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Mailbox Monday #650

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

This is what we received:

The Parisian Dancer by Doron Darmon, a Kindle freebie.

Based on a true story, this is an unforgettable novel about a brave woman and her heroic actions, which provided pure hope in a world of darkness.

Paris, 1939: Marek and Annette, who escaped from Poland following the pogroms against the Jews, lead a simple and happy life in France’s capital, together with their two young children. Their Christian neighbor, Helena, an immigrant from Italy who dances at the Folies Bergère nightclub for a living, develops a close relationship with the couple, at the center of which is a secret affair with Marek.

When the Nazis enter Paris, the family’s life, as well as Helena’s, is about to change. Marek embarks on a mission to arrange for his family’s escape but soon disappears without a trace. Annette realizes that time is not on her side, and surrenders her children to the protection of the Dubois family, owners of the neighborhood bakery.

As the Nazis strengthen their hold on the city of Paris, aided by French collaborators, the Dubois family becomes exceedingly more anxious of their situation, until finally, they turn to Helena and beg her to provide a safe home for the children. Bravely, and without hesitation, Helena fulfills her promise to protect her friends’ children at any cost.

But will the beautiful dancer be enough to save them from a terrible fate?

Change Sings by Amanda Gorman, illustrated by Loren Long, which I pre-ordered and am very excited to read.

A lyrical picture book debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author and presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman and #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator Loren Long

“I can hear change humming
In its loudest, proudest song.
I don’t fear change coming,
And so I sing along.”

In this stirring, much-anticipated picture book by presidential inaugural poet and activist Amanda Gorman, anything is possible when our voices join together. As a young girl leads a cast of characters on a musical journey, they learn that they have the power to make changes—big or small—in the world, in their communities, and in most importantly, in themselves.

With lyrical text and rhythmic illustrations that build to a dazzling crescendo by #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator Loren Long, Change Sings is a triumphant call to action for everyone to use their abilities to make a difference.

Geographies of the Heart by Caitlin Hamilton Summie for review.

Sarah Macmillan always puts her family first, but as she ages, she can’t quite stretch her arms wide enough to hold on to everyone: her career-minded and inattentive younger sister, Glennie; their grandparents, who are slowly fading; or the late-in-life pregnancy Sarah desperately wanted. But it’s her tumultuous relationship with Glennie that gives Sarah the greatest worry. She’d always believed that their relationship was foundational, even unbreakable. Though blessed with a happy marriage to Al, whose compassion and humor she admires, Sarah grows increasingly bitter about Glennie’s absences, until one decision forces them all to decide what family means, and who family is. Narrated by the chorus of their three voices, this elegantly told and deeply moving novel examines the pull of tradition, the power of legacies, and the fertile but fragile ground that is family, the first geography to shape our hearts.

What did you receive?

Excerpt & Giveaway: Blinded by Prejudice by KaraLynne Mackrory

Book Synopsis:

Into what kind of hell had I emerged from under those ruins?

Elizabeth Bennet anticipated nothing more than a pleasant day among friends and relations when the pleasure trip to the ruins of Bodden chapel commenced. But what began as mere diversion turns frightening when the walls of the ancient church tumble down around them, endangering lives, demolishing pride and propriety, and bringing a hero into focus.

As the earth begins to tremble, Fitzwilliam Darcy sees Elizabeth Bennet is in mortal danger and acts on instinct to save her. But when the dust settles, there are unforeseen consequences to his actions, including a serious injury to his eyesight.

I could not be married to a man who could need me the rest of his life, but never love me. Bound together under the most strained circumstances, Darcy and Elizabeth embark on a future neither one of them saw coming. Time can heal all wounds but will time allow them to see through hearts made clear and eyes no longer blinded by prejudice?

Oh, fate has played a major role here, and what will bring these two together in our Happily Ever After?

Please give KaraLynne a warm welcome and stay to the end to enter the giveaway:

Thank you, Serena, for hosting me today at Savvy Verse & Wit. Bloggers provide an essential element to a book’s successful launch, and I am thankful to SVAW for participating in the release of Blinded By Prejudice. Written in the first-person point of view from Elizabeth, this excerpt is from early on when Elizabeth first realizes she is trapped under the rubble of Bodden Chapel with the last man in the world she would have wanted: Mr Darcy. Any one of us might have rejoiced, but Elizabeth has nurtured her dislike and prejudice against him for some time. Read along as we see her struggle with the fact that he saved her life, and with a budding attraction she does not wish to acknowledge either.

