations. As Danielle was more of a loner, it was hard at times to identify with her, but I also enjoyed her growth through the novel to really understand what is important in life. I found myself really caring about these two characters and wondering how the tragedy was going to play out. I couldn’t put the book down and I read it quickly.

I think I identified with the story as I think everyone has friends that vary through life. Some friends are your best friends as children or teens, but then through different circumstances, you grow apart as you get older. Robinson was able to perfectly capture the essence of the changing nature of friendship.

I also really enjoyed the novel’s setting. Truthfully, I am getting tired of most women’s fiction (or at least the novels I read) being set in New York City or London. Detroit was a unique setting and interesting to read about. I grew up in southwestern Michigan and my experiences were far different then two girls growing up in the Detroit area. It is almost like a different state – but probably more different from the urban versus rural setting. Cheryl Robinson vividly brings Detroit alive and makes me want to visit and see if any of the restaurants she describes are real! As my baby sister is moving from Texas to Ann Arbor, I’ll be visiting the area soon.

I also enjoyed how up to date the book is with Facebook and texting featured in the story line. One of my favorite lines in the novel is when Mia tells her mother she should be on Facebook and her mother replies something along the lines of, “Why would I want to be on Spacebook?”

As a book club member, I loved reading about Mia’s book club, “The Sophisticated Readers of Oakland County.” It was a large book club of fifty ladies that were very selective of the books they chose and had authors to visit quite often. I wish my small book clubs could have authors that would like to visit Kewaunee, Wisconsin!

Overall, Remember Me is a wonderful story of friendship throughout the course of a lifetime. It is also a story of racism, betrayal, and other weighty topics. This book has the two women examine their current lives and determine what really matters. I think we could all stand back and do this to our own lives.

I read this book as a part of the TLC Book Tours. The full tour schedule is located here.

Book Source: Advance Review Copy from Penguin Group Inc. Thank-you!

For more information about this book, check out these links:

Remember Me on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Remember-Me-Cheryl-Robinson/dp/0451233387

Cheryl's website: www.cherylrobinson.com

Cheryl on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/RememberMebyCherylRobinson

ALSO! A set of 10 copies of Remember Me will be the prize in our TLC Book Club of the Month contest in September. However, the link won't be 'live' until Sept 1st. But you could certainly mention it in your reviews if you like! The winning book club will also win a Skype or phone chat with Cheryl, plus a gorgeous red velvet cake from Daisy Cakes (www.ilovedaisycakes.com), because a red velvet cake plays a role in the story! I'll include a picture of the cake for you to drool over :-)

not a live link until Sept. 1st----> http://tlcbooktours.com/2011/09/book-club-of-the-month-contest-for-september-2011/

Giveaway Details
Penguin Group, Inc. is going to send one lucky winner a copy of Remember Me by Cheryl Robinson.

If you would like to win a copy of Remember Me by Cheryl Robinson please leave a comment about what intrigues you about the novel.

As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.

For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using random.org (or a monte carlo simulation in excel) 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 August 19th.

Good luck!

Winner of Before Versailles by Karleen Koen

The lucky winner of Before Versailles by Karleen Koen is Allison of Musings of a Book Junkie. Allison was chosen using random.org and has been notified by email. She has one week to respond with her mailing address. If I don't hear from her by then, I will chose a new winner.

Thank-you to Karleen Koen for the great interview and wonderful book. Thank-you to Random House for allowing me to host the giveaway and to TLC Book Tours for including me on the tour.

I still have one giveaway currently going . . . and a new one will be posted shortly so stay tuned!

Winner of Sea Witch by Helen Hollick

I'm trying to catch up on giveaways quickly here! I'm sorry I'm running a bit behind. Work has been hectic and we have been traveling to visit family.

The winner of Sea Witch by Helen Hollick is Joanne of Books, Belles, and Beauxs. Joanne was chosen using random.org. I hope she loves this novel as much as I did - we have very similar tastes in books so I think she will! If you enjoy my blog, I highly recommend you check out hers as well.

I have emailed Joanne to let her know that she won. She has one week to send me your mailing address or I will draw a new winner.

Thank-you to all who entered this giveaway. A special thank-you to Helen Hollick for including me on her tour and for sending out a bookplate and book to the winner of this giveaway. Thank-you again!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Gentleman Never Tells by Amelia Grey

A Gentleman Never Tells is a delightful regency romance novel. I have a great love for regency romance, and I found this novel to be one of the best I’ve read in the genre.

Viscount Brentwood is walking his mother’s small dog in the park one morning when he is met by a beautiful woman walking a very large dog. She is beautiful and suddenly in his arms in a compromising manner. He enjoys the moment only too briefly before he is set upon by Lady Gabrielle’s father, fiancée’s father, and their men.

Now forced to wed, Brent tries to determine why Gabrielle wanted to break her first engagement, and the mystery of where his mother’s dog disappeared to during the moment of passion. Meanwhile, Gabrielle tries to show Brent that she would not make a suitable bride as she is determined to not to be forced into marriage.

I really enjoyed this regency romance novel. The characters were first rate. I loved Brent and Gabrielle and the secondary characters were also very delightful. I enjoyed how the romance developed in the novel, and I really enjoyed the mystery. I’m an animal lover and I enjoyed how the two characters bonded over their dogs and the mystery of what happened to Brent’s mother’s dog.

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

A Wife for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen

Mary Lydon Simonsen treats Jane Austen’s characters from Pride and Prejudice with respect and spins wonderful variations with them. In a Wife for Mr. Darcy, the variation is that Mr. Darcy realizes that he insulted Elizabeth Bennet at the Meryton Assembly and apologizes to her the next day. They realize their mutual attraction, but have to find a way to be together. Mr. Darcy has already started to court Letitia Montford and does not know how to honorably get out of his commitments to pursue Elizabeth. Will true love prevail?

While I loved her previous novel The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, I have a so-so relationship with A Wife for Mr. Darcy. While I loved the characters and reading more about the P&P world, I didn’t find the story that interesting. Truthfully the variation makes the story not at all as interesting as the original story. There is not very much conflict. Letitia Montford is insipid and is no match for Elizabeth Bennet. Other major plot points of P&P are easily resolved.

Check out the great guest blog by Mary Lydon Simonsen for a chance to win a copy of this novel.

Book Source: Advance Review Copy from Sourcebooks – Thank-you!

Just One Season in London by Leigh Michaels

Viscount Rycroft has a title, but no money to maintain his family estate or to launch his beautiful sister Sophia into society. His mother, Lady Ryecroft contacts an old love from her youth seeking help to launch Sophie, but is rebuffed. Luckily Rye is able to rent the estate and take his family to London to see how the season treats them.

This story was told from many points of view revolving around the three main characters, Rye, Sophia, and Miranda. It was interesting having so many main characters and seeing events from all of their points of views. I enjoyed the romance, and especially loved that the “old” mother (almost forty) is the one who has the steamiest scenes.

Just One Season in London is a very enjoyable regency romance novel, with Michael’s great ability to weave many threads together for one fantastic story.

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

Were is Laura?

I've gotten a bit behind on posting! I have a large stack of books that I've read that I need to post reviews for and a giveaway that I need to draw a winner for. I'm going to be spending a long weekend in Michigan visiting my family and will not be around the computer. I'm going to try to post a few reviews right now so please forgive the rush of posts . . . I just don't want to get TOO far behind . . .