Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Contests of the Week - December 30th

Happy New Year, all!  It's a busy giveaway time these days in the blogosphere.  Here are the latest giveaways that I've discovered!

  • Nely at All About {n} is hosting a 400 Follower Spectacular Giveaway, with a box of books for the winner!  Deadline is January 28th.

  • Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit is hosting a giveaway/interview for Abigail Reynolds'  Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy:  The Last Man in the World.  Deadline is January 11th. 

  • Natalie at Mindful Musings is celebrating her 400 followers milestone by offering all sorts of books, especially if she reaches 450 or 500 followers! Come follow her so we all can benefit, but she really does have a cool blog!  Deadline is January 20th.

  • The Bookologist is hosting a Mega 2010 Box Contest, with three boxes of books up for grabs! Deadline is January 31st.

  • Over at Bookworming in the 21st Century, Kristen is celebrating her 600 (soon to be 700) followers! She's got lots to offer, including credits at The Book Depository or Amazon! Deadline is January 15th.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

In My Mailbox - December 27

As it's the Christmas season, I've got quite a report for In My Mailbox this week.  This weekly meme is sponsored by The Story Siren and The Printed Page ("In My Mailbox"/"Mailbox Monday").  Thanks to any fellow participants who stop by The Calico Critic!  I'll do my best to get around to as many of your sites as I can this week.  The cover art of each book will be forgone this week, due to the high number of titles.

Here are the books that have arrived since December 20th, not counting Christmas gifts:

Monday the 21st - Really Woolly Bedtime Prayers by Bonnie Rickner Jensen- Amazon Vine Reviewers program
Tuesday the 22nd - The Gospel According to Lost by Chris Seay - Sent over by Thomas Nelson, publisher
Wednesday the 23rd - Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy by Sara Angelini -  Waldenbooks going-out-of-business sale  :(
Thursday the 24th - Twilight - Goodreads Swap (Thanks, Linda!)
Friday the 25th - Jumper: Griffin's Story - Bought for myself to get the free shipping on an Amazon order

Other books given to me as Christmas gifts on Friday and earlier in the season:

Red Dragon by James A. Owen (Thanks, Mom!)
Peter and the Sword of Mercy by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson  (Thanks, Mother-in Law!)
The True Darcy Spirit and The Darcy Connection by Elizabeth Aston (Thanks, Secret Santa!)
A Match for Mary Bennet by Eucharista Ward (Thanks, Blogger Secret Santa!)
Angel Time by Anne Rice (Thanks Blogger Secret Santa!)
Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice (Thanks, Blogger Secret Santa!)

It's been quite a week, and quite a season.  I really need to win the What Bri Reads contest for a new bookshelf!  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and have a happy new year this next Friday!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Contests of the Week - December 23

Every Wednesday I post the latest contests that I'm entering this week. Here are the newest giveaways that I've discovered.  Have fun!

  • Parajunkee is lending her talents and services to her blog graphics giveaway.  Get a new header, background and button!  Deadline is January 9th.

  • Tina at Tina's Book Reviews is celebrating her 150 followers (although I was #168!) by giving away $20 at The Book Depository.  Deadline is January 25th.

  • The Bibliophilic Book Blog is honoring our armed forces and giving away your choice of an E-reader or a $150 Gift Card to the bookstore of your choice. Deadline is March 1, 2010.  If you mention that I sent you (just say "@LHartness on Twitter referred me"), we both get an extra 5 entry points! Good luck!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays - December 22 - The Maze Runner

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:

"Thomas looked around one more time, the feel of the place completely different now that all the walls were solid with no way out.  He tried to imagine the purpose of such a thing, and he didn't know which guess was worse-- that they were being sealed in or that they were being protected from something out there."

p.29, The Maze Runner 

by James Dashner

Feel free to leave a comment here with any thoughts/questions about the book.  If you have a teaser to share, post it here or give us your link!  And while you're at it, share the link on MizB's site as well.  Happy reading!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

In My Mailbox - December 20

This is my first week as a participant in Story Siren's and The Printed Page's weekly memes, "In My Mailbox"/"Mailbox Monday".  Thanks to any fellow participants who stop by The Calico Critic!  I'll do my best to get around to as many of your sites as I can this week.

