The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

The Austen Escape

Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues—particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.

But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.

Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings arise, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay
Published November 7, 2017 by Thomas Nelson
Format: Netgalley e-book; 320 pages
Fiction/Romance
Also By This Author: Dear Mr. Knightley, Lizzy & JaneThe Brontë Plot
Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website
My Rating: ♥♥♥

Thoughts:

When I first heard about this novel I knew I had to read it. Jane Austen is my favorite author, and there are so many times I wish I could just escape into one of her novels. I’ve told my husband several times that it would be so fun to dress up in 19th century clothing and go to a Regency era ball (it will happen one day!). This is essentially what happens to Mary in The Austen Escape, although she is not as thrilled with the idea since she has barely even read any Austen novels (*gasp*). Her best friend, Isabel, however (and if you’ve ever read Northanger Abbey, red flags should be going up now), is an Austen scholar, and persuades Mary to come on the the Austen vacation with her.

The Austen Escape combines characters and plot lines from each of Jane Austen’s novels, which makes reading it a fun scavenger hunt for any Austenite. However, if you’re not as well versed in Austen as Mary’s frenemy Isabel is, there is a handy character guide included at the beginning of the novel.

Overall, I enjoyed The Austen Escape, but not as much as I had anticipated. I wanted to like this novel more, but I felt that the characters were a bit flat, which made it hard for them to feel real. Although they each possessed believable motives and desires, they didn’t react to one another in realistic ways, which took away from the tension and suspense that would have made the novel more enjoyable. To make up for this, the author added drama between Mary and her love interest, which did feel a little forced and unnecessary; however, it was a sweet romance.

The Austen Escape is for readers looking for a lighthearted, clean romance, especially one that revolves around the world of Jane Austen.

You May Also Enjoy:

Austenland by Shannon Hale
Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay
Amelia Elkins Elkins by A.M.Blair
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

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The Delphi Effect by Rysa Walker – Audiobook Review

The Delphi Effect

It’s never wise to talk to strangers…and that goes double when they’re dead. Unfortunately, seventeen-year-old Anna Morgan has no choice. Resting on a park bench, touching the turnstile at the Metro station—she never knows where she’ll encounter a ghost. These mental hitchhikers are the reason Anna has been tossed from one foster home and psychiatric institution to the next for most of her life.

When a chance touch leads her to pick up the insistent spirit of a girl who was brutally murdered, Anna is pulled headlong into a deadly conspiracy that extends to the highest levels of government. Facing the forces behind her new hitcher’s death will challenge the barriers, both good and bad, that Anna has erected over the years and shed light on her power’s origins. And when the covert organization seeking to recruit her crosses the line by kidnapping her friend, it will discover just how far Anna is willing to go to bring it down.

The Delphi Effect (The Delphi Trilogy #1) by Rysa Walker
Published October 11, 2017 by Skyscape
Format: e-book/e-audiobook; 379 pages/12 hours
Young Adult / Fantasy / Paranormal
Also By This Author: The CHRONOS Files Series (Timebound, Time’s Edge, Time’s Divide)
Goodreads | Audible | Amazon Author’s Website
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥ 

Thoughts

Once again, I bought a Rysa Walker book and then didn’t start reading it until MONTHS later. Let’s just say I was waiting until book 2’s release date was close so that I wouldn’t have to wait long in-between (this is true! I just received an advanced copy of The Delphi Resistance, which comes out next month, so I’ll be starting that ASAP!). My husband actually finished this book before me, and I’m so glad that we both enjoy Rysa’s novels because it’s fun to discuss and digest them together.

This series is more fantastical than I had been expecting. Her previous series is a solid sci-fi tale, and while The Delphi Effect can definitely be classified as sci-fi, it was more in the fantasy/paranormal realm. Our protagonist Anna is able to converse with spirits, particularly spirits of deceased persons who are unable to move on. I guess you can say they are stuck in purgatory, and they try to convince Anna to help them with their unfinished business. Sometimes that unfinished business is easy, like finishing a crossword puzzle or making sure someone’s beloved pet was adopted. But other times Anna has difficult, even dangerous hitch hikers. Such is the case with Molly, a murder victim, and who unintentionally catapults Anna into a secretive government conspiracy.

Rysa Walker is very skilled at world building. She is a history buff, and she always weaves her stories into real-life events. I also love how detailed and intricate she makes her characters’ powers. In The CHRONOS Files, the main character has the genetic ability to time travel. In The Delphi Effect, Anna and many of the characters she meets have supernatural abilities: ability to converse with spirits, power of persuasion, visions of the future, etc. I really enjoyed visualizing all of these different abilities, and I’m very much looking forward to reading more of this series. The Delphi Resistance comes out in October, and the final book, The Delphi Revolution, will probably be released next year.

