Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book Review: The King's Daughter by Christie Dickason

Welcome to the next stop on the TLC Book Tour for The King's Daughter!

The King's Daughter: A NovelThe daughter of James I, the Princess Elizabeth would not be merely her father’s pawn in the royal marriage market.

The court of James I is a dangerous place, with factions led by warring cousins Robert Cecil and Francis Bacon. While Europe seethes with conflict between Protestants and Catholics, James sees himself as a grand peacemaker—and wants to make his mark by trading his children for political treaties.

Henry, Prince of Wales, and his sister, Elizabeth, find themselves far more popular than their distrusted father, a perilous position for a child of a jealous king. When Elizabeth is introduced to one suitor, Frederick, the Elector Palatine, she feels the unexpected possibility of happiness. But her fate is not her own to choose—and when her parents brutally withdraw their support for the union, Elizabeth must take command of her own future, with the help of an unexpected ally, the slave girl Tallie, who seeks her own, very different freedom.

About Author Christie Dickason

Christie Dickason, Harvard-educated, is a former theater director and choreographer with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She is the author of The Firemaster’s Mistress and lives in London with her family.

Find out more about Christie and her other books at her website.

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In Christie Dickason's The King's Daughter, princess Elizabeth is caught in a world of power and politics, like most royal children.  Born in 1596, she is frequently seen as a game piece in a figurative royal chess match. To those in charge, her feelings are unimportant-- she will be married off to someone of her father's choosing, and she is not permitted ambitions of her own.  In fact, any hint of ambition is seen as a serious threat to her father.  But Elizabeth ultimately doesn't accept this reality.  She yearns for love, both romantic and familial.  Over the years she learns her royal position and is taught to never seek true happiness. With her friend and servant Thalia, she fights for what she desires as well.

The King's Daughter is a well written piece, clearly well researched for accurate details of British history. Christie Dickason's style is very poetical, using many metaphors and word pictures to craft her story.  She occasionally breaks away for brief chapters where a singular character gives voice to their thoughts and cares, almost like a journal entry or therapeutic confessional.  It brings an interesting perspective to the story, which is predominantly told in the first person, from Elizabeth's view.

Like much historical fiction, Daughter recounts documented moments in time as well as the real people who lived in that era. It could have easily been presented in a dry, textbook fashion, or it could have been overloaded with details that were nonessential to the plot.  This was certainly not the case here.  Dickason has done a wonderful job in combining fact, a little bit of fiction and artistic talent in her recounting of Elizabeth's experience.  Readers will be transported to that time, but they will also enjoy a rich story with an almost dream-like quality.  This is historical fiction worth reading.

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To enjoy other stops on The King's Daughter TLC Book Tour, click here for a full listing.


This title was provided by TLC Book Tours.
No obligation other than an honest review was required


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Book Review: The Christmas Chronicles by Tim Slover

The Christmas Chronicles: The Legend of Santa ClausDuring the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas, as well as the feeling of wonder that we had as children.  As Christ came into the world to give us eternal life, He’s also given us blessings to enjoy every day. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)  And while I believe the mythology of Santa Claus has unfortunately eclipsed the reality of Christ’s birth in many people’s lives, I still believe there is much to be enjoyed and valued in this jolly character. 

Along with Advent devotional reading, Christmas novelettes are a great way to celebrate the season and capture the wonder of it all.  Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is always a great classic, and in recent years I’ve also enjoyed Kringle by Tony Abbott.  This year I discovered The Christmas Chronicles: The Legend of Santa Claus by Tim Slover.  It joins the many origin tales that have been written about this beloved figure.

After a short present-day prologue, the story begins in the 14th Century with Santa (or “Klaus” as he is termed here) as a young, red-haired man.  Tragedy strikes his village, and he begins anonymous gift giving to lift the spirits of downtrodden children.  A powerful villain enters the picture,  but a greater, sparkling and fanciful magic becomes a part of Klaus’ life as well.  His wife has a key role in this story, too—she is by no means in the background. Together they build a life that ultimately blesses the whole world, continuing on to this day.

The Christmas Chronicles was a delight to read, and an interesting take on Santa’s beginnings. The magic is cheery and bright, and the evil, while very real, doesn’t overpower the story.  With fast-turning pages that number at less than 200, The Christmas Chronicles could easily be read on a day off during the holidays.  It would also be a great choice to read a chapter a night when you tuck your children into bed.  This is certainly a fun little stocking stuffer for all those who want to rediscover the magic of days gone by.  Add it to your wish list to Santa today.

This title was provided by the Vine program.
No obligation other than an honest review was required.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Book Review: The Legacy of Pemberley by Rebecca Ann Collins

The Legacy of Pemberley: The acclaimed Pride and Prejudice sequel series (The Pemberley Chronicles; Pride and Prejudice Sequel Series)From

In the final installment of The Pemberley Chronicles, Rebecca Ann Collins transports readers for the final time to the halls of Pemberley and into the lives of Pride and Prejudice's most beloved characters. Darcy and Elizabeth, after fifty happy years of marriage, find their love for each other as strong as ever, but all is not well at Pemberley and Netherfield. When a crisis requires Elizabeth, Darcy, Jane, and Bingley to leave for Italy, they'll see just how well the next generation steps up to carry on and prove that the bonds of love and family are strong enough to weather any challenge.

