Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Midnight in Austenland: Review, Author Interview, and Giveaway!

I was extremely lucky to be able to read Midnight in Austenland prior to its release date. And, if that weren't good enough, I contacted the publisher and they agreed to BOTH an author interview AND a giveaway! How lucky can a girl get?

I'll start with my review, followed by the interview with author Shannon Hale, and end this post with the giveaway details.

Midnight in AustenlandMidnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Charlotte Kinder never saw her husband's unfaithfulness coming, or the subsequent divorce. She's a successful entrepreneur, but that isn't helping her feel content with life. She starts reading Jane Austen novels and wishes for the Austen lifestyle over the horrible blind dates her friends are insisting on.

And then she finds out about Austenland. Two weeks of living an Austen experience in England, complete with period dress and actors that make you feel like you are part of one of the novels you adore.

This follow up novel to Hale's Austenland is a very enjoyable read. There is romance, but the focus is more on a mystery. Charlotte is a wonderful heroine.

I was certain that I had solved the mystery, but I was wrong. It was hard to let go of my suspicions, but even with that, reading Midnight in Austenland was time well spent.

What do you have in common with Shannon Hale? Visit her website to find out. I discovered all sorts of fun details, like Shannon is also one of five children born and raised in Utah. She loved reading and ate Saltine Crackers. We are like two peas in a pod (well, until she got older and became famous and all that). ;)

On to the interview:


*Being the author or co-author of 11 published books, with more in the works and a movie adaptation in post-production, is writing still fun or is it now a "job"?

It is both, strangely enough, just as it always was. I love writing, and yet it's the hardest work I've ever done. Sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's not, but completing a draft or book is always satisfying, more so than any other work.

*An author friend of mine recently decided to not read reviews of her books. How do you feel about your reviews?

I think your friend is wise! Reviews are SO important. Even bad ones (alas!) get the word out and can bring more readers to a book. But they are for the readers, not the writer. The book is done, there's no changing it, so reviews are not helpful feedback. No matter how many drafts I do, no matter how hard I work and how much I love a book, someone will not. That's only natural. And each book is so different, the experience of writing each novel so unique, hearing what someone didn't like about one book doesn't help me make the next one more broadly appealing. I do read what reviews come my way because I'm always curious how something is received, but I don't seek them out. The hard words can be so crippling, it can be hard to keep writing.

*Your website says that you like to read, but it also seems like you have a very hectic schedule between writing and being the mother of four (including young twins) and a wife. When do you find time to read?

Ay, that's the rub! It's very hard, and since I had my twins (child #3 & #4) my reading time has suffered the most. It's impossible to read during the day. At night, once all kids are in bed and after I've cleaned up a bit and taken care  of any urgent business, I'm ready to fall down dead. That's when I read. Some nights for five minutes, some nights for an hour. I wish it were more, but there it is.

*You served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Paraguay. Do you have any plans to go back to visit, or if you already have, what was your favorite part going as a tourist? Also, are you still fluent in Spanish?

I haven't been back. I always wanted to, but at first after returning I was a poor college student. By the time I was working and could afford it, I was afraid no one would remember me. Paraguay is not really a place for tourists. I have such fond memories of that country. I can't claim Spanish fluency any longer. I used to be! Lack of practice has twisted my accent into Gringa Maxima and taken a hatchet to my vocabulary. My husband also speaks so we converse sometimes at least.

*One might assume you are a big Jane Austen fan based on your novels Austenland and Midnight in Austenland. Are you, in fact, a big Austen fan, and do you have a favorite Austen novel?

Of course! My favorite was always Pride & Prejudice, and while it still is SO good to me, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey are vying for top spot each time I reread them.

*What do you hope readers will take away from Midnight in Austenland?

Whatever they need.

*When you write, do you feel any fan or publisher pressure about the content?

When I write, I am able to block out the voices and just focus on what the story needs. If I couldn't, I don't think I could write any more books. The fear would shatter me. That doesn't mean I don't fret--I absolutely fret about what people will think and fear their displeasure. But happily I can turn that off while I'm writing! My publisher has been great. The stories are what I want to write.

And some rapid fire questions:

*Milk chocolate or semi-sweet?


 *Utah or BYU?


*Laundry or dishes?


*Chick flick or Action-Adventure?

Both, if they're well-written

I love how you wrote, "rejection doesn't always mean 'You stink!' It can mean, 'You haven't found your home yet. Keep looking.'" You are a great example of never giving up.

Also, thank you for writing novels that are enjoyable and clean.

Thank you!

On to the giveaway:

Thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing, one lucky follower of LiteraryTimeOut will receive a copy of Midnight in Austenland!

To enter, follow this blog (by clicking the Join This Site button in the upper left) and comment below letting me know you've done so.

For additional entries you can share this post on your blog, on Facebook, and/or on Twitter. Make sure you come back here and comment separately (with the links) for each of these.

The giveaway will be open until 11:59 PM on Valentine's Day. I will use a random number generator to select the winner (so be sure you have a separate comment for each entry). I will post the winner on February 15th.

