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Friday, January 31, 2020

#30DayBookBinge, Round10! + FREE PRINTABLES!

Since the ORIGINAL 10th #30DayBookBinge was a fail on my part (back in October), and what *should have been* the next book binge should technically be going on right now, I guess you could say things got a little out of whack. But I'm just gonna roll with it! So the next 30 Day Book Binge is going to be for the month of February, which yes, does not have 30 days in it! 😂
But it 's a leap year, so we're close. Just consider that you're getting a day off for good behavior. ;)

30 DAY BOOK BINGE is a quarterly reading challenge in which the goal is just to read something every single day for 30 straight days. What you read (books, poetry, the newspaper), the format you read it in (physical, digital, audio), and how long you read for are entirely up to you! The goal is just to make daily reading a habit, and to maybe knock out some reading goals in the process.
You can share your progress, your reading picks, ask for encouragement or give some of your own on social media with the hashtag #30DayBookBinge.

Now, as always, I like to sweeten the pot by giving you some special, limited edition printables to go along with each round of the Book Binge. These are created by me, specifically for each round of our "challenge," and they are 100% free for you to download and use.*

In the printable pack, you'll find:

  • a February 2020 calendar, in this month's pink & berry florals theme
  •  a TBR tracker in 2 versions ("Twenty Books to Read in 2020" and blank, so you can decide the theme yourself) 
    • the blank bookshelves printable is available as a single letter size (approx A4) illustration, or a 2-per-page bullet journal size (suitable for A5 or larger, with room for margins). The "Twenty Books.." version prints with the sticker pack, below.
  • a set of digital stickers, which you can print and cut out to use in a planner or bullet journal. Included designs:
    • the "Twenty Books to Read in 2020" bookshelf printable, mentioned above.
    • 5-Star Rating stickers, for you to rate the books you read
    • blank and colored book illustrations
    • a 30-box daily reading checkmark tracker
    • colorful days of the week labels
    • book "reaction" stickers and decorative heart stickers
    • and a decorative corner-page sticker in the month's floral design, to match the February calendar!
  • All files are available as PDFs and PNG files, so that you can use or print them in whichever format you're most comfortable handling (or resizing, as needed). 

I hope to see you around during our 10th (tenth!) 30 Day Book Binge, and I very much hope you enjoy the free printables. If you like them or make use of them, please let me know!

Happy reading!

*These digital files are for personal use only. Please do not reupload these designs, remix them, or use them in a commercial capacity. You may save and print as many as you'd like for personal use, though. And feel free to share them with friends!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Introducing THE FAVORITES CLUB + February Pick!

.. I mean, I don't know how much of a "club" it is, because at this point, it's just me, but YANNO. A really exclusive club of 1. ;)

My goal in 2020 (and in life from here on out) is to rediscover the joy in things, and The Favorites Club will (hopefully) be a step in that direction. Its purpose is to allow me to make time for things I love, and to focus on sharing that love with all of you, encouraging you not only to give those things I love a chance, but also encouraging you to make time for things YOU love, things that bring you comfort, and things that you may get new, fresh enjoyment out of, even though the story itself is not new to you.

This project will probably morph a bit as it goes on, because the intention is that it not feel like work or obligation, so if you have ideas to incorporate or things you'd like to see, please let me know. Also, if you have a favorite -- especially a childhood favorite -- that you think I should read, or you'd like to buddy read / co-host with me one month, please reach out!

This month's pick is CASTLE WAITING, which is a graphic novel bu Linda Medley featuring fairy tale characters, cozy homey scenes, and a good dash of absurdity - all things I love!
And it turns out that it's now finally available on comixology and in paperback!

"Castle Waiting is the story of an isolated, abandoned castle, and the eccentric inhabitants who bring it back to life. A fable for modern times, it is a fairy tale that's not about rescuing the princess, saving the kingdom, or fighting the ultimate war between Good and Evil -- but about being a hero in your own home. The opening chapter tells the origin of the castle itself, which is abandoned by its princess in a comic twist on "Sleeping Beauty" when she rides off into the sunset with her Prince Charming.
The castle becomes a refuge for misfits, outcasts, and others seeking sanctuary, playing host to a lively and colorful cast of characters that inhabits the subsequent stories, including a talking anthropomorphic horse, a mysteriously pregnant Lady on the run, and a bearded nun.

