The Last Puzzle: The Last Christmas, Shadow Island Mysteries (2010)

Merry Christmas!!!

So most of you are going:

No, I’m not crazy. I know that this is October, Horrorfest VIII. But I couldn’t help it as this film takes place during Christmas.

So last December I watched a Christmas film every day up to the 25th. They were films I owned, or found on youtube, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. This one I found on Amazon Prime and enjoyed it so much, I had to add it…and as this mystery takes place on Christmas Eve, I’m posting it on the 24th.

The Last Christmas

The La Foret family is lead by their Patriarch, the wealthy tycoon, Grandfather La Foret. Every year he brings his family together: his children Stuart, Margaret, and Jean; along with Stuart’s daughter Natasha, and Jean’s kids: Ian and Claire- to his island, Shadow Island, for the holidays, in which Grandfather would create these incredibly hard puzzles to be solved at midnight.

Mystery, you say?

But one Christmas, Jean refused to play, and when the family all met up at the end of the night, they found her dead. Drowned. After that there were no more family gatherings. The family further fractured with Claire leaving to Shadow Island, her grandfather’s resort, and writing mysteries; Natasha sleeping with her Aunt Margaret’s husband; Margaret divorcing and sinking even further into her alcoholism; Ian disappearing off the face of the earth; and Grandfather retreating to France.

It has been five years, and Grandfather has decided that he wants to have another Christmas get-together. He sends invites to all those that were at the last Christmas (point for title), and makes sure all are coming.

Claire (Jennifer Finnigan) is excited to have them all come, and starts setting up the house with her friend, and resort runner, Monica. The first to arrive is an extremely drunk Aunt Margaret-who tries to abscomb with the silverware and the silver candlestick. Claire stops Aunt Margaret as she likes the candlestick, and is sad there is only one. All I could think is

Foreshadowing!

I know that candlestick will become very important later, I can feel it.

Then Ian arrives, something Monica and Claire have been very excited for. Claire and her brother used to be very close, and she is puzzled why he has been silent for the last three years. Monica used to date him and is hoping to rekindle the flame.

Then we have Stuart and Natasha, which causes lots of fights as Margaret can’t stand to see the woman who cheated with her husband.

Then Grandfather arrives with his Italian doctor, Sergio Boniti. It turns out that this will be his last Christmas (2 points for title), as he is deathly sick and won’t be on the earth much longer. He has written a new will, and the winner of this year’s Christmas puzzle gets everything.

But this year’s puzzle is going to be extremely difficult and is called the Jean La Foret puzzle, in honor of her. You know what I’m thinking-she was murdered and it will be about solving the mystery of her death!!

Hmmm…

All they need is for the person to give the Italian doctor, the answer and they win all the money. If they do not solve it-then all his money goes to charity.

The game is afoot and as they are trying to solve the mystery…

But then Grandfather dies!

What?

Sergio calls the police and an ambulance, but encourages them to solve the puzzle-as until the police and EMTs arrive anyone can win. Once he is legally pronounced dead-no one gets the money.

Hurry!

The clues come out, accidents happen, someone takes a fall, and all are being watched…Then Claire discovers that Grandfather is not dead and Sergio is not a Doctor. Grandfather hired a private detective, Sergio, to look into the death of Jean. They believe her to be murdered and one of those on the Island being the murderer.

They have installed cameras throughout the resort, all the clues lead to the murder, and they are hoping one will confess as Grandfather needs the answer before he dies-he has to know. But which one is the murderer?

Hmm…

Stuart La Foret-Uncle Stuart is in investing and was in charge of Jean’s money. Jean discovered some funny business and was planning on pulling her funds out-and bringing to light his indiscretions. Did he murder her to protect himself and keep himself from being sent to jail?

Hmm…

Margaret La Foret- She and Jean have always fought about everything and everyone. That night they fought about Margaret’s husband, among other things. Could Margaret have killed her in a drunken rage?

Hmmm

Ian La Foret-Ian has always been a troublemaker and fought with his mom. These past few years he has been in jail for armed robbery. Did he kill her because she was bossing him around, or because he needed money and she wouldn’t give it to him?

Hmm…

Natasha La Foret-Natasha has never liked her aunt or her interference, and likes nice things and money. Could she have killed her aunt to protect her father’s business-and the money he gives her?

Hmm…

Then there is grandfather and Sergio-we know hardly anything about them…could there be more there?

Hmmm…

And what about Monica? She has crazy eyes and is obsessive about Ian. If his mother tried to break them up, could she have come on the island unbeknownst to anyone and taken care of her?

I really enjoyed it and I recommend it. It was a cute mystery and had a few twists and turns.

To start Horrorfest VIII from the beginning, go to Count Dracula the Propagator of This Unspeakable Evil Has Disappeared. He Must Be Found and Destroyed!: Horror of Dracula (1958)

For more Christmas movies, go to Once, There Was Even a Man Who Had Scissors for Hands: Edward Scissorhands (1990)

For more Amazon Prime picks, go to I Have a Dubious Reputation: The Notorious Landlady (1962)

For more films that feature a Candlestick, go to One Blow to the Head and the Deed is Done: Candlestick (2014)

They Look Like Regular People, So No One Except Us Knows They’re Monsters Inside.: R.I.P.D. (2013)

Until they pop, they look like regular people, so no one except us knows they’re monsters inside. You see, if you slip through the cracks, and stay on Earth after you die, your soul rots. They rot, the world rots. Global warming, black plague, bad cell reception, get it?

