Monday, December 31, 2012

Book Review - A Royal Pain by Megan Mulry


A life of royalty seems so attractive...until you're invited to live it...

Smart, ambitious, and career driven, Bronte Talbot started following British royalty in the gossip mags only to annoy her intellectual father. But her fascination has turned into a not-so-secret guilty pleasure. When she starts dating a charming British doctoral student, she teases him unmercifully about the latest scandals of his royal countrymen, only to find out—to her horror!!—that she's been having a fling with the nineteenth Duke of Northrop, and now he wants to make her...a duchess?

In spite of her frivolous passion for all things royal, Bronte isn't at all sure she wants the reality. Is becoming royalty every American woman's secret dream, or is it a nightmare of disapproving dowagers, paparazzi, stiff-upper-lip tea parties, and over-the-top hats?

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As a bit of an Anglophile, I’ve enjoyed watching the British royalty over the years.  I suppose it started as a child when my father woke me up in the wee hours of the morning to watch Charles and Diana’s wedding.  I think I started planning my own nuptials and thinking of dress preferences that very day.  The princess’s death was a shocking tragedy, with newspaper headlines I’ll never forget.  I watched with joy when William and Kate were married recently, and I once again gave up some sleep to take in the pomp and circumstance of the ceremony.  And if you visit The Calico Critic even occasionally, you’ll see that I have a strong preference for books related to English Jane Austen and her novels.

Megan Mulry’s modern novel A Royal Pain intrigued me when I learned of the concept—common American girl, Bronte Talbot, falls for an English noble, Maxwell Fitzwilliam-Heyworth, next in line to become the 19th Duke of Northrop.  Many young women could only dream of a romance like this!  Talk about a Cinderella story!  I looked forward to a fun, light read and a bit of escapism.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t as thorough as I should have been when vetting this title for review.  I clearly missed the phrasing “Filled with…witty banter and steamy sex…” in the book’s description.  Had I paid closer attention to this detail, I probably would have passed on reading this title.  While there isn’t much of it in the second half of the book, graphic sex scenes are common in the first half.  Another concern came in the almost-ridiculous use of the f-word by the main character, Bronte.  This use of language does make it clear that she’s a common, unrefined foil to her love interest, but she planted so many f-bombs at such a rapid fire rate, it became almost laughable.  Maybe that was Mulry’s intent in her writing. Regardless, I didn’t care for it.  I was grateful when this colorful talk eased up in the second half of the novel.

Putting the adult content aside, A Royal Pain is a moderately interesting tale.  The main story line is fairly predictable, with Max initially concealing his identity, and then later we have uncomfortable scenes between Bronte and Max’s family that require Bronte to trust in herself and the security of her relationship with him. Bronte also has to adapt to her appearance in tabloid publications and accepting a new lavish lifestyle. Some of it is fun and whimsical, a fantasy situation that many women would love to have.

A significant portion of the story also focuses on Bronte’s family life, her relationship with her parents and how that was impacting her as a woman. This vein was very well written, and it almost seemed like a separate story altogether. But Bronte’s struggles with her family help inform the reader in regard to her quirks and why she has trouble committing to Maxwell as times.

I can’t say I would offer a hearty recommendation to A Royal Pain. However, if you aren’t queasy with adult content and are also an Anglophile like myself, you may enjoy this light novel.  I love Cinderella stories, and this certainly is one. It just has more “common” content than “royal” material than I would have liked.







Sourcebooks.com





               
Paperback Version                               Kindle Version



If you'd like to give A Royal Pain a try, I'd be happy to send my copy to you at no charge, as long as you can cover the cost of shipping.
And as it's an uncorrected advance copy, please understand that it should never be sold.
Just contact me if you're interested.  
This paragraph will be removed when I have a response to this offer.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book Review - Resurrect by David E. Stevens


From the back cover:

Preventing his burning fighter from crashing into a neighborhood, Navy Commander Josh Logan ejects...too late.  Critically injured, he's offered a new life and mission—exploiting highly classified military technology to stop a global cataclysm. The price? He’ll be dead to everyone he knows.

A year later, he wakes in a city hospital with altered appearance and enhanced abilities. Guided by nothing but a voice, he must infiltrate the military-industrial complex, recruit a team and develop the world’s most powerful weapon—to protect humanity. The more he learns, the more he questions who, or what, is behind his resurrection, as the clock counts down to the end of the world.

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So here we are, at the end of 2012.  If the Mayans were correct, we are weeks away from the end of the world.  Catastrophe is due to hit us on December 21, 2012. Not buying it?  Here’s a possibility offered by David E. Stevens, author of the novel Resurrect:  It is entirely possible that a large comet could enter our solar system with little advanced warning, slam into Earth and obliterate life as we know it in the blink of an eye.  How could we possibly respond to this? Do we even have the technology and organization to carry out a rescue plan?

In Stevens’ novel, he presents a man named Josh, someone who has been given a second life in order to carry out this seemingly impossible mission to save the human race.  Through his knowledge of aircraft, his connections in the military, new enhanced physical abilities, funding from a Sir Richard Branson-type billionaire and help from an all-star team of scientists and specialists, he endeavors to deal with a nearly-invisible “black comet” headed towards the planet. Along the way, he must deal with the loss of his first life (and the wife with whom he shared it), moving on to love again, as well as dealing with trying to understand “Jesse”, the all-knowing voice in his head, feeding him the information about the comet.

Resurrect is a roller-coaster of a story, from the taut opening chapter that had me sitting on the edge of my seat (read it here), to the conclusion that has me looking forward to the next episodes in this planned trilogy.  As the wife of a pilot, I couldn’t help but be engaged with Josh’s story and the details surrounding him.  Author and Commander David Stevens is an experienced fighter pilot himself, and it most certainly shows in his writing.  He pulls back the curtain a bit on the inner workings of aviation, military intelligence and science.  I was highly entertained by his story, but I got a bit of an education as well.

Another interesting aspect of the novel is its connections with religion and philosophy, and how they are interwoven through science.  One might assume that the “Jesse” character in the novel is God speaking to Josh, although Josh doesn’t seem to acknowledge this much as a possibility. Elizabeth, a nurse with whom Josh has romantic attachments to, seems to hold a Christian faith, relating Josh’s philosophical questions to answers found in the Bible.  This intermingling of faith, science and the military makes for some interesting reading, and had me thinking about many of the issues posed in the novel, even when I was away from the book.

