Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


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

He yearned for her but she could never be his. She was promised to another, as was he. … And yet, there he stood, transfixed in a doorway, with the rain beating down on the panes, dreaming of a world with this woman, hoping he would not be discovered as she gazed into the night.

(from A Lie Universally Hidden)

A Lie Universally Hidden is a beautifully written variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that forces Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet to face seemingly insurmountable obstacles tied to their strong sense of duty to their families. Anngela Schroeder imagines a world where Mr. Darcy is committed to honoring his dead mother’s wishes, with plans to marry his cousin, Anne de Bourgh, in a few months’ time despite the fact that he loves another. Meanwhile, Elizabeth is expected to marry her childhood friend, James Hamilton, who has inherited his aunt’s estate, but she is captivated by Darcy and his love and devotion to his younger sister.

There is no insult at the Meryton Assembly in Schroeder’s variation, and it is easy for Darcy to overlook Elizabeth’s lack of connections because he is already betrothed to another. But Schroeder does a fantastic job altering the situations of the original novel, still finding ways for them to misunderstand one another, still making it uncertain how a happily ever after can be achieved, and developing their regard for one another in a believable way. There are so many tender scenes in this novel, so many beautiful passages as Schroeder lets readers into Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s minds as they try to come to terms with their feelings for one another, the expectations placed upon them, and their desire to live for themselves.

I enjoyed how Schroeder brought to the forefront many of the secondary characters, especially Georgiana Darcy, Kitty Bennet, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and Anne de Bourgh. Her versions of Mrs. Bennet, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and Caroline Bingley were delightfully horrid as well. Mrs. Smith, Lady Anne Darcy’s maid, was a wonderful addition, and Schroeder did a great job portraying her illness and her connection to the secret at the core of the novel. I was on the edge of my seat wondering how it would all play out, and I was not disappointed.

A Lie Universally Hidden is a fantastic retelling of Pride and Prejudice that grabbed me from the very first page. I absolutely loved Schroeder’s portrayal of Darcy and Elizabeth. I know I’ve read dozens of Pride and Prejudice variations over the years and it’s hard to choose a favorite, but A Lie Universally Hidden would definitely be a contender if I were to compose a list. I can’t wait to read more of Schroeder’s work in the future.


About A Lie Universally Hidden

Fitzwilliam Darcy has always lived a life of duty and honor; his engagement to his cousin Anne de Bourgh fulfills the final wish of his deceased mother. His life is neatly in order to pursue these intentions when he meets Elizabeth Bennet; the one woman who turns his world upside down.

Elizabeth is not indifferent to him, but her life is also on a divergent course. As she prepares to accept a betrothal from a suitor she esteems, she finds herself experiencing unexpected feelings. Yet knowing that Darcy and Anne are united by their love for one another, she attempts to put Darcy behind her. But why does she suspect that Darcy may have similar feelings for her, and if he does, can they really change the course of their future paths?

Check out A Lie Universally Hidden on GoodreadsAmazon


About the Author

Anngela Schroeder

Anngela Schroeder

I have a degree in English with a concentration in British Literature and a Masters in Education. I love to travel, bake, and watch college football with my husband of 16 years and 3 rambunctious sons. My goal in life is to make not only my children, but also my students feel that they are loved, and to bring magic into everyone’s world. My weaknesses are yellow cake with chocolate frosting, French bread with real butter, and my father’s Arabic food, namely grape leaves, and falafel. I live in California where I dream of Disney adventures and trips across the pond.

Connect with Anngela Schroeder on FacebookTwitter | Goodreads | Amazon

Watch Anngela’s interview on Good Day Sacramento here.



Anngela is giving away two autographed hard copies (U.S. mailing addresses only), two Kindle versions (open to international winners), an autographed copy of Then Comes Winter (U.S. mailing address only), and an autographed 5×7 of the A Lie Universally Hidden book cover. To enter, please click here.


