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Being Mrs Darcy by Lucy Marin

Source: Publisher
Kindle, 464 pgs.
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Being Mrs. Darcy by Lucy Marin imagines Elizabeth Bennet coming to the rescue of Georgiana at Ramsgate, but with her impetuous decision to help a young lady she doesn’t know, she sends everything she has ever known at Longbourn spiraling outward away from her. From the moment she meets Mr. Darcy and Georgiana on the street, Elizabeth Bennet finds her world irrevocably changed. Georgiana and Mr. Darcy are wealthy and have a reputation to protect, but Mr. Darcy is not without his merits when he staves off Elizabeth’s ruin because of gossip. From the moment they are betrothed and embark on their married life, Elizabeth is lonely, anxious, and unlike we’ve seen her in Austen’s original work.

“Never again to call myself Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Never again to call Longbourn my home.

The last was not such a hardship, thanks to her father.” (pg. 1)

Readers will fall into Elizabeth’s anxiety. She struggles to learn all she needs to learn to be not only Mr. Darcy’s wife and be in his social circle, but also to navigate the work of a large estate. She’s intelligent and applies herself well in an effort to gain a modicum of acceptance among a family that does not desire her company or want her as Mrs. Darcy just because of her station and lack of fortune. Elizabeth’s strength of character shines through in all that she does in this novel. I loved her, but I also felt such pain alongside her. She was incredibly lonely and those she is supposed to trust with her happiness are at best neglectful of it. She has no true friends and is cut off from not only her family, but her faithful sister, Jane. It brings to life the question of how you can feel alone in a crowded room. Elizabeth feels this most acutely at every turn. It amazed me that she did not break down before she does in the novel.

Marin also provides an alternate look at why Georgiana would be so shy in public and with those outside her family. Perhaps not out of shame, but of something far worse. This side of Georgiana is explored in depth after Ramsgate and Elizabeth’s role in that event merely serves as a reminder of her stupidity. She may be fifteen, but she still has much to learn, and like most petulant children, she takes a long time to overcome her anger and jealousy before she begins to see the error of her ways.

Being Mrs. Darcy by Lucy Marin is a wonderful variation with a forced marriage and a testament to the will of a woman to make things right for the good of everyone, not just herself, despite the obstacles before her. Becoming Mrs. Darcy is so much more than her social transformation, it is her maturing into the woman Mr.Darcy needs to complement him and his maturing into the man who complements her in a life that neither of them initially wanted. Marin is a storyteller who can delve deep into emotional character development and ensure the reader is as wrecked as her characters become.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Lucy Marin developed a love for reading at a young age and whiled away many hours imagining how stories might continue or what would happen if there was a change in the circumstances faced by the protagonists. After reading her first Austen novel, a life-long ardent admiration was borne. Lucy was introduced to the world of Austen variations after stumbling across one at a used bookstore while on holiday in London. This led to the discovery of the online world of Jane Austen Fan Fiction and, soon after, she picked up her pen and began to
transfer the stories in her head to paper.

Lucy lives in Toronto, Canada surrounded by hundreds of books and a loving family. She teaches environmental studies, loves animals and trees and exploring the world around her. Being Mrs Darcy is Lucy’s first novel. Her second, titled Mr Darcy, A Man with a Plan will be released in summer 2020. Visit her on Facebook, Twitter, and GoodReads.

The Haunted Library by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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The Haunted Library by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant, opens with Kaz, a young ghost boy who quickly loses his family when their haunt is torn down. As the wind carries him away, he finds himself in an unfamiliar library where a young girl, Claire, notices him. She’s the granddaughter of the librarian but she can see ghosts on her own without them calling attention to themselves. Claire seems to think she’s an amateur detective, and she carries her own notebook around with her in the library and records information about the ghosts she meets. The only problem is that Kaz really doesn’t know anything about the “solid” world and he has trouble being a ghost. Kaz really prefers that people don’t walk through him and he doesn’t like passing through walls.

My daughter and I read this together and she liked the early chase of Kaz throughout the library when he realized Claire could see him. And along they way, they become friends. One thing we wondered about was why Kaz was not as sad as we expected when he learned none of his family was in the library, too. Much of this story was focused on uncovering the mystery of who the ghost in the library was, but by the end, Claire and Kaz have become friends and plan to help him find out where his family has gone.

