STAFF PICK: The Gatecrasher by Madeleine Wickham

When it comes to romance and books that melt my heart, I tend to lead towards the classics: Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights. This month, I chose to step outside my comfort zone and I chose contemporary chick lit author Madeline Wickham’s book The Gatecrasher. (Okay, I admit it–I picked the book mainly because the author’s name is tied to Pride and Prejudice, my all-time favorite book. I thought it must be a good sign.) And I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the book.

 

The Gatecrasher audiobook by Madeleine WickhamThe Gatecrasher tells the tale of a gold digging woman Fleur, who falls for the man she was set to take advantage of.  Add to the mix a moody teenage daughter, a gay best friend, a mysteriously absent father, gossiping golf club ladies, a defrauding relative and woman on the brink of a nervous breakdown and you’ve got one novel full of intrigue and laughter.  Oh, and did I mention that Fleur met her latest prey at the funeral for his wife?  This book is just full of characters for you to hate, to root for and to plot the way all their dirty little secrets should be exposed publicly.

Thanks to Katherine Kellgren’s excellent narration, the book’s pace draws you in and keeps you listening. She is able to make Fleur seem not so detestable and offer up some of Fleur’s vulnerability through her narration.  And for me, it was the vulnerability of not only Fleur but the majority of the characters that made this story work so well.  Because Madeline Wickham (a.k.a Sophia Kinsella, author of the much-beloved “Shopaholic” series of chick-lit novels) created a story that shows the best and the worst of love and all its trappings in this day and age, I realized that I may be able to explore more of the contemporary romance genre after all.

Let me know your thoughts!

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Austen and Beyond: Why We Love Jane

I am a Jane Austen addict.  To those people who know me well this is no surprise.  I have started to collect different versions of Pride & Prejudice (my favorite) and proudly display them on my living room bookshelf.  I have worn out my DVD copy of Pride & Prejudice and have replaced it twice (so yes I’ve bought the DVD 3 times).  I have even made a word art poster to proudly display my admiration for Darcy and Elizabeth on my bedroom wall.  I have also devoured over 75 Pride & Prejudice sequels and variations; and yes some are better than others.  So what is it about Jane?  Well, let me tell you…

I used to refuse to read Jane Austen and couldn’t understand what all the hype was about.  It wasn’t until my favorite professor at university put Emma on a class reading list that I was forced to read and examine a Jane Austen novel, that my life was changed forever.  It was one of those Oprah ‘aha’ moments when I finally got midway through Emma and realized the greatness that is Jane Austen.  She truly knows how to craft an intelligent, humorous, political, and social novel, all while flying under the radar.  I’ve since read all of her works multiple times and continue to return to them every year.  Yes Pride and Prejudice is my favorite but it’s followed closely by Mansfield Park and Persuasion.

It’s also the characters who keep me coming back to Jane’s novels.  Jane has created a wonderful world with characters that you want to be your friend; Characters that you want to see get their comeuppance; and characters that you want to know just a little bit more about (Thus for me the appeal of sequels and variations).   Anyone who has read Pride & Prejudice would enjoy reading a sequel where Wickham dies a wretched death, Mr. Bennet outlives his wife, and Caroline Bingley is shunned from Pemberley.

Darcy, Knightly, Wentworth, Brandon, Tilney and even Bingley are reasons why I read Jane Austen.  Her heroes come in all forms and have proven that true gentlemen want their love to stand beside them in life.  Jane’s heroes are kind, steadfast, generous, and willing to do whatever it takes to earn their love.  Elizabeth, Emma, Anne, Fanny, Marianne and Catherine are also the reasons why I read Jane Austen.  Her heroines are funny, witty, head strong, impulsive, and impressionable.  None of them are perfect but what is important is that they all show the ability to grow as human beings and an eagerness to expand their minds and hearts.  And don’t forget Wickham, Willoughby, Churchill, the Thropes and the Crawfords.  The villains are just as important and Jane creates such thoroughly loathsome human beings that you can appreciate the poison they bring, no matter how subtle, to the story.  Because of these wonderful characters there have been so many spin offs and variations of all of her novels.  People just want to know more about Jane’s characters.  I for one want to know what happened to Lydia Bennet and Wickham.   And what about Darcy and Elizabeth?  How do they spend married life?  Thankfully there are some clever authors in this day and age who will feed my addiction by writing sequels and variations.

