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Posts Tagged ‘jane austen’

blame the mistletoe

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

“Their mother is vulgar, their younger sisters are senseless, and their father is a fool to think his jokes about his family are in any way appropriate. No, they are not worthy of our association.”

“Does my past not prove to you that our own family is not without its flaws as well?”

(from Blame the Mistletoe)

Quick summary: Sarah Johnson’s Christmas novella, Blame the Mistletoe, is a delightful retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which Georgiana Darcy convinces her brother to pursue Elizabeth Bennet, and the pair, along with Mr. Bingley, return to Netherfield Park for the holiday. An accident on a mistletoe-gathering adventure puts Elizabeth on the path toward thinking she might have misjudged Mr. Darcy, but Mr. Wickham’s presence in Meryton — and his tense interactions with the Darcys — leave her feeling confused. In the midst of holiday preparations, a sleigh ride, and strategically placed mistletoe boughs, can Darcy win Elizabeth’s heart?

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve been in the mood for Christmas stories this year, and I couldn’t resist the Austen connection and the gorgeous cover!

What I liked: Blame the Mistletoe weaves Christmas traditions into a retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I loved getting a glimpse of Mr. Darcy helping the Bennets hang a mistletoe bough, and I wished I could have enjoyed the sleigh race alongside the Bennet sisters. Johnson jazzes things up by putting Wickham at a card table with Darcy, Georgiana, and Elizabeth. I also liked how Georgiana pieced together what was bothering Darcy and Bingley and was willing to point out her flaws as a reason for Darcy not to miss out on his chance at happiness. Elizabeth’s encounter with a drunken Wickham in Meryton and the outcome of Mr. Collins’ interference in Darcy’s affairs are scenes that are not to be missed!

What I disliked: I wished that the story had been longer, not because there was anything missing, but because I got so wrapped up in Johnson’s version of events that I didn’t want it to end.

Final thoughts: Readers will enjoy Johnson’s portrayal of Austen’s characters and how she incorporates mistletoe into the story. The pacing is well done, so despite the brevity of the story, the plot doesn’t seem rushed. I read Blame the Mistletoe on a recent day off from work, curled up on the couch with some peppermint tea, our Christmas tree in the background. It was the perfect book and the perfect setting to put me in the Christmas spirit.

Disclosure: Blame the Mistletoe is from my personal library.

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

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I read a lot of Jane Austen-inspired short stories and novellas recently, so in order to catch up, I thought I’d do another round of mini-reviews:

four days in april

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Four Days in April by Maria Grace

This Pride and Prejudice-inspired short story opens after Darcy’s failed proposal and imagines what might have happened had Elizabeth responded to his letter by writing him one. I love Grace’s writing, so I wasn’t surprised that I enjoyed it. I loved their conversation in Lady Catherine’s drawing room, where they said so much without saying much at all. It lives up to the promise that one can read it while enjoying a cup of tea, and while I was satisfied with the ending, I wouldn’t have minded it being longer. (This is a Kindle freebie.)

sweet ginger

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Sweet Ginger by Maria Grace

Inspired by Emma, this is the story of Harriet Smith, how she ended up at Mrs. Goddard’s school, and how she met Robert Martin and his sisters. I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the Martins’ home life and especially how Harriet — so in need of a loving family — immediately fit right in. Grace shows readers how truly wrong Emma was in persuading Harriet to turn down Mr. Martin’s proposal. I was glad to see Harriet take center stage.

half agony half hope

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Half Agony, Half Hope by Maria Grace

This story aims to fill in the gaps in Persuasion, rather than re-imagine the novel. My favorite scene was toward the end, when Anne, Lady Russell, and Elizabeth are discussing Anne’s upcoming marriage, and Captain Wentworth shows up and offers his opinion when Elizabeth attempts to persuade Anne against getting married before her. That was a laugh-out-loud moment! (This book is available for free on the author’s website.)

teatime tales

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Teatime Tales by Leenie Brown

This is a collection of short stories mostly inspired by Pride and Prejudice, though there is one inspired by Mansfield Park. It lives up to the promise of being “a bit of fluff to brighten your day.” My favorite stories were “A Music Room Meeting,” where Colonel Fitzwilliam gets his happily ever after, “From Tolerable to Lovely,” in which Darcy and Elizabeth’s first meeting plays out much differently, and “A Battle of Wills and Words,” in which Colonel Fitzwilliam learns the hard way what happens when one tries to spar with Elizabeth Bennet.