Good luck and happy reading!

*You must have a mailing address in the Continental United States to enter the giveaway.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fun Stuff

Keep your eyes open for my post on February 1st. I'm part of a blog tour for Persuasion: a Latter-day Tale. I reviewed this fun story a few weeks ago, but this post will include an interview with Rebecca H. Jamison (the author) and . . . a giveaway!

Also, I've found some great books through (you should definitely check it out if you are interested in reading books before they're released). I've read some great books through NetGalley lately, and will be posting my reviews soon.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

When Crickets Cry

When Crickets CryWhen Crickets Cry by Charles Martin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some friends and I just started a book club. If this first book is any indication of how awesome this club will be, then we are in for good times.

When Crickets Cry was a very touching story about a man hiding from his past, a young girl full of hope in spite of her limited chances for survival, and a small town with loving people.

There are a lot of medical details in this story. Typically the amount included would lead me to quite a bit of skimming, but it was fascinating.

The characters were excellent. Each of them captured my attention.

Discovering the details of Reese's past took most of the novel. Often taking that long to figure out those details would have tested my patience, but it was very well done.

I'm looking forward to reading more of Charles Martin's books.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Patrimony: A True Story

I few weeks ago I decided to check out the new library in the next city over. I have really appreciated my little bookmobile library, but it has nothing on this new library. Not only is this new building huge and very tech savvy, but it has a lot of programs for kids and adults.

A program that I was really excited about is the "Books & Bites" book club. It's for adults and is at noon. I'm not sure how the "Bites" part works (if the members are supposed to bring something to share or what), but I anxiously signed up for this month's discussion on Patrimony. Unfortunately, I've had something come up and won't be able to attend.

But, I did read Patrimony, although I didn't know anything about the author (turns out he's written some pretty risque novels).

PatrimonyPatrimony by Philip Roth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Patrimony is a memoir written by award winning novelist Philip Roth about his father; specifically about his death and the memories his illness invoked in his son.

I had mixed emotions about this book. On the positive side, this non-fiction work was thought provoking and read at least somewhat like a novel (I need to get over thinking that all non-fiction is like a text book).

I could relate somewhat to the author's situation. My father had cancer when I was a teenager, and it was such a roller coaster of emotions.

Philip learned a lot during the ordeal with his father. He seemed to be a loving son, trying his best to help his father.

The story jumps around in time, telling the current situation and then veering back into memories. This mostly worked, although at times it was a little confusing.

Overall I'd say that the memoir was interesting. It had some language and some embarrassing details that I didn't care for. I don't regret reading it, although I won't be seeking out any of Roth's other books.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Last Chance Beauty Queen

Last Chance Beauty QueenLast Chance Beauty Queen by Hope Ramsay

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Caroline Rhoades was ecstatic for the opportunity to leave her small South Carolina town for college and a career, especially after being humiliated by a pubic marriage proposal that she didn't want. Years later her job for Senator Warren sends her back to Last Chance to help an English Lord obtain property for a factory. As if that isn't bad enough, the work has to be done during the local Watermelon Days festival.

Last Chance is a quirky Southern town where gossip travels fast, and you don't mess with the church ladies.

The story was entertaining, even though there was a lot of stereotypical Southern common in movies and books.

Last Chance Beauty Queen wasn't listed as a Christian novel, but many aspects in the book made it feel like one (Golfing for God-the mini golf course, the church ladies, cross necklaces, angels, etc.). But then some of the language and sexuality really didn't go with a Christian theme.

If you are expecting a clean, Christian novel, this isn't the book for you. If you like novels with small, quirky towns and a bit of a steamy romance, this is probably what you're looking for.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

These Is My Words

These Is My WordsThese Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good friend of mine recommended These is My Words to me a couple of times. Living in an area with a bookmobile library limits the titles available. It also means LONG wait times. But, it finally arrived the other day!

I was drawn into the story of Sarah Agnes Prine immediately. Her life from 17 to 37 is described in diary entries, and what a life it was! Extreme hardships on the wagon trail in the Southwestern US Territories, along with danger from Indians and wild men make up a good portion of the book. Sarah is shown to be a very strong woman. She was raised with several brothers, and she's the best shot around.

I don't want to give too much away, so I'll just say that it was a great story and worth reading.

The last quarter or so of the book moves more slowly than the rest, with diary entries further apart. It is still good, with many significant events taking place, although I preferred the pace of the rest of the story.

Very moving-keep a box of tissues handy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The False Princess

The False PrincessThe False Princess by Eilis O'Neal

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nalia was raised as princess and heir to the throne, but after her sixteenth birthday she is given the life altering news that she isn't really Nalia. Sinda (her real name) was a stand-in or decoy while the real princess was hidden away for her protection. With the arrival of the real princess, Sinda is sent to live with her only living relative.

Being sent away was an emotional part of the story. Can you imagine parents just sending away the child they'd raised? I'm sure a king and queen have much less interaction and bonding than traditional parents, but still, what a horrible thing to do.

