Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Create a JA Icon and Win!

Attention Jane Austen Fans: Over at Jane Austen Today Ms. Place is having a Jane Austen Icon contest!

The person with the best JA Hero/Heroine Icon will win a copy of Lori Smith's book A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love, and Faith. Ms. Place will also be using the icons in posts.

You have until 4 November to send in your creations. You will find Ms. Place's contest info and e-mail at the above link.

So far there haven't been many entries, so get creating! I want to see some Matthew MacFadyen & Keira Knightely P&P icons!

Here is one I just made:

Book Review: Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake

I'm not generally a fan of paranormals, science fiction, or fantasy books, though I do like an occasional one, especially if it deals with Regency England. So, it wasn't a hardship in any way to read Laurie Brown's Regency-set paranormal Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake.

In Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake, Josie Drummond is an American paranormal investigator, hired by English lady Amelia Thornton to investigate Castle Waite for the ghost of Lord Deverell Thornton, 9th Earl of Waite. Lord Waite (aka Deverell) was a handsome libertine who died in a duel back in the Regency. Amelia wants Josie to prove his ghostly existence, which will make the castle a tourist spot and generate money for much-needed renovations.

Unfortunately, Josie finds no proof of Deverell's ghost until she is about to leave. Then, in the presence of Amelia, Deverell reveals himself and explains his real purpose for having Amelia call her. Back when he was alive, a charlatan swindled Dev's mother out of the family fortune with a seance. Dev wants Josie to go back in time and help him stop the fake madam.

Of course, Josie is a modern girl and loves her electronic ghost-hunting gear, but Dev won't let her take it with them and insists she have a crash course in Regency manners. Josie is reluctant to undertake this task, at first, but slowly warms to it---and to Dev with his "dark visage, black hair, and deep-seated gray eyes" (8).

Once Dev (well, Dev's ghost) and Josie have gone back to the Regency, Josie has to use her investigative skills to stop Dev's mother from being swindled and navigate a Regency house party without revealing that she is from the future. To top it all off, not only is Josie attracted to Dev-the-Ghost, but Deverell the man seems smitten by her and she sort of likes him too.

The longer Josie stays in the past, the more she forgets her life in the present. And the more Deverell likes Josie, the less power Dev has to remain present in his ghostly form. Even though Dev and Deverell are really the same man, Josie will have to choose between them.

Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake contemplates an idea that enthralls many modern Regency fans: what would it be like to go back to the Regency? Brown included many little details that Regency fans will find familiar and pleasing.

Other than the fact that Dev is a ghost, the book does not contain an overwhelming amount of paranormal activity, so non-paranormal readers will not be turned off. I certainly found it interesting that Dev could use his ghostly powers to do things like call for a flower delivery or take Josie back in time with him. Another element that I particularly liked was that the longer Josie was in the past, the more she began to lose her modern-day memories. I only wish Brown had included more of this in the story.

It was fun to watch Josie try to manuever through a Regency house party and ball, try to catch the swindler without her modern detecting equipment, and decide between Dev and Deverell. Brown's ending was clever and I never suspected Josie would choose the path she takes.

I would recommend Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake to anyone who enjoys paranormals, and even Regency fans who don't usually read them. Brown did an excellent job of combining the two genres. There are a couple of love scenes in this book.

Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake is available online or at your local book stores. Let us know if you read it!

Book Information: Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake by Laurie Brown (Sourcebooks Casablanca; ISBN: 1-4022-1013-2; $6.99; 400 pages; paperback)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Top Moments From The Office

I love The Office and was happy to come across this list of The 25 Greatest Moments from "The Office". Absolutely hilarious list! Many have video clips.

Are your favorite moments on there?
Which amusing scenes did they leave off?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

To Nelson

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To the immortal memory of Nelson
and all those who fell with him.

  • This is the famous toast to Horatio, Admiral Lord Nelson.

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Trafalgar Remembered

Today, 21 October 2007, is the 202nd anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, where the British Fleet, under Admiral Lord Nelson, defeated the combined French-Spanish Fleet off Cape Trafalgar. It was a very important victory in the war against Napoleon. Admiral Nelson perished in the fight, aboard his flag ship HMS Victory.

