Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mr. Darcy’s Obsession by Abigail Reynolds

Mr. Darcy’s Obsession is a fascinating look at “what-if” scenario in which Mr. Bennet has passed away before Mr. Darcy ever had a chance to propose to Elizabeth Bennet at Rosings. As Mrs. Bennet had always feared, with the death of Mr. Bennet, the Bennet family is cast out of Longbourn by Mr. Collins and his wife Charlotte. Jane is forced to marry a tradesman to ensure her family’s welfare, and Elizabeth moves to London to live with Aunt and Uncle Gardiner as a governess to their children.

After a chance meeting at a park, Mr. Darcy finds himself obsessed with Elizabeth Bennet. He finds himself returning to the park each morning just for a chance to spend time with her. She is doubly unsuitable for him now with her father’s death, but what is suitable? Mr. Darcy finds himself in a crisis where he starts to question the social order of the day. What makes a rich man that is part of the “ton” any better than a storekeeper? What makes a rich society lady any better than a pretty girl with a lively wit that has fallen on hard times?

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth have a misunderstanding, but they both find themselves falling in love. Will they challenge the social order of the day to have a happy ending?

I loved Mr. Darcy’s Obsession. I thought the premise was very unique and I thought it was a great look at what could have happened had Mr. Bennet met an untimely end. I loved the romance between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. I love how Elizabeth was able to challenge Darcy’s rigid social beliefs, and I love how she also seemed to light a fire within Darcy.

Ms. Reynolds was able to write a great Pride and Prejudice variation story that stayed very true to the original characters, yet introduced some great new characters. It turns out that Mr. Darcy’s family, although wealthy, has plenty of eccentrics of its own to compete with Mrs. Bennet, Lydia, and Mr. Collins. My favorite new relation was Darcy’s outspoken Aunt Augusta. There is nothing that Aunt Augusta wouldn’t do to torment Darcy’s Uncle, Lord Derby, a jilted suitor from her past and Colonel Fitzwilliam’s father. Lord Derby is all about family honor by marrying a great lady and keeping a mistress or two on the side. He is definitely not pleased by the prospect of Darcy or anyone in the family marrying for love.

I also enjoyed the discussion of sex in the regency era. While the novel does not have any steamy scenes, only sweet love scenes, it does discuss the inequality of men and women of the era. Women who found themselves in a certain delicate condition were either completely cast off or were able to hide it, adopt their child out, and pretend that nothing happened. Men on the other hand were expected to have a mistress or two or to dally with the servants, and this was not considered improper. While Jane Austen hinted at this in her novels, Ms. Reynolds is able to focus on it further in Mr. Darcy’s Obsession.

Overall, Mr. Darcy’s Obsession is an exciting, well developed, and romantic novel that stays true to Austen’s characters, while being a fantastic unique story of its own. I found myself wanting more to the story when I finished the novel and was excited to read that Ms. Reynolds is working on a follow up novel.

Please join me on Monday October 4th for an author interview with Abigail Reynolds. I am excited to learn more about Mr. Darcy’s Obsession from the author herself!

Mr. Darcy’s Obsession is my fourth item for the Everything Austen Challenge II.

This novel will be released on October 1, 2010.

Book Source: Advance Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Persuasion by Jane Austen (audiobook)

Persuasion is tied with Pride and Prejudice as my favorite Jane Austen novel. I love Persuasion. I’ve read the novel many times in my life and it touches me each and every time. I also love the 1995 movie starring Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root (Not so much the 2007 version). I’m due for a rewatch of the movie; hopefully I will do it as part of this year’s Everything Austen Challenge.

I had never listened to the audiobook version of Persuasion before, but I did enjoy the audiobooks of several other Austen novels as part of last year’s Everything Austen Challenge. I listened to Persuasion last week mostly while I was working and found it to be a very enjoyable experience. The version I listened to was read by Juliet Stevenson (Mrs. Elton in the 1996 Emma movie starting Gwyneth Paltrow). Ms. Stevenson had a nice British accent and was able to put a unique voice to the different characters.

