Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Free Inspirational Fiction for Kindle!

Here's some of the free inspirational fiction that caught my eye this week (all were no cost as of Tuesday morning, but these promotions sometimes end suddenly so check before you buy!) If you don't have a Kindle, you can download the software from Amazon to read on a computer or smartphone.

The Judge Who Stole Christmas by Randy Singer (Tyndale House)

 Stuck in the Middle by Virginia Smith (Revell)  

Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valent (Tyndale House)- I've heard great things about this writer and her books set in the Depression-era South so I'm looking forward to reading this one!

Lonestar Sanctuary by Colleen Coble (Thomas Nelson)

Troublesome Creek by Jan Watson (Tyndale House)- gorgeous cover! This historical set in 1800s Kentucky looks really interesting.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Review: The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig

Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh—often mistaken for the elusive spy known as the Pink Carnation—has blundered into danger before. But when he blunders into Miss Arabella Dempsey, it never occurs to him that she might be trouble. When Turnip and Arabella stumble upon a beautifully wrapped Christmas pudding with a cryptic message written in French, “Meet me at Farley Castle”, the unlikely vehicle for intrigue launches the pair on a Yuletide adventure that ranges from the Austens’ modest drawing room to the awe-inspiring estate of the Dukes of Dovedale, where the Dowager Duchess is hosting the most anticipated event of the year: an elaborate 12-day Christmas celebration. Will they find poinsettias or peril, dancing or danger? And is it possible that the fate of the British Empire rests in Arabella and Turnip’s hands, in the form of a festive Christmas pudding? (summary from book cover)

The Mischief of the Mistletoe: A Pink Carnation Christmas
I have been a big fan of Lauren Willig's historical romance for a while and the release of The Mischief of the Mistletoe happened to fit in nicely with All About {n}'s Holiday Reading Challenge. While this can be read as a stand-alone Christmas novel, it's much more fun when you have read the previous entries in the Pink Carnation series (six in all, starting with the Secret History of the Pink Carnation). I loved seeing the reappearance of some of my favorite characters from earlier books, like Lord and Lady Pinchingdale and the fearsome Dowager Duchess of Dovedale.

I had never found Turnip Fitzhugh to be a particularly romantic character, but Willig creates a depth that makes him very appealing by the end of the story. As Arabella and Turnip romp through various adventures I was caught up in their story and the setting of Regency era Bath, England. I also enjoyed seeing an appearance by the famous Jane Austen (as an old family friend of Arabella's) and how Willig seemed to capture her smart and comedic take on society.

Rating 5 out of 5 stars. This book reaffirmed Willig's place on my list of favorite authors. Witty and fun, with plenty of chemistry between the two main characters, this was the perfect start to the holiday season! I would highly recommend this for Jane Austen fans or anyone who enjoys a blend of historical romance and comedy.
source: personal copy

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's Monday-What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. This is where we share what we've read the previous week and what we're planning to read this week. It's a great way to see what others are reading (and add more books to the TBR pile!)

Finished Last Week:

I was able to get a fair amount of reading done over the holiday weekend, including finishing The Mischief of the Mistletoe, one of my choices for All About {n}'s Holiday Reading Challenge. It was delightful- review coming soon!

Currently Reading:
I started the second Lady Julia Grey novel Silent in the Sanctuary and my next reading challenge selection, The Unfinished Gift. I'm hoping to finish at least one of these this week.


Didn't Finish:
I couldn't really get into Raymond Khoury's follow up to The Last Templar, The Templar Salvation.
I don't know if it was because I had more appealing books in my TBR pile or it's been too long since I read the first one, but I'm going to have to attempt a re-read later.

Did you get any reading done over the holiday weekend? What are you reading this week?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm at my parents' house gearing up for a day of family, football, and of course food! I hope you have a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving and are able to give thanks for the blessings in your life. I'm so grateful for my relationship with Jesus, my family, wonderful friends and living in the best city in the world (in my opinion)! I'm also grateful for the wonderful community of bloggers and readers online--thank you for taking a chance and being so supportive to a new blogger!