Linda Medley lavishly illustrates Castle Waiting in a classic visual style reminiscent of Arthur Rackham and William Heath Robinson. Blending elements from a variety of sources -- fairy tales, folklore, nursery rhymes -- Medley tells the story of the everyday lives of fantastic characters with humor, intelligence, and insight into human nature. Castle Waiting can be read on multiple levels and can be enjoyed by readers of all ages, especially young girls."

Monday, January 27, 2020

Backlist Love (16)

You know I love me some forgotten gems! Here are 3 graphic novels that have been out for a little while now, that you may have forgotten that you meant to pick up - or maybe that you never even heard of to begin with, but that are totally up your alley!
Let me know your thoughts on them in the comments, and if you have suggestions for similar books, or future themes for Backlist Love, let me know!


Saturday, January 25, 2020

"Currently" "Reading".. sort of

I sort of disappeared over the last few months, but in that time, I was reading, I swear! The problem is, I wasn't *finishing*... Here are all the books I'm "currently" reading, and maybe will even finish soon. Possibly. Hopefully?

(Also, sorry for not posting this here on the blog sooner! In case you missed it, I've posted 2 other videos recently on my youtube channel, as well, which will be making it over to the blog over the next couple of days. But if you won't want to wait, you can check them out at youtube.com/BookRatMisty)

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Elaine Jeremiah GIVEAWAY & Guest Post

I don't think it's any secret that I can't get enough JAFF lately (that's Jane Austen fanfiction, fyi); far from confining my Jane Austeny bits to Austen in August, as I usually would, I've reviewed or featured four Austenesque books since then, and have read at least half a dozen more (including two this week!). Even my December pick from Book of the Month YA is Austenesque! I can't seem to get enough.

And neither, it seems, can a lot of you. To that end, today I'm featuring a new release from Austenesque author Elaine Jeremiah, who has stopped by to tell us a bit about growing up in Jane-country, as well as sharing an excerpt of her latest book, and a chance to win the whole series so far!

Check it out below, make sure to leave Elaine some love in the comments, and don't forget to enter to win!

Thank you to Misty for featuring me on your blog today. I just wanted to share some thoughts about Hampshire, where I grew up.

I do feel very privileged to have grown up in the same county as Jane Austen, although of course Hampshire today is very different from the Hampshire that she grew up in. There are many more people living there for one thing – it’s quite a crowded, busy area of Southern England and yet some of the places that Jane knew haven’t changed a great deal.

But despite the busyness of modern-day Hampshire, there’s still a lot of countryside around to enjoy and I did love going for country walks with my family and our dog when I was growing up. The New Forest, a national park, is not far from where I grew up and is one of the places where we’d go walking as a family. It’s very old and was established in medieval times.

Then there’s Winchester, where Jane Austen died. It’s still a beautiful city even today and the huge, ancient cathedral is stunning. I went to university there and it’s quite an intimate place – it’s not a very big city and there’s so much character to it. There are some lovely old buildings apart from the cathedral, some Regency and some medieval, including the Great Hall which is all that is left of Winchester Castle. I would visit it now and then with my family and funnily enough I once saw an exhibition of costumes from Jane Austen adaptations there.

Of course, I can’t talk about Hampshire without mentioning Chawton, which is of course where Jane Austen’s house is and where she wrote several of her fabulous novels. Chawton is actually less busy now than it was in Jane’s time because the main road to Winchester passed right through the middle of it in her time, just outside her house. It’s now a lot quieter and it’s such a lovely place.

Jane Austen’s house is gorgeous and if you ever get the chance to visit, you should. It’s well worth it. I’ve also visited Chawton House, which belonged to her brother Edward Austen Knight and is now a library of early women’s writing. That is magnificent too and a stone’s throw from Jane’s house.

So those are just a few thoughts about Hampshire. Although it is very urbanised in many areas now, there are still plenty of places of outstanding natural beauty and many historic towns, cities and villages. If you’re an Austen fan, it’s a great holiday destination idea!

******** EXCERPT ********
By Time Divided
I stopped walking and reached for Mia’s hand. ‘There’s nothing wrong with you, Mia. You look lovely as always. But I should warn you that the people we’re about to meet…’

‘Are a bunch of racists?’

I winced. ‘By our standards, yes. But they’re also from a different time, a different society. It’s 1815 here, the slave trade has been abolished, but in Regency England the vast majority of people are white, they’re not used to being around people of different ethnicities so…’

‘I should expect them to treat me like dirt?’

