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Friday, 22 September 2017

I Could Write a Book by Karen M Cox - Blog Tour, Review and Giveaway

I Could Write a Book by Karen M Cox - Blog Tour
Today the blog tour for Karen M Cox's updated version of 'Emma' drops by with my review of the book and an international giveaway opportunity. I'll share the book blurb with you first, and then let you know what I thought of it.




I Could Write a Book Book Description

“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich…”

Thus began Jane Austen’s classic, a light and lively tale set in an English village two hundred years ago. Yet every era has its share of Emmas: young women trying to find themselves in their own corners of the world.

I Could Write a Book is the story of a self-proclaimed modern woman: Emma Katherine Woodhouse, a 1970s co-ed whose life is pleasant, ordered, and predictable, if a bit confining.

Her friend George Knightley is a man of the world who’s come home to fulfill his destiny: run his father’s thriving law practice and oversee the sprawling Donwell Farms, his family legacy in Central Kentucky horse country.

Since childhood, George’s and Emma’s lives have meshed and separated time and again. But now they’re adults with grown-up challenges and obligations. As Emma orchestrates life in quaint Highbury, George becomes less amused with her antics and struggles with a growing attraction to the young woman she’s become.

Rich with humor, poignancy, and the camaraderie of life in a small, Southern town, I Could Write a Book is a coming of age romance with side helpings of self-discovery, friendship, and finding true love in the most unlikely places.

My Review - I Could Write a Book by Karen M Cox

Book Cover: I Could Write a Book by Karen M CoxAs regular visitors to my blog will know, I have already read quite a few books by Karen M Cox, taking ‘Pride & Prejudice’-inspired trips to the 1930s and 80s, a ‘Persuasion’-inspired story set in modern day USA, and even an updated ‘Northanger Abbey’ short story in the ‘Sunkissed: Effusions of Summer’ short story anthology. This time, Ms Cox takes us to 1970s Kentucky, with an updated version of ‘Emma’, ‘I Could Write a Book’.

Many people struggle to like Austen’s Emma; even Miss Austen described her as ‘a heroine whom nobody but myself will like’ but I’ve always liked her. Although she thought she knew best, which is annoying, she meant well, and her over-confidence in her abilities had been shaped by her environment. When she was surrounded by people who were less intelligent than her (with the exception of Mr Knightley) and who looked up to her and trusted her judgement, it’s only natural that she rated her abilities highly. The other thing I always felt towards Emma was pity, because she has quite a lonely life, and quite a constrained one, as her father’s habits have affected her habits. She has never even seen the sea, and at the dance, she makes observations to herself that show that she’s never seen Mr Knightley dance, so dances in Highbury are presumably fairly rare. Not only is Emma quite low on friends (and she has supported her governess’s courtship, knowing all the while that she will be losing her closest friend) but she has to minister constantly to her father and doesn’t even have much in the way holidays or dances to break up the monotony. I was very interested to see how Karen M Cox would impose such constraints on a more modern woman.

I Could Write a Book’s Emma Woodhouse also leads a very constrained life, despite living in the mid 20th century. An aneurysm has left her beautiful, vivacious mother as a shadow of her former self for most of Emma’s living memory, and Mrs Woodhouse finally dies in Emma’s teenage years. We see a scene of a teenage Emma visiting her mother, which is very touching; I wasn’t expecting to get the tissues out with this story!

When Emma is about to go to college her father has a stroke, leaving him as a fretful man with memory issues. At the point where Emma would have been free to start out into the world and start living her life, instead she commits to stay home rather than moving away to go to college. And the reason she stays is simply because she loves her father, and she has a very strong sense of family. So Emma, despite the avenues open to the modern woman, stays at home, catering to the needs of an invalid and meaning that her life experience has a more narrowed scope than she would have anticipated, and I heartily felt for her missed opportunities, and admired the way she didn’t bemoan it herself. In her mind, there was simply no other acceptable option and she wasted no time at all even considering it.

Emma’s family is similar to the original book. Miss Taylor is her aunt rather than her governess, and she still has an elder sister, Isabel, who is married to John Knightley, who in this is the son of Mr Woodhouse’s former business partner. The Knightley and Woodhouse families are close, and the younger generation have known each other all their lives. Despite the age gap (7 years in this version, rather than the larger gap found in Austen), George and Emma have an easy familiarity, plus a bond that both seem subconsciously aware of, but consciously don’t notice. There is a definite connection there.
‘I shot George a reluctant grin. He was sanding a few feet away with his hands in his pocket, smiling back at me, and immediately my mood lifted.’

