Wednesday, June 29, 2016

FREE 14 Day Trial Is Now Available for the Odyssey Adventure Club!


Think of ways you can enjoy this summer for free:
  • Hiking
  • Visiting parks in your area
  • Swimming
  • Camping in your backyard
  • Visit a public museum or library
Now, add more fun and imagination to your summer through the Odyssey Adventure Club!

The Odyssey Adventure Club will give you streaming access to more than 800 Adventures in Odyssey episodes plus a sneak peek of exclusive audio and video stories, on-line activities and daily devotions you can’t find anywhere else.

Start a free 14-day trial for your family today and make the summer even more fun!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Free Clubhouse Magazine Trial


Try 3 issues of the Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse® (ages 8-12) OR Clubhouse Jr.® (ages 3-7) magazine for free!

Created with kids in mind, Focus on the Family offers a world of fun and imagination through short stories, jokes, puzzles, and games as well as recipes and activities to do as a family. Plus, what child doesn’t like mail? Your child will enjoy getting this entertaining magazine each month in the mail.

Click here to sign up for the free Clubhouse® magazine trial.

Click here to sign up for the free Clubhouse Jr.® magazine trial.

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Grow Your Child's Faith This Summer!

Now is the time to make sure your kids have the greatest adventure this summer with more than 800 Adventures in Odyssey episodes and non-stop listening fun! Sign up for the Odyssey Adventure Club today for just $9.99 per month at

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Review & Giveaway: The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet by Caitlin Williams

The very worst has happened. Mr Bennet has died, leaving his wife and five young daughters bereft. The family estate, Longbourn, is now lost, entailed away and fifteen year-old Elizabeth Bennet is to go two hundred miles away to live with strangers. George Darcy, repaying a debt of gratitude, has offered to take her to Pemberley, to live under the mantle of his care and be raised alongside his own daughter, Georgiana.

But on the day she is to leave Longbourn forever, young Elizabeth, grieving and confused, runs off into the Hertfordshire countryside. Fitzwilliam Darcy gives chase, telling his father he will have her back in an hour or two. Luck and fate, however, are not on his side and capturing Elizabeth Bennet turns out not only to be more difficult than he could ever have imagined, but events conspire to turn her little adventure into his worst nightmare.

The prideful man and the girl prejudiced against him, meet much earlier in this rethinking of Jane Austen’s masterpiece. Elizabeth grows up under the ever-watchful eye of Mr Darcy, from fifteen to twenty-one. She errs and falters, there are stumbles and trips, but could this ‘disobedient little hellion’ one day become mistress of Pemberley and the keeper of his heart? 

For those of us in the adult population, we were all teenagers at one time.  For many, those were tumultuous years, full of self-discovery and the beginnings of independent thinking.  Much to our parents’ consternation, we may have presented more than a few challenges as we made our way through the process of maturing. Such is family life, and such is the situation that the Darcy family finds themselves in when a very young Elizabeth Bennet comes to live at Pemberley at the tender age of fifteen, in this Pride and Prejudice variation, The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet by Caitlin Williams.  In Jane Austen’s original story, Elizabeth meets the Darcy family (and specifically Fitzwilliam Darcy) at the age of 20, when she had reached a certain level of self-knowledge and maturity. In Williams’ work, young Lizzy has much to learn in that regard.

The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet spans approximately six years, wherein we are treated to the development of Miss Bennet as she unexpectedly goes to live at Pemberley after the death of her father. Unlike in Pride and Prejudice, going to this grand home is not a happy occasion for her.  Not only is Lizzy enduring a great loss, but she must also say farewell to her home and the rest of her family as well.  These events were put in motion by her father’s last wishes, in an effort to see that she would be well taken care of by his old friend, George Darcy, father of Georgiana and Fitzwilliam.  She fights going to the Darcy home so forcefully, events are put into motion that will change her life and the lives of the Darcy’s forever.