‘I’m not sure they all will,’ I told her. I couldn’t imagine Isabella treating anyone like dirt. ‘Just don’t be surprised if some of them make comments to you or about you that are offensive. We’re not in the twenty-first century any more.’

‘You can say that again,’ Mia replied, wrinkling her nose as she gazed up at the leaden sky, seemingly oblivious to the fat drops of rain falling onto her face. She turned back to me.

‘So if they’re rude to me, I’m supposed to stand there and take it, am I?’

I sighed, giving her a rueful look. ‘No, I don’t expect you to do that, just… don’t be rude back. Find a witty retort to make. I’m sure you’ll think of something. You usually do in similar situations.’

‘Similar situations? Cass, what planet are you on? There’s nothing similar to this situation in… in the whole of the universe.’ She threw her arms out wide to reiterate her point.

It was then, as I took a quick glance over my shoulder, that I caught a glimpse of someone standing at one of the windows of the house which overlooked the lawn. We’d been spotted.

‘Come on, Mia, I think someone’s seen us.’

‘What do you mean, someone’s seen us?’ Mia replied. ‘What are they gonna do to us?’ There was no mistaking the panic in her voice.
‘Don’t worry, they’re not going to throw us in a dungeon,’ I told her as we trudged across the lawn. ‘They know me… well sort of and I as I told you, I became friends with those girls. They’re actually quite nice…’ I realised that Mia had stopped walking. I turned to her, seeing that the usual glow of her skin was gone and her face looked unnaturally pale.

‘But I’m not you, Cass. I don’t know anything about Jane Austen and I’m… well I’m clearly not white.’
My brow furrowed as I laid a hand on her arm. ‘I understand your fears. Just let me do the talking for the moment.’ I squeezed her arm. ‘You haven’t done anything wrong, they’re not going to accuse you of anything, or do anything to harm you.’ They might accuse me of a few things though, I thought grimly.

Mia still looked anxious. ‘All right, I’ll just follow your lead, but I don’t think I’m gonna be any good at this Regency thing.’

‘Well hopefully we won’t be here that long,’ I replied. ‘For now, though, we need to get out of this awful rain.’
Mia nodded and we continued on, soon reaching the steps which led to the great house. The door to the breakfast room was thrown open as we approached. But it wasn’t my friends standing there. It was a middle-aged woman who I’d never seen before.


Elaine has generously offered up an ebook prize pack of her Love Without Time series, 'Love Without Time' and 'By Time Divided' to one lucky winner!
This giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY!
Giveaway ends Fri December 27th at 11:59pm EST.
To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter below.
No "giveaway" or spam social media accounts.
Please do not leave any sensitive info (mailing or email addresses, etc.) in the comments section!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Having accidentally time travelled to Regency England, Jane Austen fan Cassie Taylor finds herself unexpectedly back in the twenty-first century. But everything has changed. She’s been missing for three weeks and her parents are upset and disbelieving when she tells them where she’s been. The police aren’t too pleased either.

Cassie’s best friend Mia doubts the story, yet stands by her friend. And then the unthinkable happens when both of them end up in Regency England. Now Cassie has an even bigger problem: Mia is mixed race and they’re stuck in an era where the slave trade has only just been abolished. Cassie must somehow explain herself to her Regency friends – why she vanished and who her friend is. She also needs to find Ted, the love of her life.

How will Cassie manage to protect Mia from the insults of Regency people who see her as worthless? And how will she ever find a way for her and Ted and Mia to finally return home?


Elaine lives in Bristol, South West England with her husband and their golden retriever, Dug. But she was privileged enough to grow up in Jane Austen country, in Hampshire.

Writing has always been a passion of hers, but it’s only been in recent years that she’s been able to devote more time to it. She decided to self-publish with the help of her wonderful husband who’s very tech-savvy! In 2013 she self-published her first novel, but it was only with her fourth, her novel ‘Love Without Time’, that she felt she finally found her niche: Jane Austen Fan Fiction!

She’s always loved Jane Austen’s writing and the Regency era, so this felt like a natural thing for her to do. ‘Love Without Time’ is the first in a trilogy best described as a Jane Austen-inspired time travel romance. ‘By Time Divided’ is the second book in the trilogy.