As far as my mailbox...I'm getting very spoiled! All sorts of things arrived this week.  It won't be long before I'll need a new bookshelf!  Here are all the lovely things that have come in since December 13th:

  • Leviathan - Prize from the Book Love Affair blog's contest.  The artwork alone won me over on this one.  Very excited about disappearing into this world.
  • How to Teach Physics to Your Dog - Sent over by Scribner/Simon & Schuster.  I'm a bit of a science geek and an animal lover.  This one just looked fun and interesting!
  • Hester: A Novel - Sent over by St. Martin's Press.  I've been enjoying lots of Jane Austen sequels and I thought this (along with Deborah Noyes' Angel & Apostle) looked interesting.  A sequel to Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.
  • The Bread of Angels - Sent over by Doubleday/Random House.  A true story about a woman who goes to Damascus to study the role of Jesus in Islam.  As Stephanie studies, she also falls in love with Frederic, a young French novice monk.  What will he choose: his monkhood or a romance with Stephanie?
  • Me & Mr. Darcy - I bought this in the Bargain Books section of the Vero Beach Book Center. Discovered a year ago (but not bought- over my limit!) in Winston-Salem's Ed McKay used book store, I was thrilled to be able to get my hands on it this year. Although it's used, it's in great condition!
  • Mr. Knightley's Diary - Also bought in the Bargain Books section at the Book Center. It looks brand new, aside from the "used" mark on the bottom of the book.
  • The Maze Runner - Prize from Alessandra of Out of the Blue.  I highly enjoyed The Hunger Games and Catching Fire this year.  The Maze Runner has received alot of buzz this year, and it's been touted as the type of book that Hunger Games fans would enjoy.  I've deliberately avoided reading too much about this story and want to remain as spoiler-free as possible until I read it.  I suspect that it will be devoured rather quickly!

That may not look like alot to some of you more experienced bloggers, but I've never had anything like this!  So many good books to read.  My television must be beginning to think I don't love it any more!

Thanks to all the contest hosts and publishers who sent these things my way.  I'll be sure to let you know when reviews are up, and many will be passed on for others to enjoy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Book Review: A Not-So-Silent Night by Verlyn D. Verbrugge

Sent to me as a complimentary copy from, A Not-So-Silent Night piqued my interest, as it presented some very interesting ideas to ponder during this Advent season.  Dr. Verlyn D.Verbrugge has written a slim yet interesting treatise that urges his readers to take another look at the birth of Christ.

Traditionally, Christmas has been celebrated as a time of joy, peace and light.  Verbrugge takes a different viewpoint.  If you consider why Christ came into the world, His birth ushered in a new era of spiritual and physical conflict.  The heralding angels should really be seen as soldiers of a heavenly army, declaring their readiness to their Commander in Chief.  Essentially, "Christmas is the beginning of war." (p.74)

While I felt that Verbrugge was a bit heavy-handed with his depiction of Christ's birth as a death-scented occasion, there were a number of points made that have made me appreciate this holiday in a deeper way.  His portrayal of the trials that Mary and Joseph had to endure as social and familial outcasts was very compelling.  I will never look at their diversion to the animals' stable in the same way again.  I also found the comparisons made between Genesis' Tree of Knowledge and Christ's cross to be very interesting.

There are many angles to the Christmas story that I have never considered before, and this concise book clearly presents them in a scriptural, deliberate way.  It is certainly worth 98 pages of reading to enhance your appreciation for what God has done for us in the birth of Christ Jesus the Messiah.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Contests of the Week - December 16

Here's my weekly post detailing contests I've entered recently.  More contests are also listed in the left hand sidebar below.

