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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Clone Wars - Battle of the Book Covers

So, you know how when something is brought to your attention, you start to see it everywhere?  Like after I saw my first Mini, I started noticing them everywhere.

Maybe I need to get my eyes examined, but I keep seeing this couple everywhere I go.  Do my eyes deceive me?

Perhaps there was a fire sale on book covers.  Am I missing any?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

You know what irks me?.....A rant on prose

So, I have been reading the synopsis on quite a lot of books lately. Before I enter a giveaway, I read the plot and certainly before I add a book to my wish lists or consider buying, I need to know what the book is about.

I have realized that I have two pet peeves when it comes to prose, well, perhaps more, but there are two currently that have come to the fore. The words are tired and become an immediate turn-off for me depending how they are used. The words are 'beloved' and 'for'.

Beloved is just overused. I have no issue with a person being beloved by many, but I have seen it so often that I just can't take it anymore. All I read of late is her beloved pet, her beloved book, her beloved necklace, her beloved comb, her beloved candy bar, her beloved pocket lint. I don't usually see the word used in such a way with a male character. I don't know whether it is being used to make the character seem sympathetic, sentimental or for some other reason, but there must be other ways to convey the meaning rather using 'beloved'. I am just so sick of it. So yeah. I see that in a book blurb and I put the book right back down again.

Now 'for' as a word in and of itself is not offensive, but hear me out. The problem I have with for is this as an example. For she is the one foretold blah blah blah.

I just tried to read a sample of a book that is one of Amazon's current Kindle Countdown Deals. I got through three pages and had to stop. In those first few pages, I found the following phrases with 'for'.

, for he was just another customer....
, for he knew she wouldn't be...
, for his master was......

That is only three pages and the first two instances were in the same paragraph!!!

It may seem as if I am being a little harsh and a bit judgemental, but to me these indicate a sophomoric writing style that I generally find lacking and unimaginative.

Now that I've had my say, I think I'll go kick a puppy....
               (I won't really go kick a puppy, for I love furry little critters.)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Swoon Thursday

Swoon Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by  YA Bound

It has been a very long time since I have had something to swoon about, mostly because I haven't been able to get any reading done. That all changed the moment I opened a box from the mailman and found a shiny new copy of the movie Austenland, book written by Shannon Hale. I couldn't watch the movie fast enough and then I became obsessed with the story. A woman possessed, if you will. I had to buy the book, which I devoured, and I bought the sequel.

The story resonated with me. And while I am not going to run off to England and join the Jane Austen Reality TV show, I understood what some of the characters were feeling.

In the words of Mr. Nobley, "The truth is, I enjoyed stepping into history. The idea of a simpler world where love is straightforward and lasting."

This week's swoon is from the movie version and if there is ever a guy who can give Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy a run for the money, I believe JJ Feild could as Mr. Nobley.

The night of the ball you said you wanted something real. I'd like to believe I am real. Is it possible that someone like me can make you happy? Will you let me try?

See, people don't do this. This is my fantasy.

Have you ever stopped to consider that you have this all backward? Jane, you are my fantasy.

On a personal note, this evening, my hubby told me that at night he has difficulty sleeping and thoughts just keep racing through his head keeping him awake. He told me that last night he had one thought racing through his head, that out of all the people in the world he was lucky enough to find the one person that makes him the happiest. So, you see while he might not be wearing a flowing white shirt and effecting a British accent, I have still somehow managed to find my Mr. Nobley. He doesn't often say things to make me swoon, but he certainly has a way with words.

Here's to each their Mr. Nobley, or if preferred, Mr. Darcy!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I'm a little bit OCD.....

So, I find that I am obsessing over a book/movie about a women obsessing over Jane Austen books, so much so that she uses lines from Jane Austen novels in her daily conversations.

If the Godfather is the I-Ching for men, then Jane Austen must be for women. Pretty much every situation Jane finds herself in she can come up with a Jane Austen quote.

