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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.

A Vintage Victory by Cat Gardiner

Source: Purchased
ebook, 54 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

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.

Caroline by Sue Barr

Source: the author
Ebook, 204 pgs.
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Caroline by Sue Barr, view her guest post, explores Caroline Bingley from a different perspective, following Mr. Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth Bennet.  What if all we thought we knew about Jane Austen’s foil to Elizabeth wasn’t completely true? What if there was more to her than we thought?

Caroline has been in love with Mr. Darcy, or at least his society position and estate, for a very long time, and when she discovers he is lost to her forever, she is devastated.  She falls to an emotional low, and while turning to music and listening to her sister’s advice, she strives to make improvements — albeit slowly.  But her relationship with her siblings is not as close as it could be, especially when she makes her feelings known to Charles.

“Caroline eyed the half-chewed sticky mass on the floor and with great determination kept a steady gaze on Louisa’s face.  Not for the first time she wished her sister would not speak with her mouth full.  In front of the wrong person, she could be mistaken for an uncouth gentlewoman, on par with Mrs. Bennet.”

In walks, Lord Nathan Kerr, Mr. Darcy’s new vicar, and he is almost immediately besotted, but like Mr. Knightley, he takes Caroline to task for her past transgressions, even some she didn’t make.  Barr creatively intertwines scripture and is never heavy handed, and she shows the gradual evolution of Caroline from social-climber to a woman who is looking for companionship, respect, and love.  She has a harsh temper, which she must learn to curb, and eventually listening to the advice of her grandmother from long ago, she’s able to seek solace and learn to quiet her frustrations and anxieties enough to see the potential before her without lamenting what can never be.

The only drawback was the convenient ending, which took away some of the redemptive qualities of the novel.  But, overall, Caroline by Sue Barr is a wonderful story about a woman in need of new direction and finds it by looking at the opportunities before her that she might have spurned not too long ago.  This fiery redhead learns a lot about herself and society perceptions along the way, leaving her little choice but to reform herself and become more open to love.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Sue Barr resides in beautiful Southwestern Ontario with her retired Air Force hubby, two sons and their families. She’s also an indentured servant to three cats and has been known to rescue a kitten or two, or three … in an attempt to keep her ‘cat-lady- in-training’ status current. Although, she has deviated from appointed path and rescued a few dogs as well.

Sue is a member of Romance Writers of America and their affiliate chapter, Love, Hope and Faith as well as American Christian Fiction Writers. For more information about her other books, visit her website, her blog, and on Pinterest, Facebook, GoodReads, and Twitter.

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Mr. Darcy’s Journey: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds

Source: the author
ebook, 293 pgs.
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Mr. Darcy’s Journey: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds is a wildly imaginative variation that takes place during the Sheffield food riot of 1812 when the Luddites begin to rail against those aristocrats in power, as their food sources and funds grew scarcer as machines began to show up in mills across the northern parts of Britain. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet become swept up in the chaos even as they struggle with their own feelings for one another and the multiple misunderstandings that happen between them.

“He crumpled up his first attempt and tossed it in the fireplace. He never had to rewrite letters; it was something he prided himself upon. But Elizabeth would hold this note, her elegant fingers touching the same paper he touched now, and she would think of him. It must be perfect.”

Unlike many other variations, the Fitzwilliam clan (Lord and Lady Matlock and their children) take center stage, and Colonel Fitzwilliam has a surprise in store for his parents that could rock the family to the core. His sister Frederica needs Darcy’s shielding as the ton has begun to shun her after being jilted, while Elizabeth tends to her sister at Gracechurch street following Bingley’s abandonment. These parallel story lines reinforce one another, showcasing how little recourse women had during that time should a man choose to abandon a lady without explanation, even if they are wealthy. In line with that, the cause for the Rights of Man taken up by Darcy’s friend from Cambridge, Sir Anthony Duxbury, who somehow knows Elizabeth — his Elizabeth.

Mr. Darcy’s Journey: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds provides an excellent glimpse into the politics of the time, and it also exposes Darcy to concerns beyond Pemberley and how those concerns can impact the nation. While the journey North is dangerous, Elizabeth and Darcy prove to be strong enough to withstand the riots, but can they withstand the machinations of the Fitzwilliam clan and overcome their own prejudices to find their way into each other’s arms? Reynolds has taken on a lot in this variation, and readers may wish it had been longer.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Abigail Reynolds has spent the last fifty years asking herself what she wants to be when she grows up. This month she is a writer, a mother and a physician in a part-time private practice. Next month is anybody’s guess. Originally from upstate New York, she indecisively studied Russian, theater, and marine biology before deciding to attend medical school, a choice which allowed her to avoid any decisions at all for four years.