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As mentioned in my previous Collins review, A Woman of Influence, I’m a bit of a latecomer to The Pemberley Chronicles.  I began the series with the final two volumes, so my perspective is a bit skewed.  However, I feel that my view of Ms. Collins’ work can provide a specialized opinion for others who find themselves beginning as late as I have.

The Legacy of Pemberley
picks up after the events in the previous novel, but the focus is not on that book’s main character, Becky Collins. In fact, the focus doesn’t remain on one character throughout.  The volume is sectioned into three parts, with each subdivision having its own theme:

  • Part One: Emily’s Children
  • Part Two: Solitary Lives
  • Part Three: The Inheritance

While these plotlines are somewhat separated, they are interconnected with the many friends and family that make up Rebecca Collins’ post-Pride & Prejudice world.  As the tenth volume in this series, Legacy exudes a feeling of history, with many lives growing, changing and experiencing much of what their world has to offer over many decades. 

There are of course sweet romances between young lovers, but long-established relationships are celebrated as well.  Some ties have ended due to those who have passed away, but they are never forgotten and beloved far beyond the grave. Some spouses never get over their love and remain unmarried for the rest of their lives. Yet some are brave enough to offer their hearts, after many years of healing have passed.  They face a difficult decision as they cherish their past yet want to move on into the future.  For some it leads to a grand new life and for some, there is rejection.

Drama makes an appearance a few times in Legacy.  The lands near Pemberley become threatened by developers, powerful men who take away land and all that is tied to it, just for their comfort and financial gain.  Some of the nearby residents have seemingly no way to combat this threat, and even I had no idea how they could conquer these aggressive bullies. The moments in that story line were very interesting.  As in our modern world, real estate development can be a nasty business.

In another storyline, Georgiana’s daughter Virginia is a bit of a spoiled princess who brings drama wherever she goes.  Like many in Legacy, she is mourning the loss of a loved one, but she takes the opportunity to not only mourn but poison the air around her.  She was a very unlikable character, and I just loved that.  Ms. Collins truly was able to get my ire up while reading about Virginia.  She reminded me a bit of Lydia, Elizabeth Bennet Darcy’s sister.

Elizabeth and her dear Darcy are within the pages of The Legacy of Pemberley, but as they are now advanced in age, 50 years into their marriage, they take a back seat to the next generation of Darcys, Gardiners and others within the shadow of Pemberley and its surrounding influence.  I wish I had seen more of these characters, but it was understandable that it was time to introduce new characters for the next generation.

As a latecomer to The Pemberley Chronicles, I can honestly say that I think I would have enjoyed the novel more if I’d read the entire series.  The interconnections between friends and family are so deep, the Appendix with its helpful character descriptions wasn’t enough for me to appreciate everyone and keep their histories straight. 

However, the stories themselves are interesting, regardless of how each character is related to another.  As I disregarded each character’s connection to Pride and Prejudice and just read each episode as its own unique story, I relaxed and was able to truly enjoy each moment. The narratives are lovely, providing a fitting end to this amazing series.

If you haven’t started The Pemberley Chronicles yet, I do recommend beginning with Book 1, also entitled The Pemberley Chronicles. There are so many references to past events in Legacy, I frequently wished that I could have had the opportunity to enjoy The Chronicles from the outset.

Having said that, Legacy on its own was very enjoyable.  Much like its predecessor A Woman of Influence, this final installment reads like a smooth walk by a stream.  It’s soft, quiet, yet always moving and not dull by any means.  It sparkles and soothes at the same time.  There may be an occasional dramatic bump or two, and this only adds to the experience. If the The Legacy of Pemberley is any example, it reveals that author Rebecca Ann Collins has brought her readers on quite a journey, one that has individually enjoyable stops along the way.  I’m glad I came along on this sojourn, and I look forward to coming back around to its start as well.

This title was provided to me by Sourcebooks Landmark.
No obligation other than an honest review was required.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wednesday Contest Report - December 22

Here's my semi-regular Wednesday Contest Report, where I spotlight contests that I'm entering around the blogosphere these days. Some of them might appeal to you as well. Check them out!

  • Ben over at Best Fantasy Books is having a great giveaway-- you could win a Kindle, or a $50 Amazon GC or The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.  Prize will be given away by January 4, 2011.  Here's the link:

Best Fantasy Books 2010 Amazon Kindle Contest Giveaway!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Today's Workout: - TransFirm Your Trouble Zones

Kettlebell workouts have become very popular in recent years, providing a great workout using a single handled weight. The Firm has issued a DVD/Kettlebell kit as their contribution to this trend. The kit includes a 5-pound kettlebell and the workout DVD TransFirm Your Trouble Zones with 3 options: A 46 minute routine, the 23 minute “express” version, and a 7 minute core workout, all presented by Firm Master Instructor Kelsie Daniels.