 "I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving." Psalm 69:30

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's Monday-What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. This is where we share what we've read the previous week and what we're planning to read this week. It's a great way to see what others are reading (and add more books to the TBR pile!)

Last week was hectic so I wasn't able to finish any books, but I'll be doing some traveling this week and hope to get some reading done in between football, pecan pie and sitting in airports (the only upside to delays is more time to read)!

Currently Reading:
I still have my nose in The Templar Salvation by Raymond Khoury and The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig (one of my selections for All About {n}'s Holiday Reading Challenge). Two very different books but I'm really enjoying both of them.

Up Next:
I'm really excited to start the next Lady Julia Grey mystery Silent in the Sanctuary and begin The Unfinished Gift by Dan Walsh (my next holiday reading challenge selection). I've heard the latter is a tearjerker so I'm getting the tissues ready!

 http://www.inspire4less.com/productimages/9780800719593.jpg   http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_7wd12zq5Tos/SgZcFyJnmiI/AAAAAAAAA-8/2F5Zzw24Se4/s320/sanctuary.JPG

What are your Thanksgiving week reading plans?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Review: The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

Rose has been appointed as a healer's apprentice at Hagenheim Castle, a rare opportunity for a woodcutter's daughter like her. While she often feels uneasy at the sight of blood, Rose is determined to prove herself capable. Failure will mean returning home to marry the aging bachelor her mother has chosen for her.When Lord Hamlin, the future duke, is injured, it is Rose who must tend to him. As she works to heal his wound, she begins to understand emotions she's never felt before and wonders if he feels the same. But falling in love is forbidden, as Lord Hamlin is betrothed to a mysterious young woman in hiding. As Rose's life spins toward confusion, she must take the first steps on a journey to discover her own destiny (summary from goodreads).

I had read lots of great reviews about this retelling of Sleeping Beauty and decided to check it out when it became available at the library. While The Healer's Apprentice is technically inspirational YA, that shouldn't deter adults from reading this updated fairy tale that comes complete with a handsome hero, evil villain and mysterious secret. Dickerson's writing transports you to medieval Saxony and I was soon completely involved in the story and the period details. Though I figured out the big secret by around Chapter 5, it was still very entertaining to read how the characters come to rely on God for assurance and direction on their way to a happy ending.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars for adults, 5 out of 5 for YA. Though I found Rose to be a little too passive and Lord Hamlin a little too perfect, that didn't spoil my enjoyment of an otherwise wonderful and engaging tale. I would have raved about this book when I was 15 and as a twenty-something I still really enjoyed it.

Source: library copy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How Do We Get Boys to Read?

Twice a month I get BookPage XTRA in my inbox, which features previews of upcoming releases, reviews and author interviews. This morning an interview with Jon Scieszka, author of The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, caught my eye. Called "Connecting Boys With Books," the article detailed how Scieska has started a website called Guys Read  to address the literacy issue in young boys and
"help guys become readers by helping them find texts they want to read." He argues that "the key to getting boys to read...is to 'show them a reason to want to be a reader, and support them in their interests.'
Another obstacle in getting boys to read is the instantly accessible entertainment available online and on television. That entertainment is more reachable than ever as younger kids have cell phones or even iPads, which Scieszka calls 'just like crack or candy—some combination of both.'"

I was reminded of a Wall Street Journal article from earlier this fall, called "How to Raise Boys That Read." Though I don't have kids, I definitely think about how I will make reading a priority for them when and if I do. The author, Thomas Pence, argues that "meeting boys where they are" by offering them books about farts or Captain Underpants doesn't serve them well now or for their future. Like Scieszka, he believes the phenomenon of boys not reading is in large part due to their exposure to video games (I know there are exceptions, but how many girls do you see huddled around an XBox playing Halo for hours on end?)

