September 30, 2009

Chatting with Donna Lea Simpson

Today I have the privilege of interviewing Donna Lea Simpson, author of the recently published Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark.  She has graciously agreed to answer some questions for my readers.

Donna, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for Psychotic State.

Well thank you!

First, let’s talk about your new series, Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark. How did you come up with the idea?

Truthfully, the idea for Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark (April 2009 – Sourcebooks Casablanca) came to me in response to the proliferation of paranormal series, to which I had added with my own werewolf series, beginning with Awaiting the Moon. But when you scratch the surface of this paranormal writer you’ll find I’m a skeptic, which meant that I figured my first reaction, if I heard about a werewolf, would be to grab the kibble bag and Pupperoni treats and go hunting for a hound. Lady Anne comes from that part of me, the skeptic.

How much research went into the writing of Lady Anne?

A lot! A whole lot. A mega-lot. I have written many books set in the Regency era, but the Lady Anne series is set in 1786, years before the Regency, and much was different, especially the clothing. I spent a hours online looking at old paintings and costume sites, as well as boning up on the history of the era. Believe it or not the HBO series John Adams, even though it is American and set in the United States, was a lot of help!

Did you originally envision it as a series?

Absolutely. The Lady Anne books had to be at least a three book series! I wanted to do a romantic story arc that would carry over three books. Sometimes I feel like a romance is rushed to get to the HEA ending in one book. When I created Lady Anne, a lady who has little incentive to marry, even when she meets someone as overwhelmingly attractive to her as Lord Darkefell, I knew she was not going to easily change her mind. She was going to make a man work for her affections! She is wealthy and has an indulgent father who lets her be independent, so marriage will actually take away some of that freedom. Women of 1786 became their husband’s property upon marriage, and Lady Anne doesn’t like that idea one little bit. It was going to take at least three books to make her see that the Marquess of Darkefell – ‘Tony’ as she learns to call him – is the man for her, someone who can truly appreciate how special she is.

Can you give us any hint of what we have to look forward to regarding Anne and Darkefell in the upcoming Lady Anne books?

Oooh, hints? She’s a passionate woman, and Darkefell attracts her in every sense, intellectually, sensually, aesthetically. What do you think will happen with a couple who are falling passionately in love? He pursues, she withdraws, but eventually they will come together. In Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark the fuse was lit. In Book 2 – Lady Anne and the Ghost’s Revenge (Autumn 2010) - the fireworks explode, and I mean that in a literal as well as figurative sense. So in Book Three – Lady Anne and the Gypsy Curse (Autumn 2010) they… well… I’ll leave that for now. It is a very ‘satisfying’ ending for all involved!

You have written and published 28 novels and novellas - - if you could offer one piece of advice to an unpublished author, what would it be?

Persistence. Hard work. Luck. Manage those three things in any combination and you will likely get published sooner or later, but to do it you will have to learn to be severely thick-skinned to rejection and unsentimental about your words.

Out of those 28 novels and novellas, which work is your personal favorite and why?

Noooo! I can’t - won’t! – choose a favorite.

Do you have any favorite authors that you enjoy reading or that inspire you?

Every successful romance author can point to a number of authors whose work they admire. With me, my list includes Mary Balogh, Jo Beverley and Mary Jo Putney, the 3 Queens of Regency historical romance.

Can you take us through a day in the life of Donna Lea Simpson?

It’s all about the work, baby! I’m up somewhere between 5:30 AM (this morning) and 7 - 7:30 AM (most mornings). I’m always torn over what should take precedence, writing or readers (answering email, Facebook updates, interviews, etc.) Usually – accompanied by about three or four cups of coffee and a chorus of cat meows - I answer email, make some blog rounds, then get down to work. The actual writing is what readers think of when they think of novelists, but there is a lot of work involved that isn’t strictly defined, writing. Planning a book or series takes a lot of time and research, and there’s more research once you sit down to write.

Once I begin writing a book, I try to aim for a half chapter a day, that’s about two thousand plus words a day. But even while writing a book, there are all kinds of other tasks that have to be fit in: promo for new releases, providing info to the publishers for future releases, edits to be checked, that kind of thing. Usually just when you think you’ve cleared your schedule for some uninterrupted writing time, something else will crop up! I work until mid-afternoon and then comes all the other things that every person has to do; family and cleaning and cooking etc, and if I’m lucky a little reading.

Lastly, if you could change place with any one person for a single day, who would it be and why?

Nora Roberts; then I’d be inside her brain, steal all her ideas and run!! Kidding, I’m kidding! But really, if I could be one person for a day I suppose it would be someone like Oprah Winfrey, who seems to make so much of every second of her life. But in truth? My philosophy has always been I wouldn’t want to be anyone else because we all have our joys and our sorrows, our strengths and our weaknesses, and I’m happy being who am.

Donna, again, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to give us some insight into your writing, your average day and what makes you tick!

Thank you so much, Lori, for a fun and fabulous interview!

To read my review of Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark by Donna Lea Simpson, go here.

