Announcement: Austen in August at Roof Beam Reader

I’ve been in a crazy long reading funk lately. I haven’t been interested in anything I own, my review copies are aggravating me and stressing me out, and the pressure of library ebooks popping up randomly with their availability has left me frazzled. I’m all over the place, and nothing can get me to focus.

Enter Adam at Roof Beam Reader.

King of all things literary fiction, master Tweeter, and all around super awesome fantastic nice guy; I should not be surprised that he may yet turn out to be my summer reading savior. Just when I needed something to read that was pleasant, comforting, and full of equal parts light and depth, he announces a superb event focusing on books with all of these qualities. Tongue-in-cheek humor? Check. Not-so-subtle feminist rantings? Check. Swoony romances? Check. Kickass ladies sticking it to dudes who think they’re all that? Check. Added bonus points for encouraging summer reading that is not typical chick lit “beach reads.” 

C’mon folks. We can read Jane Austen at the beach. We’re all intelligent peeps that dig intrigue, right? So how about some gossip served up by bitchy old ladies in stuffy ballrooms at lavish parties? (That’s my kind of party, y’all.)

So a big thank you to Adam for hosting this event. It will definitely help me knock out some books for my sadly neglected goal in Midnyte Reader’s Dusty Volumes Challenge. Want to join me? Here are the details:

  • Sign up in the comments on the Austen in August: Sign-Up Post! at Roof Beam Reader. (See how awesome Adam is? You don’t even have to create a post. Just leave a comment. Because summertime = nice and easy.)
  • Read books by, about, or based on the works of Jane Austen. Biographies, retellings, mash-ups – they’re all good. Some recommendations on Adam’s post and comments include Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Austenland, Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, The Jane Austen Book Club, Shades of Milk and Honey, and All Roads Lead to Austen.
  • Post reviews of the Austen-related books you read during the month of August in order to win prizes.
  • Post discussion posts (if you’re interested in guest posting or hosting giveaways, talk to Adam!), enter giveaways, visit other blogs, and generally get into the spirit of things by enjoying Austen and sharing that enjoyment with the rest of us.
  • Be a dear and spread the word – post the button, tweet (the official hashtag is #AusteninAugustRBR) or post about the event, and talk it up to your reading and blogging friends! 
  • Sign-ups are welcome during the event, but to be sure you’re eligible for early giveaway prizes, sign up by July 31st.

My plan is to read Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice. I’ve started all of these, but can’t remember if I ever actually finished them. If I have, it was so long ago that I’ve since confused the books with the movies, so I’m overdue for re-reads.  If I finish those, I’d like to try one of the retellings or mash-ups. They look like fun, but I’d probably enjoy them more coming fresh off the source material. The ones that look most intriguing to me are Amanda Grange’s Heroes series (Colonel Brandon’s Diary, Mr. Darcy’s Diary, etc.) and faux sequels like Willoughby’s Return.

I’ll be posting updates and reviews as I go, and be on the lookout for potential movie comparison posts. I will use any excuse to watch Ang Lee’s brilliant and beautiful Sense and Sensibility again. If there’s not a hashtag yet, I’m sure there will be one, so look for tweets of my thoughts as well. It’ll be nice to read and review some books where I feel fairly certain the author will never see my comments. Who’s up for a drama free August?

It’s going to be a blast!





Outlander Read-Along Chapters 36-41 – THE END!

Today is the sixth and final discussion day for the Outlander Read-Along. Can you believe the end is finally here?! This week’s questions come from Jacinda at The Reading Housewives:

1. Jaime has the worst case of seasickness. Do you get seasickness or motion sickness? If not, is there something else that makes your stomach a bit queasy?

I’m pretty lucky in that it takes a lot for me to get queasy. Motion and height related things don’t make me feel sick, which is awesome. I feel terrible for anyone that suffers from it! Even gross sights and smells don’t get me. My natural inclination isn’t to gag or barf. Lucky me?

2. How did you handle reading the details of Jamieâ??s torture at the hands of Randall? Did you blame Jamie for anything that happened during the encounter with the captain? If you were Claire, how do you think you would have taken hearing about the abuse from your husband? What did you think of Claireâ??s methodâ??s to get Jamie to start healing psychologically from his wounds from Randall (when she filled his room with opium and simulated another attack by the Captain)? 

It was like a bad car wreck – I had to know. Had to know what had happened in that cell, but yet I didn’t want to know with equal ferocity. If I didn’t know, it didn’t happen, right? 

Wishful thinking.

