Saturday, December 31, 2011

"12 to 2012" Readathon: My Starting Point!

I'm excited to see a bunch of readers joining us today for an end of year celebration.  I'm still two books shy of making my Goodreads reading goal for 2011 and have many books on the way to being finished, so I'm thinking I should easily be able to wrap that up in the next twelve hours, right?

My mother is begging to go catch a matinee of something today, and since she is leaving to go home tomorrow, I don't want to feel like a big meanie and say no.  I think we'll have to take a little time out so we can hit a matinee.  I'd love to get her in on the reading action, but that's not her game at all, so I better not completely exclude my family today!

Anyway, I'm eager to get started.  Here are some of the books on my reading list today:


I'm not heading in any particular order, although I'll probably be finishing off a couple of these that I've started.  Let's be honest here--I'm trying to meet my Goodreads' goal, so I'm not so much going for "reading for reading's sake" as I am for finishing things up.  
Well, I'm off to go finish some books!  If you can, join us today for some great reading!  I noticed that Twitter is down right now, so I'm going to head off to get some reading in and I'll check back in a bit.  Best wishes!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ring in the New Year with a "12 to 2012" Read-a-Thon

Are you tired of ringing in the New Year at a big party or get-together?  Are you like I am and inevitably end up in a fight with someone (verbal--not fisty-cuffs) or end up pondering on all you failed to accomplish that year?  Whether you love or hate New Year's Eve, you could always give a good 1/2 marathon, ahem, I mean READ-a-thon a try. 

After a great conversation via Twitter, @heidenkind, @picky_girl, and myself (@mjmbecky) decided to switch up our New Year's Eve with a good read-a-thon that would run from 12 pm to midnight.  We're in the central and mountain time zones, but we're going to start at noon wherever we're at. No worries.  Just let me know if you'd like to join in, or you can stop by here on New Year's Eve or check into Twitter.  We'll be reading and tweeting all evening!  However you celebrate, have a great New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Goodreads Goal: Three to Go!

The holidays have been really great so far.  Here's what I've been up to:
  • Staying up late  (love, love, love)
  • Sleeping in  (love, hate, love, hate--love getting lots of sleep, hate seeing how late it is once I get going)
  • All the junk I couldn't do during school  (i.e. clean, organize, etc.)
  • Putting together that treadmill
  • Visiting the chiropractor 3+ times for putting together said treadmill  (Nice start to "good health.")
  • Graded 33+ essays and over 100 quizzes  (Only 70+ essays to go!  Ha, ha.)
  • Shopping for decor for my home  (I picked up some great stuff to go above my kitchen cupboards & an amazing piece of art for my guestroom.)
  • Did a LITTLE reading 
I've been waiting to get a document back from a publisher so I can post my interview with Phillipa Ashley, but with the holidays I think people are taking a much-deserved break!  It's still coming, but I have to wait just a bit longer.  No worries though.

Okay.  Now that I've shared a bit of what my holidays have entailed, let me get down to brass tax.  I was doing great on my 100 Book Challenge for Goodreads until the school year hit.  Ever since then, I feel as though I've been chasing that darn app, always managing to be a book or two behind.

Thankfully, setting my challenge has really pushed me to try out books and genres I might not have otherwise.  For instance, I have become a big fan of graphic novels.  Who would have thought?!?  There are some really great reads out there and I've enjoyed trying out ones I haven't read before.  When you only have a snippet of time, a graphic novel is a perfect option.  Audiobooks have also been a great option to fill in the gaps.  When I have had no other time than the drive to and from work, listening to a book has made me feel as though I'm still getting in a little reading.

Well, there's my update and challenge!  Wish me luck, since I'm on my way to finishing those last three books  (and 70+ essays...).  Here's to hoping I can actually finish it up before 2012.  Then I'll need to regroup and have a "Review-Writing" Challenge!

Did you set a Goodreads Challenge and where are you at with it?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas & a Giveaway Winner!!!