I have a great passion for British history and British naval history, so I like to celebrate this day (It also happens to be my half-birthday, a coincidence which makes me very happy!).

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England expects that every man will do his duty.
You will find more on Trafalgar, Nelson, and the British Navy here.

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May the Great God, whom I worship, grant to my Country, and for the benefit of Europe in general, a great and glorious Victory; and may no misconduct in any one tarnish it; and may humanity after Victory be the predominant feature in the British Fleet. For myself, individually, I commit my life to Him who made me, and may his blessing light upon my endeavours for serving my Country faithfully. To Him I resign myself and the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend. Amen. Amen. Amen.
  • Nelson's Prayer, written in his diary before the Battle of Trafalgar commenced

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Happy Birthday, John!!!

Today is the 28th birthday of one of my favorite actors (and my current celebrity crush) John Krasinski from The Office.

Happy Birthday, John!

John 1 John 5

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Book Review: Why We Read What We Read

Have you ever wondered why people read what they read? And what makes a book sell a ton of copies? Most of us probably don't spend much time looking at best seller lists and analyzing why those books are there. Aside from books that we all know can't help but be bestsellers, like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, what makes certain books popular?

Fortunately for us, John Heath and Lisa Adams have attempted to answer these questions in their book Why We Read What We Read: A Delightfully Opinionated Journey Through Bestselling Books.

Heath and Adams read nearly 200 books in order to answer why we read what we read. Their purpose, as stated in the introduction, was to "provide a glimpse into the current state of the national psyche by looking closely at the books Americans buy---specifically, those books they have bought in the greatest numbers since 1990," because "these books resonate with broad segments of the reading public" (5).

This was quite an undertaking and there is so much in this book that I had some difficulty writing a review that covered it all!

In the introduction, Heath and Adams laid out their plan of attack: which books were considered bestsellers, how they decided on categories, which books they excluded from their list (old books made popular again by being made into movies, memoirs & biographies, reference books, and cookbooks), and which years to research. Heath and Adams sorted the rest of the books into 4 categories: hardcover fiction, hardcover non-fiction, trade paperback (fiction & non-fiction), and mass market paperback (fiction).

Why We Read What We Read is laid out in six chapters, not including the introduction and the appendix:

  • Chapter One is titled "The Obvious: Diet, Wealth, and Inspiration." This chapter focused on books about, obviously, diets, how to become focused and wealthy, and become inspired. As Heath and Adams noted, "of course everyone wants to be slim, rich, and motivated, and always has" (23). Lately, the craze has been for "low-carb" diets.
  • Chapter Two is "Black and White and Read All Over: Good and Evil in Bestselling Adventure Novels and Political Nonfiction." Heath and Adams discussed authors such as John Grisham, Stephen King, and J.K. Rowling, and how the concepts of good and evil were treated in such popular novels. There was a large section about Harry Potter (one of my favorites!). The second half of the chapter detailed various political books that have made the top sales lists in recent years.
  • Chapter Three is called "Hopefully Ever After: Love, Romance, and Relationships." As you could guess, this chapter was all about relationships and romance, especially romance novels. Americans have been very interested in receiving advice from people such as John Gray, Dr. Laura, and Dr. Phil. We also buy tons and tons and tons of romance fiction (guilty!)---romance novels "comprised over half (54.9%) of all popular paperback fiction sold in North America---and almost forty percent of all popular fiction sold" (116).
  • Chapter Four is titled "Soul Train: Religion and Spirituality." This chapter is split between traditional Christian and "New Age" books. Heath and Adams wrote that all the books in this chapter share "three fundamental conclusions:
    -Everything in life has meaning; there are no accidents.
    -Love is the answer.
    -What other gurus say is almost always wrong" (175).
    These books include The Prayer of Jabez, The Purpose Driven Life, Conversations With God, and The Celestine Prophecy, plus the Left Behind series. Apparently many of us are seeking spiritual guidance.
  • Chapter Five is "Reading for Redemption: Trials and Triumphs in Literary Fiction and Nonfiction." The books in this chapter, such as Cold Mountain, The Kite Runner, Into Thin Air, and The Nanny Diaries give readers the opportunity to step in to another person's life and read about their hardships and victories. We are looking for answers to life's difficulties and hope to learn from others' mistakes.
  • Chapter Six is called "Deciphering 'Da Code': Conclusions." This final chapter spent a lot of time on The Da Vince Code, but also served as the conclusion.
Heath and Adams are concerned that we are reaching for books that provide quick answers and easy fixes, rather than taking the time to delve deeply, to think, to reflect. They advocate reading points-of-view other than those we already hold. They believe there ought to be a louder cry "raised for a renewed emphasis on the kinds of humanistic education that can strengthen our country's democratic soul. Good reading evokes a kind of transformation, and that, ultimately, is what any good education should do too. The study of . . . literature . . . sharpens (and changes) minds, opens hearts, emboldens souls. A literary immersion in different worlds and powerful ideas---whether through fiction or nonfiction---is unsettling, challenging, inspirational and healthily subversive" (270-271). Most of all, we need to continue reading and exploring.

