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Owl Diaries: Eva’s Treetop Festival by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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Owl Diaries: Eva’s Treetop Festival by Rebecca Elliott is a series of books for first and second graders that my daughter was not initially sure she wanted to read.  I bought her a couple books in the series at her book fair after she picked out two books she really wanted.  First, I picked these books because teachers had been talking about how engaging they were, and second, I picked this because it is written in diary form — something my daughter has started doing in her own notebook. It’s a format that she can easily recognize and connect with.

We read a chapter an evening before bed, and sometimes she would read along, and at other times, she sat back and let me read to her.  It was a good experience to see how Eva’s big idea for a festival came into being — not as a solo project but as a team effort from the entire class. Eva is like any kid my daughter’s age, she has best friends and sometimes friends, and there is the one kid that she thinks is mean.

Elliott has a vivid and childlike imagination that kids will immediately connect with, and there are even reading comprehension questions in the back to help young, developing readers think about what they’ve been reading in terms of plot and characterization. Owl Diaries: Eva’s Treetop Festival by Rebecca Elliott is a wonderful series of books that will foster imagination, teamwork, and more. My daughter was eager to read each chapter and she cannot wait to start book 2.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the UK with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.

A Vintage Halloween by Cat Gardiner

Source: Purchased
Ebook, 56 pgs.
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A Vintage Halloween (Memories of Old Antique Shop #3) by Cat Gardiner is delightful short story in which Elizabeth Bennet is trying her best to put on a brave face as she helps Jane with her wedding preparations to Charlie Bingley and navigating through her mother’s nerves. But what is really getting her down is the absence of her Darcy and the knowledge that he’s in a dangerous place and may not come home to make good on his promise to marry her. Gardiner knows these characters, even her modern versions, so well, that they shine on the pages.  Lizzy is tough, but she’s vulnerable, and Darcy is smart but dutiful.

“In Will’s absence, Fred Astaire wasn’t her hide-out any longer — at least not when she needed a break from her mother.”

Halloween is approaching and Lizzy may not feel like celebrating, but she’s made a promise to the Memories of Old shopkeeper, Doris. A romantic trip to 1944 is what Lizzy needs to recharge, but she’s not the only one missing her sweetie in this tale of ghouls and ghosts. Doris is being mysterious, and Mary joins Lizzy at the shop only to see things Lizzy cannot see.

A trip through a mirror and a masquerade ball may be just what the doctor ordered for Lizzy and Doris.  But who is behind those costumes and masks, and where are all those customers coming from and what are they looking for? Will Doris let Lizzy in on her secrets? Find out in A Vintage Halloween (Memories of Old Antique Shop #3) by Cat Gardiner.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Cat Gardiner loves romance and happy endings, history, comedy, and Jane Austen. A member of National League of American Pen Women, Romance Writers of America, and her local chapter TARA, she enjoys writing across the spectrum of Pride and Prejudice inspired romance novels. Austenesque, from the comedic Christmas, Chick Lits Lucky 13 and Villa Fortuna, to the bad boy biker Darcy in the sultry adventures Denial of Conscience, Guilty Conscience, and Without a Conscience, these contemporary novels will appeal to many Mr. Darcy lovers, who don’t mind a deviation away from canon and variations.

Cat’s love of 20th Century Historical fiction merges in her first Pride & Prejudice “alternate era,” set in a 1952 Noir, Undercover. Her most recent publications are time-travel WWII P&P short stories: A Vintage Valentine, A Vintage Victory, and A Vintage Halloween as part of the Memories of Old Antique Shop Series.

Her greatest love is writing Historical Fiction, WWII–era Romance. Her debut novel, A Moment Forever was named a Romance Finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. She is currently working on her second novel in the Liberty Victory Series.

Married 24 years to her best friend, they are the proud parents of the smartest honor student in the world—their orange tabby, Ollie and his sassy girlfriend, Kiki. Although they live in Florida, they will always be proud native New Yorkers.

The Crooked Path by Irma Joubert

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 400 pgs.
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The Crooked Path by Irma Joubert is a historical fiction novel that is told from both Letti and Marco’s points of view as their lives take different turns than they expect with the rise of Nazism, WWII, and its aftermath. But at its heart it is a romantic novel Lettie finds her soulmate in the most unexpected place.  Joubert’s detail in describing Italy and South Africa create a vivid world in which Letti and Marco live, and these characters face some tough trials.