I was processing the new items for the library and I came across this film. This film is extremely memorable to me, not because I liked it-I actually couldn’t remember much about it-but because of what it symbolizes to me-friendship.

Yes, when this film came out I was dating someone, but I made time for my friends while was dating.

Yes, it seems like most people when they get in a new relationship throw their friends on the back-I, however, went to the movies when my friend Sarah wanted to go see this. As you can tell it really bugs me when people get in a relationship and drop everyone else.

I’m so angry!

Anyways, all I could remember of it was that and that I didn’t really care for it. Will I like it the second time?

Ugh, who green lighted this film? It was soooooooooooooooooooooooooo bad.

It was so awful!

Basically, Ryan Reynolds plays a dirty Boston cop, Nick, who stole gold from a crime scene. The guilt is eating at him, so he decides he will face up to it, but before he can, his unit gets called out on a drug bust with possible gunfire.

After they take care of everything, his partner Hayes, played by Kevin Bacon, shoots him in the face.

Ryan Nick is dead and wakes up on the other side. He was going to enter Heaven, but because of his actions, he has to work off time before he can be considered entering heaven. As he was a police officer in real life, he gets added to the RIPD staff-Rest in Peace Department.

That’s not good.

This reminds me a lot of Toothless, except Toothless was better. In Toothless the dentist was a good person but self-centered and never took time to do anything for anyone else. To work off her time in limbo she has to do the only job that she as a formal dentist can do-be the Tooth Fairy. So you really should get a job you will love as you might have to be doing that for the rest of eternity.

So Ryan Nick is the new one on the force and paired up with Roy, Jeff Bridges, who sounds as if he just went to the dentist. I don’t know if he was trying to emulate Sam Elliot or what, but his “accent” sounds soooooooooooo bad.

They have to recapture souls that are trying to stay on Earth, as when the soul rots it can destroy the world. They both go throughout Boston, but look different to people-this is so Ryan Nick can’t be disturbing his wife. When we have these scenes, they are the best parts of the movie.

This is my favorite part:

The rest of the movie is just meh as Ryan Reynolds really didn’t seem into his part. He kind of seemed to just be treading water.

Jeff Bridges went all in, but it wasn’t enough to save the film.

I wouldn’t!!

I’d give it a hard pass as it isn’t really worth your time, although Kevin Bacon does good as the villain.

Pass on it!

To start Horrorfest VIII from the beginning go to, Count Dracula the Propagator of This Unspeakable Evil Has Disappeared. He Must Be Found and Destroyed!: Horror of Dracula (1958)

For more ghosts, go to It Feels So Good to See the Bad Guys Scared for a Change: Hangman’s Curse (2003)

For more Kevin Bacon, go to Camp Blood: Friday the 13th (1980)

For more Nostalgia Critic, go to What the H*** Are You? I’m a Leprechaun, Me Dear: Leprechaun (1993)

Northanger Soapworks Review

So I’m sure many of you Austen fans are like me, you see something Austen related and you’ve just gotta have it.

I’m not quite sure how I came across Northanger Soapworks. It might have showed up on my feed based on other things I follow, someone might have reposted something, or (most likely) I started following it when I entered to win a copy of Rational CreaturesAll I know is I started following it, was hooked by the name (I adore Northanger Abbey), and loved the cute names/themes for each item! Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a sucker for that kind of thing.

Or book lovers

She has items that reference each Jane Austen book, just to name a few: Norland Autumn Soap and Music and Reading: A Sense and Sensibility Candle from Sense and Sensibility; Brighton on the Sea and Mr. Darcy Soap from Pride and Prejudice; A Fondness for Reading Candle and a Proper Wedding Soap from Mansfield ParkBlack Sheep and Donwell Abby Soap from Emma; The Black Veil Lip Balm and The Waters of Bath Soap from Northanger AbbeyAnne Elliot and Rational Creatures Soap from Persuasion; and more!

Wow!

And she has even branched out to do a Sherlock Holmes themed soap and has A Christmas Carol themed box that is only available through pre-order (so if you want it order today!) 

So of course it being Jane Austen, I wanted to review it-but that’s where I found myself stuck. Most of the time when I have ordered Austen-themed things, I review them and keep them or gift them-like the Babylit Austen series or Little Literary Classics.

But I couldn’t purchase a bar of soap, review it and then give it away.

But then if I bought a bar of soap for someone else, I’d have to make sure I was there to see it. And all the people who’s birthdays were all coming up, lived in other cities or states.

It’s a puzzle

I know you are thinking, “why not just buy it for yourself?” Well the problem is my skin.

Ugh!

If you have been following me, you know I have very sensitive skin. It is so sensitive I don’t even know half the things I am allergic to. Sometimes I am just going about my life and my skin gets irritated, hives break out, and next thing you know I’m scratching and breaking the skin.

Ugh!

Everything I use is hypoallergenic and scent-free-as it not only bothers my skin but I’m sensitive to scents (I have to keep antihistamines on me as some scents I have no issues with and others I can’t breathe). I cannot enter Bath and Beauty and nearly pass out if I have to cut through Macy’s perfume counter. When it comes to bath products I often feel like the Boy in the Plastic Bubble.

