Book Reviews, Fiction

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay | Book Review

Falling into the past will change their futures forever.

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.

I’ve been a fan of Reay’s novels since her debut! I always look forward to what’s coming next and this did not disappoint.

Like Austen’s heroines, Reay takes Mary and Isabel on their own journeys of self discovery. Full of mistakes, misunderstandings, romance and touching moments that remind you it’s never too late to find yourself.

As a fan of Austen’s novels, I thoroughly enjoyed all the references and characters brought up throughout the novel. Reay did an excellent job of paying homage to Austen’s stories, characters and Austen’s incredible talent, but also made the story her own (sidenote: I loved that Mary was an engineer and how that played into the novel). It’s a story that grabs you, charms you and makes for an excellent read.

And of course I loved the all the references of Austin. How could I not?

If you enjoy contemporary women’s fiction, add this one to your list!

Have you read Katherine Reay’s novels? If so, which one is your favorite?

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

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Bookish Radness

14 Books I Read In 24 Hours

It’s no great revelation that I’m a fast reader, but there are some books out there that anyone can read in a 24 hour period. Why? Because certain books simply cannot be put down. So if you’re looking to add a book or two (or 14) to your list for Spring Break or a Sunday afternoon, here’s several to consider!

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

“Rebecca is a work of immense intelligence and wit, elegantly written, thematically solid, suspenseful..” –Washington Post

“Daphne du Maurier created a scale by which modern women can measure their feelings.” –Stephen King

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .

The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives–presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.

First published in 1938, this classic gothic novel is such a compelling read that it won the Anthony Award for Best Novel of the Century.

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

Dear Mr. Knightley is a contemporary epistolary novel with a delightful dash of Jane Austen.

Samantha Moore survived years of darkness in the foster care system by hiding behind her favorite characters in literature, even adopting their very words. Her fictional friends give her an identity, albeit a borrowed one. But most importantly, they protect her from revealing her true self and encountering more pain.

After college, Samantha receives an extraordinary opportunity. The anonymous “Mr. Knightley” offers her a full scholarship to earn her graduate degree at the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. The sole condition is that Sam write to Mr. Knightley regularly to keep him apprised of her progress.

As Sam’s true identity begins to reveal itself through her letters, her heart begins to soften to those around her—a damaged teenager and fellow inhabitant of Grace House, her classmates at Medill, and, most powerfully, successful novelist Alex Powell. But just as Sam finally begins to trust, she learns that Alex has secrets of his own—secrets that, for better or for worse, make it impossible for Sam to hide behind either her characters or her letters.

The Bones Will Speak by Carrie Stuart Parks

Forensic artist Gwen Marcey has become the target of a serial killer who believes he’s been appointed God’s executioner.

In Copper Creek, Montana, Gwen Marcey is struggling to put together her life after cancer and divorce. When her dog retrieves a skull of a murder victim and leads her to the victim’s grave, Gwen uses her forensic art ability to identify a serial killer. She is horrified to discover all the victims look like her fourteen-year-old daughter.

The murderer is a “lone wolf,” a member of the terrorist group Phineas Priesthood-and he has a score to settle with Gwen. Unraveling the tangled Christian Identity movement, where race-not grace-provides salvation, Gwen is in a frantic rush against time. She must use all her skills to uncover the killer before he can carry out his threat to destroy her and everyone she loves.

Miracle in a Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas

In a Drought, It’s the Darkest Cloud
That Brings Hope

It’s 1954 and Perla Long’s arrival in the sleepy town of Wise, West Virginia, was supposed to go unnoticed. She just wants a quiet, safe place for her and her daughter, Sadie, where the mistakes of her past can stay hidden. But then drought comes to Wise, and Perla is pulled into the turmoil of a town desperately in need of a miracle.

Casewell Phillips has resigned himself to life as a bachelor…until he meets Perla. She’s everything he’s sought in a woman, but he can’t get past the sense that she’s hiding something. As the drought worsens, Perla’s unique gift divides the town in two, bringing both gratitude and condemnation, and placing the pair in the middle of a storm of anger and forgiveness, fear and faith.

Mist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd

Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries, spent most of her life in India. Following the death of her family in the Indian Mutiny, Rebecca returns to claim her family estate in Hampshire, England. Upon her return, people are surprised to see her… and highly suspicious. Less than a year earlier, an imposter had arrived with an Indian servant and assumed not only Rebecca’s name, but her home and incomes.