My favorite Mr. Nobley quote (from the movie) to Martin the stableman (played by Bret MacKenzie of Flight of the Conchords fame), "You're just jealous. You're jealous because my Aunt would rather bring in a novice than move some kiwi actor up to the Big House. What's the matter? Couldn't get a job in The Hobbit?" (Bret MacKenzie was in Rivendell in The Hobbit.  He welcomes Gandalf and company in Elrond's absence.)

There are so many fun characters, but Miss Charming is one of my favorites. She is crass and is basically only there for the men. Upon speaking to Mr. Nobley on the occasion of their first meeting she asks him if she has something in her eye while simultaneously shoving his face in her rather ample bosom upon which he has the good graces to declare he doesn't see anything in the rather low light. When being told the story of George East achieving his Captain rank in the face of tragedy she exclaimed, "Did you die"?"

Some of the servants steal the show. As we meet the menservants upon Jane Hayes arrival to Austenland, they are all lined up in the outside the main door all looking like Chippendale's models. The maids on the other hand are all rather homely looking. What I love about the menservants is that at the beginning of the film they are all rather pasty looking, but by the end, they are all so tanned they look like giant Oompaloompas, especially with the white wigs.

Whether for the setting, the Austen subplots, the supporting cast or the Regency Hottie, a Jane Austen immersion is a fresh new look on age old stories. If an Austenesque comedy is what you seek, then this is the film to see. I loved it and cannot get enough of it.

Welcome to Austenland!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Two for Tuesday

This was a first.    I have never seen a shelf organized by cover art before.

And while I did have to move the books down a shelf to try to reduce the glare coming in through the window, this is exactly how I found them shelved.

Which cover would you pick?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Stacking the Shelves - March 9, 2014

I blame it on the snow...and the cold. I have been lethargic and bundled up under my fleece blankets playing Mini Death Star because it is a mindless activity requiring no brain power at all. Now that the snow is starting to melt, I feel like I am coming alive again. I may be part bear. I'm not sure about that, but I always feel like hibernating in January and February.

Of course, none of that has stopped me from my acquisitions. I have been reading more of my Kindle samples and have been buying some of the books as a result. I have been looking at the used and bargain books more as well as Kindle. There are some books, though, that I have to have as soon as they come out. So this past months aquisitions are a mixed bag.

So, without further ado, here is my haul for the month...

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

Books Purchased:
All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Alliance: Tha Paladin Prophecy Book 2 by Mark Frost

Silence (Queen of the Dead) by Michelle Sagarax

Rebel Springs: A Falling Kingdoms Novel by Morgan

Stolen Away by Alyxandra Harvey - Used

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

The Real Prom Queens of Westfield High by Laurie Boyle Crompton

White Hot Kiss by Jennifer L Armentrout

Grim edited by Ellen Hopkins

Love on the Lifts by Rachel Hawthorne - Bargain Book

Snowed In by Rachel Hawthorne - Bargain Book

Austenland by Shannon Hales

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale - Bargain

Austensibly Ordinary by Alyssa Goodnight - Bargain

Austentatious by Alyssa Goodnight - Bargain

My Life With the Walter Boys by Ali Novak

Til Death (Fractured Souls) by Kate Evangelista

16 Things I Thought Were True by Janet Gurtler

Kindle Books Purchased:
The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke – Kindle Daily Deal

Relic (The Books of Eva I) by Heather Terrell, Ricardo Cortes – Kindle Daily Deal

Champagne and Lemon Drops: A Blueberry Springs Chick Lit Contemporary Romance by Jean Oram

The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson – Kindle Daily Deal
The Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson – Kindle Daily Deal

The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson – Kindle Daily Deal

The Merchant's Daughter by Melanie Dickerson – Kindle Daily Deal

The Harvest Festival (Fallen Oaks) by Jack Gallow

Evie's Knight (#1 The Knight Series) by Kimberly Krey

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick – Kindle Daily Deal
Incidental Happenstance by Kim DeSalvo

Steam & Sorcery (The Gaslight Chronicles) by Cindy Spencer Pape

Runes (Paranormal Romance, YA,) by Ednah Walters

The Dating Deal by Melanie Marks

Dear Mr. Knightley: A Novel by Katherine Reay

OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu – Kindle Daily Deal

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson – Kindle Daily Deal

 Manga Purchased:
Alice in the Country of Hearts: The Mad Hatter's Late
Night Tea Party 2

Alice in the Country of Joker: Circus and Liar's Game 4

Arata: The Legend 4

Rin-Ne 14

Black Bird 18

Oresama Teacher 16

Strobe Edge 9

Fushigi Yugi Genbu Kaiden 12

Giveaway Won:
Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Book Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

I can't really pinpoint when my love of all things Austen began.