Randall is disgusting, and there wasn’t much Jamie could have done differently. He did exactly what he had to do – he survived. That’s all you can ask of anyone taken captive. Just survive. I thought Claire’s tactics were pretty risky to try and get Jamie to re-live his torture. I’m not sure I could handle doing that to my husband – but it seemed to work so kudos. I guess. 

3. This cover:

â??history, warfare, medicine, sex, violence, spirituality, honor, betrayal, vengeance, hope and despair, relationships, the building and destruction of families and societies, time travel, moral ambiguity, swords, herbs, horses, gambling (with cards, dice, and lives), voyages of daring, journeys of both body and soulâ?¦you know the usual stuff of literature.â?

Which of the above elements of Outlander were you most looking forward to? Which did you enjoy the most while reading? Which did you enjoy the least while reading? Which did you just not care about? Any of these do you which there were more of? Or less of?

I wish this book had more about the time travel. It’s only a time travel book in the sense that it happens, but beyond that it’s really just a historical romance with an anachronistic heroine. The later books do focus a bit more on the time travel – how it happens, and to whom – but these pieces are often placed far between larger plot lines that deal with historical stuff. 

But I love the historical details and learning about a country and period I don’t know much about. When Claire and Jamie start landing in different parts of the world it gets even more interesting. And the battle scenes are pretty badass. I love seeing Jamie as a leader, both in a military and political sense. 

4. Share with us your overall thoughts on Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Your favorite quotes, scenes, and/or your favorite words that had you searching for a dictionary. If you havenâ??t been marking your favorite quotes/passages, you can find Outlander quotes on Goodreads.

I love this book mostly for the characters of Jamie and Claire. They are so…alive. My favorite quotes and scenes are mostly the things they say to each other about life and love. Diana Gabaldon seems to really understand people, and how spouses should be partners, and so she has amazing ways of expressing the heart of relationships. Two favorite lines are the one where Jamie says there is room for secrets, but not lies, in respect. I absolutely believe that no person should be forced to not keep secrets. Everyone needs a bit of privacy, even from their spouse, but that never means lying. The other favorite is when he says he can’t possess her soul without losing his own. I like that their relationship is built on give-and-take, and not ownership. They must each love the other in equal parts in order to find the balance of power between them. I love that. 

5. Are you going to continue with the series or are you done after Outlander? For those of us who are new readers of this series, any predictions? Do you think participating in the read-along helped or hindered your experience with the story? For those of you whoâ??ve already read Outlander and books beyond, how much did you enjoy (or not enjoy) this re-read?

I loved getting the chance to re-read this, especially through the eyes of the new readers. It’s awesome to get to see the perspective during the read. So often I recommend the book, and then just hear whether or not they liked it later. To see what people think as they read it for the first time is fun!

The Outlander books are sort of like the TV series LOST for me. I’ll keep reading them as long as there are new ones to read, but I get less enjoyment out of each new installment because I’m getting more questions than answers. Still, I love the world and the characters too much to ever give up on them. 

*Bonus #1* Take the Outlander QUIZ on Goodreads and tell us how you did!*

I got 14 out of 15! I overthought the last question. It was one of those where I confused later books with this one.

*Bonus #2* Claire is able to visit the library at The Abbey. Share with us pictures or a description of your own personal drawing of your dream library. Feel free to share more than one. Some of you may even have a Pinterest board full of inspiration, please share!

If you read along with us this week, be sure to link up your post or share your thoughts in the comments!

To link up your post this week, visit Jess at Gone with the Words.

Review: The Girl in the Park by Mariah Fredericks

Book: The Girl in the Park
Author: Mariah Fredericks
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Release date: April 24, 2012
Source: eARC from NetGalley
Summary from Goodreads: When Wendy Geller’s body is found in Central Park after the night of a rager, newspaper headlines scream,”Death in the Park: Party Girl Found Strangled.” But shy Rain, once Wendy’s best friend, knows there was more to Wendy than just “party girl.” As she struggles to separate the friend she knew from the tangle of gossip and headlines, Rain becomes determined to discover the truth about the murder. Written in a voice at once immediate, riveting, and utterly convincing, Mariah Frederick’s mystery brilliantly exposes the cracks in this exclusive New York City world and the teenagers that move within it.

First impressions: I had not heard much about this book. I requested it on NetGalley because I thought the story looked interesting and different for the YA market. As soon as I started reading it, I was so happy with my choice to try out this book. It draws you into the mystery from the first pages, and Rain is a terrific teen character.

Lasting impressions: YA contemporary meets mystery/suspense thriller? Full of win! 

Conflicting impressions: Okay, so the killer is kind of easy to spot. Luckily there’s a whole lot more happening in this book.

