Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Blu-ray Giveaway (US/CA)

I'm a big fan of the recent Tolkien films, beginning with Fellowship of the Ring in 2001. The latest Hobbit movies have diverted quite a bit from my previous exposure to the story, both in print and in animated form.  However, they are very much in the same vein as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, with Peter Jackson's tone of directing, the amazing cinematography of New Zealand, the cutting-edge special effects, and the epic soundtrack from composer Howard Shore. Like some of you, I haven't seen the third Hobbit film yet, but you can enter to win a copy for yourself!  Check out the details below and enter to win!

From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson comes The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies," the third in a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies brings to an epic conclusion the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield and the Company of Dwarves. Having reclaimed their homeland from the Dragon Smaug, the Company has unwittingly unleashed a deadly force into the world.

Special Features on the Blu-Ray combo pack include:

  • New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth Part 3 
  • Recruiting the Five Armies
  • Completing Middle-earth: A Six-Part Saga
  • Completing Middle-earth: A Seventeen-Year Journey 
  • The Last Goodbye: Behind the Scenes
  • Music Video
  • Trailers #TheHobbit


Contest Guidelines:
  • Enter the contest by filling out the Rafflecopter widget below
  • Each household is only eligible to win One (1) Blu-ray The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one entrant per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.
  • Entrants must provide an email address in the Rafflecopter widget so that they can be contacted if they win. Failure to respond to the awarding email within 72 hours will lead to disqualification, and a new winner will be chosen. Be sure to add CalicoCritic@gmail.com to your email system so that messages will not end up in your spam file.
  • Giveaway open to the U.S. and Canada
  • The prize will be sent via FedEx or USPS. No P.O. Boxes please. Please note that the assets included within this message were delivered to you to promote Warner Home Video. Any actions (including contest and competitions) that you complete with the provided assets are your liability, and should comply with both local and international laws. Also, please remember to disclose that you are working with Warner Home Video, or that Warner Home Video supplied these materials to you if required by local law.
  • Contest ends at 12:00am EST on April 14th, 2015

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Are you Brave like Bilbo? Take the quiz to find out if you have the bravery it takes to journey through Middle Earth! Mouse over the Interactive Map to learn fun facts about Middle-Earth. Watch the official trailer & click the box art to bring the film home today!

Here's a behind-the-scenes look at New Zealand. So gorgeous! I hope to visit there someday. 

Here's a bit about the making of the film:

Hobbit 1

Hobbit 2

Hobbit 3


Disclosure: This giveaway is brought to you by Partners Hub.
I did not receive any compensation for posting this giveaway. All opinions are my own.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Book Review: Mist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd

In the first of a brand-new series set in Victorian England, a young woman returns home from India after the death of her family to discover her identity and inheritance are challenged by the man who holds her future in his hands.

Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries, spent most of her life in India. Following the death of her family in the Indian Mutiny, Rebecca returns to claim her family estate in Hampshire, England. Upon her return, people are surprised to see her…and highly suspicious. Less than a year earlier, an imposter had arrived with an Indian servant and assumed not only Rebecca’s name, but her home and incomes. That pretender died within months of her arrival; the servant fled to London as the young woman was hastily buried at midnight. The locals believe that perhaps she, Rebecca, is the real imposter. Her home and her father’s investments reverted to a distant relative, the darkly charming Captain Luke Whitfield, who quickly took over. Against her best intentions, Rebecca begins to fall in love with Luke, but she is forced to question his motives—does he love her or does he just want Headbourne House? If Luke is simply after the property, as everyone suspects, will she suffer a similar fate as the first “Rebecca”?

A captivating Gothic love story set against a backdrop of intrigue and danger,
Mist of Midnight will leave you breathless.

At the age of four you are taken from your childhood home in England to live with your family in England.  About 20 years pass, and India becomes a home of its own. Tragically you lose your family to disease and social unrest. It’s time to go home--  To your father’s grand house in England. Perhaps it’s the only certain thing you have in this world. Until it isn’t.  Even this sure thing seems to be taken from you. By a stranger.

Such is the premise of Mist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd. In 1858 Rebecca Ravenshaw returns home to her family estate, only to find that someone has come before. Taken her identity, much of her fortune, and worse, the trust of the community.  Yet there was no way to confront this imposter—she’s mysteriously passed away. And now Rebecca’s inheritance and security are to pass to a distant relative, Captain Luke Whitfield. Rebecca must overcome legal, social and personal issues if she is ever to truly regain her place at Headbourne House.

