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Mailbox Monday #605

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

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

Here’s what we received:

1932 by Karen M. Cox, purchased from Audible.

During the upheaval of the Great Depression, Elizabeth Bennet’s life is torn asunder. Her family’s relocation from the bustle of the big city to a quiet family farm has changed her future, and now, she must build a new life in rural Meryton, Kentucky.

William Darcy suffered family turmoil of his own, but he has settled into a peaceful life at Pemberley, the largest farm in the county. Single, rich, and seemingly content, he remains aloof—immune to any woman’s charms.

Until Elizabeth Bennet moves to town.

As Darcy begins to yearn for something he knows is missing, Elizabeth’s circumstances become more dire. Can the two put aside their pride and prejudices long enough to find their way to each other?

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey, purchased from Audible.

I’ve been in this life for 50 years, been trying to work out its riddle for 42, and been keeping diaries of clues to that riddle for the last 35. Notes about successes and failures, joys and sorrows, things that made me marvel, and things that made me laugh out loud. How to be fair. How to have less stress. How to have fun. How to hurt people less. How to get hurt less. How to be a good man. How to have meaning in life. How to be more me.

Recently, I worked up the courage to sit down with those diaries. I found stories I experienced, lessons I learned and forgot, poems, prayers, prescriptions, beliefs about what matters, some great photographs, and a whole bunch of bumper stickers. I found a reliable theme, an approach to living that gave me more satisfaction, at the time, and still: If you know how, and when, to deal with life’s challenges – how to get relative with the inevitable – you can enjoy a state of success I call “catching greenlights”. So I took a one-way ticket to the desert and wrote this book: an album, a record, a story of my life so far. This is 50 years of my sights and seens, felts and figured-outs, cools and shamefuls. Graces, truths, and beauties of brutality. Getting away withs, getting caughts, and getting wets while trying to dance between the raindrops. Hopefully, it’s medicine that tastes good, a couple of aspirin instead of the infirmary, a spaceship to Mars without needing your pilot’s license, going to church without having to be born again, and laughing through the tears. It’s a love letter. To life. It’s also a guide to catching more greenlights – and to realizing that the yellows and reds eventually turn green, too. Good luck.

Cold Moon: On Life, Love, and Responsibility by Roger Rosenblatt, borrowed.

The Cold Moon occurs in late December, auguring the arrival of the winter solstice. Approaching the winter solstice of his own life, Roger Rosenblatt offers a book dedicated to the three most important lessons he has learned over his many years: an appreciation of being alive, a recognition of the gift and power of love, and the necessity of exercising responsibility toward one another. In a rough-and-tumble journey that moves like the sea, Rosenblatt rolls from elegy to comedy, distilling a lifetime of great tales and moments into a tonic for these perilous and fearful times. Cold Moon: a book to offer purpose, to focus the attention on life’s essentials, and to lift the spirit.​

Now We’re Getting Somewhere by Kim Addonizio for review.

An essential companion to your practice of the Finnish art of kal-sarikännit—drinking at home, alone in your underwear, with no intention of going out—Now We’re Getting Somewhere charts a hazardous course through heartache, climate change, dental work, Dorothy Parker, John Keats, Outlander, semiotics, and more. The poems are sometimes confessional, sometimes philosophical, weaving from desolation to drollery. A poet whose “voice lifts from the page, alive and biting” (San Francisco Book Review), Kim Addonizio reminds her reader, “If you think nothing and no one can / listen I love you joy is coming.”

Made to Explode by Sandra Beasley for review.

In her fourth collection, acclaimed poet Sandra Beasley interrogates the landscapes of her life in decisive, fearless, and precise poems that fuse intimacy and intensity. She probes memories of growing up in Virginia, in Thomas Jefferson’s shadow, where liberal affluence obscured and perpetuated racist aggressions, but where the poet was simultaneously steeped in the cultural traditions of the American South. Her home in Washington, DC, inspires prose poems documenting and critiquing our capital’s institutions and monuments.

In these poems, Ruth Bader Ginsberg shows up at the Folger Shakespeare Theatre’s show of Kiss Me Kate; Albert Einstein is memorialized on Constitution Avenue, yet was denied clearance for the Manhattan Project; as temperatures cool, a rain of spiders drops from the dome of the Jefferson Memorial. A stirring suite explores Beasley’s affiliation with the disability community and her frustration with the ways society codes disability as inferiority.

