Friday, August 31, 2012

The Key on the Quilt



Author: Stephanie Grace Whitson
Genre: Life (a Nebraska prison in the late 1800s)
Series: The Quilt Chronicles
Number in series: 1st
My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9.5
Type: Fiction
Number of pages: 318
Time period: 1800’s
Passage from book: “If it wasn’t for the occasional night when he tried to kill her, Owen wouldn’t be a bad husband. Jane Marquis risked a sideways glance at him. Moonlight and shadows revealed an all-too-familiar expression on his weathered face, as Owen guided the wagon across the spring prairie towards home. Doing her best to suppress a shiver, Jane ducked her head and closed her eyes. ‘Oh…God.’ It wasn’t much of a prayer, but it was the best she could do.”
My overall opinion: Wow, did I ever enjoy this book! I’ve never read any books before about life in a women’s prison in the 1800s in Nebraska, and I’m guessing you haven’t either. This was an enlightening read! While some “enlightening” books can be quite boring, this one was riveting. I’m making it sound like an interesting text book, but it’s nowhere close to a textbook. It’s a delightful historical fiction type of book. I really enjoyed getting to know each of the main women: Mamie, Jane, and Ellen. They each had a very different role in the book – one was in prison, one was the female … guard/supervisor/boss, and one was the prison warden’s wife. All of their stories were neatly melded into the one book. It was clear how each woman’s faith in God grew, though The Key on the Quilt wasn’t a preachy book at all. I highly recommend that you read this wonderful Christian fiction! And I can’t wait to read the next book, Shadow on the Quilt.
**The author supplied me with a free copy of this book. I have received no compensation for this review. I was not required to write a review, much less a positive one, and the opinions expressed in here are my own.**

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Sound of Red Returning



Author: Sue Duffy
Genre: Suspense, adventure
Series: Red Returning
Number in series: 1st
My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8
Type: Fiction
Number of pages: 288
Time period: Present
My overall opinion: This was one exciting book! The story was interesting and full of excitement. A fun read!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Movie: Great Expectations


 
My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9
Genre: Classic, life
Primary actors: Ioan Gruffudd, Justine Waddell, Charlotte Rampling
Length: About three hours
Based on: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Time period: 1800’s
Year it came out: 1999
My overall opinion: It was pretty good! The costuming was great, and it followed the book well. Overall, it was a good movie and I enjoyed it. I will watch it again! However, I am also eager to see the newest version. Now, on to my “evaluations.”
A couple of the characters…

Pip

An good actor. His portrayal didn’t strike me amazingly, but he was good. (Note: very hard to find a picture :P)

Miss Havisham

She was good, very good. I thought she made a stunning Miss Havisham. One thing I noticed that interested me a bit is that she did appear to change her jewelry at least, and maybe her dress, though it was always cream. In the book, Miss Havisham is always wearing her old wedding gown. Other than that, I liked her portrayal.

Estella

They had the perfect actor for Estella as a girl. She was snobby, pretty, and perfect for the part. However, using Justine Waddell(who I associate fundamentally with Wives and Daughters) wasn’t a good move for the adult Estella. She was beautiful, but she was way too nice to Pip. Perhaps that made it better for the movie, but I think they should have stuck to the book. Molly (W&D) is meek and sweet, and I think that the actor is sweet too. So she wasn’t right for Estella. The movie-makers could have done better there.

Joe
Sweet, big, burly, and gentle – perfect for Joe.

And a few thoughts on key scenes/set-ups…

Miss Havisham’s Wedding Dinner and Dining Room

Amazing. I can’t imagine how much work went into that! There was still too much food for how long it had been though…even I know that that food would have been much more decayed. But it certainly made for a chilling effect! Pretty much wow. :)
London
Gray, dark, and dirty – just like London was.
Miss Havisham’s Burning Dress
Wow. Just wow. I think Dickens was rather fascinated with people burning…consider the spontaneous combustion in Bleak House. A really cool scene (not as in lovely, but as in amazing), and well done. Just what I’d pictured!
The End
I had wondered how they did this…Dickens really leaves it hanging. So does the movie – in a niceish way, as nice as a hanging end can be. The movie insinuates more about how it ends than Dickens does, but I suppose some of that just comes with SEEING it instead of READING it.

