Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

Northanger Abbey is a Jane Austen novel that I learned to appreciate as I grew older.  I loved the parody of the gothic romance, but also loved the sensitivity and wit of Henry Tilney.  I also loved how Catherine Morland is a teenager out in the world for the first time by herself and how she learned the hard lessons of who are your true friends.  I was excited to hear that author Val McDermid was going to write an update of Northanger Abbey, but I wasn’t sure how this novel could be updated to modern times.

I think Val McDermid did an excellent job with the translation to modern times.  Instead of gothic romance, “Cat” Morland loves Twilight and the vampire genre.  She loves to read, but also longs for an adventure of her own.  Growing up in Piddle Valley as the homeschooled daughter of a Vicar, Cat has lived a very sheltered life.  She is very excited to be invited by her neighbors, the Allens to attend the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh.  Mr. Allen is a scout for top new plays to bring to London.  He has been ill so his wife Susie wants to go to Edinburgh with him to watch over him.  She does not enjoy the same entertainment as him so she wants to bring along Cat to keep her company.

While in Edinburgh, Cat meets the handsome Henry Tilney through learning Scottish dances at a dance school.  She also meets the Thorpe family and becomes good friends with one daughter, Bella.  She is not as enamored by Bella’s brother Johnny and is surprised to learn that her brother James knows the Thorpe family and Bella quite well.  Cat learns more about the Tilney family and starts to think their lives match one of her vampire gothic novels.  Is everything the way it seems?

I really enjoyed this novel and thought it was a great update.  Putting the vampire novels and social media into the book worked really well.  Also having Cat a homeschooled girl from a small town explained a lot of her naiveté.  I also loved the secondary star of the novel,   Edinburgh.  Fans of the original will know that the trip was to Bath, but Edinburgh worked quite well in this novel.  The festival sounds fantastic – I would love to attend!!

Overall, a great update to a great classic.

Book Source:  The Kewaunee Public Library

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mr. Darcy’s Pledge by Monica Fairview

Monica Fairview is one of my favorite Austen Authors.  Her novel, The Other Mr. Darcy, is my favorite Austen sequel and I’ve given it as a gift to a few different friends.  I was very excited to be given the opportunity to review Monica Fairview’s newest book, Mr. Darcy’s Pledge.

Mr. Darcy’s Pledge is a Pride and Prejudice variation, not a sequel.  In this variation, Mr. Darcy proposed to Elizabeth Bennet, but then withheld his letter of explanation from her and returned to Pemberley.  While at Pemberley, Mr. Darcy is determined to bring his sister out in society and to help accomplish this, he knows he needs a wife.  He starts a list of all of the qualities he would love to see in a wife, but when meeting a visitor to his neighborhood, the beautiful Miss Marshall, he thinks she may embody everything on his list. Yet the ghost of Elizabeth haunts him and makes him remember many qualities in a wife that Miss Marshall seems to lack.  Mr. Darcy also seeks the assistance of the Bingleys on his task.  When fate throws Elizabeth his way, what will Mr. Darcy do?

I loved this variation.  Fairview really knows and loves the Austen characters and writes them so realistically.  I love Darcy’s inner turmoil in this book.  I also love Georgiana’s bit of spunk when she decides she does not like Miss Marshall and does want Darcy to marry her.  The new characters introduced (Mr. Darcy’s Uncle and Aunt, Miss Marshall) are perfectly drawn, interesting, and amusing.  I enjoyed this book and read it fairly quickly.  I was excited that it is Volume I and there will be another book in this series.  I can’t wait to read further!

Overall, Mr. Darcy’s Pledge is an Austen Variation not to be missed!

Book Source:  A review copy from Monica Fairview.  Thank-you!

The Idea of Him by Holly Peterson

Allie Crawford would love to be a writer, but she instead works at a PR firm.  She would love to have ended up with her soul-mate James, but she instead ended up with Wade Crawford, a successful magazine publisher.  Life has not turned out quite as Allie expected, but she has two beautiful children and tries to make the most of it.  As Allie begins to suspect that Wade may be a cheater and may have some deeper issues, she begins to reevaluate her life and decisions and what she would like for the future. 

I found The Idea of Him to be a fast read.   I was interested in Allie’s story and enjoyed the mystery of finding out about her past including her father and lost love James.  I also wanted to know what secrets Wade was hiding.   Truthfully my favorite character in the novel was Jackie. She is a sassy lady with a secret past that is trying to at once to both motivate Allie and to use Allie to find out the secrets about Wade.  She is truthful about her mistakes and willing to move on.  My one problem with the novel is that I didn’t care about Allie or Wade as much as I should have.  Wade seemed slimy from the beginning and Allie annoyed me with her constant longing for James and her almost boyfriend Tommy.  I know she wasn’t happy in her marriage and suspects Wade of cheating, but when she admits to never really loving Wade and wants to cheat herself, I don’t have much sympathy.  Maybe I’m mean but I thought why don’t you just get a divorce so you can find someone else? 

Overall, The Idea of Him was a good summer read.  Read it for the mystery and great secondary characters.  If you loved Allie – let me know why – I would like to discuss!

Source:  Review Copy from William Morrow.  Thank-you!