I did the shorter express routine a few months ago when I was 20 pounds heavier than I am now. It’s made up of seamless clips from the full 46 minute workout. At that time, this short routine really sapped all of my energy and I could barely do the core workout as an add-on. It was a good workout, but it really kicked my tail. So to be honest, I’ve been a little afraid to even try the longer, full workout. Today I finally swallowed my fear, had plenty of carbs at lunch and did the longer routine. So here’s the full review:

Based on my previous experience, I decided to do the core workout first today. I expected to be completely flattened by the end of the long routine, probably incapable of doing even 7 minutes of core work. I’m glad I went with this plan—the core workout was much more doable for me this time. I still can’t do side planks up on two feet yet, but overall I was able to do this almost as a warm up. Kelsie does the entire routine on the floor, doing some traditional ab/core work, but also incorporating the kettlebell in several of the moves. It’s a good add-on for those days when you want to hit your core a little more.

Then came the full workout. Kelsie starts out with a warm-up period, getting your whole body loose, prepping you to handle the kettlebell. The main section of the workout relies heavily on classic training moves—there are lots of lunges, squats and dips. Of course there are the signature weight-swinging moves found in most kettlebell workouts. Easier options are always demonstrated by fellow castmember and instructor Allison Davis McClain on the right side of the screen. I was able to perform quite a bit of Kelsie’s work, but I frequently deferred to Allison, especially on higher impact moves that required me to get my entire body off the ground!

Kelsie alternates between sections of mostly weight-training moves and intervals of pure cardio. After the main section of the workout, she does a bit of ab/core training. There are the traditional crunches, but there’s this Turkish-standup move that is REALLY challenging! It basically takes you from lying flat on the ground to completely standing up. Talk about working the entire body! Then Kelsie concludes with a cool-down/stretch period, which is very essential.

I must admit that I did better today than I expected. Yes, I was quite tired at the end and had sweat literally dripping off my nose even after the cool-down, but I did it! I think being in better shape this month helped, and doing the short ab/core routine first was a good idea.

This is a great workout, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’d like to try a kettlebell routine for the first time. It’s not heavy on the “fun” factor, but that’s not the point of the DVD. This is designed for a fairly serious training session, hitting all areas repeatedly over the 46 minutes. I would not recommend this to beginners who are very out of shape and/or overweight. My extra weight a few months ago made it really tough. Today however, I felt like I really accomplished something and now have less fear of the longer routine. The next time I really want to push myself, I’ll be popping TransFirm Your Trouble Zones into my player!

Thanks to for providing this product. Unfortunately this item is not available any longer on their site, but you can purchase similar Firm products from them here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest Begins January 1, 2011

In conjunction with the publication of the new anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, Ballantine Books,, and The Republic of Pemberley are pleased to announce an online short story contest.  Enter for a chance to win the Grand Prize: publication of your entry in the anthology – a collection of original short stories inspired by the life and works of popular English novelist Jane Austen (1775-1817).  Hosted by the Jane Austen web site The Republic of Pemberley, the contest begins on January 1, 2011. Publication of Jane Austen Made Me Do It is tentatively scheduled for publication by Ballantine in Fall 2011.

Contest Highlights

  • Eligibility: Previously unpublished U.S. residents over the age of 18
  • Entries must be approximately 5,000 words in length
  • Manuscript submission January 1 – February 13, 2011
  • Voting for the Top Ten finalists February 14 - 28, 2011
  • Top Ten finalists announced on March 1, 2011
  • One Grand Prize winner receives $500.00 and a contract for publication in the anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It
  • Grand Prize winner announced Fall 2011 in conjunction with the official release by Ballantine Books (Random House, Inc.) of Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Jane Austen Made Me Do It contains more than twenty best-selling and popular authors who have contributed short stories inspired by Jane Austen, her novels and her philosophies of life and love. From historical continuations of her plots and characters to contemporary spinoffs and comedies, the stories encapsulate what we love about our favorite author: romance, social satire and witty humor. Contributing to the line-up are best-selling authors Karen Joy Fowler (The Jane Austen Book Club), Adriana Trigiani (Brava, Valentine), Lauren Willig (The Pink Carnation series), Laurie Viera Rigler (The Jane Austen Addict series), Syrie James (The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen), Stephanie Barron (Being A Jane Austen Mystery series), and the husband and wife writing team of Frank Delaney (Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show) and Diane Meier (The Season of Second Chances). Many Austenesque authors and others from related genres have also contributed stories to the project. One spot in the anthology remains open for the lucky Grand Prize winner.

