Save Barnes & Noble-what do you think?

In a New York Times opinion article titled Save Barnes & Noble!, David Leonhardt writes about the slow death of the well-known bookstore franchise. His main argument seems to be that Amazon is running Barnes & Noble out of business because of their low book prices, free shipping (for Prime users) and easy access. He says this form of monopoly must be stopped and Barnes & Noble must be saved. What do you guys think? I’d really love to know because I’m a little torn on the subject.

If the title of the article was “Save Bookstores!” I would be 100% on board. Bookstores are my favorite place in the world and I try very hard to frequent and support local bookstores, because I see them as an important part of the community. However, Barnes & Noble isn’t somewhere I often go to, and I will admit it’s mainly because I like smaller bookstores, and if I need a book fast, the prices on Amazon are much better. I do occasionally buy from Barnes & Noble online, but that’s almost only when they have sales.

So, I guess I’m more indifferent to Barnes & Noble closing down then most may be. My biggest concern would be the effect this would have on smaller bookstore, or even stores like Half Price Book, a store I go to all the time. Would the end of Barnes & Noble help or hurt other bookstores? Or would there be no change at all? I’m typically in the mindset of if it’s dying, let it die, when it comes to businesses, but I’m open to having my mind changed, especially when it comes to books.

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Song of Achilles

Rating: ★★

Opening Line:“My father was a king and a son of kings.”

Review:

I expected to like this book a lot. I love ancient stories, I love Greek and Roman mythology, and I love The Iliad. Plus, this book has crazy good reviews on goodreads–everyone loves this book, apparently…except me.

During the book I asked myself why I was still reading it, because I really didn’t like it from start to finish, and the answer I decided on was there there are some books that keep you reading because they are so good you cannot stop, and there are some books you keep reading because you want to see what happens in the end, despite it boring you to sleep (me, quite literally every night). I did want to see how the end was dealt with, and I wanted to see if it got better, because again, everyone loves this book.

My main issue isn’t that the book strays a bit from The Iliad, because every retelling does that, and if it didn’t there really wouldn’t be any point in doing a retelling, but the main issue is it ruined every single character in Greek mythology for me…especially Hector. I thought Achilles was made weak, Patroclus was made annoying, Hector was made cruel, Odysseus was made haughty, and Briseis made unimportant. Now, this may not have been the intention, nor may it be how others read the characters, but this is how they read to me, and it is not how I found the characters to be in The Iliad.

Characters aside, I thought the plot was interesting, but the length of the book, or perhaps the speed of the timeline, made it so boring for me. I thought the boys’ childhood was at least 4 chapters to long, the time when Achilles is avoiding the war was too long, and the time on the Trojan beach truly felt like I was reading 9 whole years of war…which is unnecessary.

I feel bad completely knocking this book that everyone enjoyed, but I don’t really have anything good to say about it. Yes, there were some good sections, but I had such a disconnect with the characters that the few sections I enjoyed were not enough to make up for the rest.

3 Books for the Christmas Season

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Christmas Season brings out the best in the world. People push away their differences, if even just for a while, and celebrate what matters most. Every Christmas season we hear people vow to be better, to change, to improve, to stop feeding vices and instead embrace virtue, and every Christmas season we believe that the world will, in fact, change for the better.

Why do we have this belief every year? For Christians celebrating, we are reminded of the birth of our savior over 2,000 years ago. For non-Christians you have the love of family and friends getting together to share joy and celebrations of your own. It is truly a beautiful time of the year.

Yet, amid the joy, many find themselves worn down the closer we come to December 25. We find we are tired, grumpy, overstimulated, under appreciated, and even amid all the parties, lonely. To put it simply, we feel like a Scrooge or perhaps a Grinch.

These feelings are natural and normal during the Christmas season, yet one does not want to stay boggered down by them while everyone around you is joyous. What can you do?

While everyone has their own quick fix to the holiday slump, mine is, naturally, books.

