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Stranger Than Life 1970-2013 Cartoons and Comics by M.K. Brown

Source: Gift
Paperback, 248 pgs.
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Stranger Than Life 1970-2013 Cartoons and Comics by M.K. Brown begins with an introduction checklist of what makes a good cartoonist from Bill Griffith and a note from M.K. Brown. She says that there must be a spirit of “drawing without fear,” and when looking through this coffee table must-have, you can see fear plays no role in her cartoons or comics. Beginning in the 1970s, we see how Brown’s drawings (black-and-white, mostly) began and there is a bit of truth in these: that table you keep tripping over (Tripping Table) to the “Egg Solid Sandwich.” The ordinary people in her cartoons bring to life the squabbles of married couples, even those just starting out. From “housepeople” to people at work, it is clear that she has a keen sense of humor.

I love that Brown also provides some insight into what she was thinking when she created certain cartoons or comics, like listening to the Bee Gees or providing water to a thirsty grasshopper rescued from the drapes inside the house on a summer day. Even her inspirations are whimsical and funny. Imagine taking a grasshopper outside and giving it water when it fails to stand up on a succulent leaf. It takes a great deal of observation skills deduce the needs of a grasshopper, as it does to create witty cartoons about science and technology, particularly when a lot of the new stuff is hard to understand. Some of my favorites stem from those interminable waits on customer service lines.

Brown even takes some of the oldest gags and makes them sharp, like “you remind me of my mother” or those obvious questions you hear at cocktail hours, like “what do you do for a living?” Stranger Than Life 1970-2013 Cartoons and Comics by M.K. Brown has a bit of everything in it for those looking for well told, humorous stories of romance to those who just love a good pun. Highly recommended for a good laugh.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

M.K. Brown grew up in Darien, Connecticut and New Brunswick, Canada. Her cartoons have been in all sorts of publications, above- and under-ground. She is naturally a bit selfish, maybe a little self-conscious, and self-centered, yet has an enlightened self-interest and a healthy curiosity about any new technology which happens to coincide with her trajectory at the time. She lives in northern California and her cartoons are about that process.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

The Nightlife by Elise Paschen

Source: Mary Bisbee-Beek
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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The Nightlife by Elise Paschen is a collection of poems that blurs reality, dreams, and fantasies in a way that requires to reader to parse out the truth from between the lines.  It’s a collection into which the reader will likely stumble into the darkness of an abused woman’s life and fail to leave or fall into the bed of an adulterer, only to take the misplaced shame of faulty perception with them.  “Picnic Triptych” illustrates these blurred lines very well in which the reader is introduced to the “Small Brown Notebook” in which a tall man is found — a stalker of sorts.  Is the narrator dreaming of an encounter with this man, who resembles an artist in a painting by Manet, or is this something more?

Like Manet, Paschen is building an impressionist painting with words: verse by verse, page by page.  Night can make the world a bit more mysterious, and it can encourage the mind to conjure dangers from nothingness, a mind playing tricks on the narrator or the reader, sometimes both.  Like in “Of Mice,” where the narrator and the reader must “fear the carving knife” of “the farmer’s wife”, placing ourselves in the position of the mice — an older nursery rhyme — only to have our world upended and the mice are really escaped prisoners tunneling through the earth toward their own freedom.  Or are we all of these things, trapped inside our own prisons and eager for escape, with only fear keeping us huddled inside?

From “Of Mice” (pg. 32)

the penitentiary.
We lock all doors,
and, when the wind

hurtles umbrellas
against the deck,
we hide.

Paschen’s poems are riddles inside of riddles, dreams and nightmares wrapped inside wonderfully painted landscapes and portraits.  The Nightlife by Elise Paschen should not be missed; it is full of word artistry and surprises.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

Poet and editor Elise Paschen was born and raised in Chicago. She earned a BA at Harvard University, where she won the Lloyd McKim Garrison Medal and the Joan Grey Untermeyer Poetry Prize, and went on to receive a PhD in 20th century British and American Literature at Oxford University with a dissertation on the manuscripts of poet William Butler Yeats. During her time at Oxford she also co-founded Oxford Poetry.