It may have been a gradual admiration.  It may have started very early on when I wanted to know where my family  roots were.  As much as I loved living at the Jersey Shore, I always dreamed of living somewhere grander, somewhere exotic.

I did move around quite a bit as a child, growing up an army brat, but it was always within the US borders. Still, I have always had a wanderer's heart.  Discovering that I was Welsh, 4th generation on my maternal Grandmother's side, and English, although further back, on both my maternal Grandmother's and Grandfather's sides really started the affair.

I wanted to learn about the land my ancestors hailed from.  This led to a natural obsession with all things Arthurian. medieval and as I got older, British television.  While other kids were no doubt watching cartoons in the afternoon, I was watching PBS for the Shakespeare hour and I would read Shakespeare for pleasure. I grew up on Monty Python, Doctor in the House, Good Neighbors, Shelley, Fawlty Towers, Alas Smith & Jones, Yes Minister and Prime Minister, Black Adder, Benny Hill, Doctor Who, The Prisoner, The Avengers, and any other British show being televised on PBS.

The first romances I read I would categorize as Regency Romances, titles eluding me now, but I would ride my bicycle to the public library and take out a stack every couple of weeks or so during the summer months.  The Regency Romances back then were not quite like the Regencies now and I didn't really see them as romances, rather historical fiction.

When I got older and had control over the remote or could drive myself to the theater, I would watch just about any period film that came along.  I believe the first Austen film I saw was Northanger Abbey from 1987, but it wasn't until the infamous 1995 TV miniseries with Colin Firth that I actually started reading her novels.

At that time in my life, I was working in a book store, so I had the world at my fingertips.  It's funny, but I don't really remember buying a whole lot of books before I started working there.  I used to troll used bookstores and flea markets, but for the most part couldn't afford back then to buy new books unless they were mass market.

The magic of a used bookstore back then is so hard too describe now.  The internet has practically put out of print books in our hands without having to get out of the chair, but back then, you would never know what you might find.  There was treasure to be found and I would spend hours looking.

My downfall was when I started making a salary where I could actually afford to buy new books and that is how my collection started building.  But I digress.

I never really got into any other Regency or even Victorian era authors, but again would watch the movies.  I have come to learn over a long period of time, that other period films and books written by authors contemporary to Jane Austen are usually pretty miserable.  The films are beautiful, don't get me wrong.  And one of my all time favorites is A Room with a View, which led to a whole E.M. Forster period in my life.  But the point is most of the stories were sad and miserable where no one got what they wanted or if they did, they were the least deserving person to get it.  I realized I didn't want to feel miserable watching a film, no matter how good it is, or a book for that matter.

At that point, I pretty much limited myself to Austen's stories and movies made from her books.  I have several versions of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility  I have a couple of Mansfield Park.  I have movies based on her novels and even more Austen tribute books, although I have come to realize there is an alarming amount of books that fit this description and not all of them seem appealing to me.

So, I had seen Austenland when it hit the shelves in hard cover back in 2007, but I wasn't too sure of it.  Back before the invent of eBooks, it was a bit more risky to purchase books without being able to get a feel for them, at least for me.  I left the book store in 1998, so lost my employee discount.  Instead, I read some reviews, which were not glowing, and decided that it wasn't worth taking the chance.

Ordinarily, I don't take other people's opinion as gospel and reserve judgement for myself, and now I wish in this instance, I had taken the chance.  Although in retrospect, it is probably better off this way.

Austenland came out as a film in 2013.  I wanted to see it desperately, but it only came to a small artsy theater and the timing was off.  It was a short run and I missed it.  I have been waiting for it to come out on Blu/Ray or DVD since and it finally has.  The movie became an instant favorite.  Naturally, though, I couldn't get enough of the film, so I decided to order the book, after all these years.

