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Savvy’s Best of 2014 List

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I cannot believe how quickly 2014 has flown by, and I also cannot believe I read more than 150 books this year. 2015 will be a year of changes for me, as I pull back from reviewing and reading so many books here on Savvy Verse & Wit as I start my own business, Poetic Book Tours.

I did want to share with my readers here the best books of 2014, in case you missed the day-by-day announcements on the Facebook page.

  1. Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James (my review)
  2. Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming (my review)
  3. Lust by Diana Raab, read by Kate Udall (my review)
  4. Any Anxious Body by Chrissy Kolaya (my review)
  5. Going Over by Beth Kephart (my review)
  6. The Descent by Alma Katsu (my review)
  7. Still, At Your Door by Emma Eden Ramos (my review)
  8. A Long Time Gone by Karen White (my review)
  9. The Vintner’s Daughter by Kristen Harnisch (my review)
  10. Children’s Activity Atlas from Sterling Publishing (my review)
  11. Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion (my review)
  12. Women of Valor: Polish Resisters to the Third Reich by Joanne D. Gilbert (my review)

What books have made your end of the year favorites??

Who Are Your Auto-Buy Authors?

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Hello everyone! The holidays are nearly here, but I have a treat for you! If you haven’t liked the Savvy Verse & Wit Facebook page yet, go do it now.

Beginning Dec. 12 (sometime this afternoon the first pick will be revealed), I’ll reveal one of the books on my Best of 2014 book list, through Dec. 24.

That’s one book from the list per day, with a tidbit about why I loved the book and a link to where you can buy it.

Today, I wanted to talk about those authors we love so much that we buy their books automatically no matter what the subject.  I used to have just a few of those authors, but my list is now growing!  I thought today would be a good day to share not only the older ones on the list, but also the newer ones that have joined the ranks.

My previous list:

  1. Yusef Komunyakaa
  2. Tim O’Brien
  3. Stephen King
  4. Anita Shreve
  5. Amy Tan
  6. Isabel Allende
  7. James Patterson
  8. Anne Rice
  9. Mary Oliver
  10. Billy Collins

My additions to the list:

  1. Beth Kephart
  2. Jeannine Hall Gailey
  3. Jane Odiwe
  4. Syrie James
  5. Abigail Reynolds
  6. Karen White
  7. Beth Hoffman
  8. Jill Mansell
  9. Janel Gradowski
  10. Diana Raab
  11. C.W. Gortner
  12. John Shors

I find it interesting that there are many more female authors being added to my auto-buy list. 

I’m not really sure why so many great female authors are being added to my auto-buy list these days.  It isn’t that I haven’t read some great male authors, but perhaps I need to read more of them to get a true sense of their work and whether I want to buy it automatically no matter the subject.

Do you have auto-buy authors? Who are they?  What attracts you to their work?

Don’t forget to like the Savvy Verse & Wit Facebook page to find out over the next 12 days which books made the 2014 Best list.

Interview with Syrie James, Author of Jane Austen’s First Love

Syrie James is a quintessential Austenite and her Jane Austen-related fiction is never a disappointment.  Her latest release, Jane Austen’s First Love, is a contender for the Savvy Verse & Wit Best of 2014 list.

Here’s a snippet from my review:

“James cannot be praised enough for her ingenuity and dedication to the spirit of Austen and her novels.  She pays tribute to a young Jane in the best way possible.  Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James is the author’s best novel yet, and a must read for anyone who loves historical fiction, Jane Austen, or coming of age stories.”

Other James’ books you should consider reading include:

 

Today, I have a special treat … an interview with Syrie James! Please give her a warm welcome.

As a writer of Austenesque fiction, you must have a favorite Jane Austen book and character, or at least a few.  What and who are they and why?

Like many readers, my favorite Austen novel is Pride and Prejudice. It’s brilliantly constructed, beautifully written, and the characters are unique, fun, and recognizable. Best of all, Elizabeth’s and Darcy’s character arcs as they go from intense dislike to admiration to love are so wonderfully drawn and so satisfying that the story has been endlessly imitated. Pride and Prejudice, unlike Austen’s other novels, also begins with a lively conversation that grabs your attention right off the bat. I am a huge fan of Persuasion as well, with its theme about second chances. It was written later in Jane Austen’s life, and her maturity as writer really shines through.