She began writing Pride & Prejudice variations in 2001 to spend more time with her very favorite characters. Encouragement from fellow Austen fans convinced her to continue asking ‘What if…?’, which led to seven other Pemberley Variations and two modern novels set on Cape Cod.

United States of Books: The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Source: Public Library
eBook and audiobook, 211 pgs.; 4+ hrs.
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For Louisiana, Entertainment Weekly says, “Chopin’s early feminist work, which presents a woman carving an identity for herself that has nothing to do with wifedom or motherhood, also serves as an engrossing immersion in the historical worlds of New Orleans and the Louisiana Gulf Coast.”

awakeningThe Awakening by Kate Chopin is considered by many to be a work of Feminism, published in the early 1900s. Mrs. and Mr. Pontellier appear to have a mutual respect for one another and the relationship many married couples fall into, such as nods and certain looks that are read easily by one another. He is a broker and has very specific ideas about how much attention his wife should pay to the children. But despite their easy way with one another, there is something distant in their relationship, as he feels she does not value his conversation and she tries to tamp down her anguish about only being a mother and a wife.

While summering at Grand Isle, she comes to view their relationship much differently and that of her place in the world. Mrs. Pontellier can see from the actions of other mothers vacationing there that she is much different. She does not worship her children and she does not have all the sophistication of a societal wife. As she becomes aware of these differences, Robert Lebrun begins to pay her special attention, which recalls for her many youthful infatuations. However, when Alcee Arobin crosses her path, things begin to change dramatically for the reborn painter, Mrs. Pontellier.

Edna Pontellier returns to the city and begins to break with tradition, which raises her husband’s eyebrows. Chopin’s work is not so much about the liberation of a woman from societal expectations. It is an introspective look at how we present ourselves to our husbands, children, friends, and greater society. Our inner selves, our true selves — if they ever emerge — are buried deep within our private worlds. For many of us, our true self is only known by us and, in some cases, not even then. Edna has been awakened to her true self and she embarks on a journey to realize it fully.

“She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.”

In terms of the setting, it’s clear that they live in Louisiana and music and art are strong cultural elements. The roots of French colonization remain in the area, and many of the people Edna interacts with speak French. Many of these people are definitely from the upper crust as they do little more than socialize, entertain one another, and gossip. The Awakening by Kate Chopin explores the consequences of becoming independent and stripping all pretension, leaving Edna in a solitary world (which mirrors the one she held close prior to her awakening). However, it seems as though Edna fails to evolve, merely bringing her inner world to the surface to find that she cannot survive, rather than exploring what that means and how she should move forward.

RATING: Tercet

chopinAbout the Author:

Kate Chopin was an American novelist and short-story writer best known for her startling 1899 novel, The Awakening. Born in St. Louis, she moved to New Orleans after marrying Oscar Chopin in 1870. Less than a decade later Oscar’s cotton business fell on hard times and they moved to his family’s plantation in the Natchitoches Parish of northwestern Louisiana. Oscar died in 1882 and Kate was suddenly a young widow with six children. She turned to writing and published her first poem in 1889. The Awakening, considered Chopin’s masterpiece, was subject to harsh criticism at the time for its frank approach to sexual themes. It was rediscovered in the 1960s and has since become a standard of American literature, appreciated for its sophistication and artistry. Chopin’s short stories of Cajun and Creole life are collected in Bayou Folk (1894) and A Night in Acadie (1897), and include “Desiree’s Baby,” “The Story of an Hour” and “The Storm.”

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Anticipating: Without a Conscience and Guilty Conscience by Cat Gardiner

Since reading Denial of Conscience by Cat Gardiner on vacation this month, I’ve been dying to know what will happen to the Iceman and his Lizzy, modernized characters from Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

Gardiner thoughtfully sent me a teaser to her new book, Without a Conscience, and her epilogue/prologue novelette, Guilty Conscience, both due out in the fall. The latter coming out a month before. In the novelette, which begs the question “Will Iceman and Liz Macarena?”, Gardiner gives readers a little tease as to what married life is like for Liz and Darcy after their whirlwind romance in Denial of Conscience. When Darcy takes off for a few days on a camping trip he planned before meeting Liz, she feels his absence strongly. Like many newlyweds, Liz and Darcy have had a passionate honeymoon and first few months of marriage. Gardiner captures this feeling really well.

