Monday, January 2, 2017

Last Book Reviews of 2016...Well, Almost.

Okay, here are my final set of book reviews from 2016. I have thirteen books left from my 2016 reviews on Goodreads, but I'm going to try ("try" is the operative word!) to cull them down to my favorites.

I have saved three outstanding books for a final post tomorrow because they are not variations or continuations of Jane Austen's novels. And all three received 5's on my Goodreads and Amazon reviews. Plus, the reviews are longer and more thoughtful than usual, so they deserve their own post.

All Hallow's Eve All Hallow's Eve by Wendi Sotis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice was one of the most intriguing and memorable of the hundreds of variations I've read over the last few years, and the reason is the theme of paranormal/fantasy that weaves its way into the romance of Darcy and Elizabeth. There is a very different plot here than Austen's original, and it goes back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Elizabeth is the Druidic High Priestess, and Darcy finds that the family sword over the main fireplace at Pemberley is meant for the High Priestess' protection. Thus, he is destined to be the Soul Mate of the High Priestess.

Each All Hallow's Eve, the High Priestess admits the spirits of those passed to eternity a visit with their descendants. But hundreds of years ago, an evil spirit managed to stay behind when the spirits are gathered to return, and its presence may wreak havoc upon earth. And it is up to the High Priestess and her Soul Mate to stop his wicked plans.

This book was nearly unputdownable. (Yeah, yeah, it's not a word, but it describes this book's compelling qualities perfectly.) Especially if one enjoys paranormal suspense, this variation of Pride and Prejudice will be a page-turner!

I rarely give "5" scores to books that are not classics, but this variation was simply outstanding. Extraordinary. I was up until 3:00 AM, trying to finish it. It's really, truly, seriously *that* good.

Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Bet by Marilyn Brant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An interesting modern take on Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth is a social worker with a young son who is talked into trying Lady Catherine's Love Match website. Meanwhile, physician William Darcy is also talked into trying the site by a fun-loving Charles Bingley who dangles funding for Darcy's proposed clinic as the carrot.

And thus the clash of two worlds begins, with much deception on both sides, many misunderstandings, and finally . . . acknowledgment that Lady Catherine's Love Match site had indeed set them up for their Perfect Match.

I like modern adaptations of Austen's works well enough, but the 19th century Brit Lit fangirl that I am usually prefers period variations. This was definitely one of the better modern takes; it was definitely entertaining and amusing. Well done, Ms. Brant!!

Mr. Darcy's Letter: A Pride & Prejudice Variation Mr. Darcy's Letter: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Abigail Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth elects to not read Darcy's letter at Hunsford, and thus Elizabeth returns to Longbourn with no idea that Wickham is a cad, placing her family in harm's way. She also still thinks the worst of Mr. Darcy as well. But then circumstances--and Darcy--intervene, and Elizabeth finally understands the truth. But will it be too late?

Abigail Reynolds is one of the best of the many, many writers of Austen variations, continuations, sequels, vagaries, adaptations, or whatever else one wants to call the proliferation of books based on Austen's novels. And this book, read in fleeting moments between the grading of MLA research essays, was a delightful diversion from parenthetical citations and the new Works Cited formatting. I cannot recommend reading her books highly enough.

If anyone were to want to begin reading books based on Austen's novels, Abigail Reynolds is the author with whom to start. The first Austen variations I ever read were written by her and obtained through our county library (via the statewide [California] service called LINK+), and I've been hooked ever since, as my Goodreads "Read" page indicates.

A Merry Christmas Chase A Merry Christmas Chase by Monica Fairview
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(NOT an Austen variation this time!) Cherry, daughter of the village rector, is devoted to the people of her father's parish, many of whom live on the brink of starvation due to the profligate ways of the Earl. But when the Earl dies and a new Lord Carsdale takes his place, Cherry, disguised as a lad, is caught poaching with her bow and arrow. Knowing that she is facing a hanging offense, Cherry knocks out Carsdale with a branch and escapes.