Excerpt from chapter 2:

“Help.”

The word was barely a prayer on my lips. I repeated it, trying to draw breath to give it some power. Still, it was but a whisper, and not entirely due to Mr Darcy’s body upon my chest. My panic prevented me from uttering with more conviction. I began a fevered repetition of the word, still a nearly silent plea on my lips, over and over again. “Help, help, help!”

I pushed against Mr Darcy’s shoulder—all solid muscle and inert mass—and to my relief, he shifted the slightest bit. This small movement caused soil and debris to fall upon me, choking any satisfaction I might have gained by being able to draw in deeper and just a fraction easier. A large stone rolled off the back of the gentleman’s neck onto my hand and then landed with a dull thud upon the ground beside me. I wondered briefly whether this was the stone that dealt the killing blow. Shivers ran through me.

With hope surging through me from my nominal success, I mustered all my strength and pressed again on Mr Darcy’s shoulder while I tried to extract myself from under his body. My entire frame screamed with the effort, bruised muscles protesting the exertion. The space was too limited for me to take much triumph from my efforts, but eventually, I was able to push Mr Darcy onto his side; my battered lungs cried at the release of the weight upon them. My eyes filled with tears as a roaring agony gripped my chest. The restriction of the gentleman’s weight being removed was no blessing at first. I still felt as though I could not truly breathe, for every movement wracked my body with shards of pain. I nearly lost consciousness from it all despite the freedom from Mr Darcy’s weight.

For several minutes, I lay there trying to regulate my heart and slow my breathing, for while I could now breathe deeply, the irony was that it hurt too much to do so. In the quiet, I heard a sound I had not expected that both terrified and thrilled me. A low moan escaped Mr Darcy’s lips, and I froze, wondering whether it had been imagined.

Oh mercy!

Could he be alive?

“Mr Darcy, sir?” My voice cracked due to my parched throat; it was barely audible even to my own ears.

Tentatively, I reached out a hand to that same shoulder. I could not see it, yet I knew about where it ought to be. There was only so much space, and I was still virtually pressed against his side. Trembles danced down my body, for despite the circumstances, I was not accustomed to touching a gentleman outside the social graces in dances.

I made contact with Mr Darcy, but it was his chest I encountered. I drew my hand back immediately—the feel of it put me to blush—and raised it sufficiently to reach his shoulders. With effort, I gently shook his shoulder while calling his name again. Mr Darcy groaned in response, and I was relieved as I felt him begin to shift on his own. His efforts were clumsy, and each movement caused him to brush against me, for we were in almost a coffin of sorts. There was no space for one comfortably, let alone two. His accidental contact was too much for me, and I knew I must still his movements.

“Mr Darcy, sir, please…,” I began to plead, trying to put some distance between us.

I could hear him collapse into stillness once again, but this time I could tell he was drifting into unconsciousness. I knew I must say something, but before I could compose the words, I heard his hoarse voice.

“Miss Elizabeth…are you…have you…hurt?”

Mr Darcy, speaking into the abyss, wrapped around me like a too-warm blanket, and I could tell my cheeks heated. It was startling how intimate it felt to see nothing but hear his voice near my ear. His mumbling indicated he was not entirely lucid.

He would have taken the brunt of the collapse.

“I am well, sir. And you? Are you very injured?’

Mr Darcy once again moved such that I felt his arm brush past mine as he inspected his person. The protest clawed up my throat and died there; our position robbed me of coherent thought and permeated me with maidenly awareness.

“My head. I believe I have sustained…a blow.”

“Is it bleeding, sir?”

No enticing voice returned my query, though my companion groaned in the affirmative, the vibrations penetrating my bones. Mr Darcy was battling the same seductive call for sleep that I had earlier.

I retrieved my handkerchief from my pocket. I knew from experience that head wounds could bleed dreadfully. I had had my share of falls from trees when I was younger. Tentatively, my hand ventured between us, “Here, sir. You must press this against the wound to stop the bleeding.”

I felt his hand clumsily connect with mine to receive the cloth, but then our hands were pressed into the ground between us, his a dead weight upon mine as Mr Darcy lost his fight with consciousness. I pulled my hand out from under his and quaveringly tried to wake him once again.

Oh, for goodness’ sake! Feeling ill-humoured yet unequal to the impropriety of the situation, I knew I must endeavour to discover Mr Darcy’s wound myself and press on it. With careful movements, I tried to sit up and was pleased to find that I could just barely fit in the space if I tightly tucked my knees against my chest, my head against them.

