Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through The Prayers of Jane Austen was released October 2nd of this year and found its way to me soon after. This is a wonderful devotional centered around three beautiful prayers that Jane Austen wrote.
For those who might have lived under a rock, Jane Austen is the beloved author of classics including Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma. I first fell in love with Austen's work through Emma, which is still among my all time favorite books. When I saw a devotional that was based on Austen's prayers, I HAD to get it.
Praying with Jane is absolutely delightful and enlightening. The devotional is divided into three parts, each focusing on one of the three prayers. Each day within each part is devoted to a section of the prayer, usually a few lines per day. Each part opens with the full prayer, so that the reader can first read it as a whole. Then each day features a section of that prayer, along with a devotional that focusses on the theme of that particular section, what it means, and how we can use it in our own lives, all while relating it to Jane's life and works. Each day also features an Invitation to Pray, which helps the reader get in the right mind set to pray the theme for the day, and then Let Us Pray, which gives you a prayer to pray, letting you plug in what you need.
Overall, it is a beautiful, enchanting devotional that encourages prayer and helps the reader grow in their prayer life. I absolutely enjoyed working my way through it and will definitely use this devotional again. I would highly recommend it.
I give it 8/10.
I've been digging back through my TBR pile this past year, making an attempt to read through the backlog more regularly. I've accumulated quite a large pile as of late, due to inheriting a good number of books from my grandmother and of course picking up more books here and there that I'd like to read at some point. My latest read was Lauren Bacall's autobiography, By Myself, which came from my grandmother. It's worn, old, and the pages are yellowed, and you can tell it has been read multiple times...….. and I love it.
It always brings me great joy to read books that my grandmother owned, handled, and loved. It makes me feel closer to her. My grandmother had a love for Old Hollywood movies and enjoyed reading biographies and autobiographies about the various stars of the era, a trait she passed down to me. I've enjoyed Bacall's movies, particularly the ones that teamed her up with Humphrey Bogart. Therefore, I was interested to read her autobiography.
Bacall seems to focus more on her personal life, her thoughts and feelings, her journey to becoming to woman she became, rather than a detailed report of her movie career, which is usually the standard for actors. The only movies where she goes into great detail are To Have and Have Not, which was her first role, the one that made her a star, and the one that started her relationship, both on and off screen, with Humphrey Bogart; and The African Queen, which she didn't star in but accompanied Bogart during the filming in Africa, London, and Paris. Her over films were glossed over with just a few words and details.
Bacall doesn't hold back throughout the telling of her life. She bares her vulnerabilities, her mistakes, and flaws for all to see, and she does it with no regrets and loads of dignity. She's frank and honest. The most interesting part of this book, for me, was when Bacall detailed Bogart's cancer diagnosis, his last months/days, and ultimately, his death. I literally balled my eyes out while reading the detailed account. I could feel the emotion, the gut-wrenching loss, and the void he left. It was beautifully and honestly done. I applaud her frankness, I'm sure it must have been difficult to relive.
Overall, this autobiography is a sound, well written account of Bacall's life. It was fascinating, frank, real, and an interesting read. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves biographies/autobiographies and/or Old Hollywood.
I give it a 7/10.
A Bride for Finn comes out tomorrow, November 15th, and is the 5th book in The Proxy Brides series. I was privileged to be a beta reader on this project and therefore, got to watch this book take form right from the start. I loved the process and Linda is a superb writer. I have yet to read any of the other books in this series, but if the rest of the books are half as good as Finn, then they're in good shape. ;)
Linda has once again created a wonderful story in which a reader would love to get lost in. She continues her creative streak with A Bride For Finn. Linda writes in a way that allows the reader to step into the story and live alongside its characters. The plot is fresh and original, the characters are well developed and relatable, and the writing flows like a gentle stream, allowing the reader to float along and enjoy the journey. I found Finn and Charise’s story quite unique, having never heard of the proxy bride concept before. I loved Finn and Charise’s love story. Too often Historical Romance books fall into the formulaic plotlines revolving around the main characters either having a misunderstanding and walking away from the relationship, only to come together in the end or enduring one calamity after another to the point of being laughable. I appreciate that Linda doesn’t fall into that pitfall and instead, creates characters that stick together through the rough patches.