Although there are religious aspects to this story, I would not term Resurrect a traditional Christian book. Stevens does not shy away from salty language (although other authors probably would have exploited that more than he did), nor the natural sexual desires of the characters.  Everything is kept decidedly low-key in these areas, but it’s not the kind of content I’m used to finding in most Christian titles.  To be honest, it’s refreshing.  Military guys in particular are not known for their squeaky-clean vocabulary, and to ignore the internal drives of young people attracted to one another would be unrealistic.  Yet Stevens handles these matters in a fairly family-friendly way, which I’m sure will keep his possible upcoming cinematic production at a PG or PG-13 rating.

I think my only criticism comes in my distaste for a certain tone that Stevens takes from time to time within his storytelling.  Due to the heavy nature of the situation—the possible end of the world—it seems that he wanted to inject a bit of levity once in a while for comic relief.  There are frequent quotes from movies offered, as well as many references to current video games.  At first I found this trend amusing, but after a while it made his writing seem more juvenile than it needed to be. The motif was just used too often in my opinion, and I hope he tones it down in his upcoming episodes.

That minor issue aside, I offer my hearty review to Resurrect.  With the feel of an exciting Hollywood romp, it’s the kind of movie I’d love to watch with my CFI husband, who trains Gulfstream jet pilots on a daily basis.  It opens with a great punch and carries the reader through an exciting and thought-provoking narrative that had me looking forward to more.  The end of the world may or may not be at hand, but David E. Stevens has given us a fun diversion for the moment, and a number of ideas to ponder for a lifetime.









RESURRECT GIVEAWAY AND FACEBOOK PARTY!



To celebrate the release of Resurrect, David E. Stevens has teamed up with his publisher, 

Kregel Publications, for a Kindle Fire Giveaway and Facebook Author Chat Party {12/4}.



One "thrilling" winner will receive:

A Kindle Fire
Resurrect by David E. Stevens
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 3rd. Winner will be announced at the Resurrect Author Chat Facebook Party on 12/4. Connect with David, get a sneak peek of the next book in the Resurrect Trilogy, try your hand at the trivia contest, and win some great prizes—gift certificates, books and a Book Club Prize Pack (10 copies for your book club or small group)!

So grab your copy of Resurrect and join David on the evening of December 4th for a chance to connect with David and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP today.
Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.
Hope to see you on the 4th!





More About David E. Stevens

A Navy fighter pilot with hundreds of aircraft carrier landings, Commander David E Stevens holds degrees from Cornell and the University of Michigan with graduate work in astrophysics. He test piloted new fighters and received an aviation patent. With a Top Secret clearance, Dave served as Strike Operations Officer for the Persian Gulf during Desert Storm and led classified defense programs. He’s traveled to over two dozen countries.





Find out more about David at ResurrectTrilogy.com.

Follow David on Twitter










CymLowell

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Giveaway - Friends Prize Pack!

In association with the recent release of Friends: The Complete Series Blu-Ray Box Set , Partners Hub is hosting a giveaway of a special Friends prize pack! One winner from The Calico Critic will receive a Limited Edition Friends prize pack with two oversized cappuccino mugs and a picture frame just like the one on Monica’s door, exclusive to this giveaway!

Check out the widget and video player below. Come back every day to earn a different Friends character badge, unlock hidden badges, and earn awesome Friends content along the way.  And come back to the video player every Thursday to see the new unlocked Friends Mashup clips running from November 8th to December 13th.  Relive all your favorite Friends moments in these fun clips.  Each week a new clip will be unlocked.

Here are ways you can earn points to enter the contest-- they can be separate comments or grouped into one, if applicable:
  • One Point (Mandatory) - Please share your email address so that I may contact you if you win.  If you'd rather not post that here, you may email me directly at CalicoCritic@gmail.com.
  • Two Points - Take the "Which Friend Are You Most Like" Quiz in the 30 Days of Friends widget (bottom left hand corner of the widget) and share your results!
  • Two Points - Share the following tweet, then post the direct URL of your tweet here in a comment. You may do this multiple times, just please separate your tweets by at least 3 hours.
Enter to win a #Friends prize pack! Sponsored by @PartnersHubTeam and @WB_Home_Ent via The Calico Critic (@LHartness) http://CalicoCritic.blogspot.com
  • Four Points -  Check out the Mashup Clip Countdown video player and relive lots of fun Friends moments in these clips. Each week a new clip will be revealed. Choose one favorite moment within each weekly clip (some moments are just seconds long!) and share it with us in a comment. As this post is going up after some weekly clips have already been revealed, feel free to catch up and watch each clip that's been posted so far.  For this contest, we're only going to do the November clips. I'll accept "favorite moments" from the clips from Nov. 8th, Nov. 15th, Nov. 22nd and Nov. 29th, whenever you can send them during the contest period.  Just be sure to indicate which clip you watched and what your favorite moment was within that clip (Example: "November 8th clip - My favorite moment was...").

The Friends Door on Set
This contest is going to be a short one-- get your entries in by 11:59pm EST on November 29th.  I'll choose a winner on the 30th, and I have to send in their mailing information by December 1st.  So if you're the winner, it's important that you respond quickly. Please make sure my email address will make it past your spam filters:  CalicoCritic@gmail.com

Note:  This promotion is available to U.S. residents only.

In order to accommodate the Friends widgets, I did a revamp of the website for the first time in three years!  I hope you enjoy our new look!  I'll be tweaking it over the next few weeks, and hopefully updating it as the seasons change.



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CONTEST UPDATE

Congrats to DonnaS, winner of the Friends prize pack!


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30 Days of Friends Widget






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Mashup Clip Countdown Video Player

 
 
Thanks for entering, and good luck to all!
 
 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Interview - Victoria Connelly
of Christmas with Mr. Darcy


The holidays are almost upon us, and with our schedules heating up while the weather cools down, many of us may have less time for casual reading during this busy season.

If you'd like to take a little time at the end of your day to relax and unwind with some fun, relatively short Austenesque books, I highly recommend the Austen Addicts series by Victoria Connelly.  These sweet novels are perfect for the fans of all things Jane Austen.  You can check out my individual reviews of the series here:


If you've already enjoyed these titles, I'm pleased to report that Victoria has given us all an early Christmas present! She's written a lovely novella, Christmas with Mr. Darcy,for the fans of this series and the characters within the three novels.  This compact story takes the reader back to the characters of this series, many of whom are all now gathered together for a Jane Austen conference at the stately Purley Hall in Hampshire. There's a bit of romance, a bit of mystery, and much fun to be had in this holiday confection.  For those who have read the previous novels, I encourage you to pick this one up.  And if you haven't read the Austen Addicts trilogy yet, put it on your To Be Read list soon!