Overall impressions: It would be so easy to just say, “Yeah, this is a murder mystery about a rich private school girl who liked to party.” That screams Law and Order: SVU doesn’t it? It sounds like it’ll be this quick read about a girl who runs off and gets drunk at a party and winds up dead and her friend saves the day by catching the bad guy.

It’s so much more than that.

It’s about how the persona one high school girl chose to present to her classmates warped their perception of her death. It’s about secrets and the price we pay to keep them. It’s about how love and attraction can be mishandled and exploited. It’s about the media’s role in victim blaming, and how the public uses it to feel safer. In short, there’s a lot under the surface of this seemingly simple story.

I appreciated following this plot through the naive eyes of Rain – a girl still recovering from a painful speech impediment and trying to finish high school without drawing more wrath from the popular crowd. Wendy, a vivacious outsider desperate to either fit in or make waves (whichever is more convenient), befriends Rain when few else will. It is that loyalty that drives Rain to find out what really happened to Wendy after she is found dead in Central Park.

Rain struggles to marry the Wendy she knew with the Wendy splashed across tabloid pages and whispered about in the halls. She pushes to find the truth, often through conversations with people she’d rather not have to speak with, and as the events of that night start to unravel, Rain gains the courage to keep right on pushing. She has to make difficult decisions – when to tell the truth, when to state suspicions, when to break a confidence – and she also has to deal with difficult consequences. The question she must answer time and again is “How far will I go to honor Wendy?” Finding the answer to that question is half the fun of this delightful mystery.

Highly recommended to whodunit fans and YA contemporary readers.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system


Outlander Read-Along Chapters 29-35

Today is the fifth discussion day for the Outlander Read-Along. This week’s questions come from yours truly:

1. We are now settled into life at Lallybroch. What are your impressions of this place, and Ian and Jenny Murray? How do the stories of Jamie’s life here growing up shape your feelings toward him?

I have to admit that I kind of find Lallybroch boring, which is funny to me because in later books we see Claire and Jamie in simple domesticity A LOT. So why Lallybroch makes me yawn is beyond me, but it does. Hopefully I’m not the only one. 

That said, I totally love Ian and Jenny. I’m glad we get to meet Jenny, in particular. The dynamic she has with Jamie is hilarious (I love the splinter comment!). And Ian makes a good partner for her. I also like getting to know more about Jamie through the stories from his past. He’s truly a fleshed out character who has been shaped by his experiences, and I’m glad Diana Gabaldon takes the time to share them with us.

2. What do you think of the story of what really happened between Jenny and Jack Randall? Could you have been as bold as Jenny? Does this change your understanding of Randall? 

This story makes me want to simultaneously sob and cheer. Jenny is one of my favorite women that Gabaldon writes, and I wish we got to spend more time with her. Jenny clearly shares Jamie’s ability to read people and situations, and remain cool under pressure. She’s a quick thinker who was able to use perceived weakness to her advantage – just as we see Jamie calculate similar battle scenarios time and again. I admire her bravery and wish I could feel like I’d do the same thing.

Randall. Hoo boy. Despite the experience Claire had with him, this event really sealed him in my mind as a sexual predator and deviant. He relies on power and sadism to feed his desires, and knowing that women are not his preference makes him all the more ominous considering his fixation on Jamie. But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

3. For the second time, we see Claire warning a Fraser about future events. Do you think this is wise? Or does this mess with history/the space-time continuum/the natural order of things? 

I love thinking about repercussions when it comes to time travel. Can Claire really alter the future by telling Jenny to plant some potatoes? What if she had been able to tell Black Jack the date of his death? (And what a tease for the reader, right?!) I personally feel that every action has a consequence, though it could be minor. Maybe Jenny surviving the devastation as war wouldn’t have an impact on the world. I think if I was Claire, I’d resist saying anything about the future, if only to err on the safe side.

4. Do you consider Claire brave or foolish for going after Jamie? Would you be courageous enough to go into enemy territory to try and save the man you love?

Is it cheating to say both? Claire is often both brave and foolish, but I can’t blame her for wanting to try. I think walking into that prison and pretending I actually had business there would be scary, but probably also exhilarating. My actor self would love the challenge, that’s for sure. But I have to say that I’m not that surprised that Claire did it – she does whatever she wants anyway, and she never lets fear get the best of her. Plus, where would the story go if she didn’t?

5. Jamie makes a gut-wrenching decision in Chapter 35. Do you blame Claire for putting him in that position? What kinds of repurcussions do you expect?

