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Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★★

‘A good book lives forever,’ he said.

‘I sometimes think it’s easier to love a book more than a person, don’t you think?’ she said. ‘A book doesn’t change — it remains constant and perfect no matter how many times you read it.’

(from The Book Lovers)

The Book Lovers is the first in a new series by Victoria Connelly, whose writing I have loved since I discovered her Austen Addicts series several years ago. This was the first non-Austen-inspired book I’ve read by Connelly so I didn’t know what to expect, but oh my goodness, it was fantastic!

The novel centers on Callie Logan, a children’s book author who leaves the fast pace of London to settle in Owl Cottage in Newton St. Clare. She’s going through a divorce and needs to rediscover her creativity, and a small village where everyone knows everyone seems like just the place to heal. She soon meets the wild adventurer Leo, who takes her hiking through the woods and cooks her meals from ingredients he has foraged, and Sam Nightingale, the owner of a used book store who is trying to start up a book club and is dealing with relationship troubles of his own. Callie forges a friendship with both men, as they each bring something different and needed into her life.

I loved how Connelly introduced such an exciting cast of characters in the Nightingale family, including Sam, his sister Bryony, who owns a children’s bookshop, his parents, and his grandparents, especially the grandfather who is always hanging around Sam’s shop. This is a close-knit family who gets together every Sunday for dinner, and the love they have for one another — even when they get on each other’s nerves — is infectious. I loved how they welcomed Callie with open arms, and how Callie — whose parents are cold and distant — blossomed in their presence.

I couldn’t put this book down, and the characters felt so real to me that I thought about them when I wasn’t reading and couldn’t wait to jump back in and find out what happened next. The best part is they are standalone books, so no cliffhangers, but you’ll want to dive into the next book right away. Stay tuned for my review of book 2 later this week!

Disclosure: I received The Book Lovers from the author for review.

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Source: Review copy from Berkley
Rating: ★★★★☆

Francesca Hornak’s Seven Days of Us follows the Birch family as they are forced to spend the week of the Christmas holidays in quarantine in their Norfolk estate, Weyfield Hall. The Birch family — Andrew, a former war correspondent turned food critic; Emma, who put her dreams on hold to assume the role of family manager and caregiver; and their daughters, Olivia, a doctor whose work in Liberia treating victims of the Haag virus is the reason for the seven-day quarantine, and Phoebe, whose self-centeredness puts her at odds with her sister — are less than thrilled about being cooped up in the old house together.

Emma, whose memories of the old days prevent her from allowing improvements to her dilapidated family home, hopes that keeping to the family holiday traditions will bring them all together. But the rest of the family is just going through the motions. Andrew spends much of his time alone in the smoking room, wondering whether or not to respond to emails that are certain to further weaken his already tenuous bonds with his wife and daughters. Phoebe is focused on her relationship with George and their future, not understanding why Olivia is so sullen upon her return from Liberia and so serious about the quarantine. Olivia knows that her family doesn’t understand what she’s seen, and that they don’t really want to. Each one of them is carrying a secret that is bound to come out over the course of the week, and the stresses of maintaining normalcy are pushed to the breaking point when a stranger arrives at their door.

In Seven Days of Us, Hornak amplifies the challenges of celebrating the holidays as a family, especially when they have grown apart over the years. The quarantine keeps the family on edge and within the boundaries of the estate, when normally they would retreat when the going gets tough. Apart from an over-the-top coincidence at the beginning of the book, the story feels believable. Hornak does a great job telling the story from each character’s point of view within such a short time frame — the one-week quarantine — and keeping each viewpoint distinct. I felt like I got to know each character, understand their motivations, and watch them evolve and grow. It was hard to like these characters, but I became more connected to them (or, at the very least, grew to appreciate them) over the course of the book.

I enjoyed Seven Days of Us as a whole, as the characters and their secrets were interesting, the premise clever, and the pacing and flow spot-on. I definitely would recommend it for readers who like stories about family secrets and conflicts, and I look forward to reading more by Hornak in the future.

Disclosure: I received Seven Days of Us from Berkley for review.

Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you an excerpt from The Note by Zoë Folbigg, which I will be reviewing here next month.  The book was recently featured on ITV’s “This Morning,” and you can check out the interview with Folbigg here.