If you want to connect with Elaine online, her Facebook page can be found here:

Her Twitter handle is: @ElaineJeremiah

Her website is here: https://elainejeremiah.co.uk/

‘Love Without Time’ is available from Amazon.com here: http://amzn.to/2DxRPHO
It’s also available from Amazon UK here: http://amzn.to/2Dywq0y
‘By Time Divided’ is on Amazon.com here: https://amzn.to/2YEKzzH
It’s on Amazon UK here: https://amzn.to/2KokZtv

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Why Writing Modern Jane Austen Fiction Is So Hard + Yuletide Mini Review!

Disclaimer: a review copy of this book was provided by the editor for review purposes. Affiliate links are not used in this post, but are used on this site. All thoughts and opinions are honest and my own.
Edited to add: as you can see in the banner below, this post was supposed to be up yesterday, but I apparently don't know how to 'days of the week'... That is entirely MY BAD, sorry about that, internet!

You may have already seen me talking about this book online, as I listened to it while I was decorating for Christmas, but today -- before we dive into a guest post from one of the book's authors, Amy D'Orazio -- I'm going to dig a little deeper into why I loved Yuletide, an anthology of Christmas-oriented Jane Austen stories. And love it, I did!

Generally when I read short story anthologies, I skip around to whichever story is calling my name most, with little care for the flow of one into the next. I also tend to only read them in bits and pieces, fits and starts, and never cover to cover. But because I was listening to Yuletide on audiobook*, and because I was flitting around the house, clipping evergreens that were politely pilfered from my neighborhood (ahem) and working them into wreaths and such, I just hit play and went along for whatever was in store.
*it is still possible to skip around to stories in an audio anthology, btw. Chapters still exist.

And man, I enjoyed this. The first story in the book actually gave me butterflies, but even when stories hit a flat note (which was rare), the immersive experience of listening to someone tell me Christmas stories about characters I love (who at this point feel almost like family, I've sent so much time with them), while working on Christmas myself? SWOON, it was so enjoyable. Harry Frost's narration was excellent, as well, even if I did occasionally chuckle at his "American" accent. ;)

I'm not going to give you my whole spiel about how short story anthologies are great for discovering new authors, or as palate cleansers between books, our any of that (except I kinda just did), but as Austen anthologies go, this is one of the stronger ones. Each story felt entirely unique from the others, while still cohesive in context of the theme, and the different approaches mean that there's likely to be a story here to suit most Janeites. The book feels tightly and thoughtfully curated, and I did, in fact, discover some authors whose JAFF I now want to look into! And the best part of all? Proceeds from sales of the e-book and paperback go to benefit Chawton House!

This mini review was turned out to be less mini and more review, but basically, I recommend this book, and I especially recommend reading it in the wintertime, when there's snow on the ground and the days are short, when your brain has turned towards Christmas but you're out of new Hallmark movies to watch... 10/10 experience, would recommend.

And now, a piece from our special guest, Amy D'Orazio!

Eight Reasons Why Writing Modern JAFF Adaptations is so Much Harder than Writing Regencies 

by Amy D’Orazio (contributing author to YULETIDE “The Wishing Ball”)

The Yuletide anthology [collection of five Regency era and two modern holiday stories] explored some new ground for me — it is the first time I have published a modern adaptation rather than the regency-based stories I typically write. Part of that was because this story was originally part of a Christmas challenge at A Happy Assembly. The idea for it came from fellow author Pamela Lynne who challenged me to write something to do with Christmas ornaments.

I know many people believe writing a modern adaptation is easier than a Regency. Both have their challenges but of the two…? Writing moderns is harder, in my opinion, and here are my reasons why:

These are my tax returns for the last 3 years...have a look and let me know if you love me later.jpg

    1. Prejudice. Okay so this is a big one and often one I find takes a good modern and makes it shaky. Heaven knows there are plenty of things people are prejudiced about in this day and age but translating that into a feasible Darcy & Elizabeth-type situation isn’t easy. Elizabeth Bennet wasn’t poor—yet— in P&P. She was part of the upper echelon of wealth in England, but Darcy was, by comparison, stratospheric. So, a story about someone wealthy marrying someone else who is uber-wealthy? —not really anything notable today

    2. Location, location, location. The first challenge any modern author faces is where to put their main characters. Jane Austen put hers in various spots around England, and when I am writing a Regency, I feel comfortable enough with my research to do likewise. But modern day? I’ve been to London a few times but that’s about it—I would have to do a LOT of research to find the exact restaurant on the exact street or the specific house with the certain features I need for my characters. The chances of getting it wrong are so much higher! In my story in this anthology I placed Darcy and Elizabeth in New York City (gasp… they’re American!)

