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Friday, March 27, 2020

Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl anthology, edited by Christina Boyd | Review

Today, I'll be talking about my thoughts on a Jane Austen short story anthology, because basically, that's all I want to read anymore. I'm gonna be honest, I originally had a slightly different review written, but over the month or so since I wrote it, the world went to hell, I got really sick, I barely even looked at a book, much less picked one up, and it made me ponder a bit over what it is I prize in books — and anything else I devote my time and brain-space to — which has in turn wormed its way into this slightly revamped review.
So check out my thoughts below, and make sure to stop by Christina's guest post & giveaway, if you haven't already done so. There's a chance to win 11 books!!

Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl, edited by Christina Boyd
Retelling / Short Story Anthology, 350 pages
Published March 2nd 2020 by The Quill Ink, LLC
With timeless verve, the heroine of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet, bares her intimate thoughts while offering biting social commentary through a collection of romantic re-imaginings, sequels, and prequels, set in the Regency to present day by ten popular Austenesque authors. “I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print…” wrote Jane Austen in a letter, January 1813―and we think so too!

Foreword by NY Times & USA Today bestselling author Tessa Dare.

Stories by: Elizabeth Adams, Christina Boyd, Karen M Cox, J. Marie Croft, Amy D’Orazio, Leigh Dreyer, Jenetta James, Christina Morland, Beau North, and Joana Starnes.

When I originally wrote this review, it was very glowing and praising and very much smitten-kitten with another excellent entry in Quill Ink's series of Pride & Prejudice-themed anthologies, and yes, still all those things. I continue to be impressed with Boyd's tight curation of stories from a strong selection of authors who present interesting and varied takes on otherwise well-trod territory. I've long said short story anthologies are a great way to discover new authors, and these anthologies (The Darcy Monologues, Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues, Rational Creatures, and Yuletide, which was an utterly delightful Christmas-themed collection) are an excellent illustration of that point. Each author really does bring a completely different perspective and style to the table, which means there's likely something for everyone, and maybe a new perspective or style or author that readers may find themselves taken with. (I did.)

So all of those things I would normally say about an anthology I enjoyed (all of those things I did say in my original review) hold true here. Though there were times the collection fell flat for me (and of course, with an anthology, one person's flat is another person's favorite), there were also stories here that I know I'll return to and reread, potentially many times. Stories I'd love to see get the full-length treatment, even. I'm enthralled with the idea of Darcy and Lizzie amidst the glitz and fast-talking of Old Hollywood, in love with Lizzie-the-Suffragette, and surprisingly smitten with near-contemporary* tech-nerd Darcy and Lizzie. There are stories that are poignant, stories that are fun and flirty, stories that are traditional, stories that are modern. Really, there truly is something for every type of Janeite.

But over the last few weeks, I've realized that Elizabeth: OHG — and other strong anthologies like it, and really, the entire genre of retellings/fanfiction — are important. Collections like this are transportative; they're quickly-immersive, and (surprisingly importantly) they're low-pressure. In times like our current, chaotic ones, it can be hard to focus on reading (or on anything), ànd it can be really tempting to just turn on Netflix and binge The Office for the 17th time (don't judge me). We're all collectively stressed right now, and we want something to take our minds away to a happier place, but the emotional investment that 350 pages of a single story demands can feel like too much.

350 pages or short stories, however, that we can read in our few moments of calm, that we can start in the middle of, that we can consume in bits and pieces and still have it feel complete -- that is a balm. That is something a lot of us could use right now.  And when those stories are familiar and comforting and romantic and leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, so much the better.

As I said, I haven't been reading much lately. I just don't have it in me. But when I do read, books like Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl are what I'm craving, what I'm needing. I'm sure this is not what any of you expected from today's review.  But consider this not only my recommendation of Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl, but also my (continued) push for more anthologies, more retellings, and more happy stories. I think they'd do us all some good.

*I'm not calling the 80s "historical," dammit. I refuse!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

#OMGitsOHG! Guest Post and GIVEAWAY from Christina Boyd!