Caitlin Williams has produced quite an epic tale in her latest work.  While Elizabeth may not travel far from Pemberley or London in this lengthy and enjoyable novel, as readers we are taken on quite a journey through time and Elizabeth’s development over the years.  At the outset of the story, Lizzie almost reminded me of author Winston Graham's Demelza Poldark, in her scrappy, unrefined behavior, determined to be a contrarian almost wherever she went.  Unlike Demelza in Poldark however, she is not as grateful for the opportunity to be living with her new family, and she certainly doesn’t entertain any romantic notions toward young Darcy, who is approximately 6 years her senior.  In truth, I found her somewhat exasperating and a bit of a brat, nothing like the composed, well-spoken Lizzy we’re used to seeing.  But this underdeveloped Lizzy is realistic.  She’s a teenager.  She’s grieving her father and loss of freedom.  In many ways, she’s quite a mess.  (Perhaps the rankling I felt came from my own feelings as the parent of a teenager…?)

One of the few things I didn’t enjoy was the amount of time that Fitzwilliam Darcy spent away from Pemberley.  He was frequently absent on business, often for more than a year.  He did have business to attend to, but he was avoiding Lizzy as well.  As such, she spends more time with the elder George Darcy, Georgiana, and cousin Richard “Colonel” Fitzwilliam. Each time young Darcy returns home, he finds her somewhat altered, more mature with each year gone by.  She resents him greatly for being a part of her new existence, for his judgmental attitude and his propensity to order her around.  For the majority of the novel, they simply do not get along.  While their animosity wasn’t a problem for me, I would have enjoyed seeing them spend more time together over the years.

That being said, Williams’ writing during Darcy’s years away was still very captivating.  She held my attention very well, and I never labored with the pages that didn’t include Darcy.  There was plenty of material for her to work with, not the least of which was the emergence of Mr. Wickham, Fitzwilliam Darcy’s nemesis.  While he doesn’t pull his usual antics with Georgiana as he does in the original Austen work, he wreaks plenty of havoc while present with us in the narrative.  And like in the source material, Elizabeth does get taken in by him to some extent.  Readers will have to discover how far he goes in his efforts to bring mayhem to the Darcy clan.

Of course romantic elements do come into play before long.  This wouldn’t be much of an Austenesque novel if they didn’t!  I enjoyed the romantic tension that was eventually brought into the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth, so much so that I wish those chapters had gone on longer.  I was enjoying the book so thoroughly, I longed for the story to continue into Lizzy’s 22nd year and beyond.  Williams provided tantalizing romantic details without being overly steamy, and I truly appreciated that.  While I wouldn’t recommend this title to very very young readers, it’s one of the more family-friendly Austenesque novels I’ve read in recent years.  The marriage bed is honored, and we are still given a bit excitement as well.

The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet was a delight to read and is a quality work.  This is my first foray into Caitlin William’s writing, and I look forward to reading more of her.  She honors the spirit of Austen’s characters very well, and provides an entertaining read for modern audiences.  This Janeite and parent of a teenager gives a hearty seal of approval!

About the Author

Caitlin Williams lives in Kent, England, with her family. She fell in love with all things Regency as a teenager, but particularly admires the work of Jane Austen and the way she masterfully combines humour and romance, while weaving them through such wonderful stories and characters.

Pride and Prejudice is Caitlin’s favourite novel and she finds Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet so deliciously entertaining that she likes to borrow them from Ms Austen and enjoys the challenge of putting them in different places and situations.

Her debut novel, Ardently, was written as a hobby, usually with her laptop balanced on the kitchen worktop, typing with one hand, a glass of wine in the other, while she also attempted to cook dinner and keep her children from killing each other. The success of Ardently was as much a surprise to her, as it was to anyone else, and she has been thrilled and genuinely thankful for the positive responses and reviews it generated.

Her second novel, The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet, is a portrait of a much younger Elizabeth, who is thrown into an extraordinary set of circumstances due to the premature death of Mr Bennet, and she hopes you all enjoy it very much.