Christmas literature has been a cornerstone to the season for centuries, and many authors focus in on the sadness that comes before the season, and find their own way for their characters to discover what Christmas is all about. The most famous Christmas book, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, is precisely about getting out of the bah humbug attitude during Christmas.

While I will always recommend Dickens’ famous work, I would also like to recommend three other stories, which you may not know, that are helping me see the joy of Christmas this year!

1. 51DC8SH6TNL.jpg Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

Recommended for all ages, Audiobook or read aloud.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Tolkien fan, but I had no idea this book existed, and I was overjoyed when I found it.

This series of letters follows Father Christmas’ letters to a family of boys (and eventually a girl), in response to their letters to him about their christmas presents. These letters not only contain his well wishes, but also stories of himself and the North Polar Bear as they prepare for Christmas. The North Polar Bear also writes the letters and mostly complains about how Father Christmas is being too hard on him, and Father Christmas complains about the North Polar Bear messing everything up. They also draw pictures depicting the stories told.

While the letters are hilarious, they are also very touching and sweet. Tolkien gave Father Christmas the perfect personality for the job. He is humorous but very caring and thoughtful to the family, and always remembers the little things about them (even if they forget things about him).

Tolkien was a deeply religious man, yet surprisingly there is little, almost no, religious talk or references in the letters. Only Father Christmas talking about presents and North Pole shenanigans…the latter takes up way more time than the former, apparently a lot of shenanigans take place in the off season.

I listened to this book on Audible, and I loved it. The voice actor for Father Christmas was very good, and the voices for the polar bear, and eventually the elf, and fantastic. However, this might be a good one to listen to while you read it, or to read aloud to the family, because the illustrations (as seen below) are fantastic!

Senza titolo 5.jpgA story in which the North Polar Bear fell down the stairs with all the presents, breaking some and hurting his paw.

This one if definitely going to be a regular in my Christmas reading list!

2.

the-immortal-nicholas-9781476798844_hr.jpgThe Immortal Nicholas by Glenn Beck

Recommended for older middle school to adult.

Glenn Beck is known more for his political commentary than his storybooks, so I was very surprised to see he wrote a book about Saint Nicholas, or more commonly known as, Santa Claus.

While I don’t always agree with Beck’s politics, I was intrigued enough to read this work of fiction and I was pleasantly surprised.

The Immortal Nicholas does not, as I assumed it it would, start off with the famous St. Nicholas but before the birth of Christ, and with the protagonist being a man who is very far from how we would picture Santa Claus.

This would also be a great story to read aloud to your kids when they are in middle school. Also, apparently Beck has another Christmas book called The Christmas Sweater, but I have not read that one yet.

3.

51fweedCBzL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgMr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

Recommended for young adult and adult readers.

Wow! This book was far far better than I expected! I flew through it and I was sad to see it end (even though the ending is a satisfying one). Samantha Silva does a fantastic job with this book and I highly highly recommend it, especially, but not exclusively, for Dickens fans.

Charles Dickens’ life was spiraling out of control just when he thought he was at the peak. His new work was not selling like it used to, and to add insult to injury, his publishers found a sneaky clause in his contract saying if he did not release a book by Christmas, they could lower his wages. If he were a single man this may not be an issue, but as they told him this, his wife was upstairs giving birth to their fifth child. He took the news hard, and was determined not to give into their demands.

His hardness of heart became worse, which led him to bad decisions, and to his wife packing up the kids and taking them up to see her parents in Scotland. Deflated and alone, Dickens walked the streets of London, searching for something to make his words flow again, and what he finds makes for a most interesting story.

I do not want to give any spoilers away, because everyone should go out and read this book this winter. It’s charming, intriguing, well-written, and captivating. Like I said before, I could not put it down. It enlightens A Christmas Carol in the best of ways, and makes you want to go out and have a huge turkey dinner with all of your friends while shouting “God bless us everyone!”  (I’m not even joking, the book really lifts you to a whole new height. It’s marvelous).

