March 27, 2012

Book Review: MR. DARCY FOREVER by Victoria Connelly

BOOK DESCRIPTION:   The third in a trilogy of Jane Austen romantic comedies from UK author Victoria Connelly featuring characters obsessed with Jane Austen and set in Jane Austen locations (A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, Dreaming of Mr. Darcy).  


Sarah and Mia Castle, two estranged sisters (and Austen addicts) who have spent a lifetime fighting over the men in their lives, meet for the first time in three years during the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath, the city where Anne Elliot (Persuasion) and Catherine Morland (Northanger Abbey) found their happy endings.  During the festival, the sisters realize that they can't bear to be apart, even though Mia fell in love with the man Sarah eventually married and settled with in beautiful Devon, another Jane Austen location (the filming of Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility).  They discover that their sisterhood forms a bond stronger than their mutual connection as Jane Austen addicts.  And in true Jane Austen fashion, they each begin to lose their hearts to dashing gentlemen.  A beautiful, fun and quirky story of sisterhood and romance.



My Review

I love this Austen Addicts series and must admit that I am disappointed this is the third and final book. Boo.  However, what a fun and (as Jane Austen would say) diverting entertainment!

As A Weekend with Mr. Darcy mirrored Pride and Prejudice and Dreaming of Mr. Darcy ran parallel to Persuasion, Mr. Darcy Forever has its roots in Sense and Sensibility, from focusing on two very different sisters (the almost maddeningly practical Sarah and the carefree Mia), the Devon location of Barton Cottage and to the more modern day counterparts to the caddish Willoughby, loyal Edward Ferrars and solid Colonel Brandon.  Sigh.  Okay, I admit it.  I was visualizing Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant and Greg Wise while reading, although the physical descriptions of characters in the book as written by Victoria Connelly are nothing like the actors themselves.

Regardless, this book was like going on a wonderful, all expenses paid vacation.  Maybe the Jane Austen Festival, as mentioned.  Author Victoria Connelly has the fortunate ability to draw the reader in right away, to brilliantly capture the spirit of Jane Austen's novels in present day settings.  I wanted to jump on the first plane across the pond, so strong was my desire to visit Bath - - heck, live in Bath! - - while reading this.

I was thrilled to see that many characters Ms. Connelly introduced us to previously, in the aforementioned A Weekend with Mr. Darcy and Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, make cameo appearances here.  It gives a very nice tie-in to the earlier books in the series as well as allowing us a brief glimpse into what may have happened to those characters after "their" book ended.

Interestingly, as I loved this book so much, I didn't care for Sarah until the last quarter or so.  I did try to see her as Elinor Dashwood, or at least a latter day version, but I just didn't get a sense of Sarah's heart right away, unlike Elinor's.  She was still a unique character and I was pleased that she got her happy ending.

I liked Mia much more, relating to her spunkiness easier than Sarah's sense of order.  I liked reading of her dismal bedsit in London, her desire to set the world stage on fire and her friendship with former classmate Shelley, who found happiness working at a daycare center in Bath, while sewing vintage costumes.  I could see her warm home, her scattered fabrics and ribbons, and her energetic dog, Bingley (you wouldn't expect anything less, would you?) - - as well as her strange roommate Pie.  Mia fit flawlessly into this British motley crew and, honestly, could have been an amusing and enjoyable book on its own.

I found Alec, Gabe and Lloyd all appealing characters, albeit for very different reasons!  I would have liked a bit more backstory on Gabe and Lloyd but, really, a minor point.

Deep cynics or non-obsessed Janeites may find the ending a bit too tidy and wrapped up.  If you are an Austen fan, you know that Jane gives her heroines happy endings and Victoria Connelly does Jane proud.  Perhaps the ending is a bit too pat but it works and I'm quite pleased with it.

This book is required reading for Austen fans and the perfect book to accompany your cup of tea, curled up in your favorite chair (or, like me, sitting outdoors and enjoying the sun).  You will not be disappointed.  Be warned, however, that basic things like housework and errands may be put on the back burner while you are accompanying Sarah and Mia to Bath.

Mr. Darcy Forever is available for pre-order at major booksellers, including Amazon.  It will be released on April 1.  I am an Amazon affiliate.  If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.

Review copy of this book provided by Sourcebooks in exchange for a fair and honest review.  In no way did the provision of this book affect the outcome of my review.  


With thanks to NetGalley.

