Mansfield Park Read-Along ~ Week 1 Thoughts

The lovely and amazing Amber is hosting a Mansfield Park (by Jane Austen) Read-Along in the month of January!!!! Each week, we are discussing 12 chapters. We’re also tweeting as we go with the hashtag #MansfieldReadAlong!

No surprise, but I’m a *little* behind already (I blame it on life craziness and other really, really good books I’m currently reading). Anyway, this is my post all about these chapters following the format Amber has set. This is my first time reading Mansfield Park, so the read-along experience is adding to my excitement and absorption of the story!

Mansfield Park Read-along

Please go visit her discussion post to see other readers’ thoughts and post links, too!

Mansfield Park Volume I: Chapters 1-12

Discussion Format: your favorite quotes, general impressions, and three questions to answer for each week’s reading

Favorite Quotes

“It is unknown how much was consumed in our kitchen by odd comers and goers.” -chapter 3, the worrisome Mrs. Norris

“When he returned, to understand how Fanny was situated, and perceived its ill effects, there seemed with him but one thing to be done’ and that ‘Fanny must have a horse’ was the resolute declaration…” -Edmund, chapter 4 (this reminds me of a tiny part of North and South where Mr. Thornton has the wallpaper changed in consideration of Margaret ❤ )

“Her own thoughts and reflections were habitually her best companions; and, in observing the appearance of the country, the bearings of the roads, the difference of soil, the state of the harvest, the cottages, the cattle, the children, she found entertainment that could only have been heightened by having Edmund to speak to of what she felt.” -Fanny, chapter 8 (This is a telling passage, showing Fanny’s contentment in keeping things to herself and revealing her high esteem of Edmund’s companionship and conversation.)

General Impressions

IMG_20180103_205419_127.jpgBecause of my slight familiarity with the story (I’ve seen the 1999 BBC film only), I know a little of what to expect with how the main characters behave and are resolved. With that said, it’s a little surprising to me that so much focus is on everyone else at Mansfield Park while Fanny Price, the main character, seems pushed to the side. Clearly, the reader is to be most sympathetic with her and see how their treatment is influencing her life greatly. Maybe this minimum focus is intentional to make us feel her emotions, when expressed, more keenly?

The Bertrams are puzzling. Like Fanny, I care the most for Edmund, though he does concern me at times with his nearsightedness. The Miss Bertrams are just plain spoiled! And, the other men of the family, the Thomases (elder and son), haven’t been on the page quite long enough for me to judge them.

Mrs. Norris, the Rushworths, and the Crawfords are all colorful characters, if often self-centered, that are adding much humor and interest to the story so far. I’m anxious to see how entangled it all becomes — and how Fanny overcomes her situation.

3 Questions

1. Would you consider the Bertram family taking in Fanny to be a kindness in the long run? If so, why? If not, could it have been a kindness if they approached things differently?

Yes, in the long run, I think it will be. She is being raised to an advantage of education and exposure to a different class of people which was important at the time. Though I think she is treated as unwanted and as a nuisance at times, I believe her experiences are shaping her character. Thank goodness she has a kind friend in Edmund! That is the light in her situation.

2. If you were a governess teaching the Bertram children and Fanny, what lesson would you specifically choose for each of them (as kids or adults)? Feel free to have fun with this!

I would teach the Miss Bertrams about kindness and courtesy, Thomas Bertram about respect and the blessing of his family, Edmund Bertram about the danger of flirtatious women (ahem, Mary Crawford), and Fanny Price about bravery and the importance of her individuality (I think she puts too much stock into “standards” her relatives dictate).

3. Imagine you had joined the group on their visit to Sotherton. Which part of the tour would you most have enjoyed? Would we find you wandering the halls or meandering through the wilderness?

You would find me out in the wilderness, perhaps even climbing over the gate (but not arm in arm with Mr. Crawford).

 

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my musings on Mansfield Park?

