Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Further Book Reviews!
Okay, this is the last of the book reviews I have written this fall. The problem is that once my MLA Research Essay class at Brave Writer progressed to grading first drafts around the first week of November, all tracking (much less reviewing!) of books ceased.
Thus, my great task for the first week of Christmastide (before January 1) is to catch up with at least marking which books I've read and perhaps remembering enough of each to review them. It's not easy when renewing so many books with the same characters (i.e., Pride and Prejudice variations and continuations), plus my mindset at the time was rather garbled since grading so many essays really robs one of brain power. My health also doesn't do well with remembering plots and characters as my shorter-term memory is affected by my medications.
So here are my "last batch" of book reviews from Goodreads until I catch up after Christmas. Enjoy!!
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Over the years, I've read a good number of Anne Tyler's novels--at least a majority of them. Somehow the disconnect that her characters usually experience--a disconnect with other characters, with society, with "normalcy" (whatever that is!)--leaves me anxious, unsettled. Perhaps that is Tyler's goal. Or perhaps it's just my own peculiar response evoked by Tyler's spare style and unique perspectives.
I was thrilled to read that Tyler's latest novel, Vinegar Girl, is based on Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. Tyler's Kate is a modern twenty-something girl who is disconnected from her brilliant yet absent-minded professor father because of the hours--days even--that he spends in his university lab. Kate is also disconnected from her teenage sister Bunny who is cute, adorable, beloved by all, but as selfish as the day is long. And Kate is also disconnected from herself; she works as a teacher's aide with preschoolers and kindergarteners yet can't relate well to these small humans, the staff, or the boy she is crushing on.
Then her father has a brilliant idea that could solve the pressing problem of losing his Russian lab assistant, and Kate is dragged into the world of Pyotr who sees America, life, and even Kate with an abandoned joyful enthusiasm. Will Kate remain a "vinegar girl," or will she soften and sweeten, perhaps even glimpsing the mere possibility of happiness?
In celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, Hogarth Press has been releasing books by modern authors that are based on one of the Bard's plays. If this is an average sampling of the results of this book series, I can't wait to read more.
Pride and Persistence by Jeanna Ellsworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A very intriguing twist on Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Pride and Persistence starts in Kent. When Darcy delivers his letter to Elizabeth on the morning after his disastrous proposal, he has a devastating accident and is carried, unconscious, to the parsonage. Unable to be moved because of the seriousness of his injuries, Elizabeth takes care of Darcy with a level head and also wishes to apologize--not for refusing his proposal but for the mean-spirited manner of her refusal.
But once Darcy finally awakens, something is wrong with him beyond his broken foot and head injury, and only Elizabeth seems able to deal effectively with him. And thus begins Darcy's persistence in winning Elizabeth--mind, heart, and soul.
Jenna Ellsworth is one of my favorite writers of Austen variations, and this one was as wonderful as the rest. My favorite is still To Refine Like Silver, but Pride and Persistence is definitely a delightful read, one I highly recommend.
Infamous Relations: A Pride And Prejudice "What If?" Tale by Catherine Bilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A wonderful follow-up to one of my favorite variations of Pride and Prejudice, Infamous Relations is the backwards follow-up to The Best of Relations in which Elizabeth's Aunt Gardiner was portrayed as a distant cousin to Mr. Darcy but one which he respected. However, in Infamous Relations, we see both Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine at their very worst, causing Elizabeth great harm.
I very much enjoyed this different story which is set mostly at Hunsford in Kent when Elizabeth visits Charlotte Collins. After Mr. Darcy's regrettable proposal, he seeks to give Elizabeth his letter of explanation, and there the story veers into an alternate reality in which we see the worst of both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy's relations.
Definitely suspenseful, sometimes angsty, and an absolute page-turner, Infamous Relations is one of the most intriguing Pride and Prejudice "What If?" tales I've read.
A Lesson Hard Learned by Wendi Sotis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In this variation of Austen's famed Pride and Prejudice, A Lesson Hard Learned starts just as Darcy and Elizabeth meet again in London after the debacle in Hunsford. But Darcy cannot stay to continue their awkward reunion; instead, he must travel to Virginia to bring back his cousin who was widowed while visiting her husband's family. Plus, her father, the Earl of Matlock, is dying, so Darcy must return his cousin to England as quickly as possible despite her marriage-minded machinations and some perilous events at sea.
While Darcy is away on this necessary family business, Elizabeth enjoys her trip to Derbyshire with Aunt and Uncle Gardiner. In a moment of thoughtless enthusiasm, Elizabeth is injured at Matlock and is cared for by the Countess and Georgiana, both of whom have figured from Darcy's letters that he is in love with her. Due to the Earl's illness, Georgie removes Elizabeth to nearby Pemberley to recover from her head injury and broken ankle.
And then more events occur, but suffice it to say that Darcy is thrilled to find Elizabeth at Pemberley upon his return....
This is a lovely, well-researched, and rather exciting book that I read in just a couple of days despite much work on my proverbial plate. It's wonderfully written and well-paced--a delightful read!
I'm currently reading Ms. Sotis's All Hallows Eve which is even better than this one, so I think that I can safely recommend reading any or even all of her many variations of Pride and Prejudice!
Pemberley: Mr. Darcy's Dragon by Maria Grace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Okay, so it may look as though I read this variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice in fewer that 24 hours, but that's not quite the case. Maria Grace has kindly posted the first several chapters, serial style, on the her own website Random Bits of Fascination as well as on Austen Variations, so I had a head start and took off flying yesterday afternoon, finishing this morning.
The dragonlore in this first novel of Maria Grace's Jane Austen's Dragons series, Pemberley: Mr. Darcy's Dragon is incredible. I felt as if I stepped into a completely different Austenesque reality than usual, and I was taken in well before the end of the first chapter. Some people can hear dragons, and Elizabeth and Mary are the only of Mr. Bennet's daughters thus gifted. Mr. Bennet, the Blue Order's Historian, is well-versed in dragonlore, and he is also the Keeper of Longbourn, the ancestral dragon.
But news of a stolen dragon egg reaches Mr. Bennet, and he and his dragon-hearing daughters are commanded by the Order to assist in finding the missing egg before it hatches or else the centuries-old treaty between human beings and dragonkind would be in serious jeopardy. And the owner of the stolen egg is an abrasive fellow named Fitzwilliam Darcy....
I won't say any more because I don't want to ruin the plot; the information given here is basically from the first chapter only. ;)
This book was officially released yesterday, and, as I had posted on the site, "I gobbled up the book as quickly as Longbourn consumes sheep!"
I've been a longtime fan of everything Maria Grace writes, starting with her work posted on FanFiction.net and now through her own website as well as via Austen Variations, and this book is definitely my very favorite of the bunch!
My only regret is how long I'll have to wait to see how the story continues in Volume 2 of this series. (Write fast, Maria!! Please????)
I rarely give 5's to books other than classics and have done so for fewer than a dozen of the over 300 Austen variations I've read, but this book would get a 6 from me if it were possible! Brilliant, brilliant work!!
View all my reviews
Thank you for reading my reviews, and I hope that you will have a wonderfully bookish 2017 ahead! I will post my completed booklist (and movie list) for 2016 on the last day of the year, as always.
With warmest holy-day regards,