The anthology’s editor, Laurel Ann Nattress of, is very excited at the prospect of discovering the next star in the burgeoning sub-genre of Jane Austen sequels and inspired books. “Jane Austen has been inspiring writers for close to two hundred years. It seems quite fitting that she should be the witty muse of our anthology and short story contest. Encouraging writing and discovering new talent is in spirit with her true legacy. I am ‘all anticipation’ of what will develop, and am honored to be part of the selection team.”

Visit the official Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest web page for official contest rules and eligibility requirements.  Best of luck to all entrants.

“[S]uppose as much as you chuse; give a loose to your fancy, indulge your imagination in every possible flight which the subject will afford.” Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 60

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy 235th Birthday Jane Austen!

On December 16, 1775, the beloved author Jane Austen was born.  To celebrate her birthday, Sourcebooks is offering free gifts to fans of Jane's work.  Below is information from Sourcebooks, detailing the promotion and all the goodies. All you need is an e-reader or compatible software for your computer.  I will post hyperlinks to each title as I have time today.

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Sourcebooks, the world’s leading publisher of Jane Austen fiction, is offering a unique deal to readers who want to celebrate Jane by reading special editions of all six of Austen’s beloved novels in a 21st century format.

Special e-book editions of Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion and Mansfield Park will be available for free Thursday & Friday only. These celebratory editions include the full novels, plus the legendary color illustrations of the Brock brothers, originally created to accompany the books in 1898.

In addition to the Jane Austen classics, readers can also enjoy these bestselling Austen-inspired novels. The following bestselling e-books will be free on December 16th & 17th in honor of her birthday:

Eliza’s Daughter by Joan Aiken
The Darcys & the Bingleys by Marsha Altman
Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll
What Would Jane Austen Do? by Laurie Brown
The Pemberley Chronicles by Rebecca Ann Collins
The Other Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview
Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange
Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan
Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy by Abigail Reynolds

Available wherever eBooks are sold.

Having technical difficulties?  BREAKING NEWS FROM SOURCEBOOKS!

10:58am EST

A note from Beth at Sourcebooks:

Let me tell you now that iBooks and Google books currently has everything correct.

Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Sony are currently working to get their prices adjusted. They should be correct shortly. will also have our books and the illustrated versions available for free within the next hour!

Because of this confusion we want to celebrate Jane Austen’s birthday an extra day! This offer will be good tomorrow (Dec 17th) as well.

Again I am sorry for the confusion and thank you for being patient!

Thank you!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wednesday Contest Report - December 15

Here's my semi-regular Wednesday Contest Report, where I spotlight contests that I'm entering around the blogosphere these days. Some of them might appeal to you as well. Check them out!

  • Kat at A Myriad of Books is giving away Incarceron and Sapphique by Catherine Fisher.  Deadline to enter is December 28th.  Here's the link:

  • Sniffly Kitty is celebrating all her new followers with a book giveaway!  Winner gets their pick of a book $10 or under from Amazon or Book Depository.  Deadline to enter is Jan 13, 2011.  Here's the link:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Calico Critic Visits the Jane Austen Centre Online Magazine

Recently I was contacted by Laura Boyle of the The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England.  She enjoyed my review of A Darcy Christmas and is including it in the latest update of the Jane Austen Centre Online Magazine. The article is located in the Media Reviews section, along side other pieces written by such contributors as Jane Odiwe, Laurel Ann Nattress and Margaret C. Sullivan.

You may not need to read my review again, but I encourage you to check out the Centre's website if you're a fan of Jane Austen or the Regency era.  There's so much more to offer there beyond the book reviews.  You'll find departments like Regency fashion, history, Jane Austen videos and more.  And if you're in the mood for a splurge, you can subscribe to their print magazine as well. Some of us may not be able to cross the Pond to visit Bath, but we can take a mini-holiday within the many pages of this excellent site!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Secret Santa: My Book Blogger Package Arrived!

This was my second 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!

When I opened my mailbox today and found a festive Charlie Brown-themed padded envelope, I giggled knowing what was in store.  I rushed into the house to enjoy the package before my children came home from school.

My Santa gave me some really nice treats!  I love ARCs, and they chose two that I definitely want to read.  First is Impossible by Nancy Werlin.  I recently won a copy of Extraordinary in a giveaway on Flippin' Fabulous (thanks Stacey!), and I was hoping to read Werlin's Impossible first.  Santa must have peeked at my wishlist!

Next is another ARC, Halo by Alexandra Adornetto.  I'd been meaning to add this to my TBR/Wishlist on Goodreads, but never got around to it.  My Santa somehow knew I'd be interested in this one.  Good job!

Lastly is a lovely Christmas ornament-- a pretty sparkly red bird.  Red is my favorite color and is the primary shade of the decorations on my tree.  Aside from the homemade ornaments and the ones from Hallmark, the rest of the tree decorations are red.   A perfect fit!

Thanks to the folks over at Book Blogger Holiday Swap for arranging all of the gift-giving.  I had such a good time putting the package together for my "Santee" and hope she enjoys the treats as much as I've enjoyed mine!  And to my Secret Santa in Connecticut, thanks so much, and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Book Review: Salting Roses by Lorelle Marinello

Welcome to the next stop in the TLC Book Tour
for Lorelle Marinello's Salting Roses!

