Visiting #Sitges Hotel Estela, an #arthotel

Hi all:

I wanted to give you a break from book reviews (don’t worry, more to come soon) and also share a place I visited last week that I really enjoyed. Those of you who have visited Barcelona might be familiar with Sitges, a town on the coast, around half-an-hour distance from Barcelona. It is a lovely place, with three leisure ports, a beautiful church, some fabulous museums, good shopping, gorgeous beaches, and a well-known film-festival for those who love fantasy, among many other things. A group of writer friends, as a birthday present, had given me an activity box, and after checking what was on offer, I discovered a pretty special hotel in Sitges and decided to visit. The Hotel Estela is described as an art hotel, and the definition is perfect.

St. Bartholomew’s Church, Sitges

The hotel is like an art gallery, and all corners and spaces are enhanced by some work of art, from sculptures to collages, or paintings. There is a sculpture of Sant Jordi (Saint George, also the patron saint of Catalonia, in case you wonder) by Salvador Dalí outside of the hotel, the name of the hotel is also a sculpture by Josep María Subirachs (if you have visited the Sagrada Família, he was the sculptor responsible for the Passion Façade), and works by many others, including Josep Puigmartí’s, the artist in residence, who has lived at the hotel for over twenty years. The car park is also decorated and, if you fancy a really special experience, there are 16 rooms decorated by artists, each one in a different style.

I love this feature designed by Josep Maria Subirachs

The hotel offers you a free tour of the art, that I enjoyed with my mother, who accompanied me on the trip, and we were lucky enough to be able to visit a couple of the artists’ rooms, including the suite of love, decorated by Josep María Subirachs, a true wonder. Ah, and if you go for the tour, they also give you as a present a print signed by Josep Puigmartí. They do sell some of the artwork, including some pretty iconic pieces, by artists featured throughout the hotel and others, like the wonderful sculptures by Lorenzo Quinn (Anthony Quinn’s son), who has strong links to the area.

This is part of the decor in one of the artists rooms

As there were too many images to share here, and for some reason, Microsoft offered to create a video as I uploaded them, I’m sharing the video here and a few of the images. Sorry, they are not great, but you know me and my pictures. I hope they give you a sense of the place. And, if you are thinking of visiting Barcelona and the area around it, and want a pretty special experience, it is well worth a visit. (We also enjoyed the visits to the museums and the town and you will find a few pics of the town itself too).

 

I hope you like it as well.

Thanks for watching, more than reading, today, and I hope you start the week on a high note.

Sorry about the flash, but I loved the sense of humour of this one…

#Blogtour #HouseofGlass HOUSE OF GLASS by Susan Fletcher (@sfletcherauthor) (@ViragoBooks) A beautiful, contemplative, and touching novel about what it means to be whole

 

House of Glass by Susan Fletcher A beautiful, contemplative, and touching novel about what it means to be whole

June 1914 and a young woman – Clara Waterfield – is summoned to a large stone house in Gloucestershire. Her task: to fill a greenhouse with exotic plants from Kew Gardens, to create a private paradise for the owner of Shadowbrook. Yet, on arrival, Clara hears rumours: something is wrong with this quiet, wisteria-covered house. Its gardens are filled with foxgloves, hydrangea, and roses; it has lily-ponds, a croquet lawn – and the marvellous new glasshouse awaits her. But the house itself feels unloved. Its rooms are shuttered, or empty. The owner is mostly absent; the housekeeper seems afraid. And soon, Clara understands her fear: for something – or someone – is walking through the house at night. In the height of summer, she finds herself drawn deeper into Shadowbrook’s dark interior – and into the secrets that violently haunt this house. Nothing is quite what it seems.

Reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier, this is a wonderful, atmospheric Gothic page-turner.

A deeply absorbing, unputdownable ghost story that’s also a love story; for readers who love Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger; Frances Hodges Burnett’s The Secret Garden; Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace; Jane Harris’s The Observations.

Author Susan Fletcher

Author Susan Fletcher

Susan Fletcher took her inspiration from the gardens and grounds of Hidcote House, spending time in their archives and library, at different times of the year. One of the country’s great gardens, Hidcote is an Arts and Crafts masterpiece in the north Cotswolds, a stone’s throw from Stratford-upon-Avon. Created by the horticulturist, Major Lawrence Johnston. The garden is divided into a series of ‘outdoor rooms’, each with its own character. The formality of the ‘rooms’ fades away as you move through the garden away from the house.

https://www.amazon.com/House-Glass-Susan-Fletcher-ebook/dp/B078WDM9SF/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/House-Glass-Susan-Fletcher-ebook/dp/B078WDM9SF/

About the author:

Susan Fletcher was born in 1979 in Birmingham. She is the author of the bestselling ‘Eve Green’ winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award, ‘Oystercatchers’ and ‘Witch Light’.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Susan-Fletcher/e/B001ITYXNW/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Virago Books for providing me an ARC copy of this book. I was later contacted by Kimberley Nyamhondera suggesting I take part in the blog tour for the launch of the book, and as I knew the author I immediately agreed.