First off, Merry Christmas to one and all! I've been delightfully sidetracked and kept busy by family and friends.  I see salads and plenty of fruit and veg in my future to help me account for all of the goodies we've been eating, but it has felt pretty worth it for the moment!  We're staying in today, decked out in our pjs (even for Christmas dinner), and will be tucking into a stack a books later in the day.  That's my present to myself!

Also, I didn't get my Austen B-day Soiree winners posted on Friday, so I thought now would be a perfect gift to someone! 

The winner of a nice grab bag (drawn at random from Random.org) of Austen-related novels is: 
Heather M. 

Congrats!  I've sent you an email and will hope to hear from you some time after Christmas so I can get this little extra Christmas surprise off to you. 

Thanks to everyone who joined in on Jane Austen's Birthday this year and the great posts for the Austen Soiree.

Well, that's my hello on this Christmas Day.  However you spend this wonderful holiday, I hope you have a great one!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Catch Up



First off, please check back on December 26th for a fun author interview with the great Phillipa Ashley.  With all the holiday madness, we're going to move it back a couple of days.  Check back on Monday for more from Phillipa about how she came up with her characters and more!  (Check out my review of Carrie Goes off the Map for a fun read.)

Next, stop by my good friend Tasha's blog Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books to check out Romance Month.  There are some fun posts--including a little something Tasha asked me to write up!  I love the great stuff my other blogger friends wrote up, especially about romance reads, so it was a lot of fun to bust out of my normal writing style to post a little fun post about romance heroes and romance novel covers.  Check out all the posts this month, but you can also check out my guest post, "Judging a Cover By Its Man-Flesh."

One last thing!  Thank you to everyone who joined in the birthday celebration for Jane Austen.  It was a lot of fun learning a bit more about Austen-era sweets and joining so many other great bloggers and authors in celebrating Austen's birthday!

All right, now it's time to head back to my grading, reading, and resting!  I wrenched my back pretty good a couple of weeks ago (trying to put together my new treadmill--how ironic) and it finally knocked me flat on Tuesday.  Today I'm pretty thankful for chiropractors and plenty of time to rest.  Maybe it was yet another way to avoid grading all of these essays?  :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: Carrie Goes Off the Map by Phillipa Ashley

In the midst of a dry spell where it comes to actually finishing books, I did have a wonderful reading session with Phillipa Ashley's book Carrie Goes off the Map.  Yes, I have an interview at the end of this week with Phillipa, but I just really like her novels and the great romantic escape they serve up!

Thankfully we're off for the holidays.  It couldn't have come sooner for me.  I still have 100+ essays to read over the break, but I think that with some much needed sleep and R&R, those will feel like nothing!  Also, this will be my first Christmas back on the mainland for about four years.  Every year I've traveled to Hawaii to spend it with my mother, but since she moved home, we'll be spending it at my house this year.  I'm sad to not spend Christmas Eve at a luau or Christmas Day on the beach (or the entire holiday in a pair of shorts and sandals, for that matter), but I am kind of happy that I didn't have to pack everything up this year and will be spending it at my home.  It will be a really nice Christmas.  Trust me when I say that I'll be spending as much time as possible reading!  I can't wait.  Let me, however, share this great read.  It was a great book to start off my holiday.

Synopsis:  Just coming off being dumped by her long time boyfriend and fiance, Carrie Brownhill has to find a way to pull her life together and show herself and her ex that her life isn't over.  At the same time, Matt Landor, MD has just returned from a tropical island, where he had been doing  medical service and just traumatized by an accident that had him shipped home to recoup and repair.  Together, he and Carrie somehow end up in each other's paths to healing.  Strangely, it comes in the form of an antiquated camper and a road trip.  Can a road trip do anything more than cause the travelers to bicker and fight?

Review:  Phillipa Ashley has a fun, lively style to her writing that keeps the tempo moving in her stories, and her characters progressing.  I'm always struck by writers who can get me to care about the main character quickly, and I always seem to feel that way with Ashley's heroines.  In this case, Carrie could be any woman who has been dumped by her man/fiance.  However, her situation seems compounded by feelings of all the time she lost and for being played a fool.  It's not as if the relationship fizzled out and they both knew it wasn't right, it was like being jilted and left the outsider and the unwanted.  All you have to do is add a main male lead character who is charismatic, attractive, aloof, and a Mr. Darcy comparison, and you have a real recipe for sure romance.  