Donna Lea Simpson contacts:


Website url:



September 29, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: September 29, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly book meme, hosted by mizb 17 at Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along. Just do the following:

* Grab your current read

* Open to a random page

* Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page

* Be careful not to include spoilers! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away; you don't want to ruin it for other readers)

*Share the title and author so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser for today is . . . . .

Sarah stared at him blankly.  "So what you're trying to tell me is that vampires are real?"
He took a deep breath.  "Yes, Sarah.  And your sister is being held by one."

Thunder and Blood by Stacey Voss
page 104

Please leave me a comment with your teasers if you don't have a blog, or leave me your link if you've posted. Happy reading!

September 28, 2009

The Winners of "Close Encounters of the Third Grade Kind"!

The lucky winners of the "Close Encounters of the Third Grade Kind" by Phillip Done are:

1.  April
2.  trishalynn0708
3.  Aliya D.
4.  Mrs. Duff
5.  Sarbear

Congratulations to the lucky readers!  I will be emailing you for your mailing addresses. 

Thanks again to Anna and the Hachette Book Group for making this giveaway possible. 

September 27, 2009

Review of "Close Encounters of the Third Grade Kind" by Phillip Done

SynopsisA twenty-year veteran of the classroom, elementary school teacher Phillip Done takes readers through a lively and hilarious year in the classroom. Starting with the relative calm before the storm of buying school supplies and posting class lists, he shares the distinct personalities of grades K-4, what he learned from two professional trick or treating 8-year-old boys, the art of learning cursive and letter-writing, how kindergartners try to trap leprechauns, and what every child should experience before he or she grows up.

These charming, sweet, and funny tales of Mr. Done's trials and triumphs as an award-winning schoolteacher will touch readers' hearts and remind them of the true joys of childhood. We all have that one special, favorite grade school teacher whom we fondly remember throughout our adult lives - and every teacher also has students whom they will never forget. This is the perfect book for teachers, parents, and anyone else who is looking for a lighthearted, nostalgic read.

What can I say about Phillip Done's recounting of his elementary school teaching years except that it was a fun, fulfilling read?  

Mr. Done's writing is what I assume his teaching style to be like - - lighthearted, humorous and entertaining.  I was drawn into his book from the first page, partly out of curiosity for the teaching profession and partly due to his "getting to know you" style.  I can imagine that reading Mr. Done's book is akin to sitting down with him over dinner and letting him talk about all his third grade adventures. 

He begins with right before school begins, with the summer ending, and each section is a different month of the school year.  Everything from Back to School Night, where the seasoned teachers know to hide from the excitable students and their talkative parents, to never letting your profession slip while buying school supplies to the dreaded Picture Day. 

I found myself chuckling with reminders of my own school days - - the plastic combs given out on Picture Day, the show and tell (or what is now called "Sharing"), learning cursive writing, adventurous spelling and those crushes on classmates. 

If you get nothing else out of this book, the memories are worth reading it alone.  I dare you to read this book and not remember your own third grade teacher, or the best friend you had, a favorite outfit from that school year or the little boy (or girl) you had a crazy crush on.    
Well done, Mr. Done.

My giveaway still has another 24 hours, so it's not too late to enter to win your own copy of this enjoyable read.  Click here to enter - - and based on the idea for "extra credit" given to me by poster Mrs. Duff, I will give any current, former or soon to be teachers an extra entry if you identify yourself.

Good luck!

September 26, 2009

Read a Banned Book

Today kicks off Banned Book Week so let's celebrate our freedom to read.  Pick up a book and if you're not sure which book to pick up, here is but a sampling of some classic books that have one thing in common - - they have all been banned at some time.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
The Bostonians by Henry James
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Bible

Yes, even the Bible.  So if your eyes are rolling as hard as mine are, go to your bookstore or local library and honor the authors of these books (and others listed at the American Library Association's website) by reading the words they worked so diligently to bring us - - and deserve to have read!

A pin from Eastern Michigan University's Halle Library

Giveaway: Breaking the Bank by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Many thanks to Sarah Reidy with Pocket Books for providing me with copies of Breaking the Bank to give to 2 lucky readers!

I have not read this book yet (my copy is on the way, hooray!) but here is what Ms. Zeldis-McDonough's website has to say about it:

Mia Saul is down on her luck. Dumped by her husband, jettisoned from her job and estranged from her adored older brother, she and her young daughter Eden have had had to make a downscale move to a crummy apartment where their neighbors include a tough young drug dealer and a widower who lets his dogs use the hallways as their own personal litter box. Juggling a series of temporary jobs, wrangling with her ex-husband over child support and trying to keep pace with Eden’s increasingly erratic behavior have left Mia weary and worn out.

Then one evening a routine stop at her local bank’s ATM yields a surprise. The machine begins producing bills—quite a lot of them in fact—that are neither recorded nor debited from her account. At first Mia attributes the excess cash to a stroke of much needed luck. But when the machine continues to give her unaccounted for money and actually begins communicating with her, her life gets turned around in ways she never thought possible. An up-to-the minute urban story that has just a whiff of magic, Breaking The Bank is a wholly original, engaging work of contemporary fiction.