To read my review of A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, click here.  To read my review of Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, click here.

March 25, 2012

Sourcebooks eBook Bracket Challenge

I love Sourcebooks.  They have some of the best Jane Austen fan fic around and their employees are just tops.  And here is another reason why.  They are letting their readers choose their next 99 cent book deal!

Staring today you can take part in the first ever Sourcebooks eBook Bracket Challenge.  By using the Twitter hashtag #eBookBracket, readers can vote over Twitter for the next eBook from Sourcebooks they want to see discounted for 99 cents for one week in early April.


The Rules:

*  You must use the hashtag #eBookBracket for your vote to be counted - - otherwise it won't count!
*  Please remember this is a friendly competition!
*  Voting rounds:
     -  Round 1 (8 titles):  March 25 - March 26 until 4 pm CST
          ~ 4 titles to be announced on March 27 will move on to Round 2
     -  Round 2 (4 titles):  March 27 - March 28 until 4 pm CST
          ~  2 titles to be announced on March 29 will move on to the Championship Round
     -  Championship Round (2 titles):  March 29 - March 30 until noon CST

The winning title will be announced on Twitter and Sourcebooks Buzz Blog by 5 pm CST on March 30

The eBook deal for the winning title begins on Tuesday, April 3 and lasts through Monday, April 9

The Titles:

Click on the title for more information and follow them all on Twitter!

Tempted by Elisabeth Naughton, @ElisNaughton
The Goblin King by Shona Husk, @ShonaHusk
The Soldier by Grace Burrowes, @GraceBurrowes
Lord and Lady Spy by Shana Galen, @Shana Galen
Making Waves by Tawna Fenske, @Tawna Fenske
Cover Me by Catherine Mann, @CatherineMann1
Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally, @MirandaKennealy
Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber, @LeannaRenee

You can see the full bracket at the eBook Bracket Challenge Page on Sourcebooks.com:http://bit.ly/FOuWWs.  This is where the titles moving on will be announced so be sure to check it out!





March 20, 2012

Author Interview: KRISTINA MCMORRIS

Today I am excited to welcome Kristina McMorris, author of Letters from Home and the newly released Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, to Psychotic State Book Reviews.  Welcome, Kristina!

You have written two of the most beautiful and heartfelt romances I have read.  Would you like to share how you were inspired to write each? 


KM:  Wow, thank you so much, Lori!  Both books were actually inspired by true stories.  The premise of my debut novel emerged while I was interviewing my grandmother for the biographical section of a cookbook I was editing, full of recipes she had created and collected over decades, as a Christmas gift for the family.  It was then that she revealed the fact that she and my grandfather had dated only twice during WWII before they got married, their relationship having developed almost entirely through letters - - all of which she then pulled from her closet to share with me.

When I left her house that day I started o wonder how well two people can truly know each other through letters alone.  The thought sparked the idea for a book in which a soldier falls in love through a yearlong letter exchange, unaware the girl he's writing to isn't the one writing back.  This laid the foundation for what became my debut novel, Letters from Home.

As for my second novel, years ago an old family friend shared with me that he had fought for America while his brother served for Japan.  I was captivated by the thought.  But it wasn't until a decade later, when I'd found my calling as a writer, that I remembered his story and realized what an amazing premise it would make for a novel.  Combined with my undying love for the U.S. miniseries "North and South" (perhaps more for Patrick Swayze in uniform than anything else), I set out to write my book.  But in the midst of research, I happened across an obscure mention of roughly two hundred non-Japanese spouses who had chosen  live in the U.S. internment camps voluntarily.  I phoned my agent that very day and said, "This is it.  I have my story!"

Both Maddie from Bridge of Scarlet Leaves and Liz from Letters from Home are incredibly strong and resilient women - - how much of yourself did you write into their characters?


KM:  As you can probably guess, I'm a pretty strong-willed person myself.  I didn't intentionally fashion these characters to be a reflection of my personality, and in fact there are definitely some significant differences that exist.  Really, when it comes to infusing my own traits into my stories, there are parts of me sprinkled into every one of the characters - - even the guys!

Both books have a great deal of history in them.  How much research goes into writing a solid historical fiction work?


KM:  For Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, I did solid research for about five months before I started writing the book.  Since I'm not a big fan of traditional research, which of course is required for historical fiction, I opt for hands-on experience whenever possible.

