Saturday, October 31, 2009


Title: Austenland
Author: Shannon Hale
ISBN: 978-1-59691-286-1

From the back cover:

Jane is a young New York woman who can never seem to find the right man--perhaps because of her secret obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths to her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-obsessed women, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become more real than she could ever have imagined. Is this total immersion in a fake Austenland enough to make Jane kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

In this addictive, charming, and compassionate story, Shannon Hale brings out the Austen obsessive in all of us.

I own that BBC mini-series starring Colin Firth. I've watched it so many times I'm surprised I haven't had to replace it, and I'm happily married. :o) Mr. Darcy is... well he's Darcy. At one point in the story Jane tries to explain the draw of being in her English resort holiday (and playacting as if she lived in Austen's time) by explaining that any woman would understand if she just talked about Colin Firth dripping wet. I think most of us can picture that scene without much trouble, but that scene wasn't what made me fall in love with Pride and Prejudice.

I loved the things that were in the book and pictured even better in the movie ~ their witty banter, the tension that built between them as they danced, him gazing at her across the room and agonizing with frustration at his growing regard... her surprise and the twinkle in her eyes as she came to know him better and realized her feelings for what they were...

This was all done to a great degree and on many levels in this book. The banter that regencies are so well known for was present on many levels - whether it was done on purpose as part of the acting or as a guard to keep up a pretense on some character's part... the effects ranged from funny to touching to sad.

The characters in the book were not cardboard cutouts even though many were "actors" playing parts. They were multi-dimensional and each one added something unique to the story. By the end I felt almost as if Jane were a friend of mine who had shared with me what had happened to her instead of a character in a story. This book did a good job of keeping a reader hooked, entertained, and surprised. I don't think Jane Austen would have been upset at all to have had her name and characters connected with it.

If you're a fan of Austen, I think you'll enjoy Austenland.

By the way, on the 2nd of Nov I am still giving away a copy of The Vanishing Sculptor by Donita K. Paul. I read the other 5 books by her that are in the related series ~ and they are even better than The Vanishing Sculptor! My son has been inhaling the books and wishes there were more. He doesn't know what he'll read when they run out (oh, the melodrama). They are really wonderful, creative books. Two of them won big awards. Just wanted to let you know so you don't forget the giveaway (must be US by the way - for legal reasons) and so you can look for the books in case you're interested.

Have a wonderful - and safe - weekend!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Vanishing Sculptor

Title: The Vanishing Sculptor
Author: Donita K. Paul
ISBN: 978-1-4000-7339-9

“Return to the world of the dragon keepers, where the fate of three missing statues will determine the fate of the world.”

I have a son who just started high school and hates English. I know ~ sometimes I wonder if he really could be related to me at all. :o) One way I entice him to embrace the subject is through reading. It can be difficult to find good reading material that is not too “boring” or filled with objectionable material for a mom with too many other things to stress about.

When I come upon an author I don’t know, I often pre-read the book before I give them to him to read. This book must have been destined for us. Not only did I purchase it (and several of her other books) but I also won a copy in a contest that I will be passing on to one lucky winner.

When I read the front cover it claimed it was “A Fantastic Journey of Discovery for All Ages.” I think that’s true. I wasn’t bored reading this story ~ though I think it’s geared more for the young adult crowd. Even younger children could read it, provided they had a good vocabulary because she does not dumb down her language at all.

In fact, that was one of my favorite parts of the book. This is a fantasy book, filled with dragons and strange creatures we have never seen. So the descriptions need to be lush and make the world come alive. I could picture them in my mind… Could hear the squawking of the giant parrot the crackling and rustling of… well never mind, I’ll let you discover that for yourselves. :o)

Each one of these characters was unique. They had me smiling, laughing, wondering what would happen next… worrying about their safety… and there was a wonderful message embedded about the difference between myths and the true God – and trusting on our own strength versus relying on Him.

It was a fun book that I only wished continued on past the ending so I could find out what happened after the last pages. (The back cover reveals that this book acts as a sort of prologue to the rest of the series.)

If you would like to win this book, please make a comment to that effect and leave your e-mail address. Indicate if you are a follower; that will give you an extra entry. I will select the winner on Mon, Nov 2nd.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

All The Tea in China

I’ve been avoiding reviews. That whole mess with the new law took the fun out of it for me ~ making me measure every word and consider it more of a job than an opportunity to share good books. Having said that….

