Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book Review - Resurrect by David E. Stevens

From the back cover:

Preventing his burning fighter from crashing into a neighborhood, Navy Commander Josh Logan ejects...too late.  Critically injured, he's offered a new life and mission—exploiting highly classified military technology to stop a global cataclysm. The price? He’ll be dead to everyone he knows.

A year later, he wakes in a city hospital with altered appearance and enhanced abilities. Guided by nothing but a voice, he must infiltrate the military-industrial complex, recruit a team and develop the world’s most powerful weapon—to protect humanity. The more he learns, the more he questions who, or what, is behind his resurrection, as the clock counts down to the end of the world.

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So here we are, at the end of 2012.  If the Mayans were correct, we are weeks away from the end of the world.  Catastrophe is due to hit us on December 21, 2012. Not buying it?  Here’s a possibility offered by David E. Stevens, author of the novel Resurrect:  It is entirely possible that a large comet could enter our solar system with little advanced warning, slam into Earth and obliterate life as we know it in the blink of an eye.  How could we possibly respond to this? Do we even have the technology and organization to carry out a rescue plan?

In Stevens’ novel, he presents a man named Josh, someone who has been given a second life in order to carry out this seemingly impossible mission to save the human race.  Through his knowledge of aircraft, his connections in the military, new enhanced physical abilities, funding from a Sir Richard Branson-type billionaire and help from an all-star team of scientists and specialists, he endeavors to deal with a nearly-invisible “black comet” headed towards the planet. Along the way, he must deal with the loss of his first life (and the wife with whom he shared it), moving on to love again, as well as dealing with trying to understand “Jesse”, the all-knowing voice in his head, feeding him the information about the comet.

Resurrect is a roller-coaster of a story, from the taut opening chapter that had me sitting on the edge of my seat (read it here), to the conclusion that has me looking forward to the next episodes in this planned trilogy.  As the wife of a pilot, I couldn’t help but be engaged with Josh’s story and the details surrounding him.  Author and Commander David Stevens is an experienced fighter pilot himself, and it most certainly shows in his writing.  He pulls back the curtain a bit on the inner workings of aviation, military intelligence and science.  I was highly entertained by his story, but I got a bit of an education as well.

Another interesting aspect of the novel is its connections with religion and philosophy, and how they are interwoven through science.  One might assume that the “Jesse” character in the novel is God speaking to Josh, although Josh doesn’t seem to acknowledge this much as a possibility. Elizabeth, a nurse with whom Josh has romantic attachments to, seems to hold a Christian faith, relating Josh’s philosophical questions to answers found in the Bible.  This intermingling of faith, science and the military makes for some interesting reading, and had me thinking about many of the issues posed in the novel, even when I was away from the book.

Although there are religious aspects to this story, I would not term Resurrect a traditional Christian book. Stevens does not shy away from salty language (although other authors probably would have exploited that more than he did), nor the natural sexual desires of the characters.  Everything is kept decidedly low-key in these areas, but it’s not the kind of content I’m used to finding in most Christian titles.  To be honest, it’s refreshing.  Military guys in particular are not known for their squeaky-clean vocabulary, and to ignore the internal drives of young people attracted to one another would be unrealistic.  Yet Stevens handles these matters in a fairly family-friendly way, which I’m sure will keep his possible upcoming cinematic production at a PG or PG-13 rating.

I think my only criticism comes in my distaste for a certain tone that Stevens takes from time to time within his storytelling.  Due to the heavy nature of the situation—the possible end of the world—it seems that he wanted to inject a bit of levity once in a while for comic relief.  There are frequent quotes from movies offered, as well as many references to current video games.  At first I found this trend amusing, but after a while it made his writing seem more juvenile than it needed to be. The motif was just used too often in my opinion, and I hope he tones it down in his upcoming episodes.

That minor issue aside, I offer my hearty review to Resurrect.  With the feel of an exciting Hollywood romp, it’s the kind of movie I’d love to watch with my CFI husband, who trains Gulfstream jet pilots on a daily basis.  It opens with a great punch and carries the reader through an exciting and thought-provoking narrative that had me looking forward to more.  The end of the world may or may not be at hand, but David E. Stevens has given us a fun diversion for the moment, and a number of ideas to ponder for a lifetime.


