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Monday, March 30, 2009

Pemberley Manor by Kathryn L. Nelson

Pemberley Manor: Darcy and Elizabeth, for better or for worse
Publisher:Sourcebooks Landmark
ISBN: 1402218524
Pages: 400 pgs
Genre: Jane Austen Sequel
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge , RYOB Challenge, Romance Challenge, 20 in 2009 Challenge

 Synopsis from Publisher
As marriage brings an end to a romantic tale, it begins a new story: how does "happily ever after" really work? While Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley might be expected to get on famously, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy will surely need to work on their communication skills.

What forces in Darcy's past would give such a good man so difficult a public demeanor? The author posits an imaginative family background for Darcy from which he would have inherited his sense of social superiority and duty to the family name.

When Darcy reverts to type, will Elizabeth's stubborn optimism win the day after the honeymoon is over? While they say that opposites attract, how long can Lizzy and Darcy's fundamentally different personalities get along without friction? Can they learn to understand each other? Can their love prevail over the inevitable clashes?

My Review:
Pemberley Manor follows the Darcys from where Jane Austen left off…the dual wedding of the Darcys and the Bingleys. It follows the couples through their early marriage and the trials that go with that adjustment. As Lizzy and Darcy adjust to each other, we learn more about Darcy’s past and what has made him the man he is.

I cannot tell you how much I loved this sequel to Pride and Prejudice. I love the conflicts in this novel. As much as I would love for Lizzy and Darcy to have a wonderful and peaceful marriage,  I do love sequels where they have a turbulent marriage. I also loved how Nelson gave Darcy a mysterious past and mother issues. It brings Mr Darcy more into the realm of Mr Rochester but I feel it brings something new and unique. The tension she injects into Lizzy and Darcy’s relationship is palpable and can be felt throughout the novel.

Nelson’s versions of Lizzy and Darcy were completely convincing. Lizzy was just as witty and Darcy was just as broody if a little bit darker than you would expect. I found all of the new characters that Nelson brought into the story completely engaging. If I didn’t know better I would have thought they were a part of Austen’s P&P. The biggest draw to this novel is Nelson’s treatment of the secondary P&P characters (Georgiana, Miss Bingley,Jane, Bingley, Colonel Fitzwilliam). Georgiana was my favorite. She was a completely well-rounded character. She loses her shyness to an extent and becomes a woman in her own right. Nelson added many facets to her character that were not present in P&P. Miss Bingley was also the scheming and diabolical character that I always thought she would be. I love the inclusion of these secondary characters in this sequel. I don’t feel right when I read a sequel without them. I also have to admit that, despite my newfound truce with the 2005 film, the fact that this novel is based on the 1995 mini-series is a huge plus.

There are few aspects of this novel that I don’t like. The only criticism I can think of, and it is really quite nitpicky and not very significant, is that Caroline Bingley’s transition from scheming evilness to contriteness was too quick. But now that I think of it, not really. The situation she found herself in would lead to a quick transition in behavior. So this really isn’t a criticism at all. I also thought the 21st century response to a 21st century issue was a bit out of place but certainly not enough to take away from my enjoyment of the novel.

I loved this sequel. I can’t wait to read more Jane Austen sequels from Kathryn L. Nelson.

*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.

It's Monday! What are you reading this week? (March 30)

This weekly event is hosted by J. Kaye at J. Kaye's Book Blog

Books Completed

Sadly none. I had a serious chest infection. I ignored it till it bordered on pneumonia and I waited till my mother was threatening to take me to the ER before I would go to the doctor’s. I don’t like admitting that I am sick.  I’m better now.

Books still reading:

Flannery-Brad Gooch (almost done)

Palace Circle-Rebecca Dean (almost done)

Up Next-

Drood-Dan Simmons

Sundays at Tiffany’s -James Patterson

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane –Katherine Howe

Why Shoot a  Butler-Georgette Heyer

I have decided to start reading more books at once. It will speed me up and hopefully get me out of my rut. Maybe 100 pages of each book at at time. Any advice?

Musing Monday (March 30)

This weekly event is hosted by Just One More Page>

This week’s question:

Do you keep track of what and/or how many books you read? How long have you been doing this? What's your favorite tracking method, and why?If you don't keep track, why not?