Salting Roses: A NovelFrom the ARC's back cover:

Gracie Lynne Calloway-- once left on a coal bucket on a front porch in a small southern Alabama town-- discovers on her twenty-fifth birthday that she is the kidnapped daughter of a late New England financier and heiress to a fortune.  When the tabloid press and her unwanted greedy relatives descend on her, she has to admit the quiet secure life she's known and loved is gone for good.  As Gracie struggles to stabilize her world and come to terms with her new identity, she learns that belonging is not about where you come from but who you are.

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I’ve always been partial to Cinderella stories.  And while Salting Roses isn’t a textbook Cinderella retelling, it does have the delight, romance, conflict and transformation found in that type of tale.

Gracie Calloway’s predicament seems incredible— she is an heiress to a multi-million dollar fortune, kidnapped as an infant, raised in a small Alabama town, completely unaware of her true identity.  Eventually her past catches up with her.  She’s forced to choose between her old life in the country and a possible new life with the rich and famous.  Millions of dollars would be a welcome inheritance for many, but not for Gracie.  She loves her simple life, away from the high-handed world she could be abiding in Connecticut as "Katherine Hammond".  But if she turns her back on the fortune, the money will surely be squandered by foolish and lecherous family members. Or she could dump it all on the secondarily-named beneficiary—Sam Fontana, the charming and handsome friend of the family who doesn’t want the overwhelming fortune for himself either.  Predicaments abound!

Lorelle Marinello
I really enjoyed Lorelle Marinello’s debut work.  The story was fun, suspenseful, heart-tugging and even philosophical at times.  I found myself placing notes on pages with interesting quotes.  Her characters were entertaining as well—they were colorful without being over the top or stereotyped.  I especially liked Gracie’s friends and loved ones.  They truly cared about her, often expressing that love through tough-talk and heartfelt lectures. Of her multiple caregivers, one in particular is notably wise, ministering and has a poignant journey of his own.

Gracie was an interesting figure.  She was part tough-girl who loved baseball and could stand up for herself in almost any situation.  Yet when it came to matters of the heart—how she felt about her family, her love life and how she saw herself—she could be insecure and as emotional as any woman around her.  I liked that she was smart and didn’t let her emotions rule her life, yet she was sensitive and caring to others.  When the inheritance comes, she’s more interested in figuring out how she’s going to give it to people in her community than how to use it for herself.

Salting Roses is a relationship story, but it also has touches of mystery to it.  Almost until the very end, family and community secrets are revealed that change Gracie’s perspective in dramatic ways.  The puzzle that is her life has many unforeseen pieces missing, and as they start to fall into place, the story somehow becomes more complex and yet culminating at the same time.  It makes for a very intriguing and page-turning read.  If I had a day alone to myself, I could have easily read this in one long sitting!

While romance is not the main theme of the novel, it does take up a significant portion of the plot.  When Gracie’s love interest was presented, I anticipated a frequently used and clich├ęd plot device to come into play.  Fortunately, Ms. Marinello did not go the way of many romantic comedies or made-for-TV movies. She chose a slightly different route, which was so refreshing.  Overall I enjoyed this storyline, and aside from a couple of moderately steamy love scenes, details of Gracie’s relationship were kept pretty clean.

I applaud Lorelle Marinello for her first novel.  Salting Roses was a treat to read, and I look forward to other works which may come from this new author.  Perhaps a sequel?  If so, I’ll be there!

Visit the other stops on the Salting Roses TLC Book Tour!

Lorelle's Website:

This title was provided by TLC Book Tours.
No obligation other than an honest review was required


Monday, December 6, 2010

Contest Results - Holiday Hop Giveaway 2010

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Well after hundreds of entries counted (and re-counted!), we have a winner!  On December 4th Rae Pavey of Throuthehaze Reads commented that she follows me on Twitter.  This was the winning entry.  Congratulations to Rae-- I hope the $10 Gift Card can help supplement an Amazon splurge!

Thanks to all who entered-- what a great holiday hop!  Stay tuned for more giveaways in the future, and of course come back next year.  I'd love to do the Holiday Hop again!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Contest Results - "What's in the Bible" DVD and CSN Shelves

Congrats to Marina of Energizer Bunny's Mommy Reports and Monique of Show Me Mama, winners of our latest giveaways!  Marina won a DVD from What's in the Bible? and Monique won a set of shelves from CSN Stores! And don't forget!  Tonight is the last chance to enter to win a $10 gift card in the Holiday Gift Giveaway Hop! You've got until 11:59pm EST.  Click HERE to enter!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday Hop Giveaway 2010

Holiday Gift Giveaway HopIt's that time of year!  Welcome to the next stop in the Holiday Hop, this year sponsored by Simply Stacie, My Wee View, Little Yayas and Stockpiling Moms.  The blogs in this hop are spreading Christmas cheer to our readers.  My giveaway is a $10 Amazon gift card, awarded through email.  The GC will be coming through the American, so as long as you can receive and use that type of card, you're eligible!

