Mailbox Monday #694

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.

Here’s what I received:

Just Neighbors by Charity Ferrell, a Kindle freebie.

Every day, my neighbor tells me to have a good morning.
Every day, I tell him to f*ck off.

Kyle Lane is the town’s hottest cop.
He’s also the man I’ve despised since high school.
Each morning, he stands on his porch with an annoying smirk on his perfect face.
He’s made it his life’s mission to get under my skin.

Until one day, he’s no longer on his porch but on mine.
He claims he wants to redeem himself for ruining my reputation.
My instincts tell me to stay away, but with each morning he shows up, it becomes harder and harder to resist his charm.

I was never supposed to fall in love with my neighbor and once he finds out my secret, we’ll forever be enemies.

Forced to Marry by Bella Breen, Kindle freebie.

Elizabeth Bennet has just refused Mr. Darcy’s disastrous marriage proposal at Hunsford. Unfortunately, while strolling on the grounds of Rosing Park, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth find themselves hopelessly compromised — in full view of Mr. Collins, Col. Fitzwilliam and two society mavens!

Now, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are forced to wed — even though they are still angry at each other. Will they learn to set aside their pride and get along? Or are they doomed to suffer the worst marriage in all of England?

Valentine’s Day in Venice by Stephanie Taylor, a Kindle freebie.

What happens when a medical examiner leaves cold bodies and cold winters behind to chase her dream of running a travel agency in a warm, sunny beach town?

Lucy Landish has put a decade into her career, but a heartbreaking divorce and a mother whose medical needs are growing increasingly demanding have driven her to chase her dream south—way south—to Amelia Island, Florida. Dreaming of a fresh start, Lucy hangs out a shingle and opens The Holiday Adventure Club with plans to travel the world for a year, hitting a new location for every major holiday with her groups of intrepid tourists in tow.

The crew that signs up to spend Valentine’s Day in Venice during Carnival includes a young widow with a promise to fulfill to her late husband, and a couple of randy, cantankerous septuagenarians. But in the midst of the historical city and all the color and drama of Carnival, Lucy finds herself missing Amelia Island and the two men who are vying for her attention back home: Dev, the darkly handsome music-lover who owns the coffee shop on one side of her office, and Nick, the ruggedly good-looking mystery writer who runs the postal store on the other.

But is thirty-eight too old for a woman to reinvent herself from the ground up? Can Lucy discover herself again in the cities of the world, find a new career that brings her joy, and possibly even fall in love again?

What did you receive?

Week One: Amanda Gorman’s Call Us What We Carry Read-a-Long

For this first week, we read the first two sections: Requiem and What a Piece of Wreck is Man

I wanted to start the discussion with a few questions about these two sections.

1. Why do you think “Ship’s Manifest” is the opening poem to the collection and no included in the first section, “Requiem?”

2. Gorman’s first section’s title signals that the poems will be a remembrance of the dead, how well do you think the poems accomplish this task? What was one of your favorites?

3. In “What a Piece of Wreck is Man,” what do you think she’s saying with these poems? Is man irredeemable? Is there more to our failures?

4. What are some of your favorite poems or lines in these two sections?

I’ll be monitoring the comments and replying throughout the weekend. Can’t wait to see what everyone thinks.

Beach Read by Emily Henry (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 10+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Beach Read by Emily Henry, narrated by Julia Whelan, is laugh-out-loud funny, but also deeply serious. While both January Andrews and Augustus Everett are struggling with writer’s block and personal traumas, there’s a quirkiness to their interactions with people. Henry has a knack for creating oddball situations. How does one broke romance author find herself broke and living her her father’s house on Lake Michigan where he romanced another woman while married? And how does a curmudgeonly literary fiction author find himself in such a small town where his friends take over his house once a year to throw him a birthday party he doesn’t want? Oh, did I mention they are now neighbors?

What do writers who don’t have anything particularly in common do? Why they make a bet that they cannot write a book in each other’s genre! Typical writers, challenging each other with seemingly insurmountable tasks.

I’m not going to share much more than this about the book because I want you to discover all the quirkiness for yourself. My one quibble was that the writing challenge seemed to fizzle out and the reveal was not quite as good as the other resolutions. But this did not detract from my enjoyment of the banter between these two writers and the unraveling of their past hurts and more.