Whatever it is about a woman who has been scorned and left aside that draws a man in, I'll never quite understand, but we all seem to love  it.  I can't say that I know of anyone who has done that in real life (gotten together on the back of a nasty split, although I know they exist), but there is something appealing about having that resolution.  This story isn't an easy get together though.  Much of the story is spent traveling the countryside, as Carrie and her handsome doctor, Matt, take a road trip to forget their woes.  As any road trip is bound to do, the two get into their quarrels and eat their fair share of gas station fare.  With that comes short tempers, but also a number of conversations brought on by fatigue and heightened emotions.  

As with Phillipa Ashley's novels, I really enjoyed this newest one.  Carrie's story is one that many women will recognize and see themselves in from start to finish (or at least wish to).

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on an advanced copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Happy Birthday to Jane Austen: Soiree & Giveaway


Happy Birthday to the amazing Jane Austen!  

Along with many other Jane Austen fans, bloggers, and authors, we want to take a moment to offer a gift in celebration of Jane Austen's Birthday.  One of the things I thought would be interesting to share a bit about today was the food that Austen would have been eating in her day.  What might have been shared around the table in celebration of her birthday?  Other than customary roasts of beef, chicken, partridge, lamb, etc., we would find lovely breads, marmalade, and soups.  What about the birthday cake?

Although the birthday cake as we know it today probably did not really gain popularity until near the end of Austen's life or just after, cakes and puddings in celebration of special occasions have existed since the Ancient Romans.  In that case, what kind of cakes existed in Jane Austen's day?  According to "The Jane Austen Centre," she might have enjoyed a Pound or Gingercake, a Boiled Pudding or Fruit Trifle, or even pie or cookie.  Regardless of the exact treat, I thought I'd share a couple of the recipe links here for you to check out and maybe try out over the holidays this year.

Here are a few:

Christmas Fruit Cake
Christmas Pudding
Just a Trifle
Gingerbread Cakes
Rich Pound Cake

Although fruit and nuts might have been more along the line of what they would have served for dessert, these delicious sweet treats were around in Austen's day and might have graced her table on her birthday, at some point. 

In celebration of Jane Austen's birthday, a number of us are going to be offering up wonderful treats and giveaways of our own. 

For the Giveaway:  I have a number of Austen-themed books that include:  The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy, Prom and Prejudice, and more!  I'd like to share these books in a nice grab bag to one person in the U.S. or Canada.  All you have to do is leave a comment, along with your name and email address where you can be reached.  The giveaway will close on December 23rd at midnight.

For other great posts and giveaways, please visit the following blogs and sites:

Sharon Lathan (Austen Author)
O! Beauty Unattempted!
Austenprose
Semi-True Stories
First Draft  (Cindy S. Jones, Austen Author)
Regency Sketches
Brant Flakes
Mesmered's Blog
The Heroine's Bookshelf
vvb32 reads
The Fiction vs. Reality Smackdown
Regina Jeffers (Austen Author)
Alyssa Goodnight
Jane Austen in Vermont
Jane Started It!
Choc Lit Authors' Corner
Reading, Writing, Working, Playing
The Jane Austen Film Club
El Salon de Te de Jane
Kaitlin Saunders  (Austen Author)
Patrice Sarath  (Austen Author)
Jane Austen Brasil
Jane Austen Sequels (Jane Odiwe, Austen Author)
Stiletto Storytime
Jennifer W. Becton
Urban Girl Takes Vermont
Pemberley Variations  (Abigail Reynolds, Austen Author)
Austen Authors
November's Autumn
My Jane Austen Book Club


Check them out!  There are amazing giveaways going on in celebration of Austen's birthday today. 

Thanks to Maria Grazia, of My Jane Austen Book Club, & Katherine Cox, of November's Autumn for hosting and putting together this great event.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Darcy for Everyone!

In celebration of Jane Austen's birthday on Friday, Sourcebooks is offering a fantastic selection of Austen-inspired novels for $1.99 wherever ebooks are sold.  This giveaway runs from today, December 13th through December 30th.  