Dark Lady: A Novel of Emilia Bassano Lanyer by Charlene Ball

Source: Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity
Paperback, 300 pgs.
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Dark Lady by Charlene Ball is a fictional account of Emilia Bassano’s life in the late 1500s. She is rumored to be the “dark lady” in Shakespeare’s sonnets and is considered the first professional female poet. Ball has taken a format that resembles journal entries in that they jump forward in time, but the narrative is not told in the first person. She was a young woman who was sent to live with the Countess of Kent at a young age and much of her family were musicians at court. She often felt held back by the social norms in which women were passed about as property and often judged as fallen or bad women just based on appearances. Many of her actions seem haphazard and naive, which is to be expected for a girl sent away from her home at a young age.

“It was a day of sun and white waves on the water that curled around the prow of the boat. Emilia moved closer to Lord Hunsdon, wrapped in his cloak against the chill of the morning. Earlier the sky had been soft pearl gray, and now it was streaked with scarlet, purple, and deep crimson.” (pg. 13)

“Emilia made a face. ‘Don’t bring raw noses into my parlor, I beg you.’

‘And should I leave my poor nose at the door waiting in the cold? Shivering, dripping, unkerchiefed?'” (pg. 87)

Ball infuses Bassano’s tale with beauty and darkness, but there also is humor. Despite the tragedies in her life, Bassano strives to take her fate in her own hands. She meets a young playwright named Shakespeare, a man who wants to be a professional poet with a patron, but his works and his carefree attitude capture her attention away from a lord who has protected her when she needed it most. She is torn between her gratitude for the man who has protected her all this time, despite his own marriage and family, and the passion she knows lies beneath the disguises of a married player. The interactions between Bassano and Shakespeare are eerily familiar to those in the movie “Shakespeare in Love,” at least in terms of the cross-dressing and cloak-and-dagger tactics Bassano and Shakespeare engage in.

Dark Lady by Charlene Ball looks at the life of one female artist in a time when men dominated society and women were pawns. While she was strong in many ways, it was clear that she was still a victim of her own naivete and her inability to protect herself from situations that could harm her. Readers may find that the format and style keeps them at a distance from the main character as the story unfolds, but she certainly led an interesting life full of colorful people.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Charlene Ball holds a PhD in comparative literature and has taught English and women’s studies at colleges and universities. Although she has written nonfiction, reviews, and academic articles, writing fiction has always been her first love. She has published fiction and nonfiction in The North Atlantic Review, Concho River Review, The NWSA Journal, and other journals. She has reviewed theater and written articles on the arts for Atlanta papers. She is a Fellow of the Hambidge Center for the Arts and held a residency at the Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico. She attends fiction workshops by Carol Lee Lorenzo, and she belongs to a writers’ group that she helped found. She retired from the Women’s Studies Institute (now the Institute for Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies) at Georgia State University in 2009 and has been busier than ever with writing and bookselling. She also volunteers with her congregation and other social justice groups. She and her wife, Libby Ware, an author and bookseller, were married in May 2016.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

Modern Persuasion by Sara Marks

Source: Giveaway Win
Kindle, 220 pgs.
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Modern Persuasion by Sara Marks is a novel in which Emma Shaw passes up the love of Frederick Wentworth and his marriage proposal at college graduation in favor of returning to New York City for a career in publishing. During their time apart, they have both built solid careers — hers in publishing and his in Hollywood.

“Rationality won over love.”

Eight years later, her reputation as the “queen of book tours” proceeds her and Frederick Wentworth has little choice but to let her take the lead when his own editor goes down in a scuffle.  The multi-city book tour across the country should be the perfect opportunity for two professionals to get over their losses eight years ago and declare a truce, but even as the sparks start again, each has reason to push them aside and embrace anger and depression instead.  Will Emma and Freddie ever learn to move beyond the hurt of the past and rekindle their love?