“For the last three days, she’d walked around Pemberley in a fog, feeling depressed, his absence gutting her soul. The scent of him lingered on bed linen, which she refused to change until his return. … Only two more days, just two more days.”

Can the very controlled Darcy, who holds his emotions close to the vest, let her in completely? Can the newly freed Liz learn to compromise after being essentially imprisoned at Longbourn? You get a taste of not only what married life is like for this couple — not all roses and sunshine — but also the danger that is around the corner. While Iceman has changed his ways and trains horses, could he be drawn back into black ops?

You’ll have to stay tuned for the next book in the series. I’m waiting on the edge of my seat!

Other Reviews:

Guest Posts:

***Cat Gardiner’s new WWII romance, A Moment Forever, is touring with Poetic Book Tours.***

About the Author:

Born and bred in New York City, Cat Gardiner is a girl in love with the romance of an era once known as the Silent Generation, now referred to as the Greatest Generation. A member of the National League of American Pen Women, Romance Writers of America, and Tampa Area Romance Authors, she and her husband adore exploring the 1940s Home Front experience as living historians, wishing for a time machine to transport them back seventy years.

She loves to pull out her vintage frocks and attend U.S.O dances, swing clubs, and re-enactment camps as part of her research, believing that everyone should have an understanding of The 1940s Experience™. Inspired by those everyday young adults who changed the fate of the world, she writes about them, taking the reader on a romantic journey. Cat’s WWII-era novels always begin in her beloved Big Apple and surround you with the sights and sounds of a generation.

She is also the author of four Jane Austen-inspired contemporary novels, however, her greatest love is writing 20th Century Historical Fiction, WWII-era Romance. A Moment Forever is her debut novel in that genre.

For more on her book, visit A Moment Forever.

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Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede

Source: Purchased
Kindle, 288 pgs.
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Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede, which was our July book club pick, is a retelling of a fairy tale.  In this rendition, the tale is set in England, and the characters are a bit modified.  Wrede says in the afterword that the original fairy tale had gaps and characters appeared and disappeared, leaving their motivations out of sight for the most part.  Here, Wrede contrives to make motivations fit the story, which mirrors the original very closely.

The language used here to mimic Elizabethan times but, in so doing, the dialogue was very stilted and hard to engage with for a good portion of the book.  While the language may have been to authenticate the time period, some of it was off in terms of usage and slowed the pace of the tale considerably.  However, her use of John Dee and Edward Kelly as the wizards in the town of Mortlak, who cause harm to the world of Faerie, was inspired, though even just Kelly would have been enough here.

Rosamund (Rose Red) and Blanche (Snow White) are the daughters of the Widow Arden (forest) who live on the outskirts of town near the land of Faerie, and while they tend to stay outside the forest and only use the herbs found within its borders for good, they have skills that other townsfolk only speculate about.  It is there in the woods that they find all manner of plants, including elecampane, which is native to central Asia.  Is this the work of the fay?  Or a miscalculation on Wrede’s part?  It’s unclear.

Wrede also relies on the continuation of “work” over several dayson more than one occasion without going into depth about the failed experiments, etc. This also slows the pace of the fairy tale down.  Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede is a satisfactory retelling of a well-known fairy tale, but what is unclear still is the motivations of one set of evildoers — the fay.  While the mortals clearly seek fame and fortune in their magic renderings, the fay involved in the spell-casting seem to have muddy reasoning for their part in it.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Patricia C. Wrede was born in Chicago, Ill., and is the eldest of five children. She started writing in seventh grade. She attended Carleton College in Minnesota, where she majored in Biology and managed to avoid taking any English courses at all. She began work on her first novel, Shadow Magic, just after graduating from college in 1974. Patricia received her M.B.A. from the University of Minnesota in 1977.  Patricia finished her first novel in late 1978, and she has since published 12 books.