Sadly no. I have tried. I really have but it failed along with my effort to keep a journal. I have never been able to keep a steady written record of anything in my life. The only method I have found that keeps any significant track of the books I read is LibraryThing. I love that site. Everything I read I tag “read”. The only problem is that I have yet to catalog my books and that task really scares me. Using LibraryThing makes more sense to me and does not take too much effort. Maybe someday when I have more time I will do something more involved. If anyone has any ideas, please shoot them my way.

Monday, March 23, 2009

It’s Monday! What are you reading this week? (March 23)

Finished from Last Week-
Playing With the Grown-Ups  -Sophie Dahl
Reading List for this week-
Flannery-Brad Gooch
Palace Circle-Rebecca Dean
The Four Corners of the Sky by Michael Malone
Up Next-
Drood-Dan Simmons
Why Shoot a Butler?-Georgette Heyer
The Only True Genius in the Family-Jennie Nash

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Musing Monday (March 23): Favorite Place to Buy Books

Another awesome Musing Monday question from Rebecca at Just One More Page. It's about my favorite places in the whole wide world--BOOKSTORES!

How many bookstores do you frequent? Do you have a favourite? If so, which one and what makes it so?

I am a chronic book-buyer and when I buy I tend to buy in bulk. My favorite in-person places to buy books is the Clove Lake Book Store on Staten Island. I grew up going to this bookstore and it the best place in my hometown to browse. I could spend hours in there. When I am in NYC, I love the Strand. It's like a treasure hunt. I have never been so distraught as when I found out they were closing the Strand Annex. I also love Library and Estate used book sales. You never know what you are going to find. I also go to Barnes and Noble because there aren't that many good bookstores on Staten Island and B&N has the best selection.

My favorite online bookstores have to be Alibris and Amazon Marketplace. I tend to prefer the Amazon Marketplace because you can't beat a book for a penny. I love both places though.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Playing With the Grown-ups by Sophie Dahl

Playing with the Grown-ups
Publisher: Anchor
Pages: 288 pgs
Genre: Young Adult
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge, 20 in 2009

Summary (from Publisher):
Kitty loves living at the isolated Hay House with her doting grandparents, but it cannot provide the adventure and excitement that her restless, bohemian mother Marina craves. When a guru sees Marina's future in New York, Kitty is torn from her home and bounced from place to place—first a colorless boarding school, then an American ashram, and finally back to an unfamiliar England. But soon, no god, man, or martini can staunch Marina's hunger for a happiness that proves all too elusive. And Kitty, turning fifteen, must choose: whether to play dangerous games with the grown-ups or put herself first.

With this witty and poignant debut novel, Sophie Dahl ably carries on the literary legacy of her grandfather, the beloved children's book author Roald Dahl. 

My Review:
 Playing With the Grown-ups tells the story of Kitty who is growing up with a troubled family. Most of the family’s trouble’s center around her rather flighty mother, Marina. Her mother is the source of all of Kitty’s trials. From joining a cult to experimenting with drugs—all her behavior clearly mirrors the more seriously troubled behavior of her mother. Her mother is too self-centered and selfish to pay any real attention to Kitty and Kitty desperately craves her mother’s love. The story begins with Kitty being phoned in the middle of the night with the information that something has happened to her mother and follows her through her reminisces about her adolescence.

I was really entertained by this book. I loved Kitty. I wanted to give her my mother for a week. My mother has an over-abundance of affection that I would love to rent out to anyone who needs it and Kitty definitely needs it. As much as I loved Kitty, I wanted to strangle Marina. How selfish can one person be? People like Marina should not be allowed to reproduce. Kitty would have been much better of in Hay with Bestemama and Bestepapa. I was a bit disappointed that they did not play a bigger role in the novel. But then again, if they did, Kitty would not have had much of a story. I thought this book was dark in the right places and funny in others. The writing was effective as it was able to bring out some intense feeling in me. I did feel, however, that the ending was a bit unsatisfying. It was obvious where the book was going to end up but I wanted to see how Kitty got there. I wanted to meet the man she married, know how she met him and how she redeemed herself from her previous downward spiral. That perhaps is the stuff of a longer novel.

