It’s The “We’re Moving” Giveaway!

First, I need to apologize for the severe lack of blogging that occurred in August.  There have been some big changes happening here in the Ryder household.  Some of you may have already heard the news, but in case you haven’t……I’m moving! Well, staffer Todd and I are moving!  Todd got a great job offer in our home state of New Jersey, so it’s off we go.  As packing for the move has begun Todd and I have started sorting through all our belongings and deciding on what won’t be making it to NJ with us.  While packing our many books away (I think the final tally was 25 boxes) we came across a number of them that we’d like to give away.  (Giveaway instructions below the list)

  1. Wideacre (Wideacre Trilogy #1) by Philippa Gregory – Paperback
  2. The Favored Child (Wideacre Trilogy #2) b Philippa Gregory – Paperback
  3. The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian – Paperback
  4. Murder Most Austen (Elizabeth Parker Mystery #4) by Tracy Kiely – Hardcover
  5. The Other Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview – Paperback
  6. Earth in the Balance by Al Gore – Paperback
  7. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen – Paperback
  8. Boardwalk Empire by Nelson Johnson – Paperback
  9. Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange – Paperback
  10. Expectations of Happiness by Rebecca Ann Collins – Paperback
  11. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe – Hardcover
  12. The Darcys & The Bingleys (Pride and Prejudice Continues #1) by Marsha Altman – Paperback


Twelve lucky winners will have the opportunity to win their choice of one of the above twelve books!  For your chance to win simply leave a comment below.  Comments will be accepted through midnight of Monday, September 9, 2013.  Winners will be picked at random and announced on Tuesday, September 10, 2013.  Open to US residents only.  Good luck!

Kim’s Review of The Trouble with Flirting by Claire LaZebnik

ttwfIt’s no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.  You can go so far as to say that it’s my least favorite of all of her works.  It is mainly due to the fact that in my eyes Fanny Price is too meek, too quiet, and so willing to just sit in the wings and wait for what she wants instead of going after it on her own.  My motto in life is “life is what you make of it.”  You have to go after the things you want. If you expect everything to come to you…..well that’s just lazy.

I’m always interested in hearing about modern adaptations of Mansfield Park because I’m so curious to see what writers do with Fanny’s character.  It’s difficult to make introverted characters interesting and appealing…..especially for the YA crowd.  When I heard Claire LaZebnik had written an adaptation, The Trouble With Flirting, I was instantly interested.  Her YA adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (Epic Fail) had me seriously impressed with how she seamlessly transitioned the story from classic literature to a youthful adaptation. (Check out her guest post on the joys and perils of adapting Austen) Knowing all of this I bet you’re asking yourself, “Why did she read this if she dislikes the novel it’s based on?”  I knew that LaZebnik had made some significant changes to the story and the characters.  It’s the mysterious of the unknown changes that had me totally willing to give it a shot.

Franny Pearson, like most teenagers, begrudgingly takes a summer job in order to earn a little spending money.  She takes a job helping her aunt, the costume designer for the prestigious Mansfield Summer Theater Program.  Although she must spend most of her time behind a sewing machine, she gets to be in close proximity to her crush, Alex Braverman.  Alex, on the other hand, barely acknowledges her existence, and is more interested in the girl in the leading role, Isabella.  Although this hurts Franny, she becomes distracted by Harry Cartwright, a notorious flirt in the program.  As she becomes more involved with Harry, Franny’s life becomes more complicated as Alex suddenly becomes much more interested in her than he was before.  Was this flirting more trouble than it was worth?

I feel that I first must say THANK YOU CLAIRE LAZEBNIK FOR MAKING MANSFIELD PARK INTERESTING (and for giving Franny some backbone!)  I’m seriously so surprised at how hooked I was with The Trouble With Flirting.  LaZebnik’s writing is superb, witty, sharp,  funny, touching, and relatable.  LaZebnik’s Franny is a true accomplishment.  She has all of the characteristics that I wish Fanny Price had.  Austen purists will probably have a problem with the changes LaZebnik made, but I think that in today’s modern world a woman isn’t frowned upon for going after what she wants (even if what she wants is a man).  LaZebnik’s changes make sense and make Franny more interesting and appealing to a younger audience.