You can't say Breaking the Bank doesn't sound like a to-be-read book!  I honestly am anxious for my copy to arrive because, let's be truthful, who hasn't fantasized about an ATM machine giving you free money? 

If you'd like to win a copy (and why wouldn't you?), here's the 411:

* Leave me a comment with an email address to contact you (worth 1 entry)

For 2 extra entries:

* Become a follower or subscriber of my blog (let me know if you already are, and let me know if you become one) (Just click on the "Follow" or "Subscribe" buttons located on the left side of my blog)

For 3 extra entries:

* Add me to your blogroll and/or mention my giveaway on your blog or Twitter it (and leave a link)

That's all!  This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.  No P.O. boxes. 
I will draw the winners on Monday, October 12 and email the lucky readers.

Good luck!

September 25, 2009

Upcoming Events

Things have been busy, busy around here and I'm thrilled!

If you check out my sidebars, you will see all the upcoming events - - hopefully with more to come.

Please stay close - - you don't want to miss out!

On Monday, September 28, I have a drawing for 5 copies of Phillip Done's Close Encounters of the Third Grade Kind.  It's not too late to enter - - simply click here  and leave me your email address for one entry.  Additional entries can be had by blogging or tweeting about my giveaway, or signing up to become an official follower of my blog. 

I will have a review of Mr. Done's humorous recounting of his 20+ plus years teaching this weekend - - it's a fun read and I promise you won't be disappointed!  You will probably also have more respect for teachers in the process.  I sure did. 

Next Wednesday, September 30, I have an interview with the lovely Donna Lea Simpson, author of Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark, among many others.  (If you haven't already, take a look at my review of Lady Anne here).  Take my word that you don't want to miss this - - Donna is a witty, down to earth lady in addition to an accomplished writer.  Mark your calendars.

On Monday, October 5, I am hosting the blog tour of Breaking the Bank by Yona Zeldis McDonough which will include an author interview, a book review and a giveaway.  Read about Yona and the newly published Breaking the Bank here.  For those of you that love Barbie, or even have a love-hate relationship, you'll want to get to know Yona, who has collaborated with 20+ other authors to put thoughts about Barbie to paper. 

Also on Monday, October 5, I am giving away my own personal copy of Jane Odiwe's Lydia Bennet's Story.  If you haven't read my review, go here.  Jane is a lovely lady with a true Jane Austen affection and it shows in her work.  The cover of her book is beautiful - - as well as art work she herself has done.  You can view for yourself at her website here.  Please click the link here to enter my giveaway. 

And on Thursday, October 29, I am hosting the blog tour of Thunder and Blood, the first novel for Stacey Voss.  I will include a review of the book (which looks like a lot of fun and includes the paranormal elements I just love!) as well as an interview with Stacey herself (who wrote Thunder and Blood while participating in the November National Novel Writing Month).  For more info on Stacey and Thunder and Blood, check out the website here

I also plan on having another giveaway of one of my own personal books soon.  I'll leave you in a bit of suspense about which book but I think it will be well received!

So please stick around and don't miss out on all the upcoming events!

September 24, 2009

10 Books to Read Before You Die

I saw this list over at Debbie's World of Books, although it originated with Pam at  I thought it would be fun and interesting.  Turns out it's also harder than I thought . . .

1.  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  (I know, I should probably lose my reviewer or book blogger status over this one.  I never had to read it in school and it's been on my TBR list for a long time.  I even have a lovely library bound edition.)

2.  Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.  (Yes, I am from Atlanta and have never read this classic.  Does seeing the movie count?)

3.  The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.  (Yet another book that I have in my own personal library and another lovely library bound edition.  The movie from the 40s was incredible.)

4.  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (I have seen every movie version but never read the book.  And I love all things Christmas)

5.  Possession by A.S. Byatt.  (I have seen the movie and loved Jennifer Ehle's portrayal)

6.  The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy.  (I have seen the mini-series which was stellar.  The story was so good, the book has to be just as excellent)

7.  The War of the Worlds/The Time Machine/The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells.  (I have never read anything by H.G. Wells but the man has always fascinated me, so he's on the list)

8.  The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.  (A classic mystery, enough said.) 

9.  Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne.   (I've never read anything by Jules Verne but I feel I should so this is my pick). 

10.  Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  (I love time travel and I have heard this book is wonderful)

 So what would be your 10 books? 

Thursday Thunks - September 24, 2009

Welcome to the September 24th version of Thursday Thunks!  (which we always seem to post on Wednesday)

Where we make you think a little bit before you blog!

This week we will answer some crazy questions brought to you by Kimber, the number 1172007 and the color of the walls in an asylum.

1. Does soap or shampoo have to really lather up for you to feel that it cleaned throughly?

Yep.  I'm completely and utterly shallow in that regard.  If there are no bubbles and if it doesn't smell good, I'm not using it.