To enter to win, all you have to do is leave a comment with your email.  If you'd like to keep your email private, just write me at  You'll still need to leave a comment here for your basic entry, though.  All entries can be put in one comment or in separate comments-- whatever works for you. Just please make sure that in at least one of your entries you've included your email.  The deadline to enter is 11:59pm on December 5th.

Be sure to enable my email ( to make it past your spam filter so that you can be reached if you win.

Bonus Entries - Not Required

  • Follow my blog through Google Friend Connect.  Let me know what your username is so that I can find your name in the group roster.
  • "Like" my group on Facebook.  In the FB search box, just type in The Calico Critic and we pop right up.  In your comment, let me know what your FP name is so I can find you on the group roster to verify.
  • Follow me on Twitter (@LHartness) and give me your Twitter name
  • Tweet about the contest.  You may do this as often as you like until the end of the contest period, with at least 1 hour separating each tweet.  Report back here with the permalink of each individual tweet.  Please include my Twitter name (@LHartness) and a link back here in your blog. 

Good luck to all the entrants!  Check out Simply Stacie, My Wee View, Little Yayas and Stockpiling Moms for more giveaways in the hop. There are over 200!!


**Update Comment:  It's now Day 3 of the Hop, and the response has been overwhelming!  Please know that I'm posting each entry after checking for spam.  So if your comment doesn't show up right away, never fear.  I'll get to you as soon as I'm able.  I'm in the Eastern Time Zone, so if you post a comment at 2am my time, it could be 6 hours or so before I can get to you. Or longer, depending on how much attention my 3 monkeys need in my "real life".  Regardless, thanks for the great response and I wish you all good luck!**

Merry Christmas!

Jesus Christ-- The Ultimate Gift

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders. 
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 

Isaiah 9:6

May His peace be in your heart during this holiday season,
during the rest of your days and on into Eternity...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Book Review: The Passionate Brood by Margaret Campbell Barnes

The Passionate Brood: A Novel of Richard the Lionheart and the Man Who Became Robin HoodWritten in the mid 1940's, The Passionate Brood by Margaret Campbell Barnes returns to publication by Sourcebooks Landmark.  The brood mentioned in the title is that of the Plantagenets of England, a group of royal family members who love each other, yet quarrel frequently and passionately.  Of the Plantagenets, King Richard, his sister Johanna and their foster-brother Robin are the main figures of the novel.  Robin isn’t a royal, but he is considered a part of the family and counsel to many in power.  He later goes on to become a man of lore, Robin Hood.

Ms. Barnes recounts many events during the 12th century, mostly during the reign of Richard I, also known as “Richard the Lionheart”.  Brood begins before Richard becomes king, and we see many of the main characters in their days of youth.  They’re fledgling royals, still fresh and unscarred by life and battle.

The novel carries us through decades of time, as Richard is crowned, politically advantageous weddings are arranged, romance leads to years of waiting, and many passionate outbursts lead to hasty decision-making.  Somehow a few tragic incidents are redeemed with brighter outcomes, with the “creation” of Robin Hood being a prime example.  His new persona is created after he takes on a new life after a quarrel with a close friend.

The Passionate Brood
concludes with the death of one of the Plantagenets.  Many other English die in battle and in other hazardous incidents.  Others endure to live another day, with many lessons learned about life.  They are harder individuals than we met in the beginning, but their life experience leads them to continue to build the country of England.

I have little knowledge of the Plantagenets, and the majority of my knowledge of Robin Hood’s character was gleaned from Disney’s and Kevin Costner’s cinematic portrayals, which I’m sure are far beyond what may have happened in that time.  So it was the Robin Hood angle that drew me in to read The Passionate Brood.

While I cannot say that I absolutely loved Ms. Barnes’ work, it was an enjoyable journey through that period and the passionate characters always kept the plot interesting.  I wish there had been more chapters with Robin present, as I really enjoyed his character.  He was wise, kind, intelligent, and attractive to many.  His ability to show restraint and at the same time present necessary dramatic force was quite admirable.

The female characters were strong, offering their opinions to the men with confidence.  They still kept their deferential places in society, however.  And while their desires, advice or demands were not always heeded, they still had a voice.  It seemed that all of the main women were greatly influenced by the desire to be with their favored romantic partner, but they also cared about the citizens around them.

Overall, The Passionate Brood was interesting, and I feel as if I got a bit of a history lesson as well.  Barnes’ writing was intelligent without being to elevated.  Chapters could not be rushed, as they required my full attention to be understood.  I would recommend this title to fans of historical fiction, yet I would not recommend it if you were looking for a fluffy book to read at the beach.  Given that Brood is being re-released during the fall, this would be an excellent choice for cozy reading on a crisp fall evening. This quality literature will be very enjoyable for those who are attracted to this genre. It is certainly quality historical fiction.