About The Note

Based on Zoë Folbigg’s true story comes an unforgettable romance about how a little note can change everything…

One very ordinary day, Maya Flowers sees a new commuter board her train to London, and suddenly the day isn’t ordinary at all. Maya knows immediately and irrevocably, that he is The One.

But the beautiful man on the train always has his head in a book and never seems to notice Maya sitting just down the carriage from him every day. Eventually, though, inspired by a very wise friend, Maya plucks up the courage to give the stranger a note asking him out for a drink. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?

And so begins a story of sliding doors, missed opportunities and finding happiness where you least expect it.

The Note is an uplifting, life-affirming reminder that taking a chance can change everything…

Goodreads | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play

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An excerpt from The Note, courtesy of Aria

Chapter One

May 2014

Maya has done it. She has delivered three sentences and a friendly sign-off, and now it is out of her hands. She struggles to walk the incline of the seemingly uphill train carriage because her legs are shaking, her mouth is dry, and putting one foot in front of the other takes effort and focus her racing heart isn’t capable of at the moment.

Her legs buckle as Maya slumps into a seat on the other side of a grubby internal door. Which is just as well because she wanted to linger with the last straggles of bedraggled Train People disembarking reluctantly; to make herself invisible to all the commuters she just embarrassed herself in front of. So, Maya lies low with the sleepy people. The people who can’t stand their jobs. The people who are lost in someone else’s life, frantically turning or swiping pages to find out if the girl got the guy, the adventurer made it back to London or the heretic was burned at the stake.

Train Man isn’t a straggler. Every day Maya sees him stand up confidently at the same point on the track, somewhere between the football stadium and the tunnel, as the train snakes towards a new day and a new terminus. Equine legs, strong arms. He throws a grey backpack with two thin brown leather straps onto his back, stands in the doorway and, as the train comes to a stop and orange lights ding, he steps off with pace and purpose. Maya usually walks a healthy distance behind Train Man, tiny sparks flying from her heels, down the platform and through the barriers under the canopy of a reverse waterfall bubbling white and bright above them. The intimate huddle of a metal umbrella for thousands of people who don’t even look up. Train Man always walks straight through the station and Maya wonders what he’s listening to, trying to guess from his gait, not realising he was at four of the six gigs she went to in the past year. Every day she sees him turn right out of the station and walk swiftly, resolutely, into a mist of people down the road. Until she can’t keep up with his long stride, he in Converse, she in heels – or ballerina flats if she needs to be nimble and get to a meeting – and Maya tends to lose him around the big crossroads at the artery by the hospital. But not today. Today Train Man has long gone.

When Maya’s legs buckled and she fell into a dusty seat, she put distance between where Train Man had been sitting, where she had awkwardly stood over him, and into this sanctuary of a cringe-free carriage. Catching her breath, she waits for three minutes until she, Maya Flowers, is the last of the stragglers. Hot face. Thumping heart.

I did it!

In the empty carriage, Maya’s legs stop shaking and she flattens her wavy hair in an attempt to regain composure for no one’s benefit. She takes long deep breaths and calms herself by putting her fingertips against her ribcage to feel her lungs fill slowly.

A tall man in a bright blue short-sleeved shirt that sits pleasingly against Somali skin steps on and starts to throw newspapers into a sack before passengers board the train that will take them north.

Maya stands and tries to stride with Train Man’s purpose. She knows she won’t catch him up today, to see whether he is clutching her note to his heart, whether it’s crumpled in his pocket, or whether he tossed it into a bin. It doesn’t matter for now. What matters is she did it.

Spring sunshine looks down gently and tempers rise noisily in the gridlock of an underpass, but all Maya can hear among the birds and the horns are the words of an American woman in her head.

‘What’s the worst that can happen?’

Maya smiles proudly as she passes a bin and gives a cursory glance into it.

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About the Author

Zoë Folbigg

Zoë Folbigg is a magazine journalist and digital editor, starting at Cosmopolitan in 2001 and since freelancing for titles including Glamour, Fabulous, Daily Mail, Healthy, LOOK, Top Santé, Mother & Baby, ELLE, Sunday Times Style, and Style.com. In 2008 she had a weekly column in Fabulous magazine documenting her year-long round-the-world trip with ‘Train Man’ – a man she had met on her daily commute. She has since married Train Man and lives in Hertfordshire with him and their two young sons. This is her debut novel.