What is Persuasion about? Persuasion is the story of Anne Eliot. Anne is the middle of three daughters of Sir Walter Eliot. Always overlooked in her family, Anne is a quiet woman, with great sensibility. Eight years previous to the start of the novel, Anne met and fell in love with a young naval officer, Frederick Wentworth. She became engaged to him, but was persuaded to break off the engagement by her friend Lady Russell who felt that the penniless Wentworth was not good enough for Anne. Now eight years later, Captain Wentworth is back in the neighborhood, rich and looking for a bride. To add insult to injury, his sister and her husband, Admiral Croft, are renting Anne’s family estate, Kellynch Hall. Anne’s father, Sir Walter had been forced to “retrench” and rent out his family estate and move to Bath because of his inability to live within his means.

Anne’s sister Mary is married to a young local gentlemen, Charles Musgrove. Anne is forced to witness Captain Wentworth’s flirtation with Mary’s young sister-in-laws Louisa and Henrietta, while she helps Mary with her young sons and “illness.” As the novel progresses, Anne comes into her own and men such as a Captain Benwick and her cousin Mr. William Elliot find her attractive and love her lively mind. Anne only has eyes for Captain Wentworth, and begins to hope that love could bloom between them again.

Listening to Persuasion, I was once again reminded that I love Austen’s characters. They are hilarious and people you could see today on the street or within your own family. It is amazing how people have not really changed in two hundred years. Hearing about the pride of Sir Elliot and Elizabeth, the “illnesses” of Mary, and the general annoyances of every day family living, it made me realize that life as we know it has not really changed. We may now blog about books or text message our friends, but we are still annoyed by a person who thinks they are better than everyone else or another person that constantly talks about their illnesses that don’t seem to exist. I think that one of the reasons that Austen is so beloved is that she was able to capture the essence of personalities that does not change over time. She also had a great wit that makes these characterizations extremely funny, even after two-hundred years.

I think the major reason that I love Persuasion so much is that I LOVE Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne and the ending of the novel. To read about poor Anne and being thought of as “on the shelf” at 27 to have a second chance at a relationship with her one great love is so romantic and uplifting. Who cannot read the following letter and not think it is romantic?

“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in


I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.”

To have a deep and what you think is unreciprocated love for someone, and then to receive a letter like that . . . wow!! I love the ending of this novel. I like how unlike the 1995 and 2007 movies, it goes into details about how they get together and how all of the main characters fates are tied up.

Persuasion is my fourth item for The Classics Challenge and my third item for the Everything Austen Challenge II. I’m next going to listen to Northanger Abbey!

Audiobook Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Monday, September 27, 2010

Winners of Mr. Darcy's Little Sister

The two lucky winners of Mr. Darcy's Little Sister by C. Allyn Pierson are Suko of Suko's Notebook and Ashley. The two winners were chosen using They have one week to send me their mailing addresses, otherwise new winners will be chosen.

Thank-you to all who entered this giveaway and your great comments on the C. Allyn Pierson's guest blog and what intrigued you about the novel premise. A very big thank-you to Sourcebooks for providing the new copies of Mr. Darcy's Little Sister for the giveaway. And of course a hearty thank-you to C. Allyn Pierson for writing such a great book and for appearing on this blog with a guest post.

If you did not win Mr. Darcy's Little Sister, but would like to find out more about the novel, please see my review or C. Allyn Pierson's guest blog.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lessons of the Heart by Patricia H. Livingston

I had the pleasure of getting to listen to Pat Livingston speak at our Parish retreat this past Monday and Tuesday. Pat has a unique style of storytelling where she is able to bring spirituality together with real world experiences to give an uplifting message.

Lessons of the Heart was Patricia Livingston’s first book published in 1992. In this book, Ms. Livingston has several key points about spirituality that she outlines in eleven chapters and then fills the chapter with real-world experiences to prove the points. The points (chapters) include: Truths for Claiming Life, Life is Mixed, Our Gifts Don’t Belong to Us, Spirituality is Not Removed from Life, Sacrament Is God Revealed in Life, Mercy Is God’s Clearest Sign, Forgiveness Interweaves with Mercy, Suffering Can Lead to Life, We Need to Nurture Hope, The Hunger and the Feast, and Each Day is Grace.