So I was resolved to wait until Christmas and gift it to someone who I can witness opening it and then have them tell me what they think.

But then I saw that Northanger Soapworks  was doing a rep search! You know me and free-I can’t resist, but I wasn’t sure if I should apply. What if something was sent to me and caused an allergic reaction?

Hmm…

After some hemming and hawing, I decided to enter the search, but make sure that they knew I was allergic. In the end, I didn’t end up being chosen. But I figured I would just go back to my original plan and order at Christmas for a friend (or two!).

Oh, well.

But then I was given a huge surprise when I was asked if I would be interested in getting a free something in exchange for an honest review.

I enthusiastically said yes. When asked what I was interested in, I told her send me whatever she wanted to, I didn’t want to make any extra trouble.

The package arrived quickly, too quickly, as I was in the middle of my Rational Creatures review and knew I couldn’t get to this post for a while. The package was in an adorable little box with a beautiful rose stamp on it.

I took a video of me opening it, but when I went to post it, it turned out that when I filmed it I had moved the phone and ended up filming nothing!

So the box came with a personalized note and card that were just beautiful!

Inside the box the item was wrapped in brown paper and muslin. And then when I opened it, I saw it was:

Yes, Mr. Darcy Bath Soap. I will let you all make your own jokes about Mr. Darcy in the bath with you:

So first of all I thought the soap was absolutely beautiful in green and cream with bronze running through it. It had the most beautiful little label that went around it and had a quote from Pride and Prejudice; along with a little information on Mr. Darcy:

“Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report…of his having ten thousand a year.” ~Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice.

“Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, wealthy and proud, is a catch beyond the the grasp of the average lady. Though he ultimately wins the heart of Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, countless readers fell in love with him as well and wish that he were still available.”

As to why it was designed that particular way:

“Mr. Darcy is rich to be sure, and many will never see anything more. The shimmering bronze and green top of this soap is meant to convey his grandeur and wealth. But beneath the glitz lies the white heart of our beloved hero, the heart that Elizabeth found and loved.”

I loved the way it looked and the label as I felt that made it perfect for any Austen-fan (who will adore it) along with non-Austen fans (who will get a clear picture of what and why it was made the way it was.)

So when I opened the package the smell, cinnamon and patchouli, was wonderful and strong-but not too strong. Cinnamon and patchouli are both things I have to be careful around as too much can create an allergic reaction, but this was just the perfect amount. It filled my bathroom and apartment (it is very small), but was not in a cloying or overpowering way, but the perfect added scent.

So it was absolutely beautiful, smelled wonderful-how did it react with my skin?

It was fantastic!!!! We had had a bit of change in the weather and my skin was drier than normal, but I  used this soap ad I felt great. NO itchiness, dry skin, hives, welts, nothing.

So I would say that this soap is something you should purchase for yourself or others. For an extremely reasonable price (I looked the whole site over), you get to support a small business, get a beautiful product (that works just as well as it is beautiful), and get an adorable Austen (or book-themed) item.

I already plan to purchase a minimum of two items for people on my Christmas list!

Don’t miss out, check the site out today!

Rational Creatures: Fanny Price & Mary Crawford

Rational Creatures edited by Christina Boyd

For those of you who might have missed the last post, Rational Creatures is an anthology of short stories on the different women of Jane Austen:

But just not the main heroines-there are a few other side characters like Miss Bates-and of course a couple of bad girls like Mary Crawford and Mrs. Clay. Each story gives us a look at these rational creatures.

So far we have reviewed Elinor and Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility with Self-Composed by Christina Morland and Every Past Affliction by Nicole Clarkston & Elizabeth Bennet and Charlotte Lucas from Pride and Prejudice in Happiness in Marriage by Amy D’Orazio and Charlotte’s Comfort by Joana Starnes & Emma Woodhouse, Miss Bates, and Harriet Smith from Emma in Knightley Discourses by Anngela Schroeder,The Simple Things by J. Marie Croft and In Good Hands by Caitlin Williams And what have I thought of it so far?

This one is on Mansfield Park:

If Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are often forgotten or ignored Mansfield Park is just plain hated on. Mostly because people think Fanny is “boring” and “spineless”.

But Fanny isn’t boring or spineless. Mansfield Park is a great book and Fanny is a fantastic character! Fanny is a sweet kind girl-niece to the Bertram family, and was sent to stay with them. Instead of being treated as family, she is seen as “less” because of the “bad blood” inherited from the low class, wastrel father her mother married down to.

She is particularly mistreated by her evil aunt and two cousins; all of which take pride in bossing her around and being as cruel as can be. Fanny is the essence of sweetness, taking this injustice in stride and trying to remain optimistic in a bad situation.

The life of the Bertrams are interrupted when a Mr. Henry Crawford and Miss Mary Crawford come to visit their half-sister Mrs. Grant. Mary is set on winning the eldest Bertram, but finds her being struck by the younger. Henry’s sole purpose is to upset the apple cart by going after the Bertram sisters for fun, but having no intent of follow through. Will the Bertrams survive this?