Where LaZebnik truly shines as a writer is definitely in her dialogue.  The witty banter between Harry and Franny had me laughing out loud fairly frequently.  Their attraction to each other quite literally jumps off the pages and hooks you.  You truly get a sense of the characters’ emotions and feelings through the dialogue.  The stress and uneasiness in Alex and Isabella’s relationship is apparent as are the self-confidence issues that Isabella and Julia feel; the strained relationships between Franny and her Aunt Amelia and Marie and her sometimes boyfriends James are all examples of this.

I truly think teens will enjoy this adaptation.  The similarities to life at that age are abundantly clear.  All the angst over who likes who, all the jealousy of the girl who gets the guy you want, the depression over losing your first love, the spark of new friendships and relationships….it’s all there.  If you haven’t yet read any of LaZebnik’s books I suggest you give them a try.  Her ability to get into the teenage mind is simply uncanny.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Trouble With Flirting by Claire LaZebnik
HarperTeen (2013)
Paperback: 313 pages
ISBN: 9780061921278

Special thanks to HarperTeen for my review copy!

#72 A Review of The Matters at Mansfield by Carrie Bebris

Cover Image

 The Matters at Mansfield is the fourth installment in the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mystery series, written by Carrie Bebris.  The Matters at Mansfield take the characters from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and embroils them into a scandalous murder mystery that must be solved by Mr. and Mrs. Darcy.  (For those who know black and white films and know what The Thin Man series is, the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy characters are exactly like Nick and Nora)

This book takes the Darcy’s to Riverton house for an engagement party for their cousin Roger Fitzwilliam.  They wish to be back at Pemberley enjoying the peace and quiet with their new daughter.  While at Riverton they discover that Lady Catherine de Bourgh is planning a well to do marriage for Anne and that Anne is completely unaware of the plan.  While everyone is at a ball one evening, Anne makes her escape.  A note is found from Anne telling Elizabeth that she has left with Mr. Henry Crawford and they are going to Gretna Green to be married. 

“Forgive my burdening you with the responsibility of imparting news to my mother which it will distress her to hear, but you alone understand the decision I now make.  ….Tonight I leave for Gretna Green with Mr. Crawford.”

Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam leave at once to try to reach the couple before the marriage ceremony takes place.  Upon arriving in Gretna Green they find the young couple married.  Darcy and Fitzwilliam tell them they must start to journey back towards Riverton so that they can face the wrath of Lady Catherine.  On the way back they stop in Mansfield to change the horses when Anne befalls an accident.  A carriage runs over her, rending her unable to walk for a time.  They are forced to stay in Mansfield until Anne is healed.  While there they learn that most of Mansfield is familiar with Mr. Crawford and that the town is ripe with gossip of his return.  Darcy and Fitzwilliam vow that they will find out what is amiss when who else but Lady Catherine and Elizabeth show up.  Soon after her arrival gossip begins about Crawford, a second wife shows up, and murders begin happening.  It’s up to Darcy and Elizabeth to figure out what is going on and fast, or run the risk of the family honor lost forever. 

While I was interested in the goings-on of this novel, it was my least favorite of the four I’ve read so far. The first three novels in the series I read cover to cover in one sitting.  This one took me a few days to complete, as each time I picked it up I couldn’t get into it.  I think that it was an interesting and original idea, but there was A LOT going on in this one.  I found myself repeating passages and going back a few chapters to re-read parts to remember who a character was or what their connection to person x was.  It really was a great mystery, but I think that it was just a bit much to process in the amount of pages written. 