Here is one I just have to tell you about:

Title: All the Tea in China

Author: Jane Orcutt

ISBN: 978-0800731793

When I saw the front cover and read the words: A Rollicking Regency, I got goose bumps. I love Regency era romances. I could just picture the witty banter and the dresses… So many historical romances these days seem focused on the Wild West – or are remakes of Austen (which I do like – but a new story is so nice). Plus look at that cover ~ she has a sword of all things! That certainly makes it interesting already. It is also a very pretty cover. The back shows her whole gown - and she is gorgeous --- so the whole pretty lady and this sword in her hands... it grabs my attention right away. So I crossed my fingers, hoped for the best, ordered and waited… not so patiently. :o)

I was not disappointed. Isabella and Phineas are not at all what anyone expects them to be. They surprise everyone around them and each other. My problem with tackling this review is in telling you anything about this book without giving away any of those surprises. They start so early in the story and just keep going from there.

Let me just say that she did an excellent job painting a picture. I could see the characters, feel the ocean spray and the rocking of the ship… hear Phineas’ voice telling Isabella a story, see Isabella and Julia walking arm and arm under the scrutiny of the fellow passengers… I could even see the poor midshipmen taking their exams on the deck while Isabella watched them tying knots. She made the scene come alive without boring, long descriptions. It was almost like watching a movie instead of reading a book.

I loved the way the author tackled a different side of this era. She covered a social issue without sacrificing the romance in any way. You also felt the characters grow in so many ways – not just closer to each other – but more mature… It was exciting and the side plots were very interesting. This author has earned a place on my favorites list.

I hope you’ll add it to your list of books to read.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A-Z Wednesday (On Friday) lol

This really fun book meme is hosted by
Vicki @ Reading at the Beach.

The rules are pretty simple...

1. Visit Vicki to get this week's letter.
2. Browse through your shelves for a book that starts with this week's letter.
3. Post the following info about the book you've chosen on your blog:
~ Photo, synopsis/description, link (Amazon, Christian Books, Borders, etc.)
4. Hurry back to Reading at the Beach and post a comment with a link to your post.

From CBD~

Pride and Prejudice
, Sense and Sensibility, Emma...these titles conjure up a romantic world of rolling English countrysides, elegant balls, noble gentlemen, and headstrong gentlemen's daughters. But how much do we know about the woman who immortalized those times and names like Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennett? Growing up in a clergyman's home gave Jane Austen opportunities to watch human nature at its best...and worst.


It's been a long time since I read this book, so I hesitate to add any real thoughts on the merits or cons... I can say that having sections of her own letters made the book for me. I loved reading those sections more than anything else. I am a huge Jane Austen fan and scoop up just about anything by, about and/or related to her. :o)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Slow Burn or Sponateous Combustion?

I write romance, and most of you read, write, and/or review romance ~ so what kind of romantic relationships do you most prefer: the slow burn ~ relationships that build slowly and gradually become closer and closer - building tension and strength all the while? Or do you prefer spontaneous combustion ~ those relationships where the sparks fly right away and the real contest is to see how they will overcome to see their way to the happily ever after?

I think both kinds have their merit - and we certainly have seen evidence of both in great literature. My favorite romance of all time, Pride and Prejudice, was certainly a slow burn. Lizzy and Mr. Darcy did not have instant burn at all. lol Their love and admiration grew over time ~ and I like to imagine it continued to grow after their marriage.

Yet another of my favorites (much more contemporary) may be argued either way. In Julie Lessman's A Passion Most Pure ~ Faith may have had a crush on Collin practically her whole life - but once they are grown and he's back and dating her sister - they meet by the water and the chemistry there is instant and... well rather intense. :o) I think it counts in the "Spontaneous Combustion" category despite her childhood crush.

Those are two of my favorite books - which shows I can go either way. Which kind of romance do my characters have in my book? I guess you'll have to read it to find out. {wink}

How about you? Do you have a favorite? Any examples of your favorite books that show either style you'd like to share? How about your own romance - was it instant or a slow burn? My dh would say instant - I would have to say slow burn. lol I had trust issues, but he more than won me over.