This is a debut novel by Samantha Silva and all I can say is I will be the first in line to read whatever comes next!

 

Merry Christmas, everyone, I hope this season is joyful and bright! 

Lion

33022291.jpgLion by Saroo Brierley

Rating: ★★★★ // Riveting and heartwarming story. 

First Line: “They’ve gone.”

Review:

I liked this book much more than I was expecting to. As I’ve said before I usually don’t prefer memoir like books, but Lion, originally titled “A Long Way Home: A Memoir” was very good.

Following the story of Saroo, a young Indian man living in Australia who finally decides to dedicate all his extra time and energy into finding his family, whom he was separated from at the age of 5.

After getting lost, Saroo jumped around until he ended up in a home and was quickly (compared to other children) adopted by an Australian couple. It wasn’t until he was in college that he started thinking about finding his family back in India, and it wasn’t until after had graduated and working full time that he really put all his effort into finding his home.

Aside from being well-written, which it is, this story really tugs at the heartstrings and emphasizes the importance of families and relationships are in life.

“We all reach a point as young adults when we wonder what we should be doing with our lives—or, at the very least, which direction to point ourselves in. Beyond the means to get by, we need to think about what’s most important to us. Not surprisingly, I discovered that for me the answer was family.”

I found one of my favorite aspects of the book was the relationship between Saroo and his adoptive parents. Not once were they upset or jealous when Saroo focused on finding his family, which had to be difficult for them. Instead they were supportive, encouraging, and helpful when they needed to be. Saroo, for his part, was also very in-tune to how they must feel and he treated the situation well. This aspect was unexpected in the book, because I expected there to be some sort of drama, but it really didn’t show up, which was a nice surprise.

“Adoptees, whether or not they ever knew their birth parents, often describe the constant, gnawing feeling of there being something missing: without a connection, or at least the knowledge of where they are from, they feel incomplete.”

I recommend this book, not if your looking for excitement, but if your looking for strength in the human condition. I can’t yet vouch for the movie adaptation, but it has gotten pretty decent reviews and I look forward to watching it.

The Lord of the Rings

33.jpgThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Rating: ★★★★★ // nothing compares. 

Opening Line: “When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.”

Review:

This summer my book club took on The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, which gave me a wonderful opportunity to re-read my favorite book series of all time. I think this was my second time reading the whole thing, I have read the first book maybe four times, and the second a few times, but for the whole series one after the other, this was the second time, and I have to say it was amazing.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

There are so many reasons why I love this series: the characters, the plot, the setting, the mythology, the chivalry, the good vs. evil battles…seriously I could go on for so long, but I’m not going to spend time talking about the character or plot because everyone knows those things, and it would be way too long of a blog post. What I want to talk about first is the historical world of Middle Earth, and second I want to quickly talk about a neat writing trick Tolkien used.

The world of Middle Earth has such an extensive history and documentation that when you are reading it and when you read other books by Tolkien, it is really easy to forget that this is not true story. I know this is extremely nerdy to say, but I’m a nerd so here it goes, when I read The Lord of the Rings, I have such a hard time believing this world didn’t actually exist somewhere, somehow, and this is solely because of the genius that is J.R.R. Tolkien.

“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisioned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”

– J.R.R. Tolkien

One thing that stuck out to me when I was rereading this trilogy was all of the implied history and tales that were told throughout the book–they almost take up as many pages as the plot does. I can’t think of many books where the backstory takes up so much space and is treated as important as it is in this book. So why did Tolkien do this? My theory is that he wanted to show us that this story, the story of the Fellowship and the destruction of the Ring of Power, is only just one story in the world of Middle Earth. I mean, think about it, why would he go through all this trouble to write stories, some of which have no direct impact on the plot? I think it was to show that this one of many stories worth being told.