The Haunted Library by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant, was a challenging story with unfamiliar words, and while Kaz seemed clueless and relied on Claire to teach him, we enjoyed the mystery. We hope the next installments will have more of Beckett, who also lives in the library, Grandma Karen, and Claire’s parents, and maybe a ghost or two more.

RATING: Quatrain

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 9+ hours
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Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, narrated by Nicole Lewis, is one of the “it” books of the year because it challenges readers to see interactions from the other person’s point of view. Alix Chamberlain is a wealthy, white, entrepreneur and mother who leaves her chic New York City life for Philadelphia. As she continues to work on her first book and maintain some sense of her successful self in a place she refuses to publicly acknowledge as her new home, she seeks out help with her two-year-old daughter Briar. Emira Tucker is a 25-year-old black woman who is unsure what she wants to do with her life after college — with some serious typing and childcare skills, it seems like she could find a full-time job and get health insurance but something is holding her back.

This book starts off with a bang in a racially charged incident in which a security guard attempts to detain Emira and Briar in a local grocery store near the Chamberlain home. Naturally, this incident is caught on video by a young, white professional who offers to post the incident on the internet to seek out justice. Emira is having none of it and her babysitting job is something she loves and she really cares for Briar. Her main focus is protecting this girl. As we take this journey with Emira and Alix, the interactions between the two are awkward from an objective viewpoint, but on closer inspection, Alix is trying so hard to be her friend, it borders on obsession. There’s nothing really untoward here between Alix and Emira, but the dynamics of this relationship are cringe-worthy in many ways.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid is multi-layered and tension filled, highlighting cultural differences between blacks and whites, especially affluent whites with good intentions. Emira is a smart woman if a bit rudderless and under pressure to find a job and stable insurance. Alix should be a stable and savvy businesswoman, but she acts childish and seems not to have evolved much beyond her high school years. This would be a good book club pick for discussions about race and class. But I really did not like Alix. I found her character absolutely ridiculous and high-schoolish, trying too hard to be cool for her babysitter. Her need for acceptance and friendship from Emira is odd and obsessive. The introduction of her old high school boyfriend further complicates the story, but his character seems to be a foil for Alix’s character. The narrator, however, was a gem, very articulate, and great about differentiating between the characters.

RATING: Quatrain

We Are Displaced by Malala Yousafzai

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 224 pgs.
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We Are Displaced by Malala Yousafzai is a collection of essays written by women who also fled their homes due to violence, persecution by rebels or government forces, and more. Yousafzai recounts some of her own refugee story as an opener to the collection, but readers will see the parallels of her story and the stories of these women. Many of these women had very strong convictions like Yousafzai either before they were forced to leave their countries or after they had grown up and learned why their families fled their homes.

“I wrote this book because it seems that too many people don’t understand that refugees are ordinary people. All that differentiates them is that they got caught in the middle of a conflict that forced them to leave their homes, their loved ones, and the only lives they had known. They risked so much along the way, and why? Because it is too often a choice between life and death. And as my family did a decade ago, they chose life.” (pg. x1)

It is a sad commentary on an American perspective that cannot see these refugees for who they are — average people with happy lives who have one choice: stay in their homeland and die or leave and live. Many of the women in these essays were just teenagers or younger when they left their homes; some of them left with their parents, while others fled their countries on their own after their parents or families were murdered or died. The essays highlight some of the political and societal upheavals occurring in countries across the world, but they are very light on how these women transitioned to their new lives and how hard it was. Many of the essays felt like surface retellings of their stories, which may be because of language barriers or because these are short essays and not entire memoirs — it’s probably very difficult to talk about and condense these experiences into emotional essays.

We Are Displaced by Malala Yousafzai provides a set of stories that will showcase the struggles other people face in different countries, perhaps encouraging readers to get more involved, but at the very least to be a little more compassionate than they have been. For me, I wanted more emotion from the essayists, and I wanted to learn more about their displacement in many cases (some essays were more detailed on that), and what they were doing now.

RATING: Tercet (3.5)

Isadora Moon Goes Camping by Harriet Muncaster

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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Isadora Moon Goes Camping by Harriet Muncaster is a delightful book that stretches the imagination of young early readers in which Isadora Moon, half vampire and half fairy, finds herself nervous about show-and-tell at school. But once she starts telling her class about her summer vacation camping near a beach, she becomes so engrossed in her own tale she and you will nearly forget she’s nervous to speak in front of her classmates.