As for favorite characters, I have so many! I adore Elizabeth Bennet, with her bright eyes and feisty nature, and Anne Elliot, who is goodness personified. I think I fell in love with Mr. Darcy (along with the rest of the female world) when Colin Firth turned him into an icon. I am also mad about Captain Wentworth and Mr. Knightley, truly divine Austen heroes who feel very real to me on the page! And this may be heresy—but my two other favorite characters are Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who I love to hate, and the foolish Mr. Collins, who, with every re-reading and in every film version, always makes me laugh.

Syrie James headshot 2012 x 250Did you always love Jane Austen’s books and when did you first fall in love with them (how did you find out about them)?

I was first introduced to Jane Austen in a British literature course in college, when we read Pride and Prejudice and Emma. I don’t remember my first reaction to the books, and Jane Austen didn’t resurface on my radar again until the mid 1990s, when four Jane Austen films came out that quickly became my favorites: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant), PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle), PERSUASION (Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds), and EMMA (Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam.) Yes, it’s true—I fell in love with Austen because of the movies!

I immediately read or re-read all her novels, then devoured the juvenilia, biographies, and her preserved correspondence. I was desperate to learn more about the woman who wove such incredible stories and showed such a deep understanding of human nature—and the obsession has never stopped. Because there were no Austen memoirs to discover, I wrote one myself: The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. Because there were no more new Austen novels to read, I decided to write one: The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen. And because I was intensely curious to read about Jane as a teenager while experiencing her first romance, I researched and wrote Jane Austen’s First Love.

As a fan of Austen, you must have visited the various sites in which she lived and visited. Which of these places is your favorite, where is it located, and why? What advice would you give someone interested in touring Austen’s places?

I’ve taken two Jane Austen tours of England—one of them self-guided, the other as part of a formal tour group—and I’ve had the opportunity to visit nearly all the famous Austen sites, some of them twice. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I guess it’d have to be Chawton Cottage, now known as Jane Austen’s House Museum. It was like a pilgrimage to walk through the rooms and gardens of the house where Jane lived during the nine year period when she wrote or rewrote all her masterpieces. And to see the little table where she sat by the window and wrote, was too thrilling for words!

The Austen tour that I took with my husband was absolutely wonderful, but took many months to research and plan. To see all the iconic Austen sites I’d recommend a guided bus tour, where you will enjoy the company of like-minded people, as well as guest speakers and other Austen-related events that you won’t get on your own. JASNA has such a tour every year; they’re run by Pathfinders, the same tour company I traveled with, and they’re fabulous.

For Jane Austen’s First Love, you did quite a bit of research into her mentions of Edward Taylor, who was the heir to a home in Kent. When did you know that you should stop researching and start writing? What part of the research did not make it into the book that you wish had made it in?

I continued researching the entire time I was writing the novel! Re-reading books by Jane Austen and biographies about Jane Austen while I was writing gave me an infusion of details to use here and there, and helped me to keep her voice in my head. Continuous research proved to be even more important where Edward Taylor was concerned. When I first began the novel, I hadn’t found much information about him, and had created an imaginary back story for him—but it never felt right. So I kept looking. And looking.

By a stroke of luck, I came upon Edward Taylor’s brother’s memoirs, which filled in so many details about the Taylor family and the unusual way in which all eight children were raised abroad. What I learned was far much more fascinating and remarkable than anything I could have made up! I put all that was pertinent into my novel. There were a few great scenes however that didn’t make the final cut. I had to delete one scene, for example, where Edward is telling Jane about a family excursion off the southern coast of Italy that ended in disaster. It was a great tale, but unfortunately it didn’t move forward the action of my novel, so it had to go.

A much bigger disappointment was when I felt obliged to delete a scene from Chapter One, in which Jane inscribes her name and the names of three imaginary suitors in the register at her father’s church at Steventon. I loved the scene I’d written, but once again, it didn’t move the plot forward, and the first chapter was too long. (The deleted scene may have a new life, however, as a short story.)