I recently had an opportunity to ask Victoria a few questions that popped into my mind after reading Christmas with Mr. Darcy, and I thought I'd share them with you.  Here's the interesting feedback I received from Victoria:

Ardington House
Have you spent much time at the real Purley Hall?
Purley Hall is based on a beautiful Georgian manor called Ardington House in rural Oxfordshire. It's a private home which is open to the public but they host weddings and conferences there and I wrote to ask if I could visit and was allowed to walk around the house and the grounds, making notes for my novel and taking lots of photographs. It is just as I describe it in A Weekend with Mr Darcy and Christmas with Mr Darcy. It is set back from the road down the sweep of driveway, there is a huge cedar tree at the front of the house, a swimming pool, beautiful gardens and the temple on an island in a lake.

Do they have Jane Austen conferences there?
I'm afraid they don't hold Jane Austen conferences at Ardington House but perhaps somebody should suggest one!


"Barton Cottage"
When and where was your first Austen conference?
As far as I am aware, there aren't any Austen conferences in the UK but there is the wonderful Jane Austen Festival held in Bath each September and I attended that the year I was writing the third book in my Austen Addicts Trilogy, Mr. Darcy Forever. People come from all over the world to attend and there are fantastic events such as the costumed promenade through the Georgian streets, dancing, readings, guided tours and talks about all things Austen.

There is also the wonderful 'Pride and Prejudice Tours’ which conducts holidays to the locations used in Jane Austen adaptations and I was lucky enough to stay in the house used in the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility and I wrote about this in Mr. Darcy Forever. The house is in one of the most romantic settings I've ever seen.

If you were incredibly wealthy, what is the largest amount you would pay at auction for a first edition Pride & Prejudice?
I don't think I'd actually get that excited about a first edition of Pride and Prejudice but what would really excite me would be a signed copy and, if money were no object, I could see myself paying a handsome sum for such a book although not silly money because I’d rather spend it on rescuing more animals!

What would be worse:  Losing something incredibly valuable, or someone stealing something incredibly valuable from you?
When I was a teenager, our house was burgled and we lost some jewellery which had belonged to my grandmother. It's still breaks my heart to this day because it would probably have been sold on for next to nothing and, of course, not meant as much to the new owners as it had to my family. So, I think it would be worse to have something stolen because, if you lost something yourself, you have only yourself to blame and there's always the chance that you might find it again.

What is your favorite Pride &Prejudice adaptation (film or television)?
It has to be the 1995 BBC adaptation starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet. There are so many magical moments and Colin Firth really is the perfect Mr. Darcy although I do love the recent Joe Wright film version too - the soundtrack is exquisite and the locations were just wonderful and one doesn't always have the time to sit down to the six-hour BBC version.

What is your favorite way to spend Christmas Day?
Quietly at home with my husband with lots of good food, a real fire and a wonderful old film to watch after a good walk in the crisp cold winter countryside.


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Thanks to Victoria for taking the time to answer my questions!  I hope all of you get a chance to read her new offering-- as for me, it was a nice early Christmas treat!


Connect with Victoria

Website
Twitter
Facebook
Goodreads


          

Monday, November 5, 2012

Book Review - The Ruins of Lace
by Iris Anthony


Lace is a thing like hope.
It is beauty; it is grace.
It was never meant to destroy so many lives.

The mad passion for forbidden lace has infiltrated France, pulling soldier and courtier alike into its web. For those who want the best, Flemish lace is the only choice, an exquisite perfection of thread and air. For those who want something they don’t have, Flemish lace can buy almost anything—or anyone.

For Lisette, lace begins her downfall, and the only way to atone for her sins is to outwit the noble who now demands the impossible. To fail means certain destruction. But for Katharina, lace is her salvation. It is who she is; it is what she does. If she cannot make this stunning tempest of threads, a dreaded fate awaits.

The most lucrative contraband in Europe, with its intricate patterns and ephemeral hope, threatens to cost them everything. Lace may be the deliverance for which they all pray…or it may bring the ruin and imprisonment they all fear.


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Before taking on The Ruins of Lace as a book to review, I knew next to nothing about the lace industry in the 17th Century.  The premise of Iris Anthony’s novel sounded intriguing, and I assumed that it would afford me an opportunity to learn a thing or two about that period.

Anthony has not only given me an interesting history lesson, but she has crafted an immensely enjoyable novel, one that I could not read fast enough. Within her 35 chapters, seven points of view are given five chapters each, all in a repeating sequence.  I present the diverse cast of characters:
  1. Katharina Martens – Lace Maker
  2. Heilwich Martens – Katharina’s Sister
  3. Denis Boulanger – Soldier and Border Guard
  4. Moncher – Lace-Smuggling Dog
  5. Lisette Lefort – Viscount of Souboscq's Daughter
  6. Count of Montreau – Marquis of Eronville's Son
  7. Alexandre Lefort – Distant Cousin of Lisette
All of these characters are connected, some in very immediate ways, others more distant.  They all hold their own points of view on lace and it’s impact on their lives. For Katharina, she must make lace or be forced into a life of destitution. Her sister Heilwich works for years, trying to free her sister. Denis is a less-than-successful border guard, struggling to prove himself in his work, but finding no smuggled lace. Moncher the dog is one of thousands of his kind, smuggling lace across the border of France, having the greatest desire to just be with his kind master. Lisette unwittingly gets her family entangled with the likes of the villainous Count of Montreau, a man who is cruel in his pursuit of lace. Finally, Alexandre Lefort is the humble cousin of Lisette, who will do almost anything for her love and to free her family from the clutches of the vile Count.

This seven-chapter pattern that Iris Anthony has woven was incredibly compelling.  Each character had so many relatable yearnings, even the warped Julien, the Count of Montreau. All desired love and acceptance in some way, and all sought freedom in one manner or another. Each faced moments of truth when a “yes” or “no” decision had to be made,  and frequently it was the choice between two evils. At the end of each chapter, I eagerly awaited the return of that character, seven chapters later. This led to that “just one more” mindset that all readers love, when we find ourselves reading much more than we had intended, simply because we had to get through just one more chapter.

The Ruins of Lace was a quick read, not only because of the compelling nature of the seven-chapter cycling, but Iris Anthony’s writing was very accessible. She is able to transport her readers to the 17th Century, but she kept a slightly modern tone in her style. It certainly wouldn’t be considered a light read for the beach, but one could easily dive in and complete the book in just a few sittings.