Sophie Dahl is a very talented writer and I look forward to her future novels.

*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Worst Best Book?

Weekly event from Booking Through Thursday :

“What’s the worst ‘best’ book you’ve ever read — the one everyone says is so great, but you can’t figure out why?”

The Catcher in the Rye. I hated it. I wanted to give it to my dog as a chew toy. I can’t understand why people love it. I had to sit through it because I had to read it in high school but I will never touch it again.

Anything by Steinbeck. I can understand why people love him. He was an excellent writer. But he is just not for me. Too gritty. Maybe if I read him again someday I will like him but, for now, he is on that list.

DAN BROWN. I have no idea why his books were so popular. They were airport reads at best. It must of been the religious intrigue. The writing was enough to turn me off of best sellers for a couple of years.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Musing Monday

This weekly event is hosted by Just One More Page.
We were all warned as children to 'never talk to strangers', but how do you feel about book-talk with random people? When you see people reading, do you ask what it is? Do you talk to people in the book store or the library? Why or why not? What do you do if people talk to you?

I still adhere to the “don’t talk to strangers rule”. Not because I am anti-social—maybe a little—but I am quite shy and tend to avoid social situations on most occasions. I live in New York and depend on public transportation which means people are reading around me a lot. I do get curious about what other people are reading but never ask because I wouldn’t want to be disturbed during my commute and I don’t think they would like it either. I do try to covertly get the title of the books though.

In the bookstore it is a different story. People come up to me when I am browsing and talk to me about books. What I like, which books I would recommend…all that stuff. I guess I look like I have read a lot. I find that on the rare occasion someone does approach me in a bookstore, I do like talking about books. During my commute, I would rather people left me alone. It is the only really quiet time I have to read and I would prefer that I not have to give a short summary, title and author of my book to a random stranger.

It's Monday! What are you reading this week?

Finished from Last Week-
Galway Bay-Mary Pat Kelly
The Traitor’s Wife-Susan Higginbotham (the reviews for this and Pemberly Manor will be out during their release weeks.)

Reading List for this Week-
Playing with the Grown Ups-Sophie Dahl
Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor-Brad Gooch
Palace Circle-Rebecca Dean

Drood-Dan Simmons
The Four Corners of the Sky by Michael Malone
Unpolished Gem: My Mother, My Grandmother, and Me-Alice Pung

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly

Galway Bay

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 0446579009
Pages: 576 pgs
Genre: Historical Fiction/Irish
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge

Synopsis from Publisher

Here at last is one Irish family's epic journey, capturing the tragedy and triumph of the Irish-American experience. In a rousing tale that echoes the myths and legends of Ireland herself, young Honora Keeley and Michael Kelly wed and start a family, inhabiting a hidden Ireland where fishermen and tenant farmers find solace in their ancient faith, songs, stories, and communal celebrations. Selling both their catch--and their crops--to survive, these people subsist on the potato crop--their only staple food. But when blight destroys the potatoes three times in four years, a callous government and uncaring landlords turn a natural disaster into The Great Starvation that will kill one million. Honora and Michael vow their children will live. The family joins two million other Irish refugees in one of the greatest rescues in human history: the Irish Emigration to America. Danger and hardship await them there. Honora and her unconventional sister Maire watch their seven sons as they transform Chicago from a frontier town to the "City of the Century", fight the Civil War, and enlist in the cause of Ireland's freedom. The Kelly clan is victorious. This heroic story sheds brilliant light on the ancestors of today's 44 million Irish Americans.
My Review:

I have little background knowledge about Irish history. I know a little about the potato famine but my knowledge doesn’t extend beyond that. I did study Italian immigration for my Bachelor’s but that really does not lend itself to understanding Irish history, now does it? I was a bit worried when I picked up this book that I would become lost because of my lack of knowledge. I, however, found that it was not the case at all. The moment I began reading, I became immersed in the story.