A few years ago I read The Secret Keeper by Sandra Byrd. This has been my only other exposure to her work, and I found it to be an enjoyable journey into 16th Century England. Mist of Midnight has a much different feel.  There’s less political intrigue and more of a gothic, somber puzzle being worked out. That said, Mist of Midnight is hardly depressing—the tone of it is just a bit more grounded and serious, with almost a dream-like quality at times. I enjoyed Rebecca Ravenshaw as a character and was fascinated with the details of her life. On a personal note, I have had a growing interest in the country of India, with Christian missions in particular, for about fifteen years. Knowing that many of the events described in Mist of Midnight are actually based on historical events made the details of the story that much more interesting to me.

As with The Secret Keeper, Sandra Byrd weaves in Christian principles and concepts into her writing. The religious overtones are not as prophetic as in the other work, but they very much are an integral part of the life of this daughter of missionaries. Rebecca enjoys reading Paradise Lost, looks for the angelic hand of God in her life, and applies scripture in her daily living. She doesn’t come across as an uptight missionary kid, but someone who loves God and trusts Him with every aspect of her life.  Regardless of whether she ultimately returns to Headbourne House, she knows that her Paradise Lost can become Paradise Regained in some form or fashion, in whatever way that God would will it.

Along with the quest to recover her childhood home, Rebecca must also contend with matters of the heart. I enjoyed her love interest in this story, and found their journey to be realistic, given the difficult situation they found themselves in.  There’s a bit of mystery in Captain Luke Whitfield’s situation, as his level of involvement in Rebecca’s identity theft is left to speculation for much of the novel.  There was a twist at the end that I found to be particularly surprising. Mist of Midnight did follow some predictable paths, but Byrd’s writing is very engaging, and the twists she threw in kept my interest.

Mist of Midnight is the beginning of a whole new series for Sandra Byrd, and I’m happy to know this. As a stand-alone novel Mist of Midnight can certainly hold its own, but knowing that there is more to come is good news. I enjoyed Midnight even more than The Secret Keeper and look forward to seeing what is to come with the Daughters of Hampshire series.

Limited Time Offer!!

Stop by Sandra's website and enter to win in her Gothic Romance Giveaway!

March 25 - April 1st

About the Author

After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than forty books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick for 2011 and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012. The Tudor series’ end cap, Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I published in April, 2013.

A life-long lover of Victorian Gothic romances, Sandra’s new series, Daughters of Hampshire, weaves elements of that mystical, traditional genre with inspirational and literary threads. Mist of Midnight is the series’ first book.

Sandra has also published dozens of books for tweens and teens, and is passionate about helping new authors develop their talent and their work toward traditional or independent publication. As such, she has mentored and coached hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year.

Please visit www.novelcoaching.com to learn more.

Connect with Sandra



LIW Book 1

LIW Book 2

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Guest Post and Giveaway: Young Jane Austen by Lisa Pliscou

Today I'm pleased to welcome writer and guest poster Lisa Pliscou. She has a fascinating new title available, and today she is visiting The Calico Critic to share a few thoughts on the young Jane Austen, as well as offer a nice giveaway. Thanks to Lisa for such an intriguing essay, and for the contest as well!  

What Jane Read: A Turning Point 

I’m really excited to be here, and to share with you a little bit about my upcoming book, Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer, a new biography for adults which focuses on Austen’s childhood, her creative development, and the intriguing connections to her mature work.

The first part of Young Jane Austen is made up of 20 short chapters, each one highlighting a significant event in Jane’s early years, and each one illustrated by the artist Massimo Mongiardo.

The chapter called “Reading” focuses on a big turning point in young Jane’s life.

When Jane Austen was eleven, her formal schooling — which entailed two stints in boarding schools, neither of which it seems she particularly enjoyed — ended. But once again established at home, she was fortunate to have the run of her family’s unusually extensive collection of books, as well as the library of her neighbors, the Lefroys, to which she is said to have free access.

By all reports, the young Jane was a voracious reader, and omnivorous in her tastes: poetry, plays, novels (both elevated and trashy), sermons; essays about manners, society, life; books about history and books about travel.

Thinking of this, I was fascinated to read an article in The Atlantic called “Secrets of the Creative Brain,” in which neuroscientist Nancy C. Andreasen comments, “Many creative people are autodidacts,” thriving in an environment in which they can pursue their interests at their own pace.