I enjoyed the style of this book. It is written in a breezy style that made me think I was talking to a friend about spirituality, yet there was a deepness to it that conveyed some beautiful and heart-felt messages. The book made me think about several aspects of my own life and how to improve them for greater spiritual fulfillment and happiness. I loved how the book put a positive spin on life and spirituality.

Some of my favorite quotes:

“Only life can teach us truth. Revelation happens in experience. Day to day we learn the lessons of the heart.”

“Our gifts do not belong to us. All we have and are flows out from God. The heart of faith is trusting that the central gift, our life in love, will never end.”

“Life is the meeting place. Spirituality is meeting God in all that life is.”

“In hard times we think that no good thing can happen out of all of the difficulty. But then, imperceptibly at first, some good makes a small beginning.”

The book was filled with such great gems about life and faith. I also enjoyed her discussion of books that she loved, including The Lord of the Rings. I have her next two books and I look forward to reading them.

Book Source: I bought this book earlier this week from the St. Catherine’s Book and Gift Store booth at our Holy Rosary retreat.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

One Season of Sunshine by Julia London

One Season of Sunshine by Julia London is the October pick for the FLICKS Book and Movie club of which I am a member. I think this novel will give us a lot to discuss with its subject matter and it nicely includes a reader’s guide at the end to facilitate discussion.

Jane Aaron is a thirty year old school teacher with a handsome, singer boyfriend that adores her, and a happy family that loves her. Jane feels like a black sheep in her family as she is adopted and doesn’t share the love of cooking that runs through the rest of her family. Indeed they even own their own family restaurant in Houston. When her boyfriend asks her to marry him, Jane feels that she needs to solve the mystery of her past before she can pursue her future. To this end, Jane moves to Cedar Springs, the town where she was born, to investigate her past.

Asher Price lost his wife in a tragic car accident two years ago. His two children, thirteen year old Riley and 5-year old Levi have a difficult life with no mother and an absent father. Asher is trying to hold everything together at his advertising firm and finds himself on the road constantly. He hires Jane as a nanny for his children for the summer.

Jane searches to discover the mother she never knew while also learning the secrets of the beautiful Susanna Price and the tragedy that the Price family had to endure. She also finds herself falling in love with her employer, Asher, as well as with his children.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. I love how Jane grew to understand through her connection with the Price children that her parents could love her even though she was adopted. I liked the mystery of finding out more about Jane’s birth parents as well as about Susanna. I also enjoyed the love story between Jane and Asher. At times I got a Jane Eyre vibe from the book with the “master” falling in love with the governess (or nanny in this case) and a “mad wife” in the attic being the ghost of Susanna Price. Indeed there were references by young Levi that he heard his mother in the attic and that made me think the author was perhaps intentionally making the reader think of that reference. It also reminded me of one of my other favorite books, Rebecca, with Susanna as the Rebecca character that everyone else must be able to move beyond to be able to start life anew.

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Monday, September 20, 2010

Black Hills by Dan Simmons (audiobook)

Black Hills is a rich, engrossing historical drama that is also a bit of a ghost story.

As a young boy, Paha Sapa (or Black Hills in English) grew up happily in the American West with his adopted father Limps-a-Lot as part of his Sioux (or Natural Free Human Beings) tribe. Paha Sapa had a gift in that he could see peoples’ past and future histories through touch. With this gift, he is able to see the future tragedy of Crazy Horse, and unfortunately picks up General George Armstrong Custer’s ghost at the moment of his death at the battle of Little Big Horn. Fortunately he doesn’t understand Custer’s English for awhile and doesn’t get to hear the pornographic stories that Custer loves to tell about his wife, Libby.

In the future, a much older Paha Sapa is working as a dynamite expert on the Mount Rushmore project. The Black Hills are considered sacred by his people, and Paha Sapa is determined to take action against the project, by blowing the entire Mount Rushmore project up on the day that Franklin Roosevelt visits to dedicate the Jefferson head. This plan is riveting and provides some great action toward the end of the novel.