Quintessentially American and painfully timely, these poems examine legacies of racism and whiteness, the shadow of monuments to a world we are unmaking, and the privileges the poet is working to untangle. Made to Explode boldly reckons with Beasley’s roots and seeks out resonance in society writ large.

Space Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition: A Tour of Our Solar System and Beyond published by National Geographic Kids for review.

The updated and expanded edition of the hit Space Encyclopedia presents the most up-to-date findings on space exploration and research and breathtaking views of the universe, as captured by the latest and greatest technology, including the recent first ever image of a black hole. This complete reference contains everything kids need to know about our sun and planets including the new dwarf planets, the formation of the universe, space travel, the possibility of life beyond Earth, and more. Authored by David A. Aguilar, an internationally recognized astronomer and former Director of Science Information and Public Outreach at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, it is an authoritative and beautifully illustrated must-have for every family, providing both accessible information for school reports and compelling reading on the mysteries beyond our planet.

Nerdlet: Animals published by National Geographic Kids for review.

Sometimes big nerdiness comes in a small package–and this little book is an animal nerd’s dream! Meet animals of all kinds–from sharks and moles to orangutans and okapis– in this quirky, jam-packed original from National Geographic Kids. If you thought you were brainy, take a look at the incredible critters in this book. Inside, you’ll find a spider that spends its whole life in a bubble and birds that build nests so big, they’re like avian apartment complexes! (And we’re just getting started!) In this little animal “Nerdlet” you’ll learn about the weirdest, coolest, most amazing creatures in the animal kingdom–and what makes them so complex. Plus, you’ll have some of your most burning animal questions answered, such as What’s the deal with crocodile tears? And you’ll meet people who get to be around animals for a living and travel to animal destinations around the world. You’ll also find personality quizzes, fun facts, animal superheroes, and even a Star Wars reference … or two.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #604

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

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

Here’s what we received:

Elizabeth: Obstinate Headstrong Girl edited by Christina Boyd from Audible.

Each anthology in the Quill Collective series is a stand-alone book.“Obstinate, headstrong girl!” For over two hundred years, the heroine of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, Elizabeth Bennet has enchanted and inspired readers by being that “obstinate, headstrong girl” willing to stand up to the arrogance and snobbery of her so-called betters. Described by Austen as having a “lively, playful disposition,” Elizabeth embodies the perfect imperfections of strong-willed women everywhere: she is spirited, witty, clever, and loyal. In this romance anthology, ten Austenesque authors sketch Elizabeth’s character through a collection of re-imaginings, set in the Regency through contemporary times. In ELIZABETH: OBSTINATE, HEADSTRONG GIRL, she bares her most intimate thoughts, all the while offering biting social commentary about life’s absurdities. Elizabeth overcomes the obstacles of others’ opinions, not to mention her own flaws, to find a love truly worthy of her—her Mr. Darcy—all with humor and her sparkling charm. “I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print…” wrote Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra, January 1813―and we think so too! Foreword by NY Times & USA Today bestselling author Tessa Dare. Stories by: Elizabeth Adams, Christina Boyd, Karen M Cox, J. Marie Croft, Amy D’Orazio, Leigh Dreyer, Jenetta James, Christina Morland, Beau North, and Joana Starnes.

Drawing Mr. Darcy: Sketching His Character by Melanie Rachel from JAFF Writer/Reader Get Together goodie bag.

When Thomas Bennet’s childless aunt and uncle ask that one of his five daughters come to stay with them, he knows just which girl to send. Bright, energetic, and endlessly inquisitive, his little Lizzy is poised to become the apple of her father’s eye and the target of her mother’s fears. Neither will promote family harmony.

When she returns to Longbourn as a young woman, Elizabeth Bennet Russell has had an unconventional upbringing. She is in possession of an important name, a fine education, a good fortune, and a love of drawing. When her parents ask her not to use her Russell surname while she is home, she reluctantly agrees. After all, nobody she knows will meet her in Hertfordshire.

She’s mostly right.

Drawing helps Elizabeth to literally sketch people’s character, and she’s become rather good at it. But she’s about to face her greatest challenge yet. Netherfield Park is let at last, and her good friend’s much older brother–whom she has yet to meet–has arrived as a guest.