Because Lord Carsdale is determined to find the young poacher, Cherry's father sends her to her aunt's manor house where she is presented to society. But when Lord Carsdale appears at her aunt's manor as a guest for the Christmastide celebrations, Cherry must use all of her ingenuity to avoid his recognizing her as the young poacher, leading him on a very merry chase.

A fun and light read, I quite enjoyed the break that this book provided as I read snippets here and there between grading MLA research essays. A wonderful way to escape reality for an afternoon and/or evening!

This Disconcerting Happiness: A Pride and Prejudice Variation This Disconcerting Happiness: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Christina Morland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Elizabeth is informed the very afternoon of the Meryton Assembly that her father is dying of cancer, she has quite the burden to bear, especially knowing that her family must leave Longbourn after her father's death because of the entail on the estate. Mr. Darcy is also struggling with familial problems in that Georgiana has been removed from his care following the debacle at Ramsgate and is extremely unhappy at Rosings Park with Lady Catherine. But being married would give Darcy the legal standing needed to gain back custody of his sister.

After several frank conversations at and following the Meryton Assembly where they meet and talk on the balcony, Elizabeth and Darcy decide to marry, thus providing for the Bennet family after Mr. Bennet's demise and hopefully regaining custody of Georgiana. But when all does not go to plan, Darcy and Elizabeth find themselves happier than they ever thought could result from a marriage of convenience.

A very different variation, focusing as much on Georgiana's growth and decisions as it does on Elizabeth's family as her father's health fails. Nothing seems to go as planned, yet This Disconcerting Happiness gives them both the strength to carry on while grieving with one another.

Mr. Darcy's Proposal Mr. Darcy's Proposal by Susan Mason-Milks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Somehow, I've read a lot of variations of Pride and Prejudice which start with an illness or the death of Mr. Bennet. In Mr. Darcy's Proposal, Darcy arrives at the parsonage, ready to propose marriage to Elizabeth, only to find her reading a letter from Jane reporting on her father's grave illness. Saving his proposal for later, Darcy, along with Colonel Fitzwilliam, offer to take her home the very next morning in Darcy's carriage. On their way to Longbourn, Darcy discovers Elizabeth's true feelings for him and wisely decides to work on helping her and building a friendship before he pursues her romantically. So how does Darcy do? Will Elizabeth indeed think better of him once she sees his kindness and compassion in action?

Another delightful Austen variation by one of the authors frequently featured on the website Austen Variations, Mr. Darcy's Proposal is a terrific read, indeed!

Sway Sway by Melanie Stanford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A modern take on Jane Austen's Persuasion, Sway takes us into the life of Ava, the middle sister of three who has returned to Los Angeles after eight years in New York at Juilliard, studying piano. Her former-soap star father and elder socialite sister, Beth, aren't terribly welcoming when she arrives home, but her Aunt Rose does her best to welcome Ava. And Beth's clingy friend Shelby is an immediate concern as she's obviously a star-struck hanger-on. But her father's and sister's overspending on designer clothing forces them to lease their beautiful Hollywood Hills home and "retrench" by moving to the Malibu beach house. Ava is surprised to discover that the people leasing Kellynch are related to her old boyfriend (and former fiance) from high school, Eric Wentworth, who is now a fairly successful rat-pack style singer. After leaving him eight years ago, Ava is now faced with his hatred. And thus the story goes from there....

A very parallel modern updating of Persuasion, Sway is definitely entertaining; it's a compelling read that had me turning pages (or, in the case with my Kindle, tapping pages) quite rapidly.

View all my reviews

Wishing you all a healthy and blessed 2017 and a joyous Ninth Day of Christmas,


Melanie Stanford said...

Thanks for the review!!! ❤

Marilyn Brant said...

Many thanks for your lovely review and all of your kind comments!
I can't tell you how delighted I am that you enjoyed my modern, Austen-inspired romance ;) .
Wishing you a wonderful start to the New Year!!

Susanne Barrett said...

You're both very welcome, Melanie and Marilyn! See you at Austen Variations soon; it's my morning teatime hangout! ;)

Susanne :)


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