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Posts Tagged ‘first impressions’

Hello, my dear readers! I can’t believe January is over already. Things are busy, busy, busy, so I haven’t been able to blog as much as I used to, but I have been reading and wanted to share my thoughts on the books I’ve read and what’s coming up for the blog in February. At least for the near future, I will be posting mini reviews of books from my personal library, with longer reviews planned for books I accepted for review. First up today, mini reviews of the books I read in January:

Source: Purchased

The Sweetest Ruin is a novella in which Pride and Prejudice meets Las Vegas. William Darcy feels suffocated by his family after a heath crisis and takes a spontaneous trip to Sin City, where he meets Elizabeth Bennet, a college student and a cocktail waitress at a casino. The two meet and sparks fly. Their whirlwind romance has some complications, namely William’s sister back in England and Elizabeth’s over protective best friend Thad. This was such a fun novella, with lots of steamy bits and humor as William and Elizabeth work to overcome the odds stacked against them. There were characters I loved and characters I loved to hate, but mostly they were characters I didn’t expect (Jane Bingley, for one). Amy George turns Pride and Prejudice on its head, and it was fantastic!

Source: Purchased

Lady Catherine’s Lover is a short story sequel to Pride and Prejudice in which the Darcys are awaiting the birth of their first child, making Darcy unwilling to chase after Lady Catherine when rumors swirl about her relationship with her late husband’s cousin, who requested an urgent meeting with her in London following the death of his wife. Darcy and Elizabeth watch things unfold from afar, and while the story is amusing, I wish it had been a little longer. It ends rather abruptly, and I really wanted to know what happened next!

Source: Kindle freebie

The Austen Addiction is a novella about Sharon, a young woman recovering from a tragic accident that took the life of her parents. She moves in with her aunt while she tries to figure out her next step and befriends the neighbors, a charming lawyer named Devon, his sister Clara, whose husband is serving in the military overseas, and Clara’s young daughter, Victoria. As Sharon’s friendship with Devon begins to grow into something more, she must come to terms with the aftermath of the accident, learning to live in the present rather than escaping to the past through Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Some readers might be put off by the strong Christian themes, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story, though the pacing was a bit quick for a story with such heavy themes.

Source: Kindle freebie

First Impressions is a short story that follows Stephanie Sleuth, a time detective, as she travels through the whorls of time from 2017 to 1811 to remedy a mistake in Pride and Prejudice. Stephanie meets up with Jane, not for the first time, to try to uncover what influenced the most recent mistake in the book, which Jane is currently writing. It’s an interesting premise, but something that really needs a longer format to provide the necessary backstory and explanations so readers can follow the action.

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Now that I’m spending more of my free time (not that there was much to begin with!) working on my novel (which I’ll post about here when I’m further along in the process), I’m no longer accepting review copies. I do still have review books on my shelf, and I’m working my way through them as time permits — and lately it feels like I’m reading in slow motion. I’m still finishing up Ellen Marie Wiseman’s The Life She Was Given, which is a beautifully written though heartbreaking tale about a young girl sold into the circus in the 1930s. (Click the link to read the excerpt that Ellen shared with my readers over the summer.)

Another fun book I’m working my way through is Katwalk by Maria Murnane, which I hope to finish soon. I’m really enjoying it! Here’s the blurb:

Katrina Lynden has always walked a straight line in life, an approach that has resulted in a stable career and pleased her hard-nosed parents but that has also left her feeling unfulfilled—and miserable. When her best friend suggests they quit their Silicon Valley jobs and embark on two months of adventure in New York City, Katrina balks at the idea but ultimately agrees, terrified yet proud of herself for finally doing something interesting with her life. But when her friend has to back out at the last minute, Katrina finds herself with a tough decision to make. Much to her surprise, she summons the courage to go alone, and the resulting journey changes everything. Along the way she makes new friends, loses others, learns what is really important to her, and finds a way to grow up without leaving herself behind.

So watch this space for these reviews!

