• Book Reviews,  Bookish

    The Lost Books Of Jane Austen: a review

    About The Lost Books of Jane Austen

    • Hardcover: 304 pages
    • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (October 8, 2019)

    In the nineteenth century, inexpensive editions of Jane Austen’s novels targeted to Britain’s working classes were sold at railway stations, traded for soap wrappers, and awarded as school prizes. At just pennies a copy, these reprints were some of the earliest mass-market paperbacks, with Austen’s beloved stories squeezed into tight columns on thin, cheap paper. Few of these hard-lived bargain books survive, yet they made a substantial difference to Austen’s early readership. These were the books bought and read by ordinary people.

    Packed with nearly 100 full-color photographs of dazzling, sometimes gaudy, sometimes tasteless covers, The Lost Books of Jane Austen is a unique history of these rare and forgotten Austen volumes. Such shoddy editions, Janine Barchas argues, were instrumental in bringing Austen’s work and reputation before the general public. Only by examining them can we grasp the chaotic range of Austen’s popular reach among working-class readers.

    Informed by the author’s years of unconventional book hunting, The Lost Books of Jane Austen will surprise even the most ardent Janeite with glimpses of scruffy survivors that challenge the prevailing story of the author’s steady and genteel rise. Thoroughly innovative and occasionally irreverent, this book will appeal in equal measure to book historians, Austen fans, and scholars of literary celebrity.

    Review

    Cheap books make authors canonical. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, cheap and shoddy versions of Jane Austen’s novels performed the heavy lifting of bringing her work and reputation before the general public.

    From the sanitized, Victorian-era Jane Austen to a modern day cover of Pride and Prejudice that had schoolgirls convinced that Mr. Darcy was a vampire, this has by far been one of the most fascinating books I’ve read this year.

    If book covers captivate you like they do me, this book will grab your attention as you take a historic walk through the book covers of Jane Austen’s works – many considered “lost” today.

    The reader is also given a look into the publishing industry, trends, and perhaps the biggest reason we are obsessed with book covers – marketing.

    And it’s not a new strategy. 

    I thoroughly enjoyed this well-researched book, full of Austen covers I never thought I would see. My favorites were the cheap paperbacks rather than the first and collectible editions – which illustrates a large part of the author’s argument that it’s the inexpensive books that make an author live on forever.

    If you love Jane Austen, if you collect her books, and if you adore books in general, you will find this book to be an absolute gem.

    About Janine Barchas

    Janine Barchas is the Louann and Larry Temple Centennial Professor of English Literature at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity and Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel. She is also the creator behind What Jane Saw (www.whatjanesaw.org).

    Purchase Links

    Johns Hopkins University Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

    Thanks to TLC Book Tours, Johns Hopkins University Press, and Janine Barchas for providing me a copy of this beautiful book to read, review, and promote.

  • Book Reviews

    Meet Me On Love Lane: a review

    From the USA TODAY bestselling author of On the Corner of Love and Hate comes a romantic comedy about a woman who grudgingly returns home to small-town Pennsylvania, only to find herself falling in love—not only with the town, but with two of its citizens.

    Synopsis:

    Charlotte Bishop is out of options in New York City. Fired, broke, and blacklisted by her former boss, she’s forced to return to her hometown of Hope Lake, PA to lick her wounds. Although she’s expecting to find a miserable place with nothing to do, she is pleasantly surprised to discover it is bustling and thriving.

    She’s only supposed to be in Hope Lake temporarily until she can earn enough money to move back to New York. She’s not supposed to reconnect with her childhood friends or her beloved grandmother. She’s not supposed to find her dream job running the local florist shop. And she’s definitely not supposed to fall for not one but two of Hope Lake’s golden boys: one the beloved high school English teacher, the other the charming town doctor.

    With a heart torn between two men and two cities, what’s a girl to do?