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First Line Fridays #8 Special Christmas Edition: The Story of the Other Wise Man

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

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I have a little story behind my choice for this special Christmas edition of First Line Fridays….

I’m sharing the first line of The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry van Dyke. This classic tale was referred to in a favorite TV movie of mine: “Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas” as the story of the fourth wise man. When I was antique shopping earlier this year, I saw this little copy and realized it was the same story!!!! Though I haven’t read it through yet, I WILL before Christmas day comes. My little edition was printed in 1899! A little message is written in the front in pen “To Mama, from Bennie Bee. Christmas 1912”.

Preface:

Who seeks for heaven alone to save his soul,
May keep the path, but will not reach the goal;
While he who walks in love may wander far,
Yet God will bring him where the blessed are.

First Line:

The Sign in the Sky

In the days when Augustus Caesar was master of many kings and Herod reigned in Jerusalem, there lived in the city of Ecbatana, among the mountains of Persia, a certain man named Artaban, the Median.

What is your favorite classic Christmas story?

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! The, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!

‘Inspired by Classics’ Guest Post by Pepper Basham + Review & Giveaway: “Charming the Troublemaker”

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Today I have a real TREAT for you guys! Author Pepper Basham has shared a guest post: “Inspired by Classics” all about how classic literature and story fit in with modern writing. I’m also sharing my review of her new release, Charming the Troublemaker, book 2 in her “Mitchell’s Crossroads” Appalachian rom-com series. And, there’s a #GIVEAWAY of an ebook copy of Charming the Troublemaker! So, read on for my little review and her AMAZING thoughts, then enter the giveaway at the end!

About the Book

Charming the TroublemakerWhen Dr. Alex Murdock is demoted to a university in rural Virginia, the last thing he expects to find is a future. But country charm never looked as good as it did on Rainey Mitchell. 

Rainey Mitchell does not need a high-class flirt in her wounded world, but trouble and temptation wafts off the new professor as strong as his sandalwood-scented cologne.

When circumstances thrust them together to save her tutoring clinic, can the troublemaker find the hero inside and encourage the reticent Rainey to open her heart again?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

You all might recall my excitement for this book in the cover reveal and in a Behind the Scenes Interview with Pepper + Book Recommendations.

Since the very first book of this series, A Twist of Faith, I have been interested in Rainey’s story. Learning hers would be a “loose” retelling of North and South (Elizabeth Gaskell) AND that Rainey would be paired with Alex Murdock, an interesting if frustrating person in book 1, I was ecstatic!!! I mean, woohoo because I ❤ the book & miniseries, and anything Pepper writes is a #mustread, magical romance.

While the humor is laugh-out-loud and the family drama endearing, a most intriguing new-to-Pepper’s-books element is present in Charming the Troublemaker: SUSPENSE! A few surprises and moments of suspense add a good measure of intensity to this Appalachian rom-com full of love and heart.

The hero of this story has been dubbed #AdorkableAlex — and for good reason! His hilarity and flirty manner guards a humble heart that needs a little nudging to find an inner hero, and the people of Ransom, ESPECIALLY the Mitchells, are the ones to help him find that belonging. When he is determined to help or get involved in something, his whole heart jumps in, and it is just so endearing. And have I mentioned he likes Hallmark movies?! #swoon

Rainey Mitchell is the kind of friend you want to have… fiercely protective and discerning, yet adorably clueless about her own value. Her independence is a contrast with some of the baggage and insecurities she carries, and her journey toward a new confidence is wonderfully spurred on by her friendship with Alex. Her little girl, Sarah, is cute from start to finish! And when Sarah and Alex are together on the page, it’s just precious.

The swoony romance is “I NEED A FREEZER” level on multiple occasions! (Pepper has mad kissing book skills). Even through that, however, Alex is EVER the gentleman. And Rainey has a few surprises up her sleeve with her sassyness! Let’s just say it’s fun to see Rainey catch Alex off guard.