Here are some of the great offerings:

  
 
Many of these books have been reviewed here at One Literature Nut if you're interested in checking out a review.  Otherwise, you can go to Sourcebooks for more information on this great Austen sale!  Check them out and enjoy.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Blatherings: What's Up?!?

Yes, I can hardly believe that it has been a week since I last wrote a post.  Things have been really busy, as I'm sure it is for everyone.  It's all good, but very busy.  To be honest, I struggled to get much reading done, because I fall asleep a couple of pages in.  Not good.

Although I've been a real snooze fest this past week, I did finish Phillipa Ashley's newest release here in the states, Carrie Goes Off the Map and am really excited to both review it and then have an interview with Phillipa later this month.  I've really grown to love her books.  I'm finally acknowledging what an Anglophile I really am, but beyond my love for all things British and an undeniable love for Chick Lit., her books are just great.  This newest one is yet another fun read with plenty of crazy, romantic tension.

Well, I do hope to get a few reviews or posts up this week, but it is going to be incredibly busy--again.  Thankfully we have two weeks off for Christmas break though, so I'm sure I can hang on one more week.  Oh, did I mention that I'm all done with Christmas shopping?  Yes.  I'm very proud & relieved to say that.

Here's what I'll be reading this week:

I need to have this read for book club this week!

Yes, I thought I'd check out the graphic novel version!
 I better get with it if I'm going to read the eight books I have left in my Goodreads goal!  Wish me luck in surviving my last work week in 2011.  I'm not sure I'll get much reading in this next week, but I can definitely see a lot of reading coming up over the holidays.  I CAN'T WAIT!  
What about you?  Are you reading more or less right now?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Blatherings

Happy Sunday!  For some reason, today I feel like saying a big huzzah to weekends.  Work is besides the point and I should just skip how crazy it is in my posts, although it does seem to dominate my life.  Things are good though.  Out of the three online courses I either had to teach or take has recently wrapped up and I'm already feeling much better.  Needless to say, things are busy as always, but good.

Yesterday I woke up with a monster of a migraine, so my plans for the day went out the window, as I was supposed to meet up with some family and friends for Christmas stuff.  I decided it was my body's way of enforcing a time out.  It worked though, and I spent about 6 or 7 hours reading in a semi-dark room.  You would think that might be a bit depressing, but it was actually really nice to unwind.  Especially considering I haven't had a chance to read in what felt like weeks.

Anyway, here is what I've been reading:


Yes, some of these I'm still working on.  I have about fourteen books on my reading pile right now, with a lifetime of books lined up in the wings.  Not that I'm complaining about all of those great books!  I love having so many options.

Well, that's my weekend.  How is your weekend and what are you reading?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Review: Love's Exquisite Freedom by Maya Angelou

I know it's late and I should be in bed, but posts and reviews have been neglected in the face of a busy schedule, post vacation.  That always seems to be the case.  With so much going on, all the time, I haven't etched out a lot of time to read and get my blog updated.  Other than a much too busy schedule, things are really good and I have much to be thankful for in my life.  Christmas should be exciting, as it will be the first one I'll be celebrating in my new home.  I can't wait!

In preparation for Christmas, I ran into the library one night after work and noticed this beautiful picture book, Love's Exquisite Freedom.  Because I am in the middle of reading Angelou's book Heart of a Woman, I felt drawn to the picture book.  It was a wonderfully sweet diversion and a quick reminder of the depth of life around us.   Set to paintings and artwork by Sir Edward-Burne Jones, these Pre-Raphealite inspired paintings made for a beautiful backdrop and combination to Angelou's inspiring words.  Her poem focuses on the power of love and its comparisons, to lift and draw the reader out of their everyday lives.  That, with the amazing artwork depicting heaven and earth commingling, made Angelou's poetic theme magnify in power and beauty. 

If you're looking to have a beautiful and quick read, or just flat out in a reading or personal slump, then this is a great picture book to set you on track.  It seems as though this is a series of art to poetry-made books, but I couldn't find any others out or that included Angelou's writing.  For this one time reading experience, this was a really lovely adult picture book.

