Friday, May 31, 2019

Thoughts on Allie Cresswell's Dear Jane (and a #giveaway)

First off, I must fully disclose that I have not read Austen's Emma. It's the only title in her main body of work which I have not read (addendum: I forgot I have not read Mansfield Park either). However, I feel I know the story well enough from film and British television adaptations, and I do fully intend to read the book. It's on my list.

Now, to my thoughts on Dear Jane.

I am the type of person who always wants to know more about the various characters in novels, especially classic novels such as the works of Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. This book did not disappoint. Though this was the third novel in the Highbury Trilogy, I knew enough of the Emma story to not get lost. I loved reading the story of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill from the very beginning. From Austen's Emma, we only get glimpses of Jane from Emma's point of view (not always a positive view), though we do know from other supporting players that Jane is a fine girl. Frank on the other hand always seems to be portrayed as something of a cad. It was refreshing to learn his origins and motivations, and to see just what a truly wonderful person he really is. Finally learning the back story of how Jane and Frank became a couple was satisfying, as I always felt the discovery of their engagement slightly rushed in Emma.

I have not read many Austen retellings, though I have many on my to-be-read list. Dear Jane really is an enjoyable read, with the tone being very much Austen. As I stated earlier on, I did not get lost reading this. It works well as a stand alone novel despite being part of a trilogy. Now I'm eager to go back to the beginning and read the first two books. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Jane Austen's work.

A thank you to Poetic Book Tours, and the publisher, for sending me a copy of the book.

About the book
The final installment of the Highbury trilogy, Dear Jane narrates the history of Jane Fairfax, recounting the events hinted at but never actually described in Jane Austen’s Emma.

Orphaned Jane seems likely to be brought up in parochial Highbury until adoption by her papa’s old friend Colonel Campbell opens to her all the excitement and opportunities of London. The velvet path of her early years is finite, however and tarnished by the knowledge that she must earn her own independence one day.

Frank Weston is also transplanted from Highbury, adopted as heir to the wealthy Churchills and taken to their drear and inhospitable Yorkshire estate. The glimmer of the prize which will one day be his is all but obliterated by the stony path he must walk to claim it.

Their paths meet at Weymouth, and readers of Emma will be familiar with the finale of Jane and Frank’s story. Dear Jane pulls back the veil which Jane Austen drew over their early lives, their meeting in Weymouth and the agony of their secret engagement.

About the author
Allie Cresswell was born in Stockport, UK and began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil.

She did a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College,

She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B and B and a group of boutique holiday cottages. Nowadays Allie writes full time having retired from teaching literature to
lifelong learners. Most recently she has been working on her Highbury trilogy, books inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma.

She has two grown-up children, two granddaughters and two grandsons, is married to Tim and lives in Cumbria, NW England.
You can contact her via her website at or find her on Facebook.

Enter to win a copy of Dear Jane by visiting the Rafflecopter form here.

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Thursday, May 30, 2019

#CatThursday - #Cats and their prey

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Share the link to your post with your comment below.

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Monday, May 27, 2019

Novel Glimpses (10) Martian Chronicles, Florence and Giles, Good Omens, Behind Closed Doors

Novel Glimpses is a feature I created for mini-reviews. The only difference from my full reviews is I will include my Goodreads rating. Feel free to participate. Just be sure to credit me and link back if you do. (Clicking the book title will take you to the book's page on Goodreads.)

Yes! This feature is back from a long hiatus. Last time I posted one of these was in 2012! Since I don't have much time for lengthy reviews these days, this will probably be the course I will take regularly. Plus, I'm reading more, which is a positive thing, but the more I read, the less I want to write a long write-up.

The Martina Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
My Goodreads rating: 5 stars

I remember reading this when I was a girl, but I really didn't remember too much about it. Not surprising since that was probably over 35 years ago. I enjoy Bradbury's books because there is always a message. In this book, the message I gleaned was that humans aren't happy unless they're conquering and destroying. We arrive on Mars to the detriment of the Martians who currently inhabit the planet. The Martians try to stop our arrivals, but it's no use...we're relentless. My absolute favorite chapter was April 2036: Usher II. This was a masterful and fun variation on Poe's famous story, The Fall of the House of Usher.