    A perfect blend of humor and heart, Meet Me on Love Lane is the second in a new series from USA TODAY bestselling author Nina Bocci that is sure to charm fans of Josie Silver and Sally Thorne.

    Review:

    This was such a fun evening of reading! I’m a sucker for small town romances – probably because I didn’t grow up in a small town but did go to the same private school K-12. That basically meant that your school mates were more like siblings instead of dates.

    I read the first book of this series, On The Corner of Love and Hate, and was so excited to start this second book. I am admittedly not a big series reader and I believe one of the reasons is because there seems to be at least one book that drags while setting up the next part of the story.

    That was not the case here and Meet Me On Love Lane could easily be read as either a stand alone novel or as a well done sequel. Kudos to the author here because keeping a story moving through multiple books isn’t always easy to do.

    Henry, one of my favorites from the first book, was back and as the high school English teacher. There was something so endearing about him and I really enjoyed getting to know him better in this book – as did Charlotte who had significant memory issues as a result of leaving home during the tumultuous and traumatic time of her parent’s divorce.

    The book flirts with a love triangle which is my least favorite romance trope. Fortunately it was brief and actually helped to move the plot along as Charlotte began to reconnect with her family and friends.

    I absolutely loved her grandmother, Gigi. She was the sassy and fun grandma we all wish we had if we did not have that growing up. Gigi added the perfect amount of humor to the book along with a few of the other characters.

    For me, this book was light on the romance and more about a woman finding herself after leaving one life behind as a child and then leaving another life behind to find herself as an adult. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book and I’m definitely looking forward to more books by this author.

    If you would like to enter to win a copy of this book, head over to my Instagram to enter!

    Thank you to TLC Book Tours, Gallery Books, and Nina Bocci for a free copy of this book in exchange for my promotion and review of this book.

    Connect with Nina

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

    Purchase Links

    Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

  • Book Reviews

    Good Girls Lie: excerpt tour

    I am so excited about this book and if the excerpt is any indication, it’s going to be a fantastic book. I have always had a fondness for books set in boarding schools so I was immediately drawn to Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison. Set to release on 12/31/2019 – here’s your first thriller of the new year! Or just skip the parties and binge read this one on NYE.

    Summary:

    Goode girls don’t lie…

    Perched atop a hill in the tiny town of Marchburg, Virginia, The Goode School is a prestigious prep school known as a Silent Ivy. The boarding school of choice for daughters of the rich and influential, it accepts only the best and the brightest. Its elite status, long-held traditions and honor code are ideal for preparing exceptional young women for brilliant futures at Ivy League universities and beyond. But a stranger has come to Goode, and this ivy has turned poisonous.

    In a world where appearances are everything, as long as students pretend to follow the rules, no one questions the cruelties of the secret societies or the dubious behavior of the privileged young women who expect to get away with murder. But when a popular student is found dead, the truth cannot be ignored. Rumors suggest she was struggling with a secret that drove her to suicide.

    But look closely…because there are truths and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened.

    J.T. Ellison’s pulse-pounding new novel examines the tenuous bonds of friendship, the power of lies and the desperate lengths people will go to to protect their secrets.

    Excerpt:

    The drive up the hill makes me slightly queasy, all the switchbacks, the steep drop-offs, but soon enough we are on even ground again. The little town of Marchburg, its streets forming an X, surrounds the school which sits in the middle, at the crossroads. I ignore the stores and restaurants and their quaint, New World names, focusing on the behemoth ahead. A castle, for that is what it looks like, an overly large country house, like those of my homeland, spreading across the glossy green acreage like a stone gargoyle, but with red brick instead of gray stone. 

    The original building was damaged by fire in 1890, and the phoenix rebuilt in the traditional Jacobean style using the famous Virginia bricks known as Chilhowie, the name stamped across the face. “Chilhowies have been found as far away as Paris, France,” says the literature. A bell tower rises above the entrance, perfectly centered on the main building, which is five stories high. Similar Jacobean-style buildings wing each side of the main hall—their signs denote they’re creatively named Old East and Old West—but these were added later, and aren’t the same exact color as their mother. They are three stories each, with white wooden balconies that jut out from their top floors. 

