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Miranda’s Big Mistake by Jill Mansell

“‘You can be a bridesmaid if you want.’ Tom’s relief was audible. ‘Dear Florence. So you don’t think I’m making the biggest mistake of my life?’

‘If you’re having fun, how can it be a mistake? The last thing I ordered from a mail-order catalogue was a non-stick saucepan,’ Florence told him, ‘and after a week the bloody handle dropped off.'” (Page 71)

Jill Mansell’s Miranda’s Big Mistake is a rip-roaring good time that will have you guffawing so loudly your friends, your neighbors, and people on the Metro will want to read what your reading.

“Sleety rain dripped down Miranda’s neck as she tipped her head back to drink the lager straight from the bottle. Her short black hair, urchin-cut and currently streaked with dark blue and green low-lights, gleamed like a magpie’s wing.” (Page 13)

Miranda is a junior at Fenn Lomax’s trendy hair salon in London, and her love life is a disaster, but she just doesn’t know it yet. Her landlady, Florence, gets around in a wheelchair and is full of piss and vinegar. Her boss can be demanding, but he’s really a big softie. Miranda’s men–Greg, Miles, and Danny–have her twisting and turning, while love is simmering beneath the surface for Fenn, her flatmate Chloe, and her best friend Bev.

“‘It isn’t a smirk. I never smirk. I’m not dopey either. I just wondered, do you have a girlfriend?’

‘Why, are you offering? All applications for the post in writing, please. Just send a copy of your CV and a brief letter outlining why you feel you’d be the best woman for the job. If you make the short list, you’ll be invited to attend for an interview–‘” (Page 167)

Mansell is adept at crafting in-depth characters with unique personalities and their actions make them even funnier. The sexual tension between Miranda and Miles and Miranda and Danny is electric, leaping off the page to zap readers through the tips of their fingers. Miranda’s Big Mistake not only oozes modern romance, but also sarcasm and wit. The dialogue is sharp and the plot will keep readers moving quickly, keeping them on their toes and cheering Miranda on. Grab a copy of Miranda’s Big Mistake and hit the beach.

About the Author:

Jill Mansell lives with her partner and children in Bristol, and writes full time. Actually that’s not true; she watches TV, eats fruit gums, admires the rugby players training in the sports field behind her house, and spends hours on the internet marvelling at how many other writers have blogs. Only when she’s completely run out of displacement activities does she write.

Also Reviewed By:

A Bookworm’s World
S. Krishna’s Books
Bookopolis
Wendy’s Minding Spot
Cheryl’s Book Nook
Booking Mama
Diary of an Eccentric
Cindy’s Love of Books
Bermudaonion
Reading Adventures

Check out this giveaway:

1 copy of Holly’s Inbox by Holly Denham, here; Deadline is June 10, 2009, 11:59 PM EST

The Four Corners of the Sky by Michael Malone

“It was Dan who put the last pieces into the center of the puzzle, so that the sky was one huge blue square. Clark, Sam, and Annie stared at it, a little disappointed. Somehow, all those years, finding the right shapes, fitting them together, they had imagined that this square would be more than it turned out to be. Bluer? Bigger? Filled with meaningful symbols? Somehow more?” (Page 528 of the ARC)

Michael Malone’s The Four Corners of the Sky is a story of the Peregrine family and particularly Annie Goode, con artist Jack Peregrine’s daughter. From its Wizard of Oz feel to its convoluted mystery, Michael Malone shifts from past to present and person to person, but it is far from confusing and a highly enjoyable ride.

“After the muddy hues of Emerald, North Carolina, Miami had almost blinded her. Miami was in Technicolor. Annie felt as if she’d awakened in a tropical cartoon of hot pink birds and purple flowers, set to salsa music. What’s more, she felt rested, although the rest had been imposed on her.” (Page 241 of the ARC)

Lt. Annie Peregrine Goode is a fighter pilot in the Navy who is dropped off by her father, Jack, in Emerald, N.C., at her aunt Sam’s house when she is only 7 years old. Sam, Jack’s sister, is a lesbian eager to play matchmaker who lives with her childhood friend Clark Goode, who has given up on love after several marriages. Annie is divorcing her husband and fellow Navy pilot Brad Hopper and heading back to Emerald for her 26th birthday party with family and friends, including Georgette. Hoping that her trip back home will help clear her head and get her life back on track, Annie is completely unaware of the mystery she has to unravel concerning her father, a mother she has never known, and La Reina Coronada del Mar (Queen of the Sea).