The book swings back and forth between Paha Sapa’s past and future, with the history of Paha Sapa himself, and of the Native American People overall. Paha Sapa lived through riveting times including the Battle of Little Bighorn, Wounded Knee, the assassination of Sitting Bull, the Chicago’s World Fair, traveling with the Wild West Show, and the Dust Bowl. I loved the detailed description of these events.

Indeed, there were several thrilling sections in this book, such as when Paha Sapa tries to outrun a massive dust storm in his truck and the beautiful description of the Chicago’s World Fair. The love story between Paha Sapa and Rain at the Fair was beautiful, and I also loved the relationship between Paha Sapa and his son, Robert.

This book so enthralled me in these sections, that it had me sobbing in the car while on the way to a meeting over the death of a main character, which was followed by a flashback of a young Paha Sapa discovering the remnants of his village after it had been destroyed by the American Calvary. I have never had that reaction listening to an audiobook before. It was a couple of very powerful scenes.

Unfortunately, this book had the potential to be a great book, but it is only a good book. Where the book failed was in having some crisp editing performed on it. The first bit of editing would be on General Custer. His ghost liked to write pornographic letters to his wife in poor young Paha Sapa’s head. The cut to these sections was jarring and served no purpose in the story . . . except to make me laugh. In particular when Custer details the “best one minute of his life” and somehow having intimate relations with his wife while galloping on his horse through the plains. I thought to myself, love scenes by men are very different than love scenes written by women. Simmons had a compelling and sweet love story with Paha Sapa and Rain, but Custer and Libby’s story fell flat.

There was also a long section in the middle of the book where Paha Sapa travels east as an old man to visit an elderly Libby. He goes to see the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. I am an engineer and love to hear and read about infrastructure, but even I was bored by this section. It did not further the plot at all and seemed really out of place in the story.

The third section that sadly cried for an editor was the end of the book. The book had a great ending . . .but then continued on for at least one more CD as Paha Sapa’s spirit as a raven flies over the past and future earth detailing things that had been and were to come. I was almost bored to tears during this section. I would consider this section a fantasy/science fiction too in detailing what was to come in the future. I could see what Simmons was trying to do with this section and appreciated the vision, but it dragged on for too long.

Black Hills made me really think about the treatment of Native Americans in North America again. I know it was a tragic history, but the book does a good job of trying to display both sides of the tale. It was a sad story, but also fascinating.

Simmons did fantastic research and wrote a very powerful and rich historical drama. I really enjoyed listening to it, and will definitely try some more of Simmons’ novels (I have Drood on my “too-read” pile). I just wish an editor had gotten a hold of the manuscript and had convinced Simmons to chop out the parts of the novel that did not advance the story. Paha Sapa’s tale was enthralling, heartbreaking, and a true American Adventure.

Audio Book Source: Review Copy from Hachette Book Group. Thank-you!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Winners of Darcy's Voyage by Kara Louise

The two lucky winners of Darcy's Voyage by Kara Louise are Jules of One Book Shy of a Full Shelf and Lynn of Lynn Quilts a Lot. The two winners were chosen using and have one week to email me their mailing addresses in order to receive their prize. They have also been notified via email.

I would like to thank Sourcebooks for allowing me to hoist this giveaway and for generously providing the two copies of Darcy's Voyage as prizes. I would also like to thank everyone who left a comment and participated in this giveaway.

Sad that you didn't win? I still have a giveaway up for two copies of Mr. Darcy's Little Sister by C. Allyn Pierson until this upcoming Friday September 24th at midnight.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hawk of May by Gillian Bradshaw

Hawk of May is the first of an Arthurian Trilogy by Gillian Bradshaw. It tells the tale of Gwalchmai, also known as “Hawk of May” or Sir Gawain in Arthurian Legend. Gwalchmai is the middle child of King Lot and Morgawse (in this version of the tale, Morgawse is the daughter of Uther). While Gwalchmai’s older brother Agravain is a brilliant warrior, Gwalchmai finds himself lacking. In order to find something that he excels at, he starts to learn Latin and sorcery from his mother Morgawse.

