Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Review: Sylvester by Georgette Heyer

From Sourcebooks:

Sylvester, Duke of Salford, has exacting requirements for a bride. Then he meets Phoebe Marlow, a young lady with literary aspirations, and suddenly life becomes very complicated. She meets none of his criteria, and even worse, she has written a novel that is sweeping through the ton and causing all kinds of gossip… and he’s the main character!

*          *          *

Originally penned in 1957, Sylvester is my second foray into the works of Georgette Heyer.  As with many of her other titles, this romantic novel is set in Regency England and mimics the feel of a Jane Austen novel without abiding in her literary world. 

The Wicked Uncle
(its alternate title) does have echoes of Pride and Prejudice, so fans of this type of plot structure should enjoy this romantic tale. Like in P&P, we have two characters of different social standing that meet and make less than a good impression on each other at the outset.  There are meddling relatives and the ever-present eyes of the ton to consider as the bachelor Sylvester ponders candidates for his future wife.  He’s taken by surprise when he meets Phoebe, a smart, newly published author who has no interest in a betrothal with him.  Unlike other women, she cares nothing for his vast fortune and balks at marriages of convenience.

Compared to the other Heyer novel I’ve read, Venetia, I would say that Sylvester is good, but I enjoyed the former title more.  The writing is still top-notch, and I again found myself acquiring new vocabulary words and accessing my dictionary for clarification on more than one occasion.  Sylvester said something to one character late in the book that literally had me hooting out loud in delighted disbelief.  As a mother of two wiley boys ages 11 and 6, I loved the character of Sylvester’s young nephew and ward, Edmund.  He was very much the glue that frequently held together the main characters.

While I liked the characters of The Wicked Uncle, I didn’t come to care for them as much as I did in Venetia. The story ended just as I expected it to, and I’m glad that it concluded in the way that it did, but I was less wrapped up in the process this time around.  Having said that, though, I did root for the characters and enjoyed their journeys overall.

Phoebe is not the typical romance novel character.  She is not overly beautiful and does not always fit into Duke Sylvester’s paradigm of what a potential wife should be.  Unlike most women, she is not initially charmed by him.  In fact, she makes a caricature of him to be a villain in a newly published novel, which sets the tongues of the ton wagging.  She does come to regret this literary choice, but in general she stands up to Sylvester and is determined to live her own life.  This hasn’t always been the case with her, so we see her grow as a woman, striking out on her own if necessary to retain her freedom, to pursue her dreams, or to right wrongs done to others. Phoebe isn’t a perfect heroine and is occasionally insecure, but ultimately those around her come to understand her choices and she thrives.

Sylvester is somewhat of a typical rich bachelor, flirting with many and having the pick of any eligible ladies within the ton.  He isn’t initially drawn to Phoebe, but then becomes intrigued by her rejection of him as a potential suitor.  As a Duke he never hears the word “no”, so to receive any contrariness from the likes of Phoebe comes as quite a shock.  She isn’t merely uninterested in being courted by him, but she flees the area to escape the possibility!  This casting-off actually draws him in, causing him to help her in moments of need and also helps him to see how self-centered he could be. 

He isn’t always selfish, however.  Sylvester’s brother had died years before, and he was left to take care of his young nephew Edmund.  This plucky child could be quite a handful, and Sylvester frequently had to battle with his incompetent (and even more selfish) sister-in-law for the care of Edmund.  Between Edmund’s energy and his mother’s selfish ways, the Duke frequently showed his capacity to make good choices and to do the right thing in the face of difficulty.  This redeems his character somewhat, both to the reader and to the character Phoebe.

Sylvester, Phoebe, Edmund and others go through quite a few experiences and adventures within the pages of Georgette Heyer’s novel.  I agree with Library Journal in saying that it is “frothy, readable and full of delightful Regency dialogue.”  Heyer remains the next best thing to reading Jane Austen, and she largely does not disappoint.  While Sylvester isn’t the perfect literary work, I do give it my hearty recommendation.  Janeites, fans of Regency literature and quality writing in general will enjoy this tale of unexpected courtship.