Note: This was my Classics Club Spin 20 selection.

Florence and Giles by John Harding
My Goodreads rating: 5 stars

One of my favorite Henry James stories is The Turn of the Screw. The Times (London) review of this book stated: "Imagine The Turn of the Screw reworked by Edgar Allan Poe." So true! This was a truly Gothic novel. Very creepy and atmospheric. The main character, the little girl, Florence is forbidden to read (because girls don't need to read, according to her uncle) and so she finds inventive ways to get her hands on the books in the library. This, and her tenacity, endeared Florence to me. Another thing about Florence was her invention of her own language. She tells the story with an assortment of odd vocabulary which I thought added a certain charm to the story. This is quite a creepy mystery, bordering on horror, but in a Gothic sense, as I mentioned before. I could not hardly put this down and was thrilled by the big twist at the end. 

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

I love Pratchett's wit. Add Neil Gaiman to the mix and you have a winner? So, why not five stars, you ask? Well, I probably would have enjoyed this more if I could have listened to the The BBC Radio 4 dramatisation, or read the print book. However, I did find it entertaining, and of course, I wanted to read it before the new series debuts on Amazon Prime. Now I will definitely be prepared. Looking forward to seeing what Michael Sheen and David Tennant do with their roles.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
My Goodreads rating: 5 stars

I listened to this on audio and I think it's the fastest I've ever listened to a book. I was riveted...and sickened, and very angry. I've heard many say they just didn't find it believable. Anyone who has ever been the victim of domestic abuse, whether physical, emotional, or both, will believe it. This is why I reacted so viscerally. The hopelessly trapped state in which Grace found herself was truly frightening. Another note on the believability of it all; this man had lots of money, he was a lawyer, and he was connected. It's very plausible he could have done what he did. Couple this with the manipulation and how else was Grace to act. An excellent debut novel. I look forward to more from this author.

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Thursday, May 23, 2019

#CatThursday - Game of Thrones and RIP Grumpy Cat #cats

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Share the link to your post with your comment below.

Not sure if any of you watched the Game of Thrones series. I did and it was probably my second favorite show of all time. However, that was pretty much ruined by the final episode on Sunday.

This was me before the last episode....

This was me after the last episode....

This would have been a better outcome, in my opinion....

In other news, little Tardar Sauce, aka Grumpy Cat passed away last week. She was only seven years old. Thank you, Grumpy for all the laughs and fun. You will be missed. Rest in peace.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Releasing Friday...Robert Stephen Parry's Queen Victoria and the Men who Loved Her

Victoria and the Men who Love Her: Recollections of a Journey

We are in England sometime during the early part of the 20th century. A chance encounter with a group of unusual and talented people on a train journey reveals an insight into the life and times of Queen Victoria, one of the world’s most influential and controversial monarchs.

From manipulated childhood, to passionate marriage, to unrelenting widowhood and ultimately independence, follow her story and discover the men in her life and what they meant to her.

And she to them.

A remarkable journey through an era of breathtaking invention and social change, in which the life of Victoria as princess and queen is explored through a number of short biographical sketches and fictional vignettes. A place were history merges with fantasy; fact with fiction, and knowledge with adventure.

Visit the website for a fully interactive experience, including an excerpt from the book.

eBook available for pre-order now on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

Paperback (available May 24th) will be 200 pages. ISBN: 9781797616667

Read all about Robert Stephen Parry at his website.

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

#CatThursday - Giving back to the #cats

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Share the link to your post with your comment below.

It has been a while since I shared a Parole de Chat video. I always enjoy them. This one is especially touching because Faireset donated 6000 Euros to SPA Rescue Center in Gennevilliers, France. Good for him, and great for the kitties!

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Thursday, May 9, 2019

#CatThursday - #Authors and #Cats (84) Yehuda Amichai

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and often hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Share the link to your post with your comment below.

The second Cat Thursday of each month is Authors and Cats Thursday. Each time I will feature an author with their cat(s), pictured with a cat(s), or guest posts by cat loving authors who also (sometimes) write about cats.

Yehuda Amichai (May 3, 1924 – September 22, 2000) was an Israeli poet. Amichai is considered by many, both in Israel and internationally, as Israel's greatest modern poet. He was also one of the first to write in colloquial Hebrew.