I had read and reviewed another one of Susan Fletcher’s books (Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew, you can read my review here) a couple of years ago and loved it. When I checked my review, to remind myself what I had thought about it in more detail, I realised I could use almost word by word the same title for my review, although the subject of the novel is quite different. “A beautiful, contemplative, and touching novel.” Yes, this definitely applies to House of Glass as well. This time the story is set in the UK right before the breaking of the First World War, and in fact, there are rumours spreading about its likelihood already when the novel starts. It is a fascinating time, and the life of the protagonist, Clara Waterfield, is deeply affected by the historical period she has to live in, from her birth in very late Victorian times, to what would be a very changed world after the Great War, with the social upheaval, the rapid spread of industrialization, the changing role of women, and the all-too-brief peace.

Clara, who tells the story in the first person, is a great creation, who becomes dearer and dearer to us as we read the book. This is not a novel about a protagonist who is fully-formed, recognisable and unchanging, and runs across the pages from one action scene to the next hardly pausing to take a breather. Clara reflects upon her past (although she is very young, she has suffered greatly, but not lived much), her condition (she suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, brittle bones, and that meant that she was kept indoors and not exposed to the risks and dangers of the outside world, the London streets in her case throughout her childhood), her family, and life experiences or her lack of them. No matter what she looks like, her short stature, her difficulty walking, her limitations in physical activity, this is a determined woman, make no mistake. She has learned most of what she knows through books (non-fiction mostly, although she enjoyed the Indian tales her mother used to read her), she has experienced not only pain, but other kinds of loses, and there are secrets and mysteries surrounding her, but despite all that, she is all practical and logical when we meet her. Her lack of exposure to the real world makes her a fascinating narrator, one who looks at everything with the eyes of a new-born or an alien suddenly landed in our society, who might have theoretical knowledge but knows nothing of how things truly work, while her personality, determined and stubborn, and her enquiring nature make her perfect to probe into the mystery at the heart of Shadowbrook.

Readers might not find Clara particularly warm and engaging to begin with (despite the sympathy they might feel for her suffering, something she would hate), as she dispenses with the niceties of the period, is headstrong and can be seen as rude and unsympathetic. At some point, I wondered if there might have been more to her peculiar personality than the way she was brought up (she can be obsessive with the things she likes, as proven by her continuous visits to Kew Gardens once she discovers them, and her lack of understanding of social mores and her difficulty in reading people’s motivations and feelings seemed extreme), but she quickly adapts to the new environment, she thrives on change and challenges, she shows a great, if somewhat twisted, sense of humour at times, and she evolves and grows into her own self during the novel, so please, readers, stick with the book even if you don’t connect with her straightaway or find her weird and annoying at times.  It will be worth your while.

Her point of view might be peculiar, but Clara is a great observer of people and of the natural world. She loves her work and she is careful and meticulous, feeling an affinity for the exotic plants of the glass house, that, like her until recently, also have to live enclosed in an artificial environment for their own safety. That is partly what enhances their beauty and their rarity in our eyes. By contrast, Clara knows that she is seen as weird, lacking, less-able, and hates it. She is a deep thinker and reflects upon what she sees, other people’s behaviours, she imagines what others might be talking about, and dreams of her dead mother and soon also of the mystery behind the strange happenings at the house.

The novel has been described as gothic, and that is a very apt description, even though it is not always dark and claustrophobic. There are plenty of scenes that take place in the garden, in the fields, and in the open air, but we do have the required strange happenings, creaks and noises, scratches on doors, objects and flowers behaving in unpredictable fashion, previous owners of the house with a troublesome and tragic past, a mysterious current owner who hides something, violence, murder, and plenty of rumours. We have a priest who is conflicted by something, a loyal gardener who knows more than he says, a neighbouring farmer who has plenty of skeletons in his closet, and a housekeeper who can’t sleep and is terrified. But there is much more to the novel than the usual tropes we have come to expect and love in the genre. There is social commentary; there are issues of diversity and physical disability, discussions about religious belief and spirituality, and also about mental health, women’s rights, and the destructive nature of rumours and gossip, and some others that I won’t go into to avoid spoilers.

I don’t want to give anything away, and although the story moves at a steady and contemplative pace, this in no way makes it less gripping. If anything, the beauty of the language and the slow build up work in its favour, giving us a chance to get fully immersed in the mood and the atmosphere of the place.