Marco was a strong character filled with integrity and love and his determination and hope filled these pages from beginning to end.  He infused each character he encountered with a strength they did not know they possessed, and he makes the pages turn.  From his love of history and Da Vinci to his ability to go on even after he loses his childhood sweetheart.

Letti, on the other hand, is weaker, living in the shadow of her friends and feeling out of place next to the beauty of the village and the one from the richer family.  Like her father, she yearns to be a doctor and to care for others, even as she realizes her childhood crush is not meant to be anything more.

“The war seeped into the homes. The lowing winds blew it in through the front door when someone came in from outside. It oozed through the floorboards and the closed shutters.” (pg. 39 ARC)

Lettie’s strength comes later when she leaves for medical school and is on her own, away from the pressures of her friends and family. She’s able to see her goal and reach for it with both hands. Her hard work and thirst for knowledge make her the dedicated village doctor she becomes. But like all of us, even knowledge can take a back seat to fear and loss.

Although the ending for Lettie seemed a bit too convenient, it was understandable given her early years in her home village. The quick resolution so many years after WWII may have been truncated, but The Crooked Path by Irma Joubert is a journey worth taking and it reminds us that life is not a straight line and is very unpredictable. But love and happiness are possibilities that emerge from the ashes of our best laid plans.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

International bestselling author Irma Joubert was a history teacher for 35 years before she began writing. Her stories are known for their deep insight into personal relationships and rich historical detail. She’s the author of eight novels and a regular fixture on bestseller lists in The Netherlands and in her native South Africa. She is the winner of the 2010 ATKV Prize for Romance Novels. Connect with Irma on Facebook.

A Vintage Victory by Cat Gardiner

Source: Purchased
ebook, 54 pgs.
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A Vintage Victory: Memories of Old Antique Shop Book 2 by Cat Gardiner is a short story that takes us back to the time portals of the old antique shop in Meryton where not only Elizabeth and Jane Bennet have taken a trip back in time, but so too has Mr. Darcy.

Charles Bingley has cold feet about his wedding to Jane, but a trip back to WWII through the Memories of Old antique shop might just set him to rights. Gardiner’s short stories and this time portal antique shop always delight, even when the subject matter is the possible loss of lives during a harrowing WWII battle.

Charlie isn’t only experiencing cold feet, he’s also very different from Austen’s young beau in that he has a tough time making decisions and often just lives off his family’s money. Meanwhile, army ranger Darcy finds that the trip is not only the remedy his friend needs to cure his indecision, but also the push he needs to share his feelings with his love, Elizabeth. But can these two men return to the present without dying? You’ll have to read it to find out.

Gardiner is one of the best historical fiction authors I’ve read, and her Pride & Prejudice variations are unique and engaging. Antiques will often transport us to the past and memories we hold dear, but Gardiner takes that one step further in these short tales. Readers will be truly engaged with the present and past, and itching for their own trip into the Memories of Old antique shop. A Vintage Victory: Memories of Old Antique Shop Book 2 by Cat Gardiner is another strong installment in this short story series, and I cannot wait for the next one.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Cat Gardiner loves romance and happy endings, history, comedy, and Jane Austen. A member of National League of American Pen Women, Romance Writers of America, and her local chapter TARA, she enjoys writing across the spectrum of Pride and Prejudice inspired romance novels. Austenesque, from the comedic Christmas, Chick Lits Lucky 13 and Villa Fortuna, to the bad boy biker Darcy in the sultry adventures Denial of Conscience, Guilty Conscience, and Without a Conscience, these contemporary novels will appeal to many Mr. Darcy lovers, who don’t mind a deviation away from canon and variations.

Cat’s love of 20th Century Historical fiction merges in her first Pride & Prejudice “alternate era,” set in a 1952 Noir, Undercover. Her most recent publications are time-travel WWII P&P short stories: A Vintage Valentine, A Vintage Victory, and A Vintage Halloween as part of the Memories of Old Antique Shop Series.

Her greatest love is writing Historical Fiction, WWII–era Romance. Her debut novel, A Moment Forever was named a Romance Finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. She is currently working on her second novel in the Liberty Victory Series.

Married 24 years to her best friend, they are the proud parents of the smartest honor student in the world—their orange tabby, Ollie and his sassy girlfriend, Kiki. Although they live in Florida, they will always be proud native New Yorkers.

Teaching Eliza by Riana Everly

Source: the author
Ebook, 352 pgs.
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Teaching Eliza by Riana Everly is clever and fun, just as George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, aka My Fair Lady the movie, but also witty and romantic like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Everly strikes a perfect balance between the two works and creates her own story for Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet that not only defies convention and societal norms of the time, but also demonstrates how aristocrats and their peers can achieve the ends they seek with a little scheming.