For my conservative readership, I must alert you to Julien, the Count of Montreau’s character. While Anthony doesn’t get overly graphic in her portrayal of this disturbed man, be aware that he is struggling with gender identity issues. He has been traumatized many times throughout his life, so his angst is understandable, but the nature of his proclivities may be a concern to some. That being said, I’m sure his struggles are more common than most of us realize, and this doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the novel.

Chantilly Lace
In today’s world of near-instant gratification with e-commerce and digital media, it’s hard for us to comprehend the value of something as common as a piece of lace. We now have computerized machines that can weave this fabric for us, and we can order it instantly online. Yet in the 17th Century, this was hardly the case. This delicate frippery was highly valued, and this impacted society in a myriad of ways. Iris Anthony’s The Ruins of Lace investigates this in not only an educational way, but in an entertaining one as well. I encourage you to explore this compelling novel, and I highly advise you to clear your schedule when you do. If our experiences are similar, you’ll have a hard time putting this one down.

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Want to learn more?
Here are some resources from The Ruins of Lace:

Author Iris Anthony Discusses The Ruins of Lace





Sourcebooks.com





Print Edition

Kindle Edition

Monday, October 29, 2012

Book Review - The Beresfords
by Christina Dudley


Raised with four older stepcousins in a conservative, churchgoing family, Frannie Price teeters on the brink of adolescence in the summer of 1985. Her timidity and awkwardness make her easy to overlook, yet she has one true friend in her cousin Jonathan. Jonathan, her childhood champion and the best person she knows. But when the Grant twins enter her life, Frannie’s world turns upside down. Not only does the sly and charming Eric Grant set her girl cousins against each other, but his flirtatious sister makes off with Jonathan’s heart. 

Only Frannie sees the faults running beneath the family landscape—not that anyone’s asking her opinion. Not her strict Uncle Paul, not her beloved Jonathan, and certainly not the Grants, who, after having their way with the rest of the Beresfords, turn their sights on her. What’s a girl to do? And why does she feel, in this uncharted territory, like God left her at the border? 


With sympathy, humor and more than a nod to Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, The Beresfords chronicles Frannie’s coming of age, when all around her is coming apart. 

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As author Christina Dudley mentioned in her recent guest post on The Calico Critic, probably only a small percentage of her readership have actually read Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park, upon which a good portion of The Beresfords is based. Unfortunately, I am not in that small percentage of readers! Although I do consider myself a Janeite, the most exposure I’ve had to MP was the 1999 cinematic version, starring Frances O’Connor. I know, this is a travesty. In fact, I saw the movie at least ten years ago and could not remember a thing about it, until I recently borrowed the DVD from my local library, to watch it again in preparation to read The Beresfords! I can hear the gasps of justified horror now, and I do apologize to the true Janeites out there. That groundwork fully laid down for you, I offer my thoroughly unqualified thoughts on Christina Dudley’s novel.

The Beresfords begins in the summer of 1985 in southern California. Many of the characters’ names are similar or reminiscent of the ones in Mansfield Park, although not all. Fanny Price is now Frannie Price, the Bertrams are now the Beresfords. Edmund is now Jonathan, and Mary is now Caroline. But as in MP, Frannie is the odd cousin of the family, taken in by her uncle, rescued from a dingy life with her addict mother, yet ostracized by her cousins and other family members. Although too young for him in 1985, Frannie deeply loves cousin Jonathan and keeps this to herself for years on end. If I understood Ms. Dudley’s writing correctly, she changed the characters a bit so that Frannie and Jonathan would not be blood relations, unlike in many 19th Century novels where attracted cousins were a non-issue. And as in Mansfield Park, Jonathan has dreams of being a minister while wrestling with his relationship with Caroline, whom Frannie knows is not his ideal mate, as she has no interest in matters of faith. The characters go through similar story arcs as the original plot, with Frannie and Jonathan growing as individuals much as they did in Mansfield Park. However, their path to the expected conclusion takes some turns that I did not expect, which made for interesting reading.

I must say that The Beresfords took a little while to grow on me. Many of the characters surrounding Frannie were simple-minded, frustrating people. Christina Dudley captured the characteristics of certain individuals that I’ve known in my life, and I don’t care to be around those types as much as I can help it. So this is a testament to Dudley’s writing—she had me engaged with these characters, even if it was on a negative level. But I really did enjoy the characters of Frannie and Jonathan, and was pleased to see the direction their lives took. I found the conclusion of the story to be immensely satisfying, and I was more than won over by the end.

Christina Dudley does not classify herself as a “Christian author”, and I don’t think that she should. Honestly, I don’t think a lot of Christian publishers would go for her style of writing, and I think that label would limit her. Christina's choice of language is real and sometimes a bit gritty, as she isn’t afraid to let the occasional four-letter word fly from characters who would certainly talk that way. I didn’t find this word usage excessive or offensive. On the contrary, it was refreshing to encounter a Christian who is not afraid to tell it like it is—both with word choice in language, and in sharing some of the habits and quirks that we Christians have in our religious communities. I more than once laughed in recognition of some of the things that go on in our churches, both positive and negative aspects. I also was edified by some of the scripture that was brought up in the story, as it spoke truth to my life while at the same time filling out the narrative. And as someone who was 14 in the summer of 1985, there were plenty of “vintage moments” that I could relate to as the story traveled through the mid-80s, 90s, and beyond. I may not have been a Frannie Price in that time period, but she encountered and experienced many of the same things I did in those developmental years.

Although I have no place to thoroughly compare The Beresfords to Mansfield Park, I can say that as a stand-alone book, The Beresfords was an enjoyable read. October 2012 has been unbelievably difficult for me personally, and I cannot tell you how many times I turned to this novel to escape my situation, even if for only for a few moments while sitting in an over-air-conditioned medical waiting room. Frannie and Jonathan’s story is at times bittersweet and unexpected, but ultimately it comes to a satisfying and well-rounded ending. Those familiar and those completely unacquainted with Jane Austen’s work will find something to enjoy in this novel. We can all relate to Frannie’s desire to be loved by her family, and in particular, her romantic love interest. Janeite or no, Christina Dudley’s readers can all sympathize with that. With that in mind, I offer my hearty endorsement to The Beresfords and hope that you add it to your wish list today.