Connect with Caitlin Williams


Caitlin Williams, author of the highly-praised book, Ardently, tours the blogosphere from June 13- June 26, 2016 to share her newest release, The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet. Fourteen book bloggers, specializing in Austenesque fiction and romance stories, will share excerpts, guest posts, an exclusive interview with the author and book reviews from this highly awaited Austen-inspired novel. Eight ebooks are also being included in our giveaways and entry is available to anyone who participates in this blog tour.

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Blog Tour Schedule

June 13/ My Jane Austen Book Club/Launch Post & Giveaway

June 14/ So Little Time... / Book Excerpt & Giveaway

June 15/ Just Jane 1813/An Exclusive Interview with Caitlin Williams

June 16/ Pemberley to Milton/Book Review & Giveaway

June 17/ Margie's Must Reads/ Book Excerpt & Giveaway

June 18/ The Calico Critic/Book Review & Giveaway

June 19/ Babblings of a Bookworm/“The Education of a Young Lady” Guest Post & Giveaway

June 20/ Half Agony, Half Hope/Book Review

June 21/ More Agreeably Engaged/ Book Review & Giveaway

June 22/ My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice /Book Excerpt & Giveaway

June 23/ Liz's Reading Life / “A Nod and A Wink to Austen” Guest Post & Giveaway

June 24/ Diary of an Eccentric/Book Review

June 25/ Laughing With Lizzie/ “The Young Master” Guest Post & Giveaway

June 26/ A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life/ “A Most Scandalous” Guest Post


Only $4.99 on Kindle! 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Make Your Children World Explorers


Give your family summer vacation a makeover this year and turn it into a "staycation." Have your kids forget their summer boredom, turn off their screens, and instead circle the globe with Focus on the Family's "World Explorers" summer adventure kit!

Throughout the next two months, travel our colorful, diverse world, visiting 27 different countries on six continents. Part of the fun will be figuring out where the next stop is, using five clues that reveal interesting facts about the next country. Once you've determined where you're going, use the games, activities and faith lessons to give your kids a glimpse into that country's unique culture.


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Don’t Be Bored This Summer!

Now is the time to make sure your kids have the greatest adventure this summer with more than 800 Adventures in Odyssey episodes and non-stop listening fun! Sign up for the Odyssey Adventure Club today for just $9.99 per month at

Monday, June 13, 2016

Book Review & Giveaway : Love & Friendship by Whit Stillman

Whit Stillman has taken Austen’s never-finished epistolary novella, Lady Susan, reimagined it as a straight narrative, and added the hilarious new character of Rufus, Susan’s apologist nephew, who aims to clear Susan’s good name come hell or high water (even if he is doing it from "the ignoble abode" of debtors’ prison ). Despite many indications to the contrary, Rufus insists that Susan is, “the kindest, most delightful woman anyone could know, a shining ornament to our Society and Nation.” Rufus then appends his earnest tale with a collection of his aunt’s letters, which he claims have been altered by Austen to cast the estimable Lady Susan in a bad light.

Impossibly beautiful, disarmingly witty, and completely self-absorbed, Lady Susan Vernon, is both the heart and the thorn of Love & Friendship. Recently widowed, with a daughter who’s coming of age as quickly as their funds are dwindling, Lady Susan makes it her mission to find them wealthy husbands——and fast.

But when her attempts to secure their futures result only in the wrath of a prominent conquest’s wife and the title of “most accomplished coquette in England,” Lady Susan must rethink her strategy.

Unannounced, she arrives at her brother-in-law’s country estate. Here she intends to take refuge——in no less than luxury, of course——from the colorful rumors trailing her, while finding another avenue to “I do.” Before the scandalizing gossip can run its course, though, romantic triangles ensue.

With a devoted Austenian sensibility and absurd theological commentary, filmmaker and writer Whit Stillman ingeniously reimagines and completes one of our greatest writers’ unfinished works. As much homage to its muse’s perennial influence as testament to its author’s brilliance, Love & Friendship is a sharp comedy of manners, and a fiendishly funny treat for Austen and Stillman fans alike.