Malone’s training as a soap opera writer is apparent in this novel with its over-the-top characters–Raffy Rook, Jack Peregrine, Vietnam Vet D.K. Destin, Helen Clark aka Ruthie Nickerson, Dan Hart, Sam Peregrine, and Georgette Nickerson–but his writing style is vivid and compelling as each of these characters’ lives peels back slowly revealing the deep love and connection they all share.

“‘Sometimes these ladies I [Raffy] flop on? These ladies and myself, at Golden Days, we got to be friends. We go to the salad bars, botanical gardens, zoo, IMAX. They get a senior’s discount, I play them a song on my guitar. It’s a connection. And in this sad fast life, how many do we make time for?’ He spoke wistfully into the water bottle, as if he were depositing his confession inside and then quickly screwing the cap back on to keep it there.” (Page 340 of the ARC)

Readers will enjoy the plot twists and revelations in The Four Corners of the Sky as Annie heals old wounds left by her father when he abandoned her and refused to reveal her mother’s identity. She finds strength in adversity and strives under pressure. The subordinate characters–Raffy, Sam, Clark, and Georgette–add comedy to the plot. While some portions of this novel are a bit too long and veer off randomly into the past, these tangents are vivid and entertaining. Some readers may be put off by the continuous movie references made by Sam, Clark, and other characters or the constant puns, but these character flaws set these characters apart, providing them greater depth. Overall, Malone creates an intricate family web that readers must unravel to understand the depth to which a daughter can love her father in spite of his faults, learn to forgive those faults, and dig deep within herself to emerge a stronger woman whose foundation she couldn’t initially see.

Michael Malone will be in Washington, D.C., on May 28, 2009 at Politics & Prose. For a list of his other book readings and signings, go here.

Also Reviewed By:
Diary of an Eccentric
At Home With Books
My Thoughts…Your Thoughts?

About the Author:

Michael Malone is a novelist as well as the author of short stories, works of nonfiction, several plays, and daytime television drama. He was born in the Piedmont region of North Carolina and his distinctive Southern voice permeates his books, which he describes as “centered in the comedy of the shared communion among very diverse groups of people who are bound together by place and the past.”

Michael’s writing has been compared to Miguel De Cervantes, Charles Dickens and Henry Fielding. He is the recipient of The O. Henry Award for “Fast Love,” the Edgar for “Red Clay” and an Emmy as head writer of ABC-TV’s One Life to Live.

Michael lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina with his wife, Maureen, whom he met while they were working toward their doctoral degrees at Harvard University.

WWII Reading Challenge Blog Topic for Discussion, here.

Don’t forget my giveaways:

1 copy of Rubber Side Down Edited by Jose Gouveia, here; Deadline is May 15 at 11:59 PM EST

2 copies of The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner, here; Deadline is May 22 at 11:59 PM EST

The Traitor’s Wife by Susan Higginbotham

I recently received The Traitor’s Wife by Susan Higginbotham from Sourcebooks for review and this April blog tour. Stay tuned for a giveaway after my review.

Susan Higginbotham’s research shines through in this historical fiction about the reign of King Edward II. Despite the large cast in this book and the multiple Edwards, Hughs, and Joans, readers will not have a hard time keeping track of the characters and even if they get stuck, there is a handy character breakdown in the front of the book. I don’t know much about 14th Century England, but I do remember Robert the Bruce from Braveheart, who does make a few appearances in the novel.

King Edward II is thrust onto the throne despite his wild ways after his father’s death, and his niece Eleanor becomes Isabella of France’s lady-in-waiting, Edward’s new bride and queen. Sweeping through battles, bedroom scenes, and the court, readers will get an inside look at the kingdom and the politics that dominated England in the 14th Century. After checking some historical information, quite of bit of Higginbotham’s plot is based upon well known facts about King Edward II and his kingdom at the time.

This novel is told from Eleanor’s point of view, which will quickly absorb the reader in the story and how the political uprisings impacted her family and her husband, Hugh Despenser the Younger. The passage below occurs between the new queen, Isabella, and Eleanor.

“‘And this Gaveston? Do you truly believe he and the king are nothing more than brothers to each other?’

‘I don’t know, your grace, and it would be presumptuous of me to guess, I think. I can only tell you this: The king loves Gaveston more than anyone in the world. And Gaveston for all of his ways loves the king too, I think.’