I marked a lot of passages, and I don’t think any of them make it full justice, but I’ve decided to share some, nonetheless:

She’d also said that there was no human perfection; that if the flaw could not be seen physically, then the person carried it inside them, which made it far worse, and I’d believed this part, at least.

For my mother had never spoken well of the Church. Patrick had said nothing at all of it. And my own understanding had been that imperfect bodies were forms of godly punishment; that imperfect meant I was worth less somehow. I’d disliked this notion intensely. Also, I was not a spare rib.

I could not taste fruit from studying a sketch of it, cut in half. What use was only reading of acts and not doing them? Knowing the route of the Ganges was not the same as standing in it.

 

The ending… We find the solution to the mystery, (which I enjoyed, and at the time I wondered why the book did not finish at that point) but the novel does not end there, and we get to hear what happened in the aftermath of the story. And yes, although at first, I wasn’t sure that part was necessary, by the end of the book proper I was crying and felt as if I was leaving a close friend in Clara, one that I was convinced would go on to lead a happy life.

Another fantastic novel by Susan Fletcher, one I recommend to fans of gothic novels, of Daphne du  Maurier’s Rebecca and her other novels, of Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger, and of inspiringly gorgeous writing. I do not recommend it to readers who prefer an action-laden plot with little space for thought or reflexion, although why not check a sample of the book and see for yourselves? I must catch up on the rest of the author’s novels and I hope there will be many more to come.

Thanks to NetGalley, to Virago, and to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, please give it a like, share, comment, clik, review, and remember to keep smiling and reading!

#TuesdayBookBlog THE GREAT WAR ILLUSTRATED 1918: Archive and Colour Photographs of WWI by William Langford & Jack Holroyd (@penswordpub) (@penswordbooks) #Bookreview #MilitaryHistory

Hi all:

I bring you today the review of a book by one of my favourite non-fiction publishers, Pen & Sword.

The Great War Illustrated 2018 by William Langford & Jack Holroyd

The Great War Illustrated 2018 by William Langford & Jack Holroyd

The Great War Illustrated 1918: Archive and Colour Photographs of WWI by William Langford & Jack Holroyd. A must have for scholars, researches, and WWI enthusiasts.

The final book in a series of five titles which graphically cover each year of the war. Countless thousands of pictures were taken by photographers on all sides during the First World War. These pictures appeared in the magazines, journals, and newspapers of the time. Some illustrations went on to become part of postwar archives and have appeared, and continue to appear, in present-day publications and TV documentary programs – many did not. The Great War Illustrated series, beginning with the year 1914, includes in its pages many rarely seen images with individual numbers allocated, and subsequently, they will be lodged with the Taylor Library Archive for use by editors and authors.

While some of the images in The Great War Illustrated 1918 will be familiar, many will be seen for the first time by a new generation interested in the months that changed the world for ever.

https://www.amazon.com/Great-War-Illustrated-1918-Photographs/dp/147388165X/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Great-War-Illustrated-1918-Photographs/dp/147388165X/

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Both military miniatures enthusiasts and history buffs should be fascinated by its 1,000 black-and-white photographs and section of color plates… This 517-page book’s imagery and the writers’ narrative combine to succeed in fostering understanding of the events pictured and the global scope of the epic conflict which climaxed 100 years ago.” (Toy Soldier & Model Figure)

About the Editor

Roni Wilkinson has worked in printing and publishing for fifty years. His published works include five fictional titles, a newspaper cartoon strip, and Dark Peak Aircraft Wrecks One and Two, the top-selling guides to aircraft crash sites in the Peak District National Park (co-authored with Ron Collier). He is best known as the respected series editor and designer of the ground-breaking Pen & Sword Battleground guidebooks, of which there are now over 120 titles. He was also instrumental in the creation and development of the popular Pals series. Now semi-retired, he is actively researching and writing historical works, fictional and non-fictional, as well as contributing articles to magazines and writing reviews. He lives in Barnsley with his wife Rosalie.

About the authors:

Jack Holroyd has had a lifelong interest in military history and has given valuable input into many Pen & Sword publications. He has authored two other works of non-fiction (SS Totenkopf France 1940 and American Expeditionary Force: France 1917–1918 ) and also one work of fiction (Lost Legend of the Thryberg Hawk), all of which are published by Pen & Sword. When Jack isn’t researching military topics he spends his time cooking, reading poetry and gardening.

William Langford has been employed in printing and publishing for fifty years. His works for Pen & Sword include: The Great War Illustrated 1914; Great Push – The Battle of the Somme 1916; Somme Intelligence and They Were There! 1914.

My review:

Thanks to Alex, Rosie and the whole team at Pen & Sword for providing me a Hardback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Despite my interest in the topic, and although I have read some books and watched some movies on WWI, I am not very knowledgeable about it, and I am more familiar with WWII, which feels (and is) much closer. I recently read and reviewed, another one of the books published by Pen & Sword, which explored a historical topic through pictures from the period, and I found it a great way of learning about the era by bringing it to life.