As the market becomes even more saturated with works about Jane Austen and her books, do you think readers will ever tire of these spinoffs, retellings, and fictionalized accounts of her life and work?

I hope not!

What keeps you returning to Jane Austen and her world?

I love Austen for so many reasons. I love immersing myself in the way the gentry class lived and loved during the Regency era, where we rarely see anyone working (other than the servants.) Austen’s characters lived in grand manor homes, were waited on hand and foot, drove around in elegant carriages, hunted on horseback, played cards and music, sang and read, sewed and drew, took walks on impeccable grounds, and danced at balls. What’s not to like? Not to mention the way they dressed! Tight breeches, tailcoats, and cravats! Gossamer, empire-waisted gowns! Hair pinned up like the ancient Greeks! It’s like something out of a fairy tale.

What I love most about Austen, though, is not the fairy tale setting—but the brilliant way her stories are plotted and the familiarity of her characters. We all know an overbearing woman like Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who believes she knows best and must be catered to. We’ve all met a sweet, kindly blabbermouth like Miss Bates. And while we laugh at Austen’s fools and love to hate the villains, we can’t help but fall in love with her heroes and heroines, who are all flawed—just as we are—and who must earn their happy endings by recognizing their missteps and working to correct them. That’s the real reason I keep returning to Jane and her world—because her tales of courtship and romance are perfectly structured morality tales, and the lessons resonate today.

Finally, do you read poetry, why or why not? And if you do, what are some of your favorite poems and who are some of your favorite poets? Also do you read contemporary poets or classic poets, why or why not?

I’ve been so busy reading novels over the last twenty years that I haven’t read much poetry—which I truly regret (I enjoy poetry.) While researching my three Austen novels and The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, however, I read all the poetry written by Austen and the Brontës. Jane and Charlotte wrote rather good poetry, but Charlotte’s sisters Emily and Anne outshone them. I’ve posted a selection of the Brontës’ poetry on my website, which were published together in one volume in 1846. Emily’s work is as darkly compelling as her novel Wuthering Heights. One of my favorites of this collection was written by Anne Brontë (under the pseudonym Acton Bell), when she was miserable and homesick while working as a governess for a wealthy family:

Home
by Acton Bell

How brightly glistening in the sun,
The woodland ivy plays!
While yonder beeches from their barks
Reflect his silver rays.
That sun surveys a lovely scene
From softly smiling skies;
And wildly through unnumbered trees
The wind of winter sighs. . .

But give me back my barren hills
Where colder breezes rise;
Where scarce the scattered, stunted trees
Can yield an answering swell,
But where a wilderness of heath
Returns the sound as well. . .

Restore me to that little spot,
With gray walls compassed round,
Where knotted grass neglected lies,
And weeds usurp the ground.

Though all around this mansion high
Invites the foot to roam,
And though its halls are fair within-
Oh, give me back my HOME!

Many thanks for having me here, Serena, at Savvy Verse and Wit. I’m happy to answer any other questions you or your visitors might have, so feel free to leave a comment and ask away!

JAFL Banner v6Please check out the other stops on the tour.

 

 

 

Win One of Five Fabulous Jane Austen-inspired Prize Packages

To celebrate the holidays and the release of Jane Austen’s First Love, Syrie is giving away five prize packages filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and books!

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any of the blog stops on the Jane Austen’s First Love Holiday Blog Tour.

Increase your chances of winning by visiting multiple stops along the tour! Syrie’s unique guest posts will be featured on a variety of subjects, along with fun interviews, spotlights, excerpts, and reviews of the novel. Contest closes at 11:59pm PT, December 21, 2014.

Five lucky winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments on the tour, and announced on Syrie’s website on December 22, 2014. The giveaway contest is open to everyone, including international residents. Good luck to all!

JAFL Grand Prize x 420

Click the image for more details

Mailbox Monday #286

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.  My Jane Austen Prize pack, with tote bag, bookplates, etc. from Syrie James’ Facebook giveaway!