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Book Giveaway (Sort Of)

Because of budgetary constraints, I cannot afford to offer my copy of The Beresfords in a free giveaway here on The Calico Critic.  However, I'd love to share this with one of you.  If you'd like me to send it to you and you're willing to just cover the shipping costs, just drop me a line and we can work something out.  This is such a pleasant story, and I'd love to have one of you enjoy it as well. This paragraph will be removed when the book has been assigned.







Print Edition

Kindle Edition

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Jane Austen Giveaway Hop (US)


Welcome to the next stop on the Jane Austen Giveaway Hop, sponsored by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and vvb32reads.  Throughout this hop you'll find dozens of websites giving away Austen-related literature.  For this giveaway, I have a list of items available, and the winner may choose up to THREE items from this selection, most of which are Austenesque books:

All of these items are previously used, but they're in good condition for reading/watching for years to come.  The Robin Helm books got a little worn by my post office, despite the fact that they were carefully packed when they were originally shipped. So if you don't mind a few bent pages in those volumes, then you should be fine.

Be sure to read the guidelines below, enter via the Rafflecopter widget, and good luck!

  • The contest period ends at 12:01am EST on October 25th.
  • Contest is open to U.S. entrants only.
  • Make sure you leave your email address in the one required portion of the Rafflecopter form. Should you win, I will contact you on Thursday, October 25th.  Please take measures to ensure that my email will make it past your spam filters, lest you miss my message. (CalicoCritic@gmail.com) You'll have 72 hours to respond before I pick another winner.
  • All entries must go through the Rafflecopter form. If you leave an optional blog post comment, in order for it to count toward your contest entry, be sure to indicate this through the "Leave a Blog Post Comment" button on the rafflecopter form.
  • The winner may choose up to 3 items from the prize list.  The award will be mailed via USPS Media Rate shortly after the U.S. mailing address is provided.
  • Entries will be verified.  If a fraudulent entry is detected for the winning name, another winner will be drawn.

If you can't see the Rafflecopter form below,
try clicking on the "Read more »" link

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to visit the other stops on
the Jane Austen Giveaway Hop! 



And if you're visiting The Calico Critic before 12:01am EST on October 21st, you may also enter to win a copy of the provocative new Austenesque novel, Goodly Creatures. Open internationally - three winners!






   

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Women of Faith 2012 -
An Invitation to Celebrate What Matters


Hey ladies! Has life got you harried and needing a little break?  Let me invite you to Women of Faith!  If you're able to get away on a Friday night and most of a Saturday, I highly encourage you to attend one of these fabulous conferences.  You'll laugh, cry, learn and worship with thousands of other women in assembly halls around the country.  I attended Women of Faith last year and had such a great time.  It's a marvelous weekend of rejuvenation and spiritual growth that I would recommend to anyone.

If you're in the Charlotte, NC area, join me at the Celebrate What Matters event being held at the Time Warner Cable Arena.  The lineup of speakers and artists this year looks really great!  My favorite singer, Amy Grant will be there, as well as former American Idol contestant Mandisa.  I'm also looking forward to hearing from Patsy Clairmont and Chonda Pierce, who will make your sides hurt from laughter and your heart sing from their powerful messages.  Ballet Magnificat, America's premier Christian ballet company will also be performing.  I've never seen a dance production like this at a Women of Faith event, but I'm sure it's going to be beautiful and inspiring.

If Charlotte is not a good location for you, there are many other event sites around the country.  Check out the Women of Faith website for a full listing, but here are a few upcoming dates that may be in your area:

The Plano, TX event looks really special, with its Christmas-themed music and storytelling.  There are other events continuing on into 2013, so if you can't make it this year, be sure and check it out whenever you can.  I can promise you, you will come away feeling refreshed and renewed to face life's challenges.  I don't normally gravitate towards ladies' gatherings, but Women of Faith has won me over.  They do an outstanding job in ministering to women on a large scale, and it's definitely worth the time and effort to attend.

Here's a short video with testimonies from women to attended a recent event.  You can hear in their voices how touched they were by their time there:




Here's a bit more information about Women of Faith, right from their website:

Women of Faith events are produced by the world’s largest producer of inspirational events, Live Event Management Inc., a Thomas Nelson company based in Plano, Texas. Through authentic connection with audiences, humor, an atmosphere of encouragement and support, and our line-up of world-class talent including well-known Christian authors and performers, Women of Faith delivers life-changing messages via high-quality programs in cities across North America.

If this sounds like the kind of Friday night and Saturday that you'd like to have, start praying now about attending.  For many of us, our desire to go may seem overshadowed by external forces, like taking time off of work or getting childcare for our kids.  But I can tell you that if it's the Lord's will for you attend one of these events, He can certainly make it happen.  There have been countless stories told over the years by women who overcame remarkable barriers to be there, with the Lord's hand leading the way.

And of course, if you're going to be at the Charlotte event this coming weekend, let me know-- I'd love to meet you in person!  I'll also be back here on The Calico Critic, reporting about the event and my experiences there.  2012 has been a rough year in more ways than one for me, and I am eagerly anticipating my time away.  I'm sure it's going to be great.  Hope to see you there!



      

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Book Review & Giveaway: Goodly Creatures by Beth Massey


Summarizing thoughts from Goodreads.com:

A life altering event inextricably links a fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Bennet to Fitzwilliam Darcy while simultaneously creating an almost insurmountable divide. This Pride and Prejudice deviation takes the reader on a journey through a labyrinth filled with misunderstandings, bias, guilt and fear - not to mention, laughter, animal magnetism and waltzing. As Elizabeth says, 'she shed enough tears to float one of Lord Nelson's frigates' but as she learned from her father 'unhappiness does, indeed, have comic aspects one should never underestimate.'

Though the path for our protagonists is much more arduous than canon, the benefit remains the same; a very happy Janeite ending for these two star-crossed lovers. Along the way there is retribution, redemption and reward for other characters - including a few that recall players in two grave injustices as written by Ms Austen in
Sense and Sensibility. These grievances prompted this long-time struggler for women's rights to write a tale that provided these women vindication.

*          *          *

Some Austenesque fiction is meant to be read quickly and taken in like a light, cool treat on a hot summer day.  Other derivations are less of this persuasion and more like a sumptuous, multi-course victual event.  Beth Massey’s Goodly Creatures is of the latter variety. This writer of fan fiction, women’s rights advocate and educated reader of Shakespeare has crafted a novel that many Janeites would find nourishing and entertaining, provided they can accept a certain proviso at the start.