*           *          *

 Calico Casting Call – My Casting for the Movie
(At the appropriate ages for their characters)

Sylvester, Duke of Salford – Zachary Quinto
Phoebe Marlow – Eden Sher
Thomas – Owen Wilson
Edmund – Jonathan Lipnicki
Dowager Lady Ingham – Maggie Smith
Duchess of Salford – Judi Dench

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Women of Faith Conference 2011

I review for BookSneeze┬« What a great weekend I had!  Thanks to the Book Sneeze program (tickets!) and my father (childcare!), I spent two wonderful days at the Time Warner Arena in Charlotte, NC with my mother for the Women of Faith conference.  There we had a great time in worship with some fabulous music, teaching and entertainment.  Here are some reflections on the events and experience of the conference.

Music:  Women of Faith brought in some great talent for the event. Their 4-member worship team did a fabulous job, and we also had music from the Grammy award-winning group Mary Mary, as well as from speaker Sheila Walsh.  My favorite artist was Natalie Grant, however.  While I don't own any of her albums, I know her a bit from the radio.  I loved her amazing, powerful voice and the lyrics within her songs.  Not long after returning home I downloaded her tracks "Your Great Name" and "Love Revolution".

Speakers:  The lineup this weekend included both men and women, with serious as well as humorous messages for us.  Clinical psychologist Henry Cloud was thought provoking and fun.  Sheila Walsh was passionate, vulnerable and goofy in her own Scottish way.  Lisa Harper and Nicole Johnson ministered to us through their own painful experiences.  And comedian Ken Davis had me and my mother laughing until our sides hurt.

Accommodations:  The Time Warner Arena served us very well.  We had plenty of room, and they even made ALL of the bathrooms for ladies, to cut down on the long lines.  My mother and I took the local commuter train in each day, and it dropped us off right at the arena.  We had boxed lunches as well, and the staffers distributed them out to us in a timely fashion.  I liked their food choices also.  I think my sole complaint in this area would have to be the air conditioning.  Despite dressing for the cold, I was freezing on both days.  And as I looked around the arena, I wasn't alone in that regard.  So if you're going to attend in the future, wear "Long Johns" and bring a fleece blanket!

All in all I had such a great weekend.  I loved getting away with my mom for a time of refreshment and growth.  Women of Faith is a wonderful ministry, and I hope I have the opportunity to attend in future years.  I'd especially love to participate with a group of girlfriends.  That would be extra fun for sure.

Check out the Women of Faith website.  See if there's a tour location near you and give it a shot-- you'll be blessed and refreshed, just as my mother and I were.

I'll close out this post with a video from Nicole Johnson.  I loved her dramatic monologue "Invisible Woman".  So many times as wives and mothers, we feel that our work goes unseen or is inconsequential.  Nicole affirms her audience, reminding us of Who sees us: 


Monday, September 26, 2011

Movie Review/Recommentation: 180

Audra Jennings at The B&B Media Group alerted me to the provocative film 180.  It presents the issue of abortion in a way that many may have not considered before.  While I am Pro-Life, I normally do not get on a soap box about this subject, as it's a highly-charged one, and certainly never a simple decision.  You may or may not change your stance after watching 180, but it definitely presents some points worth considering.

If you're already Pro-Life, 180 is still worth your time.  It presents the logic behind the anti-abortion stance in ways you may not have considered before, and this can be helpful as we lovingly discuss the subject with others.  You can also grab the link below and share the movie with your friends and family.

Warning:  This is a powerful and provocative film. Graphic images and discussions are included.  Film host Ray Comfort also presents the Christian Gospel, which is the most life-changing discussion of all.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Blu-ray Review: Dumbo

Dumbo, the beloved Disney classic is now available on Blu-ray, with superbly-cleaned animation and great new bonus features.  Check out my review of this sweet animated feature, now available on

Friday, September 16, 2011

Preparing For: The Women of Faith Conference

I review for BookSneeze┬« The countdown has begun!  In less than a week, I'll be attending the Women of Faith Conference in Charlotte, NC with my favorite woman of faith, my mother Christina.  Thanks to the Book Sneeze program I have two tickets, and thanks to my father, I have childcare for my two boys for this two-day event.  What a wonderful gift all of this is!