    3. Show of hands—who has had a family member voice an expectation that you should marry your cousin? But it was an important custom then and had super important implications for bloodlines and fortunes and etc. So, it’s sort of a hard issue to translate into a modern circumstance even though it was an important part of many of Austen’s books.
    Copy of Untitled (1).jpg

    4. Or for that matter —who has really allowed their family members to have much say into their marriage at all? I mean, sure, I wanted my family to like my husband but if Aunt Martha didn’t…well…I guess we’d have just cut her off the Christmas card list.

    Copy of Untitled (1).jpg

    5. The whole Lydia-Wickham and Georgiana-Wickham thing. Let’s be honest, in modern times, the only proper place for the likes of George Wickham (age 26/27) is jail for being a sex predator on teenagers. Would the military even take him? Let’s hope no one would force one of his victims to marry him! It’s storyline that is very tricky to translate to the modern era!


      6. Modern life changes fast which brings with it another pitfall of books set in modern eras (not just for JAFF but any modern story)—when you have your hero check email on his Blackberry, or your heroine snap her Razor phone closed, you automatically dated your story. If you mention a song, a book, a news event, or a particular celebrity, five or ten years from now someone reading your book might not get what it is you’re talking about. Horse technology, on the other hand, rarely changed throughout the Regency period and the main forms of communication—writing a letter or walking to your neighbors house to talk about it—were the same.

      7. By far, I think the most difficult thing about modern translations is how the characteristics of the our main characters are when placed into a modern setting. I’ve seen some intriguing takes on this — Elizabeth’s wit becomes almost supernatural intelligence, Mrs Bennet’s illiberality becomes racism or homophobia, Emma’s tendency to matchmake turns into a wedding planning business. To me, this is where writing moderns can really be tricky—in a Regency you don’t have to decide all of this but in a modern, you need to decide how you’ll bring it all into a modern era.

      8. Marriage. By far the trickiest part of creating a modern is the aspects of marriage. In modern times, there are dates, there are non-monogamous relationships, there are engagements that end with no dreadful outcome to either party—in short there are many complexities to modern relationships that didn’t exist back then (for better or worse). If you’re writing a Regency and your hero and heroine dance twice, have a whispered conversation behind a potted plant and then decide to marry— sure! True love! But a modern couple? I think most of your readers would think it was a bit unrealistic! So, there you have it! It should be noted of course that all the opinions expressed herein are solely those of me, the author! Love to hear your thoughts on the subject below!

      AMY D’ORAZIO is a former scientist and current stay-at-home mom who is addicted to Austen and Starbucks in equal measure. While she adores Mr. Darcy, she is married to Mr. Bingley, and their Pemberley is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has two daughters devoted to sports with long practices and began writing stories as a way to pass the time spent at their various gyms and studios. She firmly believes that all stories should have long looks, stolen kisses, and happily-ever-afters. Like her favorite heroine, she dearly loves a laugh and considers herself an excellent walker. She is the author of The Best Part of Love, A Short Period of Exquisite Felicity, A Lady’s Reputation and various anthologies.

      Below you'll find an except of Amy's story in Yuletide; find samples from the rest of the anthology here

      Yuletide: A Jane Austen-inspired Collection Of Stories, edited by Christina Boyd 
      190 pages / audio 5 hrs and 50 mins Published November 26th 2018 by The Quill Ink, LLC
      BUY HERE:
      “I went up to the Great House between three and four, and dawdled away an hour very comfortably...” –Jane Austen

       A holiday short story anthology with some favorite Austenesque authors, YULETIDE is inspired by Jane Austen, PRIDE & PREJUDICE, and the spirit of the season. Regency and contemporary alike, each romance was dreamt to spark love, humor, and wonder while you dawdle over a hot cup of tea this Christmas. 

      Stories by: Elizabeth Adams * J. Marie Croft * Amy D’Orazio * Lona Manning * Anngela Schroeder * Joana Starnes * Caitlin Williams Edited by: Christina Boyd

       All proceeds from e-book and paperback sales to benefit Chawton Great House in Hampshire, former manor of Jane Austen’s brother Edward Austen Knight and now the Centre for the Study of Early Women’s Writing, 1600-1830.