I did kind of blame Claire, if only for pissing off Randall even further. Claire is constantly winding up in harm’s way, and having to rely on Jamie to get them out of it. I suppose we’re to accept that Jamie would have made the same choice to protect anyone from Black Jack. After all, early in the book we see him accept a whipping for Laoghire just to save her the shame and pain of it. Still, I hate seeing him give in to Jack’s wishes, especially after that creepy kiss and the mess he mad he made of Jamie’s hand. My biggest fear for Claire would be that Jamie might not be able to forgive her after whatever is still to come. We shall see…

If you read along with us this week, be sure to link up your post or share your thoughts in the comments!

To link up your post and get next week’s discussion questions, visit Jacinda at The Reading Housewives.

Outlander Read-Along Chapters 22-28

Today is the fourth discussion day for the Outlander Read-Along, and it’s my turn to host! I’m so excited! But before we get to the big reveal of my questions for next week, let’s get back to our discussion. This week’s questions come from Asheley at Into the Hall of Books:

1. How do you feel about Claire disobeying Jamie and the resulting punishment he brings forth on her for this? Do you feel that Jamie’s punishment was justified by the fact that everyone was put in danger by Claire’s actions? Finally, did Jamie’s vow with Claire’s dagger do anything to sway your thoughts or change your mind on how you initially feel/felt about his punishment? 

The idea of a husband beating his wife is appalling at best and unforgivable at worst. In this case, I certainly felt Claire’s humiliation and loss of control, and it was not pleasant to read. That said, this was not a case of a man beating a woman simply to exact punishment or keep her in line. It’s much more complex than that. As Jamie said, if any person had done that, there would be a severe punishment to follow. Claire was not being treated differently than anyone else. Had she gone AWOL while serving as an Army nurse, she would have been punished. How is this different? Sure, we’ve moved beyond corporal punishments in our time, but back then, they hadn’t. I do wish, however, that Jamie hadn’t enjoyed it so much. Ick.

2. Just for fun, what was your reaction to the suspicious black spot Claire spotted on the floor near the area where Jamie was sleeping? Did you have any theories to what it might have been before it was revealed to be a _____? 

Once it started moving, I was pretty sure it was a bug of some type. The way Jamie was so casual about it was pretty unsettling. I despise the thought of creepy crawlies on me while I sleep, and this aspect of living in the past would gross me out. I spent a week in rural India a few years ago, and always tucked my mosquito net under my bedding to form a shield that would keep the bugs from crawling under the net and onto my bed. Ugh. I hate bugs. 

3. With regard to the ‘changeling’ baby Claire and Geilie spotted in the wild – if it were you back then and you happened upon a changeling baby in the wild in a circumstance such as this, do you think you’d have reacted most like Claire or Geilie? Explain. 

My first instinct would be Claire’s – to help the poor, innocent, obviously sick child. I understand Geilie’s pragmatism, though. It’s dangerous to interfere with people’s ancient beliefs, particularly as an outsider. As much as Claire wanted to help the baby, there probably wasn’t much she could do for it, and certainly not without risking an entire town full of people coming for her head. These people used these beliefs to find comfort during the death of an ailing child, and even though I don’t understand how parents could put a baby alone in the woods just because it cries a lot, you have to respect the way of the world in areas that are not your own. I could probably write 10 entries on cultural interference and globalization, so I’ll just stop there.

4. Share your thoughts on Geilie Duncan. Is there anything that surprised you about her story or were you suspicious of her from the beginning?

I think it goes without saying at this point, but SPOILERS AHEAD. 

I got a weird vibe from Geilie from the beginning. I never liked her, despite Claire’s insistence on befriending her. Kudos to Diana Gabaldon for implanting negative impressions through subtext. Geilie is always full of surprises, between murdering her husband, revealing a MacKenzie pregnancy, and publicly claiming she was a witch to save Claire, but absolutely the biggest surprise was the reveal that she had a small pox vaccination scar. That was one of those game-changer moments for me that hooked me into this series for good. Another time traveler? Will Claire find more? Will she see Geilie again? Will she find answers about the stones? That was a reveal to beat all other reveals – unexpected and majorly impactful. SO AWESOME.

5. Your thoughts on Jamie’s LAST REASON for wanting to marry Claire – the one he had been so secretive about. GO!

With all of his big brute manliness, it’s so easy to forget that Jamie is young and inexperienced in love. Sure he’s in his twenties, which is well into adulthood in his time, but much of his life has already been spent fighting and working and in hiding or captivity. He hasn’t had the blessed idleness of modern living, where you get hours to dream about your first love. I thought it was really sweet and touching that he revealed that Claire was really his first love, in a way. He married her because he wanted to be with her and because he was falling in love with her. Twue wuv! Swoon!

If you read along with us this week, be sure to link up your post below or share your thoughts in the comments!