I've talked about Christina Boyd (The Quill Ink)'s Pride & Prejudice anthologies here on the blog before, mostly for Austen in August (surprise, surprise). Christina normally curates and edits these collections — which are stellar, might I add — but with the latest entry in the lineup, Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl, she's not only wearing her editor hat, but is making her debut as one of the featured authors as well.

Today, she's stopping by to talk to us a bit about our favorite OHG (obstinate, headstrong girl), and what it is about her, maybe even more than Darcy, that draws us back to P&P again and again. She's also giving you a chance to win a pretty stellar prize pack featuring titles from each of the authors involved in the anthology, as well as a bonus giveaway (more on that below)! So make sure to check out her post below, and enter to win — and then stop back by tomorrow for my thoughts on the book!

Why Elizabeth? by Christina Boyd

Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl has been a project on and off my mind for some time. Even the day after the release of my anthology The Darcy Monologues (2017), readers were suggesting I put together an Elizabeth collection. But I kept putting it off, wanting to pursue other projects like Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues, Rational Creatures, and even Yuletide: A Collection of Jane Austen Inspired Stories. As Pride & Prejudice is told mostly from the third person limited narrative of Elizabeth Bennet, and there is already so much Elizabeth fanfiction out there, I wondered if there was a need. But that thought was always there, niggling at me like an itch that needed to be scratched. (Don’t touch your face, by the way.) And when it came right down to it, I wanted to assemble this collection. Still, I needed to justify why she is relevant two centuries after her creation, why she might translate well to other era stories, and why readers might like more Elizabeth—so I made a list.

Five Reasons We Love Elizabeth Bennet:

  1. She is confident and refuses to let anyone, regardless of sex or rank, intimidate her. “I am resolved to act in that manner which will in my opinion constitute my happiness without reference to you or to any person so wholly unconnected to me.” –Chapter LVI
  2. She uses her wit rather than fall for petty behavior. “I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.” –Chapter VIII
  3. She is fiercely loyal (even when she proves fidelity to the wrong man.) “…do you think that any consideration would tempt me to accept the man, who has been the means of ruining, perhaps for ever, the happiness of a most beloved sister?”—Chapter XXXIV
  4. She recognizes her faults and strives to improve herself. “But vanity, not love, has been my folly…Till this moment I never knew myself.” –Chapter XXXVI
  5. She cannot be bought. She would rather face genteel poverty than marry someone she could neither respect nor marry. “Do not consider me now as an elegant female intending to plague you, but as a rational creature speaking the truth from her heart.” –Chapter XIX

I could go on but we Lizzy Bennet fans don’t need to be told what we already know. And who doesn’t have a little bit of Elizabeth inside them?

Once I determined that I was going to commit to this project, I floated the idea to a few of the authors I had worked with before and was pleasantly surprised how enthusiastic they were. I don’t know why I was hesitant to ask—of course, we all love Elizabeth Bennet! And because The Darcy Monologues is a collection of stories set in the Regency to modern times, I wanted Elizabeth’s stories to mirror that idea. Author Beau North suggested we approach NY Times bestselling Regency romance author Tessa Dare to write the foreword as she had at one time written Jane Austen fanfiction—and so we did—and she accepted. Her deft understanding of Elizabeth and Pride and Prejudice and the focus of our collection—well, she made my Dream Team complete!

And the title, it seemed a no brainer to me.

Late last spring, seeing the stories that had already arrived in my inbox: five re-imaginings or prequels or sequels in the Regency era, an Edwardian story, a 1930s story set in old Hollywood, a college-aged student in a1980’s male dominated field of engineering, and a present day story about a young coed on a blind date, I thought a Victorian era story might work too. I had an idea for an Elizabeth story about aging, and the wisdom we gain, and how older people often bestow such experiences on you. In “A Mate for Life”, set in 1855, an aged Elizabeth Darcy, with side commentary from her beloved Fitzwilliam, counsels her granddaughter about an impending betrothal while sharing how she came to marry Darcy.