That pretender died within months of her arrival; the servant fled to London as the young woman was hastily buried at midnight. The locals believe that perhaps she, Rebecca, is the real imposter. Her home and her father’s investments reverted to a distant relative, the darkly charming Captain Luke Whitfield, who quickly took over. Against her best intentions, Rebecca begins to fall in love with Luke, but she is forced to question his motives–does he love her or does he just want Headbourne House? If Luke is simply after the property, as everyone suspects, would she suffer a similar fate as the first “Rebecca”?

A captivating Gothic love story set against a backdrop of intrigue and danger, Mist of Midnight will leave you breathless.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

On a rainy afternoon, a mother’s life is shattered as her son slips from her grip and runs into the street . . .

I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and the rest of her painful past.

At the same time, the novel tracks the pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of this hit-and-run. As they chase down one hopeless lead after another, they find themselves as drawn to each other as they are to the frustrating, twist-filled case before them.

The Curiosity Keeper by Sarah E Ladd

“It is not just a ruby, as you say. It is large as a quail’s egg, still untouched and unpolished. And it is rumored to either bless or curse whomever possesses it.”

Camille Iverness can take care of herself. She’s done so since the day her mother abandoned the family and left Camille to run their shabby curiosity shop on Blinkett Street. But when a violent betrayal leaves her injured with no place to hide, Camille has no choice but to accept help from the mysterious stranger who came to her aid.

Jonathan Gilchrist never wanted to inherit Kettering Hall. As a second son, he was content working as a village apothecary. But when his brother’s death made him heir just as his father’s foolish decisions put the estate at risk, only the sale of a priceless possession—a ruby called the Bevoy—can save the family from ruin. But the gem has disappeared. And all trails lead to Iverness Curiosity Shop—and the beautiful shop girl who may or may not be the answer to his questions.

Curious circumstance throws them together, and an intricate dance of need and suspicion leads the couple from the seedy backwaters of London to the elite neighborhoods of the wealthy to the lush, green Surrey countryside—all in the pursuit of a blood-red gem that collectors will sacrifice anything to possess.

Caught at the intersection of blessings and curses, greed and deceit, two determined souls must unite to protect what they hold dear. But when a passion that shines far brighter than any gem is ignited, each will have to decide how much they are willing to risk for their future, love, and happiness.

Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen

One final cry…“God almighty, help us!” and suddenly her world shifted violently, until a blinding collision scattered her mind and shook her bones. Then, the pain. The freezing water. And as all sensation drifted away, a hand reached for hers, before all faded into darkness…

Now she has awakened as though from some strange, suffocating dream in a warm and welcoming room she has never seen before, and tended to by kind, unfamiliar faces. But not all has been swept away. She recalls fragments of the accident. She remembers a baby. And a ring on her finger reminds her of a lie.

But most of all, there is a secret. And in this house of strangers she can trust no one but herself to keep it.

A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert

Sometimes everything you ever learned about yourself is wrong

Fashion is a fickle industry, a frightening fact for twenty-four year old model Ivy Clark. Ten years in and she’s learned a sacred truth—appearance is everything. Nobody cares about her broken past as long as she looks beautiful for the camera. This is the only life Ivy knows—so when it starts to unravel, she’ll do anything to hold on. Even if that means moving to the quaint island town of Greenbrier, South Carolina, to be the new face of her stepmother’s bridal wear line—an irony too rich for words, since Ivy is far from the pure bride in white.

If only her tenuous future didn’t rest in the hands of Davis Knight, her mysterious new photographer. Not only did he walk away from the kind of success Ivy longs for to work maintenance at a local church, he treats her differently than any man ever has. Somehow, Davis sees through the façade she works so hard to maintain. He, along with a cast of other characters, challenges everything Ivy has come to believe about beauty and worth. Is it possible that God sees her—a woman stained and broken by the world—yet wants her still?

Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

An unforgettable story of courage and romance. Will Valancy Stirling ever escape her strict family and find true love?

Valancy Stirling is 29, unmarried, and has never been in love. Living with her overbearing mother and meddlesome aunt, she finds her only consolation in the “forbidden” books of John Foster and her daydreams of the Blue Castle–a place where all her dreams come true and she can be who she truly wants to be. After getting shocking news from the doctor, she rebels against her family and discovers a surprising new world, full of love and adventures far beyond her most secret dreams.

Price of Privilege by Jessica Dotta

Having finally discovered the truth of her birthright, Julia Elliston is determined to outwit Chance Macy at his own game. Holding a secret he’d kill to keep, however, is proving more difficult than she imagined.