More than the romance and the dynamic of these two lead characters, a strong theme of security, honesty, and life direction found ONLY IN JESUS centers this story as it winds its way toward a happy-ending. The emotional moments connected to this faith thread were the most joyous parts of the story. Mama Mitchell was often a tool of wisdom and grace for this purpose, and I just wanted to hug her. And eat her cookin’.

There are so many little things to love about Charming the Troublemaker. Like the walkie talkies. And the kisses. And names of a sleek sports car and practical truck! (Marilyn and Indiana, respectively) 🙂 And all the little North and South parallels you “have to look hard” for that added to the story in just the right ways. And the Mitchell clan with all their hometown love. This is one family I will happily revisit in these pages and, hopefully, in stories to come for a long while.

Thank you to the author and publisher, Bling! Romance (LPC), for the complimentary review copy. This is my honest review.


From Pepper: Inspired by Classics

It is said that there are no NEW stories for authors to write, only the influence our imaginations lend to the stories that have already been created.

Pepper 3And for the most part, this is true. There are basic story tropes that get repeated over and over again, but each author adds their interpretation, their characters, their heart into explaining that trope through their own voices.

I was just talking to my agent, Julie Gwinn, last week about how my brain immediately goes to reinventing stories or creating sequels. I can’t help it. In college I wrote a sequel to Frankenstein! Not long after that, I was determined to write a sequel to the Toby McGuire Spiderman movie. I REALLY wanted to write a sequel to Jane Eyre at another point in time and have found various other books I wanted to reinvent in a different time period or put my spin on them.

As L.M. Montgomery uses (an old proverb) through her classic, Anne of Green Gables, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” So, I think that’s why we see these wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful) remakes of the classics we all love so much.

Pepper 1Their stories, characters, and/or dialogue is so timeless we, as storytellers, want to capture that spark in some way and make it our own. Of course, we’ll never write exactly like them, but the stories they tell have the unique ability to touch us in special ways – and who wouldn’t want to recreate that feeling?

In my Mitchell’s Crossroads series, I’ve taken some of the things I’ve loved from classics and tries to put a very ‘loose’ and modern spin on them. A Twist of Faith is a loose retelling of Pygmalion (My Fair Lady) and Charming the Troublemaker has aspects of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South in it. Can you find them? It’s clearer in A Twist of Faith than Charming the Troublemaker, but you can find them, and ‘you have to look hard’ (fangirl reference). Courtney: squeee! I ❤ N&S

For me, elements of classics I want to recreate stem in part from the way these stories make me feel when I read them, but also in the essentials that make them memorable.

I want to write engaging characters like Henry Higgins, Eliza Doolittle, John Thornton, and Margaret Hale.

I want to inspire smile from witty dialogue and maybe even sneak in a mystery here or there.

I want to portray a variety of romances – not just hate-to-love or opposites attract, but delve into the fun (almost magical) assortment of possibilities. They’ve ALL been written in some form before, and watching out the masters do it provides excellent inspiration.

From fairytales to adventures to romances to mysteries, the possibilities are limitless.

So, what classics would you enjoy seeing rewritten/modernized?

What do you think makes a classic…a classic???

Giveaway

Enter the rafflecopter giveaway.

Giveaway is for one (1) ebook copy of Charming the Troublemaker provided by Pepper Basham. Giveaway ends 11/18/2017 11:59pm CT. Void where prohibited.

 

Review: “Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility” by Hillary Manton Lodge

My Jane of AustinSisters. Tea. Texas transplants. Tacos. Music. Scones. A heroic yet humble veteran. BBQ. The crazy complexities of family…. ALL INFUSED WITH JANE AUSTEN. Hillary Manton Lodge’s new release, Jane of Austin, is a feast for the voracious reader and fan of contemporary romance and classic literature alike. A contemporary retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, this book delves deeper into the emotional complexities of Austen’s personas while maintaining a humorous and modern atmosphere.

FUN FACT: There are RECIPES at the end of some of the chapters of this novel! So, you won’t be hungry and bereft, as long as you have a functioning kitchen and small pantry nearby. Go ahead and buy some tea if you need it. And maybe the ingredients for scones or pie. You’ll thank me later.