This title was provided to me by Sourcebooks Landmark.
No obligation other than an honest review was required


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday Contest Report - November 24th

Here's my semi-regular Wednesday Contest Report, where I spotlight contests that I'm entering around the blogosphere these days. Some of them might appeal to you as well. Check them out!

  • Dee at Two of a Kind is giving away a EatSmart Precision Pro Digital Scale.  Great for measuring food for the perfect serving size or ingredient portion for a recipe.  Deadline to enter is at 11:59pm EST on December 6th.  Here's the link:

  • Dee at Two of a Kind is also giving away a $50 gift card for  Deadline to enter is at 11:59pm EST on November 29th.  Here's the link:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

DVD Review: What's in the Bible Volume 4

From VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer comes the fourth volume in the What's in the Bible? series of DVDs from Tyndale Kids, Battle for the Promised Land. Each volume presents different segments of the Bible, making the history and wisdom within God's word easier to understand for children and their families.

While Phil's VeggieTales (VT) relied primarily on animation to share their stories and lessons, What's in the Bible? uses several mediums in which to engage children.  There is some animation, but there are also live actors, and most prominently, hand puppets.  There is more of a variety show feel than one individualized story.  VT fans will recognize many of the voices and accents from years before, and they are once again very funny and entertaining.

I must admit, when first exposed to this series, I was very skeptical about the use of hand puppets.  I just didn't think they could be as witty as VT.  But like the other volumes in this series, Battle for the Promised Land pulls it off.  While they're dealing with important spiritual lessons, they're still alot of fun and bring plenty of laughs.  There are several in-jokes that some may miss, but adults and VT fans will catch them. My personal favorite is a wall clock with a unique time zone location.

Phil Vischer
This particular DVD in the series deals with issues surrounding Israel's Promised Land.  We learn about the Old Testament books Joshua, Judges and Ruth.  It would be an impossible task to cover all of the material in these books within the confines of the DVD.  Phil Vischer (who makes frequent appearances on camera) and his team chose some important topics and characters to introduce to the viewer, allowing us to learn the general theme of the scriptures. Some of the material isn’t as riveting as a Larry Boy episode, but it covers Biblical events that children typically aren’t exposed to until later in life.  Questions such as “Why is there so much fighting in the Old Testament?” and “Did God want people to die?” are addressed. Vischer and his team make it understandable for their audience.

The disc also comes with some fun extras.  There’s a bonus animated short with Quacky the Duck that addresses loving others, especially our enemies.  This short will especially appeal to younger viewers.  The Show Outtakes track is hysterical, and there’s a “deleted scene” from the minivan-riding boy Michael that has a bit of Monty Python-esque humor.

I watched this DVD with my two boys, ages 10 and 5.  Both of them loved it, asking to repeat certain scenes because they enjoyed them so much.  I also did a quick interview with my elder son Matthew, who had long caught the giggles when I shot this video and was a little shy about looking into the camera:

So as you can see, this is not only an entertaining program, but it really would be a great series to watch as a whole family.  As an adult, I didn’t find the childish humor annoying—rather, I found myself laughing along with the kids.  And I personally learned a few things about God’s word, which of course was beneficial to me as well.  This is a wonderful series, and I look forward to the upcoming Volumes 5 - 13.


Tyndale would like one of my readers to have Battle for the Promised Land.  If you’d like to enter to win a copy of this fun DVD, here are the contest guidelines:

  • Leave a comment below; this counts as your only required entry.
  • Entries accepted until 11:59pm on Saturday, December 4th
  • US Addresses Only.
  • Prize will be awarded in the form of a Tyndale House Publishers Free Product Award Certificate, to be redeemed at your local Christian bookstore.
  • If there is no Christian bookstore in your area, you may order direct from Tyndale by filling out the form on the back of the coupon and mailing it to Tyndale at the address they provide.
  • In the local bookstore, winner may be required to pay sales taxes where applicable, per Tyndale's contest rules.
  • Per Tyndale's rules, none of my family members may participate.   (Sorry, Jennifer!)
  • Make sure at least one posted comment includes your email address. If you'd rather not have your email posted here, you may contact me directly to give me that information after you've entered here with your basic comment.
  • I will compile the entries and the winner will be chosen by, so even one basic entry can make you a winner!
  • Should you win, I will contact you on Sunday the 5th for your mailing information.  Please take measures to ensure that my email will make it past your spam filters, lest you miss my message! ( You'll have 72 hours to respond before I pick another winner.
  • More information on the giveaway policies can be found on the Contact / Policies page.

Bonus Entries

Please make note of all your bonus entries in your comment(s).  You may post separate comments or a single large comment.  Here are your bonus entry options:

  • Follow The Calico Critic by clicking on the Google "Follow" button on my sidebar (old or new followers both get the bonus entry, just please make sure I can tell what your follower name is).
  • Follow me (@LHartness) on Twitter and tell me your @UserName.
  • Tweet about this ARC giveaway on; be sure to use an URL linking back to this blog posting in your tweet. You may do this as frequently as every 8 hours between now and December 4th at 11:59pm EST.  For each tweet, please come back and post the direct URL link to that specific tweet, not just your @Username.

