Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘book reviews’

At Home With Mr. Darcy

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★☆

‘Shall I tackle her now?’ Warwick asked Katherine.

‘I don’t like your use of the word tackle,’ Katherine said.  ‘It sounds like you’re going to get her in some sort of head lock.’

‘I wish I could,’ he said, ‘then maybe I could make her see reason.’

‘You haven’t got to make her see reason,’ Katherine said, ‘only the joys of Jane Austen.’

‘Isn’t that the same thing?’ Warwick asked with a lopsided smile that still melted Katherine.  ‘Leave her to me.  You go and buy yourself a book or something in the shop.’

Katherine laughed.  ‘I don’t need any encouragement to buy books.’

(from At Home With Mr. Darcy)

Quick summary: In the 6th installment of Victoria Connelly’s Austen Addicts series, At Home With Mr. Darcy, Dame Pamela Harcourt of Purley Hall is hosting a Jane Austen Holiday in Derbyshire, the home of Mr. Darcy.  Connelly brings back characters from her previous novels and novellas — newlyweds Warwick and Katherine, Robyn, sisters Roberta and Rose, the moody Mrs. Soames (who brings along her daughter, Annie), and the endearing Doris Norris — for a trip to Chatsworth House and Lyme Park, which became Mr. Darcy’s grand estate, Pemberley, in the movie adaptations of Pride and Prejudice.  But the Janeites are in for some trouble in the form of journalist Melissa Berry, who knows nothing about Jane Austen and doesn’t understand why people remain so interested in her novels today.  The gang sets out to show Melissa the relevance of Austen’s work in the present day and to make her fall in love with Austen herself.

Why I wanted to read it: I’m a big fan of the Austen Addicts series.  (Check out my reviews: A Weekend With Mr. Darcy, Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, Mr. Darcy Forever, Christmas With Mr. Darcy, and Happy Birthday, Mr. Darcy)

What I liked: I love that Connelly has continued this series.  I love these characters, and every time I read a new installment, it feels like I’m catching up with old friends.  Connelly made me feel like I was on holiday with the Janeites and actually visiting the homes with them.  There was a hint of romance for one of the characters, and I couldn’t help but laugh at what happened to another character.  I loved the side stories about Katherine and Warwick settling into their Georgian manor and Robyn’s husband, Dan, trying to take care of their cottage, their toddler, and his horse riding center on his own for a few days.  But most of all, I loved all the talk about books and all-things-Austen, especially the conversation between Robyn and Katherine, a doctor of English literature, about whether Chatsworth was Austen’s inspiration for Pemberley:

‘You think it foolish to try and find the real Pemberley?’ Robyn asked.

‘Not foolish, exactly,’ Katherine said.  ‘I think we all carry it inside us, don’t we?  We each have our own individual version that no film director can really create for us.’

What I disliked:  This novella was delightful and entertaining, and the only thing I disliked was that I finished it so quickly.

Final thoughts: At Home With Mr. Darcy (and the entire Austen Addicts series) is a pure delight for Jane Austen fans.  Readers will want to start from the beginning to fully appreciate these characters and their Austen obsession, but it won’t take long to catch up because only the first three installments are full-length novels.  I may not own any Mr. Darcy trinkets or be able to quote extensively from the novels, but I connect with these characters through a shared love of reading.  Connelly shows that Janeites are proud of their love of Austen but also are able to poke fun at their obsession, and she highlights the sense of community among the Janeites.  At Home With Mr. Darcy is lighthearted and fun, and I really hope Connelly plans on continuing the series.

Disclosure: I received At Home With Mr. Darcy from the author for review.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Read Full Post »

Print

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Lady Catherine, now purple about the gills, opened and closed her mouth like the trout he fished in the Pemberley streams, but before she could utter another word, Fitzwilliam Darcy spoke.  ‘There is no more to discuss, except to say that I am willing to forgive and forget, there will be no further reference to the interview that has taken place or to your past misdemeanours if you abide by my rules.’

Without waiting for a further reaction, Mr. Darcy turned on his heel and marched out of the room, aware that his aunt was left flabbergasted, stunned, and for once, quite speechless.