My Final Absolute Overall Opinion of Great Expectations
Good. Very good. If you enjoyed the book, if you didn’t enjoy the book, if you like period dramas…watch this.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fallen from Babel


Author: T. L. Higley
Genre: Adventure
My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9
Type: Historical fiction
Number of pages: 366
Time period: Bible times (the time of Daniel)
My overall opinion: I really enjoyed it! I can’t wait to read more by T. L. Higley. It’s a unique story of time travel. Though, incidentally, the cover isn’t accurate. :P But it catches your eye, which is what the publishers want! Great book.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Movie: Bleak House



My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8.5


Genre: Period drama, classic, life
Primary actors: Anna Maxwell Martin, Denis Lawson, Carey Mulligan
Length: Eight 50-minute episodes
Based on: Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Time period: 1800's
Year it came out: 2005
My overall opinion: I really enjoyed this period drama! Yes, it was set in London and a Dickens, so rather dark. But there were a number of things I really liked about it. One was the names -- they were descriptive and imaginative, like most of Dickens' names are. Examples would include John Jarndyce, Lady Dedlock (rather a deadly lady, quite alarming), Mr. Tulkinghorne, Mr. Guppy, Miss Flite (she loved birds), Harold Skimpole (a bad guy), and many more. The actors all seemed well cast for their parts.
Oh, by the way, it was directed by Andrew Davies, who directed (among others) the 1995 Pride and Prejudice and the 2008 Sense and Sensibility.
There were several interesting things that happened as well, things that (again) are very Dickens. The most prominent of these to me was spontaneous combustion. Having done some research, I still don't know what to think. But I did think it was interesting that the Wikipedia article mentioned Bleak House.
There were a number of interesting doubles that I spotted in this movie. They included Carey Mulligan, Anna Maxwell Martin, Alun Armstrong, and Gillian Anderson. A Doubles post should be coming later today to explain them.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie. It was interesting and exciting. And I think it followed the book...I'm pretty sure that the movie makers of now-adays couldn't have come up with all the intriguing characters and incidents that were in the movie! I look forward to reading Bleak House. If you like period dramas, watch this one.





Saturday, August 25, 2012

Michal


Author: Jill Eileen Smith
Genre: Life (and I really want to put Biblical fiction here…because it’s SO based on that)
Series: The Wives of King David
Number in series: 1st
My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8.5 (actually 8.75)
Type: Historical fiction
Number of pages: 382
Time period: David’s time…so around 1000 B.C.
My overall opinion: Before I start, let me announce that this is one of the very first books that I EVER paid list price for. Because 90% of the time (probably more), if I buy a book, I buy it cheap from Amazon. Or I ask for it for Christmas. Or I find it free somewhere. Or I get a review copy. But I have enjoyed Jill Eileen Smith’s books Bathsheba and Sarai so much, that I paid full price for this one. So I’m really glad I liked it!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Cover Focus: Deep in the Heart of Trouble

Deep in the Heart of Trouble by Deanne Gist

 

Book blurb from goodreads.com : “Texas bloomer girl Essie Spreckelmeyer (Courting Trouble) is still just trying to maintain her balance. The president of the local velocipede club has had her fair share of pratfalls, but her present situation is unusually perilous. Running her father's oil company in this male-dominated boomtown was difficult enough before arrival of handsome, headstrong Tony Morgan.”

Why I like this cover: If you didn’t smile when you saw it, that’s a bad sign. It’s such a funny picture! Probably one of the first things you noticed was that she’s wearing a wedding dress. And riding a bike at the same time. If you ask me, I’d say she’s escaping something! But her smile is so cute…she can’t be in too much trouble. Just look at all the designs on the dress! And the veil flying out behind her – all so elegantly embroidered. The old bicycle, or should I say velocipede? I love it. Altogether, I must admit that this is one of the neatest covers I’ve ever seen! Can’t wait to read this someday.
(And yes, I say that last line about almost every book…but I really can’t wait!)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Peril



Author: Suzanne Hartmann
Genre: Suspense, life
Series: Fast Track Thrillers
Number in series: 1st
My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9
Type: Fiction
Number of pages: 222
Time period: Present
My overall opinion: I enjoyed this more than I had anticipated! I’m not real into NASCAR, and I assumed that that was what this book was about. However, once I started it, I discovered I wasn’t entirely right. There was some NASCAR stuff, but there was lots of other stuff too! It was very exciting – absolutely packed with suspense. The main character was a likeable woman, with some remarkable and unique things about her. You’ll have to read the book to learn more about that. There was a serious case of double identity too! Very neat. There were a few things I didn’t love so much – specifically that one guy (Stuart) was slightly less discerning than I think most people in his position would have been. He would have caught on sooner than he did, let’s just say that. Also, I didn’t like Stuart and Joanne’s relationship very much, specifically Stuart’s side of it. He should have clamped down harder on his feelings. Other than that, though, it was a wonderful book, and I can’t wait for the next one!