2.  Bone Map by Sara Eliza Johnson for review from Milkweed Editions.

Sara Eliza Johnson’s stunning, deeply visceral first collection, Bone Map (2013 National Poetry Series Winner), pulls shards of tenderness from a world on the verge of collapse, where violence and terror infuse the body, the landscape, and dreams: a handful of blackberries offered from bloodied arms, bee stings likened to pulses of sunlight, a honeycomb of marrow exposed. “All moments will shine if you cut them open. / Will glisten like entrails in the sun.” With figurative language that makes long, associative leaps, and with metaphors and images that continually resurrect themselves across poems, the collection builds and transforms its world through a locomotive echo—a regenerative force—that comes to parallel the psychic quest for redemption that unfolds in its second half. The result is a deeply affecting composition that will establish the already decorated young author as an important and vital new voice in American poetry.

3.  The Fever by Megan Abbott on audio from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

The panic unleashed by a mysterious contagion threatens the bonds of family and community in a seemingly idyllic suburban community.

The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher and the father of two teens: Eli, a hocky star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie s best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school, and community.

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families, and the town s fragile idea of security.

4.  Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta on audio from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

When thirteen-year-old Jace Wilson witnesses a brutal murder, he’s plunged into a new life, issued a false identity, and hidden in a wilderness skills program for troubled teens. The plan is to get Jace off the grid while police find the two killers. The result is the start of a nightmare.

The killers, known as the Blackwell Brothers, are slaughtering anyone who gets in their way in a methodical quest to reach him. Now all that remains between them and the boy are Ethan and Allison Serbin, who run the wilderness survival program; Hannah Faber, who occupies a lonely fire lookout tower; and endless miles of desolate Montana mountains.

The clock is ticking, the mountains are burning, and those who wish Jace Wilson dead are no longer far behind.

5.  The Last Mile by Blair Richmond for review from Ashland Creek Press in October.

In the final book in the acclaimed Lithia Trilogy, Kat has new losses to mourn but also new reasons to live. On the brink of new beginnings, she is back together with Roman, their relationship deepening more and more even as she wonders whether she may still harbor feelings for Alex.

Yet Kat finds it difficult to focus on such things as college and romance, with terror still haunting the hills of Lithia and threatening the entire town. As several recent earthquakes baffle scientists and put residents on edge, it seems that something more dangerous may be looming in Lithia’s future.

6.  The Moonlight Palace by Liz Rosenberg for review from TLC Book Tours in October.

Agnes Hussein, descendant of the last sultan of Singapore and the last surviving member of her immediate family, has grown up among her eccentric relatives in the crumbling Kampong Glam palace, a once-opulent relic given to her family in exchange for handing over Singapore to the British.

Now Agnes is seventeen and her family has fallen into genteel poverty, surviving on her grandfather’s pension and the meager income they receive from a varied cast of boarders. As outside forces conspire to steal the palace out from under them, Agnes struggles to save her family and finds bravery, love, and loyalty in the most unexpected places. The Moonlight Palace is a coming-of-age tale rich with historical detail and unforgettable characters set against the backdrop of dazzling 1920s Singapore.

 

7.  Madame X by William Logan purchased from Novel Books.

One of the most technically gifted poets of his generation, William Logan here presents four sequences, each of which is haunted by the battered history of the enchanted city of Venice: two refugees from Nazi Germany replay a version of the Aeneid that shadows their lives in and out of Venice; the comedy of Tiepolo’s Punchinello drawings are given mocking narrative; a modern traveler finds in Venice’s insects, birds, and fish a nature that endures within an unnatural city; and, in a formal sequence reminiscent of W. H. Auden’s “The Sea and the Mirror,” King James commissions a revision of Macbeth in order to impress the chief magistrate. These new poems showcase Logan’s trademark refinement and erudition.

The poems here delve into what William Logan calls the “ill-lit kingdom of the past.” The book is haunted by the dead but equally penitent toward the rich insinuations of the living: the lost floral paradise of the Florida outlands, the steamy Gatsby summers of a Long Island childhood, the frozen stones of a colonial burying ground. This new collection of seventy-two poems will allow readers to delight in the richness of Logan’s language and the boldness of his vision.