This review will not reveal many spoiling plot points, but there is one aspect of the tale that is crucial to the reader’s enjoyment of the novel.  And as the event in question is particularly addressed in the book’s opening acknowledgments, I feel confident that Ms. Massey will not take offense at my mentioning it in my review.

All Austenesque fiction requires a bit of a leap—that moment when the author diverts from Jane Austen’s work, and the reader must choose to go along for the ride in order to enjoy the journey.  In Goodly Creatures, Elizabeth Bennet does encounter a rake as she does in the original Pride and Prejudice. However, in this iteration of the story, the rake is a different man than the scheming George Wickham.  This new villain is far more wicked, and at age 15, Elizabeth is significantly younger than the fundamental Lizzy in Austen’s work. She is young and na├»ve, and this leads to her violation by this horrific man. 

When I read in the acknowledgments that Massey was “committing a major heresy by raping Elizabeth Bennet”, I was shocked and surprised that she would take this tack in her storytelling.  However, I decided to keep an open mind to see where the story would take us.  As the author could relate to this incident personally, I didn’t think she would use the event in a gratuitous or exploitative way.  If anything, she would use this assault to speak to the issue of crimes against women, not only in the 19th century, but in our modern day as well.

Beth Massey won me over in her storytelling.  Goodly Creatures is a wonderful homage to not only Jane Austen’s work, but to Shakespeare, poetry and art. There are so many occasions when Massey fuses her work with that of so many talented writers and artists, producing a richness that is not always found in this kind of novel.  The difficult issues surrounding Elizabeth’s assault are handled with realism, but without excessive details.  No, this is not for young girls to read.  We are definitely in mature territory here.  But the themes of injustice, retribution, forgiveness and healing are so incredibly pronounced—it’s well worth the hard moments that we encounter.

Massey’s writing is extremely well crafted.  Her academic knowledge shines through, but she pairs it with excellent, accessible wording.  She takes her time with the story, with over 600 pages of text in the volume.  And while I did appreciate the fact that nothing was rushed in this epic, there were moments at the end (particularly in the Epilogue, as satisfying as it was), when I felt that the story could have been trimmed just a bit.  But this is a minor concern.  I genuinely enjoyed the vast majority of the novel.

Those looking for a serious, extended, satisfying journey with Jane Austen’s beloved characters (and a few new ones) will find an excellent read in Beth Massey’s Goodly Creatures.  With sobering subjects and a particularly depraved villain, this novel is not for the faint of heart.  However, Massey’s Pride and Prejudice diversion is well worth the journey.  I encourage those who are willing to take the leap into her vision of this story and become enveloped in it.  Like the world we live in, Goodly Creatures is tragic, difficult, and yet glorious as well.


Goodly Creatures Giveaway
(International)

Thanks to Beth Massey, we have three copies of Goodly Creatures to give away! She's offering one paperback and two e-book copies to us. Be sure to read the guidelines below, enter via the Rafflecopter widget, and good luck!


  • The contest period ends at 12:01am EST on October 21, 2012.
  • Contest is open to U.S. and International entrants. Come one, come all!
  • Make sure you leave your email address in the one required portion of the Rafflecopter form. Should you win, I will contact you on Sunday, October 21st.  Please take measures to ensure that my email will make it past your spam filters, lest you miss my message. (CalicoCritic@gmail.com) You'll have 72 hours to respond before I pick another winner.
  • All entries must go through the Rafflecopter form. If you leave a blog post comment, in order for it to count toward your contest entry, be sure to indicate this through the "Leave a Blog Post Comment" button on the form.
  • The winner's delivery information will be sent to Beth Massey for prize shipment.
  • Entries will be verified.  If a fraudulent entry is detected for the winning name, another winner will be drawn.
If you can't see the Rafflecopter form below,
try clicking on the "Read more »" link


       
*Kindle Version*                    *Print Version*




CymLowell

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Guest Post & Giveaway: Jane Odiwe of Searching for Captain Wentworth


The Calico Critic is thrilled to welcome the wonderful Austenesque writer Jane Odiwe to today's post.  We're celebrating the recent release of her work, Searching for Captain Wentworth.  My review copy just arrived, and I can't wait to dive into it!  This novel looks like a great mix of Janeite fiction and time travel-- some of my favorite literary devices!  Here's a summary of what we can expect:

When aspiring writer, Sophie Elliot, receives the keys to the family townhouse in Bath, it's an invitation she can't turn down, especially when she learns that she will be living next door to the house Jane Austen lived in. On discovering that an ancient glove belonging to her mysterious neighbour, Josh Strafford, will transport her back in time to Regency Bath, she questions her sanity, but Sophie is soon caught up in two dimensions, each reality as certain as the other. Torn between her life in the modern world, and that of her ancestor who befriends Jane Austen and her fascinating brother Charles, Sophie's story travels two hundred years across time, and back again, to unite this modern heroine with her own Captain Wentworth. Blending fact and fiction together, the tale of Jane Austen's own quest for happiness weaves alongside, creating a believable world of new possibilities for the inspiration behind the beloved novel, Persuasion.


*          *          *

Stop by The Calico Critic on October 28th for my review of Jane's work, which I'm sure will be just wonderful!  In the meantime, here are a few thoughts from her, as well as an excerpt to whet your appetite. Be sure to enter to win a copy of the book for yourself, in the Rafflecopter widget below!


Searching for Captain Wentworth:
A Tale of Love Lost in Time

There’s something about time travel that’s always held an irresistible fascination for me. Brought up on books like Tom’s Midnight Garden, The Green Knowe Books and A Traveller in Time, any escape into the past is a little like re-visiting my childhood. So, when I was thinking about what to write after Mr Darcy’s Secret, the idea that I could combine my favourite period of history with Jane Austen and time travel seemed an exciting combination.

The books I’d enjoyed in my childhood had characters travelling backwards and forwards through time and I decided this was something I’d like to try. I loved the idea of several layers of stories - in this book there are three couples with their own stories of love lost and found. I particularly enjoyed switching from the past to the present though I did experience some challenging moments!

In my childhood tales there are always objects that travel through time or treasures that are found later - it was fun deciding how and where such objects might appear and disappear in my book. Keeping track of them was tricky at times and more than once I was caught out. But, it certainly made it fun to write. I still love reading the moment in Tom’s Midnight Garden where he finds Hattie’s skates hidden under the floorboards and realises she must be real and not a ghost after all! I loved writing my own ‘moments’ and paradoxes, tying the loose ends of the past and present together. There’s a certain fantasy element to a time travel book and to really enjoy them at their best I think you need to leave all sense of the real world behind - because there is much that cannot really be explained. That’s half the fun!