And in his insightful book Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention, Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says:

“You cannot transform a domain unless you first thoroughly understand how it works. . . . the old Italian saying seems to apply: Impara l’arte, e mettila da parte (learn the craft, and then set it aside). One cannot be creative without learning what others know, but then one cannot be creative without becoming dissatisfied with that knowledge and rejecting it (or some of it) for a better way.”

What spot-on descriptions of the young Jane!

Not only did Jane have hundreds of books available to her, she also belonged to a family that was lively and intellectual — one in which people not only read, they wrote, too. A great many letters came and went; Mr. Austen, a rector, wrote sermons, and Mrs. Austen, witty, sometimes acerbic poetry. Jane’s older brothers wrote essays and poems, as well as bits and pieces of plays.

So it is, perhaps, not totally surprising that around age 11 or 12 Jane shifted from being a passive reader to a more critical, responsive one. Still, what a huge shift it was, and particularly so given her age!

She began writing little notes in the margins of books — little comments — when she found something that seemed silly, misguided, or outright wrong to her.

For example, in a history book that favored the Tudor queen Elizabeth over the Scots queen Mary Stuart, Jane wrote firmly, No. No. A Lie. And: Another lie.

At some point in her youth, Jane wrote up several imaginary marriages for herself in her father’s parish register. How fun to see the names “Fitzwilliam” (Mr. Darcy’s first name in Pride and Prejudice) and “Edmund” (as in Mansfield Park’s love interest Edmund Bertram) show up. It’s easy to imagine kind, indulgent Mr. Austen laughing at young Jane’s literary prank!

And going back even earlier, Jane had a French textbook given to her when she was eight. In it, many years later, we see — in a child’s scrawl and presumed to be Jane’s — the decidedly non-academic sentences Mothers angry fathers gone out and I wish I had done.

From Claire Tomalin's Jane Austen: A Life

I find these anecdotes charming, and very moving and exciting and well. These pranks, these scribbles, represent Jane’s very first “baby steps” in her journey toward becoming a writer. She is becoming dissatisfied, as Csikszentmihalyi describes it; she has begun to transform her domain.

Something as small, as simple, as decisive as No. No. A Lie: in these few words we can glimpse the promise of the brilliant writer she is soon to become.

Giveaway: Young Jane Austen by Lisa Pliscou
(U.S. and Canadian Mailing Addresses Only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

Lisa Pliscou is an acclaimed author of both fiction and nonfiction — funny, thought-provoking, educational, inspiring — for adults and children, with a highlight on the coming-of-age experience.

Her work has been praised by the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, the Associated Press, The Horn Book, and other media.

Her forthcoming book, Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer, is a biography for adults that’s sure to intrigue anyone interested in Jane Austen, in writing and the creative process, and in the triumph of the artistic spirit.

“Like the very best of books, Young Jane Austen exists well beyond labels,” says Beth Kephart. “It is an empathetic biography and an empathic search, a reflection on a singular person and an engaging, universal treatise on creative fervor.”

Also coming next year is a new edition of Lisa’s first novel, Higher Education, praised by David Foster Wallace, Mary Robison, Tara Altebrando, and others, with a new afterword by Jeff Gomez.

As well as being an author, Lisa worked for many years “on the inside” in the publishing field. After graduating with honors from Harvard University with a degree in English and American Literature and Language, she went on to employment in top-tier publishing houses in NYC, including Random House and the Penguin Group, where she served as managing editor of the adult division at Viking Penguin and as a senior editor for Viking Children’s Books. She’s also been a longtime independent editor, and helped create and manage courses at Stanford University’s innovative, world-renowned publishing program.

A native Californian who’s lived all over the country, Lisa has recently returned to her home state, settling happily in the Sacramento area with her family.

Connect with Lisa

Saturday, March 21, 2015

New Book from Rachel Hauck | How to Catch a Prince and Royal Giveaway

Behind him, beside him, before him, the synchronized cathedral bells began to ring out.

One, two, three . . .

Then she said it first. The words his heart burst to share. “I love you, Stephen..”

She caught her prince once. Can she catch him again?

American heiress Corina Del Rey’s life was devastated by war. Every thing she loved was lost. But after five years of grief, she’s shed her grave clothes and started over in the sunshine along the Florida coast.