"People who think that a book—even R.L. Stine's grossest masterpiece—can compete with the powerful stimulation of an electronic screen are kidding themselves. But on the level playing field of a quiet den or bedroom, a good book like "Treasure Island" will hold a boy's attention quite as well as "Zombie Butts from Uranus." Who knows—a boy deprived of electronic stimulation might even become desperate enough to read Jane Austen.
Most importantly, a boy raised on great literature is more likely to grow up to think, to speak, and to write like a civilized man. Whom would you prefer to have shaped the boyhood imagination of your daughter's husband—Raymond Bean [author of the SweetFarts series] or Robert Louis Stevenson?"

Yes, boys and girls are created differently and have different learning styles. But when we limit boys to reading graphic novels and potty humor we're doing them a disservice and underestimating their capacity to read and enjoy actual literature. As Pence says, "if you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn't go very far."

What do you think? Does what boys are reading matter or is it just important that they are reading, period?

Read the interview with Scieszka here.
Read "How to Raise Boys Who Read" here

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It's Monday-What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are you Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. This is where we share what we've been reading the previous week and what we plan to read this week.

This week I finished two great novels, Silent in the Grave (review here) and The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson (review to come).

Currently Reading:

Currently Reading
The Templar Salvation by Raymond Khoury. I've already gotten sucked into this story of the Knights Templar and the modern-day CIA agent trying to unearth an ancient secret so he can save his love!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Destination: Scotland

The traveling aspect of my blog has been pretty absent since I haven't been going many places this fall; however, each Saturday I'll now be posting one of the places on my list of dream destinations and some books/movies that would go perfectly with that experience. This week: taking the Royal Scotsman train from Edinburgh through the Scottish Highlands. I've always preferred the train over other forms of transportation--there's something that still seems so elegant and unhurried about it-- and The Royal Scotsman is the ultimate luxury for a trip by rail.

Though it's not set in Scotland, what book could be better for a train trip than Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express? On a trip from Istanbul to Paris, intrepid sleuth Hercule Poirot must determine which of the 13 suspects  is a murderer. Or check out Alexander McCall Smith's The Sunday Philosophy Club series, which is set in Edinburgh. For a historical perspective, inspirational author Liz Curtis Higgs has written some fabulous books set in 18th-century Scotland, like Here Burns My Candle and The Lowlands of Scotland series.

Two of my favorite classic films feature Scotland and train travel. I Know Where I'm Going! (1945) is one of those films that starts slowly but then captures your attention completely by the end. Set in the isolated Scottish Hebrides, it tells the story of a young woman journeying to marry her (much older) fiance. She thinks she has her life figured out, but a handsome naval officer on leave and a fierce storm may change her plans. The Hebrides are presented in the movie as bleak but also mystical and compelling.

The Lady Vanishes (1938) is an early Hitchcock film and one of my absolute favorites. Michael Redgrave (father of Vanessa) and Margaret Lockwood match wits as they try to find a woman who no one on the train has seen-but they know was there. The special effects are noticeably amateur to modern eyes but that doesn't take away from the charm and suspense.

And just because I couldn't resist, I would definitely be taking these trunks along on my dream trip. Can't you just picture Eva Marie Saint using these in North by Northwest?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Review: Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

Chaos on the streets of Victorian London (from English Heritage)

Silent in the Grave tells the story of Lady Julia Grey, who is widowed when her husband Sir Edward Grey collapses suddenly at a party. Nicholas Brisbane, a private investigator employed by her husband, believes the death was not due to natural causes, and the two team up to discover the true nature of Edward's demise. Along the way they travel the highs and lows of Victorian London interacting with prostitutes, lords and every type of person in between.