Isadora’s dad is the glammed-up vampire in the family and his hygiene habits become a bummer for some of the other campers over the summer, and her mom just takes it all in stride, helping him pare down his suitcases for their vacation in the rough. It must be fantastic to have a mom who is a fairy because she can create anything you’d want, but it’s all in the boundaries she sets for Isadora. What my daughter loved was the adventure and the Isadora’s favorite animal, Pink Rabbit. I loved that he was a stuffed bunny who had expressions and ould walk around wherever Isadora did.

This book is a little above where my daughter’s reading level is now, so there were times when she struggled with certain words, but we worked on how to sound those out and what those words meant. It was a good way to stretch her reading skills without losing her interest in the story. We’ll likely be looking for the first two books in this series, since somehow we ended up with only book 3. Starting with this book, however, didn’t seem to be a problem. We didn’t feel like we were missing anything. The cover of our book suggests a lot of color, but most of the illustrations were black and pink. We’re not sure why, but it didn’t detract from the things that mattered in the story. The illustrations did enhance some of the action for us. We also loved the family photo album at the end of their summer camping trip. That was a nice touch.

Isadora Moon Goes Camping by Harriet Muncaster is a wonderful book about learning to take risks outside our comfort zones. I love how adventurous Isadora is and how willing she is to make new friends and go the extra mile for her family. My daughter often wanted to read “just one more chapter” each night, which is a tell-tale sign that she enjoyed the book and loved the characters.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Harriet Muncaster studied illustration at Norwich University College of the Arts before going on to get an MA in children’s book illustration at the Cambridge School of Art. In creating the art for her first book for children, she was thrilled to have found a good outlet for her lifelong fascination with miniatures. She lives in Hertfordshire, England.

Two More Days at Netherfield by Heather Moll

Source: Publisher
ebook, 406 pgs.
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Two More Days at Netherfield by Heather Moll finds Elizabeth Bennet and her sister at Netherfield like they were in Jane Austen’s novel, Pride & Prejudice.

While at Netherfield nursing her sister back to health, Elizabeth comes to realize that her first impressions of Mr. Darcy may have been wrong. At the same time, through teasing, she makes him realize that he may have been hasty in his opinion of her. As they continue to be in each other’s company, will they come to realize that they are more alike and complementary to one another than they initially thought?

These two begin to share their love of poetry and intellectual conversation. They start to view one another as friends, even if they do continue to verbally spar. Mr. Wickham arrives on the scene and their friendship, which is blatantly obvious to the scoundrel, hatches a plan.

“She has no beauty! I have twenty thousand pounds!”

Moll’s Elizabeth is outspoken and braver than the Lizzy in Austen’s novel. She makes the first move in some situations where she should be reserved. This, however, is not to say that she diverges too far from Austen’s character. The machinations of Mr. Wickham and Miss Bingley, though not in concert, are even more devious. I love that Moll made Wickham and Bingley more evil than in Austen’s book. Both of these characters know what they want and what their motivations are and they are committed to the last. Watch out Elizabeth and Darcy.

Bingley and Jane find their happiness more quickly but little else has changed, though there is no chance meeting at Hunsford for Darcy and Elizabeth. All of these changes are well done and not missed when Moll’s book unfolds.

Unfortunately, after Darcy and Lizzy get together and past all of their misconceptions and worries, the pace quickens. The novel fast forwards to when they are already married. As these chapters propel the reader into the future of their lives, I felt as though I was missing some great moments of connection between them. Aside from that, Darcy and Lizzy have a balance in their relationship that they hadn’t had before. Two More Days at Netherfield by Heather Moll is a heartwarming novel that brings Darcy and Elizabeth together in a way that makes them partners in all things. Partnerships in love are the best kind.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Heather Moll is an avid reader of mysteries and biographies with a master’s in
information science. She found Jane Austen later than she should have and made up for lost time by devouring Austen’s letters and unpublished works, joining JASNA, and spending too much time researching the Regency era. She is the author of Two More Days at Netherfield and His Choice of a Wife. She lives with her husband and son and struggles to balance all of the important things, like whether to clean the house or write. Connect with her on Facebook,
Goodreads, Instagram, and Twitter.

GIVEAWAY:

Quills & Quartos Publishing is giving away one ecopy at each blog stop of the Two More Days at Netherfield blog tour. All you need to do to enter the giveaway is comment on this blog post, and Quills & Quartos will randomly choose one random winner after Feb. 21, 2020. So, make sure you join in the conversation!

