ranking Jane Austen’s novels

The impossible task, I know!  Each one of Jane Austen’s novels is brilliant and unique and among my favorite books of all time.  In this type of ranking, it really all comes down to personal opinion – not technical greatness.  So, from least-liked to most-liked, here are my rankings of Jane Austen’s masterpieces.

~Northanger Abbey~

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Already, I’m feeling awful about these rankings.  Northanger Abbey is often at the bottom (or near bottom) of other Austenites’ lists.  I think that may be because it feels a bit different from Jane Austen’s novels.  It was written a while before the actual Regency period (if I recall correctly) and because Jane died so young, she didn’t get much time to overhaul it and change some things (it was published posthumously, after all).

Anyway.  I really do like Northanger Abbey.  Catherine is very relatable with her bookishness and crush on Henry Tilney (*smirks*).  The story is entertaining and not as long as some of Jane Austen’s other novels, meaning you could read it in a few days as opposed to a few weeks.  Overall, it’s short, sweet, interesting novel that has some truly memorable characters.  I do like it – I just don’t love it.

~Pride & Prejudice~

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To be honest, I’m finding this ranking system impossible.  Harder than any other ranking I’ve ever done.  Pride & Prejudice is easily the most well-known and well-loved of Jane Austen’s six novels.  I fully understand its appeal (though not the appeal of Mr Darcy).  But I think its familiarity is one reason I don’t love it as much as some people…it feels like I’ve gotten too used to the story, so much so that I lose sight of what made it so magical in the first place.

Still, I do have a lot of love for this novel (and the 2005 film adaption).  Elizabeth Bennet is the BOSS, the story is so cleverly plotted, and the writing is exquisite (maybe even Jane Austen’s best).  So good. ❤  I can definitely see why P&P is at the top of many other novel rankings.

~Persuasion~

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A year or two ago, Persuasion would probably have been at the bottom of my list (and without much regret).  But I’ve grown to love and appreciate this gentle, slow, bittersweet story.  One reason for this was that I fell in love with the time period after watching the Horatio Hornblower TV series and Master & Commander: The Far Side Of The World.  

Persuasion doesn’t talk about the war much (or really at all?) but I feel like it’s the Jane Austen story most fully grounded in the real world (if that makes any sense).  So I enjoy that aspect of it.

Captain Wentworth is maybe my least favorite Jane Austen hero, tbh.  I understand him and why he treats Anne rather badly when he came back but I just…can’t really like him all that much.  Anne, on the other hand, is a lovely heroine. #goals  And I like the plot and some of the other characters a lot too.  I think Persuasion is Jane Austen’s most romantic novel – it’s a sweet, mature romance.  Love it.

~Sense & Sensibility~

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S&S will always be hugely special to me because the 1995 film was what got me obsessed with Jane Austen’s stories in the first place (which helped me start writing seriously).  I’ll always love the story and the characters SO MUCH.  Elinor and Edward, Marianne and Colonel Brandon…these are my ships. ❤

And the story is so well-plotted!  Yes, it’s a simple plot in some respects.  But Willoughby coming to see Marianne when she’s sick always surprises me the slightest bit.  It’s weird but it does and I think it’s a great testament to Jane Austen’s writing skills.  S&S isn’t as polished as some of her other novels (it was the first one published and it shows – a bit).  But I love the characters and the familiar (yet not boring) story.

~Mansfield Park~

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Guys!  Why do so few of you like Mansfield Park???  Is it because you don’t like Fanny?  Edmund?  The Crawfords getting their just reward?  The thoughtfulness and soberness of the plot?  Whatever it is, Mansfield Park isn’t well-liked among Austenites.  Makes me sad.

Fanny is a great heroine.  She follows through on her convictions and in a way that doesn’t condemn other people – how many of us can say the same? (Also, she’s not ‘too perfect’.  Fight me.)  I admit I’m not a huge fan of Edmund.  He seems a bit weak-willed at times.  But the rest of the novel I adore.  The slow, steady pace of the plot.  Fanny coming into her own, so to speak.  The subtle characterizations for the Crawfords.  And the somewhat ambiguous ending.  Mansfield Park is a firm choice for my second favorite Jane Austen novel.