    Taken in one shot, the school is monstrous in its austere beauty. 

    The massive black wrought iron gates to the school stand open in greeting for orientation day. Term starts tomorrow, Wednesday, so Monday and Tuesday are set aside for students to get settled in the dorms, buy their books, sign up for activities and sports teams, hand over their phones, and otherwise run amok on campus, reuniting with their friends and making new. 

    What must be freshmen stand in bewildered clumps under the oak trees bordering the wall. Parents stumble around with furniture and boxes in hand. It is a bright, sunny late-summer day, the sky so blue it is hard to look away. 

    When the town car slides to the curb in front of the huge redbrick building with Main Hall carved into the gray stone lintel above the door, all heads turn. Hiding in the back, I feel unaccountably shy, embarrassed to be the center of attention, even for a moment. But the driver pops out of the town car and comes round to the door, flinging it open as if I am the Queen herself. He practically bows.

    “Here you are, miss. Your very own Sandringham, tucked into the Virginia mountains,” Ruly, or Rudy, or whatever his name is, says, and I shiver. He knows more than he lets on. The school does look quite a bit like Sandringham. How very eerie. I must be more careful going forward. 

    With him standing there, holding the door, the smile turning quizzical, I have no choice but to get out, unfolding my long body from the back seat. I have a cramp in my thigh, but I smile winningly. 

    “Thank you for the ride.” 

    When the students realize I’m just another one of them, they go back to their conversations. Ignored, I feel better. I’d truly like to stay anonymous, do my work, study hard, get into Harvard, and leave my wretched old life behind. Strangely, I’ve never felt so alone as I do at this moment, watching the joyful faces of my soon-to-be classmates as they run and shout and hug tearful parents goodbye. My watch twitches with a reminder—I have a meeting with the dean of the school in fifteen minutes. 

    Ruly Rudy, who has wrestled my massive suitcase out of the car, is standing nearby with a hopeful grin on his face. I hand him five precious dollars, heart in my throat at the thought of letting go any of my hoard. But it is expected. “Thank you again for the ride.”

    I shoulder my backpack and drag my suitcase up the stairs, entering Main Hall. 

    It is cool and dark inside, a welcome respite to the late-summer heat. Oddly empty, too, and quiet to the point of austerity. White columns, marble floors. There is a great sense of space, two massive staircases curving into the second-story balcony like a theater. On either side, unmanned tables are set up with engraved metal signs: A-E, F-K, L-P, Q-Z. 

    Why am I the only one here? Have I already done something wrong?

    A middle-aged woman with gray hair in a chic bob, black glasses, and bright red lipstick that makes her look like an aging Parisian model, steps out of the office and hurries over, beckoning, and I make my way to the first table. 

    “Here’s a new face! Welcome to Goode. I’m Dr. Asolo, English department. You’ve missed the masses, lucky girl—most have already registered. We were getting ready to break things down, just waiting on the stragglers.” She looks over my shoulder. “Where are your parents?” 

    The lie comes easily, smoothly, without thought. “They dropped me.” 

    Dr. Asolo’s lips purse in disapproval but she puts a hand on the metal sign, tapping it with her thick gold wedding band. “We usually like to meet the new students’ parents, but if they’re already gone…” 

    “They are. So sorry.” 

    “You didn’t know,” she says absently, waiting. Her hands are captivating, capable, nails short and buffed, with clear polish— another Goode regulation. No hair dyes. No colored polish. Au naturel. The ladies of Goode will not be fake. 

    Dr. Asolo clears her throat. “Name, dear?” 

    “Erm, Ash. Ash Carlisle. With a C.” 