8.  A Hero for the People by Arthur Powers for review for Book Junkie Promotions in September.

“Set in the vast and sometimes violent landscape of contemporary Brazil, this is a gorgeous collection of stories-wise, hopeful, and forgiving, but clear-eyed in its exploration of the toll taken on the human heart by greed, malice, and the lust for land.” -Debra Murphy, Publisher of Idyll’s Press, Founder of CatholicFiction.net

 

 

9.  Crow-Work by Eric Pankey for review from Milkweed Editions.

“What is a song but a snare to capture the moment?” Eric Pankey asks in his new collection, Crow-Work. This central question drives Pankey’s ekphrastic exploration of the moment where emotion and energy flood a work of art. Through subjects as diverse as Brueghel’s Procession to Calvary, Anish Kapoor’s Healing of Saint Thomas, Caravaggio’s series of severed heads, and James Turrell’s experimentation with light and color, the author travels to an impossible past, despite being firmly rooted in the present, to seek out “the songbird in every thorn thicket” of the artist’s work. Short bursts of lyrical beauty burn away “like coils of incense ash,” bodies in the light of a cave flicker, coalesce and disappear. By capturing the ephemeral beauty of life in these poems, Crow-Work seeks not only to explain great art, but also to embody it.

What did you receive?

Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James

Source: NetGalley
Paperback, 400 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James takes readers back into Jane Austen’s teen years, between the time she is a young girl free to play and the time she comes out and becomes a woman.  While her sister Cassandra and she share everything and every confidence, there are some tender emotions that are too new and sacred to share right away — that of a first love.  Jane Austen is 15 when she is given an unprecedented opportunity to attend a ball and a month of festivities in Kent to celebrate her brother Edward’s nuptials before she comes out to society.  Things are not all that they seem to a young girl who longs to be out with her sister and share in all the activities Cassandra does.  James paints a picture of Austen that is lively and young, as she enthusiastically takes on challenges before her — to prove herself not only to others but to herself — and enjoys every event set before her.

“My anticipation of the expected visitors was shared by Louisa, Charles, and Brook Edward, who kept running to the window to ascertain if they could perceive a hint of an impending arrival.”  (ARC)

Jane is ever the observer of human nature, actions, and character, even at the young age of 15, but even though she observes carefully, her interpretations are not always as accurate as she presumes them to be.  Meeting the lively and enigmatic Edward Taylor, Jane is besotted as any young girl would be who finds someone she admires in looks and in intelligence.  But he also challenges her outlook on society and its traditions, as well as her own role in that society.  James has created a complex relationship that could have happened in real life, and perhaps helped to shape Austen’s views on society, love, and more.

“We are a living part of history!” cried Edward Taylor.  “We are making history this very moment.” (ARC)

James weaves in not only the facts of Kent, her real brother’s marriage to Elizabeth Bridges, and many other characters, but the events and paraphrased lines of Austen’s very own novels.  James cannot be praised enough for her ingenuity and dedication to the spirit of Austen and her novels.  She pays tribute to a young Jane in the best way possible.  Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James is the author’s best novel yet, and a must read for anyone who loves historical fiction, Jane Austen, or coming of age stories.  This is a definite contender for the 2014 Best Reads List.

About the Author:

Syrie James, hailed by the Los Angeles Magazine as the queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings, is the bestselling author of eight critically acclaimed novels, including The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, Nocturne, Dracula My Love, Forbidden, and The Harrison Duet: SONGBIRD and PROPOSITIONS. Her books have been translated into eighteen foreign languages.

In addition to her work as a novelist, Syrie is a screenwriter, a member of the Writers Guild of America, and a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. An admitted Anglophile, she loves romance and all things 19th Century. To learn more about Syrie, visit her online at www.syriejames.com, Follow Syrie on Facebook.

Mailbox Monday #282

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1.  My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going With Your Gut by Hannah Hart for review from It Books.

