Sunday, May 31, 2020

"Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen (yet again)

This is the first time I've reread Pride and Prejudice since 2013.  I feel like admitting that might get me hauled away for insufficient Austen fandomness or something.  But it's true.

Anyway.  Once again, this book delighted me.  It made me laugh.  It made me smile.  It made me unaccountably anxious to zip through the last third or so of the book so Lizzy and Mr. Darcy wouldn't have to be separated for too long.  Isn't it amazing how a story I KNOW so very well can still make me want to hurry up and see how it turns out?  Wonderful stuff.

Something that really struck me this time through is how anti-romantic this book is.  Or maybe not anti-romantic, but non-romantic, in the sense that we think of books as romantic today.  The characters who act the way we think romanically inclined people ought to, swooning and going into raptures about handsome men or beautiful women, and feeling lots of physical attraction toward the opposite sex... are all idiots.  Yes, I'm looking at you, Lydia and Wickham and Kitty.  Even Bingley, who is enraptured with Jane's beauty, is... not portrayed as the brightest candle on the cake.  

On the other hand, we have Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas having zero physical attraction in their relationship at all, and that's portrayed as not very ideal either.  But very sensible, if dull and sometimes disagreeable.

But with Lizzy and Mr. Darcy, we have a balance.  Two minds that understand and value each other's good qualities, abilities, understanding, and personalities, and also two people who find each other attractive.  Except that, especially for Lizzy, the physical attraction comes AFTER the mental attraction.  Mr. Darcy does admire her fine eyes long before she finds him at all agreeable, but he kept trying to dispose of that attraction because he thought WHO she was wouldn't be a good fit for him.  Still, overall, they're as interested in each other as they are attracted to each other.  I think Austen is trying to show us how very important it is to have both those aspects in a relationship.

Anyway, totally love this book.  I love how, like Lizzy, Austen obviously is diverted by "follies, whims, and inconsistencies," and yet, also like Lizzy, she never stoops to "ridicule what is wise or good" (p. 52).  I can laugh with her in good conscience.

(Mine from my Instagram account.)

Particularly Good Bits:

"Affectation of candour is common enough -- one meets it every where.  But to be candid without ostentation or design -- to take the good of every body's character and make it still better, and say nothing of the bad -- belongs to you alone" (p. 13).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG.  No violence or smut, but there's a couple who lives in sin for a time, which is alluded to in the most genteel and vague way possible.  No real bad language, but Lydia does like to say "lord" a lot, which could be seen as a profanity.

This is my 47th book read and reviewed for my second go-round with the Classics Club!  Only three to go and I'll have finished my second set of fifty!

Friday, May 29, 2020

"Stardust" by Neil Gaiman

This book was not what I was expecting.  I was expecting more of an urban fantasy sort of thing, with someone from the modern world stepping into one filled with magic, or vice versa.  I don't even know why I thought that's what this was.  But anyway, it's not.

It's actually about people living in a little town on the other side of the wall from a gap between the "real world" and faerieland.  And about two boys, one the father of the other, who go through that gap and change their lives forever.  It's also about a fallen star who breaks her leg when she lands, brothers battling for a throne, and an evil crone who reminded me a lot of Mother Gothel from Tangled (2010). 

I have to say this is not my favorite Neil Gaiman book so far.  I didn't like it as well as The Ocean at the End of the Lane or Fortunately, the Milk, and I definitely didn't love it like I love The Graveyard Book.  But it was a diverting read, and I polished it off in a single day.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: R for two semi-explicit love scenes, quite a bit of bad language, some fairly gory bits of violence, and various mentions of bodily functions.

This is my 18th book read for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Cover Reveal for "One Bad Apple"

Here it is!!!

My cover artist has done it again!  Could this cover be any more gorgeous?  I think not!  And it so totally screams "Snow White set in the Old West," doesn't it?  Plus a little hint of Hamlet in there, since One Bad Apple has a lot of Hamlet overtones.

What exactly is One Bad Apple about?  Well, it's about seven white orphans who are reluctantly allowed to join an all-black wagon train headed to Kansas.  The orphans just want to find their only remaining adult relative, a homesteading uncle.  But they get all mixed up with the people in charge of the wagon train: a minister, his daughter, and his wife, who is a healer.  One of the orphans dreams of being a doctor, and he hopes the healer will be able to teach him how to cure sick people.  But instead, he discovers she has a sinister plan to dispose of her husband and stepdaughter... and she intends to place the blame on this orphan.

One Bad Apple is set to release on July 28, and I will be calling for advance readers and setting up a blog tour in a few weeks, so keep a lookout for those posts!  Meanwhile, you can mark One Bad Apple as a "want to read" here on Goodreads.