It will take Elizabeth more than a drawing to help her understand Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Surprise by Debra-Ann Kummoung from the JAFF Writer/Reader Get Together goodie bag.

Mr. Darcy is grieving and a young lady is desperate to cheer him.

Can Elizabeth Bennet help Mr. Darcy with the assistance of friends and a puppy in time for Christmas?

Previously released as part of Most Ardently – A Jane Austen Inspired Christmas Anthology.

The Long Road to Longbourn by Renata McMann and Summer Hanford from the JAFF Writer/Reader Get Together goodie bag.

Fitzwilliam Darcy has nearly everything a gentleman could want. Looks, wealth, connections. He lacks but one aspect of a perfect life, a bride. He’s chosen Miss Elizabeth Bennet to fill the role but when he proposes, to his utmost chagrin, she refuses him in no uncertain terms. His heart stomped on by a country miss who is by no societal measure his equal, he can’t imagine a worse moment.

Elizabeth Bennet does not care for Mr. Darcy and his highhanded, supercilious ways and wants nothing more to do with him. She hopes, in view of her vehement refusal of his proposal, to never set eyes on him again. After all, a man with Mr. Darcy’s pride can hardly be expected to bear her company after the strong words she’s issued.

Fate, however, has more plans for Elizabeth and Darcy. The moment before they mean to separate forever, both are abducted and whisked away on a harrowing journey. To save themselves and return home, they must band together to surmount perils, overcome obstacles and decide whom to trust. Join Darcy and Elizabeth on their journey as they take the long road back to Longbourn… and to love.

From Ashes to Heiresses by Renata McMann and Summer Hanford from the JAFF Writer/Reader Get Together goodie bag.

With the rest of their family gone and their home destroyed, Elizabeth and Jane are taken in by their aunt and uncle in Meryton. Concerned about the two surviving Bennet sisters’ situation, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley come to Hertfordshire, but not before Mr. Wickham attempts to use the situation to his advantage.

What did you receive?

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (audio)

Source: Purchased

Audible, 11+ hours

I am an Amazon affiliate

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, narrated by Stephen Lang, is a ghost story from the beginning to the end, but Judas Coyne (formerly Justin Cowzynski) is an unlikable character with a penchant for collecting macabre items. This penchant is what gets him into a big mess — all of his sins come to roost as he battles the unseen man tied to a suit he buys online in a heart-shaped box. He has effectively retired from public life after his bandmates have either killed themselves or died, but little else has changed with his life — still moving from woman to woman and collecting oddities on the underground web.

Lang is a decent narrator no matter the character and he has the timbre to create a creepy atmosphere.

Jude and his latest woman (like all his women are called by their former state of residence) find that they are locked together in a battle against a ghostly man who is out for revenge. It’s clear this ghost hasn’t had a lot of practice with revenge from beyond the grave, but Jude gets some help from his former girlfriend who has been dead for some time. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, narrated by Stephen Lang, is a dark tale of beyond-the-grave revenge.

RATING: Quatrain

Mailbox Monday #601

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

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

Here’s what we received:

Mistaken by Jessie Lewis, purchased on Audible.

A tempestuous acquaintance and disastrous marriage proposal makes it unlikely Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet will ever reconcile. Despairing of their own reunion, they attend with great energy to salvaging that of Darcy’s friend Mr. Bingley and Elizabeth’s sister Jane. People are rarely so easily maneuvered in and out of love, however, they follow a series of misunderstandings, both willful and unwitting, that complicates all four star-crossed lovers’ alliances more than ever before.

A witty and romantic novel that delights in the folly of human nature and also honors Austen’s original Pride and Prejudice and holds appeal for listeners of all genres.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, purchased at Audible.

Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals…a used hangman’s noose…a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is widely known. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest discovery, a thing so terrible-strange, Jude can’t help but reach for his wallet.

I will sell my stepfather’s ghost to the highest bidder.

For a thousand dollars, Jude will become the proud owner of a dead man’s suit, said to be haunted by a restless spirit. He isn’t afraid. He has spent a lifetime coping with ghosts: of an abusive father, of the lovers he callously abandoned, of the bandmates he betrayed. What’s one more? But what UPS delivers to his door in a black heart-shaped box is no imaginary or metaphorical ghost. It’s the real thing.