Therefore, I was delighted when the Park Ranger at the Manzanar War Relocation Center, who suffered through my endless list of internment questions, invited me to attend their annual pilgrimage.  (Come to think if it, maybe that was his way of finally shutting me up!)  Similarly, when I contacted the Go For Broke Foundation, an organization devoted to educating people about Japanese American military service, they offered to arrange in-person interviews with seven WWII veterans who have since all received the Congressional Gold Medal.  I've definitely been spoiled.

As for my Air Corps research, it's hard to beat the thrill of flying on a restored B-17 bomber.  For that one, I have my husband to thank.  It was by far the best Mother's Day gift I could imagine!

Bridge of Scarlet Leaves deals with an aspect of World War II that is glossed over during history class - - the treatment of Japanese Americans here in the States after Pearl Harbor and the result, especially on marriages between Japanese Americans and Americans.  Was this difficult to write? How did you decide to center your book around it? 


KM:  Since my father is an immigrant from Kyoto and my mother is a Caucasian American, I grew up living between the two worlds.  Both sides of the family eventually grew to accept my parents' marriage, but in the beginning there was some strong resistance.  My maternal grandfather had, after all, served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific during WWII.  Drawing on these experiences, I was able to weave in the unique pespectives with which I was raised.

You took quite an interesting path to becoming a published author.  Host of a children's program, acting, wedding event planning - - wow!  Care to share any fun tidbits about these jobs?


KM:  Oh goodness, I could probably write a whole book about the amusing things that happen while coordinating weddings.  Looking back, one of the funniest incidents was when, give minutes before the ceremony, all of the men in the wedding party sat down on an outdoor bench covered in sap.  My assistant ended up giving the backside of their tuxedo pants a swift wipe with a wet rag, then I followed up with a dry rag before immediately cuing them to walk in the procession.

Are there any eccentricities to your writing habits?


KM:  I didn't realize this until my husband pointed it out a few years ago, but I mumble as I write.  I have to say the words aloud in order to hear the cadence and to ensure that the dialogue sounds realistic.  If a stranger walked by, I'm sure I'd look like a crazy person.

How about your writing space - - dedicated or on the fly?  Organized or controlled chaos?

KM:   My office, where I used to write, is pretty organized.  Now that I have a good laptop, I can't seem to pry myself off the comfy couch in the living room when writing fiction these days.

Are there authors you enjoy reading when you are not writing yourself?  


KM:  Some of my favorite novels include The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, The Taker by Alma Katsu, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, and Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum.

Now for some random questions . . .


If you were a Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavor you would be . . .
"Everything but the . . ." is the flavor.  I'm not sure exactly what's in that one but the name seems to sum up my life.

Man in uniform . . . police officer, firefighter or military? 
Military, hands down.  I write WWII, after all!

Weirdest celebrity couple in your opinion is?
Although they're no longer together, I have to say I'm still most bewildered by Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton.

If you could meet one author, living or deceased, for coffee it would be . . .
Shakespeare - - to find out who really wrote his plays.  :)

The most underrated book you've read?
Thank goodness nothing comes to mind.  Each of my all-time favorite books have fortunately received their due praise.

The one item you simply could not do without in your daily life is?
My laptop.  I think I'd feel lost without it - - although I'd probably get more laundry done.

One vintage item you wish would rotate back into fashion is? 
I love the 1940s hats, from pillbox and large-brimmed ladies' hats to men's tweed caps and classic fedoras.

Your ideal day would be . . . 
Writing THE END on the next novel, which I have yet to start, then celebrating with my kids and husband over an Italian meal and Tiramisu.

One piece of advice to struggling writers would be . . .
When it comes to surviving the submission process, remember that it only takes one!  As for craft, treat critiques like a cafeteria line:  pick and choose what works for you.  Be true to your voice and your story.  And don't let anyone edit out what is uniquely yours.  (I realize that's more than one piece of advice, but hey, it's one paragraph).

What's on the horizon for Kristina McMorris?  Any future books?

KM:  Up next, my novella, The Christmas Collector, will be released in October in a holiday anthology titled A Winter Wonderland, headlined by Fern Michaels.  In this contemporary story, Jenna Matthews, the daughter of a former hoarder, seeks catharsis through her career as an estate liquidator.  However, while preparing for a sale just before Christmas - - a season of "junk" exchanges she despises - - she stumbles upon a shoebox of wartime memorabilia that reveals the secret past of an elderly woman (her young version is a minor character in Letters from Home), and soon leads Jenna on a hunt to understand the true value of keepsakes, holidays and memories.