2. Do you have a long standing joke with someone that you still laugh about every time you talk to that person? 

Hmmm . . . well, Sherri and I still call each other "Pooh" and "Piglet" despite the fact that she looks nothing like Pooh and I hope I look nothing like Piglet.  And Becca and I still laugh about the "Shmeckpepper" family on Family Feud and the ridiculously cheesy case names on the court t.v. programs, like "What the truck?" over a stolen truck and "Unbeweavable!" about a hair salon disaster. 

3. Share something that happened to you this past week that was unusual.

Ummm, I had enough time to finish 2 books?  And I didn't have more than 3 or 4 homicidal thoughts about my bosses?

4. If you dropped a purple crayon and a green crayon off a roof, which would melt faster in the sun?

First, I would never drop said crayons because I love purple and green.  And where are the other crayons?  How high up is the roof?  Is it summertime or wintertime?  What time of day?  Are they brand new crayons or mushy used ones?  (Yep, that was the analytical part of me).   If I had to give a defined answer I would say "it depends" (learned that in paralegal school).   
And to give an absolute answer and in keeping with the irony that often hits me over the head like a 2x4, I would say that both would melt equally in my hand before I could toss them off the roof, staining what is surely a white shirt I would choose to wear that day.
5. You are standing in line (grocery store, bank, etc.), and someone gets in line behind you that stinks. The stink is so bad that people in line in front of you turn around and look to see if you are the one causing the stink. Do you cover your nose, hold your breath, breathe through your mouth or just get out of line altogether?

This has actually happened to me.  As much as I would secretly love to stare at said smelly person, gape or give them a dollar for a bar of soap, I generally try to discreetly cover my nose and suffer through it.  If, however, my son was there, he would probably question loudly "What is that smell?" or "Who stinks around here?"

6. If you dropped your cell phone in the toilet, would you fish it out? If so, how much soap would you use to wash your hands afterwards?

That depends (yep, another answer in legalese).  Is it my toilet at home or a public toilet?  In my toilet, yes.  I would scrub my hands silly but yes, I would.  If a public toilet, heck, I would then too.  I need my cell phone.  But I'd be whining and crying about it for days.
7. Sydney Australia dust storm (link). How long do you think it would take you to clean your house after that sort of dust storm?

Who says my house doesn't look like that after my son and his friends come over and the dogs run rampant?  Seriously . . . I have no idea.  Part of me would probably go crazy with my Kirby, the other part of me would probably just want to move.
8. Do you think you can dance?

Only after a few cocktails!
9. You are out to eat and someone across the room is staring at you. Do you get paranoid, try to ignore them, or go find out why they are staring at you?

Ignore them.  That has happened to me.  If it's a continual, long stare I often threaten to get up and ask them "Do I know you?  Do I owe you money?" or something like that but I never do.   Now my husband, on the other hand would totally go find out why they're staring.

10. Come up with a crazy, wacky Thursday Thunk question.

Have you ever tasted dog food or cat food on a dare?

And to answer Sandy's #10 question:  Have you ever colored your hair and had to live with the disaster? or any other such hair raising experience?

Ah yes, memories.  My mom was "maintaining" my hair for me once (sounds nicer than "coloring") and we bought the last 4 containers of my auburn/red shade from the bin at Sally's.  Or so we thought.  Someone had dropped a container of Elvis Black in there and neither one of us noticed until it was on my head and had colored.  Can we just say that I am NOT meant to look like Elvis, in any shape or form?  I had to make an emergency appointment at my salon the next day, call in sick to work (I had a female boss who understood that "hair coloring disasters" really do equate to an emergency sick day) and spend all day in the salon, waiting and then getting my hair bleached colorless and then having the right color reapplied.  All while my scalp was burning and being told that my hair might very well start to fall out (It did not, thank goodness).   
So what are your Thursday Thunks?  Care to join in? 

September 23, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays: September 22, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly book meme, hosted by mizb 17 at Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along. Just do the following:

* Grab your current read

* Open to a random page

* Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page

* Be careful not to include spoilers! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away; you don't want to ruin it for other readers)

*Share the title and author so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser for today (a day late) is . . .  . .

Monday arrived and Lizzy was slightly ashamed, but she could not deny her excitement.  Never in her entire life had she been able to shop without worry for the cost.

Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan, page 117.

Please leave me a comment with your teasers if you don't have a blog, or leave me your link if you've posted. Happy reading!

September 21, 2009

The Winners of "The Smart One and the Pretty One"!

The winners of "The Smart One and the Pretty One" giveaway are:

1. Marjorie
2.  Mary S.
3.  Sheila @ Journey Through Books
4.  Princess Peach
5.  Kimberly Mabry

Congratulations to the lucky readers!  I will be emailing you for your mailing addresses.

Thanks again to Miriam and The Hachette Book Group for making this giveaway possible.

