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Friday, November 27, 2009

Searching For Pemberley by Mary Lydon Simonsen

Searching for PemberleyPublisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
ISBN: 1402224397
Pages: 496 pgs
Genre: Jane Austen Sequel/Pride and Prejudice
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge
Rating: 



Publisher’s Description:

Set against Regency England, World Wars I and II, and postwar England, three love stories intertwine in surprising and fateful ways

American Maggie Joyce, touring Derbyshire in 1947, visits, Montclair, an 18th century Georgian country house, that she is told was the model for Jane Austen's Pemberley. More amazingly, the former residents of the mansion, William Lacey and Elizabeth Garrison, were the inspiration for the characters of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.

Through letters, diary entries, and oral history, Beth and Jack Crowell, a couple who lives in the nearby village of Crofton, share stories of the people they say inspired Jane Austen. They also tell their own love story, made difficult by their vastly different backgrounds—she was one of the social elite while he was the son of a servant. When their son, Michael, travels home from his RAF station in Malta, Maggie may have just found her very own Mr. Darcy.

My Review:

I have been very lucky with Jane Austen sequels lately. They have all been so good. This one is no exception. It was unlike any other Jane Austen sequel I have ever read. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

I really liked that this was a mix of historical fiction and a Jane Austen sequel. Two of my very favorite genres mixed into one book. The premise of this novel was also really great. The idea of Lizzy and Darcy being real people made me do a mini-happy dance. I think that it is a dream every Pride and Prejudice fan has…that their hero and heroine really had that beautiful love story. I also thought that the romance between Maggie and Michael was really well done. I really liked that their story did not mirror Lizzy and Will (Darcy) because I think that would have been the easy way. They had their own feel and were much more easy going than Lizzy and Will.

The history geek in me feels that she must comment so she will. I really thought that the use of diaries and letters helped to bring the story of Lizzy and Will to life. I did not feel as if they were specters from the past but real people with an interesting and quite smushy romance. Maggie was also great to follow during her research. It was so fun to follow her quest for knowledge about the real Lizzy and Darcy and as a reformed historian, I think the historical research was the most fun part of the book.

Overall, this was one of the most fun experiences that I have had reading a Jane Austen sequel in a while. I would recommend this to anyone looking for something really different. I can’t wait for Simonsen’s next books.
*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.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict by Irene Vilar

Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict
Publisher: Other Press
ISBN: 1590513207
Pages: 240 pgs
Genre: Memoir
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge
Rating: 



 Publisher’s Description:

Irene Vilar was just a pliant young college undergraduate in thrall to her professor when they embarked on a relationship that led to marriage—a union of impossible odds—and fifteen abortions in fifteen years. Vilar knows that she is destined to be misunderstood, that many will see her nightmare as an instance of abusing a right, of using abortion as a means of birth control. But it isn't that. The real story is part of an awful secret, shrouded in shame, colonialism, self-mutilation, and a family legacy that features a heroic grandmother, a suicidal mother, and two heroin-addicted brothers. It is a story that looks back on her traumatic childhood growing up in the shadow of her mother's death and the footsteps of her famed grandmother, the political activist Lolita Lebrón, and a history that touches on American exploitation and reproductive repression in Puerto Rico. Vilar seamlessly weaves together past, present, and future, channeling a narrative that is at once dramatic and subtle.

Impossible Motherhood is a heartrending and ultimately triumphant testimonial told by a writer looking back on her history of addiction. Abortion has never offered any honest person easy answers. Vilar's dark journey through self-inflicted wounds, compulsive patterns, and historical hauntings is a powerful story of loss and mourning that bravely delves into selfhood, national identity, reproductive freedom, family responsibility, and finally motherhood itself—today, Vilar is the mother of two beautiful children.

My Review

I don’t know quite what to do with this book. I am as liberal as the next pro-choice advocate. I firmly believe that every woman has the right to do what she wants with her body. This book challenged my beliefs quite a bit. And not in a good way.

Before I read Impossible Motherhood, the idea that a woman would use abortion as a form of birth control seemed fairly ludicrous to me. With all of the other options available, why go to such extreme lengths? Why have 15 abortions when you can take a pill? Vilar classifies this as an addiction. I don’t necessarily agree with that. It seems to be more of a compulsion than an addiction. She also seems to consider this self-mutilation. I wholeheartedly disagree. She took down 15 lives during her “self-mutilation”.

There were some portions of this book that pushed me to the point of rage. First of all, it’s not that this woman did not have access to the pill, she just chose not to take it. She chose to be irresponsible. Also, did she even consider the doctors that were under constant attack from anti-abortion groups. When her doctor told her that his clinic had just been attacked with acid, she just kept going. That completely mystified me. This is coming from an abortion supporter, you must remember. Vilar did nothing other than abuse the right other women had fought for. Women's rights are constantly challenged, especially with abortion, do we really need to fuel the fire.