That is not good,

So Mansfield Park is in a unique position. I believe (not quite sure as I’d have to count them) Mansfield Park has the least amount of adaptations. Besides Dangerous to Know the only one I’ve looked at are the films. And I know a lot of people like it, but I could not stand the Mansfield Park (1999) film as they had no concept of Fanny.

Did you even READ the book?!

Fanny is a hard character as society today doesn’t seem to like or encourage this type of character, but want them to be more aggressive, flashy, or loud. So I was a bit anxious, would this go well or would they fall into the same trap?

The Meaning of Wife by Brooke West

We pick up in this story at the end of Mansfield Park. Fanny turned down Henry Crawford’s proposal and was sent home to live with her family as punishment. Then Tom became sick and almost almost died. Fanny was brought back to Mansfield Park. Henry ran off with Maria Bertram-Rushworth. Mary Crawford wished Tom would have died and didn’t see the scandal of Maria and Henry as a big deal so Edmund ended everything.

A lot of people think Mansfield Park is boring but it has quite a bit of action in it. Look at that summary.

Anyways, so Fanny and the Bertrams are hanging out one morning when Tom reads a letter about a friend’s sister who is going to Europe to study philosophy. He makes a snide comment and then Edmund chimes in with a compliment to Fanny, that actually insults her. WOW!

Dude just pulled a Barney Stinson:

“The backhanded compliment is truly an art form – the best will lower the intended target’s self esteem thus making them more susceptible to the power of suggestion.”

Fanny has been crushing on Edmund for years, although I honestly don’t know why. If I had to rank my favorite Austen men, Edmund is on the bottom. I am joyful that Fanny gets her true love, but I think she could have done better.

Nope!

Anyways, Edmund looks at her with ardor and Fanny should be happy, but he completely just insulted her, again. Ugh.

Seriously stop!

Fanny shares how she would enjoy such a trip that they discussed and then Edmund says:

“The journey alone would be well beyond your capabilities.”

Ouch! This dude.

The conversation at the table made Fanny think and wonder and she takes a look at the book they were skewering, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and enjoys it.

As Fanny finishes reading, Edmund comes to talk to her. He tries to console her over her heart being broken by Henry. Ugh, men. He won’t listen that she isn’t heartbroken.

But ugh, he won’t listen. He goes on for a while, talks about Mary who he has been mooning over, and then proposes.

He’s been my least favorite and West made him even more so.

Ugh!

So then the story takes a twist. Fanny refuses him!

But I wasn’t upset with this twist. West did this really well as Fanny considers whether or not this will be the best choice as does Edmund really know her? Does he really care about her? Or is she his rebound from Mary. I love how she has Fanny wanting to say yes, the thing she has wished for her whole life is in her grasp, but is it what she really wants?

Hmm…

This is where I was hooked in. I LOVED it. We have Fanny considering is this is what she wants? Will this lead to happiness or a marriage like her mother and aunts have? Could she be happy with Edmund? Should she search for happiness in another person? What does she want to do with her life?

West has set the standard really high for any Mansfield Park adaptations. She really captured the character of Fanny, put her own twist on it, showed how she was the powerful character she is without ripping off Elizabeth or changing her complete personality.

And the ending was so cute. You’ve got to read it. I actually liked Edmund and Fanny together and this whole story made me like him more. We don’t really see Edmund romantically in love with Fanny:

“I purposely abstain from dates on this occasion, that every one may be at liberty to fix their own, aware that the cure of unconquerable passions, and the transfer of unchanging attachments, must vary much as to time in different people. I only entreat everybody to believe that exactly at the time when it was quite natural that it should be so, and not a week earlier, Edmund did cease to care about Miss Crawford, and became as anxious to marry Fanny as Fanny herself could desire.”

-Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

So it was cute to see him actually romantic. So adorable.

“If an idea takes root in your mind and you find merit in it, then I am persuaded that idea too, is moral and right. Your endorsement is all I need.’ He [Edmund] set his book aside and took her hands in his. ‘You are all I need.”

Brooke West, The Meaning of Wife

For more by Brooke West, go to “Last Letter to Mansfield” from Dangerous to Know, Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues: MATURE

For more on Fanny Price, go to Austen Avengers Assemble!

What Strange Creatures by Jenetta James

Mary is living with her uncle, the Admiral. He is a cruel, horrid man and it has become more unbearable living with him since her aunt passed away. Anyways, it seems to be an ordinary day, until a magistrate from Bow Street, Mr. James Hunter, comes calling about her missing friend, Miss Verity Stanhope.

Gone Girl

Mary just laughs it off thinking that she probably ran off with some guy. She thinks they eloped and will be back, or took off and now have to elope. But Mr. Hunter assures her that this isn’t a “normal” disappearance. She is the third in a serial kidnapping.

What? A mystery? And a Jane Austen mystery?? You know me…

Mystery, you say?

So where will this story take us? Is she going to become a super sleuth? Will she solve the mystery? Could it be someone she knows? Henry? Her uncle, the admiral? A new character? I’m invested.

Ready for any case

He questions her, but there is no new information regarding her missing friend. Although Henry did leave early. And Verity always liked him. Hmmm….

Hmmm…

No, he has an alibi. It is clearly not him.

Mary keeps trying to shrug it off as an elopement as Verity was having a fortune coming her way, but Mr Hunter is not convinced. The two share a brief flirtation, and he is gone. A brief flirtation is all it could be as Mr. Hunter isn’t the type of man Mary is after.