A Bride For Finn is fresh, lovable, and sure to be a hit.
Grab your copy HERE!
Modern Jo March is proud to welcome back Linda Ellen for a chat about her upcoming release, A Bride for Finn, which is the 5th book in the new Proxy Brides series. The book releases this week, on November 15th, so be sure to pre-order/order it over on Amazon.
MJM: The Proxy Brides is a multi author series. How many authors are involved in this series?
Linda: There are ten.
MJM: A Bride for Finn will be your second Western Historical Fiction novel. You have 7 Historical Fiction novels published. Finn will be your 8th. You currently have two solo series under your belt, but The Proxy Brides will be your first foray into a multi author series. How did you get involved in this series? Did you find it daunting at first?
Linda: Hmm, good questions. How I got involved was my good friend and author, Barb Goss, recommended me to the author who had the original idea for a proxy brides series and wanted to get a group of authors together. As for was it daunting at first – YES! LOL. For me, I was actually going through a down period. I’d released my most recent book, Sweet Love at Honey Landing, but found myself without the necessary funds to adequately advertise it, so it didn’t do as well as I hoped. The disappointment of that boomeranged me into not having written a thing for months. When we had the initial author meeting for the proxy bride series, I felt rather intimidated and even wondered whether I could get the project done on time. We met in June (online video chat) and I committed to writing and completing everything for my book by November. It seemed impossible, lol. I wondered if I could come up with a realistic reason that someone would agree to become a proxy bride to a man they’ve never even met in person, and make the story work. BUT—I had a planning talk with my number one helper and fan, my hubby Steve, and he came up with some great ideas that really sparked my imagination. He was on board with it and even excited about it from the get go. In the space of about 90 minutes, we had the plot and even had decided on the character’s names.
MJM: Wow that does seem like a large undertaking!
The proxy bride theme of this new series is super interesting. I’d actually never heard of marrying by proxy until this book.
Linda: Neither had I!
MJM: Tell me, how did that whole theme come about? Who came up with it?
Linda: The original idea was the brainchild of Christine Sterling, who is a wonderful author and a multi-talented woman. She said she wanted to capitalize on the popularity of mail-order-brides, but with a new twist, something that readers hadn’t seen before. The proxy bride angle came to her and she reached out to several authors she knew to see if they had any interest and it took off from there. We were under strict secrecy at first not to let the cat out of the bag, lol.
One thing that attracted me to the project at first was the fact that the books in the series don’t have to piggyback off one another. The basic rules were that the stories had to, of course, involve a proxy marriage—that’s the glue that makes it a series. The year had to be 1865-1875, post-civil war through reconstruction. Each bride could be from where ever we wanted, but the man had to be west of the Mississippi. In each story, the bride would be in a situation of some sort and the only way to get out of the situation is to get married. Unfortunately, the intended groom is somewhere else, so the bride gets married to him via proxy, with someone else standing in for him. The license is signed, and the bride heads off to meet her legal husband. The real story then begins as two people who have never met, but yet are legally husband and wife, do indeed fall in love and have their HEA. Though these romances are not classified as Christian Romances (meaning under the Amazon category), we could put Christian elements within the romance. We agreed for the stories to be clean with no graphic sex, violence or profanity.
MJM: Wow, that’s interesting. I always like to learn about how books come to life.
What was the process of developing this series like? Did you all have a forum where you worked together?
Linda: After that first meeting, in June, Christine set up a private facebook group and it includes at least a dozen files where we kept track of everything from the names we are using, places, years, etc., plus posted and chatted each day with one another, encouraged one another, and kept up with each book as it developed. All of us were smitten with the project from day one. Christine tapped Virginia McKevitt to create the covers (and I think she did an AWESOME job!) and that was completed quickly, within the first few weeks. Virginia picked out several dozen images of models in period clothing that we could choose from for our heroine. By the way, there will be a “Round Two” of stories, with each author writing a sequel for their own book, and we already have the covers completed to those, too! Mine, by the way, will be “A Bride for Sam”.