The writing in the book was generally good. I could appreciate this book for her writing style if nothing else. It was conversational and engaging. I wanted to feel some sort of empathy for Vilar but I just couldn’t. I sympathize but I can’t understand.I tried to separate my emotions when reviewing this book but found I couldn't.
*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.
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Monday, November 9, 2009

General Illness and Update

I have decided that since I have been sick for pretty much the past two weeks (I have had a kidney stone and a cold which turned into a chest and nasal infection at different times but both equally as painful) and I will be playing catch up both with my reading and reviewing.

I have a huge amount of reviews coming up that have been delayed because of my generally bad health. Oddly enough I have been reading more than ever lately but have been so sick that reviews just aren’t happening. Among those review coming this week are:
  • Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict-Irene Vilar
  • Ecoholic-Adria Vasil
  • Thinner Than Thou-Kit Reed
  • This Lullaby-Sarah Dessen
  • The Book Thief-Markus Zuzak
  • The Work of Wolves-Kent Meyers
  • Truth & Beauty-Ann Pratchett
  • Donorboy-Brendan Halpin
  • Candyfreak-Steve Almond
  • How I Live Now-Meg Rosoff
  • Sexy-Joyce Carol Oates
  • Enthusiasm-Polly Shulman

I will be having a readathon all week simply because I need to play catch up. On my reading list this week:
  • The Thirteenth Tale-Diane Setterfield
  • Water For Elephants-Sara Gruen
  • Wild Roses-Deb Caletti
  • Honey, Baby, Sweetheart-Deb Caletti
  • Permanent Connections-Sue Ellen Bridgers
  • A Northern Light-Jennifer Donnelly
  • Brooklyn Rose-Ann Rinaldi
  • The Nature of Jade-Deb Caletti
  • First Impressions-Marilyn Sachs
  • Girl, Interrupted-Susanna Kaysen
  • The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman-Louise Plummer
  • Macaroni Boy-Katherine Ayres
  • Cassandra’s Sister-Veronica Bennett
  • The Beet Fields-Gary Paulsen
  • The Rules of Survival- Nancy Werlin
  • You Don't Know Me-David Klass
  • When Jeff Comes Home-Catherine Atkins
  • Hero-S.L. Rottman
  • Doing It-Melvin Burgess
  • Dancing on the Edge-Han Nolan
  • Jacob Have I Loved-Katherine Paterson


It's mostly YA for my class but there is even more YA coming next week when I start my readathon for my bibliography. Most of those books will be YA takes on classics and fairy tales. Yes, some will be based on Jane Austen.

Jane Odiwe Guest Post

Thank you, Grace, for inviting me to talk to you and your readers today about my new book, Willoughby’s Return!

In Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, when Marianne Dashwood marries Colonel Brandon, she puts her heartbreak over dashing scoundrel John Willoughby in the past.


Willoughby's Return: A tale of almost irresistible temptationWhen Marianne Dashwood weds Colonel Brandon both are aware of the other’s past attachments; Marianne’s grand passion for the charming but ruthless John Willoughby and Brandon’s tragic amour for his lost love Eliza. Three years on Marianne is living contentedly with her husband and child at Delaford Park, although Marianne's passionate, impulsive and sometimes jealous behaviour is an impediment to her true happiness. News that John Willoughby and his wife have returned to the West Country brings back painful memories for Marianne along with the possibility of the Willoughbys returning to live near Barton and the surrounding area of Devon and Dorset, a circumstance which triggers a set of increasingly challenging, yet often amusing perplexities for all concerned.

Jane Austen doesn’t really tell us very much about the Brandon’s marriage at the end of Sense and Sensibility, and because of this, I wanted to explore how their lives might be. In creating their marriage, I had to consider their past. Both of them have been in love before and both of these first attachments have consequences for the Brandon marriage.

Marianne first falls in love with Willoughby but has her heart broken by him when she discovers he means to marry someone else. It transpires that he is to marry for money as he has been disinherited and we discover that the reason for him losing his inheritance is that he has seduced Colonel Brandon’s ward. This young girl is the daughter of his first love – so here is the first link in the chain between Willoughby, Marianne and Brandon. I wondered how Marianne would cope with the idea of always having this other family in the background. The Colonel’s first love, Eliza, has been dead for many years, but Marianne knows she bears a resemblance to her. Would she wonder if she is loved just for herself alone, or would she ever think that this resemblance might just be the reason that Brandon has pursued her so relentlessly?

Marianne can be a little self-centered, and I think she might be quite jealous of the fact that Brandon spends any time seeing to the needs of Eliza’s grown-up daughter who has a child by Mr. Willoughby. Eliza’s position in society at that time is a very difficult one – as a single woman with a child she would have been ostracized. Marianne would not really be able to receive her, but in any case, I think she would decide that she didn’t want to meet her at all – the idea of seeing a child that belonged to Willoughby would be too disturbing. Colonel Brandon is a kind and dutiful guardian, anxious to make sure that Eliza and her child have as comfortable a life as possible, which means he has to visit them. This leads to a little friction between the Brandons – Marianne tries to be sensible about the whole affair, but often ignores Elinor’s advice. Her heart still has a habit of ruling her head and she is passionately outspoken on occasion.