Since publication of our collection, I’ve received encouragement for my debut story but this, from my very practical, non-romance, non-Austen reading sister was everything:

After reading your story and pondering it, I’ve finally concluded that P&P is not a hopeless romantic story at all… For me, Jane Austen’s premise of the Darcy & Elizabeth saga is that unconditional love is not instantaneous awareness that someone is your soul mate. It’s hurdling obstacles of perceived lies and assumed transparency into another’s soul and decide quite unexpectedly, I love this person whole heartedly. The totality of my mind does not love every notion of this being because that would be absurd. But yes, despite our differences, we are very much alike, and it is the differences that make our hearts whole and compatible. I like the aged Elizabeth reflecting on her obstinate, headstrong girl ideals and then see how those ideals evolved with maturity and ‘lived’ wisdom so translated into how she perceived Darcy…
I’ve learned through my years of reading, reviewing and editing Jane Austen-inspired fiction that many refuse to read it because they have prejudices against the genre. Some discount Austenesque novels as escapism, like one man said to author Christina Morland at a dinner party, while others might read it and then write their two-lined Amazon review: “Jane Austen would be rolling over in her grave if she knew people were using her characters…” I get it. Not everyone is going to like the same stuff. (“One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.” –Emma) But words like that from my non-Austen reading, non-romance reading sister make me hopeful… If this collection about our favorite obstinate, headstrong girl can help even one person reevaluate their prejudices against Pride and Prejudice or Austen, and even Austenesque fiction, then surely that must be a win. I am confident there is enough room for everyone under the Austen umbrella. Let Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl be your gateway to Austenesque literature. It’s addicting. In a good way. Moreover, we hope readers will enjoy the stories inspired by Austen’s best beloved heroine in the same affectionate manner they were written.

Thank you, Misty, for hosting this last stop of our #OmgItsOHG (as in oh-my-gosh it’s obstinate, headstrong girl) blog tour. And for shining your light on this collection of stories!

CHRISTINA BOYD wears many hats as she is an editor under her own banner, The Quill Ink, a great reader and reviewer, and a ceramicist. A life member of Jane Austen Society of North America, Christina lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two busy young adults, and a retriever named BiBi. Visiting Jane Austen’s England was made possible by actor Henry Cavill when she won the Omaze experience to meet him in the spring of 2017 on the London Eye. True story. You can Google it.
You can connect with Christina via her website, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

ABOUT THE BOOK: (e-book, trade paperback, pp.350):

“Obstinate, headstrong girl!” For over two hundred years, having a “lively, playful disposition,” Elizabeth embodies the perfect imperfections of strong-willed women everywhere: she is spirited, witty, clever, and loyal.

In this romance anthology, ten Austenesque authors sketch Elizabeth’s character through a collection of re-imaginings, set in the Regency through contemporary times. In ELIZABETH: OBSTINATE, HEADSTRONG GIRL, she bares her most intimate thoughts, all the while offering biting social commentary about life’s absurdities. Elizabeth overcomes the obstacles of others’ opinions, not to mention her own flaws, to find a love truly worthy of her—her Mr. Darcy—all with humor and her sparkling charm.

“I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print…” wrote Jane Austen in a letter to her sister Cassandra, January 1813―and we think so too!

Foreword by NY Times & USA Today bestselling author Tessa Dare.

Stories by Amy D’Orazio, Jenetta James, Christina Morland, Beau North, Joana Starnes, Karen M Cox, Elizabeth Adams, Leigh Dreyer, J. Marie Croft, and Christina Boyd.


The #OmgItsOHG (Oh-my-gosh, it’s Obstinate Headstrong Girl) Blog Tour began February 18 with announcement and cover reveal at Austenesque Reviews, and we hope you will continue to join us and connect with each author about their “Elizabeth” story. We’ve included a Grand Prize package giveaway (a book of your choosing from each of the eleven author’s backlist) as well as additional giveaway: my Silly Austen-inspired blank note cards and coordinating coffee mug.