The story moved slowly for me until the last 100 pages, when it careened to an unexpected conclusion and I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish. Nicholas Brisbane is an appealing counterpoint to Lady Julia and I enjoyed watching them match wits as they attempt to ignore their obvious sexual chemistry.
Raybourn's writing is atmospheric and really transported me into the backdrop of Victorian London, and certain passages are rich with detail, like this one:

My heart began to drum so loudly that I thought he certainly must hear it. I was grateful then for the high collar that hid the pulse at my throat.
"It must have been. Perhaps you took some medicine while you were ill. They can often provoke strange dreams."
His eyes fell briefly to my mouth, his fingers twitched, and I wondered if he was smelling ripe cherries, remembering the feel of a supple glove against his finger.
"Yes they can," he said finally. (pg. 243)

Currently ReadingI hope to see more of the entertaining secondary characters (like Lady Julia's siblings, the Grey House staff and Dr. Bent) in future books, and I'm really anxious to see how the relationship between Lady Julia and Brisbane progresses. In fact, I've already purchased the second book in the series, Silent in the Sanctuary, and am looking forward to starting that when I finish my current read.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. Atmospheric and slightly romantic with an intriguing mystery, this book held my attention and made me care about the main characters. I'm looking forward to the next installment and reading more of their story.

Source: library book

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jane Eyre Trailer!

Thanks to Ruth for drawing my attention to this new trailer for Jane Eyre, which is scheduled to be released in March 2011. I'm really liking Michael Fassbender as Rochester (so handsome!) and can't wait for this to come out in theaters!

New York magazine says "it's all very Merchant Ivory Gothic — period costumes, a soundtrack full of Sturm und Drang, and dramatic glances — which is exactly as it should be. Plus, a nice bit of dialogue — "Do you think because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?" — to remind us that Charlotte Brontë could have turned out a decent screenplay if given the chance." What do you think?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Teaser Tuesday!

Teaser Tuesdays is a fun meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. To participate, grab the book you're currently reading, open to a random page and share a few sentences (no spoilers!)

From The Templar Salvation by Raymond Khoury, page 7:

"Then he spotted him--a short distance away, down on the ground, motionless, an arrow through his neck. He glanced at him for no more than a solitary heartbeat, but it was still long enough for the sight to brand itself permamently into his consciousness--then he leapt onto the wagon and whipped the horses to life."

Constantinople, 1203: As the rapacious armies of the Fourth Crusade lay siege to the city, a secretive band of Templars infiltrate the imperial library. Their target: a cache of documents that must not be allowed to fall into the hands of the doge of Venice. They escape with three heavy chests filled with explosive secrets that these men will not live long enough to learn.

Vatican City, present day: FBI agent Sean Reilly infiltrates the pope's massive Vatican Secret Archives of the Inquisition. No one but the Pope's secondi get in--but Reilly has earned the Vatican's trust, a trust he now has no choice but to violate. A vicious, uncompromising terrorist bent on revenge has kidnapped Tess Chaykin, and the key to her freedom lies in the underground crypt, in the form of a document unread for generations. It is known as the Fondo Templari, a secret history of the infamous Templars that may reveal the explosive secret behind their centuries-old extermination--and in the process illuminate a lost corner of history and its colossal twenty-first century implications.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

It's Monday-What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey and is where we share what we've been reading over the last week and what we'll be starting this week.

Whew! It's been a rough few weeks for me reading-wise but I'm back on track and should actually finish a book this week.

Should Finish This Week:

Currently Reading

I was able to really get into Silent in the Grave this weekend so I'm looking forward to wrapping it up this week--review to come!

Up Next:
My order got shuffled around when this book became available at the library...

I only have The Templar Salvation until November 12 (and no renewals) so the pressure's on! I know I could just buy it but my TBR pile has so gotten out of control I made a vow not to buy any new books this month... seriously, I've run out of space on my bookshelf and have commandeered a drawer to hold the overflow of books!

Thanks for stopping by! What are you reading this week?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Holiday Reading Challenge!

For my first reading challenge, I'm going to be joining All About {n}'s Holiday Reading Challenge. You can find more details and a link to sign up here, but the basic idea is to read 1 to 5 holiday themed books between November 15 and December 31 and post reviews. I am going to try and push myself and read 5 books in that time period (eek!) Here are my current selections, which might change as I go through the challenge:

Santa Clawed by Rita Mae Brown
I'm a big fan of Brown's Mrs. Murphy mysteries so I'm looking forward to reading this Christmas-themed installment about the residents of Crozet, Virginia.