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades by S.M. Stevens

Source: Author
Paperback, 292 pgs.
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Horseshoes and Hand Grenades by S.M. Stevens is the story of women in the workforce in the 1980s, long before the #MeToo movement began and when women endured workplace harassment and abuse with little recourse other than to quit or change jobs. Shelby Stewart is an intern at a PR firm in Boston where Astrid Ericcson is an up-and-coming account executive who is looking to make it to the top soon. Astrid’s flirty personality is in stark contrast to her cold shoulder she gives her coworkers and is juxtaposed with Shelby’s practical attitude. Both women hail from humble beginnings, but they are both eager to make their own way in the PR world.

Shelby has some demons to work through, and as she ignores them, those memories begin to flit into her consciousness and affect her health. She struggles on the dating scene and can’t figure out why until she finally admits what happened in her past. Meanwhile, Ericcson realizes that her flirty nature may have been interpreted in a way she didn’t intend when her boss comes sniffing around, making innuendos and sexual quid pro quo statements.

These women cannot be in one another’s company, but eventually the ice melts between them and they become a trio with Shelby’s friend Tina — the most well adjusted of the bunch. I liked that these women soon focus on themselves and become a supportive group, but they rely far too heavily on alcohol and dance club, one-night stands until nearly the end.

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades by S.M. Stevens is a look at the effects of sexual harassment in the workplace during the 1980s and how women were stuck with few options — tough it out or move to another company. It also examines the lasting effects of sexual molestation and abuse that occurs too often in the home — forever shaping the worldview of the children it directly impacts. Stevens is a talented storyteller and the book is a page-turner.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

S.M. Stevens began writing fiction during back-to-back health crises. First, she broke her pelvis in three places in a horseback riding fall, and used the recuperation period to write Shannon’s Odyssey, a middle-grade novel for animal-lovers. Soon after, Stevens was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. During her five months of treatment and subsequent recovery spell, she wrote Bit Players, Has-Been Actors and Other Posers for musical theatre-loving teens. Two additional Bit Players novels followed. Horseshoes and Hand Grenades is her first adult book. After watching reactions to the #MeToo movement, she decided it was time for a novel that takes people into the minds of victims so they can understand why many women don’t speak up about their harassment or assault, and why some do. When not writing, she provides marketing and public relations services to solar energy companies. She is from Gorham, Maine, and now lives in Clinton, Mass., and Washington, N.H. She has also lived in Italy and in the U.K., where she was Group Public Affairs Director for National Grid. Visit her Website, Facebook, on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, GoodReads, and on Amazon.

We Love Babies! by Jill Esbaum

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
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We Love Babies! by Jill Esbaum is an adorable photography spread that will melt your heart with cute little baby animals. Esbaum uses rhyme to pinpoint the different aspects of these babies from webbed toes to wings. There are babies big and small, furry and feathery, and all full-fledged cute.

The book is for kids just learning words and different shapes, but my daughter loves cute baby animals (don’t we all). We would argue that this is a photography book for all ages. The images are crisp and detailed, and some are down right fun to look at. Esbaum’s witty rhymes make the book even more enjoyable for younger children — it’s almost song-like.

We Love Babies! by Jill Esbaum is a great way to introduce young children to the natural world, different species of animals (which are all labeled in the final pages), and words like big and small. These images will make you smile, which is another reason just to have this book around.

RATING: Cinquain

Junie B. Jones and Some Sneaky Peeky Spying by Barbara Park and illustrated by Denise Brunkus

Source: Gift
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Junie B. Jones and Some Sneaky Peeky Spying by Barbara Park and illustrated by Denise Brunkus is the fourth book in the series and is riddled with actual dialogue that a younger kindergartner would use. Junie B. loves to sneak around and spy on her family but when they explain that she shouldn’t be doing that, she still considers herself a sneaky spy. When she spies on the wrong person, it could spell big trouble.

My daughter had a hard time with some of the misspelled words. But she started to learn to correct them as she read aloud. We like Junie B. and her antics, even if she gets in trouble, but her misspelled words were troublesome, especially for my daughter who continues to struggle with reading. This is a fun series, but I’m not sure we’ll read more of these as part of her nightly practice.

Junie B. Jones and Some Sneaky Peeky Spying by Barbara Park and illustrated by Denise Brunkus is a cute book with a mischievous girl who likes to see the world without anyone knowing she’s there. She just doesn’t understand the concept of privacy.