Audiobook Review

If you’ve ever hesitated about buying a Kindle, let me persuade you (with my supernatural powers of persuasion…): Amazon has this feature called Wispersync. When you buy an e-book, you are then able to purchase the audiobook (at a much cheaper price) and switch back and forth between reading and narration within the Kindle app. I had already bought the first two CHRONOS Files novels when my husband wanted to read them as well, and since he prefers audiobooks so he can listen at work (he does drafting so lucky for him he can put in headphones and tune the office out), I went to buy the Audible version and found out about Whispersync. It cost me between $20-$25 to buy three e-books and the corresponding audiobooks! It usually costs that much for ONE audiobook. I don’t know if this feature is available for every e-book, but it’s worth a try. I don’t even think you really need a Kindle; just an Amazon account and the Kindle app.

Now, onto the audiobook review. Kate Rudd narrates this series, and she narrated The CHRONOS Files as well. I love her narration. She does a great job with the characters’ different voices and accents, and I would be highly inclined to listen to any audiobook that she narrates. Even though I only have an advanced e-book version of The Delphi Resistance, I still plan on buying the published e-book/audiobook copies via Whispersync, especially so my husband can continue listening to the series. I will probably be rereading these books sometime. I already want to reread Timebound because Kate Rudd’s voice reminds me (unsurprisingly) of that story and how much I absolutely adore it.

You May Also Enjoy…

18108877mara dyerAnya's GhostTimebound by Rysa Walker

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel

The One That Got Away

Ruby and Ethan were perfect for each other. Until the day they suddenly weren’t.

Now, ten years later, Ruby is single, having spent the last decade focusing on her demanding career and hectic life in Manhattan. There’s barely time for a trip to England for her little sister’s wedding. And there’s certainly not time to think about what it will be like to see Ethan again, who just so happens to be the best man.

But as the family frantically prepare for the big day, Ruby can’t help but wonder if she made the right choice all those years ago. Because there is nothing like a wedding for stirring up the past…

The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel
Published August 22, 2017 by Penguin
Format: Netgalley e-book; 352 pages
Fiction/Romance/Retellings
Also By This Author: Jenny Sparrow Knows the Future, Love by the Book
Goodreads
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts

The One That Got Away is a modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, a classic tale of love revisited. Melissa Pimentel reimagines Persuasion in her own way, turning quiet and humble Anne Elliot into determined and witty Ruby Atlas. Captain Wentworth has evolved into Ethan Bailey, a Forbes magazine featured technology entrepreneur, who, I was happy to discover, treated Ruby much more warmly than Wentworth treated Anne after their angsty decade apart (I love Captain Wentworth, but even he acknowledged that he was rather cold to Anne).

The One That Got Away alternates between the present, where Ruby and her ex Ethan are awkwardly reunited for a week in England to celebrate the wedding between Ruby’s sister and Ethan’s best friend, and past flashbacks covering Ruby and Ethan’s short, but passionate romance. Ruby is forced to confront her lingering and unrequited feelings for Ethan while surrounded by her family and their own erupting problems, all the while suffering over the real, secret reason she broke up with Ethan ten years ago.

When I first heard about this novel from a friend, I knew I had to read it. Persuasion is one of my top five favorite novels, and therefore it’s practically sacred to me. I’ve read three other Persuasion retellings (here are my reviews of Amelia Elkins Elkins and The Last Best Kiss), as well as two blog retellings (Half Hope and Only Annie), and the only time I was disappointed was while reading For Darkness Shows the Stars. I won’t give any spoilers, but Kai alters something that I didn’t agree with ethically.

I thoroughly enjoyed The One That Got Away. Ruby was an entertaining narrator, and her and Ethan’s relationship felt real and bittersweet. I was pleasantly surprised by how Melissa Pimentel improved the minor characters, specifically Ruby’s family, and strengthened relationships instead of severing them as I had expected.

Ruby, listen to me. You are a human. You are allowed to feel sad, and scared, and whatever else you feel. You’re allowed to feel things. Stop trying to out-tough life.

Read This Book If…

…you are open to retellings of classic literature.
…you are not opposed to cursing and sexual references in books (I’d rate this book PG-13, with a generous dose of the f-bomb).
…you enjoy unrequited and lost love stories.
…you are in a slump and need a book to lift your spirits!

She dwelled on the way he smiled when he saw her, like she was made of a million tiny stars.

