Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘book reviews’

the darcy brothers

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

“They really are — I can see why they hold your attention…” his head lolled forward for a second and Darcy feared he had lapsed into unconsciousness and grabbed his good arm to steady him, but then Theo shook his head again and raised it to meet his brother’s confused gaze.

“Miss Elizabeth Bennet.  She has — do you not think, she has the finest pair of…”

“Theo!”

Theo blinked; then, he fixed Darcy with a stern look.  “If you would only let me finish, Brother!  She has the finest pair of eyes I have ever seen on a woman.”

(from The Darcy Brothers)

Quick summary: The Darcy Brothers is a collaborative retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by Monica Fairview, Maria Grace, Cassandra Grafton, Susan Mason-Milks, and Abigail Reynolds.  Fitzwilliam and Theophilus Darcy barely tolerate one another but embark on a trip together to visit their Aunt Catherine at Rosings, at the same time that Elizabeth Bennet is visiting her friend, Mrs. Collins, at the parsonage.  It’s not long before Theo meets Elizabeth and is entranced, and Elizabeth is surprised that Theo is much more charming and amiable than his older brother.  But even as Elizabeth learns that William is not as proud and arrogant as she initially thought, she can’t help but notice the rift in the brothers’ relationship, and she wants nothing more but for them to reconcile.

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve enjoyed several books by Monica Fairview, Maria Grace, and Abigail Reynolds, so I couldn’t resist.  Plus, I’ve heard Theo is a charmer, and I wanted to meet him.

What I liked: Giving Darcy a younger brother who is everything he is not and who immediately captivates Elizabeth puts a wrench in his plans to win her over.  The authors’ portrayal of Anne de Bourgh is hilarious, from her outspokenness and her scheming to her ability to perfectly tie a cravat.  Theo is a fantastic character, and his complicated relationship with Darcy ensures the novel is not just another romantic retelling of Pride and Prejudice.  But what I loved the most is that the narrative is seamless and the voices are consistent, despite having multiple authors.

What I disliked: Nothing, except that I had to say goodbye to Theo before I was ready, and I wanted to know how things played out for Anne.

Final thoughts:  The Darcy Brothers is a novel full of misunderstandings and schemes, with the right balance of humor and heaviness.  It’s easy to fall in love with Theo, who has the easy charm of Mr. Wickham, the amiability of Mr. Bingley, the goodness and honor of the Darcys, and of course, a touch of mischief.  I hope it’s not the last we see of him!

Disclosure: I received The Darcy Brothers from the authors for review.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Read Full Post »

stella bain

Source: Personal library
Rating ★★★★☆

Publisher’s summary: It is 1916, and a woman awakens, wounded, in a field hospital in northern France.  She wears the uniform of a British nurse’s aide but has an American accent.  With no memory of her past or what brought her to this distant war, she knows only that she can drive an ambulance, and that her name is Stella Bain.

As she puts her skills to use, both transporting the wounded from the battlefield and ministering to them in hospital tents, the holes in Stella’s psyche gnaw at the edge of her consciousness.  At last, desperate to find answers, she sets off for London to reconstruct her life.

She is taken in by Dr. August Bridge, a surgeon who becomes fascinated with her case and with the agonizing and inexplicable symptoms that plague her.  Delving into her deeply fractured mind, Bridge seeks to understand what terrible blow could have separated a woman from herself.  Together, they begin to unlock a disturbing history — of deception and thwarted love, violence and betrayal.  But as her memories come racing back, Stella realizes she must embark on a new journey to confront the haunted past of the woman she used to be.

In a sweeping, dramatic narrative that takes us from England to America and back again, Anita Shreve has created an engrossing and wrenching tale about love and the meaning of memory, and about loss and redemption in the wake of a war that devastated an entire generation.

My thoughts: I really liked how Shreve focuses on the experiences of women during World War I and acknowledges that they might not have been in the trenches but still put their lives on the line and suffered the consequences.  By telling the story from Stella’s point of view when she has no memory, readers see how the war took its toll on her, and through her drawings, Shreve emphasizes the complexity of memory.  The novel is about more than the war and shell shock; it is about the difficulties women faced when they sought independence from the confines of marriage and home.  I might have loved this book, but the ending was a bit flat, though satisfying overall.