(from Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds)

Quick summary: Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds is a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and a Jane Austen Jewel Box Novella by Jane Odiwe.  Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy have only been married for a few weeks when they invite the Bingleys, the Bennets, and Lady Catherine to Pemberley for Christmas.  Their happiness is interrupted when Elizabeth loses a diamond ring that is a Darcy family heirloom, and the Wickhams come around with news of a scandal that could tarnish the Darcy name.  With Lydia prancing around the ballroom saying things she shouldn’t, Lady Catherine and Caroline Bingley united in their dislike of the Bennets, and Darcy’s distant and mysterious French cousins Antoine and Louise de Valois becoming fast friends of Georgiana’s, it’s not surprising that Pemberley is in a state of chaos.

Why I wanted to read it: Odiwe is one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired fiction.  I’ve enjoyed every book of hers I’ve read so far: Lydia Bennet’s Story, Mr. Darcy’s Secret, Searching for Captain Wentworth, and Project Darcy.

What I liked: Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds gives readers a peek into Darcy and Elizabeth’s happily ever after, showing the depths of their passion without getting too steamy and how the strength of their love will enable them to conquer any challenge thrown at them.  Odiwe does a great job packing a lot into such a short story so that I was never bored, nor did I feel overwhelmed.  I loved that there was a bit of mystery and scandal — and especially that I didn’t figure it out right away.  I also enjoyed the original characters, Antoine and Louise, and how secondary characters like Georgiana Darcy and Anne de Bourgh are fleshed out a little more.

What I disliked: I wish the story had been longer, but I was happy to read at the end that another Jewel Box Novella is coming soon!

Final thoughts: Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds is the perfect short read for a brisk afternoon, with a cup of tea and Christmas on the horizon.  Odiwe is one of those authors whose books always make my wish list as soon as I hear about them, and I’ve never been disappointed.  I enjoyed watching Elizabeth come into her own as the mistress of Pemberley, forging close bonds with the tenants and softening Darcy’s rough edges.  Most of all, I enjoyed Georgiana’s story, seeing her come out of her shell and become more confident in the months since the ordeal with Wickham, and I can’t wait for Odiwe to continue her story.

Disclosure: I received Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds from the author for review.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Read Full Post »

don't want to miss a thing

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

It was unbelievable.  You could actually see it happening.  One minute he was completely and utterly entranced.  Before long, as if the momentousness of the occasion had made its presence felt, the newest addition to the family stirred and opened her eyes.

“Her name is Delphi,” said Laura.

“Oh my God.”  Dex exhaled slowly.  “Look at her.”

(from Don’t Want to Miss a Thing, page 4)

Quick summary: Dexter Yates is a player, and despite all girlfriends he has had, the only women he has ever loved are his sister, Laura, and his baby niece, Delphi.  When Laura dies suddenly and tragically, he faces a life without them both.  His fast-paced London lifestyle leaves no room for a baby, but Molly Hayes, a cartoonist and his neighbor in the Cotswolds village where he recently bought a house, encourages him to follow his heart where Delphi is concerned.  Meanwhile, Frankie, the owner of a popular café in the village, and her daughter, Amber, learn that their seemingly perfect family life is far from it.  But while Frankie sees it as an opportunity for freedom, Amber feels lost and doesn’t know who to trust.

Why I wanted to read it: Jill Mansell’s novels are pure comfort reads.  I don’t read too much women’s fiction, but Mansell’s British romantic comedies are always fantastic.

What I liked: Mansell always creates such well-developed and interesting characters.  In Don’t Want to Miss a Thing, I was happy to see her put a man in the lead role, and watching Dexter evolve from ladies’ man to family man was heartwarming.  As with her other novels, I found all of the plot lines equally entertaining.  As a wife and mother with a teenage daughter, I warmed up easily to Frankie.  And of course, the characters find themselves in ridiculously funny situations and misunderstandings.  Mansell tackles some pretty heavy themes, but she does a great job keeping things from getting too serious.