The next morning Mary is at home with the Admiral, ugh. Things are harder with him now that her aunt has passed and Henry is away. She tells him about an invite they received, but he declines as he will be out. He always does that sort of thing, could he be up to something nefarious? Such as…kidnapping?

Hmmm

The admiral doesn’t care about her or what she does, she can go to the party by herself. And he doesn’t care about this Verity business, as he sees her as just a dumb female.

This guy!

Mary tries to stay away from the idea that it is more than just an elopement, but Mr. Hunter’s words keep coming back. She goes shopping and is enjoying herself, but then thinks how can she be happy and go out when something horrible could be happening to her friend?

“The loss of a person one loves, however so occasioned, can draw a line through happiness as surely as any of life’s misfortunes.”

She continues on her way and then she notices a carriage, it seems that wherever she goes the carriage follows. She goes, it goes. She stops, it stops.

She starts to become alarmed and wants to go into a shop when someone comes out…Mr. Hunter?

Huh?

He followed her?! Is he the kidnapper?

Yes, he followed her, but just because he was worried maybe she could be next. He wasn’t going to say anything, but she was about to go into the shop of Madam Villechamp, a place where all the women who disappeared went into before they vanished.

Mary never would have gone in there, (except she was being followed), as her aunt always forbid her. Her aunt didn’t like the shop. But Mary must know what is going on and so she makes an appointment. She goes to check it out and when the assistant is out of the room she starts investigating.

She goes through the correspondence and writings There she finds a letter from her uncle! Her uncle’s mistress is Madame Villechamp! And he wants her to move in with him.

She runs to Bow Street and talks to Mr. Hunter, and finds out that Verity was found, it was an elopement. Mary talks with him and leaves to start a new life, going to visit Mrs. Grant and entering the Bertram’s lives.

So…what about the missing women? Their disappearances? Serial kidnapper? What happened? I wanted to solve the mystery.

But that aside, I think Mary was very well-written and I liked how they showed her character. And I enjoyed the view into her dysfunctional family as it really does give a great view into their dynamic.

For more by Jenetta James, go to “The Lost Chapter in the Life of William Elliot” from Dangerous to Know, Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues: MODERATE

For more on Mary Crawford, go to Anna Karenina Made Me View Maria Bertram-Rushworth and Mary Crawford Differently

These stories were really great, even though I didn’t get to fully utilize my detecting skills.

Next time…it has been a while since a Bebris mystery.

 So we have had nine incredible stories. Will the next ones be just as good? I guess I’ll just have to wait and see! 🙂

For more reviews of Rational Creatures, go to Rational Creatures: Emma Woodhouse, Miss Bates, & Harriet Smith

For more by Christina Boyd, go to Rational Creatures: Emma Woodhouse, Miss Bates, & Harriet Smith

For more Mansfield Park, go to Once Upon a Time There Were Three Sisters…

For more Austen book reviews, go to Little Literary Classics Mansfield Park Cloth Book

Rational Creatures: Emma Woodhouse, Miss Bates, & Harriet Smith

Rational Creatures edited by Christina Boyd

For those of you who might have missed the last post, Rational Creatures is an anthology of short stories on the different women of Jane Austen:

But just not the main heroines-there are a few other side characters like Miss Bates-and of course a couple of bad girls like Mary Crawford and Mrs. Clay. Each story gives us a look at these rational creatures.

So far we have reviewed Elinor and Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility with Self-Composed by Christina Morland and Every Past Affliction by Nicole Clarkston & Elizabeth Bennet and Charlotte Lucas from Pride and Prejudice in Happiness in Marriage by Amy D’Orazio and Charlotte’s Comfort by Joana Starnes. And I loved them!!!!

This one is on Emma

Emma is the story of a girl who has been mistress of her house and doted on by her father. After her governess marries (a match she believes she put together) she becomes bored and intends on trying her hand at matchmaking. She pygmalions Harriet Smith as she plans to set her up with the new minister. Things do not go according to plan as her matches do not take hold and her “creation” takes a life of her own.

Oh Emma, some people hate her-others love her. With adaptaions, it has been a toss up for me. Half of them I have enjoyed, while the other half I haven’t liked how they portrayed Emma or Mr. Knightley. Emma is an interesting character and it can be hard really difficult to grasp who she is at the heart.

Then I saw that we had a Miss Bates storyline. That deeply interested me as I haven’t read anything from her point of view-and I was interested in how her constant chatter was going to be interpreted.

And then we have Harriet Smith. Were they going to make her silly, lonely, desperate, hopeful, or naive?

Well, I can’t wait!

Knightley Discourses by Anngela Schroeder

So all the other stories thus far in the anthology have all started at some point in Jane Austen’s tale and then taken the author’s own flavor, twists, and turns. This is the first that takes the story in a completely new direction, years after the original Emma story ended.

So the book starts off similar to Emma‘s beginning, except we have an Emma Knightley who is now 36 years old. She has been mistress of Donwell Abbey and Hartfield, until her father passed away a year ago, in which her sister Isabella and brother-in-law John took over the estate.

She has been so busy managing the estates, her father, marriage, children, etc. But now she is in a state of restlessness. One estate managed by her sister and brother-in-law, opens a lot of extra time. The children are managed by a nanny, her husband spending more time with his brother-in-law who has moved back.

