Monday, February 28, 2011

Giveaway: Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

TLC Book Tours' latest offering is Angelology by Danielle Trussoni.  There are 18 blogs participating in the tour, offering reviews and giveaways.  My review will be coming up on March 28th, but I'm going to go ahead and open up the book giveaway today as the blog tour begins.  TLC has graciously offered two copies, so we'll have two winners!  Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour to learn more about Angelology and to enter to win a copy!

Participating Blogs:

Angelology Giveaway!

Go to my review post to enter!
(Entries previously posted here will be counted, but further entries need to be submitted on the March 28th post)

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

    Sunday, February 27, 2011

    Book Review: Mr. Darcy's Secret by Jane Odiwe

    Mr. Darcy's SecretFrom Goodreads:

    One dark secret can completely ruin a bright future. From the author who brought you Lydia Bennet's Story and Willoughby's Return, comes a unique look into one of the most famous relationships of all time, in Mr. Darcy's Secret.  After capturing the heart of the most eligible bachelor in England, Elizabeth Bennet believes her happiness is complete-until the day she makes an unsettling discovery. When she finds a stash of anonymous, passionate love letters that may be Darcy's, Elizabeth begins to question the quiet, stoic man she married.

    *          *          *

    Fans of Pride and Prejudice know that lead characters Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet begin their lives together madly in love.  However, if their trip to the altar is closely examined, it becomes apparent that in truth, they know relatively little about the other as they make this lifelong commitment.  Jane Odiwe plays upon this notion in her Pride and Prejudice sequel, Mr. Darcy’s Secret.

    Not long after marrying Mr Darcy, Elizabeth stumbles across some perplexing information, both in writing and through insinuations from her rival, Caroline Bingley.  It becomes clear that her new husband has some issues in his past that he has never shared with her.  Lizzy draws some of her own conclusions, and for the majority of the novel does not address Darcy himself regarding his secret.  Over the course of the book, Jane Odiwe builds suspense around his shadowy past, dropping in additional clues regarding the mystery and building the tension until ultimately, all is revealed.

    Along with the mysterious goings-on with Mr Darcy, Ms. Odiwe includes a sub-plot involving Fitzwilliam’s sister, Georgiana.  She is coming into her own as a young woman, and Darcy is determined to marry her off to an appropriate suitor.  Despite the protestations of his wife, Darcy has no regard for Miss Darcy’s feelings and plunges ahead with his own plans for her life.  Contrary to her brother’s intentions, Georgiana falls for a relative commoner and must choose between her beloved brother and the romantic desires of her heart.  I enjoyed this storyline very much, as it took me back 20 years to the days when I’d just met my future husband and circumstances frequently kept us apart.  The energy and longing of new love is like nothing else in the world, and Jane captures that desire in a realistic and chaste way.  

    Mr. Darcy’s Secret was not only an enjoyable narrative, but Jane Odiwe’s prose is incredibly well-crafted.  This is not just a fun Austenesque novel.  Jane’s skill with language and knowledge of the period are very apparent.  There were many times when I found myself purposefully going back to re-read a paragraph because of the richness of the writing.  I also appreciated her talent for conveying love and passion in a way that didn’t rely on graphic intimate scenes to make their points.  Less is more in my opinion, and Odiwe strikes the perfect tone in this regard.

    There are moments when Odiwe employs a few Austen quotes, but the vast majority of the writing is all her own, and it flows seamlessly with the Austen style.  Jane has done her homework, and it shows—all without sounding too stilted or affected.

    Although I own more than one Jane Odiwe title, I’m a bit embarrassed to say that this is the first I’ve read of her work.  My experience with her vision of Jane Austen’s world was very enjoyable, and I look forward to Lydia Bennet’s Story and Willoughby's Return.  If her previous works are anything like Mr. Darcy’s Secret, I’m set for more enjoyable reading.  Let it be no Secret—Jane Odiwe is a welcome addition to my list of preferred Austenesque writers.

    This title was provided by Sourcebooks Landmark.
    No obligation other than a honest review was required.


    Friday, February 25, 2011

    DVD Review: Bambi (Diamond Blu-ray Edition)

    Bambi (Two-Disc Diamond Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo in Blu-ray Packaging)

    Hop over to and check out my review of the latest edition of Disney's classic Bambi, coming to Blu-ray on March 1st.  Aside from a few comments about the film itself, I cover the wonderful special features and list the ones that were not carreid over from the 2005 DVD release.