p and p backstage pass

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Pride and Prejudice: Your Backstage Pass to Jane Austen’s Novel and the Making of the BBC TV Series, Starring Colin Firth
by Jessica Long

This was a Kindle freebie that is best suited for someone who hasn’t read Austen’s novel. It explains the plot of Pride and Prejudice, provides details about the characters, and discusses costumes and aspects of Regency society. I basically skimmed through this book because it wasn’t anything new to me.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

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

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then comes winter

Source: Review copy from Meryton Press
Rating: ★★★★☆

What I did know was that I needed to go to that party. I was trying to be Elizabeth, not Fanny, after all. Fanny would stay at home and pine after her cousin (gross). Elizabeth would go and have fun, be witty, and impress men with her “fine eyes.”

(from Then Comes Winter, “Becoming Fanny” by Melanie Stanford)

Quick summary: Then Comes Winter is the second short-story anthology from Meryton Press, with stories inspired by the winter season and Jane Austen. There are a mix of modern-day re-imaginings and Regency-era stories, from a Northanger Abbey-inspired story set in Tahoe to a Pride and Prejudice-inspired story that has Elizabeth Bennet running a successful Italian restaurant. There’s something for everyone in this collection!

Why I wanted to read it: I was intrigued by the Austen connection, of course, but I also really enjoyed the summer-themed short-story anthology, Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer, so I just had to read the winter-themed one, too. And it’s the perfect time of year for a collection of stories that can be enjoyed by the Christmas tree with a cup of hot chocolate.

What I liked: The selection of stories was perfect, and I enjoyed them all. The anthology introduced me to several new authors, and again, editor Christina Boyd did an excellent job ensuring plenty of variety and a seamless flow from story to story. It would be hard for me to select a favorite story, but some that stood out were “Holiday Mix Tape” by Beau North and Brooke West, a modern-day take on Persuasion, “A Man Whom I Can Really Love” by Natalie Richards, a unique retelling of Sense and Sensibility, and “The Unexpected Gift” by Erin Lopez, a Pride and Prejudice-inspired tale in which Georgiana Darcy refuses to let her brother give up on love.

What I disliked: Nothing at all!

Final thoughts: Then Comes Winter is a perfect addition to my small library of holiday-themed books and would make a perfect gift for fans of Austen-inspired fiction. I’m very picky when it comes to short stories because I often feel like I’m left hanging at the end, but both Meryton Press anthologies are full of stories that leave readers satisfied. Not once did I think something was missing or that a story would have been better suited as a novel. It’s a delightful collection that can be read a little at a time amid all the holiday chaos.

Disclosure: I received Then Comes Winter from Meryton Press for review.

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

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darcy's christmas wish

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

He tried to recall her face again, but already the memory was even hazier than before. Her eyes, though… she had the most beautiful, fine brown eyes… He did not think that he would ever forget them…

(from Darcy’s Christmas Wish)

Quick summary: Darcy’s Christmas Wish is a variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by Penelope Swan in which Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet cross paths during the holidays, as he is staying with Lady Catherine at Rosings and she is staying with the Collinses at the parsonage. Elizabeth and Darcy grow closer as she takes a stand against his aunt’s treatment of a young maid, and when his cousin Richard’s son is in danger, Darcy revisits his memories from 15 years before and the young woman who saved his life.

Why I wanted to read it: Who can resist a holiday-themed Pride and Prejudice tale?  Not me!

What I liked: Darcy’s Christmas Wish is one of those books you read in one sitting. After meeting a young and fearless Fitzwilliam, there was no way I could put the book down. I also enjoyed Swan’s original characters, especially Colonel Fitzwilliam’s son, George, and Pirate the puppy. Swan changes up the timeline of Pride and Prejudice, with Jane and Bingley already married and on their honeymoon and Darcy and Elizabeth meeting at Rosings at Christmas, but she stays true to Austen’s beloved characters. Watching Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship evolve from misunderstandings to a partnership of sorts was delightful and perfect for a holiday tale.

What I disliked: Nothing!

Final thoughts: Darcy’s Christmas Wish is a sweet, heartwarming story that emphasizes the true meaning of the Christmas season: love, family and friends, and compassion for those in need. The novel opens in the past with a Christmas wish and comes full circle beautifully. If you are an Austen fan looking for a charming Christmas story, I highly recommend this one!