She is feeling a little lost when she spots something that makes her remember the picnic on Box Hill all those years ago, and decides to go to visit Miss Bates. While she is visiting, she hears news from Jane (Fairfax) Churchill, all news that Jane already wrote her and read-until Miss Bates gets in a flurry over Jane’s acquaintance with the Winthrops.

Emma has locked on to this and after bugginginterrogating…asking others, she discovers that there was the possibility of something between a Mr. Winthrop and Miss Bates. With the Winthrops planning on visiting, Emma starts thinking…

Mr. Knightley tries to get Emma to promise to leave the two alone and she doesn’t plan to, but also doesn’t promise she won’t.

Emma and Knightley also have a cute scene when they talk about their marriage and about poor Jane Churchill who’s marriage is not happy at all-what with Frank Churchill doing his own thing, being away, and caring only about himself.

Slight pause on the story…I think it is AMAZING how the stories are written by two different authors, but the Frank Churchill storyline in Dangerous to Know, goes perfect with this one. Where that story ends is right where we pick up on Jane and Frank’s marriage.

Emma visits Mrs. Weston who drops a bomb on her. Mrs. Weston met Miss Winthrop, Mr. Winthrop’s brother, and she should be what Emma focuses her attention on-not matchmaking. Miss Winthrop is after Mr. Knightley.

Say what!

Yes, she was carrying on about how she and Mr. Knightley were engaged at one time and that if she hadn’t had to leave they’d have kids and ever grandchildren by now.

Forget you!

Emma feels okay and secure in her marriage, plus she’s much younger but then she meets Miss Winthrop, Miss Winthrop-always-gets-her-man-Sanchez. She’s a hunter and she’s after Mr. Knightley.

OMG! When I reached this part I was locked into this story. I had other things to do, but they were no longer important as I had to find out what happened next!

Argh, Miss Winthrop! She’s a maneater, we all know the type and an excellent villain. The perfect foil for Emma.

I loved this story. So far it has been my favorite as it captured the essence of Emma, presented the loved characters in a new, interesting, and adorable way (married Emma and Knightley are so cute). Plus women like Miss Withrop, they always get me going.

And I adored the friendship between Jane and Emma.

I HIGHLY recommend it, as I LOVED it!!!

I’d start early as you won’t want to stop.

You’ll notice that this is the one story I didn’t do a quote from, and that’s because I was reading so fast to finish it and find out what happened, I forgot to highlight.

For more on Emma Woodhouse, go to Call Me, Maybe: Austentatious (2015)

The Simple Things by J. Marie Croft

So first of all, reading Miss Bates in Jane Austen’s Emma always gave me a major headache. I loved her, felt for her, but the endless chatter made my brain hurt.

J. Marie Croft did a perfect, perfect, representation of her. You can tell she really studied Austen and the character and put her all into it.

But, while the character in Emma was annoying-Croft did an excellent job not making her chatter unbearable. She would go on when speaking to people, but didn’t continue this within her mind, or with her close friends.

Good job, this was not an easy feat.

We start the book off with Miss Bates turning down a Mr. Franklin as she doesn’t love him. Even though he could answer all their family money woes. She knows Mr. Franklin doesn’t want a wife, but a nanny/nursemaid/cook/cleaning woman/housekeeper/etc and is not interested in becoming a free servant.

“The sacred institution of matrimony is too often perverted, Patty. Perverted by men and women shackling themselves to a mate for whom they feel no special regard. No attachment. No affection. No ardent admiration. No that is not the life for me. I will not doom myself to a marriage of apathy, misery, or fear. I would rather live independently, if poor.”

As Mr. Franklin was the landlord, they have lost their home and will have to find another cottage. But Miss Bates refuses to be shackled to a man she does not love. This makes her think back to her first love.

Hmm…

This story was so cute and amazing in how it portrayed Miss Bates. We were able to see a new side of her-her touched by love, the care she had for her sister and best friend, her devotion as an aunt, I loved it. And how even through the suffering and the trials she goes through, she still remains an amazingly cheerful person.

“And yet she was a happy woman, and a woman whom no one named without good-will[sic].” –Emma, Jane Austen

Croft did an amazingly good job. An excellent read!

For more by J. Marie Croft, go to “The Art of Sinking” from Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues

For more on Miss Bates, go to Should We Pity Miss Bates or Strive to Be Her?

In Good Hands by Caitlin Williams

This story picks up after Emma tried to match Harriet up with Mr. Elton, and failed.

Then Emma thought Harriet was into Frank Churchill and tried pushing them together-but that failed.

Harriet tried to get with Mr. Knightley and that failed.

Harriet and Emma’s friendship broke up. And Mr. Knightley and Emma got engaged.

Poor Harriet Smith and to top it off-she has a horrible toothache. Emma arranges for her to go to London, and stay with the Knightleys, while she sees the dentist. Harriet is exuberant as she wants to get away from it all and her embarrassment over what has happened.

So embarressed

Harriet tells Isabella what happened-all of it from Mr. Martin to Mr. Elton to Mr. Knightley. Isabella feels for her and has her stay longer, as Harriet is a great help with the children. Harriet is trying to figure our what to do next (and how to keep from returning to her embarrassment) when Robert Martin comes walking in.

