2012 Why Buy the Cow? Challenge Sign-Up

**I’ve swiped Small Review‘s format for these sign-up posts, because she is awesome and organized and I am lazy and harried**

Challenge Basics:

Name: 2012 Why Buy the Cow? Challenge f/k/a Show Me the Free Challenge
Hosts: The Unread Reader and Reading the Paranormal

Starts: January 1, 2012
Ends: December 31, 2012
Eligible Books: FREE and LEGAL downloaded ebooks in any genre.
Levels: Three: Coupon Clipper (12 Books), Penny Pincher (24 Books), and Super Saver (30+ Books). I’m choosing Coupon Clipper: 12 Books.
Prizes? Monthly giveaways for participants who link up their reviews.
Sign up here!

Why I’m Interested:

I love Missie, and I need this motivation to power through the free books I’m always tempted to load onto my Kindle. If I don’t read them for this challenge, I doubt I ever will.

Some books I’m considering:

Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen
Heart of the Wolf by Terry Spear
Probably some classics from Project Gutenberg

Books completed:

Check my progress all year on the sidebar or on my 2012 Challenge Index.

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Jane Eyre: A Book and Movie Review

Book: Jane Eyre
Author: Charlotte Bronte
First published: 1847
Source: Project Gutenberg free download

Summary: (from Goodreads) Charlotte Bronte’s impassioned novel is the love story of Jane Eyre, a plain yet spirited governess, and her arrogant, brooding Mr. Rochester. Published in 1847, under the pseudonym of Currer Bell, the book heralded a new kind of heroine–one whose virtuous integrity, keen intellect and tireless perseverance broke through class barriers to win equal stature with the man she loved. Hailed by William Makepeace Thackeray as “the masterwork of great genius,” Jane Eyre is still regarded, over a century later, as one of the finest novels in English literature.

First impressions: It’s always a bit of an adjustment jumping into the classics, and Jane Eyre is no exception. I was surprised at how quickly I fell into Jane’s story, though, and consider this to be very accessible even for the most casual reader.

Lasting impressions: What an incredible journey for our young heroine! Jane experiences some of the toughest situations life can throw at you. Throughout the course of the story she is at times loveless, penniless, homeless, and friendless. When she does meet the few people in her life that bring her joy and affection, they are often torn from her in cruel ways. Yet Jane never lets life get the best of her. It’s easy to see why she has been such an inspirational character for nearly two centuries.

Conflicting impressions: While Bronte’s dialogue sings, some of the descriptive scenes can get quite boring. The book covers a large chunk of time, so I found myself getting impatient when I was ready to move on to the next section of the book. In particular, after she leaves Thornfield Hall and moves in with St. John’s family, I was anxious to get to the part where I knew she’d be reunited with Rochester.

Overall impressions: Jane Eyre is definitely one of my new favorite characters. She is a passionate girl in a time where girls should be anything but. Orphaned at an early age, she is brought up by her aunt – her mother’s brother’s wife – who promised her husband on his deathbed that she would care for the child. She despises Jane, however, and shows her absolutely no love or kindness. As if that isn’t bad enough, her son torments and beats Jane when no one is looking, and when Jane strikes back she is punished for it.

After one particularly unjust confrontation, Jane is locked in the room where her uncle died, and she experiences a haunting that terrifies her until she faints. After this incident she is sent away to Lowood School, where she remains both as student and teacher until adulthood. It is at Lowood that Jane makes, and loses, her first friend. Helen teaches Jane the value of restraint and acceptance in the face of brutality, which serves Jane well as she develops into a young woman. The impetuous nature of her childhood seems to cool a bit, and when Jane emerges as a strong woman from Lowood, she is much more reserved and capable of handling tough circumstances.

Jane’s first job outside of Lowood is as a governess at Thornfield Hall, a property owned by Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester. He has a young girl, Adele, as his ward, who he took care of after her mother died in France – a woman Rochester seems to have spent quite a deal of time with. He is blunt, direct, overbearing, and not particularly handsome. He has a dark past that he hints at and ultimately is revealed later in the book. He is an intriguing character to be sure, and given Jane’s own direct nature, the two engage in some zinging dialogue that carries you through the pages effortlessly.

It is through Rochester that Jane begins to understand real partnership. They are equals, relying on each other for strength, comfort, and the joy of each other’s company. Jane has had no real contact with men, and at times Rochester takes advantage of this fact, as well as his station as her employer, to toy with her feelings. What could seem brutish and unseemly is rather understood to be merely the insecurity of a man who feels he is not deserving of any kind of love or happiness. When he finally reveals his true feelings, you get the urge to smile through your tears and punch him on the arm for putting us through all that.