‘And I should accept this?'” (Page 23)

Readers will find the back-and-forth of the dialogue engrossing, and the prose is vivid, like the passage below when Eleanor trudges through the woods:

Walking in the opposite direction from the men, and praying that there were none to follow them, she caught sight of a stream. It would certainly lead her to the river. Sobbing with relief, she hurried to the stream, not seeing in the growing darkness the root that caught her foot and sent her headlong down the bank and into the water. Soaked to the skin, her hands scraped on the pebbles she had grabbed in a vain effort to stop her fall, she emerged coughing and sputtering from the water, only to find that her throbbing ankle would not bear her weight. She crawled out of the stream and pulled herself upon a large rock, utterly defeated. (Page 48)

Although there are several instances when Hugh, Eleanor’s husband, disappears, readers are not likely to be convinced of his blind ambition, which emerges later in the novel. Oftentimes, Hugh seems not to care much for court or the politics of the age when he interacts with his father, and he fails to show himself at court early on in his marriage to Eleanor, which to many readers could signify his ambivalence to wealth and power. However, Hugh plays a central role in the novel, seeking greater power, land, and favor from King Edward II. Another drawback to the novel is the tendency for the prose to tell rather than show plot points. Overall, this novel is engaging and informative for readers interested in 14th Century England and the nation’s struggles with Scotland and its political regime.

***Giveaway***

I have 3 copies for U.S./Canada residents available from Sourcebooks and 1 copy, my gently used ARC, for an international recipient.

1. Please leave a comment here about your favorite historical novel for 1 entry.

2. For a second entry, come back tomorrow and leave a comment on my interview with Susan Higginbotham tomorrow, April 16.

3. Spread the word about the giveaway and leave a link on this post for a third entry.

***Remember to leave your email address and indicate if you are international in your comments***

Deadline is April 22 at 5PM

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. For a list of winners, go here.

About the Author (from her Website):

Susan Higginbotham has been writing, off and on, as long as she can remember. Her first stab at a historical novel was in junior high school, where she whiled away my study halls writing about the adventures of five orphaned siblings living through the Blitz. Fortunately, most of the details have escaped her, but as she recalls her characters had an endless supply of money and very few relatives to get in their way. Aside from the remarks such as “There’s a war going on, you know” that she cleverly threw in once in a while, the characters could have just as easily been living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., in the 1970’s (like herself) as in London in the 1940’s. But everyone has to start somewhere, eh?

Read Susan Higginbotham’s Website for the rest of her biography, here, and check out her blog, here. You can buy this book here in the United States and here in Canada.

Check out the other stops on the tour:

An Offer You Can’t Refuse by Jill Mansell

I received my ARC of Jill Mansell’s An Offer You Can’t Refuse from Sourcebooks for review.

An Offer You Can’t Refuse is witty, charming, engaging, and Chicklit to the max.

“‘I didn’t know reading could be like that, I had no idea. I’ve just never been a booky person. All these years I’ve been missing out.’

‘Ah, but now you’ve seen the light.’ . . . ‘You’ve become one of us. Welcome to our world; you’re going to love it here.'” (Page 100)

For a reviewer this was a treat to find in a book, this is definitely how many of us feel about books and reading, and reading these lines instantly cemented my attention to this book.

Lola is a young girl in love with a boy, Dougie, whose family is wealthy and whose mother hates her guts. His mother makes her an offer that she can’t refuse, so she takes it and says goodbye to the love of her life in a “Dear John” letter. Fast-forward to the present day and we find Lola has grown up physically, but still wears the same teenage, low-cut clothes and finds herself being mistaken for a prostitute when she walks into London bookstore after living in Majorca for about a decade. Eventually, Lola becomes more grounded and is the bookshop manager, but just as she thinks her life is stabilizing and in a good place, things get all topsy-turvy again.

This novel starts off in Lola’s past, but readers may find that more background is necessary, particularly where her relationship with Dougie is concerned. The only drawback of this novel, which really isn’t one, is that Lola’s story is pushed to the sidelines quite a bit as the Sally’s story takes center stage. However, Mansell carefully weaves the narration back to Lola and the resolution of her story. Readers may want to see more of Dougie, since he is one of the main characters but does not share equal narrative footing with the other narrators: Lola, Sally, and Lola’s friend Gabe.

“Aloud she said, ‘I’m guessing you don’t go into many bookshops.’

‘Me? No way.’ Proudly the boy said, ‘Can’t stand reading, waste of time. Hey, fancy a drink?’