Disclosure: Stella Bain is from my personal library.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Read Full Post »

I’m going to finish this week in blogging by FINALLY posting reviews of two books I read last summer.  These books have been staring me down for months, but I just haven’t been motivated to blog about them.  Well, I figured it was time for me to share a few thoughts on them so I can finally put them away.  Stay tuned for the second mini-review on Friday.  Also, I may not be around much for the next month or so, as I’m busy with some freelance editing projects.  I can’t wait to tell you all about the books I’ve been editing!  Anyway, on to today’s mini-review:

once we were brothers

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Publisher’s summary: Elliot Rosenzweig, a respected civic leader and wealthy philanthropist, is attending a fund-raiser when he is suddenly accosted by Ben Solomon and accused of being a former Nazi SS officer named Otto Piatek, the Butcher of Zamość.  Although the charges are denounced, his accuser is convinced he is right and engages attorney Catherine Lockhart to bring Rosenzweig to justice.  Solomon reveals that the true Piatek was abandoned as a child and raised by Solomon’s own family, only to betray them during the Nazi occupation.  But has Solomon accused the right man?

Once We Were Brothers is the compelling tale of two boys and a family who fight to survive in war-torn Poland, and a young love that struggles to endure the unspeakable cruelty of the Holocaust.  Two lives, two worlds, and sixty years converge in an explosive race to redemption that makes for a moving and powerful tale of love, survival, and ultimately the triumph of the human spirit.

My thoughts: I had such mixed feelings about this book.  The narrative set during World War II was very interesting, as was the quest in the present to bring a Nazi war criminal to justice.  However, I had some issues with the structure of the narrative.  Despite all the time constraints on the legal side, Ben insists on telling the story in chronological order, and with Catherine always cutting him short, it seemed to drag it out longer than necessary.  And the author would insert information/statistics about the Holocaust into the dialogue, which was unnecessary and felt forced.  I also felt it was unnecessary to focus on Catherine’s life outside of the case; I didn’t find her to be very interesting.  I liked the book overall, but it could have been a great book if it had been structured differently, without Catherine’s story and without all the shifts from past to present.

Disclosure: Once We Were Brothers is from my personal library.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Read Full Post »

jane and the 12 days of christmas

Source: Review copy from Soho Crime
Rating: ★★★★☆

“Perhaps,” I said unwillingly, “they are mere caricatures, and thus demand nothing more.”

“Your Darcy is no caricature,” he retorted.  “Nor is Willoughby.  I have met that gentleman’s like on countless occasions, in the gaming hells and ballrooms of London — petted, indulged, weak, and subtle.  That is where you excel, Miss Austen — in the subtleties.”

(from Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas)

Quick summary: Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas is the 12th book in Stephanie Barron’s Being a Jane Austen Mystery series.  I can vouch for it being a standalone novel because it’s the only book in the series I’ve read so far.  It’s Christmas 1814, and Jane Austen, along with her sister, Cassandra, her mother, and the family of her brother, James, are invited to spend the holidays at The Vyne, the lavish estate belonging to her old friend, Eliza Chute, and her husband, William, a member of Parliament.  They are barely into the celebrations leading up to Twelfth Night when an accident occurs that Jane and another guest, the artist Raphael West, suspect to be murder.  The stakes are high, given that the Treaty of Ghent — which is intended to end the war between the British and the Americans — has gone missing, and the fact that The Vyne is snowed in means that the murderer is a fellow guest.

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve heard such good things about this series, and I can’t resist a novel with Jane Austen as the heroine.

What I liked: Barron’s portrayal of Jane Austen felt real to me.  She is 39 years old, celebrating the success of Mansfield Park, and currently working on Emma.  Readers see varied opinions about her career, with Mr. West obviously a fan of her novels and her brother scoffing at her success.  Barron also portrays her as a loving and fun aunt, playing billiards with her nephew and spoiling her niece with gifts for her new doll over the twelve days of Christmas.  We also see a Jane who is not afraid to speak her mind and whose powers of observation enable her to write realistic characters and piece together seemingly small details to solve a complicated crime.  The characters at The Vyne are all intriguing, and while I had my suspicions about them, I was happy that I hadn’t figured it all out on my own.  I enjoyed all the twists and turns of the mystery and was happy to just go along for the ride.