~Emma~

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*happy tears* Highbury is home to me.  Emma is such a comforting, entertaining story with THE BEST JANE AUSTEN CHARACTERS (well, some of the best) and the most intricate plot.  Emma is basically the pinnacle of Jane Austen perfection.  I can’t even.  Now I need to go read it again! (Oh, and I have a perfect excuse for not expounding on just why Emma is my favorite: if I loved [it] less, I might be able to talk about it more.)

Do you agree with my rankings?  And if not, how would you rank Jane Austen’s novels?

Eva

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three reasons why I love prequel stories

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Prequels aren’t everybody’s favorite thing.  I get that.  But I recently watched the Star Wars prequel films and while I didn’t love them, they did get me thinking about prequels and why I enjoy them so much.  Here are three of my reasons!

Prequels add depth to the original story(ies).

One of my favorite book series is the Lunar Chronicles.  The series’ villain, Queen Levana, is practically pure evil…but you don’t really get to know why until you read the prequel novella, Fairest.  There, you find out that Levana was abused by her older sister and suffered from unrequited love for years.  None of that is an excuse for her villainous behavior, but it does deepen her character/motivation.

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Another one of Marissa Meyer’s books, Heartless, is a prequel to Alice in Wonderland.  Now, I’ve never read Alice.  But I know that if or when I do, I’ll find the story that much more interesting (at least the part with the Queen of Hearts).

And then there’s the Star Wars prequels.  I know I’m treading on thin ice here and I really don’t want to defend the prequels as a whole.  The Phantom Menace was barely tolerable and I had to force myself to watch Attack of the Clones all the way through. 

But the three prequels do add an extra dimension to the original trilogy.  You’ve got to admit that.  You really get to know Anakin/Darth Vader and Padme (not to mention Obi-Wan).  The Star Wars universe expands.  And overall, I feel like the prequels (particularly Revenge of the Sith) give certain lines and character moments in the original films more depth. (All the stuff Obi-Wan says about Anakin/Vader for instance.)

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Prequels allow you to spend more time in a great storyworld.

Usually, stories receive prequels because fans enjoyed them so much.  And with that, you often get a greater exploration of that story’s world and the characters in it.  Right now, I’m specifically thinking of Monsters University, which I LOVE (far more than Monsters, Inc.).  I’m so, so glad they made a prequel.  The world of the Monsters films is fun, colorful, and quirky – staying there a little longer is always a good idea and the prequel made that possible.

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The same holds true for the Star Wars prequels.  I love all the new worlds and cities and moons that you see in the prequels (especially because I half grew up watching The Clone Wars TV show and so many of the locations are comfortingly familiar).  The Star Wars universe is super cool – I’ll even sit through Attack of the Clones just to see more of it.

Prequels are a great opportunity for fan-service.

You know one of the things I love in prequels?  It’s when you see something for the original film/book but it’s not yet in its final form (even though the prequel was created after the OG story).  Example: the tech in Monsters University is rougher and not as advanced.  Or C-3PO in The Phantom Menace.

Throwbacks like that are a huge part of why I enjoy prequels so much.  You’ll have quotes, too, that are like throw-forwards to the original stuff. (Obi-Wan: “Why do I get the feeling you’ll be the death of me?” *snickers*)  Additionally, prequels often focus on fan-favorite characters.  Like Mike in Monsters University!  Or Puss in Puss in Boots (the Shrek prequel).  So much fun.

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Anyway!  Those are three reasons why I like watching/reading prequels.  What about you?  Do you hate the Star Wars prequels?  Do you prefer Monsters University to Monsters, Inc. (PLEASE SAY YES)?  Let me know in the comments!

Eva

book review: the girl behind the red rope

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Ten years ago, Grace saw something that would forever change the course of history. When evil in its purest form is unleashed on the world, she and others from their religious community are already hidden deep in the hills of Tennessee, abiding by every rule that will keep them safe, pure–and alive. As long as they stay there, behind the red perimeter.