I'm not sure if this is a bookseller associated with the publisher, but I found a lovely online version that you can go through and check out the entire poem and artwork for yourself.  Check out Love's Exquisite Freedom at the link provided and tell me what you think!

*FTC Disclosure--This review was based on a library copy of the book.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review: Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "For the Kellehers, Maine is a place where children run in packs, showers are taken outdoors, and old Irish songs are sung around a piano. Their beachfront property, won on a barroom bet after the war, sits on three acres of sand and pine nestled between stretches of rocky coast, with one tree bearing the initials “A.H.” At the cottage, built by Kelleher hands, cocktail hour follows morning mass, nosy grandchildren snoop in drawers, and decades-old grudges simmer beneath the surface.

As three generations of Kelleher women descend on the property one summer, each brings her own hopes and fears. Maggie is thirty-two and pregnant, waiting for the perfect moment to tell her imperfect boyfriend the news; Ann Marie, a Kelleher by marriage, is channeling her domestic frustration into a dollhouse obsession and an ill-advised crush; Kathleen, the black sheep, never wanted to set foot in the cottage again; and Alice, the matriarch at the center of it all, would trade every floorboard for a chance to undo the events of one night, long ago.

By turns wickedly funny and achingly sad, Maine unveils the sibling rivalry, alcoholism, social climbing, and Catholic guilt at the center of one family, along with the abiding, often irrational love that keeps them coming back, every summer, to Maine and to each other."


Review:  I know it's a popular trend to change the narrator every little bit, both to change the pacing of a story and to create interest in a range of characters.  For whatever reason, I'm not thrilled with the constant shifting of narrators and stories.  Sometimes I feel as though I am just getting attached to a character, or even just starting to understand what's going on in a character's life, and it veers off into a new direction.  Having said that, Maine has a range of mainly female characters who direct the story.  Centered around the matriarch Alice, who has decided to leave some prime real estate on the coast of Maine to the Catholic Church.  Obviously, if her daughters and grandchildren knew, they would be up in arms, but Alice is determined to give it all to the church.

To this bit of family drama are a number of other personal dramas going on in each household.  I think I was most drawn in by 32-year old Maggie's story, the granddaughter.  Her relationship issues were so painful to watch that I had to keep reading to see what she would do.  Her boyfriend was ridiculously emotionally abusive and manipulative (in my humble opinion) and really did a number on Maggie.  You could see her struggling to figure out how to hold on to him, even though all readers must be screaming at the pages for her to kick him to the curb.
 
The other women have dramatic stories as well, but they sometimes take a number of circuits, through everyone's stories to really get there.  As with life, each woman is injured and trying to protect herself.  There are old grudges and pains that we only learn as the story progresses, that make their relationships to one another a bit easier to understand.  I mainly thought their insights into one another to be really telling, as they only saw things through their own experiences, missing all that was going on that no one ever saw.  In truth, isn't that what we all do?  The amount of misunderstanding and miscommunication because of our own issues that filter what we see could fill millions of pages.  I found that to be a great, poignant reminder of our misjudgments.  

Overall, I think this was an interesting story.  The narrative style wasn't my favorite, and I think that for readers who enjoy a cast of complex female characters and stories, this might be a good fit.  For me, it left me wanting more from just one or two of them.  This isn't an area of the country I've read many stories set, so for that I was pretty interested and would have loved more descriptions and details.  In short, nice story elements with a lot of complex characters to figure out.


*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a library copy of the novel.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Giveaway Winner & A Little Monday Blathering


This feels weird to say I don't know your name, but all I had was your email address, so I'll call you #3!  :)  Thanks to random.org's random drawing, you're the winner of Sharon's awesome new book Miss Darcy Falls in Love.  I've sent you an email, so respond back and we'll get your book on its way!

Thanks to everyone who participated.  I love hearing from other readers.  I hope to see you around again!