    “I am a professor of English, dear. Your accent isn’t so heavy that I need subtitles.” She chortles at her joke, and I smile, a blinding, perfect smile that nearly makes my cheeks crack. I’ve almost forgotten. Charming Ash. 

    Connect with J. T.

    Purchase Links

    Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

    Thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing me this excerpt of this highly anticipated book!

  • Feminism,  Wit,  Writing

    Wednesday Words: a barbaric yawp

    After spending over a month with contractors, tradespeople, and even a random mother-in-law – who does not belong to us – in our home, I think it’s safe to say that we have seen it all in our dusty house.

    ALL. Remember the mother-in-law.

    Steve and I built this house together thirteen years ago. Neither of us can think of a single disagreement we had over anything. We were also newlyweds so perhaps that had something do with it.

    Thirteen years later we were three weeks into a renovation that he was largely absent for – I’m at home during the day, he’s at work. Fair enough.

    Except it is not fair. During the construction of our home I dealt with no one other than the builder on very rare occasions. But this time around it was me dealing with the contractor, the trades, and the mother-in-law.

    I might be a tad bitter about her. More on that later.

    Why isn’t it fair? Because women are not treated the same. The same contractor would question and discount my input just to turn around and call Steve – who we explicitly instructed was not to be called because his days are busy enough already; oh, and because I’m a capable adult who takes care of a house, often on my own.

    Because I was a woman alone in a home with bunch of guys, I set out to be nice and establish myself as the owner present in the house. I learned their names. I told them good morning and good bye in the evenings. I commented on their work. I smiled. 

    That last one was my big misstep.

    We all know the anecdotes of men asking women to smile for their Diet Coke as they pay at the gas station. Or the rise in popularity and criticism of RBF – resting bitch* face.

    I wish I had more RBF – I shall speak with my Botox lady next time – and less southern politeness. Sadly, being polite gets you run over more than it makes a friend – especially in these situations.

    We had a terrible tile crew and even after it was fixed, it wasn’t. That was my breaking point. This is our last house and I’ll be damned if I’m going to have a backsplash that is two shades of grey. 

    Steve emailed his concerns to the owner and received a response full of excuses. I also sent a separate email detailing the unfinished work that was part of the contract and had been paid for.

    Guess who didn’t get a response to their email?

    Here’s where things really went sideways.

    But first: Steve is a wonderful man. He is progressive, supports my attempts to smash the patriarchy, and he is right along side me in raising a strong, capable, questioning, and independent 16 year old daughter. We don’t have defined gender roles in our home – it’s more about me being short and him being tall. He takes care of the tall things; I take care of the short things. And even better, we enjoy doing projects together. 

    But he is a fixer and after me trying to explain just how bad it had been to be treated like this in my own home, he offered up this solution:

    I could email the contractor from Steve’s email address telling him all the things that were horribly wrong with the situation. Such as: the attitudes toward me, trying at every turn to pull something over on me, the intimidating and pushy behavior, and the mother in law.

    Holy hell, if I owned a sword it would have be out and I would have been standing on a rooftop for all to hear:

    I refuse to only be heard by a man because he thinks another man is behind the words. I sound my barbaric yawp! – Walt Whitman 

    Ok, I didn’t say that last part. But you get the point. So did Steve. 

    He sat down and calmly composed an email, never to receive a response. But the words were out there in the universe and for the first time I think he got how I was feeling. 

    We have since had more issues and this morning we had a leak from the stone in the fireplace after it rained. I texted the contractor and I kid you not, I received a thorough mainsplaining on how a leak is water escaping from a crack.

    Astounding.

    So here I am today and I have a lot of questions and misgivings about society. We treat genders, races, and religions with disdain for not being like us. We take advantage of situations, intimidate, demand, and tell females to smile for a stupid Diet Coke. 

    We adapt and develop RBF. We learn that politeness is often dangerous. And we yawp until men see our perspective from the rooftop. 

