Friday, March 29, 2013

Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich

Title: Notorious Nineteen

Author: Janet Evanovich

Read by: Lorelei King

Publisher: Random House Audio

Length: Approximately 6 hours (5 CDs)

Source: Kewaunee Public Library

I’ll admit, the sole reason I am still reading the Stephanie Plum series is because I love, love, love Lorelei King’s narration. Her voices for all of the characters hit the mark and make me laugh out loud while I’m listening to the book driving to and from work. I wasn’t that impressed by the last two novels, but I do love the characters so I tried the latest and greatest, Notorious Nineteen.

Stephanie Plum and Lulu are back in the game. Stephanie is as usual low on funds and trying to catch a couple of guys that are out on bail. One in particular, went to the hospital to get his appendix removed and was never seen again. Where did he go and where is all of the money he stole from the assisted living facility he worked for?

Also to make things interesting, Ranger is in dire need of Stephanie’s help. He and his best friend from his elite Navy Seal days have been receiving death threats. Stephanie is Ranger’s date to various wedding related parties to help protect Ranger and keep an extra eye out for any danger.

Joe Morelli is still on the scene and he and Stephanie has tender moments. Unfortunately, Joe and Stephanie are still locked in a relationship limbo – they are together, but will they take the next step? And will Stephanie give it all up for Ranger?

Luckily Notorious Nineteen did not focus on the romance aspect, which was great as that has been annoying me greatly the past few books. The mysteries were intriguing, the action suspenseful and light hearted at different times. Lula was sadly missing from the last part of the novel, but otherwise, I thought this novel was better than the last few in the series. I hope this continues . . . and that Stephanie makes some forward growth in one of her relationships!

The Bone Bed by Patricia Cornwell

Title: The Bone Bed

Author: Patricia Cornwell

Read by: Kate Reading

Publisher: Penguin Audio

Length: Approximately 13 hours (10 CDs)

Source: Penguin Audio Review Copy – Thank-you!

I first discovered Kay Scarpetta last year in Red Mist, and was more than a little excited to review the next book in the series, The Bone Bed. I have discovered that I LOVE to listen to mysteries while in the car. With two hours of commute time per day, most of my reading is now done via audiobook. I don’t want to fall asleep while driving, so it is importantly to me to listen to engaging books that keep my attention and make my drive enjoyable.

Kay Scarpetta feels like life is starting to fall out of her control. Her staff is not performing up to par, her husband suspects her of infidelity, and to top it off, she receives a mysterious video on an email that shows a grisly discovery of a missing paleontologist’s ear. Shortly thereafter, she is in Boston Harbor helping to bring aboard a victim from the sea. The rest of the novel is fast paced sleuthing as Kay tries to solve the mystery of the two murders. It is also very interesting how the Chief Examiner tries to keep her personal life in order at the same time.

I really enjoyed this novel and was intrigued with the mystery. The only part I didn’t like was the tying together of the two mysteries, which seemed a bit farfetched. Kate Reading did a great job as a narrator capturing the essence of each character with a distinct voice. Overall, I enjoyed this audiobook and felt it was over too soon!

To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink

Title: To Sell is Human

Author: Daniel H. Pink

Read by: Daniel H. Pink

Publisher: Penguin Audio

Length: Approximately 6 hours (5 CDs)

Source: Penguin Audio Review Copy – Thank-you!

To Sell is Human makes the convincing argument that we are all salesmen (or women) of some sort or another, no matter what career we have. The audiobook gave a great history of sales and how sales in changing in this new digital world that we live in. It gave a wide range of examples of careers that may be convincing people that they need something from nurses and educators to engineers. I found the examples to be very relevant.

Daniel Pink read the audiobook himself and did an excellent job; he seemed very engaged with the material. Besides giving the fascinating history of sales, the audiobook also gave ideas on how to be a successful sales person using new pitch ideas and what type of person is a good sales person. I thought it was very interesting that the extrovert that we always assume is a good salesperson is not always the successful sales person. I also loved his real world examples, especially the shady used car salesman and his techniques from the 1970’s.

I enjoyed listening to the audiobook as it was well written and engaging. In order to put the tips into practice though, I think I would need to purchase a digital or hard copy version as well to refer to while I practiced the techniques. Otherwise, when I’m listening while driving, I can’t make notes to keep track of the different techniques to use.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish

Title: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

Author: Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish

Read by: Susan Bennett

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Length: Approximately 8.5 hours (8 CDs)

Source: Simon & Schuster Review Copy – Thank-you!

I have three kids age’s seven to three. I always like learn new tools to put in my parenting tool box to help to work through the tough times of parenting. I had never heard of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, but the title intrigued me. I was excited to have the opportunity to review the book, and now that I have – I see it everywhere!