Other than that, I have two more novels on contract with my publisher.  The first one is tentatively titled Through Memory's Gate, which I'll be diving into as soon as the whirlwind of my current book tour settles.

Lastly, if you could use one word to describe Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, what would it be?

KM:  Hopeful.

Thank you so much, Kristina, for taking the time to answer my questions.  Best of luck to you with the wonderful Bridge of Scarlet Leaves!

To read my review of Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, please go here.   To read my review of Letters from Home, please go here.  


For more information on author Kristina McMorris, please go here


What do you think, readers?  Do you love a man in uniform?  Is North and South your cup of tea?.  And what vintage item do you wish would rotate back into fashion?  (My answers:  Yes!  I am married to a military man.  Always loved North and South.  Patrick Swayze was terrific - - .and in uniform!  I always loved the women's lounging pajamas of the 30s, as well as those gorgeous evening gowns!) 

March 15, 2012

THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES Blog Tour and Scavenger Hunt

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Jac L'Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company.  In order to flee the pain of those remembrances - - and of her mother's suicide - - she moved to America.


Now, fourteen years later, she and her brother have inherited the company along with its financial problems. But when Robbie hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives and then suddenly goes missing - - leaving a dead body in his wake - - Jac is plunged into a world she thought she'd left behind.  


Back in Paris to investigate her brother's disappearance, Jac becomes haunted by the legend of the House of L'Etoile has been espousing since 1799.  Is there a scent that can unlock the mystery of reincarnation - - or is it just another dream-infused perfume?  


The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion, and suspense, moving from Cleopatra's Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet's battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris.  Jac's quest for the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past.  

My Review


Right off the start, let's get the shallow out of the way.  The cover of this book is flat out gorgeous.  I love it. I could just stare at the cover and be happy.  Something about a vintage perfume bottle just speaks to me.

Fortunately, I could also open the book and get lost in the story and get lost (in a good way) I did.  This book just ticks off all the "must haves" on my list - - reincarnation, history, mystery.  Check, check, check.  Author M.J. Rose throws a fresh spin on the topic of reincarnation, infusing actual historical events with a family perfumery.  I admit I found the chapters and pages dealing with the perfumes and their concepts to be fascinating, particularly those going back to Cleopatra's era.  Those sections left me with the feeling of how remarkable it was that today we still enjoy those things that people did circa 30 B.C. and that we still use some of the same flowers and trees.

I loved, loved, loved the concept of fragrance being the bridge to past lives and how our scents basically remain the same in each lifetime, allowing our souls/spirits to recognize loved ones, friends and those who have brought us harm.

The transition between the current day and two specific and different eras in the past was seamless.  Having a story alternate between decades, much less centuries, can cause friction and frustration for the reader if there is too much stop and start.  That doesn't happen here.  I was equally happy in whatever century Ms. Rose took us.

Ms. Rose did a splendid job covering the story in Paris.  Paris is on my bucket list and this book may have bumped it to the top.  The city is rich with history and the book brings the decadent history out in full force.  It's obvious from her writing that Ms. Rose is passionately in love with Paris and with the subject of reincarnation.  She has done remarkable research on both, as well as the history of perfumes, and the affection resonates throughout.

While The Book of Lost Fragrances is the fourth book in the Reincarnationist series, it works flawlessly as a stand alone book.  I have not read the previous three books and had no problem diving in and greedily devouring the tale.  Of course this book succeeded in whetting my appetite for the earlier books in the series and I will certainly be adding them to my library.  In short, this book was phenomenal and I would not hesitate to give it my highest recommendation.

The Book of Lost Fragrances is available for sale at major booksellers now, including Amazon.   I am an Amazon affiliate.  If you make a purchase through my link I will receive a small commission.

Review copy of this book provided by the publicist in exchange for a fair and honest review.  In no way did the provision of this book affect the outcome of my review.



The Book of Lost Fragrances Scavenger Hunt


“A perfume that hasn’t been breathed for centuries,” L’Etoile whispered. As the others entered, Abu set to explaining that they were now standing in the funeral chamber and pointed out the brightly colored murals. One showed the deceased dressing a large statue of a man with a jackal’s head, placing food at the man-beast’s feet. Slightly behind him, a lithe and lovely woman in a transparent gown held a tray of bottles. In the next scene, she was lighting a censer, the smoke becoming visible. In the next panel, the jackal stood among jars, presses, and alembics, objects that L’Etoile recognized from his father’s perfume shop back in Paris. L’Etoile knew how important fragrance was to ancient Egyptians, but he’d never seen this much imagery relating to the making or using of scent before.