Birthday: Gene Kelly


Gene Kelly


Birth: August 23, 1912
Death: February 2, 1996
It’s his 100th birthday!
You know him because – he was a well-loved actor in the 40’s and 50’s. He acted in Brigadoon, Singin’ in the Rain, American in Paris, and others. He also directed a few films, including Hello, Dolly!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Brionne



Author: Louis L’Amour
Genre: Western, adventure
My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9
Type: Fiction
Number of pages: 151
Time period: 1800’s
My overall opinion: I really enjoyed this Louis L’Amour! I’ve read a lot by him, and enjoyed most of them, but this one was extra good, I thought. :) When reading any book by him, be warned that there are usually a few mild swear words. Other than that, good clean fun!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Storyteller’s Daughter

Author: Cameron Dokey
Genre: Fairy tale (Shahrazad)
My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8.5
Type: Fiction
Number of pages: 218
Time period: Fantasy
My overall opinion: I enjoyed this unique retelling of Shahrazad’s story! I didn’t love the book, and prefer Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher, but it was a fun book, and I would recommend it.
(The cover I wish mine had...)

Monday, August 20, 2012

CD: I Dreamed a Dream



Singer: Susan Boyle
My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9.5
Type of music: Maybe some classic, some more “popular”
List of songs:

1.       Wild Horses

2.       I Dreamed a Dream

3.       Cry Me a River

4.       How Great Thou Art

5.       You’ll See

6.       Daydream Believer

7.       Up to the Mountain

8.       Amazing Grace

9.       Who I Was Born to Be

10.   Proud

11.   The End of the World

12.   Silent Night
My overall opinion: I love this CD so much. My favorite song in the second, the title track. It still gives me goose-bumps when I hear it, and I’ve heard it many many times! As you can see, Susan has a wide array of songs, classic (#2, from Les Mis), to religious (#4, 8, and 12), and even one Christmas song (#12). I really enjoy all the songs here! I like this CD better than her second one, The Gift.

A Few "Can't Wait!" Books

Having recently read Melanie's post on books she's anticipating, I felt again inspired to post about a few that I can't wait on! They include...


Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd. Honestly, it's such a super cool cover, I can't wait! The story will be about Elizabeth I of England. Really excited to read this!


Grave Consequences by Lisa Bergren. Having loved everything I've read by her so far, I can't wait to read this sequel to Glamorous Illusions (which I have yet to read). Not to mention...the cover's amazing.



Rebekah by Jill Eileen Smith. Another beautiful cover, and I know I'll love reading Rebekah's story!


When a Heart Stops by Lynette Eason. Wow, I'm uncommonly excited for ALL of these books, definitely not excepting this one! It's going to be amazing.

There you go....a very quick list of books I can't wait on!

Birthday: Ben Barnes


Ben Barnes
 

Birth: August 20, 1981
It’s his 31st birthday!

You know him because – he starred in the two of the three “Chronicles of Narnia” films. He was the title character in Prince Caspian and an important part of Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He was awesome in PC. J


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Halfway to Forever


Author: Karen Kingsbury

Genre: Life
Series: Forever Faithful Trilogy
Number in series: 3rd
My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8.5
Type: Fiction
Number of pages: Again, over 300
Time period: Present
My overall opinion: This was a great finale to the series. The first book (Waiting for Morning) was about one set of people, the second book (A Moment of Weakness) was about a different set of people (in which you barely saw a few of the people from the first book). This third book included both sets of people equally! Besides that, it was an amazing story and very moving. Great book! I think it was my favorite of the series.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister


Author: C. Allyn Pierson
Genre: Romance, life
Series: It’s a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9
Type: Fiction
Number of pages: !!!!!
Time period: 1800’s
My overall opinion: I enjoyed this one vastly more than Emma & Knightley, since they’re sorta the same kind of book. This sequel was very fun! There was no excessive detail of a bad sort – very nice. It was really fun! Overall, well written and accurate to the original book. It was fun to meet all those characters again, and get to know some better! Oh, and one thing that totally won me over to this book? When a character from “Scarlet Pimpernel” by Baroness Emmuska Orczy (a favorite book and author) made an appearance! Delightful. If you’re looking for a fun P&P sequel, definitely try this book – it’s great.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Birthday: Gene Stratton Porter


Gene Stratton Porter


Birth: August 17, 1863
Death: December 6, 1924
It’s her 149th birthday!
You know her because – she wrote Girl of the Limberlost (which I’ve read) and Freckles (which I haven’t). Her real name was Geneva Grace Stratton.


Interview with Sandra Byrd!


Readers -- today I am blessed to have Sandra Byrd here on Austenitis! She's coming to talk about her newest book, Secret Keeper. Make sure you read my review from earlier today!
Welcome, Sandra! I’m so glad to be talking with you about your book, The Secret Keeper. Could you please give us a little auto-biography?

Here it is, from my website!
After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd persevered to publish more than three dozen books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a finalist for the Christy Award, as was To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was listed by Library Journal as one of the best books of 2011. Sandra's YA fiction has also been recognized within the industry. Asking for Trouble, the first in the London Confidential series, was a finalist for the ECPA Medallion of Excellence award.
A former textbook acquisitions editor, Sandra is also a non-fiction writer and author, with articles in numerous publications and periodicals. Sandra is also passionate about helping new writers develop their talent and their work toward traditional or self publication. As such, she has mentored hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year.
Sandra resides in Washington State with her husband Michael, a chaplain, their two children, and a circus dog named Brie.
Please tell us a little bit about the plot of The Secret Keeper.

Juliana St. John is the daughter of a prosperous knight. Though her family wants her to marry the son of her father's business partner, circumstances set her on a course toward the court of Henry VIII and his last wife, Kateryn Parr.
Sir Thomas Seymour, uncle of the current heir, Prince Edward, returns to Wiltshire to tie up his concerns with Juliana's father's estate and sees instantly that Juliana would fit into the household of the woman he loves, Kateryn Parr. Her mother agrees to have her placed in Parr's household for "finishing" and Juliana goes, though perhaps reluctantly.
For she knows a secret. She has been given the gift of prophecy, and in one of her visions she has seen Sir Thomas shredding the dress of the king's daughter, the lady Elizabeth, to perilous consequence.
As Juliana learns the secrets of King Henry VIII's court, she faces threats and opposition, learning truths about her own life that will undo everything she holds dear.
Such a great book. Now, I’m curious…why did you skip from Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII’s second wife (on whom To Die For was focused), to Kateryn Parr, the sixth wife?

Jane Seymour had a very short life after her marriage, there wasn't enough to interest me, personally, in writing her story. Anne of Cleves has had little written about her but she was not in the Tudor Court for very long, so the book would have been focused well away from the "action." Katherine Howard was a very young woman when she caught Henry's eye. I find her situation to be sympathetic, but she hadn't lived long enough by the time she was beheaded to provide the kind of historical tapestry I wanted.
Then again, Anne, Kateryn, and Elizabeth are my personal favorites. I spend a long time with these ladies, researching and writing, so I needed to make sure I wanted to be in their company for years!
Is it hard to write while sticking to the historical facts?
No, I find it a thrilling challenge to be able to craft a fictional story around well known facts. It makes me feel like, "This really could have happened this way!" I hope it makes my readers feel that way, too.
What was your favorite part of Secret Keeper to write?
The ending. I write about life as it really is, and that includes some painful parts, both to live and to read. But I'll always Happily Ever After endings in every book.
Is there any special story about the cover?
We wanted to put a garden on the cover because the Tudors were rightly proud of their lovely gardens, and there aren't very many Tudor book covers with them on it. Also, Sudeley Castle, which is where Kateryn Parr gave birth to her daughter, and which is the home most often associated with her, is well known for its lovely gardens.

How long did it take you to write Secret Keeper?
It takes me about a year to write each of my books, including the research.
I saw you have a title for the next book in the Ladies in Waiting series, Roses Have Thorns. And another amazing cover! Would you like to tell us a bit about the book?