And suddenly the suit’s previous owner is everywhere: behind the bedroom door…seated in Jude’s restored vintage Mustang…standing outside his window…staring out from his widescreen TV. Waiting – with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one hand.

What did you receive?

You Need a Budget by Jesse Mecham (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 5 hrs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

You Need a Budget by Jesse Mecham, narrated by the author, is a hard and fast look at budgeting. The first big takeaway for me was that budgets are not rigid tools, but are meant to be flexible. You can visit the website and signup for the software and more too.

Here are your four rules for budgeting:

  • Rule One: Give Every Dollar a Job.
  • Rule Two: Embrace Your True Expenses.
  • Rule Three: Roll With The Punches.
  • Rule Four: Age Your Money.

For couples, this means you have to also embrace the goals and expenses of yourself and your spouse and some goals and expenses may belong to both people in the relationship. No one goal or expense (that are necessary or desired expenses) supersede another.

The biggest rule for me that made me rethink budgeting is rule two because it shouldn’t just include the mortgage or the utilities and food, but also large, less-frequent expenses like holiday gifts, car repairs, etc. I need to break them into manageable, monthly “bills” that we assign dollars to — giving them a job.

One of the hardest lessons will be this: commit to the process of planning. You can stop timing bills to a specific paycheck — this is probably a foreign concept for many people, especially those not taught about finances. Much of what I’ve learned about finance is on the fly and with many failures. For couples, the biggest lesson will be communicating about spending on a regular basis, which can mean a monthly meeting.

One of the best parts of the book is the chapter on teaching children about money and how to talk to them about money without freaking them out. My one issue is that it talks about how he plans to not save for his kids’ college education and that he expects them not to take out student loans. I found this section a bit “pie in the sky” given the high cost of tuition in America. I did like the allowance portion of the book, however, because it enables kids to be kids and spend their money how they want and learn that they might have wanted to save that money they spent for something else. This turns into practical lessons.

You Need a Budget by Jesse Mecham is an intriguing listen with real-world examples of people paying off debts, learning how to budget as a couple, and more. But I think I would have preferred a print version that I could mark up. It’ hard to mark up and audio. Good thing there’s a website with free tools and more.

The Engagement Gift by Lauren Blakely (audio)

Source: Audible freebie
Audiobook, 2+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Engagement Gift by Laura Blakely, narrated by Elena Wolfe and Teddy Hamilton, is a short, erotic novella in which a young engaged woman debates in her head and with her friend whether she should ask her intended for a secret fantasy. Lily is adventurous in the bedroom and so is her fiance, Finn, but there’s one thing she struggles to ask her mate to do because it could ruin the intimacy they’ve created.

For me, this novella was steamy and erotic, but the characters felt a little flat and the relationship between Lily and Finn was one dimensional. I understood that they were hot for each other and obsessed with adventure in the bedroom, but it felt like that was all there was between these characters and for a marriage, I think you’d need more than that.

The Engagement Gift by Laura Blakely, narrated by Elena Wolfe and Teddy Hamilton, is a short read and I think that was part of the problem if you’re looking for character development. If you’re looking for a quick “romp in the hay,” however, this might be for you.

RATING: Epitaph

When Mary Met the Colonel by Victoria Kincaid (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 2+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

When Mary Met the Colonel by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is a delightful novella with a meet-cute between Mary Bennet and Colonel Fitzwilliam at the wedding breakfast of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy at Longbourn. Mary is considered the religious one, but what if there was a bit of rebel in her too? Perhaps she’s more like Elizabeth than anyone suspects — she does do quite a bit of reading.

Zimmerman is always a delightful narrator and her inflections are fantastic. She makes the perfect match here as Mary’s voice, but even the men are narrated well. I expect nothing less.

Kincaid’s novella is short and sweet, and sadly that was the one drawback for me. I wanted to see more of them together and apart. I wanted more of the colonel in the battle scenes and more of his military mind explored on the battlefield. However, I did love the bits of impropriety here and thought that they worked out well. But once the cat is out of the bag, I suppose I expected a bit more “proper” response from Elizabeth and Darcy, but perhaps marriage has softened them.