RATING: Quatrain

Yuletide edited by Christina Boyd

Source: Purchased by my Secret Santa
Paperback, 190 pgs.
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Yuletide edited by Christina Boyd includes short stories around Christmas time in Pride & Prejudice‘s Darcy and Bennet households in Regency and modern times from Amy D’Orazio, Caitlin Williams, Anngela Schroeder, J. Marie Croft, Elizabeth Adams, Joana Starnes, and Lona Manning. Each story holds true to the characters, but places them in different situations at Christmas time.

Caitlin Williams’ “The Forfeit” has Elizabeth Bennet acting as frivolous and giddy as her younger sisters as she gets ready for the local ball. Her little wager with Mr. Darcy is one that could leave her vulnerable at the hands of a wealthy man, but readers know that the wager is friendly and Mr. Darcy is a stand-up guy of character. “It was only when she was sunk deep into the iron tub that she realised she had spent the last two hours in much the same fashion as Lydia and Kitty, minus, thankfully, some very silly giggling.” (pg. 20).

Other stories in the collection find the married Darcy’s enjoying some old and new traditions, together. But one of my favorites is “The Wishing Ball” by Amy D’Orazio engages readers in a mystery where Darcy has made a wish without actually making a wish, causing some confusion to a lonely single man of great fortune. But it also provides some comedy when his sister learns about the wish inside. “‘So some other man…another man, with the initials FDG and a tendency to make the letter I like he went to prep school in England, bought this ball, wrote a wish, placed it inside, then sealed it up, and returned it. Then I, your sister, just happened to come along and buy it? That’s your hypothesis?'” (pg. 52)

All of the stories in the collection will provide readers with a glimpse of Christmas time festivities in the Darcy and Bennet houses, but they also offer a unique look at how the Christmas spirit can enable Darcy and Lizzy to rethink their behavior towards one another and learn to be more charitable and forgiving.

Yuletide edited by Christina Boyd is a delightful collection of short stories with some of our favorite Pride & Prejudice characters learning to be more patient, kind, and forgiving. It was the perfect read for the holiday season.

RATING: Cinquain

The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 96 pgs.
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The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, is the sixth book in the series and was a joy to read. My daughter loved the colorful pictures and the adventure story. Plus princesses that become superheroes, how could you go wrong with this one.

Princess Magnolia has a poster for the science fair, but some of her classmates have created elaborate projects including a Bucket Boosting Teeter-Totter and a volcano. A volcano that talks? That can’t be right. The princess and some of her fellow students soon realize the volcano is carrying a goo monster, who is threatening to take over the entire science fair. Princess Magnolia soon transforms into The Princess in Black and spring into action to save the school’s science fair. Lucky for her she has a few helping heroes and princesses.

These princesses are savvy and work well together under pressure. My daughter loved reading how they solved the problem and determined how best to deal with the goo monster. Don’t worry, no goo monsters were harmed (too much) in the making of this adventure.

The illustrations are vibrant and action-packed just like the story. They enhance the tale. The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, is a delightful book about the power of teamwork and how every day people can be heroes. And princesses don’t have to be rescued, but they can take action and solve problems on their own.

RATING: Cinquain

Code This!: Puzzles, Games, Challenges, and Computer Coding Concepts for the Problem Solver in You by Jennifer Szymanski

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Paperback, 160 pgs.
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Code This!: Puzzles, Games, Challenges, and Computer Coding Concepts for the Problem Solver in You by Jennifer Szymanski provides introductory information about computer science and coding, equating it to “the arts,” which can help kids see how they can use science to create. I liked this perspective in the introduction. I started out by reading the introduction myself and explaining it to my daughter in brief so she could follow along with the activities.

The text is a bit dense for my 8-year-old, but the activities are engaging enough for her education level. Some of these entry-level activities may be too elementary for older kids. To introduce kids to coding, the book explains logical thinking and why coding is necessary. It can help robots find things and decipher codes, and so much more. It was a good idea to share this with our daughter, but some of this may be more advanced than we expected.  It’s definitely a keeper.

Code This!: Puzzles, Games, Challenges, and Computer Coding Concepts for the Problem Solver in You by Jennifer Szymanski offers a lot of computer science inside concepts and activities for kids to try with their parents. On her own, our daughter would probably not have gotten very far because she’s not the right age for it. I think this would be better for older children. We still enjoyed our time with the book.

RATING: Quatrain