Now, of course, this was a pretty important story, they saved the world from being controlled by a evil master, and after it took place, it was probably seen as the greatest story, but to the characters at the time of the story, they doubted they would even be remembered in future tales. It was kind of their fantasy to be in a tale as wonderful as the ones they were told as kids. Tolkien reminds us over and over again that this story is not alone, which, in its own way, shows us how important the story is. Hear me out, when reading this, or any, book, and we keep hearing about “the stories of old” within the plot, we start to connect the old great stories to the one we are reading about, making us realize that this story is equal to those, even if the characters do not recognize it to be so.
While many books have fantastic back stories and make you really fall into the world created  with those backstories, there are few that actually have all those physical stories written down like a history book. Tolkien wrote close to 20 separate works on Middle Earth and only 4 of those have anything to do with the Ring of Power. He created a universe, not just a story.

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”

The second, and last, thing I wanted to mention about why I love this trilogy so much is that, while it is long and very detailed, it really isn’t confusing and the reader is not constantly questioning what is going on, which is very helpful in a book like this. Sometimes cliff hangers are very important, but in this book they do not play a large role, and this is mainly thanks to Tolkien’s style of almost always telling the story from the point of view of the character who knows the least. For example, when the hobbits are with Aragorn, the view point it from the hobbits perspective because they are the reader in the situation, they are the ones trying to figure out what is happening and so when they learn something, we learn something. This even happens when Gandalf and Aragorn are speaking (arguably the two smartest characters in the fellowship), Aragorn is constantly asking Gandalf to further explain what he is talking about, giving the reader all the information they need to know.

These are just two of the many things I noticed when I re-read this trilogy, but I thought they were very interesting points about how Tolkien wrote and grew the world of Middle-Earth. Tolkien created something that has yet to be matched when it comes to the extensive amount of information and the details of the world. He was truly a genius and I have no doubt that he will never go out of style.

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

Friday Five: William Blake

Happy Friday! I have been M.I.A. for a week because I went on vacation, and when I got back I was not really in the mindset for blogging, but I’m back now and ready to share some quotes for my friday five!

When I was on vacation, I stopped by this awesome used bookstore, where the books were literally flowing off the shelves–it was magical. Well, I couldn’t leave there without buying something, but I also didn’t want to buy a big book, because this was day 1 of my trip and I didn’t really have room for a big book, so I bough a little pocketbook size book of Selected Poetry of William Blake. Therefore, my friday five will feature five quotes from the wonderful poet, William Blake.

1.

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2.

“The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom…for we never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough.”

3.

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4.

“Great things are done when men and mountains meet.”

5.

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Mystery Blogger Award

Happy Saturday!

I was nominated for this back in July, and while I said I would get to it ASAP, it seems I did not…I’m the worst with these things :/  Siobhan @ Siobhan’s Novelties nominated me, and I have to say, I’m so honored and so so sorry it took me so long to finally do it! This award was created by Okoto Enigmas, and I would like to thank both Okoto and Siobhan for this award!

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Award Rules

  1. Put the award logo on your blog.
  2. List the rules.
  3. Thank whoever nominated you and link to their blog.
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.
  5. Tell your readers three things about yourself.
  6. Nominate roughly 10-20 people for this award
  7. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blogs.
  8. Ask your nominees five questions.
  9. Share a link to your best/favorite post that you’ve written

Three Things About Me (these are all reading facts about me):

  1. I am in a book club called “The Well-Read Mom”– it is a book club that is spread throughout the United States, and in my group, I am the only person who is neither married nor a mom…I just really like the book selections 😉 If you want to check it out, you can go to WellReadMom.com.
  2. Inspired by Well-Read Mom, and out of request by one of my friends, I started my own book club/list for 2017, and I intend to make a reading list for next year as well. My list is a mix between classics and newer books, and if you want to check it out or join in the reading fun, you can check out my list here!
  3. I just joined the “Operation War & Peace” group on GoodReads…and it’s exactly what it sounds like. In September (and the first week of October) I, along with the rest of the group, am going to try to get through the entirety of War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. It’s quite an undertaking, but I’m feeling oddly optimistic! Feel free to join the group on GoodReads if you want to participate, the more the merrier!