One night when he discovers the true depths of Morgawse’s evil, Gwalchmai flees from the darkness and toward the “light.” He goes to a magical kingdom and upon his return to Britain, discovers that he is now a brilliant warrior who would like to use his power for good. He knows that good is his parents’ enemy, King Arthur, and determines to join his band of warriors. Will Arthur accept Gwalchmai and be able to put aside his prejudices?

Hawk of May is a unique look at a different aspect of Arthurian Legend and I enjoyed this different take on the legend. Overall though, I found myself kind of indifferent to the book and I’m not sure why. I have been pondering all day and I can’t come up with a good reason. The book was okay, but it didn’t really hook and intrigue me as other books of Arthurian legend have before.

Book Source: Advance Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Guest Blog (and Giveaway): C. Allyn Pierson, author of Mr. Darcy's Little Sister

Today I am thrilled to have C. Allyn Pierson, the author of the new novel Mr. Darcy's Litle Sister as a guest blogger. I just finished Mr. Darcy's Little Sister last week, and I loved it (see my review here). I can't wait to get my hands on it! Thank-you for writing a great guest post Ms. Pierson!
Why I Chose to Write About Georgiana
by C. Allyn Pierson

Georgiana Darcy is an interesting figure for me because her name and description are scattered throughout Pride and Prejudice, but the reader does not actually meet her until after Elizabeth Bennet meets Darcy again at Pemberley, when she finds that he has greatly changed. Darcy brings Georgiana to meet Elizabeth as soon as she arrives the next day, and Elizabeth and her aunt return the call the next morning. Because the reader knows only the varied descriptions of Georgiana by her brother and Miss Bingley, we are surprised to find that Georgiana is not haughty and proud, as she sounded from Miss Bingley’s description, but is painfully shy and reticent. Even at the end of the book we do not have a clear grasp of Georgiana’s personality and she remains an enigma.

This mystery of who Georgiana really is intrigued me and I reread Pride and Prejudice again multiple times to get a feel for her character. In addition, the sketchy portrait of Georgiana gave me ample license to fill out her character as I wished. If I were writing about Darcy or Elizabeth I would have to make them fit into the world Jane Austen created and there would be many fewer options to use to develop my story. In addition, Austen clearly states that Georgiana has such great respect for her elder brother that it almost overcomes her affection for him and when she meets Elizabeth there is a lot of tension when Darcy enters the room and Georgiana feels she must exert herself to meet his expectations. She clearly struggles to meet his expectations. This tension between the two Darcy’s: the pull of love and affection for a brother and the natural rebelliousness of a teenager struck me and made me want to explore it.

Although children were much more strictly brought up in the 19th Century, I am sure that teenagers experiences the same feelings of needing to break out from their families control as modern teens do, but they were given many fewer choices. Children were not really considered individuals, but were an extension of their families, so there was a lot of pressure to conform to the standards the parents set down. Georgiana struck me as a very conformable young woman, but she was clearly well educated for her day and had many accomplishments, so I think her transition from girlhood to adulthood would be a difficult one. These qualities attracted me to her character and made me want to explore who she was in my book.

Pride and Prejudice continues...Georgiana Darcy grows up and goes in pursuit of happiness and true love, much to her big brother's consternation

A whole new side of Mr. Darcy...
He's the best big brother, generous to a fault. Protective, never teases. But over his dead body is any rogue or fortune hunter going to get near his little sister! (Unfortunately, any gentleman who wants to court Georgiana is going to have the same problem...)
So how's a girl ever going to meet the gentleman of her dreams?

About the Author
C. Allyn Pierson is the nom-de-plume of a physician, who has combined her many years of interest in the works of Jane Austen and the history of Regency England into this sequel to Pride and Prejudice. She lives with her family and three dogs in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Giveaway Details
Danielle of Sourcebooks has been kind enough to offer two copies of the Mr. Darcy's Little Sister by C. Allyn Pierson for this giveaway. I have decided to give a try at simplifying my giveaways so lets see how this experiment works . . .