Her Darcy is a bit more Shaw than Austen, but it is what we need in this tale to believe what transpires between Lizzy and himself. When Elizabeth and Professor Darcy meet it is after Charles Bingley has already decided on who his bride will be. He must merely ask her, and in this, Bingley is a stronger character than in Austen. I applaud Everly for giving us a stronger Bingley, even if he is still pleasant and easy-going in most things.

Once the tutoring of Miss Bennet begins and the scheme is agreed to, there is little room for turning back, and Elizabeth laments about her decision to enter into this scheme: “Oh, I find myself dreading a headache which will last six months.” But despite her misgivings, she finds that she enjoys the challenge of transforming her speech and manner as much as Professor Darcy. But like all great creations, they often disagree with their creators, and this makes for entertaining sparring between the two.

Everly clearly knows both of these classics well, and it shows, and while readers will need to be a little flexible in their notion of Regency behavior and expectations, it is well worth the effort to do so. The challenge lies in how Lizzy will overcome her dislike of Darcy when he selfishly pats himself on the back and whether she will see his more endearing nature beneath the cold facade he uses in London. Readers will love her determination and her ability to forgive, and they will certainly challenge this Darcy’s character as Lizzy does.

Teaching Eliza by Riana Everly is a variation I did not want to put down. I was delighted by every twist that brought Darcy and Elizabeth together and enjoyed the entertaining paths they took when they were parted. Darcy has more to learn in this variation but Lizzy also has to make some hard choices that could affect the rest of her life.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Riana Everly was born in South Africa, but has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. She first encountered Jane Austen when her father handed her a copy of Emma at age 11, and has never looked back.

Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading! Visit her website and on Facebook.

The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman (giveaway)

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 352 pgs.
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The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman offers a platter of new characters set in Detroit, which is beginning its renaissance. Cousins Addie and Samantha risk everything to buy a nearly hollowed out diner and a crumbling home that they divide into two livable spaces. They hope that through the meals they serve, using organic ingredients, they can make a successful eatery. However, they fail to take into account how their new venture will be received by the community.  As pressures mount, their relationship begins to fray and readers will see just how the past and present influence their future.

Through alternating points of view between Samantha and Addie, readers are able to see the quirky characters that make up their diner family. But through the atmosphere built by Lampman, it is clear something ominous is on the horizon, especially after an unexpected letter arrives. The author has drawn not only the main characters well, but also the secondary characters, creating a well rounded meal on which to chew. Some of the best parts of this book involve food and those recipes are in the back of the book, and I loved the material about WWII polish immigrants like Addie’s grandparents.

The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman is a succulent dish served in the evening with wine and a good dose of humor.  Readers will have watering mouths as they work their way through this renaissance for Detroit, Addie, and Samantha.

RATING: Quatrain

GIVEAWAY:  U.S. residents age 18+ Enter by leaving a comment about this review and book by Oct. 31. Good Luck.

About the Author:

Peggy Lampman was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. After earning a bachelor’s degree in communications—summa cum laude—from the University of Michigan, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter and photographer for a public-relations firm. When she returned to Ann Arbor, her college town, she opened a specialty foods store, the Back Alley Gourmet. Years later, she sold the store and started writing a weekly food column for the Ann Arbor News and MLive. Lampman’s first novel, The Promise Kitchen, published in 2016, garnered several awards and accolades. She is married and has two children. She also writes the popular blog www.dinnerfeed.com.

Mistaken by Jessie Lewis

Source: Meryton Press
Ebook, 424 pgs.
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Mistaken by Jessie Lewis is a Pride & Prejudice variation that will take Mr. Bingley to task for his easy-going manners that allow others to influence his decisions and will demonstrate how mistaking another’s actions can lead to disaster.  Misunderstandings in Jane Austen are nothing readers are unused to by now, but Lewis amps up the miscues and the drama in her variation.

“Life was muted in her absence.” (from Mistaken)

Much of the story from Austen remains intact here and Lewis shows readers what may have happened behind Austen’s scenes.  She also engages Austen’s characters in new ways and creates her own subplots. What worked well was the main love story between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, and his demonstrable grief and her anger are tangible in Lewis’ deft hands.  Their romance is believable, despite the obstacles, and his fierce protection of Lizzy rings true.

“‘Cease hiding behind the Titan and admit it. You agreed with him.’

‘I did?’