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Giveaway

Aria is generously offering one ebook copy of The Note to my readers, open internationally. To enter, the publicist has asked that you tweet this review (feel free to use the Twitter share button below), and leave a comment with your email address and the link to your tweet. I would love to know what intrigues you most about the book. This giveaway will end on Sunday, October 22, 2017. The winner will be chosen randomly from among those who have tweeted and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

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Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★☆

She considered turning her phone off in case someone tried to call once they discovered her absence. In the end, she decided that it did not matter if they called or not. She would not accept an interview from Mr. Darcy if he ran the last law firm on earth!

(from Legally Darcy)

Denise O’Hara’s Legally Darcy is a modern variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which Will Darcy is a high-powered lawyer at the prestigious firm once run by his father, and Elizabeth Bennet is a law school student seeking an internship. While waiting for an interview scheduled by Darcy’s partner, Charles Bingley, Elizabeth’s sister’s boyfriend, Elizabeth overhears an angry Darcy insult her and storms out, later taking a position at another firm, where she befriends George Wickham.

Much of the beginning of the book is devoted to Darcy’s backstory, opening when he was 10 years old, playing with George, the son of his father’s best friend, and his cousin, Richard Fitzwilliam. We learn how Darcy’s mother died after giving birth to Georgiana, how their father and Wickham’s father are killed in a car crash, the sacrifices Darcy makes to care for his sister (with Richard’s help), and how the circumstances surrounding his father’s death and the reading of the elder Mr. Darcy’s will enrage Wickham, setting the stage for his various attempts to ruin Will’s life.

O’Hara does a good job translating Pride and Prejudice into modern times, especially in putting Darcy and Elizabeth at odds, making the Bennet family (minus Elizabeth and Jane) an embarrassment at Bingley’s pool party, and creating a truly evil Wickham who is hell bent on destroying Darcy and anyone else who gets in the way of that goal. From a bachelorette auction for charity to a wild night in Vegas and the subsequent social media fallout, Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship is continually put to the test.

I was truly entertained by the twists and turns and O’Hara’s take on Austen’s characters. Darcy’s socialite aunt and her chauffeur, Buford Collins, are over-the-top creepy! But I wish more time had been spent on developing Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship and a little less time on the other drama. I felt like I really understood Darcy, but there isn’t as much about Elizabeth’s backstory, which made me curious; given how flighty Mrs. Bennet is, how did she manage to homeschool Elizabeth?

Even so, Legally Darcy was a page-turner with a lot of layers to the story. I thought it was clever to put Austen’s characters into the legal world, highlighting Darcy and Elizabeth’s class differences and the different stages of their careers. Overall, the book was a lot of fun, and I would recommend it to readers who love a modern-day Darcy and Elizabeth.

Disclosure: I received Legally Darcy from the author for review.

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★☆

He stiffened, knowing that she was baiting him but smiled as he said, “Miss Elizabeth, I am certain any man who did not take the opportunity to dance with you when it was first presented, would rectify the situation on the next occasion were he not a fool!” He forced himself to maintain an even breath as a lovely hue spread across her cheeks. And I can assure you, madam, I am no fool!

(from The Goodness of Men)

Anngela Schroeder’s latest variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice imagines what might have happened had Charlotte Collins been too sick for Elizabeth Bennet to visit Hunsford while Mr. Darcy is visiting his aunt at Rosings. In The Goodness of Men, the pair meet for the first time since the Netherfield Ball at Chenowith, the home of Darcy’s friend Mr. Turner, where Elizabeth and her aunt are staying as guests of Mr. Turner’s sister, Mrs. Anderson. At Chenowith, Elizabeth begins to see a different side of Darcy, how he tries to protect those he cares for, how he is willing to actually work and not just delegate the hard tasks, and how he tried to protect her sister from a man whose attraction often is fleeting.

While Elizabeth and Darcy form a friendship (and possibly more) at Chenowith, her sister Lydia is in Brighton, scheming right alongside Mr. Wickham. It’s not long before Elizabeth is forced to recognize that she hasn’t been the best judge of character, and maybe her sister Jane is wrong about all men having some amount of goodness inside them.

