29 April 2013

P&P Bicentenary Challenge: The Unexpected Miss Bennet by Patrice Sarath

Thanks for the photo Goodreads

This might upset the Darcyholics, but I'm drawn more to a Mary Bennet love story than a Darcy and Elizabeth sequel. As much as every woman wants to be Lizzy, I have to be honest and admit that I relate to Mary more than any other Bennet daughter. Sure, she's awkward, pious, and overly serious, but I've always felt that underneath it all, Mary loves her sisters even though she doesn't understand them and they mock her. Not to mention the difficulty growing up as the third behind the otherworldly beauty that is Jane and the intelligence, wit, and beauty that is Elizabeth, then have the unbelievably silly Kitty and Lydia as younger sisters. Poor Mary has been invisible her whole life, in part because of her family, but also because of her own choices. 

Patrice Sarath explores those choices in The Unexpected Miss Bennet, a wonderfully written Pride and Prejudice sequel taking place one year after the Bingley/Darcy double wedding. Kitty is off to visit Jane, and consequently London, while Mary remains with her parents. Now alone, Mary begins to take walks, reanalyze her previously coveted Fordyce's Sermons, and stops playing piano. Concerned Mrs. Bennet has given up the search to find Mary a match, Lizzie brings Mary to Pemberly to help with the husband hunt. Like every fun P&P continuation, all our favorite characters must show up in one form or another, so the Darcy household eventually travels to Rosings where Mary begins an unusual connection with Anne de Bourgh and is given a tough life choice. Will Mary Bennet ever find love or will she remain the quiet girl in the corner with the serious countenance? 


In three words: I loved it.

Sarath did an excellent job diving into the motivation and backstory of Mary Bennet, allowing us readers to watch her evolution and realize misgivings as well as strengths. Though the story lacked much drama (despite a small reference to the infamous Wickhams) and held few surprises, it's truly a character piece and kept me turning page after page to witness Mary Bennet go from girl to woman. In addition, Sarath gives Mr. Bennet a supporting role, I believe, as a chance to redeem himself from his P&P reputation as an indifferent father favoring only Lizzy. I also enjoyed the dynamic between Anne de Bourgh and Mary. However, the rest of the characters felt underdeveloped.

In addition, the romance didn't quite make sense and was rather sudden, though the book is a fast read and could've benefited from even more content. Yet the themes and lessons throughout made me think and I even earmarked several pages with excellent quotations. The story overall was sweet and enjoyable, but if you're one who loves lots of action in your Regency reads, this isn't the book for you. And while I mentioned the Wickham cameo above, it did feel a bit contrived, as if Sarath's editor wanted her to add more conflict so she threw Lydia in at the last minute.

All in all, this is the second Mary Bennet romance I've had the pleasure of reading and I'm thrilled I stumbled upon it in Barnes & Noble. It's a great addition to any JAFF library and is on my re-read list.... in fact, I almost started it over when I finished!


4 out of 5 ribbons

Go to Amazon and get your copy here

Click here to see my full list of P&P challenge books and find out more info about it.

Come back in May for my review of Pride and Precience: Or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged.

26 April 2013

The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013

I was working up to writing a review of the latest JAFF book I finished (if you couldn't tell by my previous post, I haven't been in the mood to do much of anything let alone write) when I spotted my girl Candy's post about the Los Angeles Festival of Books over at her review blog So Little Time... 
Scrolling down her page, I spotted the graphic you see above and thought I'd finally found a blog challenge perfect for me. And I already had one book down!

Not to mention the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge hosted by Austenprose would be a great way to learn more about JAFF, meet new bloggers & authors, and get me reading, watching, and writing more Jane Austen related material (not that I don't already do that half the year).

Plus it's even more of a challenge since I'm four months late to the party!!!!

So now it's time to list the books and films I'll be reviewing in the coming months. I'm going for aficionado status because that's actually pretty normal for me. Here are my 12 selections:

The Unexpected Miss Bennett by Patrice Sarath

Pride and Prescience: Or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged by Carrie Bebris

The Second Mrs. Darcy by Elizabeth Aston
Reflections by Linda Gonschior

Echoes of Pemberley by Cynthia Ingram Hensley 

Georgiana Darcy's Diary by Anna Elliott
Pemberley to Waterloo: Georgiana Darcy's Diary Volume 2 by Anna Elliott

Becoming Elizabeth Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen

The Phantom of Pemberley by Regina Jeffers

His Good Opinion: A Mr. Darcy Novel by Nancy Kelley

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice BBC miniseries 1995

Are you excited?!?! I am.

If you're interested in participating in this challenge... you totally can! Blog or no blog, go to the post about this challenge that I linked above and follow the instructions. Let me know too so we can chat about our books!