‘Aye! He did not make you leave. You chose to do it.'” (from Mistaken)

However, in ramping up the misunderstandings, we see a side of Jane, Lizzy’s sister, that is less than pleasant as jealousy and resentment consume her to the point where her relationship with Lizzy appears altered forever. As Jane’s behavior dragged on and worsened to the point where this reader no longer liked her, it was hard to watch Lizzy deal with not only her new responsibilities, but also the absence of her best friend and sister and the repeated flirtations of men she had no interest in.  It read a little too much like a daytime drama in some instances, but the scenes where the ton are gossiping was exactly as readers would imagine it to be and demonstrates how fragile a woman’s reputation was in those times.

Mistaken by Jessie Lewis is unique in the number of misunderstandings that occur and how they are resolved in a series of puzzles that are laid out in pieces for the reader.  Lizzy is still headstrong and lively, but it is clear that this personality could get her in loads of trouble among upper society.  Readers of Pride & Prejudice will recognize various differences in their beloved characters, and the lack of resolution at the end for one plot may leave the door open for another part to come. Lewis’ novel is engaging and terrifying all at once, especially if you’ve grown attached to the Bennets and their new husbands.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

I’ve always loved words—reading them, writing them, and as my friends and family will wearily attest, speaking them. I dabbled in poetry during my angst-ridden teenage years, but it wasn’t until college that I truly came to comprehend the potency of the English language.

That appreciation materialised into something more tangible one dark wintry evening whilst I was making a papier-mâché Octonauts Gup-A (Google it—you’ll be impressed) for my son, and watching a rerun of Pride and Prejudice on TV. Fired up by the remembrance of Austen’s genius with words, I dug out my copy of the novel and in short order had been inspired to set my mind to writing in earnest. I began work on a Regency romance based on Austen’s timeless classic, and my debut novel Mistaken is the result.

The Regency period continues to fascinate me, and I spend a good deal of my time cavorting about there in my daydreams, imagining all manner of misadventures. The rest of the time I can be found at home in Hertfordshire, where I live with my husband, two children, and an out-of-tune piano. You can check out my musings on the absurdities of language and life on my blog, Life in Words, or you can drop me a line on Twitter, @JessieWriter or on my Facebook page, Jessie Lewis Author, or on Goodreads, Jessie Lewis.

Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams

Source: William Morrow
Hardcover, 384 pgs.
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Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams tells a twisted and dark tale reminiscent of Rebecca‘s Gothic nature and the secrets held back from the main character Virginia Fortescue — you may remember her sister, Sophie, from A Certain Age.  The narrative shifts between the early 1920s (Virginia’s present) and the Great War where as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross, she meets a charming doctor, Captain Simon Fitzwilliam.  Their relationship starts out as a friendship, but you can tell that there is a spark between them from the start — almost a magnetic pull.  Virginia, unfortunately, carries a great deal of baggage and has an inability to trust men because of her father and the death of her mother. Meanwhile, Simon is bent on protecting her by any means, including keeping secrets and telling lies.  Their relationship seems doomed from the beginning.

The pacing of this novel between the time lines, plus the additional twists and suspenseful moments, can leave the reader fatigued as they try to see through the lies and get at the truth.  Like Virginia, who is the main narrator, the readers is left wandering in a fog of lies with little light to guide them.  The relationship of Simon and Virginia is passionate, but the deeper connection they felt is so easily broken by the lies of others and the circumstances they cannot control.

Many years pass and the darkness has poisoned what was once between them.  It makes it difficult for the reader to have faith in the relationship at all given all that has happened and the inability to find even a little truth in the lies.  It’s like in all the years since WWI, Virginia remains that same naive girl who is easily lead astray.  Simon is a character who is hard to get a handle on because of Virginia’s inability to see who he truly is for nearly the entire novel.

What’s even more frustrating is the last third of the novel seems out of left field in places and overly dramatic (like a soap opera), which again may be related to the Gothic feeling of the novel.  Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams is enjoyable in many parts and definitely dramatic.  There is definitely a lot to discuss with a book club.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz Williams spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons, before her career as a writer took off. She lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore.