Final Musings

I was reading through two historical fiction novels lately; one is a Pulitzer Prize winner and the other is the final installment in a series that I love. But they both deal with dark eras in history that have reemerged as current events, and I have been struggling to keep myself together dealing with real-life, let alone fictionalized accounts, of war, racism, and hatred.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by my feelings and convictions and I just want to turn my compassion meter off so I can recuperate. This in turn makes me feel guilty and then I find myself in a vicious cycle, alternating between anger, hopelessness, and self-loathing. This is not healthy. As guilty as I felt for wanting to escape, I’m glad I did.

I will still finish those other two novels I’ve been reading, because they’re powerful and important, but it was refreshing and uplifting to read The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel. If you need a pick-me-up to get you through the end of summer, I’d sincerely recommend this one!

What are some novels that have helped you escape from the burdens of reality? And if you know of any other worthy Persuasion retellings, please share them with me!

Mini Reviews

Where have I been?? It’s been 2 months since my last post, and I’ve missed blogging! But I have good reasons for taking a hiatus. April was an emotionally exhausting month that I still haven’t completely recovered from, and I’ve spent most of May reading, which really makes up for my reading drought in March and April. I feel like I can breathe again now that I keep flying through book after book.

So here are some mini reviews for the Young Adult books I’ve read over the past few months:

PS I Like YouP.S. I Like You by Kasie West – A modern Young Adult adaptation of You’ve Got Mail. This book really surprised me, mainly because Kasie West is a hit or miss author for me. I’ve previously read The Distance Between Us (did not finish) and The Fill-In Boyfriend (which I enjoyed and previously blogged about). P.S. I Like You was exactly what I needed to read this month. April was brutal and YA contemporary romances have been comforting to me. P.S. I Like You was adorably cute with themes of friendship, misunderstandings, and second chances.
My Rating: ♥♥♥

Everything EverythingEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon – I had been wanting to read this before the movie comes out later this year, and the premise was very promising: a girl who can’t go outside because she may die falls in love with the boy next door. I’ve always been a sucker for tragic romances, so it was easy for me to get into this book. The writing is sentimental and gripping. It also includes email exchanges between the two main characters, and I love when books incorporate modern communication technologies. Everything, Everything has a twist at the end that I did not see coming, and honestly I’m still trying to come to terms with it weeks later.
I think the film will be true to the book, and I’m happy with the actors they’ve chosen. Also, the soundtrack will probably be phenomenal, based on the trailers I’ve seen.
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥ (3.5 if I’m being honest)

The Start of Me and YouThe Start of Me and You by Emery Lord – This book should really have its own post, because Emery Lord is a genius who can make you laugh and cry every other chapter. I fell in love with Open Road Summer and I still listen to the playlist I made while reading it. The Start of Me and You was different but still emotionally gripping. I love how Emery Lord incorporates mental health and healing into her books. The main character in The Start of Me and You is struggling with grief, fear, and moving on, and her journey inspired me a lot since I’ve been dealing with those same things recently. Also, there’s an adorably dorky romance in this story, and it’ll make your heart smile.
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline – My husband and I flew through Armada a few months ago, and we were so excited when our Ready Player One hold became available at the library. Ready Player One is fully laden with video game and nerd references. 95% of the video game references and allusions went straight over my head, but I still enjoyed the story. It’s hard not to compare this novel with Armada, and I’d have to say that I preferred Zack’s character over Wade’s.
One thing about Ready Player One that did fascinate me, though, is the idea of internet anonymity. As it is in real life, the characters were able to be whomever they wanted to be, while hiding, enhancing, or even creating certain traits and behaviors. It’s interesting how the internet allows users to be confident and honest about who they are and yet most people hide behind a mask (or in Ready Player One’s case, an OASIS avatar) while communicating with people they will probably never meet in real life.
My one problem with Ready Player One is how critical Ernest Cline is of religion (and I say Ernest Cline because, even though it’s Wade narrating, it is painfully obvious how much Cline hates religion). As a reader and a Christian, I felt disrespected, as if the author was jumping through the pages to yell at me).
Steven Spielberg is working on the film adaptation coming out next year, and I am anxiously awaiting to see how that turns out! The story’s villain is played by Ben Mendelsohn, who played Orson Krennic in Rogue One (I’m sure he’s a great guy in real life, but he plays villains so well that I hate the character of Sorrento even more knowing that Mendelsohn is playing him).
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

This week I also finished Every Last Word, a YA novel by Tamara Ireland Stone that features a main character with OCD. It was really resonant, and I’m looking forward to getting a review up soon! I have lots of thoughts to muddle through.