    And while you're there, you can get information on how to get a $10 discount on the purchase of the Bambi Blu-ray Combo Pack.

    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    Book Review: Darcy and Fitzwilliam by Karen V. Wasylowski

    Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A tale of a gentleman and an officerFrom Goodreads:

    A gentleman cannot survive without his best friend...

    Fitzwilliam Darcy and colonel Fitzwilliam couldn't be more different. Darcy is quiet and reserved, and carries the weight of his responsibilities on his shoulders. His affable and vivacious cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam is a confirmed bachelor whose military feats have made him a hero, and whose devil-may-care personality hides the torments within. Cousins, best friends, and sparring partners, Darcy and Fitzwilliam have always been there for each other.

    Then life gets complicated, with unrequited love and unresolved deeds from the past raising their ugly heads, and family difficulties threatening even the most steadfast friendship. Will these two strong personalities find a way to align, or will the vicissitudes of life and love tear them in different directions and destroy the family they have always worked together to protect?

    *          *          *

    Among Jane Austen’s many characters, Fitzwilliam Darcy and Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam are some of my favorites.  In Pride and Prejudice Fitzwilliam won our hearts as he won Elizabeth’s, and Richard maintains a playful and caring role within the Darcy family.  I always enjoy it when Pride and Prejudice retellings give these characters new treatments for readers.

    In Karen V. Wasylowski’s Darcy and Fitzwilliam, these two cousins take center stage.  We are able to see their relationship up close, and it’s great fun.  They squabble like siblings and rib each other like fraternity brothers.  Although they occasionally have moments of contention, their underlying friendship and history together always keep their relationship strong.

    After a short prologue, Darcy and Fitzwilliam begins two months after Darcy and Elizabeth have married.  They are in the throes of newlywed bliss, completely in love.  Colonel Fitzwilliam pays them a visit at Pemberley. He is home from war, having just survived and triumphed in the great victory at Waterloo.  While he regularly calls Darcy “brat” and gives him much teasing over his newlywed glow, Richard is thrilled to be with his friend and they have a lovely visit together.

    Wasylowski’s story then recounts the following three years, as the cousins navigate their way through many challenging life issues.  Elizabeth becomes pregnant, and Darcy becomes a basket case as he worries for the life of his wife and unborn child.  Richard, always known as a bit of a playboy, becomes besotted with a beautiful widow who is too encumbered with family issues to ever remarry.  Caroline Bingley is still on the prowl, and she once again sets her sights on Darcy, despite his married status.  And then there’s Lady Catherine de Bourg, unsupportive of Darcy’s decision to marry Elizabeth and alienated from her beloved nephew because of it.  All of this makes for some very interesting dilemmas and experiences for Darcy and Fitzwilliam.

    Karen V. Wasylowski has done a fine job with these Austenian characters.  She has stayed true to the original vision of their temperaments, yet brings new aspects of who they are to light.  Their witty repartee is always fun, as they regularly jab at each other in non-cynical brotherly ways.  Darcy and the Colonel passionately love their women, sometimes going to extremes to protect them and those they love.  There is much drama in this narrative, although it doesn’t cross over into melodrama in the least.  There was more than one night when I had trouble putting the book down to go to bed!

    Being the men who they are, there are a few moments that are a bit PG-13 as far as language and sexual content.  I mention this only for those who are particular about these issues or are considering this for young readers. Most of the bedroom material is within the confines of marriage, and Wasylowski doesn’t go overboard with frequent gratuitous moments of intimacy or colorful tirades.  Thank heavens this isn’t some tawdry bodice-ripper with blue dialog every other minute.   

    Darcy and Fitzwilliam was an enjoyable read.  Karen provides a epilogue that occurs decades after the main story, and I think she could easily draft a sequel in the future.  I readily enjoyed her treatment of these characters and hope she continues to revisit this world.  Her work is page turning, humorous, maddening (Caroline!!) and touching.  This is a fine edition to the ever-growing library of Austenesque novels.  It’s definitely a “bromance” worth an Austen fan’s consideration.

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


    Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    Wednesday Contest Report - February 16th

    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 - here's what I've found so far:

    • Extreme Reader Book Reviews is having a Big Book Giveaway.  There's lots of books & swag up for grabs, with five different prize packs.  Deadline to enter is February 28th.  Here's the link:

    Friday, February 11, 2011

    Free MP3s for Valentine's Day on Amazon!