Mary Bennet is full of surprises, and like her elder sister has a sharp mind and a bit of mischief in her. I was delighted to see a better side of Mary in this novella, and I loved that the Colonel could appreciate her. Their story is short and sweet, but there is no lack of tension when a lord comes to call at Matlock House and disrupts the whole will-they, won’t-they drama. This is the moment where having more would have helped the story line. I wanted to see how this Lord had become interested in Mary and what their interactions were like so when he arrives, I’m less surprised and confused by his sudden ardor.

When Mary Met the Colonel by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is a satisfying story for a young lady too often left in the background, but here, she is center stage and shines brightly, especially when she gets her happily ever after.

RATING Quatrain

See my other reviews.

The Institute by Stephen King (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 18+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Institute by Stephen King, narrated by Santino Fontana, is a really long listen and probably would have went much faster if I had read the print book or ebook, but the audio was enjoyable. Tim Jamieson is a young man on the road, seemingly aimlessly wandering after something tragic happened. He lands in DuPrey, South Carolina, as a night knocker. But his story is put on pause once he gets there and starts talking with the police department and settling into his life. (He’s clearly a plot device)

Shifting the story to the trail to The Institute, we’re introduced to genius boy, Luke Ellis. He is the latest child taken to The Institute, which has a room that looks just like Luke’s, except there is no window. Luke is unclear what has happened and why. He begins wandering the sterile halls where he sees kids like him but who smoke cigarettes and behaving oddly. He vaguely realizes he’s been kidnapped and begins to puzzle out what has happened and what is going on in The Institute. His high intelligence enables him to determine what is going on, but when Avery Dixon comes on the scene, the ball game changes and the scales tip in favor of the kids — the kids with telekinesis and telepathy.

Luke makes friends with those kids in Front Half — Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. But like those before them, they will “graduate” to Back Half where the real work begins. From the sinister Mrs. Sigsby to Trevor Stackhouse, there are men and women pulling the strings of the institute, but there is clearly a larger organization or group of people behind the scenes. Kids are punished and given tokens when they’re good — tokens they can be used for candy, food, cigarettes, and alcohol.

The Institute by Stephen King, narrated by Santino Fontana, is part dig at Trump and the administration and the wide reaching conspiracy theories that have been bandied about for decades about secret government groups controlling the world. The only twist is that King leans on previous work like the clairvoyance and the need to save the future in The Dead Zone and other work. This one seemed too long in places and in need of editing. I think the political commentary about the current administration, though it isn’t much in the greater scheme of things (though some can draw parallels if they look hard enough), could be grating to some looking for an escape.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Doctor Sleep and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

Other reviews can be found here.

Mailbox Monday #590

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

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

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

Here’s what we received:

You Need a Budget: The Proven System for Breaking the Paycheck-to-Paycheck Cycle, Getting out of Debt, and Living the Life You Want by Jesse Mecham, purchased from Audible.

For most people, budgeting conjures up the same feelings as, say, prison and dieting. But your initial instinct couldn’t be further from the truth. You just haven’t budgeted the right way.

You Need a Budget will teach you four simple rules to completely revolutionize the way you think about managing your money. With a budget, you’ll break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, get out of debt, and save more money. A liberating, enabling, empowering budget will actually make you feel more free, not more restricted. The YNAB philosophy is centered around these four rules:

Give every dollar a job. Take your cash, checking, and saving accounts and assign jobs to that money. Begin now with what you have on hand. Then follow your plan. Pick your priorities, and make sure your dollars are helping you move closer to the things you care about most.
Embrace your true expenses. Look ahead and identify the larger, less frequent expenses that tend to sneak up on you. Break those expenses into manageable monthly amounts. Consider insurance premiums, birthdays, holidays, charitable giving, car repairs, etc. This practice evens out your cash outflows, decreases your stress, and helps you make better decisions.
Roll with the punches. Accept the fact that life always changes and you’ll likely always go over budget somewhere. If an unexpected expense comes up and you need to change your budget, just change it. The YNAB philosophy not only tolerates changing your budget but encourages it.
Age your money. The goal of this rule is to increase the time between the moment you earn money and the moment you spend that money. In other words, if you’re going to break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, you need to learn to live on money you earned a month or two months or even three months ago.