‘No thanks. Can’t stand drinking, waste of time.’

He looked shocked. ‘Really?’

‘Not really. But drinking with you would be a huge waste of time.’ Lola excused herself and made her way over to the bar where Gabe, whose leaving party it was, was chatting to a group of friends from work.” (Page 37, 38)

Mansell’s writing is engaging, and though some of her characters, like Lola and Dougie’s sister Sally, are shallow at first, the complications in their lives force them to look beyond their own lives and come to terms with themselves, their families, and their love lives. Mansell’s An Offer Your Can’t Refuse is recommended for readers who love British humor, chicklit, and are in need of summer reading.

About the Author:

Jill Mansell lives with her partner and children in Bristol, and writes full time. Actually that’s not true; she watches TV, eats fruit gums, admires the rugby players training in the sports field behind her house, and spends hours on the internet marvelling at how many other writers have blogs. Only when she’s completely run out of displacement activities does she write.

***Giveaway***

Sourcebooks has offered 1 copy of Jill Mansell’s An Offer You Can’t Refuse to one lucky U.S. or Canadian reader.

All you have to do is comment on this post with something other than “pick me” or “enter me.”

Deadline is April 11, Midnight EST.

Come back tomorrow for my interview with Jill Mansell and another opportunity to enter the giveaway!

Also Reviewed By:
A Bookworm’s World
Diary of an Eccentric
Booking Mama
Book Escape
Reading Adventures

The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick

Helen Hollick‘s The Kingmaking is the first of the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, which will be published in March 2009 by Sourcebooks. Thanks to Paul Samuelson for sending the book along for my review.

This first part in the trilogy begins in 450 AD in the midst of the Middle Ages while Britain remained in a tumultous period politically. Arthur is merely a bastard son at the beginning of this novel, and his foster father is kin to Uthr Pendragon. In the first chapters of the novel, Arthur grows into a man while visiting Gwynedd with Uthr and his abusive and cantankerous mistress Morgause. He meets Gwenhwyfar, daughter to Uthr’s faithful friend Cunedda, and begins to have deeper feelings than friendship for her. The relationship between Arthur and Gwenhwyfar is rocky in the beginning, but blossoms through understanding and mutual respect. However, there are circumstances surrounding the death of Uthr and a failed attempt to regain control of Britain that hinder the ability of their relationship to grow.

“The oars lifted then dipped to kiss the white foam. The sail dropped and the ship, tossing her prow like a mare held over-long curbed and kicking high her heels, leapt for the harbour sheltering beneath the imposing fortress that was Caer Arfon.” (Page 20)

The description in this book helps to set the scene of Britain in the Middle Ages, with its dark and ominous feel, but also its wild beauty. There is more to Britain during this time than readers may remember from their school days. My favorite passage in the book uses description to show Arthur coming into his manhood, along with the other adolescents of Gwynedd.

“The boys, stripped to the waist, were turning new scythed hay, making idle, breathless conversation as they tossed the sweet smelling, drying grass. Arthur’s bruising was a faint memory of shaded yellow against suntanned bronze skin; gone was that weary look of watchfulness and unease, replaced by relaxed laughter and happy contentment. His hair was longer, the close-cropped Roman style beginning to grow, with a slight curl, down his neck and flop across his forehead.” (Page 89)

Although there is great potential in the descriptive writing, some of the scenes fall flat as the narrative lists actions of the characters rather than showing the characters in action. Unlike the Arthurian legends of old which have mysticism and Merlin at the center of Arthur’s rise to power, Hollick’s retelling focuses on the realities and abilities of the “real” Arthur and his determination to regain control of Britain after the death of his true father.

Readers looking for mysticism and magic will be disappointed with this retelling. However, if readers are easily engaged by books with intrigue, battles, and strategy, this novel will not disappoint.

At nearly 600 pages, you can believe Hollick extensively researched her subject and it shows, from her use of place names connected to the regions at the time to the spellings of her main characters. Although portions of the book were a little dry and long, creating nicknames for some of the characters–Gwenhwyfar as Gwen or her brother Osmail as Ozzy–made it easier to become absorbed in the story.

Unfortunately, after 200 pages I stopped reading as certain scenes made me wonder what their purpose was, like when Gwen is aloft in a tree in the prime location to overhear Uthr and Morgause in intimate conversation. Considering the conversation that follows is not integral to the storyline, it makes the reader wonder why Gwen is in the tree in the first place to overhear the conversation.