Any bibliophile would find Why We Read What We Read a book worth reading. I thought it was quite interesting to come across books and authors I recognized and/or loved, and also to see how many books I had never heard of that had made the bestsellers lists.

Heath and Adams did a remarkable job reading, categorizing, and comparing so many books. Scattered through out the pages were little tidbits that caught their attention or funny items that were sort of editorial comments on themes. These were always interesting and amusing to read. The book was also quite funny to read, as Heath and Adams have a great sense of humor. I especially enjoyed the Harry Potter and literary jokes (One of my favorites, about HP and the Atkins Diet---"Only Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone outsold [the New Diet Revolution] over that period, and we think that's at least in part because the young magician became a secret hero to the low-carbers. Sad, gaunt little Harry was locked in a closet most of his life by his evil relatives and thereby deprived of many of the fruits, cereals, breads . . ." (27).)

My only major dislike of Why We Read What We Read was Heath and Adams' assessment of political books. They have a very obvious bias toward liberal authors (I usually only write about politics on my political blog A Lady's Ruminations). The majority of the political section was spent criticizing conservative authors as unthinking, mean, and narrow-minded. The liberal authors, in contrast, wrote the equivalent of "schoolyard taunts" (104) and books that were often funny. Now, I am a Conservative and I admit that I am biased towards Conservative authors, but I know that those liberal authors mentioned in this book are not all sweetness and light, and nor do they just call conservatives "mean" and "bratty!" I would have prefered Heath and Adams write a more accurate and balanced section on political books. Even the section on "non-partisan" political books contains authors that I wouldn't consider non-partisan, plus digs at others I would consider non-partisan.

I do agree with Heath and Adams that we all need to read more books and read books that we do not necessarily agree with. By doing that, we widen our points of view, learn new information, and either expand or reaffirm our beliefs. It is important to do these things and to be well-read individuals.

The appendix contains about 50 pages of best seller lists, which would be the perfect place to find new books to read. I am glad the authors included the lists because it is interesting to see which books I am familiar with and expected to see and which books I have never heard of and am surprised to see.

I recommend Why We Read What We Read for anyone particularly interested in books . . . or anyone not really interested in books. As I wrote, we can all find something new and challenging to read. This book provides an excellent starting place.

This book is available at and your local bookstores.

Book Information: Why We Read What We Read: A Delightfully Opinionated Journey Through Bestselling Books by John Heath and Lisa Adams (Sourcebooks Trade; ISBN: 1-4022-1054-X; $16.95; 352 pages; paperback)

Note: Page numbers in this review correspond to an Advanced Reading Copy and might not be the same in the final book.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Jane Austen Lecture at GU!

This is so exciting! I couldn't help but squeal when I saw the e-mail.


“What Can We Learn from Jane Austen?,” the sixth in a series of Gonzaga University faculty discussions of great thinkers throughout history, will be held from 7 -9 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 18 in the Wolff Auditorium located in Gonzaga’s Jepson Center for the School of Business Administration. The event, co-sponsored by Gonzaga’s College of Arts and Sciences and the Robert K. and Ann J. Powers Chair of the Humanities, is free and open to the public.