I read Jane Austen for the language.  Jane’s ability to craft a beautiful, sharp, witty and humorous sentence is above and beyond anything you will find in today’s novels.  Her sense of timing and pacing within a novel is one of a kind.  An Austen novel will take you back to a time where one’s thoughts and words were carefully crafted.  There is nothing better than when Darcy stumbles over his words and fails miserably when declaring “In vain have I struggled.  It will not do.  My feelings will not be repressed.  You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you” Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice.  You can find Jane’s words on everything these days; Mugs, pillows, shirts, bags, board games, jewelry and clothing. There’s a reason she is quoted still to this day.   Jane’s way with words is unparalleled and her novels should be enjoyed by everyone at least once.

Check out some of the very fine Jane merchandise you can order from The Jane Austen Gift Shop:

 

 

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Six Tabloid Scandals from the Pages of Jane Austen

Jane Austen is not your average bestselling, blockbuster author.  She has written what can be argued to be some of the greatest novels ever written.  However many people still believe her books are things of the past and cannot be enjoyed by modern readers.  Well boy oh boy, have we got a treat for you.  Here are six of the juiciest scandals in Jane’s books that would give Miley, Lohan and the Kardashians a run for their money in terms of tabloid headlines.

Emma

The last title released by Austen was Emma and it features a matchmaking young lady who makes mistake after mistake, turning the lives of those around her upside down.  However, her actions are not the most scandalous.  A mysterious piano arrives for a young lady down on her luck.  Who could her well-to-do beneficiary be?  Is there a womanizing scoundrel in the neighborhood?  Or perhaps this lavish gift is from a married man to his mistress.  Will this gift be the young lady’s downfall?  Will Emma be able to correct her mistakes and therefore fix the lives of her friends and family?  Find out all the delicious details in the latest release, Emma.

Sense and Sensibility

Just like Emma, there’s a potential womanizer on the loose in Sense and Sensibility.  Don’t let the title fool you into a calm sense of security.  All is not what it seems.  With playboys running rampant, fooling with young ladies’ hearts, will the myth of a true romantic gentleman hero be lost forever? Or will the ladies be left to pine for a love that does not exist?   Only time will tell.  Be sure to catch all the gripping moments in Sense and Sensibility.

Persuasion

Sir Walter Elliot has done it again.  This silly old man has been making poor business decisions when it comes to his estate.  These mistakes are forcing his family to vacate their home in order to pay down recent debts.  Let’s hope this will keep the family from declaring bankruptcy.  To stay up to date on all the family’s comings and goings read Persuasion.

Northanger Abbey

A family’s dark past is hidden in the halls of Northanger Abbey.  Will Catherine Morland be able to uncover General Tilney’s long hidden secrets?  Will the past come back to haunt this lovely heroine in the dark corners of the ancient family home?

Mansfield Park

Another manor house that’s hiding a family secret is none other than Mansfield Park.  You may be shocked to find out that all is not as it seems at this lovely home.  Sources close to the family are saying that drug use is widespread in this home and can be seen in the open without any concern for modern day decorum.  Add to that the fact that the eldest daughter was recently caught in an adulterous affair and one has to wonder if this family will be able to recover some of the shine it once held.  Catch up on their shenanigans in Mansfield Park.

Pride and Prejudice

All eyes were on the Bennet girls last night as they took over the dance floor at the local ball.  However it was the youngest who drew the attention of those in attendance and not for a good reason.  Lydia Bennet was busy flirting and dancing her way around to all the men in uniforms, much to the dismay of her older sisters.  Her mother was over the moon with the attention her daughter was receiving but Mr. Bennett refused to comment on the matter.  Let’s just hope her actions don’t lead to any bigger scandal.  You can catch all the infamous behavior in Pride and Prejudice, and judge for yourself just how poorly Miss Lydia Bennet behaved.