Here's the publisher's blurb:
Sandra Byrd has attracted countless fans for evoking the complexity, grandeur, and brutality of the Tudor period. In her latest tour de force, she poses the question: What happens when serving a queen may cost you your marriage—or your life?
In 1565, seventeen-year-old Elin von Snakenborg leaves Sweden on a treacherous journey to England. Her fiancĂ© has fallen in love with her sister and her dowry money has been gambled away, but ahead of her lies an adventure that will take her to the dizzying heights of Tudor power. Transformed through marriage into Helena, the Marchioness of Northampton, she becomes the highest-ranking woman in Elizabeth’s circle. But in a court that is surrounded by Catholic enemies who plot the queen’s downfall, Helena is forced to choose between her unyielding monarch and the husband she’s not sure she can trust—a choice that will provoke catastrophic consequences.
Vividly conjuring the years leading up to the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots, Roses Have Thorns is a brilliant exploration of treason, both to the realm and to the heart.
Your biggest fan and supporter is...
My husband, for sure. I couldn't write without him. He does everything from encourage and admonish to hand translate entire books from Swedish to English for me. What a man!
What is your favorite time period to read about? How about to write about?
I love to read about almost anything, but I prefer history and ethnographies to almost all other reading. Historical England is my favorite setting for reading and writing, but I also love Japan and India.
What is one thing you dread doing?
Getting reviews. :) Even when they're good, there's a certain amount of anxiety attached. And when they are less-than-favorable, I learn something, but it always stings a little.
I can definitely see how that’d be something to dread! If you could visit any country, continent, or place, where would you go and why?
England is my favorite place to visit, followed by France. I have not yet been to India, but I would love to visit.
Which of your book covers is your favorite?

Oh, I love each of the covers in this series, the Artistic Director is really gifted. He conveys both the period and emotions so well.
I agree! These covers are amazing. Thanks so much for coming, Sandra! How can our readers learn more about you, or contact you?
Thank you so much for having me; I love to visit your blog. I also love to hear from readers! Please visit my website at www.sandrabyrd.com; poke around the Tudor Hall for a bit and then send an email to me and let me know what you think!

The Secret Keeper



Author: Sandra Byrd
Genre: Life, King Henry VIII, King Henry VIII’s Wives
Series: Ladies in Waiting
Number in series: 2nd
My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9
Type: Historical fiction
Number of pages: 330
Time period: 1500’s
My overall opinion: Once again, I loved Sandra Byrd’s book! I anticipated reading this book all summer, and was finally able to. It was certainly a book worth reading! It’s the story of Kateryn Parr, King Henry VIII’s sixth wife, the one who outlived him. Secret Keeper is written from the view-point of a fictional friend of Kateryn (or Kate), one who eventually becomes her lady-in-waiting. It is a riveting story, full of palace intrigue, adventure, a dash of romance, and the general trials and joys of life. It’s written for adults, and has some heavy material, so I’d recommend it for age 16 and up. However, there’s nothing explicit or bad. As you should know, the times of King Henry VIII weren’t pretty. As far as I know and could tell, it was factual to history; I now know more about Kate than I ever did before! I highly recommend this book if you enjoy reading about this time period, reading historical fiction, or have even a passing fancy to the cover. Did I mention I love the cover? I do. Great book, and worth paying full price for! Definitely keeping this one.
**Sandra Byrd, the author, sent me a copy of this book in return for my honest review. I have reviewed the book honestly, given my true opinion. I received no other compensation for this review.**

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Return of the Guardian-King

Author: Karen Hancock
Genre: Life, fantasy, adventure
Series: Legends of the Guardian-King
Number in series: 4th (and final)
My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8
Type: Fiction
Number of pages: 461
Time period: Fantasy
My overall opinion: While this wasn’t my favorite book from the series (I think maybe the second one was), it was a good ending, all in all. Didn’t love it, but it was worth a one-time read. :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Birthday: Napoleon


Napoleon


Birth: August 15, 1769
Death: May 5, 1821
It’s his 243rd birthday!
You know him because – he is a famous conqueror.

Birthday: Sir Walter Scott


Sir Walter Scott


Birth: August 15, 1771
Death: September 21, 1832
It’s his 235th birthday!
You know him because – he’s a well-known author, having written Ivanhoe and Waverley.