Patsy Fowler, associate professor of English at Gonzaga, and Doug Kries, a GU professor of philosophy, will lead exploration of the question. Fowler, who earned a doctorate from Auburn University , has been teaching at Gonzaga since 2002. Her areas of expertise include literary theory, women’s studies and 18th century literature, among others. Kries earned his doctorate from Boston College , and has been at Gonzaga for more than 15 years. Kries has contributed to several texts, and his article on “Augustine’s Response to the Political Critics of Christianity in the ‘De Civitate Dei’ ” was published in the American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly.

This marks the fourth year of the lecture series, which is coordinated by Wayne Pomerleau, Powers Chair of the Humanities. The lectures focus on the current relevance and significance of the ideas of great thinkers from the past. Previous lectures have discussed Socrates, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin and Thomas Aquinas.

For more information, contact Pomerleau at (509) 323-6750 or via e-mail at
I am definitely going!

OMJ! Noel!!!

Noel is finally here and I got my copy today. It is beautiful, exquisite, and the most wonderful Christmas cd I can imagine. Josh's voice is breathtaking!

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My Copy!

The cd is available for purchase on or or Warner Brothers and you can only buy the special edition ornament on one of those sites. It is a very beautiful ornament, so if you are a Josh Groban fan, I would get one!

You will find pictures of the cd and the ornament, as well as a link to hear clips of the songs

If you already got
Noel, what do you think? Which is your favorite song?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Week Until Noel!

Only a week left until Josh Groban's first Christmas CD Noel comes out! I just got an FOJG e-mail containing information that the cd is available for advance purchase on or or Warner Brothers and you can only buy the special edition ornament on one of those sites. It is a very beautiful ornament, so if you are a Josh Groban fan, I would get one!

Here is part of the news release:

Recorded in LA and the famed Abbey Road Studio in London in between performances of the 26-year-old Groban's "Awake" Tour, the collection of holiday songs on 'Noel' includes such classics as "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" with Josh on acoustic piano, "Silent Night," "Little Drummer Boy," "The Christmas Song," "O Come All Ye Faithful" with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and "Ava Maria." Groban duets with Faith Hill on "The First Noel," with a choir under the direction of gospel legend Kirk Franklin. In addition, singer Brian McKnight adds his vocals on "Angels We Have Heard On High" and the haunting version of "I'll Be Home For Christmas" features messages from troops stationed overseas.
I think it is wonderful that Josh put messages from the troops in that last song. What a beautiful tribute to the men and women who are fighting for our freedom around the world.

I cannot wait for this cd to come out! Only one more week and it will be in stores. Here are the different versions/sales:

For all of Josh's international fans, Noel will be available in November in all countries that carry Warner Music product.
Noel - The regular edition CD with 13 tracks will be available at all retailers on October 9th, 2007.

Noel - The Special edition CD with 13 tracks and DVD "the making of the CD" footage will be sold exclusively at Target Stores available on October 9th, 2007

Noel - Two versions available only through the Warner Bros. Records online store, FOJG and The regular edition CD with 13 tracks selling for $14.98 plus s&h and also a “special packaged” regular CD with custom holiday ornament which will be available for pre-order soon. Both available to ship on October 9th, 2007.
Don't forget to buy a copy (or three!) on Tuesday!

Here is the cd with the ornament:

UPDATE-3 October 2007:
Barnes& has sound clips from the cd. Gorgeous!!! You can listen to them

Monday, October 01, 2007

Guess Who!

Over at J.K. Rowling's website, the Wizard of the Month is none other than dear Harry Potter!

Have a look!

Want an English Husband?

The Guardian Unlimited: Men panic as lure of the city leaves villages with no women---

Britain's countryside is used to doom-laden stories about threats to the landscape, wildlife and farming, but now there is a new threat to village life: the women are moving out.

An unexpected phenomenon called "female extinction" is blighting the prospects of thousands of unmarried men, whose own careers are rooted in the fields where their mothers and grandmothers traditionally lent a hand.

More than 130,000 of them have responded to a heartfelt plea from the men of Alston in Cumbria, England's highest and now loneliest market town, who worked out two years ago that there were 10 of them to every local lass.

Worse, the bachelors in the Pennine outpost discovered - through glum research interviews on the windblown streets - that many of the remaining women were set on living and working in glitzier, more challenging places.
You can read the rest of the article and how they plan to bring women back to the villages here.

And if you plan to go, do let me know!