Marks’ re-imagining of Jane Austen’s Persuasion is outrageous in some places given the characters she develops.  Their backgrounds in Hollywood make some of them eccentric, while others with their basis in Austen’s novel were modified to meet the modern setting.  The scenes at PubCon (which is pretty close to what some Book Expo America stints have been like) were pretty hectic, but very close to the truth.

Although the scuffle taking Freddie’s editor out of the picture seemed a bit much, a device was needed to throw him and Emma together.  Readers will note that there is quite a bit of telling rather than showing through description and dialogue, which puts the reader at a distance for a good portion of the book.  Modern Persuasion by Sara Marks ends up being a delightful read about overcoming grief of more than one kind, rekindling lasting affection and love, and chasing dreams that are bigger than you expect.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Sara Marks is an author, knitter, Wikipedian, and librarian from Massachusetts. Born in Boston, her family move to Miami, Florida when she was 3. There she spent the next 14 years of her life. She attended Florida State University for 3 years, but graduated with an A.A from Miami Dade College and a B.A. from Florida International University before moving back to Boston for graduate school. She hasn’t left Massachusetts since (except to visit people and places in the world). Now, over fifteen years later and over 10 years of participating in National Novel Writing Month, she is releasing her first novel, Modern Persuasion, with Illuminated Myth Publishing. Sara works with local writing group Mill Pages, which creates an annual anthology of short stories, poems, and art work. She is a member of the Society of Independent Publishers and Authors (SIPA), a group supporting writers in the Merrimack Valley.When she isn’t writing, Sara is an academic librarian at University of Massachusetts Lowell. She has a masters degree in library science and another in Communications. She is an active Wikipedian who has been editing Wikipedia for over 10 years. She spent 6 years as a member of Toastmasters International where she twice earned the status of Distinguished Toastmaster, the highest status members can achieve. She is one of the local organizers for National Novel Writing Month. She is an avid knitter who designs and publishes her own patterns. She love unicorns, Paris, and the color purple.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

Prejudice Meets Pride by Rachel Anderson (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audio, 7+ hours
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Prejudice Meets Pride (Meet Your Match, Book 1) by Rachel Anderson, narrated by Laura Princiotta, is a charming contemporary romance with only the title overtly linking it to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.  Like Austen’s work, there are a number of preconceived and poor first impressions, as well as misunderstandings, between Emma Makie and Kevin Grantham. Grantham comes from a wealthy and politically active family, and much of his adult life has been spent pursuing his career dreams and dating women he thinks need to meet a list of criteria before his mother and father will accept them. Emma is an artist who is thrust into an unfamiliar situation when she begins caring for her two, adorable and precocious nieces for her brother who is on a job out of state. Searching for a job to support herself and the girls is tough when she learns that there are not art teaching jobs to be had and she quickly runs up her credit card bills. With few skills to recommend her and very little money, Emma grudgingly accepts help from a select few neighbors, but Kevin isn’t one of them.

They immediately allow their perceptions of one another lead them down a path where they trade barbs and continue to stop around in frustration. Emma may have carved out her own life and paid her way through college without student loan or grant money, but her proclivity to spit in the face of those helping her can be wearying. Kevin, however, realizes his faults pretty early on and tries to navigate the maze that is Emma. Readers will fall in love with Emma’s nieces, and smile at Emma’s beyond-her-years abilities to redirect them and ensure they are as happy as they can be in the new town and rundown family home Emma and her brother inherited.

Prejudice Meets Pride (Meet Your Match, Book 1) by Rachel Anderson, narrated by Laura Princiotta, is a cute story about learning to see past your own perceptions to see the real person beneath, learning to trust and love along the way.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

A USA Today bestselling author of clean romance, Rachael Anderson is the mother of four and is pretty good at breaking up fights, or at least sending guilty parties to their rooms. She can’t sing, doesn’t dance, and despises tragedies. But she recently figured out how yeast works and can now make homemade bread, which she is really good at eating.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 11+ hours
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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, narrated by Bahni Turpin, is a young adult novel examining not only racism, but also life as a 16-year-old girl, Starr Carter, after witnessing the murder of her childhood friend Khalil by a police officer. (there’s a read-a-long at Book Bloggers International, if you’re interested) Following the death of Khalil, his murder is viewed not as the life of an unarmed teen who will never graduate high school or go to college but as the death of a drug dealer and a gang banger. Starr is forced to re-live those moments beside him as a unprovoked traffic stop turns into something tragic. Along the way, this young woman realizes that not only has she abandoned her old friends for the new ones at her suburban prep school, but that she has a voice that should be heard — loud and clear.