The conference begins on Friday morning at 10am at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte.  I frequently become cold inside air conditioned facilities, so I'm going to bring a warm Irish cardigan along.  It's "open seating" during the Friday daytime sessions, so I plan to get there when the doors open at 9am as well.

The weekend's schedule looks like this:

Friday Morning
9am - Doors Open
10am - Session 1
11:30am - Lunch (Box lunch included)
12:30pm - Session 2
1:45pm - Break
2:15pm - Session 3
3:30pm - End

Friday Evening
5:30pm - Doors Open (Assigned Seating)
7:00pm - Session 4
10:00pm - End

8am - Doors Open (Assigned Seating)
9am - Session 1
10:45am - Break
11:30am - Session 2
12:30pm - Lunch (Box lunch included)
1:30pm - Session 3
3:15pm - Break
3:30 - Session 4
5pm - End

It's going to be two long days, but I think the time will fly by.  I'm really looking forward to spending this time with my mother, hearing from these wonderful presenters and just having a time of spiritual refreshment.  The last few months have been draining, as we have moved from Florida to Georgia, and I could really use this conference right now.  If nothing else, I get to spend time with my family, be in my home state of North Carolina, and enjoy worshipping the Lord with thousands of other women.  Check back here next week, as I'll have a report on our time in Charlotte!

Have you attended a Woman of Faith Conference?  Got any advice or tips for me?  Thoughts or memories to share?  How has this ministry blessed your life?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blu-ray Review: Marley & Me: The Puppy Years

If you're looking for a cute, fluffy movie for your dog-loving kids, Marley & Me: The Puppy Years might be for you.  Check out my review of this family program, now available on

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Book Review: Road from the West by Rosanne E. Lortz

Welcome to the next stop on the virtual book tour for Rosanne E. Lortz's Road from the West, sponsored by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.  Be sure to check out all the stops on the tour of this fabulous new series.  The tour schedule is listed at the conclusion of this post.

Rosanne E. Lortz's Website:

Twitter Event Hashtag for Tour:    #RoadFromTheWestVirtualBookTour

Road from the West
(Chronicles of Tancred, Book One)

A tale of Courage, Conquest, Intrigue, and Honor.

You know the Knights Templar, you know Richard the Lionheart—now learn the story that started it all in the adventures of the First Crusade.

Haunted by guilt from the past and nightmares of the future, a young Norman named Tancred takes the cross and vows to be the first to free Jerusalem from the infidels. As he journeys to the Holy Land, he braves vast deserts, mortal famine, and the ever-present ambushes of the enemy Turks—but the greatest danger of all is deciding which of the Crusader lords to trust. A mysterious seer prophesies that Tancred will find great love and great sorrow on his journey, but the latter seems intent on claiming him before he can find the first. Intrigues and passions grow as every battle brings the Crusaders one step closer to Jerusalem. Not all are destined to survive the road from the West.

*          *          *

While I do enjoy historical fiction, in the past I have not been attracted to the period of the Crusades.  As a Christian I’m not very proud of that era in our history.  With Road from the West, I hoped that Rosanne Lortz’s vision for this period would be informative, accurate, yet still entertaining. My actual knowledge of the subject is minimal, and while I wanted to learn more about it, I was looking for more than just a textbook in ancient Christian church history.

Fortunately, Lortz has succeeded in all of these areas.  Her research and knowledge of the period are evident, as the details in her writing seem true to history, and easily transport the reader back in time almost 1,000 years.  The story is interesting, and while there were a few moments that were a little dry, the plot kept moving well.  She deftly ended many chapters in a way that made me want to read “just one more”. 