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I’m still hosting guest spots so I can let you all know about new releases that I’m excited about, and in February, I will have several guests: Amy George, author of The Sweetest Ruin (see my review at the very beginning of this post); Monica Fairview, author of When Pride Prevails; and Mark Brownlow, author of Cake and Courtship. I hope you’ll stop by for a variety of guest spots and giveaways!

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What are you reading right now? Any exciting plans (reading or otherwise) for February! I’d love for you to share them in the comments.

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first impressions

Source: Public library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

“It’s a tragedy,” I insisted. “Sure, Elizabeth and Jane get their guys, and Lydia makes an exciting, scandalous marriage, and the author hopes that Kitty will turn out okay, but Mary…it’s a tragedy for Mary.”

(from First Impressions, page 1)

Quick summary: First Impressions by Marilyn Sachs is a young-adult novel told from the point of view of Alice, the third child in a family of five who feels unappreciated by her parents and siblings.  She is a straight-A student forced to spend Christmas break rewriting a paper on Pride and Prejudice so her teacher will reconsider the C+ she received for misinterpreting the novel.  Given Alice’s place in her family, it’s not surprising that she identifies most with Mary Bennet, and she is unwilling to believe her teacher’s contention that Jane Austen intended for Mary to be a minor character who provides comic relief, not a tragic character who needs a chance to shine.  After a mysterious woman in a raincoat appears at random moments, and her new boyfriend, Kevin, offers to read and discuss the book with her, something magical begins to happen.  Alice finds herself and Kevin within the pages of Austen’s novel, and as she sets out to change Mary’s fate, she finds that her own life may be changing, too.

Why I wanted to read it: I was in the mood for a short Austen-inspired novel that wasn’t simply a retelling of Elizabeth and Darcy’s story.

What I liked: I liked the premise of the novel, that someone might identify with one of the other Bennet sisters and the idea of being able to dive into a novel and play with the storyline a bit.  I also thought it was nice that Alice slyly encouraged her father to ask her mom out on a date after recognizing how much fun her mom had helping Alice pick out a dress for her first New Year’s Eve party.

What I disliked: I wished the novel focused more on the magical aspects of the book, which took a backseat to Alice’s relationship with Kevin and helping her parents rekindle their relationship.  I didn’t like how Alice’s teacher thought her interpretation of the novel was wrong, especially since she was able to back up her arguments.  It also felt like Alice’s newfound sense of self seemed too heavily reliant on Kevin.  The secondary characters felt flat, but at 117 pages, there wasn’t much room for character development, aside from the changes in Alice.

Final thoughts: Overall, I thought First Impressions was an okay novel.  There was nothing wrong with the writing, but there was nothing memorable about the characters.  Part of that might be related to the fact that I’m not the target audience for this novel, but I have enjoyed plenty of YA novels in the past.  I think I would have enjoyed the novel more had the magical aspects been fleshed out a little more.  Still, I must applaud Sachs for making readers think more critically about Mary Bennet and how the events of Pride and Prejudice would have affected her life.

Disclosure: I borrowed First Impressions from the public library.

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

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first impressions

Source: Review copy from Viking
Rating: ★★★★★

“A good book is like a good friend. It will stay with you for the rest of your life. When you first get to know it, it will give you excitement and adventure, and years later it will provide you with comfort and familiarity. And best of all, you can share it with your children or your grandchildren or anyone you love enough to let into its secrets.”

(from First Impressions, page 28)

Quick summary: Charlie Lovett’s new novel, First Impressions, is a feast for bibliophiles and especially fans of Jane Austen. In 1796, Jane Austen forges a friendship with Richard Mansfield, an elderly clergyman and writer who shares her love of the written word and with whom she shares the early drafts of her manuscripts. In the present, Sophie Collingwood is reeling from the loss of her uncle with whom she shared a love of books, as well as the loss of his massive library, which was supposed to have been hers. While deciding what to do with her life now that she’s graduated from Oxford, she takes a job in an antiquarian bookshop owned by one of her uncle’s friends, and she’s almost immediately thrown into a mystery when two customers request her assistance on the same day to find the second edition of A Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield. As Sophie pieces together the story behind the rare book, she is forced to question whether Austen is truly the genius behind Pride and Prejudice, choose between the incorrigible American with whom she shared a passionate kiss and the sexy publishing executive helping her track down the book, and even run for her life.