But some things are not so easily forgotten. When a secret from her past confronts her face to face, she realizes she must follow her heart. Even if it cost her everything.

Prince Stephen of Brighton Kingdom is a former Royal Air Command lieutenant turned star rugby player, trying to make sense of his life after the devastation of war.

When his brother, King Nathaniel, discovers Stephen’s pre war secret, he must deal with an aspect of his life he longed to forget. But how can he do so without exposing the truth and breaching national security?

Yet, true love has a destiny all it’s own. As the cathedral bells peal through Cathedral City, Corina and Stephen must chose to answer the call of love on their hearts.

Or let it be lost forever?

The year 2013 brought us Once Upon a Prince, followed by Princess Ever After in 2014, and now we have the next volume in the Royal Wedding Series by Rachel Hauck.  I enjoyed the first two titles in this collection, and How to Catch a Prince is no exception.  Like its predecessors, the main female character is from the American south, this time the Melbourne, Florida area, not too far from where I lived in Vero Beach from 2006-2011. I found it amusing that two of the three stories in the Royal Wedding Series are set in areas very close to areas I’ve lived.  This bears no influence on my opinion of the books; I just found it to be interesting.

Unlike the other novels, How to Catch a Prince begins with the main characters’ relationship in a different state. They already know each other and have a significant bit of history.  The struggle of the tale comes in how they work out that history, as well as painful secrets between them.  Corina and Stephen have great chemistry—in just being around each other, they can’t help but banter and participate in the dance that is their relationship.  Corina is vulnerable, yet strong.  I had Olivia Munn from The Newsroom in mind as I envisioned her.  For the royal, rugby-playing Stephen I imagined Henry Cavill of the latest Superman movie.  There is more than one reference to the Man of Steel in the novel, so I found that casting choice to be an interesting one.  And like Stephen, Henry is not an American. He has a lovely English accent, much like I hear in my head for Stephen.

Corina: Olivia Munn
Stephen:  Henry Cavill

The narrative tension in How to Catch a Prince is not quite as strong as in the other novels, but I never lost interest in the plot as the story unfolded.  The conclusion of the story was kind of a “given” in my mind.  It was just a matter of seeing how we would get to that conclusion, and specifically how that ending would appear.  Hauck once again includes a significant portion of spiritual material with her characters.  God is definitely an influencing force in their lives and relationship.  I particularly enjoyed the use of a couple of characters in an old inn, where Corina resided while on a visit to the kingdom of Brighton. They were certainly very spiritual, but I also felt that they gave a “Cinderella feel” to the story, taking on fairy-like roles in Corina’s life. It was magical, and I loved their presence in the narrative.

Rachel does include references to the other novels in this series, most notably the first novel, as Stephen is the brother of King Nathaniel from Once Upon a Prince.  But as with the other titles, How to Catch a Prince can very much stand on its own.  Reading the books in order is of course preferable, but feel free to jump right in with How to Catch a Prince.  You’ll do just fine. Once again Rachel Hauck has brought a fun, light, yet spiritually thoughtful story to her audience. It’s my understanding that this is to be the end of the series, but I hope that Ms. Hauck composes another.  The ancient ancestor King Stephen could easily sustain his own novel. Indeed, his life story is interesting enough that it’s made into a movie within How to Catch a Prince.  I think there’s some good storytelling to be found there.

As the new Cinderella movie has come to theaters (and I look forward to seeing that as well), lovers of fanciful tales involving commoners transforming into princesses will most likely enjoy the Royal Wedding Series by Rachel Hauck.  She provides for her audience fun entertainment, but with an important spiritual messages, such as "Don't confine yourself to a life of insignificance," and "You are a person of worth because Christ died for you." Her stories are more than sweet romantic tales, tied up with a pretty bow. While they are sweet and romantic, the eternal truths that they share go beyond mere fairy tale. They can touch the reader's heart and be an instrument of God's hand in their lives. So while How to Catch a Prince was an entertaining, magical and worthy newcomer to this delightful series, it also encourages us to live a life of purpose and to know that yes, even we are worth dying for.

An American heiress and a crown prince seem destined to be together. Will the devastation of war keep them apart forever? Find out in Rachel Hauck's new book, How to Catch a Prince. True love has a destiny all its own. With a little heavenly help, Prince Stephen and Corina embark on a journey of truth. But when the secrets are revealed, can they overcome, move forward, and find love again?