Follow the Blog Tour


January 16/ My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post & Giveaway

January 17/ From Pemberley to Milton/ Book Review & Giveaway

January 18/ A Covent Garden Madame Gilflurt’s Guide to Life/Guest Post

January 19/ So Little Time…/ Excerpt Post & Giveaway

January 20/ My Vices and Weaknesses/ Book Review & Giveaway

January 21/ Babblings of a Bookworm/ Book Review

January 22/ Just Jane 1813/ Excerpt Post

January 23/Austenesque Reviews/ Author Spotlight & Giveaway

January 24/ Obsessed with Mr. Darcy/ Book Review & Giveaway

January 25/ Every Savage Can Dance/Book Review & Giveaway

January 26 / Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review & Giveaway

January 27 / Austenesque Reviews/ Book Review & Giveaway

January 28/ My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice/ Excerpt & Giveaway

January 29/ Savvy Verse & Wit/ Guest Post & Giveaway


Disclosure: I received A Lie Universally Hidden from the author for review.

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Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Jane laughed, “I know exactly what you mean! That’s the beauty of novels, isn’t it? How well fiction can illustrate and even reflect everyday life. I never open a novel without reading about someone I know — and often meet people I’m already familiar with from the pages of a book.”

(from “Once Upon a Story” in Holidays with Jane: Trick or Sweet)

Holidays with Jane: Trick or Sweet is a collection of six Halloween-themed stories based on each of Jane Austen’s novels.

“Must Be Magic” by Kimberly Truesdale (based on Persuasion)

Anne Elliot is still learning how to control her powers — the powers that cost her the love of Fareed Walia eight years ago when she turned down an offer from him in order to find herself — when her family is forced to sell Kellynch House. Fareed comes back into her life at the same time as a dark figure from Anne’s past seeking a powerful talisman and revenge.

“Once Upon a Story” by Rebecca M. Fleming (based on Northanger Abbey)

College student Catie meets a pair of curious sisters at a coffee house as she attempts to piece together what went wrong at the annual Fall-o-Ween festival. Her research about the Battlefield Legend may have cost her the friendship of the Tilney family and the man she loves.

“Insensible” by Cecilia Gray (based on Sense and Sensibility)

Betrayed by her parents, Miriam Dashwood’s life and the family’s business, Dashing Events, are in shambles. She scrambles to pull off the ultimate Halloween party for Brandon Firestone’s law firm as she navigates her confusing feelings for him and the excitement of a motorcycle ride with the bad boy rocker from the band Willow Bee.

“Emma Ever After” by Melissa Buell (based on Emma)

Emma Woodhouse is planning the annual Fall Ball to benefit the charity in her late mother’s name and decides it would be a great idea to auction off local eligible bachelors. Her friend Grant Knightley is skeptical of the plan, her matchmaking abilities, and TV show host Frank Hill, who may or may not have his sights set on Emma.

“Mansfield Unmasked” by Jennifer Becton (based on Mansfield Park)

In a mash-up of Mansfield Park and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Pug — Lady Bertram’s furry friend at the Mansfield Park Boarding House — wants to use his cupid magic to help his friend, Pryce, but things get all mixed up at an outrageous, last-minute Halloween party.

“Beyond Midnight” by Jessica Grey (based on Pride and Prejudice)

Will Harper loses a bet to his sister and must attend the high school’s Trick or Sweet dance dressed in the costume of her choice: Mr. Darcy. Things get very uncomfortable for Will when he insults Elena Marquez, who is unlike any girl he’s ever liked before, and he worries the magic between them will be lost when the dance is over and he takes off the Darcy costume.

All of the stories in Holidays with Jane: Trick or Sweet are fun, humorous, and romantic, not to mention quick and satisfying. The stories are connected in small ways, namely the Mansfield Perk coffee house, which I really wish existed! I enjoyed all of the stories, but if I had to choose a favorite, it would be probably be “Insensible,” as I really found myself drawn to Miriam and Brandon’s sweet relationship and how they both changed over the course of the story. All of these authors did an admirable job setting the autumn/Halloween scene and retelling important aspects of Austen’s novels in just a handful of pages, making them modern and very different (in a good way) at the same time. I can’t wait to read the rest of the Holidays with Jane collections!

Disclosure: Holidays with Jane: Trick or Sweet is from my personal library.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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This or That Book Tag

Serena from Savvy Verse & Wit has tagged me for the This Or That Book Tag created by Ayunda @ Tea & Paperbacks!

Here are the Rules:

*Mention the creator of the tag
*Thank the person who tagged you (THANKS, SERENA!)
*Tag other people & spread the love

Reading on the couch or reading in bed?

I do most of my reading in bed, and my family knows that when I say I’m going to bed that it really means I’m going to read until I fall asleep. I prefer to read on the couch after work before my husband and daughter get home, but once they get home, it’s too loud for me to read in the living room. One day I hope to have a big enough home that I’ll have spaces where I can read or write that aren’t my bedroom.