To celebrate the release of Resurrect, David E. Stevens has teamed up with his publisher, 

Kregel Publications, for a Kindle Fire Giveaway and Facebook Author Chat Party {12/4}.

One "thrilling" winner will receive:

A Kindle Fire
Resurrect by David E. Stevens
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 3rd. Winner will be announced at the Resurrect Author Chat Facebook Party on 12/4. Connect with David, get a sneak peek of the next book in the Resurrect Trilogy, try your hand at the trivia contest, and win some great prizes—gift certificates, books and a Book Club Prize Pack (10 copies for your book club or small group)!

So grab your copy of Resurrect and join David on the evening of December 4th for a chance to connect with David and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP today.
Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.
Hope to see you on the 4th!

More About David E. Stevens

A Navy fighter pilot with hundreds of aircraft carrier landings, Commander David E Stevens holds degrees from Cornell and the University of Michigan with graduate work in astrophysics. He test piloted new fighters and received an aviation patent. With a Top Secret clearance, Dave served as Strike Operations Officer for the Persian Gulf during Desert Storm and led classified defense programs. He’s traveled to over two dozen countries.

Find out more about David at ResurrectTrilogy.com.

Follow David on Twitter


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Giveaway - Friends Prize Pack!

In association with the recent release of Friends: The Complete Series Blu-Ray Box Set , Partners Hub is hosting a giveaway of a special Friends prize pack! One winner from The Calico Critic will receive a Limited Edition Friends prize pack with two oversized cappuccino mugs and a picture frame just like the one on Monica’s door, exclusive to this giveaway!

Check out the widget and video player below. Come back every day to earn a different Friends character badge, unlock hidden badges, and earn awesome Friends content along the way.  And come back to the video player every Thursday to see the new unlocked Friends Mashup clips running from November 8th to December 13th.  Relive all your favorite Friends moments in these fun clips.  Each week a new clip will be unlocked.

Here are ways you can earn points to enter the contest-- they can be separate comments or grouped into one, if applicable:
  • One Point (Mandatory) - Please share your email address so that I may contact you if you win.  If you'd rather not post that here, you may email me directly at CalicoCritic@gmail.com.
  • Two Points - Take the "Which Friend Are You Most Like" Quiz in the 30 Days of Friends widget (bottom left hand corner of the widget) and share your results!
  • Two Points - Share the following tweet, then post the direct URL of your tweet here in a comment. You may do this multiple times, just please separate your tweets by at least 3 hours.
Enter to win a #Friends prize pack! Sponsored by @PartnersHubTeam and @WB_Home_Ent via The Calico Critic (@LHartness) http://CalicoCritic.blogspot.com
  • Four Points -  Check out the Mashup Clip Countdown video player and relive lots of fun Friends moments in these clips. Each week a new clip will be revealed. Choose one favorite moment within each weekly clip (some moments are just seconds long!) and share it with us in a comment. As this post is going up after some weekly clips have already been revealed, feel free to catch up and watch each clip that's been posted so far.  For this contest, we're only going to do the November clips. I'll accept "favorite moments" from the clips from Nov. 8th, Nov. 15th, Nov. 22nd and Nov. 29th, whenever you can send them during the contest period.  Just be sure to indicate which clip you watched and what your favorite moment was within that clip (Example: "November 8th clip - My favorite moment was...").

The Friends Door on Set
This contest is going to be a short one-- get your entries in by 11:59pm EST on November 29th.  I'll choose a winner on the 30th, and I have to send in their mailing information by December 1st.  So if you're the winner, it's important that you respond quickly. Please make sure my email address will make it past your spam filters:  CalicoCritic@gmail.com

Note:  This promotion is available to U.S. residents only.

In order to accommodate the Friends widgets, I did a revamp of the website for the first time in three years!  I hope you enjoy our new look!  I'll be tweaking it over the next few weeks, and hopefully updating it as the seasons change.

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Congrats to DonnaS, winner of the Friends prize pack!

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30 Days of Friends Widget

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Mashup Clip Countdown Video Player

Thanks for entering, and good luck to all!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Interview - Victoria Connelly
of Christmas with Mr. Darcy

The holidays are almost upon us, and with our schedules heating up while the weather cools down, many of us may have less time for casual reading during this busy season.