Want to stay up-to-date on all book news regarding my Once Upon a Western series?  Sign up for my author newsletter either in the sidebar of this blog or by following this link.  Signing up for that will also let you read my Rapunzel-inspired story "Let Down Your Hair," which is available exclusively to newsletter subscribers.

You can also keep in touch with me on Instagram and Facebook, as well as this blog and my movies/writing/life blog. You can even follow me on Amazon or Goodreads!

I'll leave you with this collection of my book and short story covers because I love how they look together:

Sunday, May 24, 2020

"The Railway Children" by E. Nesbit

I loved this book when I was a kid.  Guess what?  I still love it now!  I read it out loud to my three kiddos this month, and they just ate it up.  I read them the Usborne Illustrated Original edition pictured here, and the illustrations by Ji-Hyuk Kim are GORGEOUS.  Especially everything involving the trains.

Three children and their mother have to leave their London home to go live in a small cottage in the English countryside because their father... has had some trouble befall him.  Trouble you don't learn about for a long, long time because the children don't know what it is either.

They live not far from a railway and make friends with the people who work at the local station as well as some of the engineers and passengers.  And they have many adventures involving the train and its environs, including one thrilling day when they actually save a train from being wrecked.  It's an utterly charming book, and I'm not surprised that my kids loved it too.

(From my Instagram account)

Particularly Good Bits:

Grown-up people, even Mothers, often make remarks that don't seem to mean anything in particular, just for the sake of saying something, seemingly (p. 52).

There was a pleasant party of barge people around the fire.  You might not have thought it pleasant, but they did; for they were all friends or acquaintances, and they liked the same sort of things, and talked the same sort of talk.  This is the real secret of pleasant society (p. 215).

However nice the person who is teaching you may be, lessons are lessons all the world over, and at their best are worse fun than peeling potatoes or lighting a fire (p. 351-2).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G, for it is good, clean, sweet, lovely, and wholesome.

This is my 46th book read and reviewed for my second go-'round with the Classics Club.  Almost to my goal of 50!

Friday, May 22, 2020

"Sixteen Brides" by Stephanie Grace Whitson (again)

This is such a delightful book.  I loved it the first time I read it, and I loved again this time through.

Don't be worried by the thought of sixteen main characters to follow.  Whitson does not put her readers (or herself) through that sort of Tolstoy-esque torment.  Although there are indeed sixteen women travelling to Nebraska to claim homesteads, the story focuses on only five of them.

Most of these ladies are widows.  All are unmarried.  One widow brings along her adolescent son.  None of them are seeking husbands, but are instead hoping to begin new lives by proving up on homesteads.  However, unbeknownst to them, the man who has organized their trip to Nebraska has actually promised unmarried men at their journey's end a trainload of prospective brides.

Some of the women are absolutely horrified when they learn this.  Some are not.  Some see finding a husband quickly once they reach Nebraska to be a sensible choice.  Some refuse to entertain the thought.  Some of the ladies fall in love.  Some do not.  By the end of the book, there have been a few weddings, and there are more on the horizon, but we are not treated (subjected?) to sixteen wedding ceremonies.  

So if you're worried that this book is a collection of sixteen love stories, don't worry!  It's more about the characters learning and growing as people and as Christians than it is about romance, though there definitely are a couple of romances that get fleshed out.  

On the other hand, if you're expecting sixteen love stories in this book, it's best you know right now that that's not exactly what you'll get.

Here's something that amuses me:  the first time I reviewed this book, I said that if I belonged to a book club, I would insist on reading it with my club.  Well, I now belong to a book club, and guess what we read for our May meeting?  This book!  :-D

(Mine from my Instagram account)

Particularly Good Bits:

No one was coming to rescue her.  it was time she rescued herself (p. 11).

"I think a woman should be who she is, not what others expect her to be.  And if she wants to go to a dance looking for a man, she should go and not feel like she has to explain herself.  And if she wants to have her own farm, she should do that and not feel like she has to explain that, either" (p. 72).

"...God answers our prayers with what we need, not necessarily what we ask for" (p. 162).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:

PG-13 for violence including an attempted rape that is non-graphic but does use that word.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

"Miss Kopp Just Won't Quit" by Amy Stewart

This was such a fun, fast read!  I am happy to report that I liked it MUCH better than book three in this series, Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions.  Largely because this was once again written in first person in Constance Kopp's voice, which is so delightful.