Main character: Male or Female?

As long as the story is intriguing, it doesn’t matter to me at all.

Sweet or salty snacks while reading?

I don’t actually snack too much while reading, but when I do, I like snacks that are both sweet and salty. I’m actually more of a tea or coffee drinker while I read.

Trilogies or quartets?

I usually prefer standalone stories, but if I get sucked into a series, I often don’t want it to end.

First Person or Third person POV?

I don’t mind either of them. It just depends on the book, whether a certain POV works or not.

Night or morning reader?

Well, since I start work on the weekdays at 5:30 a.m., I’m more of an afternoon/evening reader. But on my days off and on the weekend, I’d read all day and night if given the chance.

Libraries or bookstores?

Either! I love browsing the shelves at both, and if I read a book from the library and love it, I’ll buy it. These days I must admit I do most of my reading on my Kindle, and I enjoy it more than I ever thought I would.

Books that make you laugh or books that make you cry?

I’d rather laugh than cry, but I’ll take a book good enough to trigger any strong emotional reaction.

Black or white book covers?

Colorful covers? Jill Mansell’s covers are my favorites, so whimsical and bring a smile to my face.

Character driven or plot driven stories?

I tend to enjoy character-driven stories more, but plot-driven stories can be enjoyable as well. It really just depends.

The PEOPLE I tag are:

I’m not going to tag anyone in particular, but I’d love it if anyone who wanted to play did so! Please feel free to leave your answers in the comments, or if you post on your blog, leave the link so I can check it out!

Have fun!

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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My guest today is Hassan El-Tayyab, author of Composing Temple Sunrise: Overcoming Writer’s Block at Burning Man. I know nothing about Burning Man, so I’ve asked him to explain what it is. Before I turn the blog over to Hassan, here’s a bit about the book:

ComposingComposing Temple Sunrise is a coming-of-age memoir about a 26-year-old songwriter’s journey across America to find his lost muse.

Triggered by the Great Recession of 2008, Hassan El-Tayyab loses his special education teaching job in Boston and sets out on a cross-country adventure with a woman named Hope Rideout, determined to find his lost muse. His journey brings him to Berkeley, CA, where he befriends a female metal art collective constructing a 37-foot Burning Man art sculpture named “Fishbug.” What follows is a life-changing odyssey through Burning Man that helps Hassan harness his creative spirit, overcome his self-critic, confront his childhood trauma, and realize the healing power of musical expression.

In this candid, inspiring memoir, singer-songwriter Hassan El-Tayyab of the Bay Area’s American Nomad takes us deep into the heart of what it means to chase a creative dream.

After experiencing multiple losses (family, home, love, job, self-confidence) , El-Tayyab sets out on a transcontinental quest that eventually lands him in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. His vivid descriptions capture both the vast, surreal landscapes of the Burning Man festival and the hard practice of making art.


Please give a warm welcome to Hassan El-Tayyab:

Burning Man is a difficult thing to describe, as it is so many things to so many different people. People who have never been all seem to have an opinion as well. I’d start off by saying, you can’t really know what this event is about until you go. I encourage everyone to do their own cost-benefit analysis after they experience it first-hand. With that preamble, I’ll begin to explain what I think it is.

Burning Man is one of the world’s biggest annual do-it-yourself events taking place in the Black Rock desert of Nevada at the end of August each year. Many have called it a cultural phenomenon. It started with only a few hundred people in the early 90s, but has grown to hold about 70,000 people each year. People of all ages come from all over the planet to construct a temporary city from the ground up, filled with art cars, behemoth fire art installations, interactive exhibits, sound camps, costumes, and live performances of all genres, skill levels, and styles. Many of these communities that occupy the event spend much of the year preparing for this. What’s created is one of the most unique human/nature made experiences I’ve ever been to. In essence, Burning Man is a giant canvass for experimenting with human potential.

This special event is guided by 10 principles that set the tone for the overall vibe and experience on the ground. They include radical inclusion, gifting, de-commodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy. It might help a first timer to examine these points closely.