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish talk about the joys and stresses of raising their children, and different ideas for how to express your frustrations to your children in a constructive way, instead of yelling. It also gives ideas on how to get your children to talk to you about their emotions for a better understanding between parents and kids. The book also gives guidelines on good ways to talk to children so that they know how you feel, but also how they can constructive problem solve to deal with a problem.

I thought many of the ideas were great and started using them immediately with my children. It especially worked well with my eldest son who is seven. He seems to not whine quite so much now that he feels I am listening to his problems and helping him to solve them. It has also helped with my four year old. Instead of yelling about his coat on the floor, I just say, “I see an orange coat on the floor” and he picks it up. I like that I can get him to get things done without the yelling. It has overall helped to make “crunch time” after we get home and are trying to make dinner, easier to deal with.

I also enjoyed the updated section “The Next Generation” by Joanna Faber. Joanna hit the nail on the head with many topics, such as dealing with the shear amount of homework and business that kids these days have. I really enjoyed her section and listening to the many problems that she has counseled different families with. I think the problem solving section was the most useful and also made me feel that my family is not so different than most!

I really enjoyed listening to this book and thought Susan Bennet did a great job narrating it. I felt I was learning something new on my drive to and from work. The only item I did not enjoy about the audiobook was that during the problem solving sections, there wasn’t enough time to think through the problems as the audio continued on. I also felt like I wouldn’t be able to skim back over topics with the audiobook. Therefore, I purchased a hard copy of this book for reference. I enjoy the cartoon examples especially. My husband is listening to this audiobook now and finding it helpful.

This book did not deal with sibling issues much, which is actually the biggest issue we have with the kids right now. I purchased Siblings Without Rivalry by the same authors and hope this will help me out.

Have you read this book? How did you feel about it? What is your favorite parenting guide?

And the Winner of Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick is . . .

Meghan of What Does that Have to Do With the Price of Butter?  Congrats to Meghan!  I have notified Meghan via email and she has one week to send me her snail mail address to receive her book.  If I haven't heard from Meghan within that time, I will select a new winner.

Meghan was selected using the power of  Thank-you to all who entered the giveaway!  I will have a new one up next week so stay tuned.

I LOVED Shadows and Strongholds and hope Meghan enjoys it too.  I will hopefully have my review up and posted sometime within the next week.

Thank-you to Elizabeth Chadwick for writing such a compelling novel and for writing a fantastic guest blog post for Laura's Reviews.  Thank-you to Sourcebooks for allowing the giveaway.

I hope you all have a great Easter weekend!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Finding the Hero’s Journey: Or how Shadows and Strongholds Came to be Written a Guest Blog by Elizabeth Chadwick (and GIVEAWAY!)

I am honored today to have one of my all-time favorite authors, Elizabeth Chadwick on Laura's Reviews today with a guest blog about her new novel, Shadows and Strongholds.  I just started it yesterday, and I'm already hooked! Elizbeth Chadwick has no equal when it comes to historical fiction - she brings medival times to life!  Thank-you Elizabeth Chadwick for being on my blog today!

Finding the Hero’s Journey:  Or how Shadows and Strongholds Came to be Written by Elizabeth Chadwick

First let me explain:
Shadows and Strongholds was born out of the novel I wrote before it, about a medieval outlaw called Fulke FitzWaryn, who ran rings around King John. That novel will be coming to the USA in the autumn as The Outlaw Knight. In the UK where these books were first published, it was the other way around and The Outlaw Knight (titled Lords of the White Castle there) was published first, followed by Shadows and Strongholds. I have a tendency, you see, to write prequels. I become very fascinated while writing a novel in what makes the people who they are and then my curiosity often leads me to the ‘what happened before.’ In this case, I wanted to know all about how Fulke’s parents got together, and when I trawled the history of the family, I found a tremendously exciting story.

The primary source historical document for the tale of Brunin FitzWarin and Hawise de Dinan comes from a document written in the 13th Century in Anglo-Norman called Fouke le Fitz Waryn. It is partly a family chronicle with information that can be verified from other sources, and partly an adventure romance with invented or altered material. It tells the story of the FitzWaryn family’s rise to power on the Welsh borders and their struggles against fellow barons and tyrannical kings to hold on to what they had.

The hero of Shadows and Strongholds is Brunin FitzWarin. The chronicle gives us the detail that in his adult life he was known as Fulke le Brun (The Brown) because of his dark hair, eyes and complexion – imagine the colouring of Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom or Keanu Reeves. A Medieval historian friend well versed in Old French, told me that a childhood nickname might be Brunin, or Bruno, so that became his name.