Just when Julia thinks she’s managed to untangle herself from Macy’s clutches, he changes tactics with a risky ploy. As the scandal of the century breaks loose, drawing rooms all over London whisper what so far newspapers have not dared to print: Macy’s lost bride is none other than Lord Pierson’s daughter–and one of the most controversial cases of marital law ever seen comes before Victorian courts.

Though Julia knows Macy’s version of events is another masterful manipulation, public opinion is swaying in his favor. Caught in a web of deceit and lies, armed only with a fledgling faith, Julia must face her fiercest trial yet.

The Shock of Night by Patrick W. Carr

When one man is brutally murdered and the priest he works for mortally wounded on the streets of Bunard, Willet Dura is called to investigate. Yet the clues to the crime lead to contradictions and questions without answers. As Willet begins to question the dying priest, the man pulls Willet close and screams in a foreign tongue. Then he dies without another word.

Willet returns to the city, no closer to answers than before, but his senses are skewed. People he touches appear to have a subtle shift, a twist seen at the edge of his vision, and it’s as though he can see their deepest thoughts. In a world divided between haves and have-nots, gifted and common, Willet soon learns he’s been passed the rarest gift of all: a gift that’s not supposed to exist.

Now Willet must pursue the murderer still on the loose in Bunard even as he’s pulled into a much more dangerous and epic conflict that threatens not only his city, but his entire world–a conflict that will force him to come to terms with his own tortured past if he wants to survive.

The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon

One summer night in 1930, Judge Joseph Crater steps into a New York City cab and is never heard from again. Behind this great man are three women, each with her own tale to tell: Stella, his fashionable wife, the picture of propriety; Maria, their steadfast maid, indebted to the judge; and Ritzi, his showgirl mistress, willing to seize any chance to break out of the chorus line.

As the twisted truth emerges, Ariel Lawhon’s wickedly entertaining debut mystery transports us into the smoky jazz clubs, the seedy backstage dressing rooms, and the shadowy streets beneath the Art Deco skyline.

Jaded by Varina Denman

Ruthie Turner resents the Christians in her small Texas town, but when she falls for the new preacher, she must release her bitterness…and learn to love. On the surface, nothing seems to change in this dull town-yet God always works beneath the surface.

What are some your favorite quick reads?

Bookish Radness

Books and Beverages 2016 Favorites

It’s that time! It’s my final post of 2016 (how in the why and what in the world?). It’s been a year hasn’t it? I can always depend on my books and wanted to share my favorites from this year. I’ve linked to my blog post or Goodreads (if I didn’t review). What do y’all think? What are some of your favorites?

(As always, the Tolkien and Lewis’ books aren’t listed, because y’all know how I feel about them. #NotEmbarassedOrAshamed)

Here they are in no particular order:

  • Under Our Skin by Benjamin Watson
  • The Shock of Night by Patrick W. Carr
  • The Feathered Bone by Julie Cantrell
  • The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris
  • Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs
  • A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and a Great War by Joseph Loconte
  • Dressed For Death by Julianna Deering
  • The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert
  • The Alliance by Jolina Petersheim
  • Jaded by Varina Denman
  • When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks
  • Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • Newton and Polly by Jody Hedlund
  • The Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay
  • Waves of Mercy by Lynn Austin
  • The Shattered Vigil by Patrick W. Carr

Another favorite from this year has been the start of The Diversity Series. I’m thankful the conversation is happening and look forward to continuing it in 2017.

What were some of your favorite reads this year?

Inklings

The Reason I love C.S. Lewis | Guest Post by Katherine Reay

(If you’re new, welcome to Inklings Week 2016! I’m excited to have the lovely Katherine Reay on the blog today chatting about C.S. Lewis! Don’t miss any of the posts this week, you can find them here!)

Welcome Katherine!

If you’ve read any of my books, you know I love books. The stories I write are saturated with the stories of others because I believe books form a common language. The Classics are not “classic” merely because they are old. They endure because they are timeless and true. We return to them again and again because they speak with relevance to our experiences, our thoughts and our lives.

If you’ve read any of my books, you also know I love C.S. Lewis. He isn’t mentioned or quoted or cited as often as Austen, Bronte or Dickens – and there’s a reason for that. He is my little secret and the foundation, if not the propulsion, for everything I write.

Here’s a peek behind the curtain…

The idea for Dear Mr. Knightley came from a few sources. One can readily recognize Daddy Long Legs (Jean Webster) behind its structure. But rather than an homage to that story, Dear Mr. Knightley only “hides” within its framework much as its heroine Sam Moore hides behind literary characters. Rather Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters helped me form the basis of Sam’s journey.