Love & Friendship
brings a healthy helping of scandal, along with lots of laughs, to Georgian and Victorian London. Whit Stillman has also created a film version of Love & Friendship, starring Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny, opened in select theaters on May 13th.

Like many fans of Jane Austen, I’m happy to see most Austenesque films come to the cinema (with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies being an exception).  When I learned of Whit Stillman’s cinematic and literary adaptations of Austen’s Lady Susan, I was thrilled!  Ashamedly, I’d never read the original epistolary novel and set about tending to that task straightaway.  As it was an unfinished work, I don’t know that Jane intended for this version to be the final edition, so I wasn’t entirely surprised when I was not overcome with enjoyment of this title.  I found it odd and sometimes hard to follow.  That being said, I’m glad to have read it, and especially glad to be somewhat familiar with the source material before taking in Stillman’s version, Love & Friendship.

In this new publication, the novel is a short piece of about 150 pages, followed by a reprint of Austen’s original work.   I actually began reading on page 155, wanting to read Lady Susan first, as mentioned. In addition to her text, Stillman has supplemented it with commentary from “Rufus”, a nephew who is bound and determined to rebut almost everything that “the spinster authoress” Austen has to say about Lady Susan Vernon.  Stillman’s character in a sense is “real”, and Austen has done a “libelous” work in besmirching the also “real” Lady Susan.  It’s an interesting literary device that is ripe for humor and amusement.

After reading Austen’s words with Stillman’s commentary from “Rufus”, I went on to read Love & Friendship.  How amusing this story is!  In a Facebook post I referred to Lady Susan as a “hot mess”, and that she is!  Gloriously beautiful despite her advanced age (!) of the mid-30’s, she is also hopelessly prolific in all of her manipulative ways.  She has had more than one man wrapped around her little finger in her time, and she knows how to handle them in such a way to get what she wants.  She has her enemies, but there are also many who fawn over her in admiration.  She claims to adore her daughter Frederica, but she seems more concerned about either having her away or marrying her off as soon (and as well as) possible. The widow Lady Susan’s main interests seem to lie in continuing to live in the luxury to which she had become accustomed prior to her husband’s death, and ensuring the security of her daughter as well.  At the same time, she loved to skirt the lines of propriety, having a reputation for being an outrageous flirt, to both bachelor and married men alike.  The dance that she seemed to be performing in society was occasionally dizzying, and I marveled at the characters as they spun around her, sometimes completely unaware of her maneuverings.

I found myself highlighting a number of passages in this amusing tale, and I just have to share some of them:

“Partial truth is Falsehood’s most potent bodyguard.”

“Perhaps we all have a spinster authoress in our lives, even if just that inner demon which mocks and denigrates all we do.”

“That’s the parent’s lot! We bring these delightful creatures into the world-- eagerly, happily-- and then before long they are spying upon and judging us, rarely favourably. Having children is our fondest wish but, in doing so, we breed our acutest critics. It is a preposterous situation-- but entirely of our own making...Of course when the little ones are very small there's a kind of sweetness which partially compensates for the dreadfulness which comes after..."

“Among the habitually malicious, kindness and gentility are often mistaken for simple-mindedness.”

“’Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.’ No, not at all, it is not the sincerest. That would be mocking contempt and physical battery—a lesson I learned, rather painfully, over a number of years.”  (I don’t agree with all of these quotes—I just find many of them incredibly amusing in some of their absurdities.

“Those who fall from virtue first cause injury, then cast blame.”

“This often happens: The individual who identifies a truth earlier than others is then bitterly mocked by those attached to erroneous convention.”

These are just a few moments of Whit Stillman’s wit that I enjoyed very much.  His writing is clear, yet seems very faithful to the tone of other 19th century authors like Austen.  He has taken her writing and turned it on its ear somewhat, but he has done a masterful work.  I encourage readers to follow my lead—read Lady Susan first, and then enjoy what Stillman has done with his retelling. While short and sweet, Love & Friendship was a delight, and I eagerly anticipate viewing the cinematic version as well.  Oh to see the lovely Kate Beckinsale in this delicious role—I can only imagine how fun this will be!