YNAB’s four rules are the pillars of a tried-and-true system that gets you to engage with your money every day. It helps you change your behavior so that you’re proactive and in control of your finances. It’s not about stressing over last month’s statement; instead, you’re looking ahead and actively deciding how you want and need to build a life of meaning, not stress.

When Mary Met the Colonel by Victoria Kincaid, freebie from the author on Audible.

Without the beauty and wit of the older Bennet sisters or the liveliness of the younger, Mary is the Bennet sister most often overlooked.

She has resigned herself to a life of loneliness, alleviated only by music and the occasional book of military history. Colonel Fitzwilliam finds himself envying his friends who are marrying wonderful women while he only attracts empty-headed flirts.

He longs for a caring, well-informed woman who will see the man beneath the uniform. During the wedding breakfast for Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, a chance meeting in Longbourn’s garden kindles an attraction between Mary and the Colonel.

However, the Colonel cannot marry for love since he must wed an heiress. He returns to war, although Mary finds she cannot easily forget him. Is happily ever after possible after Mary meets the Colonel?

Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey, which I purchased from a Politics & Prose online event.

At age nineteen, Natasha Trethewey had her world turned upside down when her former stepfather shot and killed her mother. Grieving and still new to adulthood, she confronted the twin pulls of life and death in the aftermath of unimaginable trauma and now explores the way this experience lastingly shaped the artist she became.

With penetrating insight and a searing voice that moves from the wrenching to the elegiac, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Natasha Trethewey explores this profound experience of pain, loss, and grief as an entry point into understanding the tragic course of her mother’s life and the way her own life has been shaped by a legacy of fierce love and resilience. Moving through her mother’s history in the deeply segregated South and through her own girlhood as a “child of miscegenation” in Mississippi, Trethewey plumbs her sense of dislocation and displacement in the lead-up to the harrowing crime that took place on Memorial Drive in Atlanta in 1985.

Memorial Drive is a compelling and searching look at a shared human experience of sudden loss and absence but also a piercing glimpse at the enduring ripple effects of white racism and domestic abuse. Animated by unforgettable prose and inflected by a poet’s attention to language, this is a luminous, urgent, and visceral memoir from one of our most important contemporary writers and thinkers.

What did you receive?

Guest Post & Giveaway: Victoria Kincaid Shares Her New Audiobook Release, When Mary Met the Colonel

Please welcome back Victoria Kincaid to the blog today. She’s going to let us into the world of Mary Bennet and Colonel Fitzwilliam from When Mary Met the Colonel, a new audiobook with the fabulous narrator Stevie Zimmerman.

But first a bit about the book:

Without the beauty and wit of the older Bennet sisters or the liveliness of the younger, Mary is the Bennet sister most often overlooked.

She has resigned herself to a life of loneliness, alleviated only by music and the occasional book of military history. Colonel Fitzwilliam finds himself envying his friends who are marrying wonderful women while he only attracts empty-headed flirts.

He longs for a caring, well-informed woman who will see the man beneath the uniform. During the wedding breakfast for Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, a chance meeting in Longbourn’s garden kindles an attraction between Mary and the Colonel.

However, the Colonel cannot marry for love since he must wed an heiress. He returns to war, although Mary finds she cannot easily forget him. Is happily ever after possible after Mary meets the Colonel?

Please give Victoria a warm welcome and stay tuned for the giveaway:

Hello Serena and thank you for having me back to visit! I am very pleased to announce the release of my audiobook of When Mary Met the Colonel – a love story between Mary Bennet and Colonel Fitzwilliam. I’ve wanted to make an audio version of it for quite a while and was thrilled that the wonderful Stevie Zimmerman became available to narrate it. She does a lovely job! At the beginning of the book, the Colonel meets Mary in the Longbourn garden during Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding breakfast. The scene below takes place the next morning when the Colonel is having breakfast at Netherfield. I hope you enjoy it!

Here’s the excerpt:

All the things I could tell her about Ciudad Rodrigo….

“Colonel, are you feeling well?”

“Hmm?” Fitz looked up from his breakfast plate at Bingley. “Perfectly well, thank you.”

Why was Bingley inquiring?

“That was the third time I asked.” Bingley chuckled.

Fitz rubbed his forehead with one hand. “I apologize. I am not the best of guests. Perhaps I am overly tired.”