She also has to come to terms with where she comes from in Garden Heights — “the ghetto” — to where she wants to be as an educated woman capable of making her own life choices. Her double life comes to a head as she must reconcile the two halves of her identity — Starr Carter and Williamson Starr — to emerge on the other side of tragedy as a confident young lady. Starr also needs to stop placing labels on herself, all of her friends, and especially her white boyfriend, Chris — who let’s face it is mature beyond his years if he can refrain from sex and let her cry on his shoulders instead.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, narrated by Bahni Turpin, is a multi-layered novel about racism, poverty, justice, and healing. Starr and all of us need to review our own prejudices to see where justice can be had and how to bring together communities for the right reasons, not the wrong ones. Another one for the Best of List this year.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She can also still rap if needed. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Meyers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was acquired by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a 13-house auction and will be published in spring 2017. Film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 with George Tillman attached to direct and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg set to star.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

Conceit & Concealment by Abigail Reynolds

Source: the author
ebook, 354 pgs.
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Conceit & Concealment by Abigail Reynolds is Pride & Prejudice set in an alternate history in which Napoleon successfully invaded England. It has been six years since the invasion, and it is clear that England has not succumbed to foreign rule quite yet. When Elizabeth Bennet meets Fitzwilliam Darcy for the first time, she is told he is a French sympathizer. Although not like other wealthy men who have struck deals with the occupying rulers, Darcy faces Lizzy’s condemnation, even as she finds his company pleasant.  The French in charge of Meryton are less than civil, with one commander making illicit passes at the Bennet sisters, forcing one into hiding.

Even as Wickham lurks among the French soldiers, Darcy is unphased by his presence because he has more conflicting emotions to deal with.  He’s slipped in his conversations with Lizzy, and he’s even allowed Georgiana to spend time with her and her sister, Jane.  It’s been a long road of protecting his sister from harm, but all could come apart if he continues to trust Lizzy with his secrets.  Too much hangs in the balance for Georgiana and the fate of England.  When Darcy is no longer able to care for Georgiana, he is forced to make a leap of faith, one that could leave Lizzy’s reputation in tatters.

Reynolds’ latest novel is wildly creative and engaging — espionage, uprisings, and alternate history — that will leave readers on edge as beloved characters are arrested as traitors and subjected to torture at the hands of the French.  The secrets are swirling around Hertfordshire and London, and Darcy’s family is at the center of most of it.  Readers will have a hard time not reading into the wee hours of the night.  Conceit & Concealment by Abigail Reynolds is one of my favorites and highly recommended. Another for Best of list consideration.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Abigail Reynolds may be a nationally bestselling author and a physician, but she can’t follow a straight line with a ruler. Originally from upstate New York, she studied Russian and theater at Bryn Mawr College and marine biology at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. After a stint in performing arts administration, she decided to attend medical school, and took up writing as a hobby during her years as a physician in private practice.

A life-long lover of Jane Austen’s novels, Abigail began writing variations on Pride & Prejudice in 2001, then expanded her repertoire to include a series of novels set on her beloved Cape Cod.Her most recent releases are Conceit & Concealment, the national bestsellers Alone with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Darcy’s Noble Connections, and Mr. Darcy’s Journey. Her books have been translated into five languages. A lifetime member of JASNA, she lives on Cape Cod with her husband, her son and a menagerie of animals. Her hobbies do not include sleeping or cleaning her house.