Treasure Hunt Giveaway: Banana Muffins & Mayhem by Janel Gradowski

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00001]Source: Janel Gradowski
EBook, 195 pgs.
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Banana Muffins & Mayhem by Janel Gradowski is the fifth book in the Culinary Competition Mystery series, but it can be read as a standalone mystery, though some things change in the characters’ personal lives that you might prefer to unwind in order.

Amy Ridley is still wrestling with the idea of having her own children after her best friend Carla gave birth to Macy.  While that debate wages on in the back of her mind, that doesn’t stop Amy from entering culinary contests of every sort, and it certainly doesn’t stop killers from striking fear into the residents of Kellerton, Michigan.  During the first annual Cabin Fever Cure event, DIY Home Improvement star, Phoebe Plymouth, winds up on someone’s naughty list after her sour attitude leaves many of the culinary and home improvement crowd cold.

“Every recipe for the competition had to be made in a muffin tin, but that didn’t limit the entries to just sweets.”

“Both of the police officers and Alex still towered over her — she was always the short tulip in the bouquet of life.”

“But that was a tall order when her thoughts were reproducing like furry little Star Trek tribbles.”

Following a few near misses in the last book, Amy’s learned to be a bit more cautious, but her new mystery-solving sidekicks are less so.  She and the team begin their work independently to uncover the mystery behind Plymouth’s death and the real reason why the show’s producers are still in town even though little to no progress has been made on the case by newbie Homicide Detective Lauren Foster. When her husband Alex and his business begin receiving threats, Amy deduces that there is more to the murder than meets the eye and she’s more determined than ever to get the case solved.

Banana Muffins & Mayhem by Janel Gradowski is a delightful treat to read on a summer’s afternoon with some ice tea or coffee — your preference — and settle into the chair with some Malted Chocolate Banana Muffins (recipe included).  Gradowski has cornered the market on creating fun cozy mysteries with delicious recipes and quick quips.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever. Her journey to becoming an author has been littered with odd jobs such as renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life. She writes the Culinary Competition Mystery Series, along with The Bartonville Series (women’s fiction) and the 6:1 Series (flash fiction). She has also had many short stories published in both online and print publications. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, and sign up for the Newsletter.

Other books by this author, reviewed here:

The Treasure Hunt letter for Savvy Verse & Wit is: A

Collect all of the letters to spell out the Treasure Hunt word then use it to gain extra entries in the Grand Prize giveaway. You can find all of the blog tour stops and enter the giveaway at www.janelgradowski.com.

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6/14 – My Cozy Book Nook has Letter #3

6/15 – Book Babble has Letter #5

6/16 – Life’s A Stage has Letter #8

6/17 – Read Your Writes Book Reviews has Letter #1

6/18 – Joy’s Book Blog has Letter #4

6/20 – Knyttwytch’s Crafts and Stuff has Letter #7

6/22 – Savvy Verse & Wit has Letter #2

6/24 – Romancing The Books has Letter #6

Undercover – An Austen Noir by Cat Gardiner

Source: Cat Gardiner
Ebook, 220 pgs.
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Undercover – An Austen Noir by Cat Gardiner, a noir novel inspired by Jane Austen’s characters from Pride & Prejudice set in the 1950s, is a fun ride.  Elizabeth (Eli) Bennet has left her father’s garage business after being duped by George Wickham, a Navy man gone AWOL.  She’s carved out her own life in Hell’s Kitchen as a private investigator, hacking her own career path in a man’s world among gangsters, commies, and police bravado.  Her home life was complicated, and Gardiner has created a more than down-on-their-luck Bennet family, plagued by drink and poor decisions.  Despite her rough beginnings, she’s smart, savvy, and willing to make the tough choices for her clients, even though she has a personal case of her own to find the elusive Slick Wick.

“‘Dealing with Wickham can make any man brood.  It’s the smolder that I look for.'” (ARC)

On her personal case, she comes across the smoldering Fitzwilliam Darcy at the Kit Kat Club and the sparks fly even though they just ogle one another.  Her assets on display, he cannot take his eyes off of her, especially after he sees how savvy she is in getting what she wants.  Stumbling upon another machination by Slick Wick, she finds herself coming to the rescue of the man with the smolder that could make her do things she promised she wouldn’t do again.

“‘Well, since you want to know about me, then you will have to share something about yourself in return.’