Chapters 29-35

1. We are now settled into life at Lallybroch. What are your impressions of this place, and Ian and Jenny Murray? How do the stories of Jamie’s life here growing up shape your feelings toward him?

2. What do you think of the story of what really happened between Jenny and Jack Randall? Could you have been as bold as Jenny? Does this change your understanding of Randall?

3. For the second time, we see Claire warning a Fraser about future events. Do you think this is wise? Or does this mess with history/the space-time continuum/the natural order of things? 

4. Do you consider Claire brave or foolish for going after Jamie? Would you be courageous enough to go into enemy territory to try and save the man you love?

5. Jamie makes a gut-wrenching decision in Chapter 35. Do you blame Claire for putting him in that position? What kinds of repurcussions do you expect?

Don’t forget to link up your discussion posts for this week!

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All Male Review Challenge Giveaway Hop Winner!

Thank you to everyone who entered my giveaway in the All Male Review Challenge Giveaway Hop. I hope you had fun and are enjoying the challenge! I had 51 entries and picked a winner using
The winner of the new paperback of Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake is… 
Congratulations Danielle! Please check your email so I can get your book to you as soon as possible!


Outlander Read-Along Chapters 15-21

Today is the third discussion day for the Outlander Read-Along! This week’s questions come from Jess at Tangled Up in Blue:

1. We FINALLY get to the scene we’ve all been waiting for. You know what I’m talking about–yay sexytimes! What were your impressions? Was it what you were expecting? Or did you want more? 

It’s funny to me going back and re-reading these sections after having read so many more romance novels. It seems so tame compared to the Black Dagger Brotherhood! Yet the first time I read this I was shocked at all the sexytimes, because I hadn’t read much romance. 

I do think that the scenes are written well and varied enough to show us the emotions that Jamie and Claire are experiencing. They serve their purpose well of showing us that Jamie and Claire are drawn to each other in a way that only true love can do. 

2. I know that some readers thus far have been bothered by the fact of Claire being married to Frank but still being involved with Jamie, despite the different time periods. Does their time as newlyweds change anyone’s opinion of that? If not, now what are you thinking of the situation? 

Do I think that Claire is maybe a bit too eager to do anything other than jump Jamie’s bones? Perhaps. But she is leading a lonely and dangerous life in Scotland, and Jamie offers her protection, friendship, and some bodily comforts. Should I judge her for wanting those things? I decided no. She made a choice to marry Jamie, so she might as well commit to it fully now. 

3. What did you think about the “waterhorse” that Claire saw? Why do you think Peter was so spooked? And what do you think this means for Claire?

The waterhorse – with its own chapter and backstory – seemed to be a bit of foreshadowing to me. I like how Diana Gabaldon always finds ways to throw us for a loop. Claire seemed to recognize this creature of Loch Ness, but not just as Nessie. Very interesting! I won’t say much as to Peter and Claire’s own thoughts about the monster, though. That’s it’s own bit of fun that comes out later.

4. If you were Claire and you were knowingly in the vicinity of the stones, would you have done the same thing she did?

I can understand why Claire wanted to get back – it was kind of a now-or-never situation. It had to be hard to decide to leave Jamie, but I think in a way she recognized that if she stayed with Jamie and continued to live as his wife, she would have a much tougher time leaving him. Better to do it like a Band-Aid and be quick and sharply painful about it at first, with the hope that it’s less painful in the long run.

5. What do you think about Captain Randall? How do you think the family resemblance between him and Frank affects Claire and particularly her relationship with Jamie?

I think I can safely say that I’ve never read a more detestable character than Captain Randall. How Diana even thought him up is beyond me, but I’m glad she did because he is a complicated presentation of pure evil that disrupts the lives of Jamie and Claire in awful ways that still make for a great read. I think the fact that he is a relative of Frank’s makes it easier for her to distance herself from Frank while in Scotland and feel justified in choosing a Fraser over a Randall. 

If you read along with us this week, be sure to link up your post or share your thoughts in the comments!

To link up your post and get next week’s discussion questions, visit Asheley at Into the Hall of Books.

All Male Review Challenge Giveaway Hop!

Buckle up, ladies and gents, because the All Male Review Challenge Giveaway Hop has arrived! This challenge and hop are all about spreading the love for young adult books featuring male protagonists or written by male authors.
I’m giving away the new paperback of Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake! This giveaway is open to U.S. shipping addresses only.
This giveaway, as with all of the giveaways in the hop, runs from July 1-7. Winner will be announced on July 8 and notified by email. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, I reserve the right to pick a new winner. 
Ready? To enter, fill out the FORM HERE. 
When you’re finished, be sure to hop around to visit the other giveaways!