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 479 pgs.
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Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum, which was the readalong selection for June at War Through the Generations, is a complex story in which Anna Schlemmer has kept her activities during WWII in Weimar secret, even from her daughter Trudy. Although Trudy was a young girl during the war, she remembers very little and what she does remember often comes to her in snatches of dreams and makes little sense. She’s tried to pry the past out of her mother ever since finding a portrait of herself, her mother, and a Nazi SS officer in her drawer at their farm in New Heidelberg, Minnesota.

“It is one of the great ironies of her mother’s life, thinks Trudy Swenson, that of all the places to which Anna could have emigrated, she has ended up in a town not unlike the one she left behind.” (pg. 73)

Blum’s novel shifts from the points of view of Anna and Trudy and shifts in time from WWII to the 1990s, where Trudy has begun a project to interview Germans about their time during the war, as her colleague strives to save the stories of Jews who escaped the Holocaust. But this story begins with a young girl looking to get out from under her father’s thumb in Germany, as war is beginning to seem more likely. Anna falls for a young man, and their relationship is doomed from the beginning. What transpires from that love affair onward takes Anna on a journey into darkness where she is alone and very aloof, even from the local baker, Mathilde Staudt, who agrees to take her in.

“It is as though Trudy has reached under a rock and touched something covered with slime. And now she is coated with it, always has been; it can’t be washed off; it comes from somewhere within.” (pg. 185)

Anna’s silence looms large over Trudy’s life, and it has foisted guilt upon her for a time she barely remembers and a man she suspects is her father. Her guilt is compounded by her mother’s unwillingness to talk about the past and the death of her stepfather, Jack – a former WWII soldier for America. Along the way, Trudy meets an older man who is half Jewish, Rainer, and she begins to see that her happiness does not have to be tied to the past.

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum explores generational guilt and the effects of war atrocities on those who did not commit them but were considered just as guilty as those with whom they associated. Blum’s research is impeccable and her understanding of the guilt and horror of the Holocaust and WWII emerges in the characterization of Anna, Trudy, and so many other secondary characters. Readers will be submerged alongside Anna as she struggles to survive for herself and her child, doing things she would prefer not to. She is forced to remain practical and to deal with any one she encounters with suspicion and caution, and when the past is on another continent she wants her daughter to leave it there. Although I would have preferred greater resolution between Anna and Trudy — whose relationship appears broken from the start of the novel — the ending does provide some hope. The novel carefully explores the question of whether we can love those who save us even as they commit the most heinous crimes and whether the past is best left where it is in order for happiness to be found.

RATING: Quatrain

Read the discussions:

About the Author:

New York Times and internationally bestselling author of novels THOSE WHO SAVE US (Harcourt, 2004) and THE STORMCHASERS (Dutton, May 2010) and the novella “The Lucky One” in GRAND CENTRAL (Berkeley/Penguin, July 2014). One of Oprah’s Top 30 Women Writers. Novel THE LOST FAMILY forthcoming from Harper Collins in Spring 2018.

Home No Home by Naoko Fujimoto

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 48 pgs.
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Home No Home by Naoko Fujimoto, which won the 2015 Oro Fino Chapbook Competition, has deep silences that activate the reader’s mind, which turns each moment over and over to make sense of the devastation. From the deadly tsunami in Fukushima to more subtle moments of broken lives, Fujimoto takes on a first-person narrative in these literary poems to draw readers into that sadness, that loss, that emptiness, the silence to render grief alive.

In “Japanese Apricot Wine,” we see a child left behind by a mother after a long illness, which is likely cancer, and we see the shadows of those last days through the eyes of the narrator. “I open her last bottle. The sweet/smell spreads in the room like a cloudy//green nebula” … “The half eaten apricot is//brown.//She leaves it behind.//” There is a glimmer of happiness in the beginning with a memory of making apricot wine in April, and her mother’s continued love for it even in hospice, but it is clear the narrator’s train of thought will be dragged into sadness until the reader becomes painstakingly aware that her mother is gone.

It is life as it is lived within these pages, and the first-person narratives bring that home in a way that is even more devastating. How do you reconcile the happiest moments, the homes you have with their ultimate loss. When a mother departs from this world, it can leave you unmoored. Do the happy memories serve to remind us of home or their loss? Like many things that would depend on perspective; how far are you from the moment of loss?