 I read this book with some of my #bookbesties as an impromptu read-along on Twitter! If you’d like to see our Tweets and gushing, check out the hashtag #JofARAL.

About the Book

“Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience – or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.”―Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Just a few years after their father’s business scandal shatters their lives, Jane and Celia Woodward find themselves forced out of their San Francisco tea shop. The last thing Jane wants is to leave their beloved shop on Valencia Street, but when Celia insists on a move to Austin, Texas, the sisters pack up their kid sister Margot and Jane’s tea plants, determined to start over yet again.

But life in Austin isn’t all sweet tea and breakfast tacos. Their unusual living situation is challenging and unspoken words begin to fester between Jane and Celia. When Jane meets and falls for up-and-coming musician Sean Willis, the chasm grows deeper.

While Sean seems to charm everyone in his path, one person is immune – retired Marine Captain Callum Beckett. Callum never meant to leave the military, but the twin losses of his father and his left leg have returned him to the place he least expected—Texas.

In this modern spin on the Austen classic, Sense and Sensibility, the Woodward sisters must contend with new ingredients in unfamiliar kitchens, a dash of heartbreak, and the fragile hope that maybe home isn’t so far away.

Jane of Austin on Goodreads | Amazon

Review

I think it’s beneficial to know a few of the main points of Austen’s classic, Sense and Sensibility, a movie/series adaptation of it, or even some of her other works to fully appreciate the brilliant aspects of Jane of Austin. I’m not an expert by any means, but I greatly appreciated the nuances of the story more having seen the Sense and Sensibility film and read it a loooong while ago.

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With Jane of Austin, Hillary lends her own originality to the structure of a classic. She maintains the focus of a sisterly bond, the story of uncertainty in the face of circumstance. But a new light is shined, in many ways: what if Marianne was just as emotional and dramatic, but an introvert? Elinor, still as logical and caring, an extrovert? And, how had Colonel Brandon’s previous life experiences shaped him into the quiet hero? What hardships had he endured for such perspective? These are just a few of the ways Jane, Celia, and Callum Beckett are brought into focus through Hillary’s lens, sharpening formerly overlooked elements and delightfully expounding on others.

This novel is distinctly Hillary’s voice, though. Having read her previous AMAZING “Two Blue Doors” series, I recognize the slight humor, sarcasm, and honesty of her tone. It pairs unbelievably well with the natural wit of Austen’s story for laugh-out-loud moments, especially when conversations between the sisters involve the youngest, Margot.

On that note, the sisterly dynamic is BRILLIANT! The extremes of such relationships are accurately shown… from the camaraderie and familiarity stemming from a shared history to the clash of personalities and disillusioned disagreements. Most of all, the moments of care and support of one another, the bond of family, and even the rhythm of working together were my favorite parts of seeing Jane and Celia together.

And oh, the romance! Callum Beckett is the ultimate selfless and steadfast hero. The familiar juxtaposition of Jane caring for Sean (the Willoughby character) is there, while Callum and his unrequited love plays out in a very plausible way. Callum’s veteran status and penchant for reading aloud just up the attractiveness. Oh, and have I mentioned he’s tall, dark, and handsome!? I’m still not sure why it takes Jane so long to notice ;).

Jane of Austin is a fresh and original twist that delightfully emphasizes the strength of family and home, which can sometimes be people instead of a place. This is the type of novel that ends with a happy sigh and a craving for tea and scones. I’m enamored with the way the combination of Hillary’s skill and a contemporary setting reveal how absurdly interconnected life and relationships can be — in a very Austen-Esque way.

Sincere and hearty thank you to the publisher/author for the complimentary review copy. This review is my honest and enthusiastic opinion.