If you'd like to take a little time at the end of your day to relax and unwind with some fun, relatively short Austenesque books, I highly recommend the Austen Addicts series by Victoria Connelly.  These sweet novels are perfect for the fans of all things Jane Austen.  You can check out my individual reviews of the series here:

If you've already enjoyed these titles, I'm pleased to report that Victoria has given us all an early Christmas present! She's written a lovely novella, Christmas with Mr. Darcy,for the fans of this series and the characters within the three novels.  This compact story takes the reader back to the characters of this series, many of whom are all now gathered together for a Jane Austen conference at the stately Purley Hall in Hampshire. There's a bit of romance, a bit of mystery, and much fun to be had in this holiday confection.  For those who have read the previous novels, I encourage you to pick this one up.  And if you haven't read the Austen Addicts trilogy yet, put it on your To Be Read list soon!

I recently had an opportunity to ask Victoria a few questions that popped into my mind after reading Christmas with Mr. Darcy, and I thought I'd share them with you.  Here's the interesting feedback I received from Victoria:

Ardington House
Have you spent much time at the real Purley Hall?
Purley Hall is based on a beautiful Georgian manor called Ardington House in rural Oxfordshire. It's a private home which is open to the public but they host weddings and conferences there and I wrote to ask if I could visit and was allowed to walk around the house and the grounds, making notes for my novel and taking lots of photographs. It is just as I describe it in A Weekend with Mr Darcy and Christmas with Mr Darcy. It is set back from the road down the sweep of driveway, there is a huge cedar tree at the front of the house, a swimming pool, beautiful gardens and the temple on an island in a lake.

Do they have Jane Austen conferences there?
I'm afraid they don't hold Jane Austen conferences at Ardington House but perhaps somebody should suggest one!

"Barton Cottage"
When and where was your first Austen conference?
As far as I am aware, there aren't any Austen conferences in the UK but there is the wonderful Jane Austen Festival held in Bath each September and I attended that the year I was writing the third book in my Austen Addicts Trilogy, Mr. Darcy Forever. People come from all over the world to attend and there are fantastic events such as the costumed promenade through the Georgian streets, dancing, readings, guided tours and talks about all things Austen.

There is also the wonderful 'Pride and Prejudice Tours’ which conducts holidays to the locations used in Jane Austen adaptations and I was lucky enough to stay in the house used in the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility and I wrote about this in Mr. Darcy Forever. The house is in one of the most romantic settings I've ever seen.

If you were incredibly wealthy, what is the largest amount you would pay at auction for a first edition Pride & Prejudice?
I don't think I'd actually get that excited about a first edition of Pride and Prejudice but what would really excite me would be a signed copy and, if money were no object, I could see myself paying a handsome sum for such a book although not silly money because I’d rather spend it on rescuing more animals!

What would be worse:  Losing something incredibly valuable, or someone stealing something incredibly valuable from you?
When I was a teenager, our house was burgled and we lost some jewellery which had belonged to my grandmother. It's still breaks my heart to this day because it would probably have been sold on for next to nothing and, of course, not meant as much to the new owners as it had to my family. So, I think it would be worse to have something stolen because, if you lost something yourself, you have only yourself to blame and there's always the chance that you might find it again.

What is your favorite Pride &Prejudice adaptation (film or television)?
It has to be the 1995 BBC adaptation starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet. There are so many magical moments and Colin Firth really is the perfect Mr. Darcy although I do love the recent Joe Wright film version too - the soundtrack is exquisite and the locations were just wonderful and one doesn't always have the time to sit down to the six-hour BBC version.

What is your favorite way to spend Christmas Day?
Quietly at home with my husband with lots of good food, a real fire and a wonderful old film to watch after a good walk in the crisp cold winter countryside.

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Thanks to Victoria for taking the time to answer my questions!  I hope all of you get a chance to read her new offering-- as for me, it was a nice early Christmas treat!

Connect with Victoria



Monday, November 5, 2012

Book Review - The Ruins of Lace
by Iris Anthony

Lace is a thing like hope.
It is beauty; it is grace.
It was never meant to destroy so many lives.