There is nothing awkward in their feelings towards each other. She thinks he is handsome, bossy, stuffy, and wonders at his taste in women, as, in a quite ‘un-Mr-Knightley-ish’ quirk, he is a serial dater, mainly of women who are attractive but lightweight in one way or another. On George’s side, Emma at first is obviously a child to him, as she is so much younger, but as she grows, he is frustrated by her not fulfilling her potential. One thing I thought was done really well is that it was clear that Emma was very central to his life and often taking prime position in his thoughts, but he doesn’t realise that this is the case and what it may signify. It’s often said that Emma is clueless, but in this respect, Mr Knightley is pretty clueless too!

Like canon Emma, this Emma holds up George Knightley as the pattern of a true gentleman:
“He’s kind to you because he’s a true gentleman—who is, by definition, a man who is kind to everyone.”

Of all Austen’s heroes, I would say that Mr Knightley is the most gentlemanly, and this modern incarnation of him is pretty gentlemanly too. The less gentlemanly things he does all have his feelings for Emma at the root of them, so they are easy for the reader to gloss over!

One of the things I really enjoyed in this book were the echoes back to Austen’s text. I have read Emma quite a few times, but I don’t have a huge, in-depth knowledge of quotes from the book. Nevertheless, I noticed quite a few nods back, such as this example:
“She’s so self-assured. I think perhaps a little romantic angst would do her some good. She’s never had her heart bruised.” – ‘I Could Write a Book’, Karen M Cox
 
 
“It would not be a bad thing for her to be very much in love with a proper object. I should like to see Emma in love, and in some doubt of a return; it would do her good.” – ‘Emma’, by Jane Austen

So, what about the cringe factor? Austen’s 'Emma' is pretty hard to read in places, particularly Emma’s rudeness to Miss Bates, and also her arrogance in directing Harriet’s life. There was some cringe in this book, but I thought it was toned down. Emma comes across as less arrogant here, though she certainly has a lot to learn. As George Knightley correctly observes:
“Emma’s vanity is her absolute confidence that she knows what’s best for all.”

There is quite a bit of humour in this book, which is another thing that I wasn’t expecting. Some funny comments, and the Elton and Augusta characters were awful in a way that I enjoyed reading. Also, the Harriet character, Mary Jo, is a sweet girl, but a little uneducated in some respects. I particularly liked this little joke for the Austen fans: 
“Do you ladies play tennis?” 
“A little and very ill, as Elizabeth Bennet would say.” 
Mary Jo turned to me and whispered, “Who’s that? Have I met her?”

One thing I was expecting to get from this book was a sense of the era; much of the action takes place in the 1970s, which is an era I don’t have personal knowledge of, so I was looking forward to getting a flavour of the time. However, I didn’t really feel it. Towards the beginning of the book, there is a part in Emma’s teenage years which references the moon landing, but later on, aside from the odd ‘hip’ and ‘groovy’ I didn’t get much of a feel, which I felt was a shame. However, this was a minor downside, and perhaps it’s more of a reflection of my expectation of the book as opposed to anything else.

I felt that on the whole, this was a surprisingly faithful modern adaptation of ‘Emma’. I loved that the author made this work in a more modernised setting, and I particularly loved Emma herself – I felt that the essence of Austen’s character was captured really well, and that she still had the qualities that made me find her loveable despite her faults. I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read by Karen M Cox but now I have a new favourite, and a new favourite modernised version of ‘Emma’ too! This was a five star read for me and I’d really recommend it.

Five star read


Content warning – for those who like to know these things, there is a sex scene, which isn’t detailed, and an instance of language which as a UK reader I would deem offensive in a contemporary story, but I believe would be found less offensive by a US reader, and which wouldn’t have been offensive at the time the story was set. 

Universal buy link: getBook.at/ICouldWriteaBook  

About the Author

Author Karen M CoxKaren M Cox is an award-winning author of novels accented with romance and history, including 1932Find Wonder in All Things, and Undeceived. She also contributed a short story, “Northanger Revisited 2015”, to the anthology, Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer, and a story titled, “I, Darcy” to The Darcy Monologues. The Journey Home, an ebook novella companion piece to 1932, is now available.

Karen was born in Everett WA, which was the result of coming into the world as the daughter of a United States Air Force Officer. She had a nomadic childhood, with stints in North Dakota, Tennessee and New York State before finally settling in her family’s home state of Kentucky at the age of eleven. She lives in a quiet little town with her husband, where she works as a pediatric speech pathologist, encourages her children, and spoils her granddaughter.

Channeling Jane Austen’s Emma, Karen has let a plethora of interests lead her to begin many hobbies and projects she doesn’t quite finish, but she aspires to be a great reader and an excellent walker—like Elizabeth Bennet.

Connect with Karen:

• Website • Amazon Author Page • Facebook • Twitter • Pinterest • Instagram • Tumblr •

Giveaways



Tea prizeKaren Cox has set up a Rafflecopter for two winners. One winner will receive The Tea Pack: JA mug, Mr Knightley & Emma teas from Bingley’s teas, and a set of Jane Austen coasters 


Jewellery prize
The second winner will receive a Jewelry Pack, which contains a Little Emma charm on a necklace, Regency cameo earrings, Emma Bangle Bracelet, and a Jewelry Roll.  These giveaways are open internationally.