When I saw this book, the last in a collection of five volumes, one per each year of WWI, I was curious. Although I had seen pictures from WWI, they were mostly of soldiers, who had posed in uniform for their families, or political figures, and when I think about war photography, I think of WWII, the Spanish Civil War and later conflicts. This particular volume contains over a thousand photographs, including some in colour, maps, and drawings, of the various campaigns of 1918. The authors explain that some of the images are well-known (I was only familiar with some of the politicians, well-known figures, like T. E. Lawrence and Wilfred Owen, and some of the royals), but they had never been presented as a full collection or in an organised manner. The images are numbered and people interested can obtain copies from the image library in the Taylor Library Archive, and that makes this book a great reference for scholars and other people looking for visual documentation from the period.

The volume is divided into eight chapters: 1) Zeebrugge and Ostend Raids – Naval War, 2) The German Spring Offensives –The Kaiserschlacht, 3) Salonika, Mesopotamia, Palestine, 4) The Italian Front, 5) Battles of the Aisne and the Marne Rivers, 6) Americans at Cantigny, Château-Thierry, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, 7) Battle of Amiens – The Hindenburg Line – Advance to Victory, 8) Some Consequences of this Global War. Although the big protagonists of the book are the photographs, the text guides us through the campaigns, including also the original captions from newspapers, the citations for the medals they received, and some observations that help us understand the sequence and the consequences of the events.

Although I knew that in WWI there had been a lot of destruction (of lives, animals, and buildings) because of the use of weapons unknown until then, the impact of seeing pictures of towns and cities completely destroyed, of mustard gas attacks, tanks, planes, aerial pictures, dead soldiers and civilians, and famine is overwhelming. And the stories… From inspiring bravery to incredible cruelty (or perhaps it was just a strong sense of duty, but what would make a commander launch an attack two minutes before the armistice was due, resulting in thousands of dead men on both sides is beyond my comprehension).  As I read some of the captions of the pictures and the stories behind some of the photographs, I could imagine many books and movies inspired by such events and individuals (and I am sure there are quite a few, but not as many as there should be).

I marked pages containing stories I found particularly touching, inspiring, or almost incredible, too many to mention, but I have randomly chosen a few of them to share as a sample.

The caption to a picture of plenty of smiling men brandishing their knives in page 222 explains that they are Italian soldiers of the elite Arditi Corps ‘the Caimans of the Piave’. ‘They numbered around eighty and were trained to remain in the powerful currents of the Piave for hours. Carrying only a Sardinian knife –the resolza – and two hand grenades, they acted in a communication role between the west and east banks of the Piave.’

There is a picture on page 260 of a worker with the Y.M.C.A. serving drinks to American soldiers on in the front line, and it says that one centre at a railway site served more than 200000 cups of cocoa to soldiers each month.

The book also remembers civilians who died, like those working at the National Shell Filling Factory in Chilwell that was destroyed on the 1st of July 2018, with 134 civilians dead and 250 injured.

There are stories that are the stuff of movies, like that of The Lost Battalion, the 77th Infantry Division, cut off by the Germans for five days, who were eventually relieved, but had by then lost half of the men.

Or the one of Corporal Alvin C. York ‘–later sergeant – at the place where he systematically began picking off twenty of the enemy with rifle and pistol. As an elder in a Tennessee mountain church at the beginning of the war, he was a conscientious objector, but then changed his mind to become the most efficient of killers.’ (405) He took the machine gun nest, four officers, 128 men, and several guns.

There are amazing feats by men of all nations and horrific devastation as well. The last chapter serves as a reminder of the heavy price imposed on the losing side and the consequences derived from it. The peace would be sadly short-lived, as we all know, and some of the issues of sovereignty that seemed to have been solved then would resurface once more a few years later.

In sum, this is a book for people interested in WWI (the whole collection is) at a personal level, invaluable for researchers, as it provides a good reference to a large body of archival images, and it is packed with bite-sized information that will provide inspiration to many writers and scholars. Another great addition to Pen & Sword military catalogue and one that I thoroughly recommend.

Thanks so much to Pen & Sword and to the authors, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, REVIEW, to always keep reading and smiling, and to NEVER FORGET. 

Bloomin’ Book Launch – Party Bus & Atonement TN Book Fair!(@teagangeneviene) #TuesdayBookBlog #Bookreview

Hi all:

You know I’m a bit fan of Teagan Geneviene’s books and her blog, so, of course, I could not resist the invitation to take part in her Blog-Party Bus. But, me being me, I’ve included a review of Atonement in Bloom as well. Here comes the bus!!!