Beach Read by Emily Henry, narrated by Julia Whelan, is a fun summer read that will have you laughing, shaking your head at these two, and smiling all the way to the beach. But you won’t catch me jumping into a cold lake for anyone.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Emily Henry writes stories about love and family for both teens and adults. She studied creative writing at Hope College and the now-defunct New York Center for Art & Media Studies. Find her on Instagram @EmilyHenryWrites.

Guest Post, Excerpt, & Giveaway: A Season of Magic by Sarah Courtney

Today’s guest Sarah Courtney is here to share with us her new book, A Season of Magic, which is a Pride & Prejudice variation. Before get to her guest post and excerpt, let’s learn a little bit about the book.

Book Synopsis:

When the girls are forced to reveal their elemental magic, it does not matter to the Mage Council that they did so only to save lives. Their parents were traitors and the entire magical community is simply waiting for them to descend into evil themselves.

The Council reluctantly admits Elizabeth to the magical university (and unofficial marriage market) called The Season, where she will learn how to control her powers. If she can keep her head down and avoid drawing any untoward notice, she might be able to graduate and finally be accepted as a fire mage.

But fading into the background will be difficult. Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, nephew to Lord Matlock of the Mage Council and a student himself, is assigned to observe her and report any misstep. One mistake could send her back to her foster parents, the Bennets—or worse, to prison. Yet when that mistake inevitably comes, he stands up on her behalf. Could he be an ally instead of an enemy?

Please welcome, Sarah:

Thank you so much, Serena, for having me on Savvy Verse and Wit! I’m so excited about the release of my newest book, A Season of Magic, a fantasy Pride and Prejudice variation.

I’ve been working on this story for a couple of years and actually wrote several other books in between. Since I read a ton of fantasy, I thought writing a fantasy Pride and Prejudice variation would be easy! But it took me a while to really discover the story I wanted to tell beyond the initial hook that was my inspiration.

You would think that a Jane Austen story that takes place in a fantasy version of the Regency would not require a lot of research because, hey, it’s fantasy! But I did find a surprising number of topics that I had to put lots of research time into—and they weren’t all about Regency manners or what words existed during that era.

Elizabeth Bennet is a fire mage in Season, which means some of my research went into fire and flammable materials. I was looking over a scene I had written in which Elizabeth needs to identify what is being burned on a fire without seeing it. She identifies it as some kind of wood, and then narrows it down to paper.

Some of you may have already noticed the problem here, but I didn’t catch it myself until a reread. Of course, paper was not made from wood during the Regency era! Until at least around the 1840s, it was still being made of linen and rags.

Describing Elizabeth’s fire abilities and knowing the flammability of different materials could be a little tricky, since her fire is magical and does not absolute require fuel or oxygen to burn—although it burns more readily when they are available, of course. But fire was so prominent in the story that I did still have a great deal to learn. In fact, at one point I needed to know about potential arson materials during the era, and my husband put me in contact with a firefighter so that we could discuss wax and turpentine!

Did all of these pages of research go into the story? Of course not. I end up using maybe a line here and a line there. Such is the life of a writer. At least half of your research, if not most of it, never ends up in the book. But those lines that stay ought to be good!

With Elizabeth and Darcy at a magical university, I couldn’t resist putting them through what most students dread: a group project. To make it worse, they end up on the group project together with Mr. Wickham and several other characters you’ll meet in A Season of Magic. Wouldn’t you just love your grade to depend on Mr. Wickham doing his share?

Their group project and other classes led to all sorts of interesting research, from aphids to Oliver Cromwell and from herbs to William the Conqueror. I had a lot of fun imagining how the history of England might have been affected by mages, or how an insect might have been altered as part of a magical experiment. A lot of this research went into the little glimpses we get into Elizabeth’s magical education.

One real historical event that has a prominent mention in A Season of Magic is 1816, sometimes known as The Year Without a Summer. This was the year after a violent eruption of a volcano caused an ash cloud that affected temperatures and weather systems worldwide. Crop shortages caused significant starvation and illnesses from North American to Europe to Asia. This was a life-altering event that would have been felt by Jane Austen herself in the year before her death.

While this event would happen several years after Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy completed their time at the Season, it was an ideal way to show what their magical education was for, as well as how the mages could work together to help in desperate times. Most of my research into this time period was focused on history and how the situation was different in North America versus Europe versus elsewhere in the world, but it did lead to some interesting searches like, “Can animals graze in the rain?”

Now that I’ve shared a glimpse into some of the process of writing a fantasy Pride and Prejudice variation, here’s a little tidbit from the story itself:


There was no air. Elizabeth’s desperate gasps were worse than holding her breath, and yet she could not stop from trying to suck in air.

