Here we are! I am now completely caught up with all of my book reviews and will now post single reviews as I read and review each book on Goodreads.
Only a few of these are from 2017; the rest were read in January of this year. This collection is quite eclectic: an Advent devotional, an Anne Perry Christmas novel, a Dan Brown thriller, and the rest are Austenesque: three are variations of Pride and Prejudice, and the last is Austen's Persuasion from Captain Wentworth's point of view.
So here we go with the last collection of book reviews for a while!
A Quest for Mr Darcy by Cassandra Grafton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I read this novel as it unfolded, chapter by chapter, on Cassandra Grafton's blog--and I adored every moment of it!!! Wednesday mornings became the highlight of my week as a new chapter awaited my attention in my inbox.
The premise of this story is quite different: Mrs. Bennet and Lydia are dead; Kitty and Mary are married, and Mr. Bennet along with his two elder daughters, move away from the gossip of Lydia's failed elopement with Wickham (Elizabeth never visits Pemberley in this variation) to far-away Derbyshire, renting a modest home on Pemberley's grounds while Mr. Darcy and Georgiana travel Europe on an extended tour.
After trying for a year to forget Elizabeth, whom he last saw at Rosings, Darcy returns to find out that she is now his neighbor. Darcy also returns to Pemberley not only with Georgiana but also with Bingley's two young sisters, the twins Olivia and Viola who are quite the handful...and the complete opposite of their elder sister Caroline whom they have been driving insane with their open manners and fun-loving spirits.
And following soon on their heels arrives the family of a young lady Darcy has been considering marrying; that Darcy heir is much needed, and if Darcy can't have Elizabeth, then he doesn't much care whom he marries. But the young lady pales in comparison to Elizabeth who starts developing feelings for Darcy once she sees his tender care for his staff and tenants and his overall generosity of spirit and depth of character.
But a mystery (or three) haunts the Bennets and Pemberley: Mr. Bennet's mysterious trips to a nearby town, a seeming "ghost" seen by the twins (who chase after it), and threatening notes implying blackmail. Can Darcy protect Elizabeth and Jane while pursuing Elizabeth under the nose of the young woman to whom he was supposed to propose?
This story is quite deliciously long, extremely well-developed, and is a thoroughly enjoyable and believable variation on Austen's beloved Pride and Prejudice. Brava, Cassandra!!
A Christmas Return by Anne Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A lovely new Christmas book by Anne Perry, A Christmas Return takes Charlotte Ellison Pitt's spunky and difficult octogenarian grandmother, Mariah Ellison, on a Christmastime trip to the country to assist an old friend, Rowena, with an unsolved rape and murder case of a 14-year old village girl which also resulted in the death of Rowena's husband...while Rowena has been suspected of her husband's suspicious death for the past twenty years. But the villages's well-respected doctor was tried for the girl's rape and murder and was acquitted. Nevertheless, he returns on the twentieth anniversary of the crime to "prove" his supposed innocence "once and for all."
Mariah teams up with Rowena's thirty-year-old grandson to unearth unassailable proof of the doctor's guilt...not only of the rape and murder of the girl, but of the murder of Rowena's husband, the doctor's lawyer who had refused to defend him at the last moment...and was found crushed by a bookcase in his library the next day.
This return is difficult for Mariah and requires much courage from Rowena and her grandson in clearing Rowena's name while proving the guilt of the doctor. This short Christmas novel is filled with suspense and wonderful character sketches--a delightfully wintry mystery, indeed!
The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent by John Piper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Given my Anglo-Catholic leanings, I wasn't so sure about an Advent devotional written by an evangelical Baptist (and I definitely wasn't sure about praying through *two* Advent devotionals!), but this lovely little book by John Piper went along very well with my Advent with the Saints devotional.
I was given *two* copies of this devotional by Father Gregory (the Great) of Blessed Trinity, and I handed the other to Pastor Noble Weeks, the pastor of our non-denominational Village Missions church, and the only church in our small mountain village. He and his family enjoyed the devotional very much. When I spoke to his wife, she mentioned that they usually celebrated Advent as a family--very cool!! :)
The readings are short and simple, reminding us of the power of God in the Incarnation of Christ. The focus is on JOY (which I really, really needed this Advent!!), and I may read/pray through it again next Advent.
Inferno by Dan Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This fourth adventure of Robert Langdon (I haven't read the third yet) was edge-of-your-seat from the very first scene. The plot revolves around Dante's Inferno, a book I haven't read since 1989, but I very much enjoyed the setting of Florence and later Venice and then at last, Istanbul. And all of the art and art history!! I wish that there was a full-color illustrated edition of this book so that each time a work of art was mentioned (which happened extremely frequently), we could see exactly the work of art Brown described to us. The research that Dam Brown invested in this novel is staggering; not only does the book deal with Dante's poem in extreme detail, but all of the art associated with The Inferno and the history of each artifact/museum/cathedral that held significance in this work is mind-blowing!
Some reviewers have stated that all of the exhaustive detail about Dante's life and work and about the art, architecture, and holy places slowed down the adventure of the novel, but I found that slowing down to drink in the details paced the novel extremely well. I was interested in every detail Brown gave, every description we saw through Langdon's eyes, and the people--the characters--were so rich and believable and imaginative. I spend many an extra "spin" in my jacuzzi because I was reluctant to put down this book until I reached the end of a chapter...and then the end of the next chapter, and so on. A compelling read about a serious problem that we face in the modern world, and a brilliant lunatic's plan to save humanity that must be stopped before thousands, even millions die--not a bad way to spend the last part of my evening for the past three (nearly four) weeks!
