Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson

I just finished this book last night. Ever read a book that just makes you feel good all over, makes you feel like you're glowing after you read that last page and close the book, like you can't wait to write your own story in hopes it will be this great? Yeah, me neither, not very many times in my life, but I did feel all those things last night when I finished this book.

Anna Grazinsky is a Russian countess, a teenager who has lost everything during the Russian Revolution and must flee with what's left of her family to England. She is such a vivid character, very strong, so NOT snobby, and she insists that being a maid is not beneath her. Besides, it's only temporary. She comes to love the people who live in the huge estate where she goes to serve, and falls in love with the handsome, unassuming Earl of Westerholme who is about to be doomed in marriage to the cold-hearted Murial. Oh, what's a penniless countess to do?

This novel is full of vivid characters, so lifelike I found myself praying for them! LOL I absolutely adored the story, too, maybe, partially because I love all things Russian so much. But it's very sweet and romantic and I highly recommend it. And no, I did not receive any compensation for writing this review, and have never received a single penny from Amazon for linking to them. In fact, if the FTC would really like to know (and I can't imagine why they would, but who wants to pay a fine of thousands of dollars? Not me) I got this book from my local library. So there.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Everything Austen Challenge--Mansfield Park

I finally finished reading Mansfield Park. I did enjoy it, very much, but I couldn’t help wishing during the middle part of the book, that Jane Austen had redeemed Henry Crawford and made him the hero instead of Edmund. Oh, Edmund is such a non-hero! Yes, he’s a good, virtuous person, but even in that one hero-like quality he has flaws. He’s easily turned aside by Mary Crawford’s pretty face. Blech.

And I just can’t imagine marrying a first cousin. I guess it was done quite a lot back then, but it doesn’t appeal to me in the least! It just seems … wrong. Icky. Not an option. But even in spite of these perceived flaws in the story, I still enjoyed it. There’s just something about Jane Austen’s style that is so appealing. Plus, it gets me to thinking about my own future stories, helps me come up with ideas, and makes me want to try writing a Regency.

I do think Mansfield Park is probably the most criticized of Jane Austen’s books. But it’s still well worth reading. And now I’m moving on to Persuasion. As soon as I finish it I plan to reward myself with the movie versions. I may watch both the Ciaran Hinds version (which is my favorite) and the newest version with that pale blond fellow who doesn’t appeal to me. In fairness, I didn’t actually watch much of that one. I just saw a tiny bit of it when it was on PBS.

So how are you all faring with your Everything Austen Challenge? I still have to read Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility, but they’re my favorites, so I think I’ll make it with time to spare. We’ll see!

And no, Miss Austen did not send me this book and I got no compensation from writing this review. *Rolling my eyes*

Monday, October 12, 2009

Jane Austen Challenge - Falling Behind! Uh-oh

So, how are you doing on your Jane Austen Challenge? Hmmm? I have to admit, I've fallen behind. I should have finished Mansfield Park last month, but I'm still only halfway through it! Yikes. So I need to finish it and read one more Jane Austen by the end of this month to stay on track. But I can still finish. I have 2 1/2 months to read Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and finish Mansfield Park. Can I do it?

Yes! I think I can.

I've already watched several Jane Austen movies as well. But my goal was to read all six JA books by Jan 1st. It's still doable.

And BTW, I'm enjoying Mansfield Park. Fanny isn't as admirable a heroine as Jane Austen's other leading ladies, but I'm sympathetic to her at least. And somehow I just can't get into the thought of Fanny being in love (and ultimately marrying) her first cousin, in whose house she has grown up since she was very young. There's just something icky about that. I guess it was no big deal in the early 1800's, but still ... I'm having trouble with that.

Any opinions?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

New FTC regulations regarding book reviews

Some new regulations have a lot of book reviewers in an uproar. The gist of it is that from now on, book reviewers have to make a statement in their review saying that they received the book for free, since the FTC sees this free book, apparently, as "payment" for writing a review.

This brings me to some things I want to address.

I started this blog so I'd have a place to post my book reviews. At first I was just posting reviews of books that I'd bought, read, and liked. But soon authors and publicists started sending me free books. Sometimes I agree to post something about the book on my blog, but more often than not, I receive the books without me even knowing they're being sent. And I'm on "the list" of some authors, which gets me a free copy of each of their new books just before it releases.

You may have noticed that I never post negative reviews, that all my reviews are positive. The reason for this is very simple. I don't write reviews on the books I don't like. So if you read a review of mine talking about how much I loved a book, you can trust it. If I say I loved it, I really loved it, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I received the book for free! When I agree to post something about a book on my blog, if I didn't read the book, or I started the book but didn't like it, I will post some information about the book, post the link to purchase the book, but I won't review the book. I don't do negative reviews, but neither am I going to lie and say I loved it when I didn't.

So from now on, I will let you know if I received the book for free when I post a review. I don't know why you'd care, but since I don't want to be fined $11,000, I will post that little disclaimer! But I also want you to know that I get tons of books that I never even read, or I start reading but because I'm not crazy about the book, or I have other things I'd rather read, I never post a review about them. When a publicist sends me a book, it doesn't mean I feel obligated to read it or write a positive review about it. Because I don't. I'll read it if I want to. If I don't, I won't!

Anyway, that's all I want to say about that!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Time to pick some winners!

The winner of A Prisoner of Versailles by Golden Keyes Parson is ...

Susanne Dietze!

And the winner of Cowboy Christmas by Mary Connealy is ...

Tammy A!

Congratulations to these winners!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Cowboy Christmas by Mary Connealy

Oh, what a fun book!!!

Mary has graciously agreed to give away a copy of this book to someone who comments on this blog post. So to get your name in the stetson, please leave a comment!
(And the giveaway for Golden's book in the previous post is still up for grabs, so comment on that one, too.)

Here's my review of Cowboy Christmas:

Whoa! This book is a wild gallop on an excited pony, but you won’t want to pull back on the reins until the very last word on the last page. A fun ride.

Elijah Walker is sick to death of wily women and their evil ways, and with good reason. That’s why he’s so disgusted with himself for caring about Annette Talbot. He finds her half starved and needing help and just can’t seem to stop himself from helping her. Although he might have succeeded if it hadn’t been for his interfering Ma, who’s taken a shine to the little homeless orphan, Annie.

I enjoyed this book completely. It has hate-able villains whose hearts are as black as sin, a loveable hero who needs the love of a good woman, and an equally loveable heroine who needs the protection of a good man. It has surprise twists and daring adventures. What more could you ask for? I was glued to the pages and could hardly wait to find out what was going to happen next. Just like all of Mary Connealy’s books, it was funny, exciting, touching and romantic all at the same time. And just like the rest of her books, when I finished reading it, I was sure it was my favorite one so far.

I highly recommend it! Can’t wait to read the next one!

Leave a comment if you want to win it!