Her head was pounding, eyes stinging. Although the smoke had long been too thick to see through, she could still tell that the edges of her vision were going black. She was not going to make it. Was she even still crawling towards Maria? Even if she reached the girls, how would she turn around and make it back towards the door when she could see nothing and could not breathe?

Jane’s hand clenched on hers. Jane. Her beloved Jane.

Jane. She could barely form the silent call.

I am here, Jane’s mental voice said, sounding very faint. Weak. Jane, too, was barely holding onto consciousness.

When she was very young, Elizabeth had thought of doing something heroic, something amazing, something that would clear her family’s name and restore their reputation. If she had succeeded in saving the girls and Sir William, perhaps she would have.

Instead, she and Jane would die together.

Just as that maudlin thought crossed her mind, the surrounding air cleared. Elizabeth greedily sucked in the fresher air, but that only brought on a fit of coughing.

She could see now. Her vision was improving, although her eyes still stung. Maria and Pen were still alive! They were both lying on the floor, clinging to each other in the same way Elizabeth and Jane were. Sir William was just next to them, lying on his stomach. Elizabeth could not see his face.

Elizabeth looked up with blurry eyes to see a strange and amazing sight. The smoke was not blowing out a window. It was just . . . evaporating. Even as she watched, the remaining grey smoke in the room disappeared as if . . . by magic.

She coughed at a sudden odd sensation, as if the smoke in her lungs, too, had suddenly become pure fresh air. She coughed again, but now her lungs did not feel as if they were about to burst.

Jane let go of Elizabeth’s hand to wipe tears from her eyes. Whether she was crying with relief or whether it was from the pain of the smoke, Elizabeth did not know. She felt on the verge of tears herself.

Sir William sat up, looking bewildered. Maria and Pen were looking towards the door of the room, and Elizabeth turned, pulling Jane with her.

A man stood silhouetted in the doorway, the lit torches of the villagers who had come to the rescue behind him.

Sir William scrambled heavily to his feet, reaching towards the burnt table for support before thinking better of it and getting up without it.

“Sir,” he choked out, “my deepest thanks.”

“Well,” the stranger said with a wry grin, surveying the room, “I had not expected such an exciting welcome to Meryton. Still, it is a pleasure to meet you all.” His eyes caught on Jane’s, and his smile turned brilliant. His next words seemed to be for her alone. “My name is Charles Bingley.”

Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your exploits in writing this variation and for sharing an excerpt with us.

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below.

About the Author:

Sarah Courtney loves to read fantasy, fairy tales, and Pride and Prejudice variations, so what could be more fun than combining them? She currently lives in Europe where she homeschools her six children and still manages to write books, which has to be proof that magic exists! Visit her blog and on Facebook.


Sarah is giving away 1 eBook per blog stop.

If the winner has already preordered the book, he/she may choose another one of Sarah’s books for their prize.

Leave a comment below with an email.

Deadline to enter is Aug. 8, 2022, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Mailbox Monday #693

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.

Here’s what I received:

Beach Reads Box Set : Volume 2 by Lauren Blakely, Louise Bay, Sarina Bowen, Catherine Cowles, Nana Malone, Corinne Michaels, Devney Perry, Penny Reid, Kylie Scott, and Susan Stoker, which was free for Kindle.

Ten full-length novels from some of your favorite bestselling romance authors. This special bundle features stories perfect for fun in the sun. A gift to our readers and a great way to introduce you to new authors to love, grab this beach bundle before it’s gone!

MR. MAYFAIR by Louise Bay
BIG BEN by Nana Malone
RETURN TO US by Corinne Michaels
TATTERED by Devney Perry
REPEAT by Kylie Scott
SECURING PIPER by Susan Stokes

She’s Up to No Good by Sara Goodman Confino, which I purchased for $1.99.

Four years into her marriage, Jenna is blindsided when her husband asks for a divorce. With time on her hands and her life in flux, she agrees to accompany her eccentric grandmother Evelyn on a road trip to the seaside Massachusetts town where much of their family history was shaped.

When they hit the road, Evelyn spins the tale of the star-crossed teenage romance that captured her heart more than seventy years ago and changed the course of her life. She insists the return to her hometown isn’t about that at all—no matter how much she talks about Tony, her unforgettable and forbidden first love.

Upon arrival, Jenna meets Tony’s attentive great-nephew Joe. The new friendship and fresh ocean air give her the confidence and distance she needs to begin putting the pain of a broken marriage behind her.