If you would like to win a copy of Mr. Darcy's Little Sister, please leave a comment about what intrigues you about Mr. Darcy's Little Sister or what you liked about Ms. Pierson's guest blog.
As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.
I will be using to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents (Sorry!).
No P.O. Boxes.

The deadline for entry is midnight, Friday September 24th.

Good luck!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister by C. Allyn Pierson

Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister is an enjoyable look at the life of Georgiana Darcy immediately after her brother’s engagement to Elizabeth Bennet. Georgiana is very excited about having a new “sister,” but also is very nervous about meeting her and first impressions. Her teen angst also extends to her upcoming first season in London and her presentation to the royal family.

Georgiana has the independence of a fine income to be able to marry for love rather than wealth. There is a downside to this independence as it also makes her a magnet for fortune hunters. Georgiana survives meeting Elizabeth and the Bennet family and is able to enjoy her brother’s wedding. Afterwards, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy bring her to London and prepare to launch Georgiana in society.

Georgiana is uncomfortable with how her new sister-in-law is treated by the ton and tries her best to help out. She also has a few unforeseen adventures with fortune hunters, while Mr. Darcy helps the Prince Regent out on a dangerous mission. Will Georgiana be able to find true love and happiness?

I loved Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister. The characters were wonderfully developed, and the historical fiction element was also spectacular. I loved seeing Georgiana’s transformation from a teen filled with angst to a confident young woman who goes after what she wants. Her feelings of nervousness seemed very real to me and true to life as a teen (at least as I remember it!). I also loved that Colonel Fitzwilliam’s character is fully developed and brought to the center stage. He is a wonderful character and I loved learning more about his family, and his work with the Prince Regent. As I read Mr. Darcy's Little Sister, I felt like I was having a wonderful visit with old friends.

I highly recommend Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister for all lovers of Jane Austen and/or regency literature. You will not be disappointed.

I am fortunate that C. Allyn Pierson will be having a guest blog on Laura’s Reviews tomorrow. Please stop back by and check it out!

Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister is my second item for the Everything Austen Challenge II.

Book Source: Advance Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Played with Fire is the second riveting novel in the Millennium Trilogy, following The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In The Girl Who Played with Fire, journalist and publisher Mikael Blomkvist, has a new freelance journalist at his magazine, Millennium, who has an extensive study on sex trafficking in Sweden that will uncover the crimes of many high-ranking officials. The freelance journalist, Svensson, is planning on publishing an article with Millennium and also a full-length detailed novel. Svensson is working together with his fiancée, Mia Johansson, who is doing her doctoral thesis on the same subject.

Lisbeth Salander has used her newfound wealth to take a trip around the world. She vacations in the Caribbean and spends her time working on complex math problems, defending women against “men who hate women,” and trying to avoid a hurricane. She eventually makes her way back to Stockholm and tries to reconnect with people from her past, while avoiding Mikael Blomkvist. She does like to keep tabs on his work through hacking into his computer and is intrigued by the sex trafficking investigation.

When Svensson and Johansson are found murdered, Lisbeth becomes a suspect as her fingerprints are found on the weapon. She becomes all but convicted of the crime by the police and press when her legal guardian, lawyer Nils Bjurman, is also found murdered. Lisbeth has to remain hidden while trying to solve the crime. The only person on her side is Mikael Blomkvist who wants to help Lisbeth and find the murderer of his friends. The resulting mystery is enthralling, and also helps to solve the mystery of Lisbeth herself.

I loved this novel. While the start of the novel was rather slow, once I got into it, I had a hard time putting it down. I really wanted to solve the mystery and to learn more about Lisbeth herself.

I love the characters of Lisbeth and of Mikael Blomkvist. They are each unique and intriguing characters that I truly love to read about. Lisbeth is an anti-social punk, but she has her own set of morals and makes sure that justice is served. I loved Lisbeth’s character growth in this novel from the beginning where she feels like she is a loner with no one in her life, through the end of the novel when she realizes there are indeed people out there that do care and will help her in her time of need. Blomkvist is a womanizer that also wants to see justice served and will do everything in his power to make it happen.