I really enjoyed The Goodness of Men, especially the different circumstances under which Elizabeth and Darcy forge their bond. I liked the original characters, especially the kind Mr. Turner and the naïve but strong Margaret Anderson. I loved the charming Colonel Fitzwilliam and his drawing room banter with Elizabeth, and Mrs. Gardiner taking charge when Lydia’s schemes go much too far.

Although there were some aspects of the story that were hard to believe, such as Elizabeth and Darcy being given adjoining rooms at Chenowith, I didn’t let them get in the way of my enjoyment of the story. Schroeder did an excellent job writing very tender, touching scenes between Elizabeth and Darcy (swoon!), and she added more depth to Darcy’s backstory and the events that shaped him as the master of Pemberley.

Overall, I found The Goodness of Men to be a delightful read, with the right amount of drama and excitement and plenty of romance to balance it out. I’m already eagerly anticipating what Schroeder comes up with next!

Disclosure: I received The Goodness of Men from the author for review.

To celebrate the release of Anngela Schroeder’s latest novel, The Goodness of Men, I am overjoyed to have Miss Elizabeth Bennet as my guest today. Before we begin our discussion, let me introduce you to the book:

“This will not do,” said Elizabeth. “You never will be able to make both of them good…Take your choice, but you must be satisfied with only one. There is but such a quantity of merit between them; just enough to make one good sort of man…” –Pride and Prejudice 

From her youngest days, Elizabeth Bennet’s ability to accurately judge the character of others has been recognized and noted by those around her in such a consistent manner as to lead her to believe it herself. The misfortune of meeting Mr. Darcy, a wealthy landowner from the north, only solidifies this belief.
The memory of his disapproval of her family, proves his character is lacking and sadly unlike his childhood friend’s, the charming and affable Mr. Wickham, who is esteemed by all he meets. Although her opinion once lost is not lost forever, the effort to regain her favor is great.

With Elizabeth’s youngest sister fortunate to be in company with Mr. Wickham in Brighton since the spring, and her own travels to Kent cancelled, she must await the pleasures of a summer holiday to the North with her aunt and uncle Gardiner. However, it is there that she is once again thrust into Mr. Darcy’s presence and must determine if he is truly the architect of the many wrongs she has laid at his door.

 

Fitzwilliam Darcy cannot exorcise Elizabeth Bennet from his thoughts. A chance meeting at the estate of his friend reignites all the flames he has attempted to suppress since their last meeting. Believing in her partiality, he is stunned to overhear her true estimation of him and is determined to change her opinion.
Battling with memories and secrets from his past, Darcy must fight against his natural reserve to win the heart of the woman he loves.

Will the unexpected appearance of a stranger encourage Elizabeth’s change of heart? Might an episode from Mr. Darcy’s past force Elizabeth to see the man within? Can one man have all the goodness and the other only the appearance of it?

Join us for another sweet Pride and Prejudice reimagining, suitable for ages teen and up.

Please give a warm welcome to Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Miss Elizabeth, thank you for joining us today.

Thank you for welcoming me to your blog.

Do you believe in your ability to judge people’s character?

I feel that everyone has the ability to be observant, some more so than others.

And would you say you are one of those people?

I believe that I am a normal woman. True, I love to read, and have conversations beyond ball gowns and lace, much to my mother’s dismay, but I am certain there are many women who do so as well.

Do you feel your likes are an impediment to your hope to find a husband?

No. I feel they are an impediment to my mother’s hope of my finding a husband. (She laughs softly). I believe there is a man who will love me for all my likes and dislikes, and I for his. I am just uncertain where he exists at present.

Do you believe you have met him yet?

The man I am to marry?

Yes.

Well, I presume it is possible, but highly unlikely.

Why do you feel that way?

Because, I will know when I meet him.

Very well, in a different vein, what caused you to be such a supporter of Mr. Wickham and not Darcy?

Mr. Wickham’s countenance was one of ease and acceptance. He was charming and sociable. Mr. Darcy, who was raised as a gentleman, met none of those qualifications.

Tell us about the compromising position your aunt found you in.

I wonder how you heard about that! It was not truly a compromising position. Mr. Darcy caught me by surprise and I him. I was not expecting him to be there. Nothing untoward happened. It may have appeared that way, but the highest level of propriety was maintained at all times.

If that be the case, why are you blushing? Is the memory of Mr. Darcy in that state disconcerting?

I thank you, but I am not blushing. The room is merely warm.

What were you feeling at that moment?