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? - September 21, 2009

It's Monday! What are you reading? is a weekly event hosted by J. Kaye's Book Blog; participants discuss what they read the previous week and what they plan to read in the coming week.

What I Read Last Week:

Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo.  My review of this witty, intelligent chick lit for the over 30 set is here

Close Encounters of the Third Grade Kind by Phillip Done.  Elementary school teacher Done's recounting of twenty years of students, homework and parents.  My review is coming soon

What My Nose is Buried in This Week:

Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy:  And Two Shall Become One and Loving Mr. Darcy by Sharon Lathan.  Ms. Lathan's sweet and romantic account of what happens to Lizzy and Darcy after the wedding.

So . . . what are you reading today?

September 20, 2009

Review of Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo

Synopsis:  Emma Grant, the heroine of Pattillo’s first outing, has a major beef to settle with her literary heroine, Jane Austen. Austen’s novels taught Emma, a college professor, to believe in happy endings, but her own happy ending goes up in flames when she discovers her husband, Edward, in the arms of her teaching assistant, after which the two have her professionally discredited by claiming she plagiarized a paper. Disillusioned and disgraced, Emma flees the U.S. for her cousin’s house in England after being contacted by Gwendolyn Parrot, an elderly woman claiming to be in possession of a stash of lost Austen letters. Rather than simply handing over the letters, Mrs. Parrot sends Emma on a succession of tasks that gradually reveal a secret about Austen’s life previously unknown to scholars. Along the way, Emma reconnects with Adam, her former best friend whom she fell out of touch with after marrying Edward. 
(from Booklist)

When I picked up this book at The Mother Ship (also known as Barnes & Noble), I had no idea that this was our heroine, Emma Grant's second literary appearance.  As a reader, you should have no fear that you need to read Ms. Pattillo's first book featuring Emma before this one.  I did not and I still found Jane Austen Ruined My Life to be a delightful, witty romp through England.

I loved the setting - - I have always wanted to travel to England and having yet to get there, I savor any books that take place in that lovely foreign land.  Ms. Pattillo, who states in her bio that she travels annually to Britain, describes even the most everyday highlights of British living, from the local Starbucks to riding the tube to jaunts to the local bookstore.  Even having never been to London or the surrounding areas, I could picture each location almost clearly in my mind from the narrative.

I could also relate to Emma.  She realizes too late that she was married to a man who was controlling and didn't cherish her.  She changed her life to suit him and his and it took something as cruel as catching him the act of adultery for her to make an official break.  She is scarred and she is bitter about relationships but she isn't a bitter person.  I could also understand her passion about finding potential secret letters written by Jane Austen and her one-minded drive in her hunt.

The only thing I didn't like about Emma was her apparent blindness when it comes to Adam, her friend from college days whom she hasn't spoken to or seen since marrying Edward and who she runs into again upon arriving in London.  It's painfully obvious, to this reader at least, that Adam has long held a torch for Emma and it was no coincidence that Emma and Adam's friendship was broken when she married Edward.

Adam is a wonderful leading man - - thoughtful, generous and literate.  Throughout much of the book I rooted for Emma to come to her senses and throw herself into Adam's arms - - in between rooting for Emma to find those Austen letters and reveal some tantalizing aspect of Ms. Austen's life.

Jane Austen too is a central character of this smart piece of chick lit - - her name isn't just used to sell the book.  There are no flashbacks but much of Jane is revealed, fictionally, through papers.

In all, I found Jane Austen Ruined My Life to be a fun, intelligent read and a wonderful way to spend some  quiet afternoons.  The ending was not at all what I expected and some readers may find the ending questionable and objectionable.  While it might have been a bit of a letdown, it didn't ruin the spirit of the book for me.

If you're a fan of clever chick lit and/or Jane Austen, I recommend you pick up this book.

Visit author Beth Pattillo's website here

September 17, 2009

Review of Pride and Prescience by Carrie Bebris

Pride and Prescience

By Carrie Bebris

Forge Books - 2004
288 pages
Trade Paperback ISBN 0-765-31843-1
Mass market paperback ISBN 0-765-35071-8
Hardcover ISBN 0-765-30508-9

Book #1 in the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery series

Synopsis: When Caroline Bingley marries a rich, charismatic American, her future should be secure. But strange incidents soon follow: nocturnal wanderings, spooked horses, carriage accidents, an apparent suicide attempt. Soon the whole Bingley family seems the target of a sinister plot, with only their friends the Darcys recognizing the danger. A jilted lover, an estranged business partner, a financially desperate in-law, an eccentric supernaturalist -- who is behind these events? Perhaps it is Caroline herself, who appears to be slowly sinking into madness. . . .

Pride and Prescience is the first novel in a series of romantic mysteries featuring Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice as reluctant sleuths who become embroiled in intrigues surrounding their friends and family. The newlywed Darcys' courtship hasn't ended, and their adventures have just begun.