Her older brother’s questions and the arrival of the first outsiders she’s seen in a decade set in motion events that will question everything Grace has built her life on. Enemies rise on all sides–but who is the real enemy? And what will it cost her to uncover the truth?

Wow.  This book.

So, I’m a huge fan of Rachelle Dekker’s book, The Choosing (the other two books in the series not so much though).  It was a truly chilling/thrilling faith-based dystopian literally like nothing I’ve ever read before.  And while I’ve never read a Ted Dekker book (except for House which I cordially loathed) he’s known for putting a creepy vibe into his stories that I dig (in small doses).

I say all that to explain why I was excited for The Girl Behind the Red Rope.  And it was pretty great!  I think it’s super, super cool that Ted and Rachelle wrote a book together (I’d really like to know their process/who did what/all of that).

The world of TGBTRR is your typical creepy cult thing – like The Village or The Wicker Man or Children of the Corn (I’m guessing with all those references ’cause I’ve never seen any of those movies).  You’ve got a matriarchal society where the leader receives all sorts of visions and stuff from a sort of demonic guy?  That only she can see most of the time?  (It’s really hard to explain the plot without giving spoilers.)

The plot is super twisty and keeps you guessing a LOT.  There are multiple point of view characters and they were all pretty well written (the POVs and the characters both).  Loved the tenseness of the story, the supernatural elements, the focus on fighting your fears and trusting God…really good.  Of course there’s the requisite Dekker weirdness in places but it actually was more on the level of Peretti than full-blown Dekker (IMO).

Overall, fans of Ted and/or Rachelle Dekker will really enjoy this book.  As will anyone who likes suspenseful thrillers with a supernatural twist and strong, gutsy characters.

Have you read anything by the Dekkers?  Is this book on your TBR list?

Eva

book review: the string

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A sociopath is running a deadly social experiment on a university campus. Markus Haas is the first to refuse to play the game. What unravels is a sequence of impossible decisions and a race against time to stop the sociopath before others pay the ultimate price.

I keep wanting to call this book ‘The Sting’ for some reason. (Isn’t that an old Robert Redford movie or something?)  ANYWAY.  This was a pretty good book.  Some of the more thrilling scenes with the Conductor gave me horror movie vibes and actually had me wishing that the author had gone full-tilt into creepiness (I do like being scared sometimes).  The line-up of characters going against the Conductor were mainly The Good Guys (with a few twist betrayals, because of course).  I think Haas was a good protagonist for the book and Cody was my fav.

There was one thing about The String that did seriously bug me: the fact that, although this book is put out by a Christian publisher, there’s really no Christian content to speak of (except for a couple vague references to God/praying).  Sure, there’s no swearing in situations where these unsaved characters would be blistering the air with curse words.  And despite the villain’s creepiness and general villainy, there really isn’t much gore or violence.  But this book is, for the most part, secular.  I’m fine reading secular books – I’m just disappointed that a Christian publisher wouldn’t have more faith content in one of theirs. (Ugh.  I sound legalistic or something.  It’s hard to explain my thoughts properly…but basically, I do want to see how Christians would react in these situations.  How integral their faith in God would be as their lives are threatened by a madman.  So yeah.)

Overall, I’d totally recommend this book to fans of slightly creepy thrillers that aren’t chock full of bad language. (I’ve already recommended it to one of my brothers, so that shows you that I think it’s actually quite good.)

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Eva

the ‘Do I Have That Book?’ challenge

Found this on Kate Willis’s blog and it looked incredibly fun, so…here I go!

1. Do you have a book with tattered edges?

The Catch Colt by Mary O’Hara has certainly seen better days.  The spine is pretty much ripped off and there are creases and nicked spots all over the front and back covers.  It’s been very well loved – first by Library People, and then by me.

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2. Do you have a book with 3+ people on the cover?

The Penultimate Peril, a Series of Unfortunate Events book, has a cover chock-full of intriguing (and creepy) people.  I’ve read most of the books in the series (though not this one) and I think the cover perfectly fits the weird tone of the set.