‘So, you’ll make me work for your affection?'” …

‘I guess not trusting a man is a result of your occupation.  Well, you may ask questions but I may choose not to answer them.'” (ARC)

Gardiner knows her Austen, and she modifies the famous lines from the novel in inventive and surprising ways, but in ways that keeps with her own plot and characterization.

“Those slow dances below the palm trees made her knees go weak.  It felt like pure seduction each time his hand slid down her back like an electrical frisson along a tense wire when he’d held her in his arms.”  (ARC)

The heat between Darcy and Eli will sizzle before readers’ eyes, and these characters are hot to trot.  Gardiner’s novel is fun, dark, and full of mystery, but it also provides a glimpse into what Darcy and Elizabeth’s romance would have been like in more modern days, especially after women gained a modicum of independence following WWII and were eager to remain in the workforce.

RATING: Cinquain

***Enter the Giveaway HERE***

About the Author:

Cat Gardiner loves romance and happy endings, history, comedy and Jane Austen. A member of the esteemed National League of American Pen Women, Romance Writers of America and her local chapter Tampa Area Romance Authors (TARA,) she enjoys writing across the modern spectrum of “Pride and Prejudice” inspired novels.

Winner of Austenesque Reviews Favorite Modern Adaptation for 2014, the comedic, Chick-Lit “Lucky 13” was released in October 2014. The romantic adventure “Denial of Conscience,” named Favorite “Pride and Prejudice” Modern for 2015 by Margie Must Reads and More Agreeably Engaged has set the sub-genre on fire since June of this year. Her latest release in December 2015, another romantic comedy titled “Villa Fortuna” has been voted Just Jane 1813’s Favorite Modern JAFF for 2015.

Her greatest love, however, is writing 20th Century Historical Fiction, WWII Romance. Her debut novel, “A Moment Forever” will release in Late Spring 2016 with “The Song is You” following in the winter.

Married 23 years to her best friend, they are the proud parents of the smartest honor student in the world – their orange tabby, Ollie. Although they live in Florida, they will always be proud native New Yorkers.

Straight James/Gay James by James Franco

Source: NetGalley
Paperback, 60 pgs.
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Straight James/Gay James by James Franco is a chapbook of poems, though many of these read like notes left on napkins and goofy missives that would be in a diary, never to see the light of day.  Initially, the collection seems to start off with an examination of isolation and being different in poems like “Dumbo” and “Mask,” exploring the struggle to fit into the boxes we see around us.

Dumbo

Dumb is me,
As a young elephant I was shy,
From too much attention,
So, speak I didn’t.

A young animal:
At age thirteen, life plunked
Me down in junior high,
Like Dumbo in the circus.

As I grew,
Isolation followed me
And the only recourse
Was to drink hard with the clowns.

Pink elephants
Paraded and sloshed
Through my youth
Until I became a sinister clown,

With a smile painted
So thick
I looked mad-happy, always.
And I never flew, 

I never flew.

Evoking a pop culture icon from childhood — Dumbo from Disney — readers will be drawn into the comparison, showing a poetic sophistication and a knowledge of how poetic devices can be used. As an actor and a director, the choice is not unexpected. In “Mask,” he dons a persona, one that earns him money, and it is this persona that he has a love-dislike relationship with. It is not that he dislikes the persona, but the fact that it is so loved by the media and even fans — those who pay him, providing him with the money he uses to make art. It is this art that he pushes through the envelop of preconceptions and those categories that he sought to fit into in the first poem of the collection.

I want to stop here for a moment. Anna pointed me to this article in The Washington Post, which asks if it is “possible to be fair if we simply, irrationally just don’t like” a certain actor? In my case, this is James Franco. I don’t dislike him per se, but I don’t really like him either. Perhaps I don’t understand his art or his humor, but for a poetry reviewer, it’s hard to set that aside when his poetry is another form of art.

With that being said, a lot of this collection is inconsistent, reads like nearly stream-of-consciousness scribbling, and in some cases, it is the ravings of a drugged out person (or so it seems). He’s trying to be avant-garde, at least that’s what it seems like. Some of this is even merely backstage commentary.

The title poem, “Straight James/Gay James,” is an exercise in the ridiculous, in which his sexuality is not really explored, but skirted, and his main focus seems to be how much he loves himself. Straight James/Gay James by James Franco is an oddity that might have needed more editing and/or focus.