Find out more about Beatriz at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook; 14 CDs
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Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, narrated by Cassandra Campbell, Kathleen Gati, and Kathrin Kana — which was our September book club selection — is an expertly woven tale of Caroline Ferriday’s lilac girls, or the Ravensbrück rabbits, who were experimented on in a German WWII camp.  Ferriday, who was a real woman, is a socialite who soon realizes that her work with French nationals is more about helping others than it is about her social status, even as she falls for a married French actor and considers a different life for herself.  Told in alternate points of view — Ferriday, polish teen Kasia Kuzmerick, and a young ambitious German Dr. Herta Oberheuser — Kelly’s trifecta pushes readers deep into the emotional baggage of WWII and the relationships that carry each woman through.  Clearly well researched, Ferriday comes to life as a woman with little else to do but mourn her father and help those in need, while Kasia has a lot to learn even as she plunges headlong into the resistance to impress a boy.  Meanwhile, Herta — the most educated of the three — seems to have learned little compassion for others, instead remaining focused on how to get ahead as a medical professional, no matter the cost.

Even the German doctor appears sympathetic at first, until we see how camp life hardens her against humanity.  Kasia wears her camp damage on her at all times, pushing even her family away when it is clear she needs them most.  Meanwhile, Ferriday’s romantic troubles seem trivial in comparison, though it is clear they will push her into something that will become her life’s work — a search for justice for those who need it most.

It will be hard to look away from these women as they deal with the harsh experiments perpetrated by the Nazis, and they are set on their own paths and learn how best to move on with their lives after the war is over.  Kelly has lived with these women for some time, and it shows in her deeply dynamic characterization of the real-life Ferriday and Oberheuser; Kasia and her sister also are clearly based on real life accounts as their sisterly bond becomes a rock on which they can rely in even the toughest moments.  Even if you think you’ve read everything about WWII, this is not to be missed.

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, narrated by Cassandra Campbell, Kathleen Gati, and Kathrin Kana – is a harrowing look at guilt — misplaced or not — and the affects of bonds between siblings, mothers and daughters, and even strangers during wartime.  Nurturing supportive relationships with other women can ensure survival.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Martha Hall Kelly is a native New Englander who lives in Connecticut and Martha’s Vineyard. She worked as an advertising copywriter for many years, raised three wonderful children who are now mostly out of the nest and Lilac Girls is her first novel. She is hard at work on the prequel to Lilac Girls.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Annotated by Sophie Turner (Giveaway)

This is not precisely a review of Pride and Prejudice: A Novel. In Three Volumes. (Annotated and Restored to 1813 Egerton First Edition) by Jane Austen and Sophie Turner, as much as it is a look at why this revised edition was created. I’ve read this novel more times than any other, and because I do love it so much, I wanted to take a look at what Sophie Turner found in her endeavor to return the novel as close to Jane Austen’s original as possible. As grammar rules as we know them today were not as established when Austen wrote, there is a sort of free flow with her use of grammar and words.

This is particularly of interest, as the examples cited by Turner indicate how well placed Austen’s commas are in an effort to create a distinct voice for her characters. I also loved that the exclamation points we often think of as part of Mrs. Bennet’s character are not as plentiful as one would assume. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through this novel again, as well as Turner’s annotations. As an editor, I’m obviously fascinated with the choices that novelists make in word choice and punctuation.

Check out Pride and Prejudice: A Novel. In Three Volumes. (Annotated and Restored to 1813 Egerton First Edition) by Jane Austen and Sophie Turner to find Austen’s more authentic voice.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Book:

The novel needs no introduction. But readers may not have realised that we have been losing “Pride and Prejudice” over the years, particularly digitally. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation have eroded significantly from the 1813 Egerton first edition, and many digital copies suffer from poor formatting.

In 2017, the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, her “darling Child” has been painstakingly restored to the three-volume 1813 first edition. Adjustments have only been made where there were errors in the 1813 text, and are noted in detailed annotations at the end of the novel.

Please enjoy this beloved story, restored to Jane Austen’s original voice.

About the Sophie Turner:

Sophie Turner worked as an online editor before delving even more fully into the tech world. Writing, researching the Regency era, and occasionally dreaming about living in Britain are her escapes from her day job.

She was afraid of long series until she ventured upon Patrick O’Brian’s 20-book Aubrey-Maturin masterpiece, something she might have repeated five times through.

Alas, her Constant Love series is only planned to be seven books right now, and consists of A Constant Love, A Change of Legacies, and the in-progress A Season Lost.

She blogs about her writing endeavours at sophie-turner-acl.blogspot.com, where readers can find direction for the various social drawing-rooms across the Internet where she may be called upon. Visit her: Facebook, Twitter, Sophie Turner’s Blog, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Amazon.

International Giveaway:

To enter, leave a comment about why you’d like to read this new ebook edition of Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, annotated by Sophie Turner.  Enter by Sept. 15, 2017, 8 p.m. EST.