3 out of 5 Stars

#70 A Review of North by Northanger by Carrie Bebris

Cover Image North by Northanger is the third novel in the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mystery series, written by Carrie Bebris. Currently there are five novels in the series the most recent being The Intrigue at Highbury  which was recently published earlier this year. The Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mystery series takes the characters from Jane Austen’s novels and puts them smack dab in the middle of whodunit’s.  Elizabeth and Darcy are the main sleuths, with each book introducing the characters from another Austen novel into their storyline.  The first novel Pride and Prescience was about just the characters from Pride and Prejudice.  The second novel, Suspense and Sensibility includes the characters from Sense and Sensibility along with the Darcy’s.  North by Northanger introduces Henry Tilney from Northanger Abby into the mix. The Matters at Mansfield, the fourth in the series introduces the characters from Mansfield Park.  The Intrigue at Highbury brings Emma and Mr. Knightley into the Darcy’s lives.  According to Bebris’s author profile on, she is currently working on a book that is influenced by Persuasion.  I’m assuming that this book would be the sixth in the series, as Persuasion is the only Austen book not yet represented in her collection.
Picking up where the last book left off, Elizabeth and Darcy have returned to Pemberley where Elizabeth is beginning to settle into her duties as mistress of Pemberley.  She begins moving some furniture and after moving Lady Anne’s (Darcy’s mother) writing desk she finds a letter that has fallen out.  The letter is addressed to Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy.  Elizabeth is startled to see her name on a letter written by Lady Anne, considering she’s been dead over 16 years. Darcy and Elizabeth read the letter, written the day Lady Anne died, and find that it implores Fitzwilliam’s future wife to find an object that held great importance to her.  Having no idea where to start looking the two push aside the letter and focus more on finding a suitable person to help with the delivery of their first child. They travel to Bath to meet with a doctor that Darcy has deemed appropriate to birth his first-born child.  While in Bath a Captain Frederick Tilney sends a letter with an invitation for the Darcys to come to his home, Northanger Abby.  He states that their mothers were friends and that he would like to renew the acquaintance between the families.  Upon their arrival at Northanger Abby they are quickly ushered into the home by a woman with no manners, the Darcy’s servants go missing, and they are left to eat without their host. (While dressing for dinner, the Darcy’s happen upon a beautiful set of diamonds left in the dresser in their room)  Upon finishing dinner they are quickly brought to a room that has a bandaged Captain Frederick Tilney in it.  Frederick tells them that he had an accident while training his men and then begins to candidly ask questions about Lady Anne and a memento of some kind.  Elizabeth and Darcy feel uneasy with the questioning, and excuse themselves to their rooms. Returning to their rooms they find that their servants are still missing and that their room is a mess.  They pack their belongings and leave for Pemberley the next morning.  Due to the inclement weather and bad roads they find they most stop at an inn for two days.  While at the inn a constable comes to their rooms to ask them if they had been to Northanger Abby the previous night and begins questioning them about their time there.  They come to find out that the diamonds they found in their bedchamber have gone missing and an anonymous letter states that the Darcys are responsible.  After a search of their belongings Darcy’s walking stick is found to have a secret compartment (which Darcy knows nothing about) with the diamonds in it.  Darcy is thrown in jail with the promise that they will return to Northanger Abby the following day to speak with Captain Tilney.  Upon their arrival they find that Captain Tilney is not there, but his brother Henry is.  Henry claims that his brother had died days earlier and that it could not have been his brother who met them the previous night.  The constable throws Darcy back in jail to await his trial until the spring.  Elizabeth finds that the only way she can get her husband out of jail is to get Lady Catherine involved.  Lady Catherine comes to the rescue securing their release to Pemberley as long as they stay under her care. Darcy, and Elizabeth, with the help of Henry Tilney must figure out who has framed them for the robbery and why, all under the condescending nose of Lady Catherine.  Lady Anne’s letter and her memento all come into play as piece by piece the mystery comes together.
This is my favorite novel in the series so far.  The first two novels dealt with plots that included supernatural and mystical elements.  North by Northanger went in a different direction entirely.  After reading the first two I was expecting the supernatural to play even a small part in the plot.  North by Northanger was the most realistic of the three I’ve read because it was believable.  It’s not that far-fetched that you find an old letter begging you to find a certain object, or that people disguise themselves as someone else for less than honorable reasons.  Bebris really found Elizabeth and Darcy’s voices, and wrote them in a way that I think Austen herself would be proud.    
I really enjoyed the storyline that dealt with Lady Anne.  Elizabeth grows into a more mature character while reading Lady Anne’s letters and journals about being pregnant.  She becomes more in-tune with her feelings as an expectant mother which creates a new side of Elizabeth for the reader and also a new kind of relationship with Darcy.  I was really surprised with the whodunit at the end!  As surprising as this sounds I enjoyed Lady Catherine! She was a big presence in this book and it was funny to read the bits between her and Elizabeth. I was disappointed at the non-presence of Catherine Morland.  Bebris makes one reference to her in the entire novel, which just seemed strange to me considering that her husband Henry Tilney was so involved.  I read the book from cover to cover in one sitting.  It’s an engaging and stimulating read that will keep you on your toes from beginning to end. (Best to not start this in bed.  I started the book at 10:30pm, planning on going to sleep at 11pm.  Closed the book a little before 2am, completely finished – HA)
4 out of 5 stars