What I disliked: There really wasn’t anything to dislike.  I enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t my favorite of Mansell’s novels.

Final thoughts: Mansell has a knack for creating endearingly flawed characters who feel like old friends, and she never fails to make me laugh.  Don’t Want to Miss a Thing is a story about the many kinds of love, new-found love, enduring love, and the love between a parent and child, and how finding real love can turn your life upside down.  It’s about making the right decisions, even when few of the people in your life believe in you, and the freedom that comes from acceptance.  Once again, Mansell showed me exactly why I have been recommending her books to family, friends, and my dear blog readers for years!

Disclosure: Don’t Want to Miss a Thing is from my personal library.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Read Full Post »

land of dreams

Source: Review copy from William Morrow
Rating: ★★★★☆

I couldn’t paint.  I had nothing to say.  My art had left me and all I could do was capture the story behind the eyes of a pretty girl.  Somehow, in the past few weeks, I had become silenced.  My voice was gone and I was becoming ever less certain that it would return.

(from Land of Dreams, page 165)

Quick summary: Land of Dreams is the last installment in Kate Kerrigan’s Ellis Island trilogy that follows headstrong Ellie Hogan, who has left Ireland for good to forge a new life in New York City.  Set in 1942, Ellie has become a well-known artist and is raising her adopted sons, Leo and Tom, on Fire Island off the Long Island shore.  She has settled into the quiet life of an artist, but all that changes when 16-year-old Leo runs away from his boarding school to Hollywood to become an actor.  It’s not long before Ellie, Tom, and her old friend Bridie have forged a new life in Los Angeles.  Ellie has lost her creativity, and after the loss of two husbands, she thinks her desire to love and be loved has left her as well.  Amidst the fame and greed of Hollywood, the Japanese internment camps, and memories of the life she left behind, Ellie embarks on a friendship with a Polish composer, Stan, and puts her dreams on the sidelines to give her son a chance to live his own.

Why I wanted to read it: I really enjoyed the first two books in the trilogy, Ellis Island and City of Hope, and I wanted to find out how Kerrigan concludes Ellie’s story.

What I liked: Land of Dreams can be read as a standalone novel.  Of course, you’ll care more about Ellie if you read all three books in order, but Kerrigan provides enough back story so you won’t feel too lost — which was good for me since it’s been a year since I read the previous books, and I needed a quick update.  I love the character of Ellie.  She has gone through so much in her 42 years, but she has always managed to pull herself up, adapt, and move forward.  Having long wanted to be a mother, Ellie would do anything for Tom and Leo, putting them first in all things.  The first-person narrative helps emphasize how much she has endured and how much she has sacrificed, and Kerrigan does a great job ensuring that readers understand Ellie, even when they don’t agree with her.  Hollywood in the 1940s is an intriguing setting, but Kerrigan doesn’t let readers forget that there is a war going on.  The fighting may be happening elsewhere, but the tensions and the animosity toward anyone with a connection to Germany and Japan, however slight, is very real and very dangerous.  However, Kerrigan also doesn’t let the war take center stage.

What I disliked: The only thing I didn’t like was having to say goodbye to Ellie when I turned the last page.

Final thoughts: Ellie’s fierce love for her children shines through, and the same take-charge attitude and adaptability that enabled her to survive hunger, build successful businesses, and keep going after tough losses help her see through the glitz and glamor of Hollywood.  Even while stepping aside to let her son shine, Ellie cannot completely hide in the shadows, and the relationships she forges in Hollywood make her realize she still has much to learn about life, love, and creativity.  Land of Dreams is a satisfying conclusion to the Ellis Island trilogy, which centers on love and loss, family, the immigrant experience, and the American Dream.  The trilogy spans the years of the Irish War of Independence, the Great Depression, and World War II and follows a woman who was truly ahead of her time.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for having me on the tour for Land of Dreams.  To follow the tour, click here.

war challenge with a twist

Book 23 for the War Challenge With a Twist (WWII)

historical fiction challenge

Book 23 for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Disclosure: I received Land of Dreams from William Morrow for review.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Read Full Post »

GI Brides

Source: Review copy from William Morrow
Rating: ★★★★★

When they had married, it had been in the midst of a war that seemed never-ending.  She had accepted Raymond’s ring without considering the fact that one day it would mean following him halfway across the world.  But now, as she waited for her orders to join him in America, she began to question what she had done.