Harriet is embarrassed, tongue-tied, and a little scared at what to do or say.

“Now the pretty decorated timepiece felt like an enemy, a thief robbing her of the opportunity to say something meaningful to Robert Martin before he went.”

Will this be just more embarrassment to pile on, or a second chance?

You know I really like this choice. I like the view into Harriet, her resolution to improve herself, and that we get to see how the two get together. Plus Mr. Knightley sent him, Mr. Knightley is matchmaking. So adorable!

I loved how Harriet was written as well. She wasn’t desperate or dumb, but she was a pleasant, sweet girl, a pinch lonely and unexperienced.

For more by Caitlin Williams, go to “Death of a Bachelor” from The Darcy Monologues: Part I, The Regency

For more on Harriet Smith, go to Emma (1996) AKA the Kate Beckinsale Version

These stories were just as great at the others, especially the Emma one.

 So we have had seven stupendous and striking stories. Will the rest be just as good? I guess I’ll just have to wait and see! 🙂

For more reviews of Rational Creatures, go to Rational Creatures: Elizabeth & Charlotte

For more by Christina Boyd, go to Rational Creatures: Elinor & Marianne

For more Emma, go to Austen Avengers Assemble!

For more Austen book reviews, go to Little Literary Classics Mansfield Park Cloth Book

Green Tea Frappuccino

So I know some of you are thinking…uh didn’t you say you were going to resume reviewing Rational Creatures?

You are all 100% right. However, this weekend I left the hot three digit heat to visit my friend in cool, comfortable degree weather-San Jose.

I was hoping to have the next installment of Rational Creatures ready but it’s isn’t and I don’t want to post a lackluster review for a book that I have been enjoying. So instead I thought I would pause and share a yummy tea recipe that will help you beat this summer (it’s not fall in California until October) heat.

This recipe comes from my sister blog, MysteriousEatsand is a way to make a homemade Green Tea Frappuccino which stars one of my favorite teas:

So I mentioned in Matcha, Matcha, Matcha that my niece and I would go on these faux-around the world trips. One day she wanted to go to Japan so I planned a trip around town and then we ended the day with the tea ceremony. As I had leftover Matcha and I love the Starbucks Green Tea Frappuccino-it was a no brainer to use my sister blog’s recipe and make my own.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup of Ice Cubes (Less than 10)
  • 1 Scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream
  • 1 Cup of Milk
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 Teaspoon of Sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons of Matcha Green Tea Powder
  • 1/8 Teaspoon of Vanilla or Vanilla Extract
  • Xanthan Gum (Optional)
  • Whipped Cream (Optional)

Directions:

  1. Add all the ingredients in a blender.
  2. Pulse and blend on high until thorough.
  3. Add whipped cream if you want.

greenteafrap

It’s absolutely delicious!

For more tea posts, go to I Won the Regency Marketplace Giveaway

For more Mysterious Eats recipes, go to Cheese Round

For more recipes, go to Matcha, Matcha, Matcha

For more Jane Austen quotes, go to Rational Creatures: Elizabeth & Charlotte

Rational Creatures: Elizabeth Bennet & Charlotte Lucas

Rational Creatures edited by Christina Boyd

For those of you who might have missed the last post, Rational Creatures is an anthology of short stories on the different women of Jane Austen:

But just not the main heroines-there are a few other side characters like Miss Bates-and of course a couple of bad girls like Mary Crawford and Mrs. Clay.

Each story gives us a look at the ladies we love (or hate).

The last post was on Elinor and Marianne Dashwood from Sense and SensibilitySelf-Composed by Christina Morland and Every Past Affliction by Nicole Clarkston. And I LOVED both of them!

This one will be on Elizabeth Bennet and Charlotte Lucas from Pride and Prejudice. 

Pride and Prejudice is the story of a mother wanting to marry off her daughters, as with their father’s death they will have very little-but the story is more than that. It deals with the concepts of pride and prejudice, first impressions, whether you should be overt in how you feel or play it close to the heart, etc. It has amazing wit and characters.

So Elizabeth is a character that has been adapted again and again. Some have been very good and some have been only okay, and a few have been just awful. To read the ones I have reviewed you can check out this post and this one.

Charlotte on the other hand, I have yet to read anything that just focuses on her. When I saw that, I got very excited. I always thought Charlotte was an interesting character-seen as plain but very intelligent and cunning. 

Happiness in Marriage by Amy D’Orazio

The story starts off November 1811, right before the Netherfield Ball, Jane coming up with an idea to do Lizzie’s hair, and like every good sister-wants to try it out before the actual day of the ball. Elizabeth and Jane are talking, when Elizabeth says that she is going to accept Mr. Collins if he proposes.

I was reading this on my lunch break and actually starting choking on my food. WHAT THE HECK DID I JUST READ? I had to read it again!

What the heck!

Reading it again did nothing-the words stayed the same. Oh My Goodness!!! All I could feel was:

I was always interested in the story, but after reading that line, I was super invested. I don’t care how much time is left on my lunch I AM FINISHING this story, right here right now.

I’m just going to stop for a quick moment and go on a side note here…I personally think that it is hard to write a new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, just because there are so many out there. I have personally reviewed over thirty-and that’s like a drop in the bucket of all the different variations out there.