3. Do you have a book based on another fictional story?

Do I! 😉  I’m going with Dancing & Doughnuts by Rachel Kovaciny – it’s my newest book acquisition and it’s a great retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses.

4. Do you have a book with a title 10 letters long?

This was harder than I expected but I finally found Ender’s Game.  I’m really due to reread that one…

5. Do you have a book with a title that starts and ends with the same letter?

The Case for Christ.  I read this book quite a while ago and recently picked up my own copy at a thrift store in the States.  Looking forward to reading it again in the future.

6. Do you have a mass market paperback book?

I believe that my copy of Emma qualifies as a mass market paperback.  It’s very pretty and feminine and I love it.

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7. Do you have a book written by an author using a pen name?

I do!  Twelve of them, actually, because I own every book in The Series of Unfortunate Events except the last one.  They are all written by Lemony Snicket, whose real name is Daniel Handler.

8. Do you have a book with a character’s name in the title?

Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter… 😉

9. Do you have a book with 2 maps in it?

The Adversaries by Jack Cavanaugh has three maps.  I think most, if not all, of the books in the American Family Portrait series have at least one.

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10. Do you have a book that was turned into a TV show?

I have Pride & Prejudice, which has been turned into at least two TV shows.  Probably more.

11. Do you have a book written by someone who is originally famous for something else? (Celebrity/Athlete/Politician/TV Personality…)

Yep!  I own Leonard, which is written by William Shatner and it’s chock-full of his reminisces about Leonard Nimoy.  It’s quite good and I reread it every now and then.

12. Do you have a book with a clock on the cover?

This is a bit unconventional but it’s all I had: the cover of A Time to Die has numbers on it, recreating Parvin’s digital/sci-fi Clock.  So I’m going with it!

13. Do you have a poetry book?

Nope.  Poetry is Not My Thing.

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not even this beautiful movie could make me love poetry.  or The Outsiders, for that matter.

14. Do you have a book with an award stamp on it?

A Monster Calls has two award stamps on the front cover: the Kate Greenaway award and the Carnegie award.  IT TOTALLY DESERVED ALL THE AWARDS. *weeps*

15. Do you have a book written by an author with the same initials as you?

E.S. or E.R.S.  Hmmm…the closest I’ve got is The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton or Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.  And neither of those really works.

16. Do you have a book of short stories?

Jane Austen Made Me Do It, which is an anthology of stories based on Jane Austen’s life and works (except Mansfield Park – I Am Miffed).  It was one of the first books I ever won in a giveaway and I like/love almost all the stories in it.  Also, Because You Love To Hate Me which is stuffed with epic villain retellings that I can’t get enough of.

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17. Do you have a book that is in between 500-510 pages?

The Patriots (Jack Cavanaugh) is 507 pages long, not counting back matter.

18. Do you have a book that was turned into a movie?

Um…yeah.  Because Hollywood can’t come up with oRIGinaL iDeAS.  I’m going to narrow it down though and pick The Case of the Missing Marquess/Enola Holmes series in general (by Nancy Springer) which is in the process of being turned into a movie and I’M SO EXCITED.  The cast looks completely on point (especially Helena Bonham-Carter as Mrs. Holmes) and I couldn’t be happier.

19. Do you have a graphic novel?

No.  I do have a few novels based on comic book characters though.

20. Do you have a book written by 2 or more authors?

Besides anthologies, I’m assuming.  I’d have to go with Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris.  A good, inspiring read that I think everyone should read once in their life.

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Clean list of questions:

1. Do you have a book with tattered edges?

2. Do you have a book with 3+ people on the cover?

3. Do you have a book based on another fictional story?

4. Do you have a book with a title 10 letters long?

5. Do you have a book with a title that starts and ends with the same letter?

6. Do you have a mass market paperback book?

7. Do you have a book written by an author using a pen name?

8. Do you have a book with a character’s name in the title?

9. Do you have a book with 2 maps in it?

10. Do you have a book that was turned into a TV show?

11. Do you have a book written by someone who is originally famous for something else? (Celebrity/Athlete/Politician/TV Personality…)

12. Do you have a book with a clock on the cover?

13. Do you have a poetry book?

14. Do you have a book with an award stamp on it?

15. Do you have a book written by an author with the same initials as you?

16. Do you have a book of short stories?

17. Do you have a book that is in between 500-510 pages?

18. Do you have a book that was turned into a movie?

19. Do you have a graphic novel?

20. Do you have a book written by 2 or more authors?

Are your bookshelves gloriously messy or meticulously organized?  What’s the prettiest book on your shelf?  Let me know in the comments!