One day, sad cubicle dweller and otherwise bored New York transplant Hannah Hart decided, as a joke, to make a fake cooking show for her friend back in California. She turned on the camera, pulled out some bread and cheese, and then, as one does, started drinking. (Doesn’t everyone cook with a spoon in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other?) The video went viral and an online sensation was born.

My Drunk Kitchen includes recipes, stories, full color photos, and drawings to inspire your own culinary adventures in tipsy cooking. It is also a showcase for Hannah Hart’s great comedic voice. Hannah offers key drink recommendations, cooking tips (like, remember to turn the oven off when you go to bed) and shares never-before-seen recipes.

2.  Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James for review on Aug. 6.

Fifteen-year-old Jane Austen dreams of three things: doing something useful, writing something worthy, and falling madly in love. When she visits her brother in Kent to celebrate his engagement, she meets wealthy, devilishly handsome Edward Taylor—a fascinating young man who is truly worthy of her affections. Jane knows a match between her and Edward is unlikely, but every moment she spends with him makes her heart race—and he seems to return her interest. Much to her displeasure, however, there is another seeking his attention.

What did you receive?

Guest Post: Ten Secrets of Happily Ever After by Syrie James

Syrie James is the bestselling author of eight critically acclaimed novels, including The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, Dracula My Love, Nocturne, Forbidden, and The Harrison Duet: Songbird and Propositions. Her books have been translated into eighteen foreign languages. Syrie lives with her family in Los Angeles, California. Connect with her on her Website, facebook, and Twitter.

I’ve reviewed The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen and The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen in the past, and enjoyed them as a Janeite.  I’ve also reviewed a collection of Jane Austen-related stories edited by Laurel Ann Nattress that includes one from James, Jane Austen Made Me Do It.

With the republication of Songbird in e-format and paperback, the first book in the Harrison Duet, James agreed to stop by and share her Valentine’s Day secrets.  Without further ado, please give her a warm welcome:

It’s Valentine’s Day, the day to celebrate love! Admittedly, as a writer of romantic novels, both historical and contemporary, I have love on my mind most of the time! I love to write about people meeting and falling in love. That moment when two people look at each other and just know they’re meant to be together forever—it’s one of the most magical, meaningful, and memorable experiences in the world. And when it’s followed by a lifetime of love and blessings, what could be better than that?

My novels Songbird and Propositions are the perfect Valentine’s Day treat. They feature strong, intelligent, accomplished women who meet men who are every bit their equals, and who experience a love so deep, immediate, and profound, it forces them to rethink their future and the very meaning of romance. And of course they all find their Happily Every After!

I’m fortunate to be surrounded by love in both my professional and personal life. I met my husband in college, and thirty-eight years later, we are still together and very happy. Which has set me to thinking: how do you achieve that Happily Ever After? Thinking back on our relationship, I’ve come up with a list of 10 elements that I think help make for a long and happy marriage. See if you agree!

  1. You consider your partner to be your best friend for life. (Bill is definitely my best friend and always will be!)
  2. You are honest with and implicitly trust each other.
  3. You respect, admire, appreciate, and dearly love one another—and you tell each other so on a regular basis. (You say thank you for even the smallest things, like when he takes out the trash.)
  4. You balance and complete each other. You have similar interests, tastes, and beliefs, but enough differences and skill sets that you can learn from and help each other. (i.e. Bill oversees the finances and house repair, and I handle cooking, laundry, and our social calendar; it works!)
  5. You put the other person’s happiness and well being before your own, and can count on each other to always be there in time of need.
  6. You make time for each other every day, even if sometimes it’s just a phone call to say hello, and create special moments and memories just for the two of you, away from your children, family, and friends.
  7. You support each other’s dreams. Except when his dream is to buy a motorcycle. (LOL.)
  8. You listen to each other. Always. You can share your most personal thoughts, memories, dreams, and fears with each other without judgment.
  9. You make every major life decision together, considering each other’s ideas, needs, wants, and preferences.
  10. You are committed to make your relationship work. You stick with each other through thick and thin, through happiness and sorrow, through good times and bad, regardless of what has happened in the past, what is happening in the present, and what will happen in the future.