MJM: That’s great! I loved Sam in A Bride For Finn, so I’m glad that he’ll be getting his own story. I also think the covers are pretty, I love them and they all match well each other.
What was the inspiration for Finn’s story?
Linda: Well, Christine provided us with a list of possible scenarios to work from. I read through them and one really spoke to me and seemed plausible--A bride is seeking a new opportunity and the groom wants to secure her in marriage before sending for her (maybe he got burned), so that got my wheels spinning. I read that to my husband and he immediately had ideas. I knew I wanted my girl to be in Louisville (where I base all of my stories, at least in part) and I then sifted through the different states out west and picked Nebraska. One by one, the details seemed to just slide in place. For the names of my characters – he is Finn (short for Phineas) Maynard and she is Charise Willoughby. Finn is the name of my newest grandbaby and Charise is the daughter of my boss and a dear friend.
MJM: I was honored to be in on the ground floor of this book as your beta reader and enjoyed seeing it take form. I was wondering if you could tell us anything about Sam’s story? ;)
Linda: Thanks so much Liz! You are a fantastic beta and I'm so glad I have you on my team!! As for Sam's story, let's say that as he sees his brother and his new proxy bride fall in love and they are so happy together, it really makes him long for his own bride. He decides to go the route of Finn and put in a request for a mail order bride, but as the time passes, he can't find anyone he feels a connection with. He keeps thinking about a girl he met once, but she is engaged to be married and he figures she's off limits.
Meanwhile, the girl he's thinking about gets jilted by her fiance, and then her life becomes in danger, so she reaches out for help. At that point, it will be Sam to the rescue! The only way he can rescue her quickly is, you guessed it, marry her by proxy. Hehe. :)
I want to thank Linda for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk with me. A Bride for Finn is one you won't want to miss. Too often Historical Romance books fall into the formulaic plotlines revolving around the main characters either having a misunderstanding and walking away from the relationship, only to come together in the end or enduring one calamity after another to the point of being laughable. I appreciate that Linda doesn’t fall into that pitfall and instead, creates characters that stick together through the rough patches. A Bride For Finn is fresh, lovable, and sure to be a hit. Preorder it HERE!
Susan Orlean's The Library Book released in October to a great deal of critical acclaim. Everyone was talking about this book leading up to its release. I first heard about it in August, and the more I heard about it, the more I was compelled to read it. I ended up pre-ordering this one on faith, as I had never read anything from Susan Orlean before (though I soon found out that I actually have another one of her books sitting on my shelf waiting to be read!). Thankfully, I wasn't disappointed.
First off, The Library Book is gorgeous. I love its cover and the feel of the pages. I was impressed immediately and had to start reading right away. The book investigates the Los Angeles Public Library fire of 1986 while also delving into the history of libraries and its patrons. I found this book absolutely fascinating, so much so that I couldn't put it down. I was engrossed in the history and all the information.
Orlean splits the information up into easy to digest chapters, switching between the history of the Library and the LAP Library Fire in 1986. She writes in such a way that it makes the reader feel as though she is sitting next to them, sharing what she has gleaned. I learned so much while reading this book without even realizing it at the time.
I can not praise the book enough. It is superbly done. You can tell that Orlean was diligent in her painstaking research and development of this book. There is a great deal of information amongst the pages. Often in a case where there's a lot of info in a book, it tends to leave the reader feeling overloaded. That's not the case with The Library Book. Orlean handles the whole thing beautifully.
I love Orlean's writing style. She has been a staff writer at The New Yorker for over 20 years, and that journalistic style shines through in this book. It reads beautifully and holds the reader captive until the very end. The Library Book is officially among my three favorite books of 2018, and it has earned a permanent place on my "Favorites" shelf.
I give it a 9/10.
Liz Austin. Bibliophile. Writer. Book hoarder. I would rather be reading....