Any Janeite who managed to travel back into the past would have one special wish, I think, and for most that would be to meet Jane Austen herself. My heroine Sophie becomes friends with Jane Austen and finds herself drawn to her handsome brother Charles. He is on leave after serving as a young lieutenant on the frigate, Endymion.

In this excerpt Sophie has gone back in time and she’s beginning to realise just how different living in another time can be - she’s in Sydney Gardens when she bumps into her neighbour.

*          *          *

It was then that I heard a voice calling me. ‘Miss Elliot, you are not lost, I hope.’

Charles Austen was hurrying towards me. I had to smile. ‘Lieutenant Austen, I have not yet ventured into the Labyrinth, and can safely find my way home, thank you.’

I wondered if I’d sounded rude, but I didn’t want him to think that I was a helpless female who couldn’t walk round a park without needing male assistance. He touched his hat and I thought he might walk away, but then he seemed to change his mind.

‘My sisters are clambering up Beechen cliff this afternoon,’ he said. ‘I must admit I had not the energy for such a jaunt today. I wanted peace, solitude, and a level walk.’

There was more than a hint of laughter in his voice. I wondered if he was finding it difficult being in the company of such strong-minded women after being on a ship completely dominated by men. When I thought about Mrs Austen’s apparent hypochondria and her interfering ways, I could understand why a profession that took you away from home for months and even years at a time might be such an inviting one.

‘I enjoy being on my own, and the gardens are so convenient,’ I began.

‘Do you always prefer your own company to that of being in society?’ His face looked serious for the moment, though his dark eyes twinkled as if there were some hidden secret only he delighted in.

‘Oh no, but I do love to have time to think,’ I said, knowing that this was perfectly true, ‘and I can never think so well in a room full of people as I can on my own.’

‘Your thoughts mirror my own, exactly. And even if you do manage to slip away with your thoughts in a crowded room, there is always someone who wants to know just what you are about. In my house, Miss Elliot, it is impossible to have private thoughts.’

I imagined that it would be far more difficult. At least in the twenty-first century you could be in a room full of people watching television and no one would know whether you were far away with your own thoughts or whether you were taking in everything on the screen. It was much more difficult in a time where conversation ruled the day and where you needed to be taking notice of what was being said at all times so that you could respond. I was learning how different it was to have your attention constantly demanded. Opinions were always required, and yet, I was beginning to feel that the only opinions considered worth having were those that matched everyone else’s.


*          *          *

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little taster of Searching for Captain Wentworth. I’d love to know what your favourite time travel books might be! Do you read fantasy/ time travel books now or did you have favourites as a child?

--Jane Odiwe
  


    



 Searching for
Captain Wentworth Giveaway
(International)


Sound like a book you might enjoy?  One of you can win a copy! Be sure to read the guidelines below, enter via the Rafflecopter widget, and good luck!

  • The contest period ends at 12:01am EST on September 30th, 2012.
  • Contest is open to U.S. and International entrants. Come one, come all!
  • Make sure you leave your email address in the one required portion of the Rafflecopter form. Should you win, I will contact you on Sunday, September 30th.  Please take measures to ensure that my email will make it past your spam filters, lest you miss my message. (CalicoCritic@gmail.com) You'll have 72 hours to respond before I pick another winner.
  • All entries must go through the Rafflecopter form. When you leave a blog post comment, in order for it to count toward your contest entry, be sure to indicate this through the "Leave a Blog Post Comment" button on the form.
  • The winner's mailing information will be sent to Jane Odiwe for prize shipment.
  • Entries will be verified.  If a fraudulent entry is detected for the winning name, another winner will be drawn.
If you can't see the Rafflecopter form below,
try clicking on the "Read more »" link



Want another chance to win?
Stop by this other participating blog as well:

My Jane Austen Book Club


     



CymLowell

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Firm Express -
30 Day Challenge Week 4 and Results


My four-week Firm: Express Challenge is now complete! This series has been such fun, and I'm very pleased with the improvements I've made in my fitness levels.  Thanks to these workouts, things are definitely headed in the right direction.  My short-term goal is to get to a healthy BMI of 24.9, which at my height (5'7") is 159.2 pounds.  My long-term goal is to achieve a mid-range BMI of 21.7, or 138.8 pounds.  

Health and fitness are not just about numbers on a scale or a BMI chart, so I'm not "wedded" to these figures.  They're just goals to aim for, and if I'm at least in a healthy range overall, that is the most important thing.  Other "Non-Scale Victories" for me would include:
  • Doing pushups on my toes every time, not just occasionally, and with good form
  • Not fearing THE BURPEE
  • Drinking more water (I struggle to get in 64 ounces a day)
  • Getting back into smaller-sized clothes lurking in my closet
With those goals in mind, here's the last week of reflections from my Firm: Express month-long challenge!

Week 4, Day 1 –Wednesday, August 22
 Workout – Firm: Target Toning: Zero in Ten – Track 3 – Bikini Body Blaze
Emily leads us through a tough, quick cardio routine with no equipment needed.  After only 10 minutes, I’m already sweaty.  There are plenty of leaps, hops , lunges and total-body moves.  I did pretty well keeping up, and I only had to modify a few times.  There was a full-body lunge move called “Hit the Floor” that was a near impossibility for me to get to the full range of motion, but I still pushed myself. My tuck-jumps are still weak, but I did my best.  This is a great add-on for one of those days when you might not get a lot of cardio in  other routines.


Workout – Firm Express: Pump It Up
I haven’t done this DVD since the 13th, nine days ago.  It’s still really challenging, but I’ve seen improvements.  I didn’t have to pause the video as many times, and my performance overall is improving.  The plank/jump move on the floor is still really difficult, and gets me winded every time.  I’m glad I’m mostly done with cardio today!

Equipment:  Medium weights (6 lbs)

Workout – Firm Express: Cycle 1 Ignite Sculpt

I haven’t touched this one in three weeks.  Wow—what a difference!  It’s still a challenging workout, but I really killed it!  My “mountain climbers” were so much stronger, I moved faster on the interval bursts, and overall I just did really well.  I am really spent and sweaty from all three of these videos today, put I feel really strong and healthy.  Very grateful!

(Forgot to note my equipment on this entry)

Week 4, Day 2 - Thursday, August 23
Rest Day – I took a day off today, but I did take a short walk in the woods near my house.  Nothing strenuous.