The Screwtape Letters is a “diabolical parody” written in a series of letters from a top devil, Screwtape (an Under Secretary and “affectionate uncle”), to a beginning devil, Wormwood. The subject? Advice on how to secure a “patient” – a human soul – for their father in hell. The story is packed with humor and incredibly accurate insights into the human psyche as the patient is bombarded again and again by obstacles, temptations and pressures – anything and everything to keep his eyes off eternity. Reading this, I wondered how might a woman react today to getting hit again and again. Could she recognize the eternal or even begin to ask and answer those deeper longings for love, trust, safety in the midst of such trials?

It may not have been a nice way to treat Sam, but I did enjoy her tenacity in seeking wholeness. She – and we – keep asking those deep heartfelt questions and seek answers no matter our sufferings. We may even ask more loudly and fight harder for truth in the midst of them.

Lizzy and Jane, my second novel, came to me as I read another Lewis favorite: The Four Loves. In this non-fiction work, Lewis outlines and examines the four loves in our lives and the order in which we could/should regard them. Affection. Sibling love. Romantic love. God love. This examination prompted me to ask what could or would happen to a woman if I took all four loves away. What would force her to recognize their loss and seek them again? Although I consider Lizzy & Jane my “sister story,” Lizzy’s journey is one answer to this question.

As an aside, if you get a chance to listen to The Four Loves’ audio recording, please do. It is one of the only remaining recordings of C.S. Lewis reading his own work, and his voice, intonation and occasional jokes will make you smile.

The Bronte Plot is my most obvious homage to Lewis. His The Great Divorce is a wonderful dream and a fascinating journey. While asleep, Lewis travels to heaven where he witnesses souls journeying “upward and onward.” Decisions must be made and burdens relinquished. Wrapped within fantasy, he introduces us to the idea of free will, choice and consequence – strings pulling at our hearts and the nature of surrender. This was a touch point for me when I wrestled with Lucy and Helen’s choices in The Bronte Plot and planned their journey both internally and throughout England.

My next book, A Portrait of Emily Price, will release in November and it too began with Lewis. I had a bit more fun in this story as I examined Lewis’s Surprised by Joy and Till We Have Faces. Emily Price is a look at one young woman’s search for surrender and joy amidst some beautiful Italian scenery, delicious food, great art and a very handsome husband.

I could go on and on… There’s so much Lewis to explore. There’s Narnia (Lewis liked Reepicheep and Puddleglum best. I favor Edmund and Eustace.), there’s his science fiction (Out of the Silent Planet etc.), there are essays, there are letters… And there are countless biographies and collections that bring Lewis’s humanity and brilliance to us. Currently, I’m thoroughly enjoying C.S. Lewis: Man of Letters by Thomas Howard. Howard is addressing each of Lewis’s fictional works and his analysis overflows with the joy he finds within Lewis.

And there is the crux of it… The reason I love Lewis. Joy! He sought joy, expressed joy, and he reveled in joy. Absolutely everything Lewis wrote points to it. I read Lewis because he not only provides a wonderful story, but because I agree with his motivations to write and enjoy such stories. He would assert that Joy exists, “story” always comes first and a “deeper magic,” a deeper story, propels the best fiction.

Thank you so much for inviting me here and letting me indulge in one of my favorite subjects. If anyone wants to comment, I’m sure Jamie would love to chat and, if she doesn’t mind, I’ll chime in as well.

Have a joyful and joy-filled day!

KBR

Bookish Radness

The History of the Book Cover | CBA Edition

Oh the book cover! Put out any book cover and you’ll get all kinds of different opinions. In the CBA market, there’s been shifts, changes, movements and it continues to vary between genres as well. There’s been some funny covers, some cringeworthy (my reaction to most trends of the 90s), some encouraging and some inspiring.

Today, I thought it’d be fun to take a look at a some of the changes over the years of the different genres. I’ll sprinkle some of my thoughts throughout, but I’d love to hear your thoughts about it! Do you have a preference? What changes do you see happening that you’d like more of or less of? So, please don’t be shy and let the discussions begin 🙂

I’m kicking off with a classic (and favorite), not only because it’s been out for a really long time, but I feel like it’s one book cover that has seen many changes. Here’s Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love.

I personally have a soft spot for 2001 cover, but I also like the 2005 (which is the current one) cover as well. That 90s cover though…;)

I rarely read Amish fiction, but since this is a staple in the CBA market, I thought it was worth including.