Why I wanted to read it: Who could resist a book about the love of books? And the premise that Austen may have stolen the plot of Pride and Prejudice is both clever and intriguing.

What I liked: It can be difficult for authors juggling a dual narrative to make them equally appealing to readers, but Lovett had me hanging onto every word of both stories from the very first page. I thought it was creative how Lovett puts Jane Austen at the center of a mystery that takes a sinister turn. The friendship between Jane and Rev. Mansfield is beautifully portrayed, and Lovett even makes Sophie’s story, though wild and over-the-top, completely believable. Despite the darkness of the mystery, there are light, heartwarming moments throughout the book, from the scenes where Uncle Bertram passes on a love of books and reading to Sophie to the scenes where Jane shares her writing with Rev. Mansfield.

What I disliked: Nothing! This book grabbed me from the start, and it was a good thing I picked it up on a vacation day from work, as I gobbled it up in one sitting.

Final thoughts: First Impressions is an exciting novel about cultivating a lifelong love of reading, collecting antique books, and all that can be accomplished through a marriage of the minds. It’s a fun, fast-paced novel that seamlessly blends the past with the present and will make readers long for libraries amassed over the generations, the smell of old paper and ink, and the promise of adventure within the pages of a book. Definitely one of the best books I read this year!

Disclosure: I received First Impressions from Viking for review.

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

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first impressions

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

“If she is really as wonderful as you say, certainly she will not wait forever for you to make up your mind.  She has a duty, after all, especially when one considers her familial circumstances, to marry well.  She must find it rather insulting that you look so far down upon her relations; do you really believe she will remain available once another man has expressed his interest?”  Georgiana had never spoken to her brother so forcibly and was surprised he did not seem to mind, let alone call an immediate end to the conversation, as she had feared.

(from First Impressions, page 120)

Alexa Adams is quickly becoming a favorite of mine among the authors of Austen-inspired fiction.  Once I picked up her novel First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride & Prejudice, nothing could pry it out of my hands.  First Impressions is a gentle retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that first imagines what would happen if, at the Meryton Assembly, Mr. Darcy does not slight Elizabeth Bennet but instead asks her to dance and ends up enjoying himself.  From there, Adams imagines what would have happened had Mr. Darcy not interfered with Mr. Bingley’s relationship with Jane Bennet, Mr. Bennet was warned to keep his daughters away from Mr. Wickham, and Mr. Collins makes a more suitable match, sparing Charlotte Lucas a lifetime of putting up with his ridiculousness.

Surprisingly, removing all the tension of the original novel doesn’t cause the novel to fall flat.  Adams’ Mr. Darcy finds himself confessing to Mr. Bennet the reasons he is wary to marry his favorite daughter, with amusing results, and she sends Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Darcy’s formidable aunt, rushing off to Longbourn, this time for a different reason.  And Caroline Bingley, in a very satisfying twist, gets her just desserts.

First Impressions is a short, satisfying novel that focuses on the humor, the romance, and the ridiculousness of certain characters. I loved how Adams, just like Austen, gives the characters their privacy, not even allowing readers to witness Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth’s first kiss.  Like Austen, Adams’ narrator talks directly to the reader, and it’s little touches like this that I found so delightful.  First Impressions was the perfect book to keep me company on a cold, snowy day, and as the snow approaches again tomorrow, I plan to be under a warm blanket nursing a cup of cocoa and reading the second book, Second Glances.  I’ll be finishing this week with the third book, Holidays at Pemberley.  Who better than Mr. Darcy to get me in the holiday spirit?

Book 15 for the P&P Bicentenary Challenge

Disclosure: I received First Impressions from the author for review.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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