As the secrets and truths of Evelyn’s past unfold, Jenna discovers a new side of her grandmother, and of herself, that she never knew existed—and learns that the possibilities for healing can come at the most unexpected times in a woman’s life.

Beauty and Mr. Darcy by Sarah Courtney, a Kindle freebie.

Elizabeth Bennet knows that Fitzwilliam Darcy is a beast. At least, that’s what George Wickham tells her, and she is inclined to believe him. Why, then, is it so hard not to find him interesting and attractive? Is she just another young lady intrigued by a rogue?

Jane Bennet was in love once and has never quite recovered. When the object of her affections returns to Meryton, she is thrilled, until she realizes that the same problem that has frightened off all of her other suitors might drive away the man she truly loves.

Mary Bennet’s pedantic pronouncements irritate her sisters and repel the man she longs for. Is there any hope for a happy ending for her?

Kitty and Lydia Bennet’s giggles and foolish ways make the matrons of Meryton shake their heads. Without real parental guidance, they long for attention, even if means risking their reputations and hope for the future.

Charlotte Lucas has long since given up the idea of finding a husband and having the children she longs for. When an unusual suitor arrives in Meryton, she has one last chance to avoid spinsterhood.

What did you receive?

Results & Schedule: Poetry Read-a-Long for August

The poll results are in! The August Read-a-Long will be for:

Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman:

Formerly titled The Hill We Climb and Other Poems, Amanda Gorman’s remarkable new collection reveals an energizing and unforgettable voice in American poetry. Call Us What We Carry is Gorman at her finest. Including “The Hill We Climb,” the stirring poem read at the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden, and bursting with musical language and exploring themes of identity, grief, and memory, this lyric of hope and healing captures an important moment in our country’s consciousness while being utterly timeless.

Reading poetry can be a solitary venture. I’d like us to read and talk about Gorman’s book on a weekly schedule.

For every Friday in August, I will post my initial thoughts about the given section and leave the comments open for you to either share your favorite poems, pose questions about the poems, or add to the discussion.

Here’s the read-a-long schedule for August (I hope you’ll join and encourage others to do so):

  • First Discussion Post for sections Requiem and What a Piece of Wreck is Man: Aug. 5
  • Second Discussion Post for sections Earth Eyes and Memoria: Aug. 12
  • Third Discussion Post for section Atonement: Aug. 19
  • Final Discussion Post for sections Fury & Faith and Resolution: Aug. 26

If you’ve joined this year’s Poetry Reading Challenge, this can count as your 1 book of poetry you read this year. Join us and have fun! Remember you don’t have to like all the poems.

Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 10+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens, narrated by Charlotte Beaumont, is a delightful weekend getaway with Laura, a writer for a lifestyle platform (read sponsored content). She heads to Jersey, England, from London to seek out her parents’ love story. on the plane she ends up meeting an attractive man who stoops to pick up her tampons. But she thinks nothing of this meet cute as she strives to find all the places her parents took pictures during their summer of romance. As a writer of happily ever after (HEA) stories, she has a cinematic notion of love.

While Laura is clearly to focused on HEA stories and finding love, her story demonstrates that she needs to learn to accept reality and learn how to find her own direction. When she falls into Ted’s cab and commissions him on her quest, she has no idea how things will change for her.

I cannot tell you how many times I laughed during this book. There are so many hilarious moments. Laura does have her cringy moments where I wondered what on earth she was thinking and whether she is really that clueless. Her boss, Suki, is a maniac and hard-nosed editor. Laura gets herself in hot water when her priorities shift away from that of Suki’s.

Is Laura’s meet cute with the man, Jasper, whose suitcase she ends up with after her flight to Jersey or is it something less cinematic? Jasper is a well-mannered perfect fit in terms of likes and dislikes, but there’s just no zing. Along the way, Laura meets plenty of colorful relatives and Ted’s family and friends. She finds herself immersed in Jersey’s culture and falling in love with the horizon again — much like that summer of love her parents had.

Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens, narrated by Charlotte Beaumont, is a delightful romantic comedy that I couldn’t help smiling as the narration continued. Laura does grow throughout, and some of that is painful. Ted is a scruffy man at the start who improves upon acquaintance. Cousens is an author I’ll definitely read again.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Sophie Cousens started her career in television, where she produced, among other things, The Graham Norton Show, Big Brother, Ant and Dec and Russell Howard’s Good News. Sophie currently lives in Jersey where she now writes full time. She lives with her husband Tim and has two small children who keep her occupied with important questions such as ‘but did Cinderella have a toothbrush?’ and ‘do giraffe’s know they have really long necks?’ She yearns for a time when she will be able to add a miniature dachshund to the party.