Either way ~ I just love the ending: and they lived happily ever after. I think that's why I love inspirational romances so much. The real world needs to know that message is actually true (in heaven).

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Favorite Lines

I have always loved clever lines in movies, TV shows, and books ~ but I think I appreciate them even more now that I am writing because I know how much effort goes into the process. Sometimes those kinds of things just come to you, but more often than not, it is something that evolves after a long time of working and editing to get just the right words - just the right thoughts pinned down.

I watched an old movie (I only saw part and I have forgotten what it was called... so please forgive me) where one character was talking about the things that happened in the past. The other claimed that everyone had "skeletons" in their closets - and basically was saying that his past was staying there. The response was great. He said, "Some skeletons are prodigious travelers." I thought that was such a witty response!

The TV show, Castle, has great writers. I'm glad it does. It would be funny if a show about a great writer didn't have good writing. He always has the greatest lines. I watched a recent episode where he talked about how the murderer "killed the English language" (because he wrote on the victim's face using poor grammar). His banter back and forth with Beckett is filled with great lines. I like the one in the into they use too - where she says that he does remind her a little of Hooch.

Being such a sucker for romance, I have to use a romance as an example too. I watched "The Wedding Date" again recently. I don't have a good excuse at all. It isn't one of my favorite romances... but it does have some very good lines. I loved where he says that he would have missed her even if he'd never met her & he'd rather fight with her than make love with anyone else.

Do you have any favorite lines you'd like to share?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Apologies & a Question about Reviews

I'm new to this whole blog idea. I like it ~ and I really like the people I have met. I need to apologize because even though I have been reading your blogs - the last couple days have been so hectic that I haven't been doing very much commenting on them. I am very sorry about that and I'll try to do better.

I also am new to reviewing. To me it has seemed like a double-edged sword. I am not just a reader ~ I am an author who has yet to establish herself with anyone. I haven't been able to attend any conferences, and I am new to my writer's group (and shy) so I don't know these authors very well. One way I had hoped to build bridges and get to know people was by reviewing their books.

That's why I have so far only chosen to do reviews on books I liked ~ sort of following the old adage of if your can't say something nice - don't say anything at all. I read many more books than I review. Sometimes it is just for time restraints I don't do a review - sometimes because I think the book is older and may not be something people will be interested in... but sometimes it's because I just couldn't say as much good about it as I would like to - and I don't want to burn bridges. Maybe that is a total cop out.

There has been a lot of discussion about this lately. I don't write glowing reviews about books I don't like - but I have been told that when a person only shares good reviews, their credibility goes down with readers. I guess because I never really meant to be a "reviewer" exactly ~ but rather an author who occasionally does reviews in between working on her writing... I didn't worry so much about seeming like a pro. However, the criticism did hurt.

I also see their point; reviews are meant to help people make decisions about books that will or will not be good purchases. So, only writing good reviews doesn't help there - if you are writing them about every book you read.

Add that to all the bru-ha-ha about the new laws coming out, and it really makes it seem as if all I do is fluff pieces in order to please my fellow authors. I can only tell you that isn't true. While I didn't want to offend them, and I did want a way to get to know them and introduce them to me and my work... However, I never would compromise and lie about how I felt about a book in order to curry favor.

I guess this all boils down to this: Do you think it is worthless for me to share reviews if I only do them for the books I like? Do I need to add reviews about the other books and just try to be as kind as possible and let the chips fall where they may?

Oh ~ and my laptop was delayed by Dell - again. I was supposed to have it on Tues - not it won't be delivered until next Tues.... (maybe). Patience... I can be patient, right?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Decor & Other Ramblings

First I want to thank you for your nice comments about my blog decor. It was Angie at Never a Dull Moment who showed me where to get the background I used. So thank you again, Angie. People are so nice and helpful on here. :o)

I also want to say that I am so thrilled to share that my critique partner went to a writing conference and was asked to send in her manuscript to an agent! I am so excited for her! A publisher was also interested in her book. :o)

I am also a little selfishly happy since she has sent that first one off, she has very graciously agreed to help me with mine again ~ even though she's working on Book Two and lots of other things... :o) I can't tell you how much it helps to have someone else look at your work. They see things you're blind to. So I appreciate her so much.