(from GI Brides, page 174)

Quick summary: GI Brides profiles just four of the more than 70,000 British women who married American soldiers during World War II and followed them to the United States, including author Nuala Calvi’s grandmother, Margaret. Based on interviews with the women, the book goes into detail about each of their lives during the war, how they met their GI husbands, and what life was like for them in a new country as they raised their families.

Why I wanted to read it: I had no idea there were so many war brides, and I was curious about how these women fared after leaving their homes and families to start anew in a strange country.

What I liked: GI Brides reads like a novel, which makes it very easy to get absorbed in the stories of these women. Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi obviously did a lot of research, and they present the stories of Sylvia, Rae, Margaret, and Lyn in such a way that I cared about them and felt like they were old friends. Pictures are included so readers can put faces to the names, and I found myself flipping to them many times while I read.

What I disliked: The chapters alternate among the women, and at first that made it difficult for me to keep track of their stories, especially if I put the book down for a day or two before coming back to it. That didn’t keep me from loving the book, though.

Final thoughts: Sylvia, Rae, Margaret, and Lyn came from different backgrounds, but they had a lot in common. These women each found a way to do their part for the war effort, whether volunteering at a Red Cross club like Sylvia or joining the Auxiliary Territorial Service like Rae. Despite each of them finding love or at least some semblance of happiness with their American soldiers, these women experienced many challenges and hardships. Most importantly, these women were strong, adventurous, and able to overcome the various obstacles thrown in their paths. GI Brides is a fascinating book about just a few of the many women brave enough to cross an ocean — on their own — for a chance at love, with no guarantees that it would work out or that they would ever see their families again.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for having me on the tour for GI Brides. To follow the tour, click here.

war challenge with a twist

Book 22 for the War Challenge With a Twist (WWII)

Book 1 for the Nonfiction Reading Challenge

Book 2 for the Nonfiction Reading Challenge

Disclosure: I received GI Brides from William Morrow for review.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Read Full Post »

mad about the boy

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

11.15 p.m.  Look, stoppit.  For, as it says on the Dalai Lama’s Twitter: <@Dalai Lama We cannot avoid pain, we cannot avoid loss.  Contentment comes from the ease and flexibility with which we move though change.>

Maybe will go to yoga and become more flexible.

Or maybe will go out with friends and get plastered.

(from Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, page 71)

Quick summary: Bridget Jones is back in all her embarrassing, hilarious, and endearing glory.  A single mother with two children, Bridget re-enters the dating scene, which has dramatically changed.  Soon, she is taking on the world of Twitter, writing a screenplay of a modern-day Hedda Gabler, and boasting a much younger boytoy.  She’s not sure she can handle this life alone…and she’s not the only one who thinks she could use some help.

Why I wanted to read it: I loved Bridget Jones’ Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, and I wanted to see what Bridget had been up to since then.

What I liked: Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy is a pure comfort read, like curling up with a cup of tea and pouring out your heart with an old, familiar friend.  Bridget is the same as ever — still fumbling her way through life, still meaning well but mucking it all up, still making a fool of herself, and still making us laugh.  But she’s changed, too, and she really does try to put on a brave face for her children and do right by them.

Helen Fielding manages to work in some seriousness with all the humor, making sure we remember that Bridget is struggling through grief.  Without that steadying force in her life, Bridget was bound to come undone, and those were the most real parts of the novel.  I also loved that Bridget learns to embrace her 50-something self and feel sexy, even while being clumsy and out of sorts.  There’s also a hint of Pride and Prejudice, with the whole bad-first-impression thing going on.

What I disliked: The absence of Mark Darcy was something I knew about before I read the book, and while it allowed Fielding to explore the challenges of dating in the Internet era, single parenthood, and embracing who you are at any age, it was still difficult for me to get over.