In the mean time, what are some 2017 releases that should be on my To Be Read list?

 

The Life Intended by Kristen Harmel

LifeIntended

After her husband’s sudden death over ten years ago, Kate Waithman never expected to be lucky enough to find another love of her life. But now she’s planning her second walk down the aisle to a perfectly nice man. So why isn’t she more excited?

At first, Kate blames her lack of sleep on stress. But when she starts seeing Patrick, her late husband, in her dreams, she begins to wonder if she’s really ready to move on. Is Patrick trying to tell her something? Attempting to navigate between dreams and reality, Kate must uncover her husband’s hidden message. Her quest leads her to a sign language class and into the New York City foster system, where she finds rewards greater than she could have imagined.

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel
Published December 30th 2014 by Gallery Books
Fiction
Format: e-book from Netgalley for review; 368 pages
Also By This Author: The Sweetness of ForgettingThe Art of French Kissing
Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts:

The Life Intended was such a refreshing read for me! It was deep and meaningful and it’s the type of book that makes you want to go out and do something good for someone. We need more books like that in the world, don’t you think?

Kate’s character was easy for me to relate to, despite the fact that I’m not a 40-year old therapist still mourning the death of a husband 10 years later. But, like Kate, sometimes I have a hard time of letting things go and moving on. In The Life Intended Kate’s late husband, Patrick, who was a really great guy and encouraging person, starts appearing to Kate in confusingly vivid dreams. At first she believes she’s experiencing an alternate reality of the life she was supposed to have with Patrick, and soon she begins distancing herself from the reality she is actually living.

But remember when I said Patrick was really encouraging? Seeing him again causes Kate to question the life she’s living–is she really happy? Is she doing anything meaningful? Why does she have the sudden desire to be a mother now that it’s too late?–and start focusing on the things that really make her happy. Suddenly she’s diving into the world of sign language and using her therapy skills to reach out to foster system kids and finally letting her past life coexist with her present and future instead of keeping them separate.

“So how did you do it?” I ask when she answers. “Move on. Get married to someone else. Have a child with someone else.”

“Oh,” she says sadly. “You just have to think of it as a different life,” she says after a minute. “Maybe not the life you were intended to have, or even the life you thought you were intended to have. But it’s still your life, just like the old one was.”

I really enjoyed reading about Kate’s experiences with the Deaf community. I know it’s just fiction, but it was very eye-opening and made me wish I knew how to sign language! (Now that I have a baby, I will actually be learning “baby sign language” in a few months) And the children Kate encounters during her music therapy sessions really touched my heart. I could sympathize with their situations: some were bullied, some abandoned, and others struggled with needing to belong. Hearing their stories, I wished I could jump into the book and hug them!

Read This Book If…

…you’re in the mood for a book that will make you feel something.
…you enjoy stories and movies like P.S. I Love You.
…you’re interested in sign language, the Deaf community, or music therapy.
…you’ve really enjoy books about orphans or foster children.

“The thing is,” she adds, “you have to listen hard to what your heart’s saying before you know what you’re supposed to do.”

Final Musings:

The Life Intended is a captivating story that will linger with you long after you’ve finished it. I’m really interested in reading Krisitin Harmel’s other books now, and I only wish I had gotten around to reading this one sooner!

Amelia Elkins Elkins by A. M. Blair

Amelia Elkins

“It’s more than it appears. Don’t step on it, and definitely don’t eat it. It’s called skunk cabbage for a reason.”

“What’s so special about it?” she said, mostly to herself.

“It’s exciting! It’s the harbinger of spring. Don’t hold its foul odor and toxins against it. It’s only doing what it needs to do to survive.”

“Aren’t we all,” Amelia concluded, suddenly feeling a certain affinity for the smelly plant her mother had loved so much.

Amelia Elkins Elkins by A. M. Blair
Published June 19, 2015
Adult Fiction/Adaptation
Format: e-book; 318 pages
Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Synopsis:

In 1817, if childbirth didn’t kill a woman, then there were good odds that a “miasma” would. Now, thanks to modern medicine, a woman’s demise at the prime of her life is uncommon enough to deserve an investigation. That is what two lawyers at the Harville Firm promise to do when Amelia Elkins Elkins, a member of a prominent family with more baggage than money, contacts them in the wake of her mother’s untimely death.

In this retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Amelia and her sisters turn to the American court system to seek justice for their mother’s death. It’s too bad that their conceited, silly father is doing everything he can — inadvertently, of course — to hinder their success.