Atonement Blog Party Bus Loaded

All aboard! Beep-beep, yeah! The party bus is here. (Click here for theme music Magic Bus!) Our first stop is in Connecticut to pick up Dan Antion, who has a handy guided tour of Atonement, TN. Dan agreed to be a relief bus driver too, since bus-driver-Lilith the calico, sometimes has to take a break to give Deme or Honeybell a head bath.

Where “atonement” begins

It’s best if you read the first book first. So, for the launch of “Bloom,” Atonement, Tennessee is on sale for 99¢ (e-book). Click Atonement book covers for purchase links.

Residents of my fictional town might be of any race and from any ancestry. So author and translator Olga Núñez Miret translated the debut novel to Spanish! For that language I changed the title to Expiación y Magia!

Cover Expiación y Magia ― Una Fantasía Urbana

Atonement, Tennessee in Spanish

Speaking of the otherworldly pigs, I should mention the order of the Atonement stories. Your first visit to the town is Atonement, Tennessee. It’s an urban fantasy — set in our present-day, real world but with magical elements. Aside from the heroine and her neighbor-friends (or as Diana Peach likes to call them, the gall palls (Diana’s review here), you’ll meet the grumpy sheriff, Robin Warden.

Includes the prequel

The first “snort” in The Glowing Pigs, Snort Stories of Atonement, Tennessee is about a very young Deputy Robin. (Review by Dr. Phuong Callaway here.) That particular story is tied to the novel I’m launching today, Atonement in Bloom.

Long awaited sequel to Atonement, Tennessee

Here’s the blurb!

The quaint town was stranger than Ralda Lawton could have imagined. The local population included supernatural beings of the fae variety. Although only she and a few others knew about that.

In a past life, Ralda ― Esmeralda had been involved in something with those supernaturals and it had carried into her present life. In Atonement, Tennessee, that almost got her killed. Now she has new problems, and new supes to complicate matters.

Atonement in Bloom continues the misadventures of Ralda, her friends, and neighbors in the small (but far from peaceful) town of Atonement, Tennessee. Her old house and cemetery are still there, along with Lilith the cat, quirky townsfolk, and assorted supernaturals.

Now Lilith the calico sniffs out a strange beast.

Fae foolery backfires. A friend is abducted.

On a cold December day, Atonement, Tennessee comes into bloom.

The Unfolding Of An Orange Rose Bud

Here comes my review of Atonement in Bloom!

I was offered an ARC copy of this novel, that I had been after for some time, and I enthusiastically decided to review it as soon as I was able to.

I have followed Teagan Geneviene’s blog for a few years and have long been amazed by her creativity and her power to weave stories from the most unlikely jumble of elements, always rising to the challenges set by her readers, and writing by the seat of her pants. I am inclined to think there is some kind of magic at work, and I am not surprised by the genre she has chosen for her novels.

I have read and reviewed several of her books (you can check my most recent review of one of her serials here) and have long been a fan of her first-novel, Atonement, Tennessee (you can check my review, here). I had been waiting for the next instalment of the series for some time and had eagerly read any stories and snippets the author has shared in her blog about the Atonement universe. And I jumped at the opportunity to read an ARC copy of this novel, the second one in the series.

The author has tried to make this book stand alone, to ensure that anybody who started reading the series at this point would be given enough background to follow the events and enjoy the narrative, without slowing down those of us familiar with the story. Having read the first novel a while back and having reread it recently, I am probably not the best person to comment, but, in my opinion, she succeeds, although I would recommend anybody considering the purchase of this novel to go ahead and get the whole series, as they will be able to more fully appreciate the plot twists and the character development that take place in the series. And there are some companion stories available that you will enjoy as well.

The story is told from two different points of view, as was the case with the first novel. We have Lilith, Esmeralda’s (Ralda for short) calico cat, whose narrative is told in the third-person, and whose personality (her likes and dislikes, her strong opinions, and, indeed, her all-appropriate curiosity) shines through even more than in the first novel. She is witness to a number of events that allow the reader to be slightly ahead of Ralda at some points, but also increase the suspense and the expectations. She is not a human narrator and her understanding of events is often puzzling for us, so her clues are a bit like cryptic crossword prompts, familiar and alien at the same time. She gets involved in some hair-raising adventures of her own, and the end of the novel hints at many interesting things to come for our favourite feline narrator.