Good Luck, everyone.

To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts by Caitlin Hamilton Summie

Source: the author
Paperback, 216 pgs.
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To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts by Caitlin Hamilton Summie is a collection of short stories pregnant with emotion as characters deal with grief in a variety of ways.  From the WWII homefront to New York, Summie’s characters have experienced deep loss, whether it is the loss of a child or the loss of a father to war.  Grief comes in many forms, but its effects can be devastating, leaving you with a sense of hopelessness and emptiness.

“My father seemed vague and shadowy to me already.  I didn’t think I could lose him any more than I had, but I saw those tags, and touched them, and they were hard and smooth and warm from Jimmy’s constant agitation of them, and I knew this: that I could lose my father completely…” (pg. 14, “Tags”)

Summie has a deep sense of how grief can turn into inaction, reaction, and withdrawal.  She writes from a variety of perspectives, a young boy waiting for his father to return from war, a brother who has removed himself from his family, sisters who have grown apart after the death of a grandfather, and so many more.  These perspectives call to mind the universality of grief and how it impacts us all.  Lest you believe this collection of short stories is too depressing, it is not.

Summie offers characters a glimmer of hope, a moment of clarity, and a way through the grief.  We all struggle with loss, but we all must find a way to move on.  Through this collection, we find the solutions are not always the same, but the journey through grief is often possible with a little will and strength — either from within or through the help of others.

“February rolled in with a storm.  The snow came, and it hung in the air like a bad mood.” (pg. 99, “Patchwork”)

“We leaned against one another, against the pressure of what was coming as slowly and stealthily as that snow, wild in the wind outside yet silent.” (pg. 120, “Geographies of the Heart”)

Summie’s imagery is phenomenal; readers will be swept into the snowy landscapes, heavy with drifts.  Like the grief these characters experience, the snow weighs them down.  It’s devastatingly beautiful and poetic.  To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts by Caitlin Hamilton Summie is gorgeous in every word.  These stories remind us, “‘The grief never leaves. You just have to learn how to carry it.'” (pg. 199, “Taking Root”)

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Caitlin Hamilton Summie earned an MFA with Distinction from Colorado State University, and her short stories have been published in Beloit Fiction Journal, Wisconsin Review, Puerto del Sol, Mud Season Review, and Long Story, Short. Her first book, a short story collection called TO LAY TO REST OUR GHOSTS, was published in August by Fomite. She spent many years in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Colorado before settling with her family in Knoxville, Tennessee. She co-owns the book marketing firm, Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity, founded in 2003.  Discussion questions.

2017 New Authors Reading Challenge

The Inseparable Mr. and Mrs. Darcy by Jennifer Joy (Audio)

Source: the author
Audible, 9+ hrs.
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The Inseparable Mr. and Mrs. Darcy by Jennifer Joy, narrated by Nancy Peterson, takes place after the first two in this mystery series, and I would recommend reading these books in order. I love Joy’s turn of plot and her characterizations of Mr. Darcy and Lizzy Bennet. As grief appears to weigh very heavily on Mr. Bennet, Lizzy and Darcy must navigate their engagement and desire for a quick union. A secret correspondence is discovered, and Lizzy is concerned about the influence of her sister on Miss Darcy, who is taken with the cute pup Lydia has adopted.

But is her father merely ill with grief, is Mr. Collins plotting to gain his inheritance earlier, and is Lydia planning to tie her matrimonial fortunes to Miss Darcy?  Joy is adept at creating successful mysteries in this time period, while adhering to social norms and bending them slightly.  After solving several murders in Meryton, it would seem that Darcy and Elizabeth would never be separated by the likes of Lady Catherine. The intrigues are intricate, but the love between these main characters are never lost in the shuffle.

Elizabeth grows ever concerned about her father’s health, but when it appears to be more, she worries that someone has become incredible desperate because murder or attempted-murder has to be an act of desperation.  The Inseparable Mr. and Mrs. Darcy by Jennifer Joy, narrated by Nancy Peterson, is a wonderful diversion in the Regency era with two of the best classic characters created.  Joy’s mysteries are often very surprising in one way or another, which can be a breath of fresh air for people who can easily discern the perpetrator ahead of time.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

When Jennifer isn’t busy dreaming up new adventures for her favorite characters, she is teaching English, reading, perfecting her doughnut recipe, or going to the park with her family. She currently lives in Ecuador with her husband and 2 beautiful kids. All of them are fluent in Spanglish. Visit her Website.