***Giveaway Details*** (Part of the BookRoom Reviews Book Giveaway Carnival)

Sourcebooks has kindly decided to giveaway 3 copies of this novel to three lucky U.S. and Canadian readers.

I will pass along my ARC of the book to one lucky international reader; so please designate whether you are international when you enter the contest.

To Enter:

1. Leave a comment here; something other than “enter me” or “pick me”
2. Make sure you leave an email or blog address that works
3. Let me know if you are an international entrant, so I can place you on the list for my gently used ARC.

Deadline: March 8, 2009 at 5PM EST.

This Contest is NOW CLOSED!

Other blogs on the tour:

http://harrietdevine.typepad.com/harriet_devines_blog/2009/02/the-kingmaking.html 2/20
http://lazyhabits.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/the-kingmaking/ 2/21 and interview 2/27
http://carpelibrisreviews.com/the-kingmaking-by-helen-hollick-book-tour-giveaway/ 2/23
http://www.historicalnovels.info/Kingmaking.html 2/23
http://www.bibliophilemusings.com/2009/02/review-interview-kingmaking-by-helen.html 2/23
http://lilly-readingextravaganza.blogspot.com/2009/02/kingmaking-by-helen-hollick.html 2/23 and guest blog 2/25
http://chikune.com/blog/?p=488 2/24
http://booksaremyonlyfriends.blogspot.com/ 2/25
http://peekingbetweenthepages.blogspot.com/ 2/26 and guest blog 2/27
http://webereading.blogspot.com/ 2/26
http://www.caramellunacy.blogspot.com 2/26
http://bookthoughtsbylisa.blogspot.com/ 3/1
http://jennifersrandommusings.wordpress.com/ 3/1
http://rhireading.blogspot.com/ 3/1
http://passagestothepast.blogspot.com/ 3/2
http://thetometraveller.blogspot.com/ 3/2
http://steventill.com/ 3/2
http://savvyverseandwit.blogspot.com / 3/2 and interview 3/3
http://www.carlanayland.blogspot.com/
http://readersrespite.blogspot.com/ 3/3 and interview on 3/5
http://libraryqueue.blogspot.com/ 3/4
http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/ 3/4
http://www.myfriendamysblog.com/ 3/5
http://samsbookblog.blogspot.com 3/5
http://goodbooksbrightside.blogspot.com/ 3/5

***My Current giveaway of Dan Simmons’ Drood. Check it out, here.***

Also reviewed by:
Historical Tapestry

Mr. & Mrs. Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan

I would like to thank Danielle at Sourcebooks for sending me Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan, which is now available in select Target stores and will be released everywhere else in March.

Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy is a scintillating novel that will have readers blushing right alongside Elizabeth Darcy as she and her husband embark upon the rest of their lives as a married couple. Mrs. Darcy gets acclimated to life as Mistress of Pemberley, while her husband relishes his wife’s attentions and delights in helping her fit into his world without losing the passionate and independent woman he loves.

“Darcy attacked the superb provisions with relish and Elizabeth was not too far behind. They had fun with the process: feeding each other morsels, licking and sucking each other’s fingers, kissing honey-smeared lips. Eventually even Darcy’s appetite was quenched, and with a satisfied sigh, he reclined on an enormous pillow. Elizabeth leaned against his bent knee and gazed dreamily into the fire. Neither spoke.” (Page 37)

This novel provides an look at the intimacy this classic couple shares behind closed doors and away from society’s prying eyes. Readers will begin to feel like voyeurs as they become drawn into Pemberley’s world and the coupling of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy. In the background hovers the ominous presence of Lady Catherine and the rumors she spread about Elizabeth Darcy and her future, detrimental affect on Pemberley and the Darcy name. The word play between these two characters continues and is a delight. It’s fantastic to see Col. Fitzwilliam return as well and inject his wit as well.

“Darcy greeted his cousin heartily. ‘Darcy, old man, you are positively beaming! Married life surely agrees with you,’ Col. Fitzwilliam decreed.

‘More than I could possibly verbalize, cousin. Someday you must give up your reckless bachelor ways and discover the joys of matrimony.’

