Review: First Impressions by Charlie Lovett + Giveaway

First Impressions by Charlie Lovett

I’m the book nerd that loves to read stories that revolve around books. I binge read First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen by Charlie Lovett and enjoyed every word. I wasn’t sure about the novel at first because I’m not (gasp) a Jane Austen fan. First Impressions will appeal to anyone who loves a literary mystery.

In present day Oxfordshire, we meet Sophie Collingwood, a book lover and an Austen devotee. Feeling lost after graduating from Oxford, she takes a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London. During her first week on the job, she receives two requests for an obscure book the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield. Intrigued, Sophie digs deeper into the title to discover it may cast doubt on the true authorship of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Soon her discoveries put her life in danger. In between Sophie’s adventures, the novel imagines Jane Austen’s inspiration and writing process for Pride and Prejudice.

The novel has all the elements to keep you on your toes: mystery, adventure, and even romance. As someone who’s not familiar with Jane Austen’s biography, I especially enjoy the author’s depiction of her life with the imaginary Richard Mansfield. I’m sure I missed plenty of references to Austen’s books, but I didn’t feel like I missed out at all. My only issue is that I felt that the conclusion seemed rushed and too tidy.

If you like literary mysteries, I also recommend Charlie Lovett’s The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession,  mystery about one of Shakespeare’s well-known works. You can read my review of The Bookman’s Tale here. Lovett draws upon his background as a rare book collector for both novel. Reading about book antiquarians and rare, old books lets me live vicariously as my budget and space constraints don’t allow for rare book collecting.

First Impressions would make a great book club read, especially if you want to read it in tandem with Pride and Prejudice. The publisher put together a First Impressions Book Club Kit with recipes, author Q&A, and Jane Austen resources.

Giveaway: Win a copy of First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen by Charlie Lovett. Leave a comment below and tell me who your favorite British author is. I’ll draw a winner on on November 2. (U.S. addresses only please).

I received a review copy of the book.

What’s On Your Nightstand: Alex Marwood

What's On Your Nightstand-From Left to Write

I love reading mysteries and thrillers and often wonder what authors of those genres like to read. Today we have Serena Macksey, who pens thrillers under the pen name Alex Marwood, sharing the books on her nightstand. Take a peek with me and I think you’ll find some new books to add to your to-be-read list, including her newest novel, The Killer Next Door.

Serena Mackesy ,author. CREDIT Geraint Lewis

Serena Mackesy, author. CREDIT Geraint Lewis

I read a lot of non-fiction when I’m writing. At the moment I’m rereading Out of the Shadows, Anne-Marie West’s 1995 memoir of being raised by the serial killers Fred and Rose West. Although, obviously, it’s ghostwritten, it’s a terrific book in its way, particularly because it reflects the worst thing of all for victims of abuse as West was: the confusion of continuing to love the vicious parent despite knowing that the only emotion one should feel is loathing.

I’m trying to save Alison Gaylin’s Stay With Me for my vacation in a couple of weeks, but I have a feeling the temptation will overcome me. Gaylin’s Brenna Spector series – the central character is cursed with perfect recall of every event in her life – is wonderfully ingenious. The tightness of Gaylin’s plotting is quite breathtaking.

And I’ve just finished Elizabeth Little’s Dear Daughter. An absolutely cracking debut. I enjoyed the narrative voice – cynical, wisecracking, vulnerable – of the heroine more than I’ve enjoyed a piece of first-person writing in a long while.

The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood

Alex Marwood’s newest novel The Killer Next Door is a tightly paced thriller that will keep you up at night and make you ask yourself: just how well do you know your neighbors? It releases next week on October 28 and is available for pre-order. More about the novel:

Everyone who lives at 23 Beulah Grove has a secret. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be renting rooms in a dodgy old building for cash—no credit check, no lease. It’s the kind of place you end up when you you’ve run out of other options. The six residents mostly keep to themselves, but one unbearably hot summer night, a terrible accident pushes them into an uneasy alliance. What they don’t know is that one of them is a killer. He’s already chosen his next victim, and he’ll do anything to protect his secret.

Alex Marwood is the pseudonym of British novelist Serena Mackesy, a former journalist who has worked extensively across the British press. Her first novel The Wicked Girls won an Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original and is nominated for the Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel and the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original. Marwood lives in South London and is working on her next novel.   

Learn more about the author on her website and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

October Book Club Feature: The 13th Gift

The 13th Gift by Joanne Huist Smith

We’re finishing up the month with The 13th Gift by Joanne Huist Smith for our next October book club selection. With the upcoming holiday season, it’s easy to become sucked into the materialist frenzy. Smith’s memoir reminds us what is the most important gift should be: After the unexpected death of her husband, Joanne Huist Smith […]

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Book Club Discussion: The Goddess of Small Victories

Goddess of Small Victories FL2W Book Club Banner

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to have dinner with Albert Einstein? In the novel The Goddess of Small Victories (Other Press) by Yannick Grannec, we get a glimpse into mathematician Kurt Gödel who was good friends with Albert Einstein. Gödel’s colleagues are immortalized in the history books, but Grannec gives the scientists and mathematician humanity through […]

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What’s On Your Nightstand: Joelle Herr

Joelle Herr Photo

I had so much fun with Joelle Herr’s irreverent William Shakespeare Rewritten by You, I just had to know what books she had on her nightstand. My to-be-read list has gotten longer thanks to her list. Read on to find out what book has been sitting on her nightstand for several months and why! The Paying […]

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Review: The Wonder of All Things

The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott

I loved Jason Mott’s debut novel The Returned so much that I hunted down an elusive galley of his second  at Book Expo America. The Wonder of All Things has been sitting patiently on my shelf until closer to its release date, when I released it from my self-imposed ban. I even cleared my schedule in order to read it […]

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