Tancred is an interesting character.  He’s a young, flawed martial leader, driven to redeem himself by serving the Church in the first Crusade.  Through righteous acts and his goal of conquering Jerusalem for the Christian church, he feels he can atone for sins of the past.  He’s incredibly loyal, only swearing fealty if he knows he can keep that commitment and if that promise doesn’t violate his allegiance to another.  Tancred is particularly tied to the Catholic church in Rome and refuses to also swear a loyalty oath to the Byzantine Emperor Alexius, for example.  Driven to see his cause through, he’ll go against friends and family to do what needs to be done.  And despite his young age, he’s a wise and intelligent leader to the men and women who serve him and are under his care.

While Road from the West is certainly about the many battles along Tancred’s road to Jerusalem, it isn’t overly bloody.  There are mentions of beheadings and other acts of war, but Lortz keeps the details at bay as much as can be expected given the subject matter.  There is a surprising lack of coarse language, and in this particular title there’s really no sexual content.  Rosanne could have easily used this novel as a soapbox regarding the issue of inappropriate “righteous” behavior on the part of the crusading Christians, but she doesn’t do that.  The crusaders’ choices aren’t glossed over—they’re presented as historical facts, and Lortz seems to keep her opinions out of the dialogue and other fictionalized content within the narrative.

When I reached the end of Road to the West, I not only felt like I learned a thing or two about the first Crusade, Tancred the marquis and the religious/political goings on of the era, but I also enjoyed a good story.  Rosanna Lortz has two more titles to come in the Chronicles of Tancred trilogy, and if they’re anything like this first segment, they’ll definitely be worth my time.  Book One is a great start to an informative, entertaining series.

*          *          *

Calico Casting Call – For the Movie in My Head
(With the appropriate age and look for their characters)
Tancred - Chris Hemsworth
Bohemond - Russell Crowe
Roger - Gerard Butler
William - Aaron Ashmore
Emma - Cate Blanchett
Alexandra - Natalie Portman
Erminia - Aishwarya Rai
The Sultana - Freida Pinto

*          *           *

Road to the West Virtual Book Tour

Rosanne E. Lortz
Friday, September 2nd - Review at The Maiden's Court

Monday, September 5th - Author Guest Post and Giveaway at The Maiden's Court

Tuesday, September 6th -
Review at Debbie'sBookBag
Author Guest Post and Giveaway at From the TBR Pile 

Wednesday, September 7th
- Review at The Calico Critic

Thursday, September 8th
Review at Unabridged Chick
Review at A Journey Into Reading

Friday, September 9th - Author Guest Post at A Journey Into Reading

Monday, September 12th
- Review at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, September 13th - Author Interview and Giveaway at Unabridged Chick 

Wednesday, September 14th - Author Guest Post and Giveaway at Broken Teepee

Friday, September 16th
- Review at Diary of a Book Addict

Tuesday, September 20th
- Review at Bibliophilic Book Blog

Wednesday, September 21st
- Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, September 22nd
- Author Guest Post at Bibliophilic Book Blog

Monday, September 26th
- Review at Just One More Paragraph

Tuesday, September 27th
- Review at The Musings of a Book Junkie

Wednesday, September 28th
- Author Guest Post at Just One More Paragraph

Thursday, September 29th - Review at Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews

Friday, September 30th
- Review at By the By Books

Monday, October 3rd - Review and Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, October 4th
- Author Interview at The Musings of a Book Junkie

Wednesday, October 5th
- Review at Bippity Boppity Book

Thursday, October 6th
- Review at A Few More Pages

Friday, October 7th
- Review at The Owl Bookmark Blog

Monday, October 10th
- Review at Historically Obsessed

Tuesday, October 11th
- Author Interview and Giveaway at The Owl Bookmark Blog

Wednesday, October 12th - Review at Between the Pages

Thursday, October 13th - Review at Words and Peace 

Friday, October 14th -
Review at Reviews by Molly

Monday, October 17th
- Review at Erin Reads

Tuesday, October 18th - Author Interview at Reviews by Molly

Wednesday, October 19th - Review at The True Book Addict

Thursday, October 20th - Author Guest Post and Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Friday, September 2, 2011

DVD Review - Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil

Well, I wish all my reviews could be positive...  Now available on, my review of the DVD Hoodwinked Too!, starring , , and

Here's the link:

Stop by for the latest in movie reviews, news and giveaways!


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