Eva

mini book review: yours truly, thomas (+ mini book rant)

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For three years, Penny Ercanbeck has been opening other people’s mail. Dead ends are a reality for clerks at the Dead Letter Office. Still she dreams of something more–a bit of intrigue, a taste of romance, or at least a touch less loneliness. When a letter from a brokenhearted man to his one true love falls into her hands, Penny seizes this chance to do something heroic. It becomes her mission to place this lost letter into the hands of its intended recipient.

Thomas left his former life with no intention of ending up in Azure Springs, Iowa. He certainly didn’t expect a happy ending after what he had done. All he wanted to do was run and never look back. In a moment of desperation, he began to write, never really expecting a reply.

When Penny’s undertaking leads her to the intriguing man who touched her soul with his words, everything grows more complicated. She wants to find the rightful owner of the letter and yet she finds herself caring–perhaps too much–for the one who wrote it.

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I requested this book for review because I like stories that are centered around letters + the power of the written word.  It started out solidly enough, mainly because I’d never heard of the Dead Letter Office.  Really interesting and I wish more of the story had been focused in and around the office.  But instead, Penny leaves really quickly for the town of Azure Springs…and that’s where Yours Truly, Thomas became too cliched for my tastes.

You’ve got the impossibly perfect hero who bares his innermost soul via dialogue in a way no self-respecting guy in Ye Olde West would (especially not to almost total strangers).  You’ve got the quirky, cLumSY heroine who is radiantly beautiful (a fact everyone comments on all the time).  There’s the Evil Villain who has, like, almost zero motivation.  There’s also the homespun, tough love wisdom of The Small Town Wise Woman.  It’s just…too much, you guys.  Too cliched.  And pretty boring. (Because the plot + declarations of love + ending are also run-of-the-mill.)

Give me depth in Christian historical fiction.  Give me romances that spans months and years and have actual problems and forgiveness and passionate love that makes you actually believe in the happily ever after ending.  Give me twisted villains with a boatload of hurt and harm and scar tissue a mile deep (yet who aren’t beyond redemption because this is supposed to be Christian fiction).  Give me heroes and heroines who face Real World Problems and are their own people (even – especially – if you took away the romantical aspect of the plot).  Give me small towns where not everything and everyone is perfect, but people still care for each other in spite their differences.

I feel like P.L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks: “This entire [genre] is flim-flam! Where is its heart? Where is its reality? Where… is the gravitas?”

Anyway.  That’s my rant for the day.  Enjoy. 😛

Oh, and I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my [brutally] honest review.

Eva

interview with author Angela R. Watts + THE DIVIDED NATION book tour & giveaway!

The Divided Nation

Angela R. Watts’ newest book, The Divided Nation, releases TODAY.  I haven’t yet read it but I’ll always support good Christian dystopia…and I’m pretty excited for this one. (If you remember, I helped with the cover reveal for TDN a while back.)  You can check out the full schedule of book tour posts on Angela’s website.

The Divided Nation (The Infidel Books #1)

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WHEN THE NATION DIVIDES, THE INFIDELS MUST RISE.

The United States has fallen. Three years after the 2024 presidential election and the declaration of martial law, the nation is at war against itself. Gangs battle, civilians struggle for survival, and officials of the United Nations  thrive. West Johnston, heir to the most powerful ganglord in the country, refuses to continue the family legacy. But, in order to defeat his father, he must become him: bloodthirsty and willing to do whatever it takes for control.