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Si-Cology 1: A Book Review

Now look here: I’ve never been hunting, the thought of fishing makes me queasy, and I don’t own anything in camouflage, but I love the Robertson family from “Duck Dynasty”. More to the point, I loved Uncle Si’s new audiobook Si-Cology 1: Tales and Wisdom from Duck Dynasty’s Favorite Uncle.

Si-Cology audio book by Si Robertson

After attending a family Halloween party where my uncle came dressed as Uncle Si, I had to judge the authenticity of his costume for myself. Sure enough, his costume was spot on – even down to the Iced Tea jug and cup—and my interest was piqued. After watching a few episodes, I decided to listen to The Duck Commander Family and Happy, Happy, Happy, both of which are fantastic reads. They give you a great background on how this family functions and how they became the men and women they are today.

The Duck Commander Family audio book by Willie & Korrie Robertson                        Happy, Happy, Happy audio book by Phil Robertson

Having enjoyed both those titles for their humor and life lessons, I waited patiently for the new book by the fan favorite Uncle Si, and I wasn’t disappointed. Si-Cology 1 is full of Uncle Si-isms, tall tales and general advice. He’s lived an interesting life, and thankfully has been blessed with the art of storytelling so we can all share in his memories. In true Uncle Si fashion, he tells it straight, but with a little flair.

The audiobook starts out with an introduction read by Uncle Si. Jay Stone then takes over to deliver a hilarious reading, staying true to Uncle Si’s manner of speaking. We learn about his childhood, his teenage years and his time spent in Vietnam. What surprised me most was the serious tone Uncle Si took while talking about his marriage and raising their two children while in the Army. Uncle Si is an onion, with many layers – most will make you cry with laughter but all in all, he’s a man dedicated to his family. He truly lives with the best intentions and best wishes for his family and friends.

Si-Cology 1: Tales and Wisdom from Duck Dynasty’s Favorite Uncle is a quick listen that’s full of wonderfully funny and insightful stories, and I for one hope Uncle Si follows up with a sequel–and “That’s a fact, Jack!”

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A Fresh Take on Beach Reads: Five Great Summer Listens

“Beach Read”. That’s a term we see thrown around a lot this time of year. So what, exactly, does it mean? What makes a book a good beach read? On the one hand, it can’t be too serious — you don’t want to be reading a dense, demanding piece of literature while you’re lazing in the sun — but it can’t be too fluffy either. The story should draw you in and keep your attention despite all the sunshine and distractions around you. So, here are my picks for five non-traditional beach reads that you may never have thought of but still fit the bill!

The White Princess audiobook, written by Philippa Gregory

1. Hot off the presses, The White Princess by Philippa Gregory has all the trappings of a great beach read. Think of this book as a tabloid exposé on your favorite royal celebrities that just happens to be set hundreds of years ago.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? audiobook, written by Maria Semple

2. For a quirky, off-the-beaten-path story, try Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple. Bernadette and her off the wall ways will keep you scratching your head and wondering what crazy thing she’ll do next.

Serena audiobook, written by Ron Rash

3. Not every beach listen needs to be lighthearted. Sometimes you need a little grit in your story. That’s why Serena by Ron Rash is the perfect choice for those who want a little madness, fierce women, dangerously evil characters all capped off by some remarkable writing. (And FYI, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are set to star in the movie version coming out this fall.)

"An Invisible Thread" audiobook, written by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski

4. If you’d like a little inspiration in your life, then look no further than An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski. Theirs is a story of an unlikely friendship that changed the lives of many and will leave you feeling happy, and refreshed in the kindness of others.

Austenland audiobook, written by Shannon Hale

5. The final title on my list is pure fun and fancy with a dash of Jane Austen. Okay, okay — maybe more than a dash. Austenland by Shannon Hale is a delicious listen that drops a modern day women in an English resort that lets them live out their fantasy of living in a Jane Austen novel. Of course, in true Austen style, not everything is as it seems.

And there you have it! Something a little different to listen to as you while away the lazy days of summer.

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