I also wanted to say a couple more things about this review business - just fyi - though I think it is getting almost painfully frustrating. I don't want to talk about it a whole lot - I just don't want anyone to get in trouble from it.

Evidently the law is considering those free books compensation for tax purposes as well. So not only do you have to disclose them for the reviews, but you also have to either claim them as income - or give them away (and have records proving that you no longer own them and to whom they were given).

I hope everyone has a wonderful day ~

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Update on the fines for reviews for free books

I have been following this "situation" closely because the wording doesn't seem to discriminate with how you got the free book, so it wouldn't matter whether an author sent it to you or you won it in a contest or what...

In any case, I know some people were planning to get around it by posting a blanket disclosure on their blog. According to this article: Article ~ that won't work, they want it done per post.

Maybe this isn't an issue for any of you, but I just wanted to make sure you knew just in case.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fines for Reviewing Books on Blogs....

I was sent a link to an article that talks about new guidelines for reviewers. Evidently if you get the book for free and then review it, and you don't disclose that information in your review, you can be fined up to 11 thousand dollars!

The new guidelines go into effect in Dec of this year.

Here is a link to the article - short and sour though it is: Fines for Reviewers Article

I can't believe this is true, or why they would want to do that. What does that mean, if your best friend gave you the book for free you can't be trusted to review it? Perhaps you won it in a contest and got it for free from a totally different author than the one who wrote it ~ that's still free... and you're still keeping it (or you should be allowed to). I think perhaps they intended this to stop people from writing overly positive reviews, but seriously... is that really such a serious crime in our society?

Is it some underground crime industry I don't know about? To me it seems like there are lots of people who even get paid to write reviews on books that admit they never even read them at all. That, to me, is more of a crime- than people who actually read the book- voluntarily giving their opinion- whether or not it was given to them by the author.

Good books are simply good books. Most people will not write glowing reviews for a book they hate. They will simply not write a review at all, or try to find something small that was positive and mention that. There are plenty of bad reviews done by the general public that will more than outweigh the few good reviews that people may feel "guilted" into because the author is a friend or they got a book from them.

It certainly isn't a cottage crime industry that is worth 11 thousand dollars. Maybe instead of chasing evil review-writing bloggers - they should should spend time catching real criminals - like politicians or thieves (or are those the same thing?). {wink}

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Bachelor's Bargain

Title: The Bachelor’s Bargain
Author: Catherine Palmer
ISBN: 978-0-8423-1929-4

From the back cover:

Housemaid Anne Webster will stop at nothing to save her family from their dire circumstances. Even if it means accepting the proposal of the roguish Ruel Chouteau, Marquess of Blackthorne, who has just returned to England from the Americas under a veil of mystery. Both have their own agendas—she to use his riches, and he to use her lace-making skills—but neither could have dreamed what they would discover on the other side of their scheming.

As always, society tattler Miss Pickworth has a thing or two to say about this scandalous union. Anne and Ruel must keep their banter to a minimum and play the role of a happy couple.

He’s handsome and arrogant; she’s smart and obstinate. But can Anne and Ruel put their differences aside to fend off an unexpected foe?

My take:

The rustle of satin… The formality of tea… The gloved fingertips of the ladies and the top hats and coat tails of the gentlemen… A pair of smiling eyes peeking from behind a fan. There is just something special about the regency period for me. I’m such a sucker for romance and what could be more romantic than a Regency with lace as a central theme?

One of the reasons I like Regencies so much is that the rules and etiquette of the times force the author to use witty banter between the leads to establish a real relationship instead of just a physical attraction. This author managed to do both in a way that surprised and thrilled me. Not only did I believe and feel Ruel and Anne getting closer and falling in love, but they had that spark…the tension that comes only in great romances.

Although there is the theme of the “good” girl and redemption for the “bad” boy, that really oversimplifies these characters. Both Anne and Ruel are strong, intelligent, forceful personalities. She has a goal in mind and is determined to reach it no matter what it costs. He also is driven by his goal, both of their goals having to do with preserving and saving their families, but he is so intrigued by her that he may just be willing to amend his plans – slightly - to include her.

Their headstrong personalities set up many of their difficulties… but the author has still more in store for this couple. This was a wonderful book. I am going to add Catherine Palmer to my list of all time favorite authors and snatch up any of her other books I can find. I’m sure Miss Pickworth would approve.