Disclosure: I received Darcy’s Christmas Wish from the author for review.

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

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finding the rainbow

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

Holly took one last look at the ever-changing purples and greens and greys of the stunning valley and pushed off the stone wall to resume her jog. And to feel the pinch of regret that she couldn’t stay in this beautiful limbo forever.

(from Finding the Rainbow)

Quick Summary: Finding the Rainbow is the second book in Traci Borum’s series set in the village of Chilton Crosse in the Cotswolds that began with Painting the Moon. This is a standalone novel that focuses on a different set of characters, though some characters from the first novel make an appearance. Holly Newbury left college and returned to Chilton Crosse to care for her father and three younger sisters following her mother’s sudden death. Several years have passed, and she has settled into a routine of taking care of the household, working part time at the village art gallery and pub, and taking online classes to finish her business degree. But her life is upended when a film crew arrives to film an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma. Holly befriends Fletcher Hays, the American who wrote the script, and starts a book club when her father’s Lady Catherine-esque cousin, Gertrude, says she has never read the Austen novel. Holly becomes dependent on Fletcher’s friendship when her father drops a bombshell on the family and her sister’s behavior gets out of hand, and Holly realizes she doesn’t know what to do with her life when it seems as though her family doesn’t need her to care for them anymore.

Why I wanted to read it: I was intrigued by the Cotswold setting and wanted to see how Austen factored into the story.

What I liked: I really enjoyed Painting to Moon, and Finding the Rainbow didn’t let me down either. Again, Borum has created a cast of memorable characters, and I liked how the villagers were like old friends this time around. I felt like I really got to know Holly and understand her devotion to her family. Her life was thrown into chaos when her mother died, but her new routine became comfortable over time, and she doesn’t know how to go back to the independence she knew before. Her family leans on her, and when Fletcher enters her life, she finally finds someone she can lean on. And just like in Emma, that friendship becomes confusing when other feelings come into play. I enjoyed the Austen references at the beginning of every chapter, as well as the similarities between Holly’s story and Austen’s novel.

What I disliked: Nothing. It was a charming, feel-good novel overall.

Final thoughts: Finding the Rainbow is a pure comfort read, complete with a sweet romance, family drama, literary references, and that charming small-town setting. I can’t wait to see what comes next in this series!

Disclosure: I received Finding the Rainbow from the author for review.

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

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IMG_1036

Source: Review copy from Meryton Press
Rating: ★★★★★

Every light in the room went dark. A single spotlight illuminated her on stage as though she were the sole woman on earth. Unrivaled. Incomparable. Matchless. The room immediately fell to a hush, the only sound the low murmur of people in the room whispering as though they knew something auspicious was about to happen.

Then she started to sing, and everything changed.

(from Longbourn’s Songbird)

Quick summary: Longbourn’s Songbird takes Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to the Deep South shortly after World War II. In Meryton, South Carolina, Will Darcy spies Elizabeth Bennet taking a dip in Netherfield Pond and is immediately drawn to her beautiful voice. Despite persuading her sister, Jane, to break up with Charles Bingley and setting his sights on Longbourn Farms, Elizabeth thinks there’s more to Will Darcy than meets the eye. But the schemes of Caroline Bingley and George Wickham and a heartbreaking secret from Elizabeth’s past threaten to keep them apart. Longbourn’s Songbird is more than just a Darcy and Elizabeth love story as author Beau North fully immerses Austen’s characters into a postwar society where soldiers are haunted by the war, women are still seen as the property of their husbands, and racism and poverty abound.

Why I wanted to read it: I was intrigued by the setting and time period and wanted to see how Austen’s characters would fare in post-World War II America.

What I liked: I was blown away by this novel. North seems to get the setting just right, and there are so many layers to this story, but it never feels overdone. Moreover, I loved her take on Austen’s characters, particularly Richard Fitzwilliam’s PTSD and the reason why Charlotte Lucas is willing to marry someone like the “holy roller” Leland Collins. Bingley’s backstory and how it comes full circle with Collins was so well done, as was North’s portrayal of Anne de Bourgh. North makes the secondary characters come to life while creating a Darcy and Lizzie readers can’t help but love.

What I disliked: Nothing! I breezed through this book in almost a single sitting.