Adjusting to a totally different lifestyle is very difficult for Sinda. She also finds out that she has magic. She returns to the city and discovers that there is much more to the princess swap than everyone knows.

This was a very enjoyable story. Fun characters and a fast read.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Lost Review & Resolutions

I post my reviews on GoodReads and then post a copy here (it's nice to have the book image and my rating along with the review). I've rarely had issues doing this, but after spending a bit of time writing my review for The False Princess, GoodReads decided to be unavailable. So, while the site says my review is saving, I'm very doubtful that I'll see it again.

In place of that review, I decided to give a quick update on my reading resolutions. It's only 9 days in to the new year, but I am happy to report that for the most part I have been successful at having reading as a reward for accomplishing other things.

I am very easily distracted when it comes to housework. I may start some dishes, but then something draws me to the other room. Then I might start sorting laundry, and notice that my bed still needs to be made. Then I try to get back to the dishes, and decide I really need to start the laundry so it can run while I do the dishes.

Is it common to be distracted by things you don't want to do?

Anyway, progress is being made, and I've still been able to enjoy some good books. Reviews to come.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Open Minds

Open Minds (Mindjack Trilogy, #1)Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever wonder what the long term effects of flushing your prescriptions will be? Susan Kaye Quinn's novel takes us forward in time to where the pharmaceuticals in the water supply have caused most humans to be able to read minds. Talking is uncommon, and if you haven't changed yet, you are a zero. Life is very difficult for 16-year-old Kira. Especially when she finds out that not only is she a zero, she's something worse.

A very entertaining story. Sometimes I've wished to be able to know what others were thinking, but having to hear everyone's thoughts 24/7 would be horrible. I get to the point most evenings that I'm so excited that my kids are in bed so I can have some peace and quiet. Can you imagine not having any quiet unless you were far enough away from people?

Great story, and it's only $2.99 for the Kindle Edition on Amazon right now. Don't have a Kindle? Just get the free Kindle app. So awesome!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Crunch Time

Crunch Time (A Goldy Bear Culinary Mystery #16)Crunch Time by Diane Mott Davidson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was introduced to culinary mysteries when I discovered Josi S. Kilpack's Sadie Hoffmiller books. They are excellent, so when I came across this culinary mystery in my library I was really excited to see another author's take on it.

Crunch Time follows caterer Goldy Schulz as she caters various events in her small Colorado town, while at the same time trying to solve crimes. Goldy is nosy and quite the entertaining character. Her life is put in jeopardy several times, and some of her crime solving methods are a bit less than legal.

I liked the relationship between Goldy and her husband Tom, a sheriff's department investigator. I actually assumed that Goldy was middle aged for some reason, so their interactions were even more endearing when I thought they were older. She's actually in her later thirties.

I would have given this book a higher rating if it weren't for all the swearing. No f-bombs were dropped, but I think every other swear word was used. Props to authors who can get emotions across without profanity.

I was a little lost at times since I haven't read any of the previous 15 books in the series. And, there were question marks all over the place that just didn't seem to fit. It had me re-reading sentences trying to figure out how it could be a question.

I'm not sure that I loved the wrap up of who done it at the end. It was good, but I guess with the almost 450 pages of sleuthing I expected more of the answers to be discovered along the way instead of in a summary at the end.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

Ah, a new year and new goals.

My favorite hobby is reading. SURPRISE! Several times throughout 2011 I thought that I should make reading a reward for accomplishing other things (like doing the dishes or laundry). Not that one should be a slave to their home and deny themselves of any indulgences, but there is a physical calm when things are clean that doesn't exist when things are in disarray.

But, I never got around to implementing this idea. The pull of a good book is just much stronger than the pull of a sink full of dishes. 

It's a shame I don't get paid to read. Then I could blame my dirty dishes on work instead of slothfulness. Sigh. If anyone knows how to get a job reading novels, please share.

Anyway, with this first day of 2012 I am making some goals related to reading.

First, is the implementation of the reading reward program. I haven't worked out the details, but isn't admitting that there is a problem the first step to recovery? This is about self mastery (or something like that).

Second, I have got to get more non-fluff books consumed. I'm not sure that setting a number is the way for me to go (my 4 non-fiction books goal last year was met [barely], but it was a struggle and a stretch seeing as I started at least one of them prior to 2011).

My main goal for this one is to read my church manuals/study guides in addition to my chapter a day of scripture reading. I have started with reading Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society. My husband got me an iPad 2 for Christmas (bless him), and there is an app that lets you get all of the manuals/study guides for free. It's awesome (especially the Night Viewing feature). I'm already more than a 1/3 of the way through this book!

I also want to read some other non-fiction books, but I need to figure out a way to do this without it feeling like a chore. Any ideas on this are welcome.

This is it for now. It may not sound like much, but I'm pretty sure it's going to be a bit of an adjustment for me.

May 2012 be a great year full of accomplishments and good books!