Home No Home by Naoko Fujimoto is a stunning chapbook of poems that will touch readers deeply. The poems in these pages will leave an indelible mark upon you, one that you should wear as a badge of honor.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Naoko Fujimoto was born and raised in Nagoya, Japan. She was an exchange student and received a B.A. and M.A. from Indiana University South Bend. “Home, No Home” is her first chapbook.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

The Darcy Monologues edited by Christina Boyd & Giveaway

Source: Christina Boyd
Paperback, 414 pgs.
Kindle, 415 pgs.
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The Darcy Monologues edited by Christina Boyd is a strong collection of 15 short stories set in modern times as well as regency. These stories get inside the head of Mr. Darcy during his tangled courtship of Elizabeth Bennet, and each begins with a quote from Pride & Prejudice that inspires the story. Some of my favorite authors for Pride & Prejudice variations are in this collection, including Janetta James, Joanna Starnes, and Beau North. There are some new favorites for me too, like J. Marie Croft for her witty teasing of Mr. Darcy by Col. Fitzwilliam in “From the Ashes;” and Natalie Richards’ portrayal of Darcy as a lawyer moving through the wild west and Elizabeth Bennet as a horsewoman in “Pemberley by Stage;” and the honorable Mr. Darcy in “The Ride Home” where he picks up Elizabeth after her date with Mr. Collins and she’s quite drunk. These authors are providing a glimpse into Darcy’s transformation (sometimes literal transformation) into a man worthy of Elizabeth Bennet’s love.

For those who love Pride & Prejudice and cannot get enough of the two main characters, this is a collection you’ll want to pick up right away. There was one or two stories in the collection that I was less than happy with — one felt like I was reading a synopsis of the story — but that can happen with any short story collection. The Darcy Monologues edited by Christina Boyd offers a look inside the evolution of Mr. Darcy from the taciturn man to one who has no choice but to express his feelings and come out of his shell to win the love of Elizabeth Bennet.

RATING: Quatrain

Exclusive to the tour, please welcome Ruth Phillips Oakland as she talks about why she loves Susan Adriani.

My Love Affair with Susan Adriani by Ruth Phillips Oakland

My love affair with Susan Adriani’s writing began nearly ten years ago, with the prologue of Affinity and Affection (which later became The Truth About Mr. Darcy.) At Netherfield, Mr. Darcy startles awake to find the object of his arousing dream sitting in the chair beside him. Darcy must battle his attraction, his arousal and his embarrassment, all while contributing to a painfully polite conversation with his alluring and observant nemesis. This delightful scene gives the perfect example of my favorite Mr. Darcy; intelligent, noble, and hopelessly in love. He is the straight man to Susan’s subtle wit. A beautiful duo. And there is so much more to admire in Susan’s writing besides her Mr. Darcy; her talent to craft plots, and her meticulous attention to historical accuracy capture my imagination and transport me to Regency England. From The Truth About Mr. Darcy to Darkness Falls Upon Pemberley to the numerous short stories I’ve read on-line, Susan not only entertains me, but I learn things too. How could I not become a fan?

Since that sparkling introduction to Susan’s work, we have met and become good friends, but to finally have the opportunity to have my work appear with hers in ‘The Darcy Monologues’ is truly an honor. I hope everyone will take the opportunity to immerse themselves in the beauty of Susan’s story ‘In Terms of Perfect Composure’ in The Darcy Monologues, as well as the other fourteen stories written by many of my favorite Austenesque authors.

Please give Susan Adriani a warm welcome for her first visit here at Savvy Verse & Wit. Let’s grab a cup of tea and have a chat.

Susan, can you begin by sharing with my readers a six-word memoir about yourself?

Mom first, artist second, writer third.

How did you come to be inspired by Miss Austen as both a woman and then, as a writer?