I cannot tell you how much Galway Bay entranced me from the very beginning. I absolutely loved every single aspect of this book. I felt every joy and sorrow the Kelly family went through as if it was happening to me. I felt each tragedy and hunger pang. I often had to put the book down because it became so emotionally draining. I think that is a credit to Mary Pat Kelly. Her writing style is so crisp and descriptive. You really feel the events of this book very deeply. There was an event midway through the book that hit me like a thunderbolt. I had no idea it was coming. I am not a very emotional person in most situation but I found myself tearing up while reading this book.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested, even on the smallest level, in Irish history. Please don’t be daunted by the size of the novel. It really is a quick read.

*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Author Interview: Sharon Lathan

Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One (Mr & Mrs Fitzwilliam Darcy)

1. How much has fan fiction influenced your writing? Which stories and authors provided a particular influence?
The greatest influence was simply its existence. Without the presence of so many JAFF websites with the vast variety of styles, I never would have gone down the road nor had the nerve to post my story in the first place. I already had sequel scenes swirling through my head, so when I began reading it was in a search to find what I was looking for. Along the way, even though I did not find a story that completely captured the happy-ever-after vision in my mind, I grew to appreciate the plethora of behind the scenes, fill in the blanks, variations, and even some modern and alternate-universe type tales. For the most part they are all written with love of Austen and the desire to keep the characters alive as the prime instigation. Everyone has their own spin on how the characters act/react, and that diversity gave me courage to approach my story in the way I was inspired to do.
There are so many authors I appreciated, most whose pennames escape me. A big influence was Abigail Reynolds. I love her voice and style, seeing it as vaguely how I wanted to write my version. I love, love, love “Summer at Pemberley” by Lucy on Austen Interlude. It is a novella, but so beautifully written and the closest I ever read to what I was looking for in a sequel.
2. Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One was influenced by the 2005 movie version of P&P starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. What attracted you to this version of P&P?
I walked into the theater an Austen virgin for the most part. I had only seen the major motion picture adaptations of “Emma” and “Sense and Sensibility” prior to seeing P&P, and those movies were so well done that I was very excited. Yet nothing prepared me for how I was struck by Joe Wright’s masterpiece! Everything about it was phenomenal to me, and still is. The costumes, the music, the cinematography, the drama, the passion, the humor, the language, the actors (every last one), the gritty realistic atmosphere – all of it absolutely brilliant. I had no concern whatsoever on whether is was true to the novel at that point. I simply fell in love with a stunning movie that profoundly affected me. The love between Lizzy and Darcy was palpable, believable, visceral, and ardent – perfectly acted by Macfadyen and Knightley with an astounding chemistry. I just can’t say enough about how marvelous it was to me.
Few movies have touched me to this degree, but this one did and I refuse to allow any of the pointless debates ruin that for me. 
3. I view the two versions of Lizzy and Darcy from the 1995 and 2005 versions of P&P as essentially different couples. Do you think your novel would have been different if influenced by the 1995 version?
I agree with you about the couples. I also do not think it matters or that one version is correct over the other one. They are both a dramatization of a novel written by someone a long time ago who isn’t here to say precisely what she meant in every instance. But to answer your question without launching into a discussion I find boring, the truth is I never would have been so radically influenced by the 1995 series. That does not mean I dislike it! Not at all. I like it just fine and think that Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle were terrific as Darcy and Lizzy. However, in my opinion, the miniseries as does not possess the fire, the passion, and the air of drama that I adore. Still, I do think Lizzy and Darcy, however they are presented on screen, were meant by Miss Austen to be content and happy in life. So, in that respect, I suppose I can say with confidence that I would have written them the same because it is how I imagine them to be.  
4. You were so successful at creating the character of Lord Orman. I got the creepy chills every time he appeared in the novel. What was your influence for him?
Thank you! Wouldn’t it be a great story if I could say I knew someone like that? Ha! Alas, he came out of the recesses of my mind and I have no idea how! Darcy is so prim, proper, and morally upright that it made logical sense to give him a foil. I did not want to fall back on the standard Wickham plotline, so I created a new scoundrel and made him even worse. He was originally thrown in just to add a little spice to the Masque. But the more I thought about him, I realized he was too good to just toss away – a ready plot device just waiting to happen. I do not want to give too much away, but let’s just say that a good villain should always be kept lurking in the background somewhere.