Is there anything else you would add to this list? I’d love to hear what you think. To see ten more things I think help make for a long and happy marriage, please visit my blog. And for an ultra romantic Valentine’s Day read, I hope you’ll check out books one and two in The Harrison Duet: Songbird and Propositions. They’re available in Trade Paperback and for Kindle and Nook. Happy Valentine’s Day, and Happy Reading!

Check out her 10 additional times on her Website.  What are your tips for a happily ever after?

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James

Syrie James’ The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen is a novel within a novel when librarian Samantha McDonough finds a letter in an old poetry book while on a trip to England with her boyfriend, Stephen.  Through this mystery letter, Sam begins an adventure through the countryside of England and enters the novel world of Jane Austen.  Through her travels she meets Anthony Whitaker, the heir of the former owner of Greenbrier, a small country estate in England.  He’s breathtakingly handsome and intelligent, but at times his dream of owning his own company can take over and make him arrogant and stubborn.

“Anthony and I had been taking turns reading aloud.  He was a quick study and had a marvelous gift for bringing characters to life.  Hearing Jane Austen’s words in his delectable British accent was divine.”  (page 127 ARC)

Like Austen’s characters, Sam and Anthony are flawed, but optimistic — and they lose their way, but eventually stumble onto the right path.  James has a way of capturing Austen’s style that belies the modernity of the story she’s telling, and in many ways, readers will get lost in the manuscript, just as Sam and Anthony do.  The missing manuscript not only captures everyone’s rapt attention, but highlights the enduring truth of Austen’s words in her own novels.  Mirroring the quirky characters Austen created and the hilarious proposals she used in her own novels, James’ missing manuscript echoes the great classics while continuing in the tradition of Austen’s fans by making them fresh and fun.

While the events in the manuscript regarding Miss Stanhope’s family and her love life are predictable, it is the journey that she takes to get to happiness that is worthy of Austen’s approval.  James’ character blossoms from a naive, country girl into a women who continues to have a strong mind, loyalty to her family, and dedication to those deserving of her compassion.  However, Sam and Anthony are more like tools to move the story along when — in this case — a frame story would have been sufficient.

Sam and Anthony’s relationship seems to blossom away from the reader’s vision, and this could hamper the reader’s ability to connect with them.  There are brief moments where they interact while reading the manuscript, but what goes on between them while they are reading — looks or brief touches — are not shown.  It’s also hard to interpret Sam’s feelings for Stephen when all we have is her comments about their relationship and rarely see them interact.  Additionally, the hunt for the manuscript seemed rushed, and should have had a bit more depth and twists and turns to make it more suspenseful and believable.

Overall, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James is an enjoyable work about Jane Austen, historian’s thoughts about her work, and the mysteries that remain.  But at the same time, it is about the interpretations of her novels in how the hero always must prove himself to the heroine to win her love and how change can sometimes be a blessing in disguise.

About the Author:

Syrie James is the bestselling author of eight critically acclaimed novels, including The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, Nocturne, Dracula My Love, Forbidden, and The Harrison Duet: Songbird and Propositions. Her books have been translated into eighteen foreign languages.

Mailbox Monday #206

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is Suko’s Notebook.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James, a second copy from the publisher.

2. The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn, a second copy from the publisher.

3. Alien vs. Predator by Michael Robbins, which I won from Necromancy Never Pays and her Trivial Pursuit for Bloggers.

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #201

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is Bermudaonion.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  Cascade by MaryAnne O’Hara for a TLC Book Tour in December.

2.  The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James for review.

What did you receive?

Jane Austen Made Me Do It Edited by Laurel Ann Nattress

Laurel Ann Nattress, the woman behind Austenprose.com, is now the editor of Jane Austen Made Me Do It, a collection of Jane Austen-inspired short stories (check out the tour).  Authors not considered Austenites per se, like Frank Delaney writes with Diane Meier and Adriana Trigiani join those known for their Austen spinoffs, like Amanda Grange, Jane Odiwe, Alexandra Potter, and more.  The collection even includes the winner of the Jane Austen Made Me Do It short story contest — Brenna Aubrey’s “The Love Letter.”  But some Austen retelling favorites like Abigail Reynolds, Mary Simonsen, and Eucharista Ward are notably absent.  However, this only begs the question as to whether there will be another anthology in the future as the Austen subgenre continues to grow.