Now, I need to pull things together to get more reviews posted ASAP!  Thanksgiving was great on my end and hope it was for all of you who celebrated it as well.  As expected, I spent a lot of time just hanging out with family (including the world's cutest 5 month old baby!), sleeping at random times, and watching too much television.  It was a really nice and relaxing time though, so I'm feeling much more relaxed and ready to hit the ground running this week.  I suppose it helps that I HAVE to hit the ground running though, with parent teacher conferences, midterms, and a couple of new units to prepare, I'll really be hopping.  Not to mention I'm in the home stretch with one online Senior English class and a brand new online class starting today.  I'm not keen on the overlap, but I'm looking forward to having those last several months of school free of online work, which is why I took on an extra class now and not later.  Is it fair to say that I'm already counting down the days until Christmas?  I can't wait!

FYI.  I mentioned last week that I purchased some new furniture that included a new bed and treadmill. Well, the treadmill is still in the box, but the bed finally has been put to good use and is by far the BEST present I have ever given myself.  I thought maybe I was being dramatic or a big baby about the back aches and pains, but I now know it was the bed.  With the wonders of a new bed, I'll never go for so long ever again!  Sleep is way too precious to put up with a lousy bed. 

Here's what I'm currently reading:



Well, on this glorious Monday, I wish you all the best!  What are you reading?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Book Giveaway: Miss Darcy Falls in Love by Sharon Lathan

Last week I posted a review of Miss Darcy Falls in Love and then hosted a nice interview with Sharon on Friday.  Somehow I missed that there was a book giveaway to go with the interview, so I'm excited to post that today!

If you would like to get a free copy of Miss Darcy Falls in Love, and you live in the U.S. and Canada (sorry to those outside the area), then please do the following:
  • Visit my interview with Sharon and leave a reply or a question.
  • Attach your email in the reply.
  • Post before Saturday, 11/26 by midnight.
That's it!  What a great chance to win a copy of this romantic read.  Honestly, I love Sharon's books and can say that this one can be read as a stand alone.  Stop by to put your name in!

One winner will be selected and posted by Monday, 11/28.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Late Sunday Night Blatherings

What's up in my world?  Work is always a huge stress, so I won't bore you with those details, but I will mention that my AP students have moved on to our writing unit and my juniors are reading Oedipus.  We're hitting that, "Ew, gross!" moment in Oedipus, so I have a little laugh and then reinforce the bit about hubris, blindness, and friendships.  Despite their freaking out, they really do always end up loving this unit, so I feel somewhat successful in my various learning objectives.

A lot of other stuff is going on at work, but I'm trying to not let my job permeate every other aspect of my life.  That's easier said than done!  One big thing I did this past week was splurge on some big ticket items for my house.  I finally realized that the backaches were simply not worth it and went to buy a new bed, which I can't wait to be delivered!  I also picked up a treadmill, which I think is an essential at this point.  As our lives change, so do those habits we established earlier on in life.  A college student's lifestyle (at least for me), was much more conducive to fitting in a trip to the gym.  Now I'd rather die than come home late afternoon or early evening (forget early morning--that would be like 5 am and I'm NOT doing that) and put on gym clothes, brave the traffic and construction around my area to drive up to my gym.  In other words, I had to close the gap between my goal and my excuses!  :)  No more excuses.  Now I'll have a treadmill.  Although, I have to admit that I'm excited about the set up; I have a TV/DVD combo set up, with my Netflix live streaming ready to go.  Yep, no more sharing the televisions with about ten to twenty other people.  Who needs sharing at the gym?  Okay, so it's not that bad, but I am pretty excited about the new set up.

Now.  To read, or not to read.  I thought that Thanksgiving would be a great time to kick back and do some reading, but the way I see it now, I doubt that is going to happen.  Honestly, I'm okay with it.  We are having a great family holiday this year with a group of my extended family, just like when I was little.  Although not everyone will be there, it still has me so excited to hang out with everyone that I can hardly stand it!  Having said that, reading will have to wait.  I'm ready to play card games, sit around and chat, and eat our way to a food coma.  Can't.  Wait.  Although, I always forget the football games.  Maybe I'll take a book or two with me so I can read during the games? 

With all the Thanksgiving stuff this next week, do you think you'll be able to squeeze in some reading time?