Blog Tour Schedule 


I Could Write a Book by Karen M Cox Blog Tour
Laughing with Lizzie / September 6 / Launch Post/Dating Game / Giveaway
So little time… / September 7 / Book Excerpt / Giveaway
Book Lover in Florida / September 8 / Guest post / Giveaway
Austenesque Reviews / September 15 / Book Review/ Giveaway
My Love for Jane Austen / September 16 / Guest Post / Giveaway
Granny Loves to Read  / September 17 / Book Review / Giveaway
My Jane Austen Book Club / September 18/ Guest Post/Mr. Knightley / Giveaway
Just Jane 1813 / September 19 / Author Interview / Giveaway
Sophia’s Sofa Chat / September 21 / An Interview with Karen M Cox on Goodreads
Babblings of a Bookworm/ / September 22 / Book Review/ Giveaway
Silver Petticoat Review / September 23/ Guest Post/ Giveaway
From Pemberley to Milton / September 25 / Book Excerpt / Giveaway
Margie’s Must Reads / September 27 / Book Review / Giveaway
My Vices and Weaknesses / September 30 / Book Review / Giveaway
Diary of an Eccentric / October 2 / Book Review / Giveaway

More Agreeably Engaged / October 4 / Book Excerpt / Giveaway 

21 comments:

  1. Thank you for your thoughtful review. Am so glad you liked it. I liked how you tied in the Austen quotes with Cox's "echoes" in your review. I thought that was an especially nice touch. Nice when a reader notes the subtleties and also appreciates the not so obvious.

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    1. Thanks Christina. I don't know Emma as well as P&P, but even so, there were definite echoes, which I liked picking up on.

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  2. Ceri,

    Wasn't this just a delightful story-compelling, intetesting and oh!,so satisfying!

    I really enjoyed it and like you,I highly recommend it!

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    1. Hi Mary, I agree, it was delightful. I loved that I felt that the essence of Emma had been captured, but also updated believably. And yes, in its own right it's a very satisfying story :)

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  3. I have enjoyed all of Karen's books and hope to read this soon. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I think you'll enjoy it, Sheila. I hope so, anyway!

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  4. Great review, Ceri! This is a well-done adaptation of Emma. I was fortunate to be able to read this already, and it's a marvelous book.

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    1. Thanks Debbie. I'm glad you enjoyed it too.

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  5. I have read two books by Ms. Cox and while I loved Find Wonder in All Things, I was a little disappointed with 1932. One of the reasons was that I couldn't feel the atmosphere of the '30s. So when I read about your comment about the 1970s, I immediately thought of that other book. Hopefully, I will enjoy this one nonetheless. I love Karen's writing!

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    1. Hi Maria. I felt like I got a good flavour of the thirties in 1932, but here I didn't feel it. I think it's partly because Emma was quite isolated really, so you didn't get much of a feeling from wider society, if that makes any sense.

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  6. A wonderful and thoughtful review, Ceri!! I've been looking forward to reading this one and am even more excited about it now ;) .

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    1. I hope you'll enjoy it too, Marilyn. Thanks for commenting!

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  7. Ceri - thank you for participating in the blog tour, and for your thoughtful and kind review. I'm thrilled that you enjoyed "I Could Write a Book" enough to give it a 5-star rating!
    For those interested in sampling the book, see Amazon's Look-inside feature, and there are several excerpt posts on the blog tour as well, so feel free to check those out :)

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    1. Hi Karen! I was very excited to read this, and I was so glad I did, it was thoroughly enjoyable!

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  8. Oh,what a truly heartwarming excerpt! I just loved it!
    Isn't it wonderful to see Richard as happily married as Darcy and Bingley!
    I've heard great things about this book and despite the angstometer being set quite high,I'm really looking forward to discovering how everything is happily resolved to everyone's satisfaction!
    Best of luck with this book,Nicole!
    Thank you,Ceri,for such a lovely post!

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  9. I so loved this book! Not only for the story but for the time period...it was brought back so many memories!

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  10. I have loved Karen Cox's other books and look forward to reading this one. It will be interesting to see Emma's character being developed. Thank you for the review and giveaway.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Eva! I hope you enjoy this book too when you read it.

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  11. I enjoyed the excerpt. I am not a fan of modern adaptations, but have found some enjoyable as I did Karen Cox's 1932, so am hoping this will be as well. Thank you for the review and the generous giveaway.

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    1. I hope you enjoy this if you read it Debbie. I think if you liked 1932 you might well enjoy this one too. Good luck in the giveaway!

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