Burning Man is a completely cashless society. Being in an environment where you can’t buy things after spending all your life inside a capitalist society is a refreshing thing for any world view and potentially life changing. There is also much excess on the Playa too that can feel uncomfortable for many. Some of what has evolved seems very similar to the default world as folks jockey for position and status with material possessions they have brought to the desert with them. You have a choice to let this bother you or not. When I’m there, I focus on my personal experience and my good friends. I always seem to have a great time! Like anywhere, the more you give, the more you get. I find that when I’m actively contributing and don’t play the role of spectator, I have the most worthwhile experiences.

Radical Self Expression and Radical Inclusion are two other hallmarks of Burning Man. Be prepared for an anything goes environment. Burners accept people of all faiths, race, and backgrounds as the status quo. This is definitely the sentiment you feel out there. You feel loved by strangers as if they were your close friends in a very touching way. You could wear a tutu on a unicycle and no one would give you a second look. You can walk down the road completely naked and, chances are, you’ll see 10 others doing the same thing giving you a thumbs up. That said, I find the principle of radical inclusion held with a bit of tension as well. The event is still quite cost prohibitive and the vast majority of the community is white.

The “Burning Man” references the giant wooden effigy that is burned on the Saturday before the end of the event. People gather around and watch a 60+ foot sculpture burn to the ground. What ensues is probably the largest and wildest LED lit party I’ve ever been to. On Sunday night, the Temple burn happens. This is a more somber affair. The Temple is another large wooden building that spends the entire week getting filled with writings, shrines, memories, pain, suffering, and tears. I see this as the spiritual epicenter of the playa during the week event. It’s a place you can go to be quiet and reflect on life and loss.

On Sunday evening, the building along with the tens of thousands of notes, shrines, and memories are burned to the ground as people look on in silence. It’s hard not to see tears streaming down cheeks all around you as this occurs. I find this to be the most profound moment at Burning Man as you get to share a truly spiritual and transcendent moment with thousands of other people that’s not wrapped in dogma. It’s just about healing. Never in my life have I witnessed something like this on such a big scale.

I’ll leave you with this. My life long burner friend told me my first year when I asked him about Burning Man. He said, “Burn your expectations and things can be wondrous.”


About the author

ElTayyabHassan El-Tayyab is an award-winning singer/songwriter, author, teacher, and cultural activist currently residing in the San Francisco Bay Area. His critically acclaimed Americana act American Nomad performs regularly at festivals and venues up and down the West Coast and beyond and he teaches music in the Bay Area.

Check out Composing Temple Sunrise on Amazon and Goodreads

Click the button below to follow the Composing Temple Sunrise tour on Poetic Book Tours


© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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I’m Still Here!

IMG_0937I hope you all had a wonderful summer!  I’m enjoying the cooler, breezier weather, but I must admit that I am sad to see the summer end because I spent most of it working.  We did get to the beach once in July for The Girl’s 15th birthday, but aside from that, I spent much of June through early September working on freelance projects on top of the day job, The Girl’s summer rugby (her team won the championship!), and all the back-to-school chaos.

Needless to say, I’ve missed blogging and reading blogs, and while I was glad to emerge from a month-long blog hiatus last week, I likely will be a bit of a sporadic blogger going forward.  (I hope to prove myself wrong, though!)  I have been reading, though more slowly than I would like, and I hope to catch up with you all on your blogs soon, in between freelance projects.

In addition to the books pictured, my review backlog consists of some Jane Austen-inspired short-story freebies, and I hope to write up my thoughts on all of them soon.  In the meantime, I hope you’ll tell me about an awesome book you read over the summer, a post that I missed that you think I’d enjoy, your favorite thing about fall, etc.

Also, back in June, Diary of an Eccentric quietly turned 8!!  So I just want to thank my readers for all the years of bookish fun and friendships!!

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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the collector of dying breaths

Source: Review copy from Atria
Rating: ★★★★★

Everywhere in Paris there was history built on history.  Nothing ever died.  It was transformed and transmuted.  Like Robbie had said about people’s lives.

(from The Collector of Dying Breaths)

The Collector of Dying Breaths, the latest novel in M.J. Rose’s series about reincarnation, continues (and I believe concludes) her tale about Jac L’Etoile, which began in The Book of Lost Fragrances and Seduction.  All of the novels can be read on their own, which is unusual for a series with six installments, but I think Jac’s story can be best understood by reading at least these last three novels in order.