Guest Post: And Silent Left the Place: Tall Texas Tale or Moral Exploration? by Elizabeth Bruce

I’d like to welcome Elizabeth Bruce to the blog today to talk about And Silent Left the Place, which was published and re-released in 2021 by the Washington Writers’ Publishing House (purchase the book, here).

Before we get to the guest post, let’s learn more about this book.

About the Book:

A silent old man climbs into his secret hole, burdened by his Great War bargain–his voice for life with his beloved. On this night in April 1963, the burden of silence passes from old to young. The debut novel of Texas native Elizabeth Bruce is a lyric tale of violence, redemption, and love reclaimed through the cruel dry land of Texas.

Please welcome, Elizabeth Bruce:

In my debut novel, And Silent Left the Place (published by Washington Writers’ Publishing House), I crafted, at one level, a mythic, metaphorical, folkloric tall Texas tale. There are wildly theatrical, at times profane, almost circus-like Texas spectacles. There’s a bulldozer ballet, a desert dancehall, and V-Day autoworkers painting all the cars red, white, and blue in jubilee. There are loose horses, rattlesnakes, jack rabbits, coyotes, and a blind dog named Lorraine. There’s Old Man Hopper, the Body Hunter, and his searchlight cracking open the Texas night. There’s a circle of fire, an underground bunker, a New Orleans’ Madam, and the grass Jesus walked on. And there’s Patsy Cline Walkin’ After Midnight and Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys wailing about Right or Wrong.

At the same time, in the novel I dove deeply into grievous moral wrong—”sin” in a religious context—and what to do about it. Set in South Texas in April of 1963, Silent revolves around Thomas Riley, an 81-year-old World War One vet who came back from the Great War middle-aged and silent. He can speak, but he doesn’t speak, and Riley’s burden of silence is the mystery of the novel. Over the book’s 24-hour period, a young couple passing through trespasses on a wealthy rancher’s land and sets into motion a cascade of bizarre events that eventually reveals Riley’s secret.

With Washington Writers’ Publishing House’s 2021 release of a new edition of Silent, I’ve revisited the novel’s moral journey, and realized how it was shaped by our friend and fellow artist, the late Mphela Makgoba. For eight years in the 1980s and 90s, my husband, Robert Michael Oliver, and subsequently our two children, shared our home with Makgoba, a fierce South African dissident poet, actor, and freedom fighter who spent 31 years in exile in the USA. He was a ferocious critic of apartheid, of course, but also of the geopolitical forces and nation states that enabled such injustices, the U.S. and the West, most especially. Makgoba and I spent all of those eight years in deep, daily dialogue about these forces and what to do about them. He was the most uncompromised, uncompromising person I have ever met, and he profoundly shaped my understanding of myself, American society, and the broader world.

And all the while I was in dialogue with Makgoba, my writer’s imagination was incubating what ultimately became And Silent Left the Place. Makgoba went home to South Africa in 1995 and he never read my novel, but in many ways its moral investigations are dedicated to him: how to respond to grievous moral wrong?

As the world watched, post-apartheid South Africa, under the extraordinary leadership of the late Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, sought to respond to the atrocities of apartheid. It rejected both the retaliatory “tribunal” response of the Nuremberg Trials and the “national amnesia” response of granting blanket amnesty to all the wrongdoers. Instead, the country pursued a third path: the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

What is this path of reconciliation? What is the journey of truth?

While I absolutely—emphatically do not—liken the moral explorations in my short novel in any way to the South African experience, I am reminded of how shaped my moral Geiger counter was by those many years of discourse with Makgoba, as I sought to fathom the radioactivity of human wrongs.

And Silent Left the Place sets forth a backstory of grievous wrong, moral wrong, of “sin” if you will; it offers silence as atonement; it speaks of truth-telling and imagines forgiveness. It even envisions divine retribution—a deux ex machina of sorts—all played out in the cruel, dry land of Texas and the squalid trenches of the Great War. It is often a bleak picture. As I said in my interview with Tom Glenn in the Washington Independent Review of Books, there is “an absence of modern interventions in the narrative arcs of Riley and others. There is no therapy, no drug regimen, no support groups for the traumatized old soldier Tom Riley. No one intervenes to reunite this lonely old man with his beloved wife, Dolores, wherever she is. There are no trials bringing justice to the aggrieved.”