      Saturday, November 16, 2019

      MAKE YOUR OWN BEAUTY MASKS from Odd Dot | review

      Note: a review copy of this book was provided to me for review purposes; all opinions are honest and my own. Affiliate links used in this post.

      I was a concoctions kid. I was perpetually mixing something up, making conditioner cocktails* in the shower and checking out books from the library about how various herbs were used in medicine and beauty throughout history.
      You think I'm joking, but no, I was precisely that much of a nerd.

      And for a long, long time, I've been meaning to test out more homemade beauty treatments and find some really good ones to work into my rotation. I love a good pampering sesh, and there's something about measuring and mixing and selecting and seeing every stage that makes the whole thing more soothing.

      But, of course, meaning to doesn't mean actually doing. I've got a list a mile long of "meaning to." MAKE YOUR OWN BEAUTY MASKS from Macmillan's new DIY imprint, Odd Dot, features more than 3 dozen diy skincare masks, made from things you likely have very easy access to, if they aren't in your pantry or fridge already. The accessibility of the ingredients as well as the ease of the recipes and simplicity of the book's presentation make DIY seemed totally doable. The recipes generally only have three steps (mix, paste on your face, wait and wash), and just as often, only 3 ingredients (some more, some less, but all manageable). There are also sections on how to prep your skin for masking, and what each ingredient does for you, so you can target specific things.

      It also comes with 10 cutesy printed sheet masks, which you can use in combo with many of the masks to help keep everything in place while you go about your important business of watching The Office on Netflix for the seventh time. (No judgment here.) (You can also apply straight to your face, no sheet mask needed.)

      MAKE YOUR OWN BEAUTY MASKS is exactly the reminder to myself that I need to mask more consistently and satisfy my inner Concoction Kid. The recipes include some of my favorite ingredients for skincare (honey, pumpkin, yogurt, oats) and more I want to try (papaya, turmeric, blueberries, seaweed), and the mask designs are super cute (and could easily be used with serums and other face masks/creams). I've tried a few of the recipes, including this "Let's Go Avo-Coco-Nuts" mask, which tbh, I should have used a sheet mask with, because coconut oil melts on skin contact, DUH MISTY, and it was slip-sliding all over my face and shirt and bathroom floor.

      But the recipes are easy to whip together (this took, like, 45 seconds) and adapt (I made a 1/2 batch because I wanted guacamole, so win win), and the overall design of the set is appealing to seasoned maskers and skincare beginners alike. The book itself is removable from the solidly-designed book-box it comes in, so once you're finished with the sheet masks, or if you just need shelf space, you can pop the slim volume right out and recycle the rest!

      I know we're heading into Super Commercialized Buy All The Things time of year, and you're probably already seeing gift guides pop up, but if not, consider this us dipping our toes in: This set would be a GREAT gift for the teenaged Concoction Kid in your own life, or for a fun Girls Night In get-together. Definitely one to consider picking up as a gift or a Treat Yo'Self moment to de-stress this holiday season.

      *for my hair, not to drink, DO NOT DRINK CONDITIONER, silly internet

      Preview here!

      38 Simple, All-Natural Recipes for Healthy Skin
      Odd Dot; illustrated by Emma Trithart
      Make Your Own Beauty Masks: 38 Simple, All-Natural Recipes for Healthy Skin is a glam and gifty book of more than thirty all-natural beauty mask recipes.

      Luxuriating! Refreshing! Renewing!

      This book has simple and fun recipes that feature wholesome ingredients you can find in your fridge or pantry. Whether you are dry-skinned, oily, or just want refreshing "me-time," find a recipe that best suits your needs. Mix the ingredients together in a blender or a bowl and apply the mask for ten to twenty minutes. You'll finish with gorgeous, fresh skin!

      Includes ten sheet masks!

      Wednesday, November 13, 2019

      The Bride of Northanger by Diana Birchall | Blog Tour

      Note: a review copy of this book was provided to me for review purposes; all opinions are honest and my own. Affiliate links used in this post.