RATING: Epitaph

About the Author:

James Franco is an American actor, film director, screenwriter, film producer, author, and painter. He began acting during the late 1990s, appearing on the short-lived television series Freaks and Geeks and starring in several teen films. In 2001 he played the title role in Mark Rydell’s television biographical film James Dean, which earned him a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film.

Jane Austen Lives Again by Jane Odiwe

Source: Author Jane Odiwe
ebook, 275 pgs.
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Jane Austen Lives Again by Jane Odiwe requires readers to suspend disbelief, and those fans of Jane Austen who wish she had written more than her 6 novels will surely have no problem doing that.  Her death is averted by her physician, who has discovered the secret to immortal life with the help of the Turritopsis dohrnii in 1817.  When Austen awakens she is in 1925, just after The Great War.  Many families, including rich families, have fallen on hard times and experienced great loss as many lost sons, brothers, and husbands in the war.  Times have changed for women, and Austen is able to get work outside the home to support herself, and although her family has passed on and she’s effectively alone in the world, she pulls up her hem and gets to work as a governess to five girls at Manberley Castle near the sea in Stoke Pomeroy.

“Having lived cautiously, and under strict rules and regulations for so long, Miss Austen felt the winds of change blowing across the Devon landscape.”

Cora, Emily, Alice, Mae, and Beth are a bit more to handle than Austen expects, especially as she is a little younger than she had been before the procedure.  Upon her arrival, Austen is faced with staff who are eager to gossip, which rubs her the wrong way because she prefers to make up her own mind about people.  The heir to the castle, William Milton, is one person who keeps her on her toes, and as Austen gets caught up in the drama of others, she begins to realize that her life would be empty without the Miltons in it.

Odiwe is one of the best writers of Jane Austen-related fiction, and it shows as she weaves in Austen’s own novels into her own novel.  Emma, Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, and more are illustrated in a variety of situations here, and Austen is at the center of them all.  However, readers should be warned that Odiwe is not rehashing these plots point for point.  Jane Austen Lives Again by Jane Odiwe is her best novel yet, and if there were something to complain about, it would be that it could have been longer.

Rating: Cinquain

About the Author:

Jane Odiwe is an artist and author. She is an avid fan of all things Austen and is the author and illustrator of Effusions of Fancy, consisting of annotated sketches from the life of Jane Austen. She lives with her husband and three children in North London.  Check out Jane Odiwe’s blog here.

Other Reviews:

Longbourn’s Songbird by Beau North

Source: Meryton Press
ebook, 300 pgs.
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Longbourn’s Songbird by Beau North, set in post-WWII America, touches upon the Deep South’s continued segregation, and the desire to maintain the old ways where women are concerned even though they stepped up in may cases to fill men’s jobs when they were away at war.  North has created a complex novel through which Will Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet have very different lives and expectations.  Lizzie has locked her heart away after her time away at school in Charleston, while Darcy has struggled to keep his own passions in check as he builds his textile empire.  North has focused less on the class expectations and differences, and more on the societal changes and the implications of those changes on the Deep South.

Lizzie is as strong-willed and teasing as ever, and Darcy is as mysterious and aloof, bumbling around in society. However, dark secrets lay beneath Mr. Collins piousness, Charlotte’s practical nature, and Bingley’s ever-sunny disposition.  North goes deeper into these characters motivations, pulling out the truth behind the facade.

While there were things that seemed a little out of place — maybe just by a few years — they did not detract from the story.  Lizzie is a songstress with a captivating voice, and Darcy is at a disadvantage and is captured in her nest before either realizes how things have changed between them.  But North knows how to keep readers interested by blowing up the Austen world, rearranging it satisfactorily, and making it her own.  Longbourn’s Songbird by Beau North is a wonderful addition to the Austen world, but it’s also much more than that.  It delves into the issues of segregation, women’s place in society, the rights of minorities, and post-traumatic stress disorder that accompanies so many soldiers home from war.

About the Author:

Beau North is a native southerner who now calls Portland, Oregon home with her husband and two cats. She attended the University of South Carolina where she began a lifelong obsession with English Literature. In her spare time, Beau is the brains behind Rhymes With Nerdy, an internet collective focused on pop culture. This is her first novel.  You can connect with Beau on Twitter, Facebook, or via http://beaunorth.merytonpress.com. If you’ve enjoyed this book, we welcome your fair and honest review on Goodreads and Amazon.

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