Like the previous three books, this book is based on the actual lives and adventures of Constance, Norma, and Fleurette Kopp in New Jersey just prior to World War One.  Constance's job as female deputy at the Hackensack jail has always been a bit tenuous and open to a lot of scrutiny and scorn, but now Sheriff Heath's term as sheriff is up and there's a big election coming to see who will replace him.  

Meanwhile, Constance is working behind the scenes on her own time to try to get a woman freed from a mental institution where her husband placed her under dubious circumstances.  

Also meanwhile, Norma Kopp is trying to convince the US Army that they need to use her new designs for a homing pigeon transport to support soldiers in the war she feels America will inevitably enter.

And while all that is going on, Fleurette continues to use her sewing skills to earn money, as well as putting on several musical acts with friends to entertain prisoners at the jail at one point, and future soldiers at another.

I'm so glad this book returned to the fun, engaging form set by the first two books.  I don't think I liked it quite as well as book two, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, but I might have liked it just as much as book one, Girl Waits with Gun.  Book five is sitting on my TBR shelves, and I'm now very much looking forward to reading it!

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for discussions of things people did that landed them in jail, a subplot involving a man who takes mistresses, generalized descriptions of treatments at a mental hospital, and several scenes of danger or peril.  No bad language or lascivious scenes.

This is my 17th book read for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020 -- almost halfway to my goal of 36!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Want to Participate in the "One Bad Apple" Cover Reveal?

Yes, you read that correctly!  The cover for One Bad Apple will be revealed soon!!!

How soon?  On Tuesday, May 26.  Only two weeks away! 

If you would like to join me in showing off the cover on your blogs or in social media that day, please email me at rachelkovaciny at gmail dot com with "One Bad Apple cover reveal" in the subject line.  All participants will receive my gratitude, fake internet points, and an imaginary hug :-)  And get to see what the cover looks like before anyone else!

I will send participants the cover image no later than Saturday, May 23, to give you a couple days to set up your posts.

One Bad Apple is a non-magical retelling of Snow White and the Seven dwarfs, set in the 1870s on a wagon train headed to Kansas.  It concerns an orphaned teen who asks a healer to teach him medicine, only to realize she intends to poison her husband and stepdaughter... and blame him for it.  I'm currently hoping/planning to release it in July, but I don't have a firm date yet.  Soon!

Monday, May 11, 2020

"Reservations for Two" by Hillary Manton Lodge

Well, that's it.  I'm a firm fan now of Hillary Manton Lodge.  Giving her a label here on my blog and everything.  I'm going to have to buy the last two books in her backlist that I don't already have, and I just might be elevating her to auto-buy status, right under Katherine Reay.

Cuz man, oh man, do I love her storytelling.  Particularly her characters and her dialog.

Yeah.  So, this is book two of the Two Blue Doors series.  I've already read books three and one, in that order, because of reasons.  (Reasons = librarians who cover up series info with barcode stickers.  Because of their own reasons, I'm sure.  But still, kind of low-level evil there.)  I KNEW how this was going to end.  Because of how book three begins.  But it didn't matter because I love these characters and want to spend time with them as much as I can, even if I know how their stories are going to wrap up.  This is a trilogy I look forward to re-reading.

In this middle book, Juliette and her boyfriend Neil spend quite a bit of time hanging out in France and Italy with her extended family.  Juliette is starting to dig into her grandmother's past to learn the truth about her grandfather, and she's also making contact with some suppliers for the restaurant she and her brother Nico are opening back in Portland.

Speaking of back in Portland, Juliette's mother's battle with cancer spirals downward.  Her long-distance relationship with Neil proves difficult.  And the more she learns about her grandmother's life in 1940s France, the more questions she has.  I'm really glad I'd already read book three, to be honest, because otherwise I think this book might have stressed me out some.  Instead, I breezed through it chanting, "It'll be fine!  It'll be fine!" as needed.

If you are looking for some delicious contemporary books with relatable Christian characters (who go to church routinely!!!), a smooth and realistic writing style that is a joy to read, and a smattering of historical romance sprinkled throughout it, you definitely need to read these books.  And did I mention they have lots and lots of recipes included?  I've earmarked several to try.

Particularly Good Bits:

My skills with an oven brush are slow-clap worthy.  Children dream of one day being able to clean an oven like me.  Old men weep (p. 27). keep in mind that this may be your one opportunity to meet Gabriel before our parents have him conveniently murdered (p. 150).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for mentions of "monthly ladylike trials," some veiled references to married people's intimate activities, and sadness relating to a miscarriage.  Also, the illness related to cancer could be distressing to younger readers.  It's clean, but its not aimed at kids, is what I'm saying.

This is my 15th book read for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020