Ralda is the other narrator, and she tells the story in the first person. Those of us who have read the first novel know that she is a Southerner at heart, although she has spent many not-very-happy years in Washington DC. Atonement, Tennessee proves to be anything but the quiet and charming little town she imagines at first, secrets and supernatural events abound, and most of them centre on her house and her family line. She is a woman of strong intuition, but there is more to the events unfolding around her than a sixth sense. If the first novel saw her teetering between real-world difficulties (the move, the state of her house, the problems of her new-found friends), and some strange and decidedly supernatural events, in this second novel she at first suspects, and later comes to realise, that in Atonement, Tennessee, there is no clear separation between the “normal” and the “supernatural”. One of the things that make her a very compelling character, apart from her lack of ego and her self-deprecating sense of humour, is her open spirit and her ability to experience the wonder of the world around her. By her own confession, she has suffered the nasty side of things and people, and she at times appears overcautious and paranoid, but she is unable to say no to anybody needing help, and no matter how hard she resists, she finds it difficult to believe the worst of anybody. She might hesitate, but she will get in harm’s way if any of those close to her are in danger (and that includes Lilith, of course).

As for the plot… After taking stock of what happened in the first novel, things start getting interesting very soon. Some of the characters we thought we knew are revealed not to have been how they looked like at first (some for the better, some for the worse), and we have quite a few new characters turn up, some supernatural without a doubt (including my beloved glowing pigs), and others… well, I’ll leave you to see what you think. But there are unrequited loves, magical objects (one of my favourite things, both in fantasy and in the horror genre), some very Shakespearian turns of events, kidnappings, natural (or supernatural) wonders, and a fantastic battle scene (and I won’t reveal anything else).

Although the storyline is complete in itself and the events that unfold during the book get a resolution (and a more than satisfying one, I might add), there are mysteries still to be solved, some new ones hinted at, and I can’t wait to read the next book. If you love fantasy, supernatural events, folklore, myths and legends, Shakespeare, and appreciate a wild-tale full of imagination, you’ll be delighted by this book. I know I was.

And now, back to the party and to Teagan!

I don’t know why the party bus is stopping. Oh! It’s a delivery of flowers in honor of the book launch from Kirt Tisdale of The Wall Gallery! Wow… beautiful blue roses. Thank you, Kirt. The blue rose of the impossible is an important element of Atonement in Bloom.

We’re back on the road, and Dyanna at Ravenhawk’s Magazine has plenty of music for our road-trip. Lilith, slow down. I see Melissa from Today You Will Write at that bus stop up ahead.

Hang on to your seat-belt. Lilith just took a sharp curve and we are magically in Kentucky. Deme wanted to check out Teri Polen’s October horror and suspense book fest, Bad Moon Rising! You’ll find 31 authors and their books there!

Welcome to Atonement, TN! Everybody in town is taking part in the fun. Annie’s Antiques is hosting an exhibit of Art by Rob Goldstein.

My Blue Heaven

What’s that on the next table? It looks like an Aladin’s lamp. And a puff of colorful smoke! Oh, it’s the Lamp Magician. Welcome, Magician. I’m glad you could join the party bus!

My stomach is growling. Thank goodness Carol Taylor and Gerlinde de Broekert have catered the book fair. There are delicious foods at every booth! However, Deme and Honeybell love to read, so they ran straight to the Atonement, TN Book Fair. They’re in hog heaven with so many great books!

Heartfelt thanks to everyone for supporting this Bloomin’ Party Bus. Click the author names for more info.

(If anyone wants to share a link to a review of your book, or anything about yourself, please leave a comment with the link.)

D. Wallace Peach

Image result for legacy of souls d wallace peach

Chris Graham (for Agnes Mae Graham)

My Vibrating Vertabrae cover

Olga Núñez Miret For this book see here.

Angelic Business 1. Pink Matters Now available as an audio book too

D.L. Finn

Image result for dl finn the button

Jan Sikes

Image result for jan sikes flowers in stone

Mary J McCoy-Dressel

Mary J McCoy-Dressel, western romance author, Book Three Canyon Junction: Hearts in Love Series, Blog Post Cover Reveal

Sally Cronin

Jacquie Biggar has a sheriff too…

jacquiebiggar_thesheriffmeetshismatch_800px

Valentina Cirasola will help you tour Atonement, TN in style.

The Road To Top Of The World: Short Stories In The Land Of Puglia

Barb Taub will keep you laughing the entire way.

Resa will help you find the right thing to wear. She’s a costume designer. She would have enjoyed helping Ralda, Bethany, and Lacey search through the antique clothes in Sunhold’s closets (scene in “Bloom”).

Staci Troilo

Tortured Soul

Mae Clair

Book cover for End of Day, mystery/suspense novel by Mae Clair shows old dilapidated church with bell tower and a cemetery in the background overgrown with weeds

John W. Howell

Annette Rochelle Aben

Image result for booku Annette Rochelle Aben

Robbie Cheadle

Image result for robbie cheadle while the bombs fell

Chuck Jackson

Image result for chuck jackson what did i do

Vashti Quiroz-Vega

Teri Polen

Image result for teri polen sarah

#Blogtour RATIONAL CREATURES Ed. by Christina Boyd (@xtnaboyd) It was hard to be a woman in the Regency period and Austen knew it all too well! A must read for Austen lovers.