The novel begins in his childhood when he goes to become a squire to his father’s ally and friend Joscelin de Dinan. The piece below from the chronicle, translated from Anglo Norman French by Professor Glynn Burgess is what set me on the path to finding out more about Brunin and Hawise and how I should go about creating their personalities and their story.

"When the boy was seven years old, they sent him to Joce de Dinan to be educated and brought up, for Joce was a knight of great experience. He received him with great honour and great affection and brought him up with his children in his own chambers. For he had two daughters, the younger of whom was the same age as Fouke, and she was called Hawyse...”

The chronicle goes on to say that there was discord and war between Joce and his rival marcher lord Walter de Lacy, who coveted Ludlow. When Brunin was in his late teens, there was a battle between Joce and de Lacy right in front of the walls of Ludlow, and Joce found himself in deep trouble...
“The lady and her daughters in the tower saw their lord so hard pressed that they could scarcely endure it. They cried out, fainted and lamented greatly, for they did not expect to see their lord alive again. Fouke FitzWaryn (Brunin) had been left in the castle, for he was only 18 years old. Hearing the cry from the tower, he went up quickly and saw his lady and the others in tears. He went to Hawyse and asked her what the matter was and why she appeared so unhappy.

'Hold your tongue,' she said, 'you are not so much like your father, who is so bold and so strong. You are a coward and always will be. Do you not see my lords there, who has cared for you greatly and brought you up lovingly? His life is in danger for want of help, whilst you, wretch, run up and down in safety, without giving him a thought.'

The young man became flushed with anger and distress. Then he climbed down the tower and found in the hall an old, rusty hauberk, which he donned as best he could. He grabbed hold of a large Danish axe and went to a stable beside the postern leading to the river. There he found a packhorse, which he mounted, and going out through the postern he soon crossed the river and reached the field, where his lord had been unhorsed and was on the point of being killed if he had not suddenly come up. Fouke had a wretched helmet, which scarcely protected his shoulders, and at his first attempt he struck Godard de Bruce, who had seized his lord, with his axe, slicing right down the middle of his spine. He put his lord back on his horse, turned towards Sir Andrew de Preez and with his axe dealt him such a blow on his helmet of white steel that he cleaved right through it down to his teeth. Sir Ernalt de Lys thought that he had no chance of escaping, for he was seriously wounded. So he surrendered to sir Joce. De Lacy defended himself, but he was soon captured."

Then everyone goes back into the castle, the hostages are locked up in the Pendover tower, and Joce thanks Fouke (Brunin) saying: 'My dear son, blessed be the time I have spent bringing you up, for effort expended on a worthy man is never wasted.'

This scene became one of the major dramas in the novel and illuminated for me the path I was going to take with the story line, and also firmly defined the characters. Brunin is a young man of great potential who has to come to terms with himself and face the demons that hold him back, and Hawise is a strong young woman, plainly not afraid to speak her mind. She has known Brunin since they were children. What is her relationship with him? What had it been like before that moment, and where was it going to go now? I had my characters, I had my conflicts, I had my storyline: A 500 page novel written from the inspiration of 500 words in an 800 year old chronicle!

Fascinating - although I will shallowly admit to being caught by a hero that  has the "colouring of Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom or Keanu Reeves."  I can't wait to finish this intriguing story, although I always am sad that a Chadwick book has ended - I want to keep reading them forever.  Thank-you again for the great guest blog!

Sourcebooks has graciously offered a giveaway of one copy of Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick.
If you would like to win this prize pack please leave a comment about what intrigues you about the this book or this wonderful giveaway by Elizabeth Chadwick.

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 (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 on Friday March 22, 2013.

Please make sure to check the last week of March to see if you are a winner. I send emails to the winner, but lately I've been put in their "junk mail" folder instead of their inbox.

Good luck!

Winner of Grace Burrowes Prize Pack!

I still exist and I'm still reading!  Life this semester has been more than a little hectic trying to get everything together for my new classes and do my own homework for my certification class.  I will hopefully catch up soon (it's Spring Break next week, but I do have to work - lots of meetings!).

Sourcebooks graciously offered a prize pack of the two books—Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal and Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight (the two books that come before Lady Eve’s Indiscretion) for one lucky winner that posted a comment on Grace Burrowes guest blog.  Using the magic of, Barbara E. was selected as the winner.  Barbara has been notified via email and has one week to send me her mailing address.  If I don't hear from her in a week, a new winner will be notified.

Thank-you Grace Burrowes for the wonderful guest blog, and for answering readers questions!  I finished Lady Eve's Indiscretion a couple of weeks ago and loved it .  . . I will hopefully be posting my review shortly.

Thank-you to Sourcebooks for allowing me to hold this giveaway and to all who entered.  Sad you didn't win?  I will have a new great guest blog and giveaway posted shortly . . .