What I aspired to offer in the novel, however, is a vision of possibility, of reconciliation through truth, of forgiveness through atonement, of the reclamation of joy through endurance, and that makes And Silent Left the Place, in my view, a deeply hopeful—if wildly theatrical—book.

Washington Writers Publishing House, in its remarkable generosity to longtime members of the press, has embarked on a journey of issuing new editions of several books published in the press’ 47-year legacy.

In addition to And Silent Left the Place, in 2021 WWPH also issued a new edition of poet Sid Gold’s Working Vocabulary, and in 2022 the press released new editions of poetry books by WWPH Co-Founder Grace Cavalieri—Why I Cannot Take a Lover—and former press President Myra Sklarew—Altamira.

Founded in 1975, WWPH has published over 100 poets and writers, many during their early years of literary work. Published authors become members of the press and volunteer for at least two years supporting its operations. As a nonprofit, cooperative press long dedicated to publishing poetry and literary fiction by writers living within 75 miles of Washington, DC (including Baltimore), WWPH has just expanded its scope to include writers from all of Maryland and Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia.

For the first time, in 2023, WWPH will also include Creative Nonfiction in its annual literary competitions. In 2021, the press published its second anthology in 47 years, This Is What America Looks Like, edited by current Co-Presidents Caroline Bock and Jona Colson, which includes poetry and fiction by 100 writers from D.C., Maryland, or Virginia. Bock and Colson have also launched WWPH Writes, a bi-weekly online journal showcasing the work of many area poets and writers.

Happily, the press’ 2022 publications will soon be released: The Witch Bottle, a new collection by short story writer and speculative novelist Suzanne Feldman, and You Cannot Save Here, a debut collection by Baltimorean queer poet Anthony Moll.

For more information about Elizabeth Bruce or And Silent Left the Place, please visit Elizabeth’s website at https://www.elizabethbrucedc.com.

For more information about Washington Writers’ Publishing House, its catalogue of books, or publication opportunities, go to www.washingtonwriters.org.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your experiences with us.

Photo credit: K. Whipple Photography

About the Author:

Washington, D.C.-based Texas writer Elizabeth Bruce’s debut novel, And Silent Left the Place (new edition– 2021), won Washington Writers’ Publishing House’s Fiction Award and ForeWord Magazine and Texas Institute of Letters’ distinctions. Her collection, Universally Adored and Other One Dollar Stories, is forthcoming in 2024 from Vine Leaves Press. She’s published in the USA, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, Malawi, Yemen, and The Philippines and studied with Richard Bausch, the late Lee K. Abbott, Janet Peery, John McNally, and Liam Callanan. A former character actor, Bruce has received DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities and McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation Fellowships.

Mailbox Monday #692

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.

Here’s what I received:

Beach Read by Emily Henry, purchased from Audible.

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes best-selling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

What did you receive?

Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 171 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo, which does include some poems, is what I would imagine a dream walk to be. Harjo shifts from moment to moment in a surreal walk through her memories. She explores her Native American heritage through the eyes of a young child and a woman who is looking for her place in a family and culture where women’s decisions/desires are secondary.

“In the end, we must each tend to our own gulfs of sadness, though others can assist us with kindness, food, good words, and music.” (pg. 23)

“I imagine this place in the story as a long silence. It is an eternity of gray skies. It runs the length of late elementary school through adolescence.” (pg. 63)

Throughout the memoir, there is a cleaving. A family broken apart by a step-father who seeks control over all in his dominion, even children who are not biologically his own and forces them to make adult decisions at too young an age. But there is also the breaking apart of a woman in that she needs to separate herself from that past and her current life to find a voice buried inside and trying to break free.

“For the true warriors of the world, fighting is the last resort to solving a conflict. Every effort is made to avoid bloodshed.” (pg. 150)

Harjo teaches that through pain and suffering there is still beauty and love. Loving oneself can provide the peace we seek, and it also enables us to find our own voices and trails. While she suffered from her mother’s decisions and her father’s abandonment, there is still love there for a family who gave her life. This is not a complete life story, but it is a journey — it is Harjo’s path to poetry. Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo is a homage to those that came before, a nod to her present, and a dream for a future.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Joy Harjo is an American poet, musician, playwright, and author. She served as the 23rd United States Poet Laureate, the first Native American to hold that honor. She was also only the second Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to have served three terms.