Mr. Darcy's Fault: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary Novella by Regina Jeffers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A short novella by Regina Jeffers, one of the most talented and (thankfully) prolific authors of Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF), presents a story of Mr. Darcy's rescuing Elizabeth, but in such as way that he compromises her, and they must marry. Elizabeth comes to harm while reading Darcy's letter as she walks between the parsonage and Rosings Park, and in the emergency, Darcy's letter flutters away, only to be picked up by none other than Wickham. But Elizabeth is not happy with being forced to marry although Mr. Darcy obviously is not upset at the results of his compromising rescue. But as Elizabeth slowly becomes accustomed to the idea of marrying Fitzwilliam Darcy, the man she swore (to his face) she would never marry, trouble appears in the form of Wickham who wishes to steal away the only woman Darcy has ever loved....
Regina Jeffers seems to write her many variations of Austen's novels with ease; the different variations seem to tumble from her pen (or keyboard) with compelling characters and twisty-turny plots that keep us on the edge of our seats until, at last, all is well between Darcy and Elizabeth once again. I have become quite the fan of Regina Jeffers' many Austenesque novels and novellas, and this particular "vagary" is one of her best. I would give it a "5," but I tend to save that perfect score for classics...such as the original Pride and Prejudice. But if I could, I would give this one the score of 4.5. :)
In the Wilds of Derbyshire by Jann Rowland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this very different variation of Pride and Prejudice in which Elizabeth is persuaded to go to Derbyshire to mentor her young cousin Olivia. Elizabeth wants to get away from Longbourn, for Jane has returned from her wedding trip with Bingley a very changed woman, one who barely speaks to her family and no longer confides anything to Elizabeth. Bingley is just as flummoxed by Jane's changed demeanor as Elizabeth is. So Elizabeth sinks into depression which is relieved by meeting her uncle and cousins--but her aunt, Mr. Bennet's sister, remains removed and sometimes rude. Elizabeth's uncle--a gentleman farmer but in reduced financial circumstances due to the wasting of his demesne by his grandfather and father--is also neighbor to Mr. Darcy who stayed with Georgiana rather than visiting with Bingley in Hertfordshire. Elizabeth and Olivia's deep and abiding friendship with Georgiana puts her in Darcy's view, and he quickly starts to esteem her. And then more secrets, cunning plans, and diabolical schemes are unearthed as the story progresses.
If I could give this story a 4 1/2, I would; it's beautifully written, masterfully plotted, and the characters are realistic and utterly entrancing and compelling. This Darcy, while still serious, has a healthy sense of humor and sense of the absurd. Elizabeth is entrancing as always, providing a bright and loving example to both Olivia and Georgiana, encouraging them to become strong young women of grace and compassion. The story is set almost completely In the Wilds of Derbyshire and is a wonderful read.
Captain Frederick Wentworth's Persuasion: Jane Austen's Classic Retold Through His Eyes by Regina Jeffers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
To read Persuasion from Captain Wentworth's POV would be amazing, but then to take the story of Frederick and Anne into the future is even more marvelous!! Frederick reviews his whole relationship with Anne via flashbacks, and then we move forward with the couple as Napoleon once again threatens England with war. Once Napoleon is taken care of for good, the Wentworths continue in their happily-married life which is not without occasional adventure!
This book was delightful from the very first scene which places us in a battle on the high seas as Frederick and his crew pursue a French ship; Anne remains hidden during the battle to keep her safe. And from there the flashbacks begin. We see their first meeting, their almost instantaneous love for one another, their relationship as it moves toward his proposal, the meeting with Sir Walter (which obviously does not go well), and Frederick's anger at Anne when she lets him go, "for his own good."
He thinks he truly hates Anne when he returns to Somerset eight years later, and he does what he can to show her his dislike. He is petty at times--and knows it--but he wants Anne to see what she gave up. His flirtations with Louisa Musgrove are all about showing Anne that he wants a different type of woman, one who knows her own mind. Yet he also pities Anne in her subservient position at Uppercross Cottage with her sister Mary's selfish ways. And he admires Anne as she cares so compassionately for her nephews.
Through the events of Lyme, Frederick finally realizes that Anne is the only woman for him, but he seems to be committed to Louisa after her injury. But after all is sorted, Frederick follows Anne to Bath, only to find her being courted by her cousin, Mr. Elliot, her father's heir. What will Frederick do to gain Anne's mind and heart which he does not realize have always been his for the asking.
And then we get to see their married bliss and adventures that occur after the wedding--so much!!! But I don't want to spoil any surprises.
Regina Jeffers has written yet another amazing variation/continuation of Austen's works, this time with Persuasion, Austen's final book which was published posthumously. Ms. Jeffers tells a compelling and incredible story of love lost and regained, stronger than ever, and we fall in love once again with Anne and her captain.
I don't often give scores of "5" to works that aren't classics, but this version of Persuasion nearly improves upon the original. To out-Austen Miss Austen herself is a difficult accomplishment, but Regina Jeffers has done it. Brava!
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