West gains control by helping fellow gangsters, Nate and Simon, when they form an alliance with one of the last remaining townships in America. After years of surviving and winter fast approaching, Springtown is in desperate need of supplies from the two teenagers. When the town leader’s daughter, Rene, is kidnapped by an unknown rival, Nate and Simon risk their reputations to save her and the town they now love. But without help from West, their rescue mission will fail.

Told in multiple bold, abrasive narratives, THE DIVIDED NATION steps into a future where brotherhood bonds must be stronger than iron to survive a broken world, and faith without courage is dust in the wind.

The Divided Nation is available on Amazon, starting today!  You can also add it to your Goodreads shelf here.

Author Interview

Angela allowed me to interview her for the book tour and I loved all her answers.  I hope you do too!

Welcome to the blog, Angela!  To start things off, I’m super interested to know what inspired you to write faith-based dystopia.

This world is wicked. God is Holy. Most dystopian novels are without Jesus and thus, very morbid, dark, and non satisfactory. Lots of Christians dislike the genre because of this. Lots of readers are tired of the genre because if this.

I like the genre, but I’m not all for the “end days means there is no hope, no fix, no love!”… I’m all for the end days fiction that look at the book of Revelation and say, “Hey, things are evil, but God wins.” Since there isn’t much of it, I decided to write it.

It’s so important to show people that there is still hope for the future.  Yet even with so much hope, Christian dystopias can still be heartwrenching.  Did you ever cry while writing The Divided Nation?

I… think so… yes. Some scenes hurt but I didn’t allow myself tears. Some scenes… I agonized over… I can confirm I’ve cried more than once over this series as a whole.

I’ve cried over my own writing, so I definitely feel your pain.  On the brighter side…is there a song or album that reminds you of The Divided Nation?

IS THERE EVER. I have a Spotify and Youtube playlists, both still lacking songs that remind me of the book, but here are the links…

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGzmN7fP4KCFL_ZPyHPuQoodU1wxTIc26

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3uh18Bqv3Me2p9o3kze0c7

I’ll have to check those out!  How many rewrites did you go through?

One first draft, a second draft rewrite, then no rewrites from there. Just betas and edits.

That amount of rewrites is what I aspire to in my own writing. 😀  Any advice for Christian writers hoping to break into dystopian fiction?

Be bold and hold fast to God. The fact is, not every Christian reader wants a novel that glorifies Christ when it scares them. And dystopian is terrifying. So don’t write with the mindset of “I’m going to please people because this genre is lacking!”. Write with the mindset of, “God gave me this story and I will glorify Him with it, even if this is unknown water.”

People are going to scrutinize our work because we’re Christians so, yes, we should definitely put out our best work and pray that it inspires and helps others.  What is the number one thing you hope people take away from The Divided Nation?

I hope they’re encouraged that we’re all sinners and broken and scared… But God is more powerful than our demons. We each must make a choice… Good or evil. I hope this novel helps each of us answer this question.

And lastly, just for fun: what is your favorite dystopian book or movie (besides your own!)?

Jericho is one of the BEST TV shows ever about apoc times. Alas, Babylon was a cute dystopian novel. In general, I didn’t get into Divergent, The Hunger Games, etc… I’m trying The Maze Runner series but it is more virus oriented and I’m often more interested in political dystopias.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Angela!  It was great talking with you.

rsz_17597325Angela R. Watts is a Christian fiction author who strives to glorify the Lord in all she does. She’s a homeschooled highschooler living at Step By Step Sanctuary, Tennessee, though with Gypsy and Norwegian in her blood, she tends to travel. She’s been writing stories since she was little, but also enjoys chores, painting, and watching sunsets.

Facebook ::: Website  ::: Amazon ::: Instagram  ::: Goodreads

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IMPORTANT DETAILS: US shipping only. If an international winner is drawn, they will receive an ebook only.  1st place: hardback copy of The Divided Nation. A custom mug with a quote from the book, bookmark, and an exclusive snippet from The Infidel Books.  2nd place: paperback copy of The Divided Nation, bookmark.  3rd place: ebook copy of The Divided Nation.  You can enter the giveaway HERE.

Do you enjoy Christian dystopian novels – or dystopian novels in general?  Let me know in the comments!

Eva