I found this book, entirely by accident, while searching thru either Amazon or Barnes & Noble for Pride and Prejudice fan fic. Those of you who know me are aware that I have a strange obsession (quite possibly a book disorder) with Pride and Prejudice and any fan fic. So I will willingly admit that I can be predisposed to like a Pride and Prejudice fan fic book merely because it continues the story of some amazing characters. (By the same token, I can hold these books to a higher standard due to their Austen connection and will expect more out of them than just coasting by on the Austen name).

Pride and Prescience is an amazingly satisfying read on several fronts. First and foremost, if you’re an Austen/Pride and Prejudice fan, you will be delighted not only at seeing your old friends Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy fresh off their wedding but at how honest and true Carrie Bebris is to Jane Austen herself. Unlike some pieces of Austen-themed fan fic (and I call them “themed” because they stray about as far off the Austen path as artistically possible) Elizabeth has retained the wit and sass that Ms. Austen graced her with and Darcy, while seemingly haughty and proud, is still the caring gentleman Ms. Austen made us fall in love with. (Although Colin Firth certainly helped out). Pride and Prescience is not a bodice ripper (no offense to bodice rippers) nor soft porn disguised as a “continuation”. It is the now Mr. and Mrs. Darcy returned for some good old fashioned intrigue!

To delight readers even further, Ms. Bebris has chosen to move the once secondary character of Caroline Bingley to the forefront. While in Pride and Prejudice Miss Bingley was a pretentious and well seasoned snob (and one with designs on Mr. Darcy), I did enjoy her presence in the book. Would I want her as a friend or relative? Absolutely not! But she added the same type of diversion to the book that I felt Mrs. Bennet’s comic relief did. And she continues her sense of diversions here, in Pride and Prescience, albeit ones of a very different nature.

And this leads me to the second point of why Pride and Prescience works. Elizabeth and Darcy work a mystery much like Nick and Nora Charles of The Thin Man fame. It comes naturally, as does their repartee and charm. You can’t help but like them and enjoy them gracing each page. There is the typical mystery of “whodunit”, as well as mystery of the supernatural and paranormal - - one which this reader found immensely satisfying. The dark overtones of the supernatural give Pride and Prescience a gothic flavor, which keeps very true to Jane Austen (think of Northanger Abbey) as well as the time period in which Ms. Austen wrote her books.

So, with all this praise is there anything in Pride and Prescience that doesn’t work? Honestly, no. Not really. The storyline is so fluid, the characters so enticing and portions of the dialogue so sharp, there is very little to find fault with. Perhaps the “real” Elizabeth Bennet Darcy would not so quickly accept the idea of supernatural forces as a possibility for the mystery but within the context of this story, and with Ms. Bebris’ smooth writing, it all comes together and works like a well-oiled machine.

Pride and Prescience succeeds, ultimately, because it’s a well-crafted tale, told in a sparkling voice with much-loved characters who some readers have been vested in since Pride and Prejudice. Ms. Bebris doesn’t try anything fancy and she doesn’t give the reader inexplicable situations or diminish the characters in any way. She also doesn’t commit what I consider the cardinal sin of rushing the story or solving the “whodunit” with a character brought in at the end or with very little “face time”.

If you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice, do not fear that you won’t delight in or understand Pride and Prescience. It is still a remarkable, fun read, for Austen fans or for mystery fans.

So wrap yourself up in a cozy blanket, get a mug of steaming tea or chocolate and settle in for a lovely read. Prepare, though, to want to continue your adventures with Mr. and Mrs. Darcy throughout the series.

Originally posted at Cozy Murder Mysteries. 

Author Carrie Bebris' official site.

September 16, 2009

Fun Random Questions for BBAW

I saw this fun meme over at Ryan's Wordsmithonia and decided it looked like a fun way to take a break . . . so here goes!

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?

Nope, usually not.  I want as much of my attention on my book as possible.  That's not to say that I won't read while I'm eating breakfast or during my lunch break though.   

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you? How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears?Laying the book flat open?

No writing in books!  Books are jewels, marking in them is defiling them!  And absolutely no dog-earing!!  I feel faint just thinking about it.  
I use bookmarks and I have a handful of them that I keep in my nightstand top drawer.  
I will lay a book flat open, using a book weight from The Mother Ship, if it's a hardcover or softcover without a tight spine - - otherwise, no, because I can't stand to hear the spine snap or give!  (Book death!  Sadness! - - and yes, I am weird about my books).  

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?

Both.  Right now I am reading primarily fiction but I do enjoy nonfiction about old Hollywood, the British Royal Family, autobiographies and true crime.

Hard copy or audio books?

Hard copy.  I only listen to audio books on car trips.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?

I prefer to read to the end of chapters because it's neater and a better stopping point, normally, but sometimes "real life" calls and I have to stop where I am.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?

Only if I can't figure it out by the context of the passage it's in.  (stolen from Ryan but I feel the same way)

What are you currently reading?

Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan.

What is the last book you bought?

Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark by Donna Lea Simpson.

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?

I used to read 2-3 books at a time on a regular basis . . . then I got married and had a family.  Now I read one book at a time.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?