“Yesterday was a long day,” Mrs. Bingley said graciously as she poured him more tea. “I am certain Elizabeth and William were quite fatigued by the time they reached London, but they did not wish to delay their departure.”

Bingley smiled at his wife over the rim of his tea cup. “I believe most newly married couples prefer to be alone.”

Mrs. Bingley blushed but said nothing. Fitz had the sense of being outside in the cold, watching a family enjoying a warm Christmas dinner. Do not be bitter. You have a rewarding career, food, a roof over your head, and good friends and family. It is more than many have.
Somehow, such admonishments did not improve his spirits.

“I apologize that I could not secure a place in the post carriage for a departure today,” Fitz told his hosts. “It is very good of you to have me another day.”

“Think nothing of it!” Bingley responded. “We are quite pleased to have you visit. Darcy has mentioned you often, and I am happy to make your acquaintance at last.”

“And I you,” Fitz said. Bingley was quite an amiable fellow and seemed well-suited to his wife. Mrs. Bingley cut into her sausage. “Will you be going abroad again soon, Colonel?”

Fitz nodded. “I expect so.”

Bingley’s eyes lit with interest, but he said nothing. Fitz guessed that he preferred not to discuss the war in his wife’s presence.

She nodded. “My sister Lydia’s husband is in a Northern regiment. She expects he will be ordered abroad soon.”

Fitz said nothing. The Bingleys obviously did not know that he had helped secure Wickham’s commission, and Fitz had no desire to enlighten them. He sought a less fraught subject for the conversation. “How will your parents fare with only two daughters at home?”

Mrs. Bingley smiled gently. “It will be quite an alteration for them. Until recently, we were all five at home, and now three are gone within a short span of time. At least I am close here at Netherfield.”

“Have any of your other sisters formed attachments?” He cleared his throat, unsure why his voice cracked when he asked such an innocuous question.

“None that I am yet aware of,” she responded. “But Kitty is always out and meeting new people. Mary is more retiring.”

Fitz frowned. Why did nobody give Mary the credit she deserved? “I had a very pleasant conversation with Miss Bennet yesterday.”

Bingley’s eyebrows shot up. “Miss Mary Bennet? Are you sure?”

“Indeed, I have no difficulty differentiating the two ladies,” Fitz said dryly. Mrs. Bingley hid a smile behind her napkin.

“Are you much interested in theology?” she inquired.

“No, we discussed—” Abruptly, Fitz remembered that Mary’s interest in military history was a secret. “Uh…history…and the events of the day. It seems she reads the papers a great deal.”

Mrs. Bingley’s eyes widened. “Indeed? I thought she only read Fordyce’s Sermons.”

How was it that even Miss Bennet’s own sister did not know of her true cleverness? The poor woman was even more sadly misunderstood than he had first thought.

He found himself wishing to speak with her again. Soon he would return to London where the women of the ton only discussed gossip and gloves or sought to please his vanity—when they deigned to notice a second son at all. How lovely it would be to have one more conversation
with a woman of intelligence before returning to such dreariness! But how could it be contrived?

He was scarcely acquainted with the Bennet family; calling upon them would surely bring him unwanted attention from Miss Kitty.

“Do you plan to visit Longbourn today, Mrs. Bingley?” he asked, hoping he sounded casual.

She set down her fork. “I should. Mama’s nerves will be in a state after the excitement yesterday.”

He vowed to discover some means to manage Kitty. “I would be happy to accompany you and thank your parents for their hospitality yesterday.”

“That would be very pleasant,” she responded. “Charles, shall you join us?”

“I believe I will.”

Fitz could not account for the sudden rapid beating of his heart.

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? I can’t wait to have a listen to this one.

Please leave a comment about your latest favorite read in the Jane Austen variation world? I’m looking for recommendations.

Entries for 1 audiobook will be accepted through July 31, 2020, at 11:59 p.m.