About the Author

HILLARY MANTON LODGE is the author of Together at the TableReservations for TwoA Table by the WindowPlain Jayne,  and Simply Sara. Hillary Manton LodgeA graduate of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism, Hillary discovered the world of cuisine during her internship atNorthwest Palate Magazine. Her next novel, Jane of Austin, will release June 13, 2017, from WaterBrook Multnomah. 

Over the years, Hillary’s novels have enjoyed critical success from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Romantic Times and have reached readers around the world. In 2010, Plain Jayne was nominated as a Carol Award Finalist, and Simply Sara was an ECPA Bestselling book. In 2015, A Table by the Window was shortlisted in the INSPY Awards.

In her free time, Hillary often finds herself experimenting in the kitchen, attending indie concerts, and finding new walking trails. Formerly a resident of the Pacific Northwest, she and her husband now live near Memphis, Tennessee, along with their Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Shiloh and Sylvie.

Review: “A Portrait of Emily Price” by Katherine Reay

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Once again, author Katherine Reay has penned a contemporary novel with a complexity of skill not many in the genre can achieve with her newest release, A Portrait of Emily Price. And what a picture its pages holds! I would describe this as a family drama with a whirlwind (though always realistic) romance and a story of finding oneself in the middle of life’s chaos and joy. With a hint of whimsy, the story always stays realistic in a humidity-and-wavy-hairdo, too-much-espresso sort of way. And, in true Reay style, included literary references and nods to classic literature throughout (making this #booknerd very happy!)

About the Book

Art restorer Emily Price has never encountered anything she can’t fix—until she meets Ben, an Italian chef, who seems just right. But when Emily follows Ben home to Italy, she learns that his family is another matter . . .

a-portrait-of-emily-priceEmily Price—fix-it girl extraordinaire and would-be artist—dreams of having a gallery show of her own. There is no time for distractions, especially not the ultimate distraction of falling in love.

But Chef Benito Vassallo’s relentless pursuit proves hard to resist. Visiting from Italy, Ben works to breathe new life into his aunt and uncle’s faded restaurant, Piccollo. Soon after their first meeting, he works to win Emily as well—inviting her into his world and into his heart.

Emily astonishes everyone when she accepts Ben’s proposal and follows him home. But instead of allowing the land, culture, and people of Monterello to transform her, Emily interferes with everyone and everything around her, alienating Ben’s tightly knit family. Only Ben’s father, Lucio, gives Emily the understanding she needs to lay down her guard. Soon, Emily’s life and art begin to blossom, and Italy’s beauty and rhythm take hold of her spirit.

Yet when she unearths long-buried family secrets, Emily wonders if she really fits into Ben’s world. Will the joys of Italy become just a memory, or will Emily share in the freedom and grace that her life with Ben has shown her are possible?

Review

I was fortunate to read this one along with some awesome blogger friends and discuss it on Twitter along the way. You can find our discussions and major fangirling by viewing the hashtag #PofEPRAL

Reay’s style is romantic in many ways, from Emily’s observations, place descriptions, to the overall feel of the story. Not rosy and idealistic, by any means, but sweet in its outlook — the storytelling is cleverly as much about what happens “between the lines” as what’s directly told. Like the family history, the nostalgia, the courtship between Emily and Ben, and the food!

The characters are strong in the sense that their personalities are so established you can almost sense their reactions as much as read them. When Ben and Emily finally make it to Italy, you can feel the tension and belonging of home in how the scenes play out. And the supporting characters!!!!!! I loved them all, the brother, sister, parents, friends, aunts and uncles. It was fun to put the big picture together as the story progressed of how they are each integral, whether in a small or big way, to Ben and Emily’s lives. Connected, if you will, to their story, to influence, encourage, and sometimes pass on valuable wisdom.

Another way the characters are firmly established is through setting and culture. For instance, the “accents” of Ben and his family are expressed specifically, conveying notes on inflection so well it made me feel like I was listening to them. And, the descriptions of all of the different places, from the little Italian restaurant in Atlanta to the sunflower fields and Lucio’s library in Italy and everything in between practically, made me feel immersed in the culture. This book is a true example of the power of written words on a page!