      The Bride of Northanger by Diana Birchall
      Publisher: White Soup Press (September 19, 2019)
      Length: 230 pages
      Trade paperback ISBN: 978-0981654300
      A happier heroine than Catherine Morland does not exist in England, for she is about to marry her beloved, the handsome, witty Henry Tilney. The night before the wedding, Henry reluctantly tells Catherine and her horrified parents a secret he has dreaded to share - that there is a terrible curse on his family and their home, Northanger Abbey. Henry is a clergyman, educated and rational, and after her year’s engagement Catherine is no longer the silly young girl who delighted in reading “horrid novels”; she has improved in both reading and rationality. This sensible young couple cannot believe curses are real...until a murder at the Abbey triggers events as horrid and Gothic as Jane Austen ever parodied - events that shake the young Tilneys’ certainties, but never their love for each other ...

      It is a truth universally disregarded, unfortunately, that Northanger Abbey is a criminally underrated book. It was truly a shock to me to discover, upon finding the Janeite community, that many (if not most) readers rank NA so low as to not rank it at all. They dismiss it entirely as silly fluff. But ever the contrarian, Northanger Abbey was my favorite of Austen's novels for some years, and still ranks in my top 3. I won't launch into a full defense of it here, but suffice it to say, I've been very disappointed with the lack of retellings and continuations Northanger gets in the JAFF community.

      I'm also always a little trepidatious of the few retellings that do make it to market, because they have a lot to live up to, both to my Northanger-loving heart, and in convincing all of the many P & P-exclusive readers to branch out and give little Catherine and Henry a chance.

      Added to the fact that do many readers just don't show the enthusiasm for Northanger as they do for Pride & Prejudice, Northanger is just a very different book than the rest of Austen work. In it, more of her satirical, playful side comes to the fore than in any of her works other than her juvenalia. The tone and style are so different that an additional layer of challenge is added for authors who want to mimic Austen's style; yet another is added in the need to be familiar and comfortable with the gothic literature it both embraces and satirizes. For a "light, frothy, silly" book, it's not the easiest story to take on.

      I was very curious to see what direction Diana Birchall would take, and how much she'd lean into the Gothic Romance of it all. . . And boy, did she ever lean in.

      This book is bananas. Truly, it is bonkers. Northanger Abbey itself is a bit on the bonkers-side, and I read The Bride of Northanger in one marathon sitting, so calling it bananas-bonkers (bonkernanas?) is not the insult you may think it is. It's just that, at literally no point* in this book did I know what crazy thing was going to happen next. In this — and in the body count — it is very, very much a gothic romance. The Bride of Northanger is the type of book Catherine Morland would give herself giddy shivers with at night. It's dramatic, shocking, abrupt, and oddly, utterly enthralling. It takes Catherine's many imagined horrors and uses the actual bad behaviors Austen laid out in her text, and uses them to vindicate Catherine's "flights of fancy," turning the conceit of Northanger Abbey on its head. Catherine — now married and doing her best to be rational and mature — does her best to keep her head while all of her wildest imaginings are realized, and then some. All the worst of man and monastery are thrown her way in quick succession, and the level-headed way she handles things feels surprisingly realistic; Catherine's growth feels realistic, making her a dynamic and engaging character, whose roots still feel firmly planted in Austen.

      Other characters, however, feel less realistic offshoots of Austen. Where Catherine has become rational, the rest have gone much in the opposite direction, becoming more extreme, over the top, dramatic, reactionary... In an odd way, it works, subverting the reader's expectations and bolstering Catherine and her capabilities. There is occasional effort made to capture Henry Tilney's sarcasm and wit (one of the highlights of NA for me), but I could have done with a great deal more of Tilney's humor, as well as a bit more complexity of feeling for him. He suffers loss, scandal, and terror in this continuation, but his reactions remain somewhat callous and unrealistic.

      It's an interesting book to try to discuss, because while I think there are some major flaws in it, none of them really made me like it less. Though she may not have always captured Henry's voice, Birchall (mostly) nailed Austen's mechanics, and very often, her tone. It's funny on a few levels, it's surprising almost continuously, and so fully embracing the gothicness of it all feels like a fulfillment of Catherine's character, in such an unexpected way. I don't know that it'll be the book to convince JAFF readers to embrace more Northanger Abbey retellings, necessarily, but it certainly was a fun one, and unlike any other Austen retelling I've read.

      *except for one crucial one, which I saw coming a mile away, and which left a really bad taste in my mouth.

      Monday, November 11, 2019

      There's Something About Darcy by Gabrielle Malcolm | blog tour

      Today I'm hopping into the There's Something About Darcy blog tour with a quick, poorly-shot video of my thoughts on this non-fic examination of everyone's favorite rude, socially awkward, condescending, rich, gorgeous, dynamic romantic lead: Fitzwilliam M.* Darcy.