What I disliked: There were a few places where the narrative slowed down a bit, and it was hard to keep track of all the characters at first, but neither of those issues prevented me from enjoying the novel.

Final thoughts: Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas was a fun novel, with some dark characters, some ridiculous characters, plenty of historical details, and even a bit of a love story.  Jane’s astute observations of the people she encounters make her the perfect sleuth.  I definitely plan to work my way through the rest of the series.

Disclosure: I received Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas from Soho Crime for review.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Read Full Post »

pride and prescience

Source: Public library
Rating: ★★★★★

Once, there had been many such awkward moments between them, when prejudice and lies and pride and misunderstandings had clouded their vision of each other and themselves.  But then they’d found their way to each other, and not since then had such tension hung between them as it did now. (from Pride and Prescience, page 253)

Quick summary: Pride and Prescience, Or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged is the first book in the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery series by Carrie Bebris.  The novel opens at the wedding breakfast of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy and Charles and Jane Bingley and is a sequel of sorts to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  The sisters’ big day is somewhat overshadowed by Caroline Bingley’s announcement that she is to wed Frederick Parrish, a wealthy landowner from New Orleans.  Forced to postpone their travels to Pemberley to attend the upcoming nuptials, the Darcys spend the early days of their marriage in London, where they encounter a father and daughter with a beef against the Bingleys and Mr. Parrish, meet an archaeologist whose specialty is supernatural artifacts, and witness a sudden and dramatic change in the new Mrs. Parrish’s mental state.  It’s not long before Caroline’s troubles lead the Darcys, the Bingleys, and a host of other guests to Netherfield, where strange and even dangerous events occur and dark secrets come to light, forcing the Darcys to sort through the chaos and their differences of opinion to uncover the truth.

Why I wanted to read it: This series has been on my radar for a couple of years now, and I decided that I wasn’t putting it off any longer!

What I liked: Pride and Prescience is a clever mystery, and even while I was able to solve it on my own, there were plenty of twists and turns and even humor to keep my attention throughout.  I liked how Bebris challenged Elizabeth and Darcy from the start of their marriage.  Their disagreements over the supernatural added some tension to their relationship, which made their happily-ever-after more believable.  I especially liked how Bebris shows the passion between them without readers having to witness everything that goes on in their bedroom.  There were plenty of intriguing original characters to liven things up, and I certainly was surprised by the turn Caroline’s story took.

What I disliked: Nothing!  Overall, I thought this was a well-paced, exciting novel.

Final thoughts: Elizabeth and Darcy were believable as amateur sleuths, as both are intelligent and observant.  Elizabeth’s curiosity and open-mindedness complemented Darcy’s take-charge attitude and focus on reason.  Their love for each other comes before everything else, and their mutual respect and ability to confide in one another make them perfect partners.  Pride and Prescience is a great start to a series, and I can’t wait to read the other books!

Disclosure: I borrowed Pride and Prescience from the public library.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Read Full Post »

another place in time

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

“After inquiring after her health, I made Miss Elizabeth an offer of marriage.” William chewed on his lower lip. “Things did not turn out as expected.”

“In other words, your proposal was so obnoxious she refused you.”

“I shall admit it was not my best effort, but I take issue with your calling my offer ‘obnoxious.’ I was honoring Miss Elizabeth with my attention, and everything I said was true.”

“Just because something is true, doesn’t mean you have to say it,” Chris said, rolling her eyes.

(from Another Place in Time)

Quick summary: Christine O’Malley, a community-college English professor in Baltimore, thinks the man who interrupts her panel at a Jane Austen conference complaining that his side of the story is absent from Pride and Prejudice is merely an actor, but he insists he is Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley. It seems impossible that William could have traveled to 2012, and not just because he’s supposed to be a fictional character, but after explaining the ins and outs of time travel, Chris finds herself in Regency England, where she is supposed to help William win over Elizabeth Bennet and keep him on the novel’s timeline. But she also must sort out her feelings for William’s cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, given her very modern ideas and the fact that they are running out of time. Another Place in Time is Mary Lydon Simonsen at her best, blurring the boundaries between the past and the present and breathing new life into Austen’s timeless characters.