  • Robbie at is currently holding a contest for a signed copy of Beautiful Creatures. Deadline is 12/31.

  • Jennifer at Extreme Reader is giving away the first two books in the Looking Glass Wars trilogy. Deadline is January 24th.
  • Misty at Book Rat is giving away 5 books of the winner's choosing from her selection of dozens of books! Contest runs through the end of the year.

  • Jenny at Jenny Loves to Read is giving away two copies of Searching for Pemberley. Contest ends December 28th.
  • Kim at The Book Butterfly is giving away FIVE copies of The Maze Runner.  End date is 1/10/2010.
  • Stormi at Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My! is giving away a copy of The Maze Runner, tooHer holiday contests are running till the end of the first week in January.

  • Lucy at Enchanted by Josephine is hosting a guest blogger, author Mary Lydon Simonsen.  They're also giving away two copies of Mary's book, Searching for Pemberley.  Winner announced 12/23.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays - December 15

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:

"I must warn you that illness & circumstances have taken their toll.  Do not expect the same fresh-faced, short-tempered lady to waltz through your front door."  

~p.164, The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran

Feel free to leave a comment here with any thoughts/questions about the book.  If you have a teaser to share, post it here or give us your link!  And while you're at it, share the link on MizB's site as well.  Happy reading!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Movie Review - A Christmas Carol

For our date night, my husband and I decided to go see Disney's A Christmas Carol starring Jim Carrey.  Now that we're in the full swing of the Christmas season, we thought it would be fitting to go see this cinema-worthy movie.  And yes, we went for the 3D option.

The film opens with a close-up of Jacob Marley's lifeless face, coins laid upon his lowered eyelids.  This slightly unnerving 3-dimensional shot established the tone for most of the film.  Despite the casting of the usually comic Jim Carrey as Ebenezer, this is not Scrooged a la Bill Murray.  There are few, if any humorous moments to be found.  In fact, most of the film is very dark, dreary, and sometimes frightening.

Having said all this, we highly enjoyed the film.  It was a serious look into the depressing, yet redeemable life of Ebenezer Scrooge.  Dickens' original material seemed to be more important to Disney than telling a sweet, fun Christmas story.  There were moments of whimsy as the ghosts ushered Scrooge around his past, present and future life, but these moments merely advanced the plot and weren't too much of a diversion from the seriousness of the tale.  Going through these moments gave a clear vision for how Scrooge became the crotchety old man that he was.  By the time he makes his ultimate transformation, it truly felt joyful and triumphant to see him in his reformed state.

Of course, this being a Disney/Robert Zemekis production, everything was top-notch.  While the characters were not direct sketches of the artists who voiced them, their essences were deftly captured in their digital faces.  The young Scrooge especially looked like Carrey, and it was a delight to see the likeness of my favorite Regency actor, Colin Firth, show up in the face of Scrooge's nephew Fred.

Other effects, such as Scrooge's "flights" with the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present were very well done and appropriately utilized the 3D technology.  And possibly my most favorite effect was the simple falling snow-- it seemed to be almost right in front of my very eyes.

Because of the frequency of scary or intense moments, I would not recommend this film for very young children.  Possibly 12 and up would be a good age range, although I wouldn't say that this should have been rated PG-13, either.  Maybe a good litmus test would be a child's ability to read and comprehend Dickens' original novella.  This level of maturity would allow young ones to not only handle the dark moments, but appreciate the story for what it is.

Go see A Christmas Carol in theaters this Christmas season.  I'm sure the forthcoming DVD will be wonderful, but this one's worthy of your time and money to see on the big screen.  Bravo to Jim Carrey and the rest of the cast for their voice work, and to Disney for creating a realistic and entertaining iteration of this classic tale.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Contests of the Week - December 9

Here are some contests I'm entering this week.  You might want to as well!
  • Teddyree at The Eclectic Reader is having a really nice book giveaway that will include 2 winners! Deadline is 1/31/2010.