I tend to see many Amish novels that have the same vibe as this Lewis’ example. The staple outfits and country-ish backgrounds, so the reader will know immediately it’s Amish fiction. I think that’s why I like Petersheim’s covers so much (and probably because I love her stories too. Seriously, READ The Outcast). They show the story is connected to Amish roots, but I think set themselves apart.

Lynn Austin is not only one of my favorite and go-to authors, she’s been a staple in Christian fiction for a while. She was even recently inducted into the Christy Award Hall of Fame. She is also one of the authors who I see such a variety of design with her books. Here’s some of her popular historical and biblical works:

Confession: I’m not too much of a fan of the new edition of Fire By Night. I really like the original one, but that might be more due to the fact it’s one of my all-time favorite books and it holds a soft spot in my heart, so I see no need to change it ;).

Now onto the contemporary stuff. One of my earliest introductions to any type of Christian Fiction was the lovely Robin Jones Gunn’s Glenbrook Series. So let’s look at these shall we?
Weren’t the 90s fabulous? I had the 1999 version and this series is a good example of moving toward the use of models in recent years. What do you think?

Here’s a few other things I’ve noticed in the current trends (this is by no means a massive comprehensive account, since I haven’t investigated every genre or cover, but I still did catch some themes : )

  • Fantasy covers: Even with models, you don’t often see their face. This genre also has quite a bit of variety.
  • General Fiction: I’ve noticed this genre doesn’t use models as often. If it does, we usually don’t see their face. At all.
  • Historical Fiction: I would say a significant chunk of books use models on the covers. Sometimes, there’s models off in the distance too.
  • Contemporary Suspense and Romance: I would say 92.9% of the time there’s models.

Have you noticed any common trends with specific genres? Do you agree?

I’ll close with a few of my favorite recent or upcoming releases:

Now that I’ve probably talked way more about book covers than y’all cared to read, I’d love to know what you think and where you see things going! Do you have a preference?

(Thank you Goodreads for having all the cover editions available for our viewing pleasure!)

Author Interviews

4 Questions With Author Katherine Reay

(This interview is part of my 4 Questions Project, where I get the chance to chat with authors and tell stories of people, life, and adventure. Be sure to check out previous interviews here!)

Where to start, where to start? I’m trying to play it cool introducing the wonderful Katherine Reay. You know, like I’m not freaking out that she’s on my blog. Why? Because she’s awesome and her debut novel, Dear Mr. Knightley, was so fabulous I tell everyone about it. Then, just this past week, she revealed the cover to her next book and I almost passed out. But I didn’t because that would be inappropriate to do at work. But enough nerdiness from me! Let’s dive into 4 Questions with Katherine Reay!

Katherine Reay is a wife, mother, runner, and avid chocolate consumer. She has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries and, at the encouragement of her family, recently began an affair with food – cooking that is – and this new passion strongly influenced her next novel, Lizzy and Jane, which will release in October 2014. After living all across the country and a few stops in Europe, Katherine and her family live in Seattle, WA. You can also find Katherine at http://www.katherinereay.com and lurking somewhere within the pages of her first novel, Dear Mr. Knightley.

You can connect with Katherine on her website, Twitter and Facebook!

1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined 5 years ago?
So much! Five years ago I was living in Texas and could see life stretching before with no great ripples (first mistake 🙂 )… Then I was injured and housebound for many months – and I started writing. Then we moved to Seattle, WA. Then my first manuscript (Dear Mr. Knightley) was published with the opportunity for more. And now – all within five years – we are planning another cross-country move this summer… Okay, I’ve just exhausted myself.

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
There isn’t much I’d change because I’ve definitely learned from most of my mistakes – certainly not all or I wouldn’t get dragged through a few character flaws repeatedly. 🙂 But two come to mind: 1) In college, I hurt a friend’s feelings. That incident I’ve definitely learned from and wish I could change. 2) I got a job out of college doing what I thought I “should” do rather than what I “wanted” to do. I wish I had trusted myself and followed my passion.

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
So many! My wedding and the birthday of three kids definitely ranks tops. But also the day an agent called and said, “I want to work with you.” Although I had not been writing for long, “writing” had been a dream of mine for years and years. God smiled on me – again – that day.

4.What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
In many ways you’re asking what I want my kids to know. And I guess I’d say, “Stick close to Christ and it’ll all be good.” We make it much more complicated and it certainly feels more complicated, but is it? Not so sure. It’s advice I’d like to absorb more fully as well.

Thank you so so much Katherine! It’s such pleasure to have you on the blog! Be sure to connect with her if you already don’t! And if you haven’t read Dear Mr. Knightley, GET ON IT PEOPLE! 😉