Siobhan’s Questions:

  1. Who is your guilty pleasure author/series? Do you love to hate it or hate to love it?
    • I don’t think I have a guilty pleasure author or series, but more a genre. I hate to love political thrillers. The reason I hate to love them is because I don’t think they are the best written books, and they are usually pretty predictable, yet I really enjoy them!
  2. What is the latest book you’ve read that you’ve absolutely hated/loved?
    • I recently finished Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis and I absolutely loved it! It took a little while for me to finish it, but I thought it was splendid!
  3. What bothers you in your favourite genre (e.g., love triangles in YA)
    • I love me some classics!…but I will say, some classics could use an editor who told them to cut, cut, cut….those classic authors tend to ramble and get sidetracked at times.
  4. What is the most underrated book/series/author?
    • Joan of Arc by Mark Twain. This book is absolutely fantastic, and it is in my top five favorite books! While Twain is not underrated, this book is almost unknown. Twain claimed that it is his best book, and it is the one he spent the most time on, and if you ask me, it deserves recognition.
  5. If you could pick a book you wanted to change, which book is it, and how would you change it?
    • Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee. It’s not so much that I would change anything, that I would have it not be printed as it was. I did enjoy this book, but it was allegedly printed in haste and without being completed by the author, I think it did an injustice to her words. Now, maybe I’m wrong, and maybe it was printed exactly how she intended it, but from what I read and how the book “felt” it seemed that she was not quite done with it.

Ok, it is late and I am falling asleep, so I’m not going to nominate anyone directly, but please please please, if you have good answers to my questions and you feel inclined to answer them, consider yourself nominated! I would really love to learn more about you! I’m really sorry for breaking this part of the rules, but sometimes that just happens!

My Questions:

  1. What book surprised you the most or what book did you expect to dislike but ended up loving?
  2. Which author have your read the most of? Is he/she your favorite author or is it coincidence?
  3. What is your favorite TV show?
  4. Have you taken the Myers Briggs Personality test? If so, what is your personality type? Mine is INFP 🙂
  5. What are you currently reading and what do you think about it so far?

 

My best and my favorite post’s I’ve written might be different, so I’ll share both. Before I do that, I will say I like my reviews better than my tags, because I’m more passionate about them, but my tag post have much more views/likes than my reviews, so I will share my most viewed tag post and my favorite tag post.

My most viewed post is my Top Ten Tuesday: Biggest Bookish Turn-offs post, but my favorite post is my Top Ten Tuesday: Dead Authors I’d Love to Have A Drink With post.

Thanks again to Siobhan for the tag and nomination! I hope to see some of you answer my questions (even if it’s only in the comment section)!!

 

Friday Five: Jane Austen

After reading Love & Friendship and Lady Susan by Jane Austen, I was inspired to dive into some of her quotes, and I’d love to share with you a few of them that speak right to my soul!

1. 

2.

“There is nothing like staying home for real comfort.”

3.

4.

“My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.”

5.

Love & Friendship and Lady Susan

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At last, I have found my favorite Jane Austen stories. Ok, I wasn’t really looking very hard, but I found them nonetheless!

I’m not a huge Jane Austen fan, but I also have only read Pride and Prejudice before reading these two beauties. P&P didn’t suite me, and so I kinda stayed away from Austen, assuming (probably incorrectly) that most of her novels are similar. I did resolve to read some of them, and they are high on my TBR, but somehow I keep looking over them to the next book…oops… But now, after reading Love and Friendship and Lady Susan, I am more inclined to pick up some Austen books because these two short works are so fun.

Love and Friendship

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Love and Friendship is a collection of letters written by Jane Austen before the age of 16 (allegedly) for the entertainment of her family. The story unfolds in an exchange of letters and, as was Austen’s intent, seems to poke fun at the traditional romance novel.