About the Author

Whit Stillman was born in Washington, D.C., and attended Harvard, where he was an editor of the Harvard Crimson before working in book and magazine publishing. He has written and directed five films, including the award-winning Metropolitan, Barcelona, The Last Days of Disco, and Damsels in Distress, as well as the TV show The Cosmopolitans. His first novel, The Last Days of Disco, won the 2014 Prix Fitzgerald. He has written for the Wall Street Journal, Harper's, The Guardian, Vogue, and other publications. Visit his unofficial website for updates on this latest Amazon series The Cosmopolitans, and follow him on Twitter as @WhitStillman and on Facebook.

Award winning writer-director-filmmaker Whit Stillman tours the blogosphere June 13 through June 24, 2016 to share his latest release, Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen's Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated. Thirteen popular book bloggers—card carrying Jane Austen fans one and all—will feature interviews, book excerpts and reviews of this highly acclaimed novel. A fabulous giveaway contest, including hardcopies of the book will be open to those who join the festivities.  


June 13        AustenBlog (Interview)
June 14        The Calico Critic (Review)              
June 15        Diary of Eccentric (Excerpt)  
June 16        Laura's Reviews (Review)
June 17        My Jane Austen Book Club (Review)
June 17        Confessions of a Book Addict (Excerpt)          
June 20        Austenesque Reviews (Review)
June 20        Austenprose (Interview)          
June 21        So Little Time…So Much to Read (Excerpt)
June 21        Luxury Reading (Review)          
June 22        Just Jane 1813 (Review)                  
June 23        Savvy Verse & Wit (Excerpt)          
June 24        Austenprose (Review)          


In celebration of the release of Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen's Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated, Mr. Stillman’s publisher, Little, Brown & Co has kindly offered a chance to win one of three hardcover copies of the book!

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on the The Love & Friendship Janeite Blog Tour starting June 13, 2016 through 11:59 pm PT, June 30, 2016. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Austenprose on July 1, 2016. Winners have until July 07, 2016 to claim their prize. Shipment is to US addresses. Good luck to all!

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Adventures in Odyssey Summer Challenge 2016

This summer, you can join Adventures in Odyssey’s Clubhouse Magazine and help children in the Middle East go to school and learn English. It’s Adventures in Odyssey's Clubhouse Magazine Exercise to Educate summer challenge!

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The Problem

Nearly 7,000 miles away from the United States, there's a war going on in the country of Syria. Many families have been forced from their homes. Parents have had to leave their jobs, and children have had to leave behind toys and friends.

Many of these families now live in refugee camps in nearby countries. They have tents instead of houses. Clean water is hard to come by. This war has put 2.6 million children out of school – some for more than four years already.

The Solution

Our friends at Focus on the Family Middle East know many families who don't have the money to buy a school uniform and pay for their children to go to school. They also know people who would love to teach children English in local churches.

You may not have a lot of money to help, but you probably have time, energy and excitement. Here's what you can do:

1. Go to to
2. Print a sponsor sheet and exercise to earn points. You can do it for a week or the whole summer – just remember, the more you exercise, the more points you'll earn!
3. Ask your family and friends to sponsor your efforts.
4. Beginning in July, tell us how you did and receive a digital bundle from your friends at Adventures in Odyssey and Focus on the Family. The deadline to submit your information is August 31, 2016. 

For participating and submitting your information, you will get a free Adventures in Odyssey episode from Album 51. You will also get 101 Surefire Ways to Strengthen Your Child's Faith – eBook and the audio book of Imagination Station #1, “Voyage with the Vikings.” Make the most of your summer—exercise for your health and help other kids in need while you do!

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Don’t Be Bored This Summer!