      I'd love to hear in the comments which fictional character you'd like to see get the book-length analytical treatment! But for now, There's Something About Darcy is available today!


      There's Something About Darcy
      by Gabrielle Malcolm
      For some, Colin Firth emerging from a lake in that clinging wet shirt is one of the most iconic moments in television. But what is it about the two-hundred-year-old hero that we so ardently admire and love?

      Dr Gabrielle Malcolm examines Jane Austen’s influences in creating Darcy’s potent mix of brooding Gothic hero, aristocratic elitist and romantic Regency man of action. She investigates how he paved the way for later characters like Heathcliff, Rochester and even Dracula, and what his impact has been on popular culture over the past two centuries. For twenty-first century readers the world over have their idea of the ‘perfect’ Darcy in mind when they read the novel, and will defend their choice passionately.

      In this insightful and entertaining study, every variety of Darcy jostles for attention: vampire Darcy, digital Darcy, Mormon Darcy and gay Darcy. Who does it best and how did a clergyman’s daughter from Hampshire create such an enduring character?

      A must-read for every Darcy and Jane Austen fan.

      Dr. Gabrielle Malcolm lectures and writes about Jane Austen in popular culture and the global fan phenomena surrounding Austen’s work. She is the author of Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen and is a regular speaker at the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath, and the Jane Austen Regency Week in Chawton. She lives in Bath.

      Friday, November 8, 2019

      Black Canary: Ignite by Meg Cabot | Blog Tour

      Review copy provided by the publisher.
      Affiliate links used in this post.

      I want to start by saying, I'm really loving the trend of popular YA authors taking on well-known and -loved comic book characters for reboots, prequels and the like. I think they bring a freshness to the series', along with a honed talent (generally) for piecing a story together and layering it with richness and subtext, without a lot of the serious, self-congratulatory heavy-handedness that we sometimes see with reboots and "reexaminations."

      I -- never having been a gatekeeper of media that I love, but rather someone who actively wants to pull people in -- also think that having these authors (Kami Garcia, Danielle Paige, Lauren Myracle, et all) is a great way to attract a new young audience, who are discovering these masked heroes and vigilantes sometimes for the first time. And none (so far) is as likely to pull them in as Meg Cabot.

      Black Canary: Ignite, with its relatable storyline (even in the midst of superpowers) and bright, vibrant art & coloring — from Cara McGee and Caitlin Quirk, respectively — is very likely to win over that young audience. It has an ease and youthful appeal that is almost certain to hit the mark with its target audience.

      That said, I think it is a highly targeted audience. I may be in the minority on this (goodreads ratings for the book are remarkably high), but I think the story is likely to lose a bit of its shine the further a reader gets from the targeted demographic. Where younger readers will find it relatable and inviting, I think older readers may find it cloying and overly simplistic. It was a little too light on story (and impact), and a little too heavy on... handedness for my tastes, and while it was cute, it was equal-measures cheesy. It would have benefited from a slower buildup into Black Canary status, Big Bad Villain reveal, and the all-around getting-to-know-you phase of the characters and their motivations/interactions. A little too much was crammed in and rushed through to get us to the origin of this origin story.

      But the messaging is strong and the tone welcoming, and as I said, I think it will most certainly find its target audience.
      I just may be a bit too far off the bullseye for this one.

      Black Canary: Ignite by Meg Cabot (Author), Cara McGee (Illustrator, Artist)
      From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Princess Diariescomes Black Canary: Ignite, Meg Cabot's first graphic novel! With expressive and energetic art by Cara McGee to match the trademark attitude and spunk of Meg Cabot's characters and dialogue, this mother-daughter story embraces the highs and lows of growing up without growing out of what makes us unique.

      Thirteen-year-old Dinah Lance knows exactly what she wants, who she is, and where she's going. First, she'll win the battle of the bands with her two best friends, then she'll join the Gotham City Junior Police Academy so she can solve crimes just like her dad. Who knows, her rock star group of friends may even save the world, but first they'll need to agree on a band name.

      When a mysterious figure keeps getting in the way of Dinah's goals and threatens her friends and family, she'll learn more about herself, her mother's secret past, and navigating the various power chords of life.

      Black Canary: Ignite is an inspirational song that encourages readers to find their own special voices to sing along with Black Canary!


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