    Do you and your sweetheart have your own "song"?  When my husband Jonathan and I married in 1995, our first dance was to Harry Connick Jr.'s "It Had to Be You", so that's a favorite of ours.  In recent history, Jonathan opened my eyes and ears to Andrew Peterson's "Dancing in the Minefields" and  Dave Barnes' "God Gave Me You" (available for free on Amazon these days-- no code needed!).  They have been some of the best Valentines gifts that he's ever given me, as simple as they are.

    Would you like to send two free MP3 songs to your valentine, or even download them youreself?  You can go ahead and get them loaded onto your iPod or other MP3 device, ready for your Valentine's date this weekend.  Amazon is holding a promotion until Monday night, so go check it out!

    Here are the instructions and terms/conditions page to send your honey a treat:

    And here are my step-by-step instructions to enjoy the MP3s just for yourself:

    • Go to the On Demand section and just click on any TV show or movie, as if you were going to rent/buy it.
    • Scroll down to the bottom of the big black box/background that is behind the picture of the TV show/movie.
    • Click on the gray box that says "Redeem a gift card or promotional code"
    • Where it says "Enter a New Code", enter in VDAYMP3S
    • You should then have a $2 credit under "Amazon MP3" to buy two songs for yourself or send to your honey!
    • If you don't already have the Amazon MP3 Downloader, you'll need to download a free copy here.


    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    Wednesday Contest Report - February 9th

    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 - here's what I've found so far:

    • Jane at Two of a Kind, Working on a Full House is giving away a $50 credit to, a great place to go when you have a gift card that you don't want to use.   Deadline to enter her contest is February 28th.  Here's the link:

    Kathy at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer is sponsoring a HUGE blog hop with tons of giveaways!  194 blogs are participating in the Follower Love Giveaway Hop, running through Sunday night.  Here are some of the contests, ones that I liked in particular:

    • Lou at Reader Recommended is giving away a $25 gift card:

    • Jules at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf is giving away gift credits to The Book Depository and CSN Stores:

    • Brandi at Blkosiner's Book Blog is giving away a $5 Amazon gift card or your choice from a huge list of books:

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    Pick the Cover Art! Georgette Heyer Novels

    An Infamous Army: A Novel of Wellington, Waterloo, Love and WarAttention Georgette Heyer fans--  As the North American  home of her amazing library of titles, Sourcebooks is going to release 4 more of her Regency novels and wants to get your opinion!  They've unveiled some possible choices for the books' cover art and are asking readers to vote on their favorites.  This is not a promotional contest; it's purely for fun.  Stop by this special corner of their website to post your comments and votes.  Here's the link-- have fun!

    Friday, February 4, 2011

    Free eBook Offers from Sourcebooks!

    Sourcebooks, one of my favorite publishers has a really nice offer for us this weekend!  The following ebooks (and others) will be free from today until Sunday:

    Lydia Bennet's Story: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice

    Lydia Bennet’s Story
    by Jane Odiwe

    Her new release Mr. Darcy’s Secret just came out on February 1st, and my review will be here on The Calico Critic soon!

    The Greatest Knight: The Unsung Story of the Queen's Champion

    The Greatest Knight
    by Elizabeth Chadwick

    Her highly anticipated release, To Defy a King will be released March 1st

    Click here to get all the information. If you don't have an e-reader, that's okay-- I just downloaded the PDF versions and can read them on my computer.

    You can also sign up for their eBook Deal Newsletter so you can know about all of their promotions going on (to sign up, fill out your name and email on the upper right hand corner of that web page).

    Dreaming Anastasia: A Novel of Love, Magic, and the Power of DreamsI also saw Joy Preble's Dreaming Anastasia available for free today.  It will be available for as long as it's up on their free ebook promo page—sometimes the individual retailers will keep the promos up a bit longer (or at times shorter) because of their own scheduling, and once those have run they will take it down from the site. The promos are still up today, so enjoy.  Check back to the Sourcebooks Ebook Promo page, or to join the mailing list to receive regular updates about their promotions.