Jane Austen was a woman who, despite the challenges of her time, managed to accomplish something that not only inspired, but brought pleasure to countless people. She was raised in what was very clearly a man’s world, where ladies (in the truest sense of the word) were not permitted to make a living for themselves, or even a name. To work was unheard of. She lived as a lady, and wrote her stories to entertain her family, and was not only acknowledged for her talent, but celebrated. (The Prince Regent was one of her biggest fans.) Her becoming a novelist, whether her name was printed on the cover or not, was an incredible accomplishment.

I began writing JA inspired fiction because of my love of her novels, most especially Pride and Prejudice. After many, many, many readings, I thirsted for more. At the time, only a few writers were daring to ask, “What if…”; I never thought I would be one of them. Writing was something I’d always enjoyed, but I didn’t really do it. I was an artist by nature, and, also by profession. But what started out as a challenge to myself (surely, I could write a novel, too!), eventually became a pastime I truly loved. If my stories can bring enjoyment to even one person, then that is all I can ask for; that’s enough to make it worth my time.

Can you offer readers a brief description of your story and tell us why you chose to set your story in the Regency era?

In Terms of Perfect Composure’ is a story based on a “What if” premise. What if Darcy did not stay in London for ten days after Bingley and Jane were reunited, but was persuaded to return earlier, in time to interrupt Lady Catherine’s visit to Longbourn? In my story Lydia has not betrayed Mr. Darcy’s involvement in her wedding, so Elizabeth knows nothing of his generosity to her family.

I set my story in the regency era because it’s the era I most enjoy. There are certain rules to follow, and societal customs to acknowledge, which not only pose a challenge, but which I enjoy trying to work within.

This year we’re coming up on the 200th anniversary of the publications of “Persuasion,” and “Northanger Abbey.” What were you trying to capture in your story, (In Terms of Perfect Composure) of Jane Austen in The Darcy Monologues?

Whenever I write anything related to Pride and Prejudice, I like to include some of Jane Austen’s own lines scattered within, be they quotes by her characters, or observations made by herself. ‘In Terms of Perfect Composure’ begins with precisely that: “Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom does it happen that something isn’t a little disguised or a little mistaken.” I thought it could be something interesting, as Mr. Darcy abhors disguise of every sort, yet he does employ some deception when certain situations call for it. I can imagine, based on her writing and letters, that Jane Austen herself was not naïve to deception. She has a very good sense of it, and weaves it into many of her stories. Secret engagements, elopements, kept secrets, and ruinations of one sort or another fill her novels. But not every form of disguise ends in disappointment. Sometimes, as Darcy says, it really is, “done, and done for the best.”

The reactions to this upcoming release have been overwhelmingly positive from readers and I think that’s also in response to Mr. Darcy’s tremendous popularity throughout the past two centuries. Why do you believe that modern-day woman still find him so appealing?

I think Mr. Darcy represents an ideal. He is tall, and handsome, intelligent, and independent. He is loyal almost to a fault. Despite his mistaken pride and ill-conceived judgment, he is willing to take responsibility for his actions and right the wrongs he has committed. He is a man who is by no means perfect, but because he loves deeply enough, and steadfastly enough, he is willing to better himself. He not only becomes a man we can respect and admire, but one we eventually even come to love.

Did writing this story make you appreciate something about Jane Austen all over again?

Writing this story didn’t so much make me appreciate any one thing about Jane Austen more than any other, but I did realize something about myself. It’s been a few years now since I’ve written anything Austenesque, but even though so much time has passed, even though so many things have changed―even though I, myself happened to have changed―Jane Austen’s stories and characters continue to remain dear to me.

What can readers look forward to reading from you in the future and how can readers stay in touch with you?

I’m sorry to say I haven’t been actively writing any JA inspired stories; my focus has been on my family and writing an original novel for my very deserving, very patient twelve-year-old daughter. However, as many people know, I still have a full-length JA regency novel half-written: In Doubt of Mr. Darcy. It seems like a waste to just cast it aside indefinitely, so I do, absolutely, have plans to finish that up at some point in the future. Knowing how very persuasive Mr. Darcy can be, I may even write more.