Enter to win a "royal" prize pack! 


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A royal-themed Brighton charm bracelet
  • 2 tickets to see the new Cinderella movie
  • The Royal Wedding series (Once Upon a Prince, Princess Ever After, and How to Catch a Prince)
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on March 23rd. Winner will be announced March 24th on Rachel's blog.






Book 1

About the Author: 

Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, best selling author of critically acclaimed novels such as The Wedding Dress, Love Starts with Elle, and Once Upon A Prince. She also penned the Songbird Novels with multi-platinum recording artist, Sara Evans. Booklist named their novel, Softly and Tenderly, one of 2011 Top Ten Inspirationals. She serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers and is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, and conference speaker. Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband and pets.

Find Rachel online: website, Facebook, Twitter

Check out the other stops on the How to Catch a Prince Blog Tour, sponsored by Litfuse Publicity:

Marianne | Reviewing Novels Online
Mary | The Mary Book Reader
Sally | Proverbial Reads
Jendi | Jendi's Journal
Hallie | Book by Book
Megan | When life gets you down...read a book
Alyssa | Sunrise Avenue
Julia | Avid Reader Reviews

Julie | Julie Arduini
Victoria | deal sharing aunt
Angela | Griperang's Bookmarks

Laura | Lighthouse Academy
Carole | The Power of Words
Cassandra | Cassandra M's Place
Jojo | JoJo's Corner

Joan | Book Reviews from an Avid Reader

Raechel | God's Peculiar treasure Raechel

Billy | Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer
Victor | Vic's Media Room
Kristin | Kritters Ramblings
Charity | Giveaway Lady
Becky | Christian Chick's Thoughts

Britney | Buzzing About Books
Erin | For Him and My Family
Kathleen | Reviews From The Heart

Cara | Cara Putman
Veronica | Veronica's 'Views
Jess | From Me to You ... Video, Photography, & Book Reviews

Linda | Mocha with Linda
Sharon | Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews
Rachel | Empower Moms
Brittany | Britt Reads Fiction
Brooke | i blog 4 books
Iola | Iola's Christian Reads

Shanae | Quirky Book Reviews

Marcia | Cia Says
Amanda | Inklings and Notions
Heather | The Sunset Won't

Jenny | Book Reviews By Jenny
Jaime | The Mama Games
Amber | snidbits
Joy | Splashes of Joy
Cristi | Cristi's Reviews
Shannah | Faith * Love * Books
Margaret | Frugal-Shopping

Angela | A Busy Mom of Two
Amy | A Nest in the Rocks
Crystal | Reading Corner Book Reviews & More!
Rayleigh | Accelerate The Jesus Movement
Shauna | Paper Tape & Pins
Kav | Best Reads

Callie | Through Clouded Glass

Holly | 2 Kids and Tired Books
Beckie | By The Book
Kristie | Moments
Lisa | Living Echoes

April | Dixie n Dottie
Abbi | Christian Novels
Jennifer | Genuine Jenn
Pamela | Daysong Reflections
Margaret | The World As I See It
Jennifer | Book Reviews from a Book Lover

Nise | Under the Boardwalk
Tiffany | The Crafty Home
Bethany | Perfect Beginnings
Marisa | A Way With Words
Sara | Sara Ella
Katherine | Story Matters
Jamie | Little Blurbs
Melissa | Melissa Mashburn: Real Women. Real Life. Real Faith.
Melina | Melina's Book Blog
Beth | For The Love of Books
Marissa | The Review Stew
Kay | Kaisy Daisy's Corner
Andi | Radiant Light
Amber | Amber Writes
Jennifer | Jen's Journey

Taylor | Taylor Reid Reads and Breathes
Julie | More Of Him
Lena | A Christian Writers World
Laura | The Calico Critic
Lindsay | Nighttime Reading Center
Leslie | Did you hear about the Morgan's?
Cindy | All Things Are Possible

Mindy | A Room Without Books is Empty
Michelle | Our Little Corner of the World
Lisa | A Rup life
Suzanne | Clicking Her Heels

Madilyn | The Literary Maidens
Jalynn | A Simple Life, really?!
Rachelle | Inspiring Daring
Tammy | Tammy is Blessed
Shirley | A Mom After God's Own Heart
Amanda | The Talbert Report
Heather | Misadventures of the Dynamic Uno
Stacey | WORD Up

Complimentary copy provided for review purposes only. No other compensation given.


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