Still, the top of our tomb was low and the space notably tight. My faltering hands reached towards where Mr Darcy was, and I cursed the blackness that prevented my movements from being sure and precise. I wished to touch very little of him, but I knew that without being able to see him, I would have to fumble until I could discern where on his person I was touching.

“I apologise, sir, for I must touch you,” I whispered aloud even though I knew he could not hear me. “I am going to try to…I do not mean to…”

My throat closed on me as my hands encountered the warmth of his neck. They stilled upon the skin there, shocked at the feeling. My mind was blanketed with sensation. I could think only about the fact that I had never once touched a gentleman’s neck and the skin there felt impossibly soft. My hands lingered there long enough that it was the detection of his slow pulse that woke me to my task, and with careful movement, my hands journeyed blindly up Mr Darcy’s head.

Rough stubble tickled my fingertips, then the rigid strength of his jaw. I withdrew slightly, swallowing thickly. The dryness in my throat felt unbearable. I was forced to lean closer to reach his injury, but before I did, I tried to draw breath again. Feathery hair caressed my fingers, thick and curling around them. It was velvety despite the grit I felt on his scalp from the soil that had fallen on us both. Tentatively, I allowed my hands to explore upward, the hair parting for my fingers as they brushed through it.

Mr Darcy moaned faintly and my hands retracted sharply.

My heart bolted in my chest, and I felt all the shame of a naughty child caught by nanny. I shook my head slightly, dispelling the silliness of the notion with vigour when I heard no more from Mr Darcy. He was injured, and I was merely attempting to help. Nothing of which to be ashamed. Anticipation coiled in a spring under my breast. It demanded my breath to still. I was further disgruntled to find that contact with the luxurious curls brought a pleasure I did not want to acknowledge.

Phew, that was awkward and steamy! Who’s ready to read this one?

GIVEAWAY:

Commenters at each blog stop will be eligible for an ebook copy of Blinded by Prejudice. International. Winners will be announced at the Quills and Quartos Facebook and Instagram pages a week after the blog tour is over.

About the Author:

KaraLynne began writing horrible poetry as an angst filled youth. It was a means to express the exhilaration and devastation she felt every time her adolescent heart was newly in love with “the one” and then broken every other week. As her frontal lobe developed, she grew more discerning of both men and writing. She has been married to her own dreamboat of a best friend, Andrew, almost 20 years. Together they have the migraine inducing responsibility of raising five children to not be dirt bags (fingers crossed), pick of up their socks (still a work in progress), not fight with each other (impossible task) and become generally good people (there’s hope). She loves escaping into a book, her feather babies (the regal hens of Cluckingham Palace), and laughter.

She has written five books, a novella and participated in many anthologies. Her works include: Falling For Mr. Darcy; Bluebells in the Mourning; Haunting Mr. Darcy: A Spirited Courtship; Yours Forevermore, Darcy; BeSwitched; The Darcy Monologues; Rational Creatures; & Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer.

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 5+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen, narrated by the author, is a collection of short stories, with some seeming to be autobiographical or at least inspired by his own life here in the United States. Some of these refugees are seen through the eyes of another, and in this way, Nguyen provides us with a dual perspective — how the narrator views the refugee and how the refugees view themselves.

The narration was satisfactory as read by the author, but some of it could have been better served by a more practiced audiobook narrator who could have breathed life into the characters and helped readers “feel” the tensions a little more deeply. The author’s narration really didn’t add anything to these stories, like a trained narrator would have.

Despite the narration falling flat, these stories explore what it means to leave one’s homeland for another and be caught between them — between what happened in that other country and what is happening now as a result of those experiences. But not only has Nguyen given us stories that explore that rift in identity and culture shock of entering a new country to call home, he also explores the family bond and how it can be frayed by the past in Vietnam, dementia, sibling jealousy, and so much more. What are the dreams of these refugees and immigrants, will they be achieved, have the given up, are they settling, can they feel at home in a new country that is so different from where they came from? These are the kinds of questions explored in theses stories, and many of these characters seem to stem from Nguyen’s own experiences and family history.

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen is probably best read in print or in ebook, rather than on audio, so the nuance of Nguyen’s stories are not lost on the reader. I did enjoy spending time with these characters, but I’ll likely revisit them in print.

RATING: Tercet

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