Hi all:

I am pleased to bring you a book by an editor (and writer) I have come to admire and trust. She has put me in touch with many great authors a well, so you read on at your peril… Ah, and don’t miss the GIVEAWAY

Rational Creatures. Edited by Christina Boyd

Rational Creatures. Edited by Christina Boyd

Rational Creatures: Stirrings of Feminism in the Hearts of Jane Austen’s Fine Ladies (The Quill Collective Book 3) by Christina Boyd (Editor ),  Joana Starnes, Elizabeth Adams, Nicole Clarkston, Karen M. Cox, J. Marie Croft, Amy D’Orazio, Jenetta James, Jessie Lewis, KaraLynne Mackrory, Lona Manning, Christina Morland, Beau North, Sophia Rose, Anngela Schroeder, Brooke West, Caitlin Williams. Foreword by Devoney Looser

“But I hate to hear you talking so, like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.” —Persuasion

Jane Austen: True romantic or rational creature? Her novels transport us back to the Regency, a time when well-mannered gentlemen and finely-bred ladies fell in love as they danced at balls and rode in carriages. Yet her heroines, such as Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot, and Elinor Dashwood, were no swooning, fainthearted damsels in distress. Austen’s novels have become timeless classics because of their biting wit, honest social commentary, and because she wrote of strong women who were ahead of their day. True to their principles and beliefs, they fought through hypocrisy and broke social boundaries to find their happily-ever-after.

In the third romance anthology of The Quill Collective series, sixteen celebrated Austenesque authors write the untold histories of Austen’s brave adventuresses, her shy maidens, her talkative spinsters, and her naughty matrons. Peek around the curtain and discover what made Lady Susan so wicked, Mary Crawford so capricious, and Hettie Bates so in need of Emma Woodhouse’s pity.

Rational Creatures is a collection of humorous, poignant, and engaging short stories set in Georgian England that complement and pay homage to Austen’s great works and great ladies who were, perhaps, the first feminists in an era that was not quite ready for feminism.

“Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will become good wives; —that is, if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers.” —Mary Wollstonecraft

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Rational-Creatures-Stirrings-Feminism-Collective-ebook/dp/B07JFJ1HSZ/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rational-Creatures-Stirrings-Feminism-Collective-ebook/dp/B07JFJ1HSZ/

My review:

I thank Christina Boyd for sending me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review and for offering me to the opportunity to join the blog tour for its launch.

I have read and reviewed one of the Austen based collections Christina Boyd has edited in the past (Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues, check that review here), and when she told me what she was working on, I did not hesitate. I have met many talented writers through her collection and the books she has edited and have to warn any readers that you are likely to end up with a long list of authors added to your favourites if you keep on reading.

I am sure no Austen reader would think that, but some people not so well versed in her work sometimes think that her novels are only about silly girls of the Regency period, normally of good families, flirting and forever plotting to marry a rich and attractive man, with nothing of interest in their heads other than attending parties and fashionable balls, and not a hint of independent thought or opinion. Nothing further from the truth. The title of the collection highlights the status of Jane Austen’s female characters. There are nice women, some cruel ones, vain, prejudiced, stubborn, naïve, impulsive, but they are not the playthings of men. They work hard to prove they are “rational creatures” and they try, within the options open to them at the time, to take charge of their lives and their own destinies.

In the foreword, Devoney Looser writes:

In its pages, the best of today’s Austen-inspired authors use their significant creative powers to explore new angles of love and loss, captivity and emancipation. These stories reimagine both, beloved female characters, like Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennet, and loathed ones, such as Persuasion’s Penelope Clay. The results are comical, disturbing, and moving.

I could not have said it better. While when I reviewed Dangerous to Know I said anybody could enjoy the stories but connoisseurs of Austen would likely delight in them, in this case, I think this is a book for Austen fans, and those particularly interested in feminism and in the early supporters of the education of women. Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is mentioned in the foreword and also makes its appearance in some of the stories, and it clearly informs the readings the authors make of the characters and the novels they pay homage to. As a matter of fact, the book could also have been called A Vindication of Austen’s Women.

While some of the contributions are short stories in their own right, although centred on one of Austen’s female characters, some are vignettes closely linked to one of her novels, showing the background to some events in the story, or exploring the reasons for the decisions taken by some of the female characters that might have surprised us when we have read the novels, particularly so, perhaps, due to our modern sensibilities. Each story is introduced by a quotation from the novel in question that helps us get into the right frame of mind.