I was flustered, to be sure, but maintained the proper level of behavior. I am a gentleman’s daughter, after all.

Do you believe you could ever forgive Mr. Darcy for the interference with your sister Jane and Mr. Bingley?

I would like to hear his opinion on the matter first before I make any decisions. I believe in being less prejudiced against others than they might be of me.

Describe Chenowith. Do you believe it is an estate you could be mistress of?

I could be the mistress of a great many places if I loved my husband and he me. Chenowith is a beautiful estate. There are a number of lovely walks, and some ruins as well. It is quite peaceful and has a simple quality about it which appeals to my sense of home.

Do you imagine Pemberley is much like Chenowith?

I am uncertain, but doubt it. As you know, I am familiar with the owner of both estates and believe one’s home is a reflection upon oneself. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Turner are very different men.

Our time is growing short. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

Yes. I’d like the readers to know that a person’s depth cannot be judged by their wealth and holdings. A man’s goodness is not relevant to his status in society. I believe if others realized this, we would all be in changed places entirely.

Those are definitely words to live by. Thank you for being my guest today, Miss Elizabeth. I hope my readers will join you on your journey in The Goodness of Men.

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Giveaway

Anngela is generously offering a giveaway of The Goodness of Men: two Kindle copies (international) and a signed hard copy (U.S. addresses only). Enter here. You must enter through the Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

Check out The Goodness of Men on Goodreads and Amazon.

It’s my pleasure to share with you today the new book from Kelly Davio, It’s Just Nerves, published by Squares and Rebels in October 2017, and the chance to win a copy!

About It’s Just Nerves

With equal parts wit and empathy, lived experience and cultural criticism, Kelly Davio’s It’s Just Nerves: Notes on a Disability explores what it means to live with an illness in our contemporary culture, whether at home or abroad.

Advance Praise:

“When the body attacks itself, the crisis is not just of bones and blood, but of beauty and boundaries. ‘Strange men have had their hands on me for days,’ Kelly Davio observes during a plasma treatment. Her skillful portrait of myasthenia gravis does not exist in a vacuum. It’s Just Nerves is in keen dialogue with the world around us—critiquing modern health care, pub seating etiquette, alarming election outcomes, smarmy meditation culture, and caricatures of illness in ads and on screen. ‘Oxygen is delicious,’ Davio reminds us, before the fire breaks out. A brisk, funny, and at times startlingly poetic memoir.” —Sandra Beasley, author of Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life

“Kelly Davio’s It’s Just Nerves feels like the book I’ve been waiting for all my life. If you want to know what it feels like to be a person with a disability in the 21st century, read this book. From mindfulness to yoga pants, Davio skewers ableist fabrications and brings us to a vital, ebullient, and sometimes terrifying reckoning with our real and shared human experience. She is a very funny writer and also a fearless one. Once I started reading these essays, I couldn’t put them down; they resounded through me like poetry or truth.” —Sheila Black, author of House of Bone and Love/Iraq

“Kelly Davio’s got so much incredible stuff brewing together on every page of these nimble, shapeshifting essays: meditations on the politics of illness, the body in crisis, the spirit in bloom, David Bowie—all of it filtered, carefully, through the lithe sensibility of a poet. The results are equal parts witty and wise, heartrending and rapturous. Man, I loved this book.” —Mike Scalise, author of The Brand New Catastrophe

Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Kelly Davio

Kelly Davio is the author of Burn This House (Red Hen Press, 2013) and the forthcoming The Book of the Unreal Woman. She is the founding editor of Tahoma Literary Review and the former Managing Editor of The Los Angeles Review. While in England, she served as the Senior Editor of Eyewear Publishing. Her work has appeared in Best New Poets, Verse Daily, The Rumpus, and others. She earned her MFA in poetry from Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. Today, she works as a medical editor in New Jersey.

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Giveaway

Enter here for a chance to win one of three copies of It’s Just Nerves. This giveaway is open to readers 18+ with U.S. addresses and closes on October 31, 2017. You must enter through the Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

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Follow the Blog Tour

Oct. 4: Readaholic Zone (Review)
Oct. 9: Diary of an Eccentric (Book Spotlight)
Oct. 10: I Brought a Book (Review)
Oct. 12: I Brought a Book (Interview)
Oct. 20: Avalinah’s Books (Review)
Oct. 27: Create With Joy (Review)