Yehuda Amichai [was] for generations the most prominent poet in Israel, and one of the leading figures in world poetry since the mid-1960s.

(The Times, London, Oct. 2000)

He was awarded the 1957 Shlonsky Prize, the 1969 Brenner Prize, 1976 Bialik Prize, and 1982 Israel Prize. He also won international poetry prizes: 1994 – Malraux Prize: International Book Fair (France), 1995 – Macedonia`s Golden Wreath Award: International Poetry Festival, and more.

Yehuda Amichai was born in Würzburg, Germany, to an Orthodox Jewish family, and was raised speaking both Hebrew and German.

Amichai immigrated with his family at the age of 11 to Petah Tikva in Mandate Palestine in 1935, moving to Jerusalem in 1936. He attended Ma'aleh, a religious high school in Jerusalem. He was a member of the Palmach, the strike force of the Haganah, the defense force of the Jewish community in Mandate Palestine. As a young man he volunteered and fought in World War II as a member of the British Army, and in the Negev on the southern front in the Israeli War of Independence.

After discharge from the British Army in 1946, Amichai was a student at David Yellin Teachers College in Jerusalem, and became a teacher in Haifa. After the War of Independence, Amichai studied Bible and Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Encouraged by one of his professors at Hebrew University, he published his first book of poetry, Now and in Other Days, in 1955.

In 1956, Amichai served in the Sinai War, and in 1973 he served in the Yom Kippur War. Amichai published his first novel, Not of This Time, Not of This Place, in 1963. It was about a young Israeli who was born in Germany, and after World War II, and the war of Independence in Israel, he visits his hometown in Germany, recalls his childhood, trying to make sense of the world that created the Holocaust. His second novel, Mi Yitneni Malon, about an Israeli poet living in New York, was published in 1971 while Amichai was a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He was a poet in residence at New York University in 1987. For many years he taught literature in an Israeli seminar for teachers, and at the Hebrew University to students from abroad.

Amichai was invited in 1994 by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to read from his poems at the ceremony of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.

"God has pity on kindergarten children" was one of the poems he read. This poem is inscribed on a wall in the Rabin Museum in Tel-Aviv. There are Streets on his name in cities in Israel, and also one in Wurzburg.

Amichai was married twice. First to Tamar Horn, with whom he had one son, and then to Chana Sokolov; they had one son and one daughter. His two sons were Ron and David, and his daughter was Emmanuella.

He died of cancer in 2000, at age 76. (from Goodreads)

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

A Reading Life (53) What I read in April, what I'm #reading in May

I had a very successful reading month in April. I read/finished six five books (I thought it was six, but I was including Good Omens which I'm just about finished listening to on audio. Oops). I completed a four month reading challenge. I would also call it a successful participation in my Spring into Horror Readathon at Seasons of Reading. It has been a long time since I've read that many books in a month's time. Color me proud!

What I read:
Necroscope, Brian Lumley  Review
The Scapegoat, Daphne Du Maurier  Review
The King of Bones and Ashes, J.D. Horn  Review
The Twelve Caesars, Suetonius  Review
The Giver, Lois Lowry  Review 

I completed the four month challenge, Book Challenge by Erin 10.0. The next one is July through October (11.0) and I think I'll participate again. Looking forward to the new categories being announced on June 1st. Here's my completed list:

• 5 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages - Orphan Train by Christina Baker Cline
• 10 points: Read a book that was made into a movie - The Scapegoat by Daphne Du Maurier
• 10 points: Read a book that is set in Europe - The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
• 15 points: Read a book that was a Newberry Award winner (medal winner or honor book): The Giver by Lois Lowry (Winner, 1994)
• 20 points: Read a book that is a friend or family member’s favourite...or the favourite book by another participant in this challenge - Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith (one of my mom’s favorites)
• 20 points: Read a book originally published over 100 years ago - Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
• 25 points: Read a book with six words (and only six words) in the title - The King of Bones and Ashes by J.D. Horn
• 30 points: Read a book with a compass or cardinal direction in the title - Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
• 30 points: Read a book that was originally published in a different language than your own - The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius, Robert Graves (Translation)
• 35 points: Read a book that begins with the letter “N” - Necroscope by Brian Lumley