    Why? Here’s a hint: it’s not to be heard. That’s not the problem because believe me, they hear us. It’s because men taking on badly behaving men is the springboard to change.

    They listen to each other when it comes to certain issues. But very few will tackle this one. And before men get scared, this doesn’t have to involve protests and signs. Simply calling out the bad behavior would go such a long way. 

    Not immediate change but if enough say something, enough will pay attention.

    So… the mother-in-law. This is the part that actually grieves me. She was downright nasty to me. She lied to the owner, her son-in-law, took a check we left in good faith – because we had to leave – without completing the work and called me a liar over something so stupid. She was by far the most defensive, the most deceitful, the most vicious, and the one looking to get away with the least amount of quality work for the money paid.

    When women turn on women, we take a years of steps backwards. We un-do efforts by men to treat us with respect and their efforts stop. And when men say nothing to their male counterparts, women just become shrill and difficult. It’s a circuitous mess.

    Steve tells me every night that I’m his favorite sound in the world. I have questioned that of late but he swears it’s still true. But until people start treating people with respect, I’ll continue with my occasional yawp but far away from remodeling projects.

    The painters are here next week and hopefully I’m not continuing with a part three but instead telling you about the time this week that my rabbits turned themselves blue.

    Oh, and by the way, I hope the mother-in-law, her son-in-law, and family had a wonderful Thanksgiving together last week. 

    * I strongly dislike the word “bitch”. It’s demeaning but that’s what the face is called – for now. 

     

  • Book Reviews

    The Glittering Hour: Blog Tour

    Welcome to my stop on The Glittering Hour blog tour!

    This book spans one of my favorite periods in time, especially for novels featuring women.

    Synopsis:

    Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing. Her life is a whirl of parties and drinking, pursued by the press and staying on just the right side of scandal, all while running from the life her parents would choose for her.

    Lawrence Weston is a penniless painter who stumbles into Selina’s orbit one night and can never let her go even while knowing someone of her stature could never end up with someone of his. Except Selina falls hard for Lawrence, envisioning a life of true happiness. But when tragedy strikes, Selina finds herself choosing what’s safe over what’s right.

    Spanning two decades and a seismic shift in British history as World War II approaches, Iona Grey’s The Glittering Hour is an epic novel of passion, heartache and loss.

    An unforgettable historical novel about true love found and lost and the secrets we keep from one another from award winning author, Iona Grey.

    Review:

    This was a one night read – one sign of a great book for me.

    Told from multiple points of view, I was almost immediately sucked into the story. This is one of my favorite formats because you get to know each character so well.

    There was also a shifting timeline but it felt natural and necessary to tell the story. It also made me more invested – a.k.a. I couldn’t put the book down.

    I knew I would enjoy this book because of the time period but the character development was so well done that I found myself hurting for Alice, the homesick little girl left behind with her grandparents while my heart broke into a million pieces over the reason for Selina’s absence and her attempts to keep her daughter close to her through letters.

    I didn’t expect to become so emotional and my descriptions here won’t do any character any justice. All I will say is that I hope they found peace and happiness in the end.

    This book borders on a 5 star read for me – completely unexpected which is almost even better. My only negative was that the plot slowed a few times more than I would have liked but that’s a personal preference and probably just me dying to know what happened next.

    If you enjoyed The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Rules of Civility, you will most likely love this book. It would make a wonderful gift for the historical fiction lover in your life!

    About the Author:

    IONA GREY is the author of the award winning Letters to the Lost. She has a degree in English Literature and Language from Manchester University, an obsession with history and an enduring fascination with the lives of women in the twentieth century. She lives in rural Cheshire with her husband and three daughters.

    Amazon

    Barnes & Noble

    Books-a-Million

    Indie Bound

    Powell’s

    Thank you to Thomas Dunn Books for gifting me this copy to read and review. All opinions in my review are my own.

    If you would like to enter to win a copy, head over to my Instagram to enter!

     

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