While at Thornfield, Jane also experiences a number of seemingly supernatural events. She hears voices and footsteps in the halls, wakes to find Rochester’s bed on fire, and on the eve of her wedding, sees a strange creature in her closet ripping her veil. I really liked these spooky elements of the story, and I may be developing a bit of a crush on gothic literature because of it. If you haven’t read the book, do yourself a favor and don’t read the plot summary beforehand like I did. I think the reveal behind the ghostly occurrences is quite powerful and surprising, so I promise not to spoil it for you here.

When Jane is forced by circumstance to leave Thornfield Hall, she ends up losing her belongings in a carriage and finds herself suddenly without money, food, or shelter. It is during this portion of her story that Jane proves herself to be wonderfully resilient. With another small kindness bestowed on her from a man called St. John, she manages to slowly build herself back up, eventually securing work again as a schoolteacher and having her own place to live.

I won’t give away the entire ending, but despite all odds against her, Jane’s story is a happy one. It is also a lesson in the power of who you choose to call family, how you choose to live your life, and what you choose to make of the life given to you. Your real family may disappoint you, and complete strangers may give you just what you need to get through the end of the day. One day you can be full of sadness, and the next may bring you complete joy. It is a journey, but one that should be endured and celebrated no matter what happens, for you never know what tomorrow will bring. Jane Eyre is a magnificent and truly timeless story.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

I also saw the movie this weekend, and highly recommend it, particularly if you like period dramas. The movie has to skip over some material, as the book encompasses a LOT of story. We are given only the briefest of glimpses into the time Jane spends with her aunt and at Lowood School, with the majority of the movie taking place at Thornfield Hall. I found this appropriate since Jane’s romance with Rochester is such a major point of the book.

The cast was exquisite, and the two leads portray Jane and Rochester with the perfect balance of decorum and playfulness. They downplay some of Rochester’s faults (because Michael Fassbender ain’t exactly hard to look at, if you catch my drift), and portray Jane as a bit more dense than she comes across in the book. Judi Dench is a dream as Mrs. Fairfax, the housekeeper, often getting a big laugh from the audience with nothing more than a glance.

I did have an issue with the Big Reveal – in the novel it is quite a bit more shocking than it came across on film. That was disappointing, especially given how much they played up the supernatural stuff throughout the movie. There was also an inexplicable change to the relationship between Jane and St. John that I didn’t quite get. I thought it was much more effective as written than how they handled it in the movie.

The movie seemed to match the book’s pacing – slooooow. Neither version is jam packed with excitement, even given the volume of events that take place and the nature of the action. I found the movie quite enjoyable regardless, though I am always a fan of 19th century British dramas. If the story interests you but you don’t have the time to read the book, definitely go see the movie – and then email me so we can gab about it!

Hunted by the Others by Jess Haines

Hunted By The Others
Click the cover to purchase at Amazon
Book: Hunted by the Others
Author: Jess Haines
Publisher: Zebra Books
Release date: May 1, 2010
Source: Free ebook purchased for Kindle
Series: H&W Investigations #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) They are the Others-the vampires, mages, and werewolves once thought to exist only in our imaginations. Now they’re stepping out of the shadows, and nothing in our world will ever be the same again…

In A Town Like This, Being A P.I. Can Be Murder

Shiarra Waynest’s detective work was dangerous enough when her client base was strictly mortal. But ailing finances have forced her to accept a lucrative case that could save her firm-if it doesn’t kill her first. Shiarra has signed on to work for a high-level mage to recover an ancient artifact owned by one of New York’s most powerful vampires.

As soon as Shiarra meets sexy, mesmerizing vamp Alec Royce, she knows her assignment is even more complicated than she thought. With a clandestine anti-Other group trying to recruit her, and magi being eliminated, Shiarra needs back-up and enlists her ex-boyfriend-a werewolf whose non-furry form is disarmingly appealing-and a nerdy mage with surprising talents. But it may not be enough. In a city where the undead roam, magic rules, and even the Others aren’t always what they seem, Shiarra has just become the secret weapon in a battle between good and evil-whether she likes it or not…

First impressions: I never know what to expect with free ebooks, so usually my guard is up and my expectations are down. Here, I was pleasantly surprised. The book opens with a great scene where our reluctant protagonist, Shiarra, is pulled into an investigative job for the Others. I loved the idea that Shiarra really didn’t want to get involved with the Others, especially since most books have characters that want to either be them or be in love with them.

Lasting impressions: What a welcome addition to the urban fantasy genre! I thought this book was a lot of fun, with some original new contributions that added a lot to my enjoyment. In Shiarra’s world, the Others (supernatural types) have to sign contracts in order to have romantic (or blood servant) relationships, in order to avoid litigation should the human meet their death. This is a key plot point and added to the believability of the world.