The Gift by Cecelia Ahern  
I received this book as a gift last Christmas but never got around to reading it during the holiday season. I haven't read any other Ahern books so I'm not sure what to expect!

The Mischief of the Misletoe by Lauren Willig
Just in time for this challenge is a new holiday-themed book from one of my favorite authors, which features Jane Austen and a bumbling hero named Turnip Fitzhugh.
The Unfinished Gift by Dan Walsh
I've heard great things about this book and its follow up,
The Homecoming. The jacket says to have tissues ready so I'm getting prepared for a good cry!

Tinsel: A Search for America's Christmas Present by Hank Stuever
I decided to throw a non-fiction book into the mix with this exploration of modern-day Christmas in Frisco, TX. I have no idea what to expect but am hoping the author doesn't spend the whole time making fun of Southerners!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme sponsored by MizB at Should Be Reading, where we share randomly selected two sentence "teasers" from the book we're currently reading. I'm still slowly getting through Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn (nothing against the book, I've just rarely had more than 30 minutes straight to read lately and at 509 pages it's pretty thick). This teaser comes from page 130:

"He blushed deeply, a rich rose colour against the pale porcelain of his cheeks, and hurried off, giving me with a good deal more to think about than Griggs' thin reply. I hoped Desmond was not falling in love with me."

I also started Murder on the Bride's Side by Tracy Kiely, a follow-up to Murder at Longbourn, which I really enjoyed. It's kind of a cozy mystery with a likeable heroine, unique secondary characters and a bit of Austenesque flavor. The teaser is from page 12:

"A large mahogany table stood center, topped by an enormous blue-and-white vase, yellow roses spilling out. Knowing Elsie, the vase could be from either Pier 1 or the Ming Dynasty."

Currently Reading 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Review: Island at War

I'm always interested in movies and books set in the WWII era, so I was excited to watch the 2005 British miniseries Island At War, which tells the story of residents of the fictional island of St. Gregory in the Channel Islands. Located between Britain and France, the Channel Islands were vital to the Nazis' plan to eventually invade England. Focusing on the middle-class Mahys (shopkeeper Cassie, husband Urban and daughters Angelique and June), the upper-class Dorrs (Senator James Dorr, wife Felicity and son Phil), and the working-class Jonases (policeman/fisherman Wilf, wife Kathleen and children Colin and Mary), Island at War traces their lives from the start of the Nazi invasion through most of the war.

The series packs a dramatic punch from the start-- within the first few minutes a main character is dead and there is definitely violence within all the episodes-- but the bloodshed is not gratuitous and works to accurately convey the day-to-day humiliation and fear the people suffered. One of my favorite aspects of Island at War was how it made me think about the options presented to the occupied people and how I might react in a similar situation. Do you comply with the Nazis out of fear and to make your life safer or do you resist them and face death or imprisonment? What do you do when some of the occupiers become more to you than just a nameless, evil force? All of the actors were great, but those playing Baron Heinrich Von Rheingarten, Oberleutnant Walker and the other Nazis were truly skilled at showing how the Germans occupying St. Gregory could be alternately merciful or evil in their reactions to wrongdoing but were always unpredictable.

While the acting was great and the characters well-formed, I ended up being disappointed with the series. Several storylines were left unfinished and I admit I would have loved to see the St. Gregory residents through the end of the war, not just through 1943. 3 or 4 main characters' fates are left in limbo and it felt like they were hoping for a sequel but it didn't happen (Island at War was filmed in 2003, and from what I read online there's been no talk of a second installment).

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Dramatic, heartfelt and with a little romance thrown in, I really enjoyed Island at War for the most part, but lots of loose ends and some strange storylines left me feeling underwhelmed. For a slightly lighter tale of the Channel Islands during war time, check out The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

source: Netflix