Open worldwide, so be sure to participate. 1) Enter the Rafflecopter for the Grand Prize package of books, and 2) comment on the blog stops to be counted for the additional giveaway (you need not comment everywhere to be entered in that drawing but we hope you’ll have your share of the conversation.) Ends March 31.
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/51329630-elizabeth
BuyLink: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0998654051/

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin | Blog Tour

TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual assault, violence, domestic abuse.

I've been talking about Foul is Fair in some capacity or another, online and off, for months now. And nearly every time, the words I've used to describe it have been sharp: it "routinely gives me chills with just how razor-sharp it is" or it's "prose balanced on a knife's edge." I've talked about a writing style that cuts, that eviscerates, that pierces that's well-honed. It is brutal, and ruthless, and devastating, and so, so sharp.

Foul is Fair gives a fresh, clever, feminist take on Macbeth that still works perfectly on its own, without having read Macbeth. I don't think it's a coincidence that the fact that it's a retelling isn't even mentioned in the synopsis; it's not necessary to know, to be familiar with, but if you are, ooh, boy, does it add layers to the story! I was consistently surprised how well Capin reworked the plot of Macbeth and made it fit a modern revenge story without feeling forced. Everything has different significance, Macbeth's "ambitions" and Lady Macbeth's bloodlust, it all means something else, but it all slots so neatly together it's like it was meant to be. That Elle and her "coven" would ruthlessly pick off the privileged boys who drugged and gang-raped her is prime revenge fantasy territory, but the way the relentless drive of Macbeth lends itself to the goal is serendipitous.

And though it is a bloody, brutal book, at its heart it's the story of a girl who's hurting, and Capin doesn't forget that. Though yes, it may be unrealistic for the coven and Elle to orchestrate murders so effortlessly and in such a short period of time, it lends an immediacy to the story, and to Elle's pain — the bruises from her assault haven't even faded. Her pain and her anger (and her coven's, for her) is a live, raw nerve-ending. While some readers may find it hard to willingly suspend their disbelief (and their morality; gotta suspend that a bit, too) that, not only does Elle manage to accomplish all she does, but that no one recognizes her after so recent an assault, I think most readers will ignore the logistics in favor of cheering Elle on in her quest for vengeance.

I think some readers will be put off by the "on-stage" violence (and the satisfaction Elle takes in seeing her dark will done, and the general confrontationalness of the pain and horror that permeates the book. Still other readers may be put off by a sense that the book is over-written or purple-prosy. It is highly stylized, but for me, that was one of it's draws, and not a detraction, but YMMV. But for those it works for, those who like dark, dark books and relentless, risk-it-all revenge tales, or even just really clever retellings of classics, I don't think you can get much better than Foul is Fair. On par with the ruthlessness and relentlessness and unflinchingness of Sadie, which is also put out by Wednesday Books, so I think they've got us covered in the 'uber-dark, fed-up teen girls who are ready to burn the world to the ground' market.

And I'm here for it.

As I said, I've been talking about this one for awhile, and I think I'll be talking about it for awhile more to come. This is the type of book to stick with you (I literally had dreams about it), and the type to make for one hell of a group read/discussion book.

Foul Is Fair by Hannah Capin
Contemporary Thriller, Literary Retelling, 336 pages
Published February 18th 2020 by Wednesday Books
Elle and her friends Mads, Jenny, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Elle’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Elle as their next target.

They picked the wrong girl.

Sworn to vengeance, Elle transfers to St. Andrew’s. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly.

Foul is Fair is a bloody, thrilling revenge fantasy for the girls who have had enough. Golden boys beware: something wicked this way comes.

Hannah Capin lives in Tidewater Virginia. She holds degrees from the Indiana University School of Music and Columbia University. When she isn't working on her next book, you'll find her sailing, singing, or scheming with her friends. She is the author of THE DEAD QUEENS CLUB and FOUL IS FAIR

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)


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