Whew!  That's it!  Thanks for stopping by, and good luck to all the entrants!

This title was provided to me by Tyndale House Publishers.
No obligation other than an honest review was required


Monday, November 15, 2010

Book Review: Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

Welcome to the next stop on the TLC Book Tour for Brava Valentine!

Spoiler Alert!   If you haven’t read Adriana Trigiani's Very Valentine, you may want to skip this review for now.  I discuss plot points that may spoil Very Valentine for some.  But scroll down below my review and check out the other offerings:

  •  Very Valentine giveaway contest -- you could win a trip to Italy!
  • The full TLC Book Tour listing for Brava, Valentine

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Brava, Valentine: A NovelFollowing the bestselling Very Valentine is Adriana Trigiani’s second volume in the Very Valentine trilogy, Brava, Valentine (also entitled Encore, Valentine in some editions). As in the first book, Brava’s opening scenes are at a family wedding, only this time it’s eighty-year-old Gram marrying her longtime secret love, Dominic.  Her granddaughter Valentine has returned with her family to Italy for the ceremony and has begun adjusting to her new life.  Gram will no longer be living with her in New York, the Angelini Shoe company is growing, and she is no longer dating Roman Falconi, the New York chef and restaurateur.

From the February, 2010 wedding to the following Christmas season, Valentine once again must address several important issues in her life.  What will her new life be without Gram? How is she going to run the Angelini Shoe Company? Will her brother Alfred ever be a true partner, or will he remain an adversary? Where is her romantic life going? Does she even want marriage, children and all the traditional things that her siblings have adopted? The time to grow up has come, and she searches to determine the path that is best for her.
Adriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani has again brought her talent to the table for Brava Valentine.  It reads like just another set of chapters following Book 1, carrying on the story line from where it left off, with most of the original characters in play.  There are relational obstacles, philosophical musings, and plenty of well-informed details of the shoe making business.  Marriage is in the spotlight, with all its struggles and sacrifices that couples must make over the years. A long-buried family secret is unearthed, and Valentine uses this to bring some healing to her family, and more progress for her business as well.

Again, the chapters are enjoyable to read, relaxing yet dynamic as well.  I loved to see Valentine’s growth as a woman.  I was particularly touched by brother Alfred’s journey and the level of reconciliation that was achieved within his family.  Of course romance has a significant part of the plot, with Trigiani keeping it truly romantic with relatively chaste details of adult situations and beautifully penned love letters that evoke a bygone era.

This is a minor point, but I really enjoyed reading this novel during the actual year in which the story was set.  If you’re reading this review in 2010, I highly recommend picking up Brava, Valentine before the year is out.  The time setting was just a fun addition to my reading experience.

Once again I’m pleased with Adriana Trigiani’s work. The fact that there is still one more book to go is comforting.  I enjoy spending time with these characters and am looking forward to seeing where their paths will lead in the upcoming Ciao, Valentine. I’m sure it will be a luscious and satisfying conclusion to this wonderful Italian story.

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 Win an Adriana Trigiani Tour for You and a Friend!

Winner and guest will fly to Italy on March 27th, with the tour going from March 28th - April 3rd, 2011.

  • Day 1: Arrival in Florence -
    Cocktail reception and walking tour
  • Day 2: Art and Monument Tour
  • Day 3: Arezzo
  • Day 4: Tuscan Wine Tour and
    Visit to Etruscan Town
  • Day 5: Cooking class and visit to Lucca
  • Day 6: Pisa
  • Day 7: Depart Tuscany

To enter, email your name and zip code to
Deadline to enter is December 1, 2010.
Click here for more details about the tour!
Click here for full sweepstakes rules.

Adriana Trigiani Online Locations

Adriana on Facebook
On Twitter: @AdrianaTrigiani
Adriana on Goodreads

Adriana Trigiani’s TLC Book Tour Stops

Tuesday, November 9th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, November 10th: Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, November 11th: Rundpinne
Monday, November 15th: The Calico Critic
Wednesday, November 17th: Write Meg
Thursday, November 18th: Dolce Bellezza
Monday, November 22nd: Book Club Classics!
Tuesday, November 23rd: Books Like Breathing
Tuesday, November 30th: Til We Read Again
Thursday, December 2nd: Jo-Jo Loves to Read!
Tuesday, December 7th: Hospitable Pursuits
Wednesday, December 8th: Book Reviews by Molly
Thursday, December 9th: Jenny Loves to Read
Wednesday, December 15th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Thursday, December 16th: Teresa’s Reading Corner
Monday, December 20th: Debbie’s Book Bag

This title was provided by TLC Book Tours.
No obligation other than an honest review was required


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