Thoughts:

One of my online friends who blogs over at The Misfortune of Knowing recently published this novel, which is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, one of her favorite novels (and mine as well!), and I saved it for Austen in August this month! Amelia Elkins Elkins follows Amelia, an emergency room doctor who comes from a historically prominent family, as she seeks the aide of a former boyfriend in her late mother’s wrongful death lawsuit.

Blair does a fantastic job at preserving the spirit of Austen’s Persuasion in her modern adaptation. Amelia is a sympathetic character who, like Anne Elliot, is tragically undervalued by her family. While Amelia is left to salvage her family’s estate and seek justice for her mother’s death, her family is more concerned with their own self-centered affairs. At times I felt that Amelia’s elder sister and father were even worse than their Persuasion counterparts! But rest assured, everyone gets what they deserve in the end :)

One of my favorite parts about this novel is how the romance, although thrilling and sweet, was not the main focus of the story. I loved diving into the legal world, which I know little about, and I appreciate how Blair clearly described all of the technical terms and documents. Being an attorney herself, I imagine that she’s had plenty of practice explaining legal practices to clients! If you’ve ever had any interest in the legal field, you’ll definitely enjoy following this fictional lawsuit as it envelops readers in mystery and intrigue.

Read This Book If:

…you’re a fan of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
…you enjoy reading novels with lawsuits and legal plots (especially when all of the jargon is easy to understand).
…you love stories that involve second chances.
…you long for a story with a bit of mystery and romance!

Final Musings:

If you are looking for a contemporary novel that is so much more than just an adaptation of a classic, Amelia Elkins Elkins should be on your To-Read list! A. M. Blair’s book evokes feelings of sympathy, anger, intrigue, and of course happiness as a former couple reunites in a quest for justice.

We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler

We Are Pirates

“All our days are numbered,” said Manny. “We just don’t know what the number is.”

We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler
Published February 3, 2015 by Bloomsbury USA
Adult Fiction
Format: e-book; 288 pages
Also By This Author: A Series of Unfortunate Events, Why We Broke Up, The Basic Eight
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Synopsis:

A boat has gone missing. Goods have been stolen. There is blood in the water. It is the twenty-first century and a crew of pirates is terrorizing the San Francisco Bay.

Phil is a husband, a father, a struggling radio producer, and the owner of a large condo with a view of the water. But he’d like to be a rebel and a fortune hunter.

Gwen is his daughter. She’s fourteen. She’s a student, a swimmer, and a best friend. But she’d like to be an adventurer and an outlaw.

Phil teams up with his young, attractive assistant. They head for the open road, attending a conference to seal a deal.

Gwen teams up with a new, fierce friend and some restless souls. They head for the open sea, stealing a boat to hunt for treasure.

We Are Pirates is a novel about our desperate searches for happiness and freedom, about our wild journeys beyond the boundaries of our ordinary lives.

Thoughts:

Disclaimer: I know I gave this book a 2-star rating, but I do genuinely believe there are readers out there who would enjoy We Are Pirates, even if I am not one of them. That’s the reason I’m featuring this review on my blog.*

We Are Pirates, despite its friendly and attractive cover art, is not a happy book. For lack of better words, the characters are messed up. At the heart of the story lies a family of 3 self-centered people. Phil, the father, is the only one who shows some honest concern for someone else (specifically his daughter Gwen), but don’t let that fool you–he’s as broken as everyone else.

This novel is full of broken characters in broken relationships and hopeless situations. I feel like that is a current trend in novels at the moment. And despite the fact that I didn’t enjoy reading We Are Pirates, the story itself is intriguing simply because everyone is messed up and you can sense that everything will inevitably blow up. The plot was not predictable or clichéd. On the contrary, about 3/5 of the way through the book something so unexpected happened that I literally gasped out loud and I could feel my eyes widen in surprise (and I am not an easy person to surprise, you can ask my husband).

Read This Book If…:

…you’ve ever been curious about modern-day pirates.
…you enjoy books that focus on broken characters and relationships (the characters reminded me of the Sinclair family from We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, so if you liked that book you may enjoy We Are Pirates).
…you aren’t a queasy person and you like your novels a bit rough and vulgar.

Final Musings:

Even though I wasn’t a fan of this book, it is possible that you may be! I’d suggest checking out my “Read This Book If…” list before downloading a free sample for your e-reader.

*Normally I only publish blog posts for novels I’ve given a 3 or more star rating to, unless it is a book I read for a reading challenge. The reason for this is that I don’t like to rant online about books I didn’t enjoy, and although I might write a negative review on Goodreads, I don’t find it necessary to publish negative book reviews on my blog. I’m not condemning anyone who posts negative reviews on their blogs! It’s just a personal preference of mine :)