It is only fitting that the collection begins with the woman who started my journey onward into the world of Jane Austen and subsequent retellings and inspired novels, Syrie James with “Jane Austen’s Nightmare.”  The short story personifies every writer’s nightmare — that the characters will not like how they have been drawn and will seek justice.  From characters perceived as too perfect to those with a great number of flaws, Austen meets them all in her nightmare set in Bath, a city she despises.  Kicking off the collection here is a great introduction to all of Austen’s novels and characters and to her own fears and character as we know her to have been, possibly.

“Austen’s rise to fame has been steady since her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh’s biography, A Memoir of Jane Austen, introduced ‘dear Aunt Jane’ to broader readership in 1869, but recently, two elements have been her strongest catalyst:  the Internet and a wet shirt.”  (page xii)

There are stories for five of her six novels, and Mansfield Park, though mentioned in passing or referred to slightly, is the one left out as an inspiration for a complete story.  Each author tackles a different novel and/or theme from the ridiculousness of ghost stories in “A Night at Northanger” by Lauren Willig to the trials of living with one’s in-laws, like in “Nothing Less Than Fairy-Land” by Monica Fairview.  Clever renderings of finding love in the most unlikely places in Beth Patillo’s “When Only a Darcy Will Do” are joined by modernized stories of renewed love and patience.  These stories are perfect for those looking for more Austen and for those who are unsure whether they would like Austen retellings/continuations.

There are outstanding stories and those that are not quite as good, but let’s be clear, if you love all-things Austen, you want this collection and there are no stories here that you will want to miss.  Writing Austenesque stories requires a certain level of imagination, while at the same time a certain commitment to her characters as she has created them.  Each of these writers does just that.  Jane Austen Made Me Do It has enough clever wit and modern sensibility for any reader, and would suit those looking for prime examples of how a short story can capture the heart.

About the Editor:

A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the author/editor of Austenprose.com a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a regular contributor to the PBS blog Remotely Connected and the Jane Austen Centre online magazine. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington. Visit Laurel Ann at her blogs Austenprose.com and JaneAustenMadeMeDoIt.com, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.

Memoirs of Fiction

Syrie James‘ The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen is a fantastic addition to all things Jane. The novel invents the discovery of Jane Austen’s memoirs in an attic chest and spins a artistic web that intertwines the beauty of Austen’s novels with historical truths and imagined fictions.

***Spoiler Alert***

The memoir is discovered in an old seaman’s chest, which has been bricked up into a wall–perhaps by Jane’s sister Cassandra. Many of the facts we know about Jane’s life are peppered throughout the book, but the crux of the novel for me was the way in which James easily winds in bits of Austen’s novel, Sense and Sensibility.

Like Elinor, Jane falls in love with a gentleman who matches her wit and humor–Mr. Frederick Ashford. Ashford is a man of great fortune who is taken with Jane almost instantly. And we wondered why Jane could write such romantic novels without having experienced love or passion. This fiction sheds light on a possible reason why Jane succumbed to spinsterhood, or should I say chose to remain a single woman.

Ashford is not only resembles Edward Ferrars, but he also bears some of the similar burdens of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy in Pride & Prejudice, though not in personality, but in familial burdens that come with wealth.

Tragically, Jane does not get the happy endings her readers so desire or that she provides to her readers without a second thought. However, she does get the passion, love, and kisses she deserves for her brilliance, her humor, her love of life, and her devotion.

***End Spoiler Alert***

I don’t say this often, but this is one of those books that must go into the pile that I will read again and again in the coming years. Perhaps after re-reading various Austen novels and following supplemental novels with her characters as seen through the eyes of contemporary authors, like Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange.

After the fiasco that was The Jane Austen Book Club, I was a bit tentative about picking up another contemporary book about Austen and her characters, but James does a beautiful job weaving together elements of fact, fiction, and imagination, which made this reader believe in the truth of her fiction.

Also Reviewed Here:

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