The catalogue of stories and characters is long and inclusive. We have: “Self-Composed” (by Christina Morland) about Elinor Dashwood, “Every Past Affliction” (by Nicole Clarkston) about Marianne Dashwood, “Happiness in Marriage” (by Amy D’Orazio) about Elizabeth Bennet (one of the most famous and well-known heroines in the Austen canon and I think most readers will easily identify with the character and her plight), “Charlotte’s Comfort” (by Joana Starnes) about Charlotte Lucas (I will confess I’d always wondered about Charlotte’s decision to marry the horrendous Mr. Collins. I enjoyed this version of events and it makes perfect sense), “Knightley Discourses” (by Anngela Schroeder) about Emma Woodhouse (it was a pleasure to catch up with Emma again, a happily married Emma, here), “The Simple Things” (by J. Marie Croft) about Hetty Bates (perhaps because I’ve never been married, I am always drawn towards characters who remain single, and I found this episode particularly touching), “In Good Hands” (by Caitlin Williams) about Harriet Smith (it was good to see Harriet get her own voice and not only be Emma’s plaything), “The Meaning of Wife” (by Brooke West) about Fanny Price (I liked this rendering of Fanny Price as she gets enlightened thanks to Wollstonecraft’s Vindication), “What Strange Creatures” (by Jenetta James) about Mary Crawford (which introduces a touch of mystery), “An Unnatural Beginning” (by Elizabeth Adams) about Anne Elliot (another one I found particularly touching), “Where the Sky Touches the Sea” (by Karalynne Mackrory) about Sophia Croft (this is not a character I was very familiar with but I loved her relationship with her husband, her self-sufficiency, and the realistic depiction of grief), “The Art of Pleasing” (by Lona Manning) about Penelope Clay (as a lover of books about cons and conmen, I could not help but enjoy this fun story full of twists and fantastically deceitful characters), “Louisa by the Sea” (by Beau North) about Louisa Musgrove, “The Strength of Their Attachment” (by Sophia Rose) about Catherine Morland, “A Nominal Mistress” (by Karen M. Cox) about Eleanor Tilney (a fun story with its sad moments, and a good example of the type of situations women could find themselves in at the time), and “The Edification of Lady Susan” (by Jessie Lewis) about Lady Susan Vernon (an epistolary story that I thoroughly enjoyed, and another one recommended to people who love deceit and con games).

The writing styles vary between the stories, but there are no actualisations or reinventions. The stories are all set within the Regency period, and the authors observe the mores and customs of the period, seamlessly weaving their vignettes and stories that would be perfectly at eas within the pages of the Austen novels they are inspired by. The characters might push the boundaries of gender and social classes but never by behaving in anachronistic ways, and if anything, reading this book will make us more aware of what life was like for women of different ages and different social situations in that historical period. What we get are close insights into the thoughts and feelings of these women, many of whom were only talked about but never given their own voices in the original novels. It is amazing how well the selection works, as sometimes we can read about the same characters from different perspectives (the protagonist in one of the stories might be a secondary character in another one, and the heroine in one of the stories might be a villain in the next), but they all fit together and help create a multifaceted portrait of these women and of what it meant to be a woman of a certain class in the Regency period.

I have said before that I feel this collection will suit better readers who are familiar with Austen’s universe, but, to be fair, I have enjoyed both, the stories centred on novels I knew quite well, and those based on characters I was not very familiar with, so I would not discourage people who enjoy Regency period novels and have read some Austen, but are not experts, from reading this book. By the time I finished the book, I admired, even more, the genius of Austen and had decided to become better acquainted with all of her novels. Oh, and of course, determined also to keep sharing the collections and books by this talented group of writers.

In summary, I recommend this book to anybody who loves Austen and has always felt curious about her female characters, protagonists and supporting players alike, and wished to have a private conversation with them, or at least be privy to the thoughts they kept under wraps. If you want to know who these women are and to see what it must have been like to try to be a woman and a rational creature with your own ideas in such historical era, I recommend this collection. As a bonus, you’ll discover a selection of great authors, and you’ll feel compelled to go back and read all of Austen’s novels. You’ve got nothing to lose other than a bit (or a lot) of sleep!

(In case you are curious, you can check my reviews for a couple of Karen M. Cox’s novels I Could Write a Book (here) and Son of a Preacher Man (here), and Jenetta James’s The Elizabeth Paper (here) and Lovers’ Knot (here). And I have a few more on my list to read!

Rational Creatures Super Giveaway


Super Giveaway

Giveaway Time!

The giveaway to accompany the blog tour is fantastic! Comment on the blog posts to enter, and at the end of the tour, a name will be randomly picked from all the comments on all the blog tour posts. This person will win all 21 prizes!

Thanks to Christina for keeping me on the loop and to all the great authors taking part, thanks to all of you for reading and please, remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and keep reading and smiling!