I mean you really have to think of a different hook, a new view, something unique to set you apart and D’Orazio did that. How she writes this is not for shock value, but she puts a completely different spin on it. Typically we see Elizabeth instantly not liking Mr. Collins and never considering marrying him-but having her think about it, showing how she would sacrifice herself for her sisters-I liked it. We see how much she loves her sisters, especially Jane, I think it fits her character to consider even for a moment if it would protect the people she loves. It made me think of Jane Austen herself. At one time she did become engaged to a man who’s wealth would have solved all the financial issues, but in the end broke it off.

Hmm…

Anyways, the two girls talk as they prepare, and I love their conversations, they sound like real sisters discussing sisterly things.

The two move on to discuss their parent’s marriage and I really loved this passage. True, most women in Regency times didn’t marry for love and often, as Charlotte Lucas says

“happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance…It is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life…”

But I like that they discuss it and think about it. Most people view their parent’s relationship as either a guide to how to be or how we desperately don’t want to be. I like how they also look at their aunts’ and uncles’ relationships.

And I love how she wrote Jane. Jane of course doesn’t like Mr. Collins either- and is about to talk smack about him, but can’t:

“Jane hesitated by her natural inclination to approve of everyone said, ‘Of course, as a clergyman, Mr. Collins is always due respect.”

The girls talk some more, Elizabeth sharing the list she made of her perfect guy, here it is:

  • Tall
  • Dark-Haired
  • Intelligent
  • Likes to Read
  • Is good to his family and mine
  • Likes to walk and be outdoors
  • Has a good sense of humor

Okay, just to put a pause on this. Maybe this isn’t as weird as it felt when I was reading this, but no joke I made a list of my perfect guy when I was a tween and this is an exact replica.

Speaking of which, I don’t remember what I did with it. It was in a shoebox under my bed but I lost it when we moved. Did you..did you find it?

Nah, I’m sure many of us had the same list, which made me love it even more!

The ball comes and goes and then we cut to Elizabeth visiting CHarlotte and Mr. DArcy joining her on her walks and I love the wit of D’Orazio, I think Jane would be proud.

They continue on to the second proposal of Mr. Darcy and when they are engaged. The whole story is cute fun, with an adorable ending, like when drinking a cup of tea and it warms you. This story just warms your heart. I loved it!

For more by Amy D’Orazio, go to “For Mischief’s Sake” from Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues 

For more on Elizabeth Bennet, go to Call Me, Maybe: Austentatious (2015)

Charlotte’s Comfort by Joana Starnes

So Charlotte has married Mr. Collins and is happy in the home. She likes her gardens, the kitchen, the parsonage. But she does not care for Lady Catherine and all her opinions, in which Mr. Collins implements them right away.

But she is happy, spending most of her time alone. She does miss her family and friends, but she is content in what she has.

Time passes and her father, Sir Lucas, sister Maria, and Elizabeth come to visit. Of course, when they come-Mr. Darcy does too, and Charlotte sees what is going on with him and surprised to see him not propose.

Or the face you give your friend when the person crushing on them comes in the room.

Of course when he does propose-Lady Catherine brings hellstorm upon them. I find this extremely interesting as I’ve never really thought about what happened on that end. I mean you read about Lady Catherine being unhappy, Darcy and Elizabeth in love and so happy, and Jane is going to marry Bingley-I never considered how Lady Catherine would treat the Collinses or blame them. Which is true. I could definitely see her blaming Mr. Collins for his cousin and Charlotte for her friend.

Lady Catherine in this makes me think if Greek gods in mythology-you want them to not like you or give you notice as bad things will happen-but you also don’t want them to dislike you as bad things will happen.

Charlotte and Mr. Collins attend the weddings of Jane & Bingley and Darcy & Elizabeth. Charlotte is also pregnant, and eager for the child, but she finds a new emotion putting a damper on her happiness. She sees the way Elizabeth and Darcy look at each other and for the first time envies her friend, wishing she had someone to love her like that.

Lady Catherine calls Mr. Collins home early and he is thrown from his horse-dead.

At first I was surprised , but then I realized this was called Rational Creatures, so of course it made sense that Mr. Collins had to exit it.

Sorry!

From there Charlotte has to return home, where she gives birth to a son, naming him William. She named him after her father, but of course Mr. Collins shared the same name. Which for a second I was a bit surprised, I forgot he had one. LOL

Mr. Bennet loves little William just as much as his grandpa does, and even Mrs. Bennet does even though she was determined to hate him. But Charlotte doesn’t stay there, instead she goes to visit the Darcys and remains with them. And while there, is there is a possibility of love, real love?

I thought this story was also really cute, especially the ending. Another sweet one.

For more by Joana Starnes, go to “Willoughby’s Crossroads” from Dangerous to Know, Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues: MODERATE

I really liked both these stories and I and thought they were cute and romantic.

I loved that Charlotte finally got her spot in the limelight.

So far all four stories have been fantastic, which gives me a strong feeling I’m going to like the rest, but I guess I’ll just have to wait and see! 🙂

For more reviews of Rational Creatures, go to Rational Creatures: Elinor & Marianne

For more by Christina Boyd, go to Five Jane Austen Adaptations That Should be Turned Into a Film or TV Show

For more Pride and Prejudice, go to I Wrote Mr. Darcy a Letter