Please visit http://songberries.com/ for the next stop on the scavenger hunt.

Interview with Author M.J. Rose


What kind of research did you do while writing The Book of Lost Fragrances?


MJR:  I met with perfumers, visited perfume factories, read about two dozen books on perfume and bought way more perfume than I should have.

Who was your favorite author as a child?


MJR:  All the authors who wrote Nancy Drew.

What are you currently reading?


MJR:  The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.

Are any of the characters in the book inspired by people you know in real life?


MJR: The perfumer in the book, Robbie L'Etoile, was inspired by a perfumer I met in Paris, Olivier Durbano.

What was your favorite part of The Book of Lost Fragrances to write?


MJR:  The end.

For more information on author M. J. Rose, please visit her website.

With thanks to Media Muscle and Book Trib for including me on this virtual book tour!

March 13, 2012

Book Review: THE BLACK SHARD by Victoria Simcox

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Kristina's stay at summer horse camp is horrible to say the least, and it's all because Hester and Davina are there as well, making her life miserable.  When Hester's cruel prank goes terribly wrong, it's actually what sends the three girls back to the magical land of Bernovem.  In Bernovem, Kristina is very excited to see her former friend, Prince Werrien.  When he invites her to sail with him on his ship to his homeland Tezerel, putting it simply, Kristina can't refuse.


Reunited with her gnome, dwarf, animal and fairy friends - - and best of all, Werrien, things seem like they couldn't get any better for Kristina.  But when Werrien becomes fascinated with an unusual seeing stone, the 
the "Black Shard", Kristina is haunted by a ghostlike old hag.  Struggling against suspicion, guilt, illness and ultimately the one who wants to possess her soul, Kristina will see it's in her weakest moment that she will encounter more strength than she has ever know. 

My Review


I read and reviewed Victoria Simcox' The Magic Warble about two years ago and found it to be a fun fantasy read, perfect for the whole family.  Warble's sequel, The Black Shard, gamely picks up where Warble left off, a year or two in the future with our nimble heroine, Kristina, returning to the mystical land of Bernovem.

I loved returning to Bernovem, seeing the fairies and gnomes and talking animals (my favorite!) through Kristina's eyes and those of Hester and Davina.  Ms. Simcox' descriptive writing is so perfect when we are being treated to Bernovem, such a colorful place that comes through clearly in the book.  What makes The Black Shard a bit different from its predecessor is that it's not just Kristina who travels to Bernovem but her not so friendly acquaintances due to Hester's prank.  It gave the story a fresh spin.

As I liked Kristina in The Magic Warble, I liked her here as well.  Despite the fantasy element, Kristina is very much a real teenager and faces normal issues, like self-esteem and the intense feelings surrounding a teenaged crush.  Her budding relationship with Werrien is much more important and front and center in this book versus the first one.  Parents have no worries - - this romance is very tween oriented and suitable for all.

I also liked Werrien - - I think it was nice to read of a prince who is self-assured in general and yet is still anxious about his feelings for Kristina.  He's a typical teenage boy who just happens to be a prince of a magical fantasy land.

The Shard of the title is an interesting mystery, a stone that gives off unusual images.  What role it plays and how Kristina is going to address it is not as clear as her role in The Magic Warble.  What are the visions Kristina is seeing?  Is she the only one who can see them?  And why?  The story will keep you guessing right up until the last pages with a nice twist.

As I stated in my review of The Magic Warble, there are definite undertones of The Chronicles of Narnia series.  It's an easy read, family-friendly, a quick moving story with a wonderful fantasy element.  The door is also left open for further visits with Bernovem and I hope that Ms. Simcox will share another installment with us.

The Black Shard is a perfect book for tweens, teens and adults who enjoy fantasy.  Get in touch with your inner child and lose yourself in Bernovem.

The Black Shard is available for purchase now at major booksellers, including Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliate.  If you make a purchase through my link I will receive a small commission.

Review copy of this book provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.  In no way did the provision of this book affect the outcome of my review.


For more information on author Victoria Simcox, please visit her website.

To read my review of The Magic Warble, please go here.