I enjoy reading early, before anyone else is up, and the house is quiet.  I also enjoy reading at night before I go to sleep, using the massaging bed rest my husband gave me (see attached pic).  Of course, I'll read anywhere, I'm not too picky. 

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?

Either or.  There are some truly phenomenal stand alones that are perfect as they are and don't need continuation.  There are also books that I have loved even more, knowing they were part of a series and more were coming.  As long as the book is well done and I'm immersed in it, I'm good.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?

Without question, Jane Austen.  I adore her work so I don't understand why others wouldn't as well.  I also endorse Ann Rule, for the true crime genre and Daphne DuMaurier's "Rebecca" for an iconic gothic romance.  Surprisingly, when I broke down and read the "Twilight" saga, I did recommend it to a few people as a great little story that quickly got me wrapped up.  

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)

The half or so of my books that are relatively organized are done so mainly by grouping all of the author's work together (i.e., all my Ann Rule books are stacked together). 

So what about you?  Anyone else care to answer?

September 15, 2009

Review of "The Smart One and the Pretty One" by Claire LaZebnik

Synopsis:  When Ava Nickerson was a child, her mother jokingly betrothed her to a friend's son, and the contract the parents made has stayed safely buried for years. Now that still-single Ava is closing in on thirty, no one even remembers she was once "engaged" to the Markowitz boy. But when their mother is diagnosed with cancer, Ava's prodigal little sister Lauren comes home to Los Angeles where she stumbles across the decades-old document.

Frustrated and embarrassed by Ava's constant lectures about financial responsibility (all because she's in a little debt. Okay, a lot of debt), Lauren decides to do some sisterly interfering of her own and tracks down her sister's childhood fiancé. When she finds him, the highly inappropriate, twice-divorced, but incredibly charming Russell Markowitz is all too happy to re-enter the Nickerson sisters' lives, and always-accountable Ava is forced to consider just how binding a contract really is . . .

(From Hachette Book Group)

"The Smart One and the Pretty One" lived up to my expectations as a fun, spunky piece of chick-lit and then surpassed it.  I quickly devoured this book in three days, so involved did I become in both the story and the characters. 

Both sisters, Ava and Lauren, are relatable - - they are witty, they are competitive, they are flawed.  Both could be more annoying than amiable - - Ava, the conservative, buttoned up attorney who has some preconceived notions of relationships and men; Lauren, the flirty, flighty spendthrift who acts before she thinks and doesn't think too often of the future.  I think most of us have aspects of both sisters in our personalities and that is what made them more endearing to me than aggravating.  They have a strong bond, which they realize and identify during the novel, and act like typical sisters.

Typical, too, in a sense, are their romantic relationships during the book.  I could tell exactly where the story was headed for both sisters, but it didn't lessen my enjoyment with the book.   I liked both their male counterparts and I liked the fact that they were as equally flawed as the sisters themselves. 

While "The Smart One and the Pretty One" made Lauren's financial woes and her poor handling of money a source of humor and one of the bases for the eventual contract disputes between her and Ava, it handles the sisters' mother's cancer diagnosis with much more seriousness but still keeps the overall tone of the book as bubbly as a glass of champagne.    As a bit of an aside, a peripheral character who is also being treated for cancer at the same hospital as Nancy (the sisters' mother) is shown to be quite ill and there is certainly nothing lighthearted about it.  In fact, some of the best dialogue (wittiness aside) in the book is between Lauren and the character of Daniel, speaking about dealing with a family member suffering from cancer and trying to make jokes during a depressing, demoralizing time.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Nickerson sisters and lamented the ending of the book.  I can only hope that Ms. LaZebnik found the sisters worthy enough for a sequel.  

"The Smart One and the Pretty One" is available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other major booksellers. 

Many thanks to Miriam at Hachette Book Group for the opportunity to read and review this book. 

And don't forget to enter in my "The Smart One and the Pretty One" giveaway here!

Teaser Tuesdays: September 15, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly book meme, hosted by mizb 17 at Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along. Just do the following:

* Grab your current read

* Open to a random page

* Share two (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page

* Be careful not to include spoilers! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away; you don't want to ruin it for other readers)

*Share the title and author so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

My teasers for today are . . .  (and I pulled a bit of a cheat, as I added two extra sentences). . . .

Since we were the only two people in the room, I grew concerned.  What if I'd been wrong?  What if she was simply a crazy old lady who wouldn't know one of Jane Austen's letters from a back issue of the Sunday Times?  What if I'd come all that way for nothing? 

Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo, page 23.

Please leave me a comment with your teasers if you don't have a blog, or leave me your link if you've posted.   Happy reading!

September 14, 2009

It's Monday, what are you reading? - September 14, 2009

It's Monday! What are you reading? is a weekly event hosted by J. Kaye's Book Blog; participants discuss what they read the previous week and what they plan to read in the coming week.