Currently Reading

The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury (my Classics Spin book)
In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great, Michael Wood
NOS4A2, Joe Hill
Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (audio-almost finished)

My continued May reading plans

Florence & Giles, John Harding
Dear Jane, Allie Cresswell (for review)
New audio book title - to be determined

On a final note, and speaking of the Classics Club, I decided to revise my list and restart my goal date. The reason? In my current living situation, many of my books are difficult to access so there were many books on the list I could not get my hands on. I decided to replace those titles mostly with classic writing books (some of them which I consider classics) and a couple of novels. One notable title, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson which I recently acquired on Kindle. Here's my new list (also found in the Classics Club tab in the menu):

Maya Angelou
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale Read in March 2017
Negotiating with the Dead

Jane Austen 
Mansfield Park

Northanger Abbey Read in March 2019

Elizabeth Berg
Escaping into the open

Ray Bradbury
Something Wicked This Way Comes Read October 2018
The Martian Chronicles
Zen and the Art of Writing

Dorothea Brande
Becoming a Writer

Anne Bronte
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall 

Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre

Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights

Julia Cameron
The Vein of Gold

Truman Capote
In Cold Blood

Cheri (with The Last of Cheri)

Wilkie Collins
The Woman in White

Daniel Defoe

Charles Dickens
David Copperfield
Great Expectations
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby
Little Dorritt
A Tale of Two Cities 

Annie Dillard
The Writing Life

Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Brothers Karamazov

Daphne du Maurier
My Cousin Rachel Read in April 2017

George Eliot 
The Mill on the Floss
Silas Marner

T.S. Eliot
Murder in the Cathedral

Mary Hanford Ford
The Legends of Parsifal

John Fowles
The Collector
The French Lieutenant's Woman

Anne Frank
The Diary of Anne Frank
(Changed from Updike's Rabbit, Run which was a DNF)

Bonnie Friedman
Writing Past Dark

Elizabeth Gaskell
North and South

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
The Sylph

John Gardner
The Art of Fiction
On Becoming a Novelist
On Writers and Writing

Natalie Goldberg
Thunder and Lightning
Writing Down the Bones

Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Marble Faun

Victor Hugo
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Les Miserables

Shirley Jackson
We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Henry James
The Portrait of a Lady
The Golden Bowl
The Turn of the Screw
Roderick Hudson

Ralph Keyes
The Courage to Write

Madame de Lafayette
The Princess of Cleves Read in February 2019

Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird Read in July 2018

Sheridan Le Fanu
Uncle Silas

Gaston Leroux
The Phantom of the Opera

Ursula K. Le Guin
Steering the Craft

Betsy Lerner
The Forest for the Trees

Thomas Mann

W. Somerset Maugham
The Painted Veil

Joyce Carol Oates
The Faith of a Writer

Sylvia Plath
The Bell Jar

Steven Pressfield
The War of Art

Ann Radcliffe
The Mysteries of Udolpho 

Sir Walter Scott
Rob Roy

Mary Shelley
Frankenstein Read in February 2019

Twyla Tharp
The Creative Habit

Brenda Ueland
If You Want to Write

Lew Wallace

Evelyn Waugh
Brideshead Revisited

Edith Wharton
The Age of Innocence
Ethan Frome
The House of Mirth
The Writing of Fiction

Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Lady Windermere's Fan
A Woman of No Importance
An Ideal Husband

Virginia Woolf
The Virginia Woolf reader

Jane Yolen
Take Joy

What's going on in your Reading Life?

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

#CatThursday - #Cats in #Art (39) Mary Cassatt

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Share the link to your post with your comment below.

Since Mother's Day is coming up in less than two weeks, I thought I would feature Mary Cassatt who was known for her mother and child scenes. Sometimes these scenes featured cats. Art scholars believe their presence in her paintings were to accentuate the idea of motherhood and domesticity...or perhaps she just liked cats. Enjoy!

Children Playing with a Cat 1908

Ellen Holding a Cat Looking Left

Sara Holding a Cat 1908

Young woman wearing a small winged hat holding a cat 1914

Robert Holding a Cat 1882

Reine Lefebvre With Blond Baby 
And Sara Holding A Cat

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