The mad passion for forbidden lace has infiltrated France, pulling soldier and courtier alike into its web. For those who want the best, Flemish lace is the only choice, an exquisite perfection of thread and air. For those who want something they don’t have, Flemish lace can buy almost anything—or anyone.

For Lisette, lace begins her downfall, and the only way to atone for her sins is to outwit the noble who now demands the impossible. To fail means certain destruction. But for Katharina, lace is her salvation. It is who she is; it is what she does. If she cannot make this stunning tempest of threads, a dreaded fate awaits.

The most lucrative contraband in Europe, with its intricate patterns and ephemeral hope, threatens to cost them everything. Lace may be the deliverance for which they all pray…or it may bring the ruin and imprisonment they all fear.

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Before taking on The Ruins of Lace as a book to review, I knew next to nothing about the lace industry in the 17th Century.  The premise of Iris Anthony’s novel sounded intriguing, and I assumed that it would afford me an opportunity to learn a thing or two about that period.

Anthony has not only given me an interesting history lesson, but she has crafted an immensely enjoyable novel, one that I could not read fast enough. Within her 35 chapters, seven points of view are given five chapters each, all in a repeating sequence.  I present the diverse cast of characters:
  1. Katharina Martens – Lace Maker
  2. Heilwich Martens – Katharina’s Sister
  3. Denis Boulanger – Soldier and Border Guard
  4. Moncher – Lace-Smuggling Dog
  5. Lisette Lefort – Viscount of Souboscq's Daughter
  6. Count of Montreau – Marquis of Eronville's Son
  7. Alexandre Lefort – Distant Cousin of Lisette
All of these characters are connected, some in very immediate ways, others more distant.  They all hold their own points of view on lace and it’s impact on their lives. For Katharina, she must make lace or be forced into a life of destitution. Her sister Heilwich works for years, trying to free her sister. Denis is a less-than-successful border guard, struggling to prove himself in his work, but finding no smuggled lace. Moncher the dog is one of thousands of his kind, smuggling lace across the border of France, having the greatest desire to just be with his kind master. Lisette unwittingly gets her family entangled with the likes of the villainous Count of Montreau, a man who is cruel in his pursuit of lace. Finally, Alexandre Lefort is the humble cousin of Lisette, who will do almost anything for her love and to free her family from the clutches of the vile Count.

This seven-chapter pattern that Iris Anthony has woven was incredibly compelling.  Each character had so many relatable yearnings, even the warped Julien, the Count of Montreau. All desired love and acceptance in some way, and all sought freedom in one manner or another. Each faced moments of truth when a “yes” or “no” decision had to be made,  and frequently it was the choice between two evils. At the end of each chapter, I eagerly awaited the return of that character, seven chapters later. This led to that “just one more” mindset that all readers love, when we find ourselves reading much more than we had intended, simply because we had to get through just one more chapter.

The Ruins of Lace was a quick read, not only because of the compelling nature of the seven-chapter cycling, but Iris Anthony’s writing was very accessible. She is able to transport her readers to the 17th Century, but she kept a slightly modern tone in her style. It certainly wouldn’t be considered a light read for the beach, but one could easily dive in and complete the book in just a few sittings.

For my conservative readership, I must alert you to Julien, the Count of Montreau’s character. While Anthony doesn’t get overly graphic in her portrayal of this disturbed man, be aware that he is struggling with gender identity issues. He has been traumatized many times throughout his life, so his angst is understandable, but the nature of his proclivities may be a concern to some. That being said, I’m sure his struggles are more common than most of us realize, and this doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the novel.

Chantilly Lace
In today’s world of near-instant gratification with e-commerce and digital media, it’s hard for us to comprehend the value of something as common as a piece of lace. We now have computerized machines that can weave this fabric for us, and we can order it instantly online. Yet in the 17th Century, this was hardly the case. This delicate frippery was highly valued, and this impacted society in a myriad of ways. Iris Anthony’s The Ruins of Lace investigates this in not only an educational way, but in an entertaining one as well. I encourage you to explore this compelling novel, and I highly advise you to clear your schedule when you do. If our experiences are similar, you’ll have a hard time putting this one down.

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Want to learn more?
Here are some resources from The Ruins of Lace:

Author Iris Anthony Discusses The Ruins of Lace


Print Edition

Kindle Edition


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