Final thoughts: Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy was a satisfying continuation to the series.  It wasn’t without its flaws, but I was able to overlook them and just enjoy it for what it was — a lighthearted beach read.  (I did indeed indulge in this novel when I was in Ocean City, Maryland, in July.)  It was nice to catch up with Bridget, and I was pleased with how this chapter in her life wrapped up.  I hope Fielding will revisit Bridget and her gang — from her mother and Daniel Cleaver to the characters introduced here for the first time — again in the future.

Disclosure: Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy is from my personal library.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Read Full Post »

the summer of long knives

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★☆☆

There was pleasure to be derived from having a false face to hide what the false heart knew.  Maybe, Rolf thought, that was what kept killers like this going when they weren’t strangling or stabbing or torturing.  Just the fun of shaking the maitre’d’s hand, complimenting him on his service and chef’s skill at fixing rabbit, while all the time thinking, you think I’m just a friendly face, but do you know what else these hands will do tonight?  Such thoughts would add spice to the mundane.  Every wave and smile and bit of small talk asks the social world the essential, but unspoken question: do you see me for what I am?

(from The Summer of Long Knives, pages 212-213)

Quick summary: Set in Munich in 1936, The Summer of Long Knives follows Kommisar Rolf Wundt as he navigates the fear and tensions in Nazi Germany to catch a killer who brutally murdered a member of the League of German Girls, carving a message into her bare chest.  Rolf and his wife, Klara, are desperate to escape Germany, as they are a target of the Nazi regime due to their political affiliations, but Rolf is told that he will not be able to leave until this case is solved.  However, as the Gestapo continues its takeover of the criminal police, Rolf soon learns that they care little about finding the real killer and everything about furthering their own agenda.  The Summer of Long Knives delves not only into Rolf’s determination to solve the case but also his marital troubles, as he is forced to seek out his former lover, both to extract information and to save her life.

Why I wanted to read it: I’d never read a crime thriller set in Nazi Germany.

What I liked: Jim Snowden definitely did a lot of research about the political climate after Adolf Hitler rose to power.  The Summer of Long Knives is an interesting take on the power struggles that occurred within the upper levels of the Nazi regime and how Nazi ideology led to many innocent people being arrested, subjected to show trials, and almost immediately executed.  Snowden does a good job showing how difficult it was for Rolf — a man haunted by his job and driven by a need for justice — to get real criminals off the street.  The case and all the twists and turns were interesting, as were appearances by historical figures like Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich, and of course, Hitler.  This was also my first introduction to Albert Göring, Hermann’s brother, who apparently was known for helping Jews and political dissidents and for his opposition to Nazism.

What I disliked: The author went a little overboard with his descriptions, like using the phrase “blonde ocean of headage” to describe someone with blonde hair.  I also didn’t think Rolf’s actions always made sense, given the climate of the time.  If he was so desperate to solve the crime and leave Germany, of course, he was going to have to go over the heads of the Gestapo, but I find it hard to believe that he would have been able to talk to a Gestapo officer the way he did and still live.  After all, this book is set two years after the Night of the Long Knives — when Hitler purged those he viewed as a political threat — so I don’t think they would have had any qualms about making Rolf disappear. I also didn’t feel any kind of connection to Rolf and Klara and didn’t much care about their martial problems, though I did appreciate his willingness to risk his own safety in his quest for justice.

Final thoughts: My curiosity about the case and how Rolf would manage to find the killer given all the obstacles put in his path by the Nazis enabled me to overlook the flaws, and I was satisfied with the ending.  The book took a little horror-novel turn toward the end, but that just increased the excitement, especially since I didn’t find it overly graphic. Overall, I thought The Summer of Long Knives was an interesting novel about a fascinating period in history.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for having me on the tour for The Summer of Long Knives. To follow the tour, click here.

war challenge with a twist

Book 21 for the War Challenge With a Twist (WWII)

historical fiction challenge

Book 22 for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Disclosure: I received The Summer of Long Knives from the author for review.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 207 other followers