Now is the time to make sure your kids have the greatest adventure this summer with over 800 Adventures in Odyssey episodes and non-stop listening fun! Sign up for the Odyssey Adventure Club today for just $9.99 per month at

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Book Review: Dawn at Emberwilde by Sarah E. Ladd

Isabel Creston never dared to dream that love could be hers. Now, at the edge of a forest filled with dark secrets, she faces a fateful choice between love and duty.

For as long as she can remember, beautiful and free-spirited Isabel has strained against the rules and rigidity of the Fellsworth School in the rolling English countryside. No longer a student, Isabel set her sights on a steady role as a teacher at the school, a safe yet stifling establishment that would enable her to care for her younger sister Lizzie, who was left in her care after her father’s death.

The unexpected arrival of a stranger with news of unknown relatives turns Isabel’s small, predictable world upside down, sweeping her and her young charge into a labyrinth of intrigue and hidden motives.

At her new family’s invitation, Isabel and Lizzie relocate to Emberwilde, a sprawling estate adjacent to a vast, mysterious wood rife with rumors and ominous folklore—along with whispers of something far more sinister. Perhaps even more startling, two handsome men begin pursuing Isabel, forcing her to learn the delicate dance between attraction, the intricate rules of courtship, and the hopes of her heart.

At Emberwilde Isabel will discover that the key to unlocking the mystery of her past may also open the door to her future and security. But first she must find it—in the depths of Emberwilde Forest.

Dawn at Emberwilde is second in the Treasures of Surrey series by Sarah E. Ladd.  In preparation for this review, I quickly read the first title, The Curiosity Keeper (at right).  I will not do a full review here of that novel, but suffice it to say that I enjoyed it very much.  I expected a similar experience with Dawn at Emberwilde.  Unfortunately, this was not to be. Yes, it’s a sweet tale of a young girl who finds love in a way she never expected.  Based on the family-friendliness of the content, I have no trouble recommending this clean romance to general audiences, but for some reason the story didn’t draw me in as the first one did.

I’m not sure why I didn’t find Dawn at Emberwilde as compelling as its sister novel.  Set in 19th century England, it certainly falls into the genre of reading to which I’m usually drawn. As mentioned, the content is clean, with even a few moments of faith sprinkled here and there. Lead character Isabel Creston is an admirable young woman, as she manages to weather several types of trials, all while remaining the loving caretaker of her young half sister. The male leads of the story provide interesting focal points for her, as she begins to consider the possibility of romance after starting a new life with her long-lost relatives.   There is a mysterious wooded area near her new home, and shady goings-on affect her life in various ways.

All of the elements of an enjoyable novel seem to be in place for Dawn at Emberwilde, but I just wasn’t overly fascinated throughout the story.  It was a quick read, but I kept waiting for something to engage me in a way that would interest me more.  In The Curiosity Keeper, there was a jewel that was worked into the story line in a very interesting way, and it makes sense that this previous title is a part of the Treasures of Surrey series.  With Dawn at Emberwilde, I kept waiting for a similar plot device to show up in the narrative—perhaps a mysterious diamond or emerald with ties to the story that would be exciting or puzzling.  To my disappointment, nothing like this really occurred.

While second in the series, Dawn at Emberwilde can very much stand on its own. There are a few crossover characters, but prior knowledge of them and their history is not essential to participation in the reading. Although my enthusiasm for this title isn’t overly exuberant, I wouldn’t say this review is a non-recommendation.  Perhaps the novel just caught me on the wrong week to read it—who knows? Despite my tepid response, I do hope that Sarah Ladd continues the series, and I would definitely like to read another volume. In that sense, the jury is not out on my overall opinion of the collection.

About the Author 

Sarah E. Ladd received the 2011 Genesis Award in historical romance for The Heiress of Winterwood. She is a graduate of Ball State University and has more than ten years of marketing experience. Sarah lives in Indiana with her amazing family and spunky Golden Retriever. Find out more about Sarah at

Paperback copy of the novel provided by Litfuse Publicity for review purposes only.

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