Conflicting impressions: Given the well-developed supporting characters, I found Shiarra just a bit weak, especially in the beginning. I wish she hadn’t needed to take the job because of money troubles. This just made her an unwilling participant and didn’t give me much reason to root for her to succeed. I think bigger stakes would have made it more exciting.

Overall impressions: Shiarra and her business partner, Sara, pale a bit in comparison to the fun Others they come across. The vampire Alec Royce is the perfect blend of sexy and scary. What a treat to have a vampire who is actually terrifying! It seems like every other vamp I read about is so in control of his or her blood supply or hunger that they’re never really risky to be around. Well, Royce is definitely scary in this one, and I loved every minute of it.

Arnold, a mage, becomes a de facto sidekick when his boss (who hired Shiarra for the job) winds up dead. His development through the book is well handled, at first seeming untrustworthy but by the end winning our full confidence and friendship. He helps outfit Shiarra in some butt-kicking gear that keeps her alive and grants her some extra oomph in her fighting abilities.

The story line is straightforward enough, but Haines delivers a nice surprise at the end. The different Others factions are all vying for the same thing, and Shiarra is just trying to do her job and get out before things get too messy. Shiarra was likeable, but the other characters really take the book to the next level. Haines’ interesting take on supernaturals living side by side with humans, each wary of the other, everyone seemingly on edge, was both realistic and compelling. A great read for UF fans.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Want a different perspective? Check out this greatreview by Dark Faerie Tales.

Review: Giving Chase by Lauren Dane

Book: Giving Chase
Author: Lauren Dane
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Release date: September 1, 2006
Source: Free Kindle ebook purchased via Amazon.com

Summary: (from Goodreads) Some small towns grow really good looking men! This is the case with the four Chase brothers. The home grown hotties are on the wishlist of every single woman in town and Maggie Wright is no exception.

Maggie has finally had it with the men sheâ??s been dating but a spilled plate of chili cheese fries drops Shane Chase right into her lap. The sheriff is hot stuff but was burned by a former fiancée and is quite happy to play the field.

After Shaneâ??s skittishness sends him out the door, Maggie realizes that Kyle Chase has had his eye on her from the start. Now that Shane has messed up, Kyle has no intention of letting anything stop him from wooing her right into his bed.

Despite Maggieâ??s happiness and growing love with Kyle, a dark shadow threatens everythingâ??sheâ??s got a stalker and heâ??s not happy at all. In the end, Maggie will need her wits, strength and the love of her man to get her out alive.

First impressions: From the beginning, I liked Maggie and found her interesting enough to follow and see where her story went. Her crushingly low self-esteem was a bit eyeroll inducing at times, but in the first few scenes she is spunky, fun, and an all-around great gal living in a sweet, small town in Georgia.

Lasting impressions: It’s a fluff read, and it’s designed to be, so I can’t say that this one is going to linger on in my memory for all eternity. I will say, though, that the suspense element in the story is well-developed and I thought that part was executed on a higher level than I anticipated from a romance novel. Nice surprise!

Negative impressions: Though I did like the suspense through-line, the author left it behind for a big chunk in the middle there, and I found myself wondering if that was just a device to get Maggie involved with the hunky Chase brothers or if it was going to come back. Just when I had lost hope in seeing that plot element again, it popped up and helped me plow through to the end of the book.

I was also bothered by the fact that Maggie gets involved with more than one of the Chase brothers. Her first relationship is with Shane, then switches to Kyle, which ordinarily is not a problem, but here, the relationship with Shane serves no purpose other than to say that Shane is damaged. But this is not Shane’s story. It’s Maggie’s. So why spend all of that time getting Maggie involved with Shane? This book is part of a tetralogy focusing on each of the four Chase brothers, so it’s possible that Dane anticipated resurrecting that story line when she wrote about Shane. For this novel, it just confused me.

Overall impressions: This is a fun, quick read. It’s not overflowing with sex scenes, the characters are interesting, and the suspense element gives it a nice edge. If this book were a TV show, it would be a cross between a primetime soap opera and Law & Order: SVU. Girl meets boy, girl dates boy, boy rejects girl, girl dates boy’s brother instead, girl gains stalker, girl gets in over her head, all is resolved. The end.

While I did enjoy the characters, they were underdeveloped. Most of the supporting characters were nothing but caricatures with over-the-top reactions and unbelievable actions. Often plot twists and turns stemmed from odd character choices that didn’t necessarily fit with the story. I didn’t buy that Maggie’s mother could be that awful, particularly when balanced against the fact that Maggie is made out to be a successful and beautiful woman. The brothers are womanizers, yet Shane is chastened by his father for mistreating Maggie. Either they were brought up to treat women well or they weren’t.

Still, this novel surprised me, and overall I really enjoyed it. If you’re looking for a quick read with some lusty bits and some suspenseful bits, it’s a good choice.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Want a different perspective? Check out this five star review by I Just Finished Reading.