Apart from the tensions I wanted to show how very well suited Marianne and her Colonel really are – I enjoyed writing scenes that show their affection for one another. Though ‘grave and silent’ Colonel Brandon is a romantic, like Marianne. I imagined he would always be thinking of little treats to surprise her and that a look or touch between them would speak volumes!


Colonel Brandon looked surreptitiously at his wife over the breakfast table. Three years on from the day they had wed had hardly changed his feelings toward her, although as he sat in secret contemplation on the matter, he swiftly acknowledged his regard for Marianne was altered in every way completely. His love for her was deeper and more passionately felt than it ever had been, he decided, and his covert glances at her over the coffee pot confirmed this in his look of sheer admiration. He watched her as she buttered a slice of toast and stirred her chocolate, before licking the fragrant cocoa from the silver spoon, her eyes closed to savour the moment.

“Marianne Brandon is a very attractive woman,” he thought, “her complexion as brilliant as when first my eyes beheld her, her smile still as sweet and in those dark eyes, her spirit and eagerness are as discernable as ever. Even the most disenchanted soul would call her a beauty.”
© Jane Odiwe, Sourcebooks Landmark, 2009

The best marriages are those where each partner strives to gives as much love as they can in whatever form showing their affection in deeds as well as with words. Partners must learn to give as well as take, and admit when they are wrong. Marianne and her Colonel truly love one another, but sometimes they find it hard to really communicate especially when the subjects are difficult to broach. I took them on a journey and I hope you’ll agree that by the end of my book their marriage is the stronger for it!
I’d like to know what you think is the recipe for a successful marriage! Do you agree that Marianne and the Colonel are made for one another?


WILLOUGHBY’S RETURN—IN STORES NOVEMBER 2009
A lost love returns, rekindling forgotten passions…
In Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, when Marianne Dashwood marries Colonel Brandon, she puts her heartbreak over dashing scoundrel John Willoughby in the past.
Three years later, Willoughby's return throws Marianne into a tizzy of painful memories and exquisite feelings of uncertainty. Willoughby is as charming, as roguish, and as much in love with her as ever. And the timing couldn't be worse—with Colonel Brandon away and Willoughby determined to win her back, will Marianne find the strength to save her marriage, or will the temptation of a previous love be too powerful to resist?
About the Author
Jane Odiwe is an artist and author. She is an avid fan of all things Austen and is the  author and illustrator of Effusions of Fancy, annotated sketches from the life of Jane Austen, as well as Lydia Bennet's Story. She lives with her husband and three children in North London. For more information, check out Jane’s blog: http://janeaustensequels.blogspot.com/

Friday, November 6, 2009

Willoughby's Return by Jane Odiwe

Willoughby's Return: A tale of almost irresistible temptation
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
ISBN: 140222267X
Pages: 352 pgs
Genre: Jane Austen Sequel/Sense and Sensibility
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge
Rating:



Publisher’s Description:

A lost love returns, rekindling forgotten passions…

In Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, when Marianne Dashwood marries Colonel Brandon, she puts her heartbreak over dashing scoundrel John Willoughby in the past.

Three years later, Willoughby's return throws Marianne into a tizzy of painful memories and exquisite feelings of uncertainty. Willoughby is as charming, as roguish, and as much in love with her as ever. And the timing couldn't be worse—with Colonel Brandon away and Willoughby determined to win her back, will Marianne find the strength to save her marriage, or will the temptation of a previous love be too powerful to resist?

My Review

I have been yearning for a Sense and Sensibility sequel. Colonel Brandon is my second favorite Austen hero (sometimes he even beats Darcy). Sometimes I get a bit tired of Darcy (just bought two more P&P sequels) and yearn for some Brandon, Wentworth, Tilney and Knightley (never Edmund Bertram).

Odiwe’s portrayal of all of the characters was perfect. Marianne was exactly as she was in S&S albeit a bit more mature. I also could understand why she was upset with Brandon. He completely neglected her to take care of his “other” family. I would have been upset too. Colonel Brandon was broody yet sweet—just as I imagine him. He did make a few mistakes throughout the book but redeemed himself. Marianne and Colonel Brandon’s marriage was a huge highlight for me. There was so much tension yet so much love.

I was so pleased to find that Margaret was a main character in Willoughby’s Return. She was sorely neglected by Jane Austen in S&S. She deserved a happy ending too. Henry was the perfect match for her and I enjoyed the twists and turns her story took. Willoughby was really not a huge portion of the book. Well, he is there but he is kind of like a storm cloud…you worry about what he will do but he passes through without any major problems.

I am going to sound like a huge nimrod say this but…I had no idea that Colonel Brandon had no first name. I always thought his first name was Christopher. Pollution from the 1995 movie, I guess. I think that it may make me a bad Jane Austen fan but I had no idea.

I think this may be put on my favorite Jane Austen sequels list. I wish there were more Sense and Sensibility sequels (psst…sequel authors, drop Darcy for a minute and write about Colonel Brandon and Marianne). Willoughby’s Return is definitely worth a read if you love Jane Austen sequels but are looking for something new.
*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.
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