  • Kaye at Pudgy Penguin Perusals is giving away a copy of The Piano Teacher. Deadline is 12/20 at 5pm.

  • At Sharon Loves Books and Cats, Sharon is giving away 2 books and swag from the Strand bookstore. I almost hesitate to blog about this one, because I love the Strand and totally want to win!  Someday, when I'm rich and famous (haha), I'm going to live in New York and frequent this shop!  Deadline is January 2nd.

  • At Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My!, Stormi is having a number of nice giveaways!  They're running till the end of the first week in January.
Day 13: Book Depository giveaway. Win a book worth less than $10. 

    • At An Island Life, Kailani is giving away a copy of the CD Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas.  Deadline is 12/15.

    • At Austenesque Reviews, Meredith is giving away a copy of Searching for Pemberley. Deadline is 12/16.

    • At A Passion for Books, Casey is giving away a book off your wishlist!  Deadline is 12/31.

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    Secret Santa: My Book Blogger Package Arrived!

    This was my first year participating in the Book Blogger Holiday Swap. I had such a good time buying the gifts and putting together the box for my Santee.  I hope I made good choices!  As far as my own Secret Santa, they did a great job with their gifts to me.  I was having a melancholy kind of day, and when I pulled into my driveway this afternoon, I saw a package on my front porch. I was delighted to see that it was from my Santa in Nebraska, whoever you are!  I kept my four year-old at bay by plopping him down with the Grinch and settled in to open my box.

    Santa, you did a great job with your choices!  All three books that you sent are ones that I want to read.  Actually, I already started Angel Time, but it's a library copy that I have to return soon.  Now I have a copy that I can keep indefinitely!  So happy.  And you can't go wrong with another recent Anne Rice novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.  That's another one on by TBR list.

    I was emailing with a publisher rep today and they made a comment: "I'm not sure that anyone would want to win an ARC."  Oh no, book bloggers love ARCs!  And in this box was a lovely one from Sourcebooks, A Match for Mary Bennet. Yum, yum!  Great choice!

    To keep my place in these books, there was also enclosed two cute bookmarks that this animal lover will enjoy.  And Santa kept their identity secret in their greeting card, too.

    Speaking of animals...the cat who inspired the name of my blog took a liking to my box & gifts. I'm not sure if it was the scent of the Nebraska air or if my Santa has pets at home...but Callie decided that she must rub her scent all over the books, box...everything!  She practically had a make-out session with it all.  So I guess that makes two of us who enjoyed today's treats.

    Santa, thank you so much for participating in the program this year.  You've really made my day!

    Saturday, December 5, 2009

    Book Review: Blackout by Jason Elam & Steve Yohn

    (Abridged version of this review here on Barnes & Noble)

    Jason Elam, a former Super Bowl champion and pilot, with Steve Yohn, a Christian writer and speaker have teamed up for another installment in their Riley Covington thriller series.  This third novel is Blackout, featuring the professional footballer Riley Covington and his adventures with (believe it or not) the U.S. Secret Service.

    While on vacation from the Professional Football League, Riley is whisked away from his Alaskan retreat due to an imminent threat to the security of the United States and the world.  En route to meet with the President, this former Air Force Special Ops member is briefed on the details by his friend and former Special Forces partner Scott Ross.  An Islamic terrorist group is working with North Korea to deliver two electromagnetic-pulse (EMP) bombs to the U.S.  Covington, Ross and other specialists are called on by the government to thwart these attacks.

    Before receiving the complimentary Advance Reader Copy of this novel from Tyndale House Publishers, I was unaware of the Riley Covington series.  The premise sounded interesting—a pro football player who’s a little bit of a James Bond on the side.  It certainly isn’t very believable, but that wasn’t the point of the book.  I believe the goal of the authors was to write an interesting, page-turning thriller that could appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike.