What I Read Last Week:

Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark by Donna Lea Simpson.  My review of this fantastic gothic romance historical mystery paranormal fiction novel is here

The Smart One and the Pretty One by Claire LaZebnik is a true chick-lit romp about two sisters, their relationship with their parents, with men and with each other.  Review to follow! 

What My Nose is Buried in This Week:

Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattilo.   An Austen-esque chick-lit book about how a college professor has a score to settle with Jane Austen, after believing in happy endings from Austen's books, all while on the search for some long-lost letters Austen wrote.

And Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan.  What happens to our beloved Lizzy and Darcy from Pride and Prejudice after the wedding - - in the most romantic (and steamy!) way.  And as a sidenote, and a bit of bragging, I won a signed copy of the second book in this series, Loving Mr. Darcy, from Sharon Lathan herself a week or so ago!

Hmmm . . . yes, there is definitely a theme going on with my reading.  It looks to be a very Austen-esque week for me.

So . . . what are you reading today?

September 13, 2009

Review of Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark by Donna Lea Simpson

Synopsis:  A fascinating and exasperating young lady… 

The Marquess of Darkefell has enough to worry about with a bloodthirsty wild beast rampaging the countryside and sinister family secrets to protect. Then Lady Anne Addison arrives, with unquenchable curiosity and intelligence that drive him to distraction…

An infuriatingly unyielding man…

Lady Anne finds the marquess darkly handsome, seductive, and forceful, with a ruthless magnetism that challenges and stimulates her. But he seems determined to keep secrets that may threaten both herself and her helpless friend…

Thrown together in a time of crisis, with a murderer on the loose, the marquess picks an absolutely dreadful moment and the worst possible way to declare his intentions…

(from Amazon)

"Lady Anne" was my introduction to Donna Lea Simpson and I was not disappointed.  I admit that I was attracted to the book initially due to the cover, which has just enough historical mood, darkness and a bare man's chest to spur my desire.  Reading the plot sealed the deal for me. 

How to describe "Lady Anne"?  It's gothic, in the same vein as Daphne DuMaurier and Victoria Holt.  It's historical in the same vein as Philippa Gregory.  It's a romance for the thinking and discriminating reader.  It has a taste of the paranormal that reminds me a bit of Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey".  And it has a neat little mystery to wrap up into a pleasing literary gift. 

One of the things I loved best about this book was the central character of Lady Anne Addison.  She is certainly no frail flower of the time (England of 1786), fainting and keeping to women's interests (sewing or having children).  She is more like a man of that time period - - curious, inquisitive, willful, bold and determined to remain unmarried. 

I also felt a connection with the character of Boatin, Darkefell's secretary and his story of how he came to England from Africa.  Here was a man who was well-read, if not superiorly educated, who was fiercely loyal to his employer, while still recognizing his faults, and who treated Anne as both a lady and as an equal.  In fact, I felt somewhat more of a connection with Boatin than I did with Darkefell - - although Darkefell is quite reminiscent of Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, with his perceived arrogance and hidden sensitive nature.

Another wonderful thing about this book are the luscious details of the 18th century - - the attire, the headwear, the castles and estates - - which will cause readers of historical fiction to devour this tale.  Boatin's tale, as mentioned above, is an accurate recounting of true events, giving even more depth to Ms. Simpson's story and characters.

The only downside to this book, in my own opinion, is the somewhat unresolved ending . . . which makes perfect sense if you realize "Lady Anne" is the first of a new three-part series.  The ending leaves this reader, at least, wanting more and anxious to see where Lady Anne's travels take her next and what part the mysterious and moody Darkefell will play in her life in the future.

I recommend "Lady Anne" without reservation, if you're a fan of gothic, historical, paranormal romance.

"Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark" can be purchased at Barnes & Noble, Amazon or through Donna Lea Simpson's website. 

September 11, 2009

Friday Finds: September 11, 2009

  Hosted by MizB on Should Be Reading, Friday Finds is all about the great book finds we've discovered this week.

This week I have to give a special shout out to Sharon of Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews.  Her lovely site introduced me to author Annette Blair and Ms. Blair's "Vintage Magic Mystery" series, which are my Friday Finds this week. 

Even though Sharon's "Cozy Mystery Week" has wrapped up, I encourage you to check out her blog, as well as all the wonderful little cozy mysteries she highlighted this week. 

Happy reading!

A Veiled Deception by Annette Blair

Synopsis:  Her mother was a witch?  Home from the New York fashion world to plan her sister's wedding, Madeira Cutler becomes a sleuth when the bride is accused of murder. Turns out, Maddie can "read" vintage clothes and follow their clues. What other gifts did she inherit from her mother?  (from Annette Blair's website)

Larceny and Lace by Annette Blair

Synopsis:  Maddie Cutler has it all in the bag: fashion, magic--and murder!  
If that dress could talk...  The second entry sparkles in bestselling author Annette Blair’s enchanting Vintage Magic Mystery Series for Berkley Prime Crime starring Madeira Cutler, a psychic dress designer--and daughter of a witch--who "reads" vintage clothes and follows their clues.  (from Annette Blair's website)