As with the previous novels, Rose beautifully shifts scenes between the past and the present.  She introduces readers to René le Florentine, an Italian orphan who learned the art of making perfumes and elixirs in the monastery where he grew up, and after being accused of poisoning his mentor, he is saved by Catherine de Medici when she makes him her perfumer and takes him to France upon her marriage to King Henry II in 1533.  René gets caught up in the queen’s marital problems and court intrigues and is called upon to manufacture poisons, but tragedy prompts him to spend much of his life devoted to work that began in the monastery, where Dom Serapino taught him how to capture a person’s dying breath in the hopes that one day an elixir could be created to bring them back to life through reincarnation.

In present-day Paris, mythologist Jac L’Etoile, who comes from a long line of perfumers, loses someone dear to her, someone whose dying wish was for her to find out whether it really is possible to reanimate a human breath.  Although still resistant to what some call her gift, the ability to see and experience her past-life memories and other people’s as well, Jac travels to Barbizon, a small town near the forest of Fontainebleau, where René performed his experiments.  The quest forces Jac to reconnect with Griffin North, her first and only love, and come to terms with the past, both recent and ancient.

The Collector of Dying Breath is haunting and sensual, from its detailed descriptions of fragrances to the story of passion and loss that is at its core.  Rose is an expert at pacing, and as the events unfolded and the lines between the past and the present blurred, I was hooked.  There are so many layers to this story, with various people intent on uncovering the mystery of the elixir, the connections between René and Jac’s stories, and especially the evolution of Jac’s character.  The only thing I could’ve done without were the sex scenes, but at least they were well written and said a lot about the characters.

This is more than just a romance novel, though it is a tale about love, both romantic and familial.  The history, the mystery, and the strong characters add a lot of depth to the novel, and one doesn’t need to believe in reincarnation but only to go with the flow to enjoy the story.  The Collector of Dying Breaths is a sad but hopeful novel about the complexity of life and death and how the bonds between some people can never be broken.  Like all of the novels in the series, it is exciting and meant to be read for sheer pleasure, but it also is thoughtful and would definitely generate much discussion in a book club setting.

Thanks to Amy of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for having me on the tour for The Collector of Dying Breaths.  Click the image below for more information about the book and to follow the tour.


historical fiction challenge

Book 8 for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Disclosure: I received The Collector of Dying Breaths from Atria for review.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Some of you (but maybe only Serena) may have noticed over the past couple of months that I haven’t been blogging as much.  Things have been crazy and exhausting here, between new projects at work and all the 8th grade pre-graduation stuff and registering for high school chaos.  I am so proud that The Girl was accepted to all three schools where she applied and received a leadership scholarship to her first-choice school!

Her excitement is what’s keeping me going these days, since I’ve had so little time for my usual de-stressing activities of reading, blogging, and reading blogs.  It’s been a chore trying to keep up with my three-posts-per-week schedule (which I’ve totally failed at) and a bit overwhelming when I keep thinking about the lack of finished books and the subsequent lack of reviews.  Sigh.  Because reading and blogging are supposed to be fun and completely stress-free, I’ve decided that I need to pull back a bit for the next couple of months or so.

I won’t be disappearing completely.  I have several blog tours coming up for which I’ll be reading and posting reviews, and readalongs with Serena as well.  I just need to give myself the freedom to not post for a few days or a week or whatever and not feel guilty or stressed about it.  Without the self-induced pressure of a set weekly blogging schedule, I hope I’ll feel more at ease, and maybe I’ll have a stack of books finished when I once again have the time to post more frequently.

I hope you’ll all bear with me and continue to stop by when I do post.  I have a couple of reviews planned for later this week: A Lasting Love Affair: Darcy & Elizabeth by P.O. Dixon and Love at First Slight by J. Marie Croft, both retellings of Pride and Prejudice.  In March, I’ll be re-reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion with Serena (I’m dying to try the annotated version I bought ages ago!); catching up with my review of Sophia’s War: Stalemate by Stephanie Baumgartner, the third book in a WWII series that I’m really enjoying; and participating in a few historical fiction blog tours.  So I’ll be posting, just not as often.

If you’re still reading this rambling drivel, I am beholden to you.  And I hope you’ll answer a couple of questions for me:  Do any of you stress yourselves out with self-imposed deadlines or blog schedules?  And for future reference, is there any content that you’d like to see me post in addition to reviews?

Thank you all for making blogging fun for me…so much so that I can’t really let it go even when I need to take a break. 😉

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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