    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Book Review: Child of the Northern Spring by Persia Woolley

    From the back cover:

    Child of the Northern Spring: Book One of the Guinevere Trilogy
    Among the first to look at the story of Camelot through Guinevere’s eyes, Woolley sets the traditional tale in the time of its origin, after Britain has shattered into warring fiefdoms.  Hampered by neither fantasy nor medieval romance, this young Guinevere is a feisty Celtic tomboy who sees no reason why she must learn to speak Latin, wear dresses, and go south to marry that king.  But legends being what they are, the story of Arthur’s rise to power soon intrigues her, and when they finally meet, Guinevere and Arthur form a partnership that has lasted for 1500 years.

    This is Arthurian epic at its best—filled with romance, adventure, authentic Dark Ages detail, and wonderfully human people.

    *          *          *

    Every Arthurian retelling has its own flavor and perspective on the characters of this historical/legendary tale.  In particular, the character of Guinevere has been portrayed in many ways, from demure seductress to vivacious tomboy, as in Persia Woolley’s Child of the Northern Spring.  Guinevere (or Gwen as she is also called) is the daughter of a king, destined to be married to another royal, much to her consternation. She is not one for the trappings of her station, preferring to gallivant about in breeches and spend her time in the stables rather than to be dressed to the nines and holding court.  However, as she grows she comes to understand the importance of her position. She eventually relents and marries the ambitious Arthur Pendragon.

    Child of the Northern Spring is mostly told from the perspective of Guinevere, who is preparing to marry Arthur, whom she has only met once years before.  She recalls her childhood, her struggles to accept her duties, first love and youthful adventures.  Likewise, one of Arthur’s men, Bedivere, recounts to her the King’s story, how he grew from young fosterling to the auspicious leader she would later marry.  After many chapters of reminiscence, the narrative eventually catches up with Gwen’s present day and the events leading up to and just after the royal wedding.

    Persia Woolley’s vision of Guinevere and the world of King Arthur is rich, full of adventure and thorough character development.  It’s interesting to see how Gwen grows from a sometimes-defiant young girl to a confident and worthy High Queen of England.

    While I found Persia’s writing to be very good, there were times when I felt like the story would become bogged down with too many details.  The amount of particulars did enable me to feel immersed in the story, but I could have done with a bit less.  The majority of the novel is couched in the anticipation of Gwen and Arthur’s wedding, and there were moments when I wished the story would move along and just get to that moment. 

    There is also quite a bit of mysticism woven throughout the book.  Pagan and magical elements have always been a part of the Arthurian legend, so this wasn’t completely unexpected.  Readers who care about such things should be aware that the Christian elements of the story (which have also been a part of the legend) are given more of a backseat and are frequently seen in a negative, judgmental light.  As a Christian I didn’t find this offensive, I just wish both sides had been given equal treatment.  The story seems to bill itself as “tolerant” of all religious beliefs, but in truth the Goddess reigns in the hearts of Guinevere and most of the major characters.

    Child of the Northern Spring
    is the first book in the Guinevere Trilogy, followed by Queen of the Summer Stars and Guinevere: The Legend in Autumn. This initial volume concludes just after the royal wedding, with no mention of the knight Lancelot as of yet.  As Arthur proves to be a somewhat distant lover for Gwen, I’m sure the arrival of Lancelot in the upcoming volume will prove to be interesting to say the least. 

    Part of me wants to see how Woolley’s view of the tale continues, but I don’t relish the effort that it will take to complete the journey.  While this trilogy is a deserving entry into the annals of Arthurian legend, I don’t quite feel compelled to invest my time in wading through the whole of it.  A condensed version would be nice, but one could contend that the richness and authenticity of the story would be lost in a shorter retelling.  Most fans of this genre would probably enjoy Woolley’s novels, but in my case I think my time with her trilogy is at an end.

    This title was provided by Sourcebooks Landmark.
    Only an honest review was required.


    Wednesday, February 2, 2011

    Wednesday Contest Report - February 2nd

    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 - here's what I've found so far:

    •  Sarah at Sarah Says is celebrating her 50 followers (now over 60!) by giving away a $20 Amazon E-Certificate.  Deadline to enter is February 13th.  Here's the link: 

    • The folks at Splash of Our Worlds are having a giveaway-- winner gets to pick a book up to $10 USD at The Book Depository.  Deadline to enter is February 20th.  Here's the link:

    • Britt at Reading Nook is having a 300 Followers giveaway, with all sorts of books, ARCs and swag up for grabs!  Deadline is March 1st.  Here's the link:


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