5. The relationship you created between Lizzy and Darcy was so idyllic and sweet. I have read some sequels where they are constantly squabbling and causing a ruckus. What was your inspiration for this?
There are many reasons for this choice. First, I truly do believe a couple can live in general harmony without constant bickering. It isn’t that I believe Lizzy and Darcy never argue; I show them conflicting from time to time, or refer to an argument. I simply prefer not to make that the focus of the story. If they do quarrel, I explain how they overcome that with open conversation and the deep respect they possess for each other. Love conquers all, I suppose you could say. Additionally, this first novel is set during the definite honeymoon period. Not sure about you, but I wasn’t spending lots of time fighting with my new husband when there were far more pleasurable things to do!
Logically I looked at the realities of life for the Darcys. I mean, what are they going to tussle over? Finances? He leaves the toilet seat up or she doesn’t pick up her clothes? Mother-in-law woes when Mrs. Bennet is 150 miles by a carriage drive away? Hopefully they learned the hard lessons of how hostility leads to unwarranted anguish and would avoid unnecessary dissention.
Historically this was an age, we are lead to believe, when propriety, decorum, manners, respect, and so forth were the common practice. I can’t see a gentleman of Darcy’s statue lacing into his wife. Nor would a wife, even one as spunky as Lizzy, be ridiculing or insolent toward her husband.
And, considering the majority of sequels and variations are all about the two of them facing endless traumas, both outwardly inflicted and due to personality clashes, why not have at least one that is cheery and optimistic?  
6. If Jane Austen had written a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, what do you think she would have written?
You know, I really have no idea! Of course, neither does anyone else, do they? I am quite sure she would not relate their bedroom activities, so can see why some are squeamish about that. But I do think she would want them to be happy, however one defines that. Clearly she saw a difference in the marriages of people like Mr. and Mrs. Bennet compared to the Gardiners. She was not against marriage, so why does it have to contain constant squabbling and ruckus, to quote you?
Her books were about the normal aspects of life during the times. The drama was rather sedate for the most part. It pertained to misunderstands, meddling individuals, societal mores, and so on. Few kidnappings or wild horse chases or life threatening situations! 
7. Which actor, other than Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen, do you think would make a great Darcy?
I thought Elliot Cowan in “Lost in Austen” was a very good Mr. Darcy. Gerard Butler, if a bit younger, could do it since he has that intensity that we like in Darcy, but also a sensitive side. Daniel Day-Lewis or Jeremy Northam – same thing. I love Ioan Gruffudd! Greg Wise maybe. Richard Armitage, Joseph Fiennes, JJ Feild. He has to be tall and very manly! And I am sure there are some Americans who could pull off a Brit accent if they had to.
8. If you were to write a sequel to another Austen novel, which one would it be?
Excellent question! I have never thought of it. Hmm… I have enjoyed everything Austen has written and the various adaptations done. My favorite is “ Mansfield Park .” Not necessarily because I love Fanny and Edmund, but because there are great characters in the whole story. So many angles one could take with an array of relationships and social situations to delve into. But that is just off the top of my head as I really have not had the time, sadly, to study Austen in depth beyond “Pride and Prejudice.” Someday, I keep saying, someday. 
9. What is coming up next for you? Another Austen sequel (hopefully)?
Indeed yes! “Loving Mr. Darcy ~ Journeys Beyond Pemberley” takes up where “Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy” ends, following the Darcys as they travel to London and elsewhere. The story deepens dramatically with a multitude of new and old characters introduced and added to the mix. It will be released in September 2009. In January of 2010 the third volume will be published: “The Darcys at Year’s End.” I am currently writing the as yet unnamed fourth installment and a companion novel centering on the romantic adventures of Georgiana Darcy. Tentatively they will appear later in 2010. More ideas are circulating, but that is all that is written right now. The bottom line is that the Darcy Saga shows no signs of diminishing either in my head!
Thank you, Grace, for granting me this opportunity to talk about my novels. I truly am honored and do appreciate it. I would like to end by encouraging everyone to click over to my website for further information about the novel and the series. Anything you could possibly want to know can be discovered there!

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