This book is hilarious. The women highlighted are absolutely ridiculous, and they are constantly scheming, dramatizing everything, and fainting at every possible moment. Austen’s humor shines much stronger than in her longer novels, because she really goes to lengths to exaggerate every detail of these woman’s lives. If they had a bad day, she makes it the utmost worst day anyone had ever experienced. If someone insulted them, she made it an insult that had embarrassed them so greatly they were forced to faint on the spot…everything is the worst or best.  This, of course, helped show Austen’s point that romantic novels are nothing more than dramatic women making things more dramatic.

The quotes in this book are so so fantastic. For example, her is an excerpt from one of the letters.  Upon having a shock, “Sophia shrieked and fainted on the ground – I screamed and instantly ran mad. We remained thus mutually deprived of our senses, some minutes, and on regaining them were deprived of them again. For an Hour and a Quarter did we continue in this unfortunate situation – Sophia fainting every moment and I running mad as often.”  This, fainting and running mad, is quite a common trend in the book, and every time it happens it’s more comical then the rest.

There were other comments that were just hysterical, e.g.:

“She was a widow and had only one Daughter, who was then just seventeen–One of the best of ages; but alas! she was very plain and her name was Bridget. . . . . Nothing therefore could be expected from her–she could not be supposed to possess either exalted Ideas, Delicate Feelings or refined Sensibilities–.”

Um…what? I actually really like the name Bridget…ok, Austen. It’s comments like this that make the stories ridiculous and therefore hilarious.

Austen is pointing out the flaws of romantic novels, and perhaps writing things like this was her inspiration to fix romance novels in the future.

Without the knowledge that Austen wrote these letters in order to entertain her family and to make fun of romance knowledge, this story would seem annoying and extremely juvenile…it would almost be expected of a 14-year-old to write. However, knowing that Austen was only 14 while writing them, and she did so in order to mock the common way women, love, and friendships are seen in books, makes you realize the true genius of the writing, and how advanced Austen was.

If this story teaches you nothing, or if you thought it was complete rubbish, at least take this from it:

“Beware of fainting-fits. . . Though at the time they may be refreshing and agreeable yet believe me they will in the end, if too often repeated and at improper seasons, prove destructive to your Constitution.”

 

Lady Susan

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I want to be Lady Susan. Ok, not really, because she is not a good person, but Austen makes her so deliciously bad, you just want to have her confidence and cunning nature…even though she really is bad.

“[Lady Susan] does not confine herself to that sort of honest flirtation which satisfies most people, but aspires to the more delicious gratification of making a whole family miserable.”

This book takes about 2 hours to read (maybe fewer), and it’s really worth the sit down. Plus after you can watch the movie adaptation on Netflix, which is confusingly called Love & Friendship. Why they decided to call the movie the same title as a different Austen book, I do not know, but I do know that the movie is very well made, and it follows the book decently well.

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Ok, so Lady Susan is another book that is told through a series of letters. These letters are much more sophisticated than those written in Love and Friendship, and they tell of a much more sophisticated plot. Lady Susan, our anti-heroine, is a widow who basically goes around flirting with any man she can find, and making the lives of everyone around her miserable. She is a terrible mother, a two-faced friend, and believes toying with the emotions of young men a suitable and enjoyable way to spend the day (ok, she may have a point with that last one..).

“My dear Alicia, of what a mistake were you guilty in marrying a man of his age! Just old enough to be formal, ungovernable, and to have the gout; too old to be agreeable, too young to die.”

I don’t want to give the main plot away, because this one really should be read by all Austen fans…it’s so entertaining. The great thing is that with every letter denouncing Lady Susan’s actions, you have two letters from her praising her own actions, and even though you know she is crazy, you find yourself believing her and pitying her, even though she deserves no such pity.

***

Both these stories are just fantastic and so much fun to read. I won’t go on, because I’ll could just ramble on and on about how funny they are, but seriously, if you are a Jane Austen fan or a fan of classic romantic novels, give these two a read; I promise you will be entertained!