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve been a fan of Simonsen’s since I read Searching for Pemberley, which grabbed my attention by combining a story about Pride and Prejudice with one involving World War II. She is one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired fiction because she’s not afraid to take risks, like putting Austen’s characters into completely different time periods or even turning them into werewolves.  I enjoyed her previous time-travel novel, Becoming Elizabeth Darcy, so I knew I had to read this one, too!

What I liked: Another Place in Time isn’t really a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and I liked that even though William and his romantic troubles play a big role, much of the novel is about Chris, how she gets to live out her dream of visiting Jane Austen’s time and hanging out with her favorite literary characters, and how she overcomes a heartbreaking loss.  It was hilarious watching William and his sister, Georgiana, navigate modern-day Baltimore, and I burst out laughing at some of the souvenirs he brought back to Pemberley.  Chris had an advantage over them in that she knew how different the two time periods were, but it was still amusing to watch her pretend to be a Regency lady.  And the awe she felt when meeting Elizabeth…that’s exactly how I would have felt!

What I disliked: Nothing!  I read this book in one sitting, it was that good!

Final thoughts: Mary Lydon Simonsen is one of my go-to authors for unique Austen-inspired fiction, and Another Place in Time is probably my favorite of all of her novels so far.

Disclosure: I received Another Place in Time from the author for review.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Read Full Post »

after the war is over

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

Charlotte’s thoughts were never far from Edward. The brother and friend they loved, the man who had been returned to them, but whose soul, she feared, still walked among the dead, the millions of dead, who haunted the battlefields and charnel houses of Flanders and France.

(from After the War Is Over)

Quick summary: After the War Is Over is the sequel to Somewhere in France, which focused on Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford (Lilly), who turned her back on her family’s wealth and status to become an ambulance driver in France during the Great War. Jennifer Robson’s latest novel tells the story of Lilly’s close friend and former governess, Charlotte Brown, an Oxford educated woman who works in the constituency office of Eleanor Rathbone in Liverpool. Charlotte’s story focuses on her desire to speak for the families left hungry and homeless after the war due to their inability to find work and her need to overcome her feelings for Lilly’s brother, Edward, who has just assumed his role as Earl of Cumberland following his father’s death. The novel takes readers back in time to the beginning of her relationship with Edward and her work during the war as a nurse at a hospital for officers with shell shock. Charlotte is the only one who can help Edward, who is still suffering the effects of the war, and she must do so knowing that class differences will forever keep them apart.

Why I wanted to read it: Somewhere in France made the list of best books I read in 2014, so I just had to continue the story. There will be a third book as well, according to the author interview at the back of the book, and I can’t wait!

What I liked: I absolutely adore Robson’s writing, which is infused with so much emotion and detail without being flowery, so readers really get a sense of what England was like in the year after the armistice. World War I ushered in so many changes in terms of gender and social class, and Charlotte embodies these. She works hard to put her education to use in a meaningful job, but that same education makes some of the people who come to her office wary of accepting her help. At the same time, she is merely a vicar’s daughter from Somerset and not high enough up the social ladder to be a suitable wife for the man she loves. Robson perfectly captures the discontent among the working class and the lingering effects of the war. I also was glad to catch up with Lilly and Robbie, the main characters of the first book, and was delighted to encounter some references to Jane Austen within these pages.

What I disliked: Nothing! I loved this book from start to finish, and I nearly read the whole thing in one sitting.

Final thoughts: After the War Is Over is a powerful novel about a country recovering from a devastating war, as seen through the eyes of a woman ahead of her time. It’s more than just a romance novel and more than just a novel about war. Robson emphasizes the struggles faced by women as they sought more for themselves than just a husband and family, but most of all, she writes about the hope people like Charlotte possessed amid so much loss and grief and change. Like Charlotte says to Edward, “There’s no use feeling sorry for yourself or fretting about the past. You need to make the most of the life that has been given to you.” This may be only the third book I’ve read so far this year, but it’s definitely a contender for my Best of 2015 list!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for having me on the tour for After the War Is Over. To learn more about the book and follow the tour, click here.

Disclosure: I received After the War Is Over from William Morrow for review.

© 2015 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 220 other followers