16 April 2013

Niko: A Farewell Tribute

After six weeks of visits to the animal hospital, ER, catheters, medication, and injections, Michael and I said goodbye to our darling Niko on Thursday, April 11th at 3:00pm.

A week before-- that previous Wednesday the 3rd-- Niko came down with a strange illness that we and the vet thought pertained to his urinary tract blocking. After observing him a little closer, I discovered something was wrong with his digestive tract.

Stumped, on Thursday the doctor put him on diarrhea medication and insisted we try getting him to eat any kind of food since he wasn't eating. Over the weekend, Niko's health declined daily, he refused to eat even his favorite canned food, and by Saturday stopped drinking. Monday arrived and we really thought things were over, but the doctor convinced us to leave him overnight with an IV.

On Tuesday, Niko suddenly felt better. He was eating, drinking, and acting himself for 2 more days. Then Thursday arrived and I found urine and blood in my sink, Niko was straining to urinate, and finally, he peed pure blood in the corner of the apartment.

At this point, after months of vet bills and clear evidence that Niko had become a "chronic blocker," it was time to put him to sleep.

I cried... no... sobbed. Michael wept. We remained in the room, held and rubbed him, told Niko repeatedly that we loved and would miss him.


The weekend was spent much in the same state: crying, laughing about fun memories, and beginning the "new norm." An outpouring of support came from family and friends, for which I'm grateful.

Niko had been with us for 4 years. Michael and I saw him as a furry gray son: we knew his personality, his habits, his intelligence, his quirks. Niko was a gentle, old soul with youthful curiosity.

And while I appreciate words of encouragement to "think of the good times," nothing anyone says will make me less sad. Nothing will help. 

But that's okay: we're grieving. I don't want to feel better right now. I want to be sad. I'm allowed to be sad. Life will get better, the sadness and anger will subside, and left will be happy memories. The void will be there-- a little piece of my heart died with Niko-- but it won't swallow us up.


To commemorate Niko's memory, I've compiled a bunch of photos for your enjoyment. It's a good thing I'm as "cat crazy" as I am so there were plenty of pics to choose from. Click to enlarge.

Early photos of Niko, after bringing him home from the shelter. So many comfy places to sleep and cool places to play in our apartment.

Like the TV.

Paper bags.

Our mail basket.

And don't forget naps with Daddy.

Niko also had a love of windowsills....
He'd chirp (no really, cats make a chirping sound) at the pigeons in Chicago and the squirrels in the Burbs.


Niko was NOT a fan of the car.... or cross country road trips. But he was well-behaved anyway.
"Stop laughing, Mom. This isn't funny."

He wasn't sure about Cooper when we first brought the kitten home, but they became the best of friends. And yes, Cooper is having a hard time and doesn't understand why Niko isn't home.

At our place in Wisconsin. His first time going OUTSIDE. Yes... we put him on a leash.

He leapt into the snow not knowing what it was then promptly ran back inside.

He got used to the outdoors, but Niko-- like his mom-- preferred the indoors.

No matter what he did, where he was, or his mood, Niko was beautiful.

RIP beloved Niko.  12-23-07 to 4-11-13

Thank you to family and friends who offered their prayers and love. 
To my parents for their continuous support during both cats' illnesses, as well as the flowers, coffee cakes, and letting me bawl on the phone. 
To my dear husband, who is feeling a pain even I can't imagine, for crying with me, hugging me, and holding me. For better or worse never held so true...
To my Cooper, who doesn't understand yet knows just when to shower us with love.
To God, for bringing this little blessing into our lives and teaching others that cats can be just as special and fun as dogs.

09 April 2013

Weekend Away: Photo Blog

This post is so so SO late. 

It's from November.

But I haven't posted since Saturday and I'm too mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted to write something insightful and original. We almost euthanized Niko today because he's sick with a mysterious illness that has stumped the doctors, can't afford anymore tests and procedures since we've had four months straight of major vet bills, but Niko did finally eat after 6 days of no food, 3 with no water. I also get the lovely job of injecting fluids into his back for the next ten days-- can I add "cat nurse" to my resume?!

So here we are with photos from our weekend "getaway" at the LAX Westin for the TAXI convention.  We could've commuted from the East side, but weekend traffic is stupid in LA and this, along with our Disneyland trips, is the closest we've gotten to a real vacation in six years. 

The Westin was a luxurious hotel with cable (a treat since we don't have channels) and a great restaurant called The Daily Grille. It has a Midwestern steakhouse-with-cloth-napkins vibe to it (if you're from the Midwest you'll know what I mean.... maybe), not to mention excellent food.

The palm trees made it feel a bit like a real vacation!!!

A taxi for the TAXI convention... get it?

Hotel lobbies are magical.

Gorgeous husband and a nice room!

The view.

Best spinach artichoke dip on the planet. Homemade strawberry lemonade.