Final thoughts: Longbourn’s Songbird is among the most unique retellings of Pride and Prejudice that I’ve had the pleasure to read. Yes, there is a passionate love story (more than one, actually) at its core, but it’s so much more than that. North takes the societal constraints of Jane Austen’s time and finds the similarities in the postwar South (even discussing her inspiration and reasoning in a Q&A at the end of the book, which I really appreciated). It was amazing to see how well Austen’s characters and plots fit into this setting, and North’s attention to detail makes for a rich novel. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year!

longbourn's songbird banner

Disclosure: I received Longbourn’s Songbird from Meryton Press for review.

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

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These are all books I read over the summer that have been patiently waiting to be reviewed, so in order to clear them off my side table and feel accomplished, I figured some mini reviews were in order!

the war within these walls

Source: Public library
Rating: ★★★★☆

The War Within These Walls by Aline Sax, illustrated by Caryl Strzelecki

This young adult graphic novel chronicles the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943 from the eyes of a teenager, Misha. When he can no longer stand to watch the disease, starvation, and violence take the lives of the Jews forced to live within the walls of the ghetto, he decides to join the resistance fighters planning to stand and fight the Nazis as they prepare to liquidate the ghetto. The War Within These Walls combines a first-person narrative with dark illustrations to emphasize the desolation and despair in the ghetto. It’s a powerful novel, and although I read it in one sitting, the images still haunt me months later.

emma, mr. knightley and chili-slaw dogs

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili-Slaw Dogs by Mary Jane Hathaway

A fun modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma set in a southern town where people take their garden parties and Civil War reenactments seriously. The novel centers on old friends, Caroline, a journalist who leaves her job to care for her ailing mother, and Brooks, a journalism professor dealing with his own family issues, who must contend with their changing feelings for one another amidst all their disagreements. It was fun to pick out all the allusions to Austen’s novel, and there are recipes, too!

darcy and elizabeth lost in love

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

“Darcy and Elizabeth: Lost in Love” by Mary Lydon Simonsen

A sweet short story based on Pride and Prejudice by one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired fiction. While touring Pemberley with her aunt and uncle, Elizabeth Bennet gets lost in a garden maze. Darcy is still dealing with Elizabeth’s rejection when he returns to his estate, and both are surprised to encounter one another. “Darcy and Elizabeth: Lost in Love” was a quick read that made me feel sad that it was over but satisfied at the same time.

almost persuaded

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

“Almost Persuaded: Miss Mary King” by P.O. Dixon

This short story inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice focuses on Mary King, the heiress who catches Mr. Wickham’s eye but who luckily manages not to be trapped into a marriage with the scoundrel. Tired of competing with the Bennet sisters, Mary finds herself easily charmed by Wickham. It was nice to get a glimpse of a secondary character that isn’t paid much attention, but I was surprised to see a bit too much of her in a steamy seduction scene. My only complaint is that it ended too soon, and because I’d grown to care for Mary a bit, I wanted to see if she ever got her happy ending.

bits of bobbin lace

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Bits of Bobbin Lace by Maria Grace

This was a free download from the author’s website that features bonus chapters from her Given Good Principles series of novels inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I’m a big fan of the series, so it was fun to revisit the characters again. I especially liked how the bonus chapters featured a wide variety characters, including Mr. Darcy’s parents, Elizabeth’s parents, Charlotte Lucas, and even Mr. Bingley’s sister, Louisa. However, you’ll definitely have to read the series first so you can appreciate these extras.

a tale of two matchmakers

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

“A Tale of Two Matchmakers” by Marilyn Brant

This very short (and free, on the author’s website) story is inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma and involves a matchmaking fairy named Sylvia. Sounds odd, but it was sweet, humorous, and took only a few minutes to read. The story is set at the Box Hill picnic, and Emma tells the fairy about all the “matches” she has made, but Sylvia sees what Emma does not. It’s a fun little scene that is oddly satisfying given its brevity.

the poignant sting

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

“The Poignant Sting: Homage to Jane Austen’s Emma” by Sherwood Smith

This is a short sequel to Emma, which mainly focuses on Emma Knightley’s friendship with Jane Churchill, both of whom are expectant mothers. I really enjoyed it, but it felt like it ended just as it was getting started.

amish knit lit circle

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

“Amish Knit Lit Circle: Pride & Prejudice (Episode 1)” by Karen Anna Vogel

This is a short story about a group of women, some Amish, some not, who get together to knit and discuss books. I liked the writing style, and the characters were intriguing. However, despite being “Episode 1,” it felt like I was missing something. And then it ended pretty abruptly.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

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

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