Resistance: A Songwriter’s Story of Hope, Change, and Courage by Tori Amos (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 8+ hrs.
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Resistance: A Songwriter’s Story of Hope, Change, and Courage by Tori Amos, a memoir of creativity read by the author, explores a variety of political climates through the lens of an adult. When Amos was playing piano bars in Washington, D.C., the hotbed of political machinations, at age 11 in the 1970s, she was likely not aware of the political situation as much as she is as an adult. She brings her knowledge of now when she looks back on those experiences, but what sticks with her was how a marginalized group took a chance on her young talent as a pianist to provide entertainment for the political elite. Growing up in music bars throughout the city and in hotels where lobbyists made their deals with politicians provided Amos with a window into the truth of our Republic. Young people learning about our government and its structure often have a naive view of how our country is run, and I can tell you from experience that it is devastating when you learn how deals are struck and powerful men always seem to have the upper hand even if the side they are on is clearly wrong and devastating.

I love the structure of this memoir and how Amos uses her song lyrics to discuss her inspiration, the process of creativity, and what aspects of the wider world helped fuel her muses. While some of the songs may seem only tangentially connected to the world affairs she connects with them, that’s the beauty of art. It grows beyond the original intent or words to paint a wider experience of the world around us and help us to see our part in that world.

While Amos’ creative process will not be something that everyone can ascribe to or understand, it is an intriguing journey that she’s made with her family and alone. She speaks about the death of her mother briefly, which must have been particularly devastating. But it is clear that her strength as an artist and women comes from her mother and the inspiration and direction she received from her.

Resistance: A Songwriter’s Story of Hope, Change, and Courage by Tori Amos is a memoir that I’ll remember for a very long time, and is definitely a step above compared to her first, Tori Amos: Piece by Piece. Each artist comes to their work in a different way, and while some may be excellent performers, there is a richness that comes with artists’ like Amos who create work that deeply affects their own soul, as well as those around them. Her memoir is even more relevant today that it was when it was written — before the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the COVID-19 pandemic and ignorance of society about public health protections and so much more.

RATING: Quatrain

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner (audio)

Source: Publisher
Audiobook, 9+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner, narrated by Richard Armitage, combines not only my love of Jane Austen and her novels, but also WWII. Armitage does an admirable job narrating all eight of the main characters from the steadfast and stoic Dr. Gray to the U.S. starlet of Mimi Harrison. Each of the characters’ lives — Adam, Adeline, Andrew, Evie, Frances, Dr Gray, Mimi, and Yardley — are revealed slowly throughout the novel and how they connect to one another reminds me of those moments in movies where chance meetings create a lasting bond. Some of these characters also mirror those in Austen’s novels, like the awkward shyness of Dr. Gray and the forward-thinking Adeline. WWII is a perfect time period for these characters because of the loss endured by those whose family die in the war and how Austen’s novels tangentially spoke about the tensions between England and France. Set in Chawton, England, what better place for a Jane Austen society to form?!

“I just feel, when I read her, when I reread her–which I do, more than any other author–it’s as if she’s inside my head. Like music. My father first read the books to me when I was very young–he died when I was twelve–and I hear his voice, too, when I read her.”

Jenner’s novel pays homage to Austen in a way that many other variations don’t. She understands the Austen characters and their motivations, but in creating her characters and their motivations they are not talking to us as Austen’s characters but fans of Austen’s words, her thoughts, her dreams. Jenner’s characters want to talk about Austen in a way that helps them deal with their own losses and pains, but they also want to preserve Austen’s great novels for generations to come and to do so by preserving her home in Chawton, even if it is against the wishes of the owner, Mr. Knight.

I loved how class lines are crossed in Jenner’s novel and how forward-thinking women drive the action, but the men can be so obtuse sometimes. The funny little moments of misunderstanding are definitely reminiscent of Austen, but I was irked that Mimi failed to see the opportunist streak in Jack Leonard after awhile. She saw it at the beginning, but once she got comfortable, she lost all sense where he was concerned.

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner, narrated by Richard Armitage, is a book not to be missed by Janeites. I really loved Armitage’s narration — he was so soothing to listen to and he carried the character-driven novel really well. Do not miss out on this gem.

RATING: Cinquain

Check out an excerpt from the audio read by Richard Armitage:

Spotify users can access a playlist for The Jane Austen Society.

About the Author:

Natalie Jenner is the debut author of THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY, a fictional telling of the start of the society in the 1940s in the village of Chawton, where Austen wrote or revised her major works. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie graduated from the University of Toronto with degrees in English Literature and Law and has worked for decades in the legal industry. She recently founded the independent bookstore Archetype Books in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs. Visit her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and GoodReads pages.