The best quesadillas. Now I'm hungry.

We had two nights of live music from TAXI singer/songwriters.

A fabulous weekend.

04 April 2013


It's amazing how much of an impact scent has in our day to day lives, as well as affecting our choices. If food smells not quite right you avoid the dish altogether. Perfumes and colognes trigger memories. In my case, every time I smell Old Spice after shave it reminds me of my dad, TV dinners, babysitters, and Saturday nights as a kid. Every time I smell the Mr. Sketch green apple scented marker I think of my Oma's apartment and the old black and white photo of my Great Grandfather she had on her dresser.

So while today's post focuses on reviewing products with exceptional scents (or "ex-scentional" if you will), I encourage you to think, sniff, and reminisce about the smells in your life.

Lush: Easter Egg Hunt Soap

The scent from this hunk of fruity goodness is so strong that it basically doubles as an air freshener-- fine by me! My whole bathroom (okay so it's not very big) smells like a frickin' fruit salad: sweet and citrusy. Even though Easter Egg Hunt's description notes tones of raspberry, orange, lemon, and violet... I smell pineapple. The psychotherapist in me (I'm not one, I just pretend) says I'm projecting my desire to travel somewhere tropical.
Despite the strong aroma, Easter Egg Hunt is not overpowering on the skin and has a semi-creamy consistency that helps moisturize the skin. Let me be clear, there are more moisturizing soaps from Lush's product selection, but Easter Egg Hunt is fun and perfect for spring.

And just for a treat, here's what it looks like as an entire round:

Photo courtesy of Lush.com

Sultana Soap and Grass Shower Gel

While Lush's limited edition Snowcake Holiday Soap is my favorite to keep my skin soft, Sultana is the creamiest year round bar available. It's a bit fruity and floral, and oh so moisturizing. Have you tried Lush bar soaps? They're incredible.

Grass is aroma therapy in a bottle. It smells like freshly cut grass-- for realz-- and thanks to Neroli, is a mood lifter. Michael bought it for his dry skin since wheatgrass is nourishing, but after using it once in the shower he told me it really lifted his spirits. Then I read the bottle and realized-- BOOM!-- Grass makes you look and feel better.

Versace Signature Cologne & Eau Fraiche for Men

Who doesn't love a man who smells... like a MAN?! Except when you can smell that man a mile away because he marinated himself in Axe Body Spray. 
On a recent excursion to Sephora, we went scent hunting and Michael decided on two by Versace that we both loved. Did you know Sephora will give you perfume samples?! 
Versace Signature Cologne is a musky scent great for every day and driving the ladies (or men) crazy by just walking by. Versace Eau Fraiche has a darker scent for evening and getting a little sumthin' sumthin'

Acqua for Life by Giorgio Armani 

I fell in love with Acqua di Gioia two years ago when I did a scent profile at our Wisconsin Sephora. It's fresh, clean and-- even though it contains jasmine-- isn't overly floral. There's something so grown-up about perfume verses body spray, plus I love the longevity of it. It's nice having another option besides my favorite Elizabeth Arden Green Tea.

What perfume do you accent your looks with?  Is there a cologne your man wears that drives you the good kind of crazy??

01 April 2013

Shabby Apple Spoils

A couple weeks ago, my awesome friend Lori from both "real life" AND the Blog-o-sphere was hosting a $50 Shabby Apple Gift Card Giveaway over at her blog, A Little Slice of Special. Just so you know, she did not ask me to plug her blog, but you guys should seriously check it out: amazing makeup looks, awesome style and fashion finds, and healthy life motivation. Worth a read, people!

Because my readers are smart, you've already figured out that I won the prize-- THANKS LORI!!!!!-- and, like the self-obsessed blogging individual that I am, wanted to brag about share with you my spoils.

Shabby Apple has gorgeous vintage-y clothing, shoes, and accessories. Being the Plus-size lady that I am, clothes weren't an option. Not one to let my size get in the way of Style, I found a beautiful pair of earrings and gorgeous scarf.

I did go a bit over budget (I blame shipping) but the pieces were totally worth it.

This photo doesn't do the earrings justice. This one does.

My favorite-ist scarf ever. It looks more for decoration but trust me, it's warm.

I've been watching America's Next Top Model lately and learned all about squinting slightly to make your eyes look smaller and less frightening.

As you can see, fashion photos, poses, and expressions aren't my strong suit (and I need an effing haircut!), but I simply love the coloring of the items. And yes, I purchased this mint lace dolman top from Torrid, though I'm still in need of the perfect way to style it. Love the color!

Earrings: Sterling Silver Green Earrings

Thoughts on the pieces? My makeup? I used a Bare Escentials powder instead of foundation since it was warm. 

Happy April and I hope you all had a wonderful Easter!