The relationship between Emily and Ben is shown just enough – it’s not overly focused on the romance aspect (though there are plenty of those moments that show just how romantic Ben can be <3) but instead tells just enough you see their closeness and camaraderie. I think it’s safe to say the reader falls in love with Ben, too, from the first chapter’s description (as Rissi quotes here):

Random side note: interestingly, eyes go on to play an important means of communication and meaning in the story.

I could go on further about the intricacies of this story and how it pushes you to think deeply about the impact your choices have on those around you; or even its gentle reminder to seize the moment and find happiness in the little moments of everyday life. But I’ll leave you with the important stuff it showcases: truth, joy, and love (of all kinds…. romance, friendship, family/sibling/parent, even love of your work). With a style only Reay can achieve, this story is polished and engrossing with vivid, heartful characters.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson and Booklook for the complimentary review copy. This is my honest review.

Mini Review: “Of Dubious and Questionable Memory” novella by Rachel McMillan

This little novella by Rachel McMillan, book number 1.5 in her Herringford and Watts Mysteries series, deserves a mini review! So, read on for my thoughts.

Of Dubious and Questionable Memory (Herringford and Watts Mysteries #1.5)Of Dubious and Questionable Memory by Rachel McMillan

Yet again, a fun and cozy little mystery from Rachel McMillan. Classic Jem & Merinda antics. Sweet Ray. A chicken, motorized bicycles, & a trip to the US!!!! Specifically, Concord and Orchard House, with a nod to Little Women and other notable historical figures. Fans of mystery, history, or the previous books in this series will love this little glimpse into what’s going on with the Herringford and Watts girls.

My review of other in the series:

A Singular & Whimsical Problem (Herringford and Watts Mysteries #.5)

The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder (Herringford and Watts Mysterys #1)

 

 

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen: Read-Along, Chapters 18-24

I’m participating in the March Read-Along of Northanger Abbey hosted by Amber over at Seasons of Humility. I’m a little behind now, but I’m slowly but surely making progress! I am determined to go through with these discussion posts, too. This one covers chapters 18-24.

Northanger Abbey Read-Along Graphic 2016 (2)

Discussion Format: One favorite quote, some general impressions, and three questions for each week’s reading.

Favorite Quote

While this quote is talking about John Thorpe’s regard for Catherine (ugh, please, give me a break), I do like it because it is an interesting expression:

“You know he is over head and ears in love with you.” -Isabella to Catherine, chapter 18

General Impressions

These chapters, like Amber noted, dragged on a bit, even though a few important things DID happen. My favorite parts were probably Henry and Catherine’s discussions. Especially the one about hyacinths! Such exclaiming over a trivial thing is a sign of their relationship being comfortable and familiar, in my opinion.

Questions

1. If you were Captain Tilney’s sibling, would you say something to him about his behavior toward Isabella? Or if you were Isabella’s friend, would you try to warn or correct her? What do you think of Henry’s reaction to Catherine’s concern about the situation?

I probably would, privately, like I suspect Henry did. After all, siblings are needed for encouragement and the occasional prodding! Isabella NEEDS some advice, but I don’t think she would take it!

I think Henry is very discerning and good for Catherine! He can clearly see Isabella’s inconstancy.

2. After reading all about Northanger Abbey, what are your thoughts of the place? Is it anything like you were expecting? Would you ever want to visit or live there if you could?

I’m not sure….I think it is like I expected! I am all for visiting, but I don’t think I would want to live in such a large place even if I could.

3. How do you feel about Catherine’s thoughts and behavior in this section? Was it all harmless intrigue, or do you thinks it’s possible to be too caught up in daydreams and fictional worlds?

It’s definitely possible to be too caught up in daydreams. I thought her added anxiety was a bit much — especially concerning Mr. Tilney (the father). She doesn’t have any grounds to go on making assumptions or even accusations toward him. I think it will get her in trouble!

 

Check out Amber’s Week 4 post for everyone’s answers/links to other posts.