The characters and the mystery of this novel are wonderful, but I also like the crusading part of this novel against sex trafficking, and also against government corruption. It was eye opening and gave me a lot to think about. I am more than a little disturbed that women and young girls are treated in such ways around the world.

The ending was very abrupt and left me wanting more. I can’t wait until I finally get The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest from the library. I’m still on the waiting list.

Overall, if you are looking for a fascinating mystery with intriguing characters and concepts, I highly recommend The Girl Who Played with Fire.

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Friday, September 3, 2010

Kara Louise (Author of Darcy's Voyage) Interview & Giveaway

I am excited that Kara Louise, author of Darcy's Voyage is here on Laura's Reviews today for an interview. I really enjoyed Darcy's Voyage and I am very happy that Kara Louise took the time out to answer my burning questions! And without further ado, I turn this blog over to Kara Louise . . .

Thanks for inviting me here today. These are great questions and I hope I can answer them to your satisfaction.

1. What was your inspiration for retelling the tale of Pride and Prejudice with a different meeting of Darcy and Elizabeth, first on a carriage ride, and then on a sea voyage to America?
I actually wrote the meeting between the two of them on a carriage for another story idea. I never got further than that meeting, and it remained in my file for a while. When I began writing Darcy’s Voyage (then titled Pemberley’s Promise), I decided to add it to that story and have Darcy and Elizabeth initially have only vague recollections of that first meeting when they encounter one another on the ship. I was inspired to write a story of them at sea after reading Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast. It was very interesting to me to read his account of his travels at sea in the 1840s, and although a little later than the time period of Pride and Prejudice, I decided I would love to write a story placing Darcy and Elizabeth on a ship bound for America.

2. One aspect of the novel that troubled me was that Elizabeth was not accompanied by a chaperone on either her carriage ride or her voyage to America. As it was common practice for young ladies at the time always to have a chaperone, what made you decide to not have one for these occasions?
I have little justification other than wanting to write it that way. Well, that is not altogether the truth. For Elizabeth’s being unchaperoned, I always felt she had a rebelliousness to her that defied convention, while not being “wild,” like we see with her sister, Lydia. She often walked about her hometown unchaperoned, including jumping over stiles and walking through the mud. She had no qualms about showing up at Netherfield with her ankles six inches in mud! I will concede that perhaps, at least in the carriage, I should have thought about a chaperone, but I love what that scene in particular added to the overall story!

As for her traveling unchaperoned on the ship, I felt that the Bennets would not have had anyone to accompany her, and that Elizabeth would have greatly desired take such an adventure. Likewise, I knew Mr. Bennet did not always consider what was prudent in ruling his household, particularly his daughters. He had nothing to worry about regarding Elizabeth’s behavior, but I did insist upon him putting Elizabeth under the captain’s protection when they boarded the ship.

3. On a similar note, what made you decide to have Elizabeth travel in steerage?
Part of my answer is what I envisioned for the ship, which I cover in the next question. But truthfully, I did think a great deal about the reasons why she might have traveled down there. First of all, we know her family did not have a great deal of money. The expense of securing a cabin for Elizabeth would have been much greater, and knowing the financial states her family was in, Elizabeth would not have wanted to spend any more than they had to. I reasoned that Elizabeth wanted to take this amazing journey and would sacrifice anything, even her comfort, to take the opportunity to sail to America.

4. Did you find out any interesting facts during your research on sea voyages in the early 19th century?
Pemberley’s Promise is the name of the ship in Darcy’s Voyage, and you can tell by that name that Mr. Darcy is the owner. I found an interesting website about a ship that took about a thousand Irish people to America during the great famine. The Jeanie Johnston sailed in the mid-nineteenth century and carried many across the sea looking for a better life or joining family. I was impressed by this story because they never lost one passenger and attributed that to the ship’s humane conditions and its compassionate captain. I envisioned this for Pemberley’s Promise, a ship that even down in steerage the conditions were not totally unbearable. This site is also where I discovered that two children would be considered one adult in the sleeping berths, which provided that part of the story. You can read more about the ship here:

5. Who is your favorite character in this novel . . . Darcy, Elizabeth, or one of the secondary characters? Personally I loved Darcy and Elizabeth, but I also loved seeing Georgiana blossom a bit in the novel as well.
Of course I love the characters of Darcy and Elizabeth, but I will also concur with you that Georgiana is one of the characters I love to write. I tend to write her as very instrumental in helping Elizabeth see the error of her ways as it pertains to her opinion of Darcy. Sometimes Georgiana catches on very quickly that there is something special between them, other times, not. I think in Darcy’s Voyage she tries to put two and two together but cannot quite come up with the right answer. And I love writing her as someone who truly loves and admires Elizabeth.

6. You have written other Pride and Prejudice inspired novels. Can you give us the details on a couple of your favorites?
Darcy’s Voyage is probably my favorite (for now!), but my next favorite is being published by Sourcebooks in Spring 2011. That book, originally titled Something Like Regret, has been re-titled Only Mr. Darcy Will Do. This is another variation in which begins almost immediately after returning from Kent after Darcy’s first proposal, Mr. Bennet dies, leaving the Bennet ladies having to face moving out of Longbourn. Elizabeth and Jane become governesses, Jane for the Gardiners’ children and Elizabeth to a young girl, whose family, it turns out, is acquainted with Mr. Darcy. She suddenly finds herself thrown into his presence, and even more so when the family is invited to Pemberley. There, she begins to see his goodness, but realizes even more the difference in their stations.

7. What is next for you? Are you at work on a new novel that you could share with us?
I wrote a series of short stories based on Elizabeth and Darcy as they celebrated the holidays their first year of marriage. I take them from Christmas to New Years, Valentines Day, and then end the book with a very special event. I wrote it several years ago and right now I am cleaning it up before I publish it. I have a couple other Austen related novels mulling about in my head as well. One is another Pride and Prejudice variation and the other is a back-story to a character in another novel of hers.

8. I always love to learn who authors love to read. Can you list a few of your favorite books and authors?
I have been reading Georgette Heyer’s book for about a year now, and love them. She has just a talent for giving us a variety of characters that end up in so much mischief. Some of them are truly laugh-out-loud books, and I an enjoying working my way through them. So far, of the 8 or so that I have read, my favorites have been Regency Buck and Arabella. I also have enjoyed the Carrie Bebris murder mystery series using Jane Austen’s characters. I also enjoy a couple Kansas authors, Deb Raney and Kim Vogel Sawyer.

A Tale of Uncharted Love on the Open Seas

In this enchanting and highly original retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet sets out for the new world aboard the grand ship Pemberley’s Promise. She’s prepared for an uneventful voyage until a chance encounter with the handsome, taciturn Mr. Darcy turns her world upside down.

When Elizabeth falls ill, Darcy throws convention overboard in a plan that will bind them to each other more deeply than he ever could have imagined. But the perils of their ocean voyage pale in comparison to the harsh reality of society’s rules that threaten their chance at happiness. When they return to the lavish halls of England, will their love survive?

Ever since Kara Louise discovered and fell in love with the writings of Jane Austen she has spent her time answering the "what happened next" and the "what ifs" in Elizabeth's and Darcy's story. She has written 6 novels based on Pride and Prejudice. She lives with her husband in Wichita, Kansas. For more information, please visit her website, Jane Austen’s Land of Ahhhs,

Thank-you for the great answers to my questions Kara Louise!! I loved your answers, and am looking forward to your next novels. Only Mr. Darcy Will Do has an interesting premise just as Darcy's Voyage did, and I love holiday stories so that sounds intriguing as well!
Giveaway Details
Danielle of Sourcebooks has been kind enough to offer two copies of the Darcy's Voyage by Kara Louise for this giveaway. I have decided to give a try at simplifying my giveaways so lets see how this experiment works . . .
If you would like to win a copy of Darcy's Voyage, please leave a comment about what intrigues you about Darcy's Voyage or what you liked about this interview. As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.

I will be using to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents (Sorry!).

No P.O. Boxes.

The deadline for entry is midnight, Friday September 17th.

Good luck!