    For the most part, I believe that Elam and Yohn achieved their goal.  Blackout presents a troubling premise that could feasibly happen at some time in the future.  The date of September 11th plays a significant role in the plot, giving some of the incidents in the story a chilly realism. It’s really only by God’s grace that we have as much security in the world today as we do.  Things could be so much worse, and the events of this book clearly illustrate this.

    There were several times during the last third of the story when I had a hard time putting the book down.  The narrative was very interesting and seemed to be derived from a typical Hollywood thriller.  There were moments of heroism, plenty of technology and a nail-biting ending.  The authors have clearly seen an adventure movie or two in their time.  And while the book was heavy on the testosterone, this female reader appreciated the chaste romantic subplot that was included in the story. 

    As a Christian, I also enjoyed the interjection of the faiths of many of the characters.  The Christians were portrayed as earnest, yet imperfect in their faith.  They weren’t overly preachy, but they occasionally shared how Christianity and scripture mattered in their crazy lives.  It was also interesting to see the Islamic terrorists’ side of the story, occasionally profiled in several chapters.  As author Jason Elam is a student of Christian apologetics and takes an interest in Middle East affairs, I believed the portrayal of these types of characters. 

    The only major qualm I have with the book is the distracted nature of some of the writing.  Elam and Yohn write well when they’re focused on the suspenseful portions of the story.  However, they frequently get caught up in trying to offer too much comic relief.  I enjoy a chuckle to break the tension in a pulse-pounding story.  This is why I like the sidebar humor in the movie National Treasure.  It shows that we can take the calamity with a grain of salt and just enjoy the ride.  In the case of Blackout, I felt the comedy came too often and in inappropriate times.  If half of it had been cut, there would have been a perfect combination of tension and humor.

    While there are moments that women will enjoy, this certainly seems geared toward the manly set.  And due to some of the inherent violence in the events of the story, parents might want to save this one for elder teen boys.  However, the writers do keep it clean with no direct quoting of cursing and the limitation of certain graphic details.  Football fans will also be entertained, getting plenty of behind the scenes moments, drawn from Elam’s 17 years of NFL experience.

    Overall, this novel was a fun ride.  It’s easy to envision it on the big screen and it would be great if Jason and Steve got that opportunity.  I anticipate reading the next book in the series and would like to read their previous editions as well.  This Christian, football-watching, adventurous pilot’s wife is looking forward to more Riley Covington adventures!


    Friday, December 4, 2009

    Secret Santa: My VF Santa's Package Arrived!

    In addition to participating in the Book Bloggers Holiday Swap, I also participated in a Secret Santa gift swap with, also known as VF. This website is one of the best places to go to interact with other "vidiots", as we call ourselves.

    Surprisingly, my secret Santa is also from South Florida! She was so sweet and sent me two Jane Austen-themed novels and a workout video that had been on my wish list. And she also enclosed a cute little angel bear ornament too! I'm keeping the note/tag on the bear to remind me of my VF Santa in the years to come. Here they are above, her generous items perched on my fitness video shelf.

    If you'd like to participate in the VF Secret Santa program for 2010, create a free account on Keep an eye out in the General Discussion area of the Member Forum to sign up in the fall. I missed it last year, so I was very excited to make the deadline this year and have fun shopping for my VF Santee as well!

    Thanks again, Secret Santa!

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    Giveaways & Hello Technorati

    I just discovered the Queen of Happy Endings blog.  So pretty and right up my alley!  Not only that, Alaine is having a great giveaway.  Go take a look and enjoy all the color on this blog!

    And here's another giveaway over on on Book Crazy - get yourself a treat for Christmas!

    On a side note, I just joined Technorati, so they'll be looking for this code: ZFAUF59TNSEM  

    I hope everyone survived Thanksgiving with all the trimmings, travel and treasured time with family!


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