Readers can connect with me at: https://www.facebook.com/sadrianiauthor/
or at my website: https://www.thetruthaboutmrdarcy.weebly.com

I am also designing book covers and have many Regency era covers for sale. You can contact me here to see my work and to contact me: http://www.cloudcat.com

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International Giveaway Information:

One winner will win the grand prize of 24 paperback books, each one autographed by the author, and mailed to the winner’s home.

The second winner will win their choice of either a Pride and Prejudice pocketbook or a Pride and Prejudice Kindle Fire Case with stand – Pride and Prejudice Book Cover Case for Amazon Kindle Fire 7″ and 6″ – Kindle Fire / Fire HD / Fire HDX tablet.

ENTER HERE!

GOOD LUCK, EVERYONE!

Seasons of Joy: Every Day Is for Outdoor Play by Claudia Marie Lenart

I had the pleasure of working with Claudia Marie Lenart to edit her children’s poetry book, Seasons of Joy: Every Day is for Outdoor Play, which was published by Loving Healing Press in April 2017.

Her needle-felted wool paintings are incredibly detailed and depict children at play in all kinds of weather.  Multi-cultural and joyous, these children become life-like characters that children will want to see and touch.  Each poem calls to mind the carefree days of childhood.  The games played and the imaginations running wild as the children romp and play with bunnies, birds, and in trees.

These pages are full of bright colors and fun games that kids can take with them into their own communities and neighborhoods.  Not only do the poems show children enjoying the company of others who look different from themselves, but it also shows how much fun sharing can be.

Pick up a copy and share with your kids, grandkids, and others in the community.  Get out there and play.

Dunkirk: The History Behind the Major Motion Picture by Joshua Levine

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 368 pgs.
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Dunkirk: The History Behind the Major Motion Picture by Joshua Levine, published by HarperCollins, begins with an interview between the author and film maker and director Christopher Nolan about the making of the Dunkirk film.  This serves as a preface to the overall story, which examines the societal and political atmosphere in the late 1930s. He also tackles the myth of Dunkirk and the so-called “Dunkirk Spirit” — what it meant to individual soldiers and how it mirrored or did not mirror the actual events of the biggest defeat and evacuation in WWII history.

“As they arrived back in Britain, most soldiers saw themselves as the wretched remnants of a trampled army.  Many felt ashamed.  But they were confounded by the unexpected public mood.  ‘We were put on a train and wherever we stopped,’ says a lieutenant of the Durham Light Infantry, ‘people came up with coffee and cigarettes.  We had evidence from this tremendous euphoria that we were heroes and had won some sort of victory.  Even though it was obvious that we had been thoroughly beaten.'” (pg. 27)

Levine draws parallels between the rise of youth culture in Britain, Germany, and the United States, but unlike the United States where the culture was freer, British youth culture was slightly more constrained.  In Germany, the Nazis used the rise of the youth to create a generation with a nationalist fervor through brainwashing.

Levine chronicles battles in the early days where the French military is woefully unprepared for the cunning of the German army.  He highlights the use of small groups of German soldiers who made it possible for the Panzer tanks to cross into French regions to the surprise of many.  Meanwhile, Britain remained in political turmoil until Churchill was named as Chamberlain’s replacement as Prime Minister, and even then, many began to fear that Britain would lose the war.

Dunkirk: The History Behind the Major Motion Picture by Joshua Levine is more than a recounting of a great defeat or an effort of survival, it is a look at the war from the perspective of the soldiers, politicians, and common people engaged in it.  The anecdotes and stories from these soldiers and others bring to life the war, particularly the lack of communication and the naivete of those who joined up seeking adventure.  Reality can certainly be a painful experience.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Joshua Levine has written six bestselling histories including titles in the hugely popular ‘Forgotten Voices’ series. ‘Beauty and Atrocity’, his account of the Irish Troubles, was nominated for the Writers’ Guild Book of the Year award. ‘On a Wing and a Prayer’, his history of the pilots of the First World War, has been turned into a major British television documentary. He has written and presented a number of programmes for BBC Radio 4. In a previous life, he was a criminal barrister. He lives in London.

Find out more about Joshua at his website, and connect with him on Twitter.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017