Austenland is the first book I have read since before Christmas.  I have had very little time for reading and when I have, I've been too tired to focus on a novel, so I have been reading my Kindle samples.

There are a lot of differences between the book and the movie.  The movie was perfect, but there are aspects of the book that I am not quite so fond of.  For instance, in the movie, Henry Nobley is the nephew of Mrs. Waddlesbrook and was brought into the world of Austenland when his aunt came up an actor short.  In the book, he is just an actor who has been working at Austenland for the past few years.  That fact alone drastically changes his character and the reader's or viewer's sympathy towards the character.  While I did love the book, I loved the movie more.  It seems like they took the best parts of the book to make the film.  And I can say this without criticizing the author as Shannon Hale co-wrote the script.

So, let's step into Austenland.

Book Description (From Amazon):
Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.
Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen--or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It's all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

My Review:
Jane Hayes has a lot to recommend her, but she is sadly very unlucky in love.  By her recollection, she has had a lot of boyfriends, but they never lasted very long and all seemed to be completely wrong for her.  Of course, it would seem every boy she has been on a date with was counted as a boyfriend.  She is a sensible woman with old fashioned ideas of love and an unfortunate infatuation with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy.  That is an ideal that most men just cannot live up to.  So the more the men in her life fall short of her ideal, the further she immerses herself in the fantasy world of Mr. Darcy and Jane Austen's England.

She tries to hide this side of herself, but she is seen through by an aunt, who when passes away bequeaths to her an all expenses paid vacation to Austenland which is an immersion experience.  She is not happy with her life and decides to use this experience to get Mr. Darcy and all that goes along with him out of her system so she can start to feel like she is living again.  So, off she to England she goes.

When she gets there, she is given a wardrobe for her three week stay and a character to become.  Mrs. Waddlesbrook, the proprietress, holds Jane in thinly veiled contempt as she is not the "usual type of guest", but is assured that there will be no lack in her experience.  She spends one evening acclimating herself to the Regency era and the next day takes off for the Big House where her real experience is to begin.

She finds she has been given the persona of the niece to Lady Templeton, that she has been living in America and she is now an orphan.  She is introduced to Colonel Andrews, a friend of Lord Templeton's and his acquaintance, Mr. Nobley.  She also finds there is a Miss Elizabeth Charming staying in the house as well and the party is rounded out by a Miss Amelia Heartwright who is staying at the cottage on the property with her poor, ailing mother.

Lady Templeton as the hostess must keep everyone engaged and so is quite often on the tired side.
Lord Templeton spends his time drinking and not being very engaging at all.
Colonel Andrews is intent on being pleasing to everyone.
Mr. Nobley is intent on being surly to everyone.
Miss Charming is only there for the men and become listless when the men are not around to entertain her.
Miss Heartwright is an open, engaging individual and Jane begins to resent her once she shows up as she draws the attention of the men away.

Prior to Miss Heartwright's appearance at the estate, there was an even ratio of men to women.  Once Miss Heartwright showed up, there were five gentleman to four women, so Jane would have to take the rear alone as they walked into dinner.  Finding she was often the one without an escort, she strikes up a friendship with one of the gardeners named Martin Jasper.

Finding him to be an oasis of reality amidst the pageantry of play-acting Jane spends more and more time with him, keeping her grounded.  When a misunderstanding pushes Martin away, Jane decides it is time to take control of her character and her experience, so she can leave with no regrets, to firmly and finally put Mr. Darcy behind her.

Assuming Mr. Nobley is meant for Miss Heartwright, Jane shifts her attention to Colonel Andrews, but it would seem that Miss Charming has set her sights on him as well.  Match-ups are further complicated when Captain George East joins the party.  He seems very attentive to Jane while Miss Heartwright seems to become withdrawn at his late arrival.  And why does Mr. Nobley keep looking her way.  The more Jane plays the part, the more difficult it becomes to discern fantasy from reality.  Will she be able to navigate the turbulent waters of love and be able to leave the fantasy behind for once and for all?