Week 4, Day 3 –Friday, August 24
Workout – Firm: Target Toning: Zero in Ten – Track 4 – ABS-solute Core
This one was slightly shorter at 9:40, but it was still tough.  I think the beginning was harder than the ending, which I found to be pretty easy.  Near the very start of the routine, we’re doing hops and burpees.  I wish I had warmed up some more before doing this.  My form wasn’t great.  Rebekah definitely works the core, with crunches, back raises, and stability moves.  Despite her beginning line of, “Get ready for your cardio workout,” this is definitely for toning.  And even though the photo in the DVD menu shows her doing a side plank, there wasn’t any of that.  This would be a good add-on if you haven’t done any core work for the day, and when you’re fully warmed up.

Equipment: Light weights (4 lbs – I could have gone heavier, though)

Workout – Firm Express: Cycle 3 TurboCharge Cardio
Just like two weeks ago on August 10th, I enjoyed this workout quite a bit.  It’s still a challenge, but just a lot of fun.  It’s not quite as high-impact as some of the other workouts, and I can really use that from time to time.  Again, the hardest move is a one-legged lateral jump, but I saw a big improvement from two weeks ago!  My right leg is still much stronger than my left, but I noticed greater strength, flexibility and an increase in movement today. I feel so good, I might even try doing this one again later today!

Equipment: One light weight (4 lbs)

Week 4, Day 4 –Saturday, August 25
Workout – Kelsie's 5-min warmup on Firm: Pump, Jump ' Jab
Did really well.  Right adductor is a bit tight.  Wish my pushups were stronger, but I’m getting there.

Workout – Firm: Target Toning – Zero in Ten – Track 5 - Bun Burn
This one was really challenging, but I liked it!  Emily does a great job incorporating new choreography with old standards.  I’d encourage you to watch it first, just to be ready for the new moves. This has a touch of cardio in it, and it does the bun burning job!

Workout – Firm Express: Cycle 2 Accelerate Cardio + Sculpt
Again, big improvement in performance since I last did this workout, back on August 7th. I’m still sweat-drenched and really breathing hard, but I feel so much stronger than last time. My form was better, and I was able to perform the V-jumps better as well. There’s a climbing/kneeling move that is a real intimidator for me, but I powered through and didn’t embarrass myself! I stuck with 6 pound weights again, but I probably could have gone to 7 pounds.  Maybe next time.  I feel like I really accomplished something with this today!

Week 4, Day 5 –Sunday, August 26
Rest Day – Did a whole lot of nothing!  It was nice to have a restful day!

Week 4, Day 6 –Monday, August 27
It's the first day of school for my boys, who are beginning 7th and 2nd grade.  It was nice to have the house to myself and to work out with no interruptions!  In the morning after I dropped them off from school, I walked home the long way, going around a lake that’s near my house. It’s about 1.2 miles—a great way to start the day.

Workout – Firm: Target Toning: Zero in Ten – Bonus Download
Rebekah leads us through a 10-minute total body routine.  She does a decent warmup, and then we hit all the major body parts.  There wasn’t any specific cardio, but the effort required to do the moves got my heart rate up.  There were all the basics:  squats, bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, pushups, planks, dips, etc.  Nothing revolutionary here, but it really covers the whole body.  A great add-on.

Equipment: Whatever medium/heavy weight you’d use for bicep curls or tricep kickbacks.  I used 8 lbs.

Workout: Firm Express: Cycle 2 Accelerate Sculpt
This one previously came up in the schedule on August 9th, eighteen days ago.  As has been common lately, I did see improvement today.  However, for some reason, my energy just wasn’t as high as I wish it could have been.  I just felt more weak somehow, like I needed a jolt of caffeine or something.  Still, I pushed as hard as I could, performed better than on August 9th, and I’m happy with my workout.  The number on the scale isn’t moving a whole lot, but I know I’m getting smaller.  People who haven’t seen me in a couple of months are noticing, and that’s great encouragement!

Equipment: Heavy weights (8 lb), medium weights (6 lb) and one light weight (4 lb)

Week 4, Day 7 –Tuesday, August 28
Workout: Firm Express: Cycle 4 Overdrive Cardio
I still felt a little  nervous about doing this 4th level (in the Firm: Express series) cardio workout, but after reviewing my notes from two weeks ago on August 14th, I knew I’d love it again.  I did about 10 minutes of warmup time on my own, just getting my body ready to move.  Thankfully, I had another great experience with this routine. It’s fun and challenging, with lots of kickboxing and movement that I can handle.  Again, the hinge-kick is still the most difficult thing for me, but I did see a bit of improvement this time.  And while I did have to pause the DVD a few times to catch my breath in between sections, I didn’t have to do it as much this time.  Honestly, the workout flew by, and I loved it!

Equipment: Light weights (4 lbs)

Workout: Firm: 5-Day Stretch, Day One
This is a really old video from the early days of the Firm.  They’ve compiled footage from a number of vintage workouts to pull together 5 days of stretching, with each day being 9 to 10 minutes long.  I felt a little tight this morning, so I wanted to end out with a nice long stretch.  The music and wardrobe in these videos is very dated, but if you can get past that late 80s feel, it’s still good material. I did Day One today, which is about 10 minutes of stretching, and I feel great!

End of Month Check In – Wednesday August 29 in the A.M.
I’ve now come to the end of my four-week Firm: Express challenge. On the morning of the 29th, I weighed in at 172.2, or another 1.2 pounds down for the week.  I also took readings with a tape measure, and while I didn’t have a massive change overall, I did see improvement.  So here’s how it all came down:


1-Aug
29-Aug
Change

Weight
177.6
172.2
-5.4

Upper Chest
37
36
-1

Bust
37
37


Midriff
32.5
32
-0.5

Upper Arm
14
14


Waist
32
31
-1

Upper Hip
35.5
36
+.5

Lower Hip
45
44
-1

Upper Thigh
27.5
27
-0.5

Mid Thigh
27.5
27
-0.5

Calf
17
16
-1



As you can see, these numbers aren’t overly dramatic, but every little positive change is one step closer to my goals.  Losing 1-2 pounds a week is generally considered to be a reasonable amount, and my loss was 1.35 pounds per week. And aside from this data, I have other victories of gained fitness—increased stamina and strength, which I can certainly build on as I continue to improve.  I truly enjoyed the workouts in the Firm: Express video collection, and they have been inspiring tools that have pushed my abilities and improved my quality of life over the last four weeks. These DVDs will certainly make repeat performances in my household, and I can’t recommend them highly enough for yours.  Take the Firm: Express challenge today!



             

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