Richard shuddered. ‘Not too hasty, Darcy, not too hasty. Mrs. Darcy, if I may be so bold, you are radiant. Shocked I am, to tell the truth,’ he said, with a sly glance at Darcy. ‘Personally, I thought you would be weary of this old codger by now!'” (Page 147)

Readers will find this romance novel stays true to the original Austen characters and develops their relationship more fully within the bounds of matrimony and society’s conventions. It is good to see Mr. Darcy soften with the help of his wife, learning to laugh and interact with others with less rigidity, and it is equally as fascinating to see Mrs. Darcy garner maturity in his presence, while continuing to blossom as a woman and wife. One drawback for me in this novel was the absence of conflict until the very end of the novel and some readers may find the sexual tensions and actions of these beloved characters too intimate at times. Overall, this is a good romance and a great way to spend an afternoon or two in wedded bliss with Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy.

About the Author:

Sharon is a married, RN, specializing in neonatal intensive care. She is a native Californian who married her very own Mr. Darcy. Two Shall Become One evolved after Lathan watched Pride & Prejudice on the big screen, starring Kiera Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen.

***Look Forward to Sharon Lathan’s guest post and giveaway on March 10***


Also Reviewed By:

Diary of an Eccentric
Becky’s Book Reviews
The Book Nest
Book Zombie

Conscience Point by Erica Abeel

Erica Abeel’s Conscience Point, published by Unbridled Books, started off rough for me, with shifts in tone and language for one of the main characters, Nick Ashcroft. After about 60 pages or so, I became absorbed in the dark secrets and the Gothic mystery surrounding the once lavish estate of Conscience Point. Madeleine Shaye is a concert pianist, an arts journalist, a mother, and a lover who allows passion to derail her career and lead her down a path that is wrought with disappointment and heartache. Nick Ashcroft and his sister Violet lead Shaye onto this path and become the center of her world, despite Maddie’s obliviousness. The deep secret that tears her relationship with Nick apart is predictable at best, but Abeel weaves a setting that captivates the reader and lulls them into the fantasy.

Shaye is a young pianist befriended by an eccentric artist from a wealthy New York family, Violet Ashcroft. She’s easily dazzled by Conscience Point’s ambiance, and the stormy eyes of Violet’s brother Nick. She is equally captivated by Violet as an outcast and tormented girl. Despite the separation between Nick, Violet, and Maddie that lasts several years and through one marriage each, they connect as most artists will with exploding passion in a paradise far from their “real” worlds. Maddie and Nick revive their lust, which sweeps up Maddie and leaves her blind to the reality of her self-constructed family. “Love cannot dwell with suspicion” is an apt theme running through the first portion of this novel, which stems from an ancient Roman myth featuring Cupid and Psyche. However, amidst the turmoil that her life becomes, Maddie is once again swept up by her true passion–music.

Through the initial pages of the novel, Nick uses terms like “thistle-y” and “joint,” which seem incongruous, and the narrator interrupts herself to stop digressions. These sections can be disruptive to the reader, but as they become less frequent and the pace of the drama picks up, the reader is absorbed.

“She’d never imagined you could love this hard yet keep yourself for your work. They swung through the hours, grooved as trapeze artists. Nick understood the musician’s life, its ardor and implacable demands. . . . She in turn marveled at how he teased out the shapely book hiding in some winding manuscript;” (page 46)

While the plot of this novel is cliche in many ways, the real gem is the poetic language and intricate weave of music and art throughout the novel. Maddie’s magic fingers hit the keys and the reader is drawn into the world of an artist. Conversations with her friend Anton about music and its composers easily draws readers into their highly dramatic world. Maddie has a great many regrets in this novel, but she has no one to blame but herself for her own misfortunes. This is a novel about finding yourself, learning to live with what you discover about yourself and your family, and staying true to your dreams and promises.

I would like to thank the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program for sending me this book back in October/November 2008.

LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Also Reviewed by:
Booking Mama

The first person to comment on this post about why they’d like to read this novel will receive my “gently used” advanced readers copy of Conscience Point.

Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe

Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe is a different type of sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice; it does not retell the lives of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, their children, or modernize their story as a 20th century romance. Lydia Bennet’s Story transports the reader back to 19th Century England to tell Lydia’s woeful and headstrong tail of romance and intrigue, rather than the tales woven by Jane Austen for Lizzy and Jane Bennet.

We join Lydia on her journey from the balls at the Assembly in Hertfordshire, England, through Brighton, and Newcastle. Headstrong and willy-nilly Lydia is just as vivid in these pages as she is in Jane Austen’s novel. Although her character plays a minor role in Austen’s novel, she takes center stage in Odiwe’s, but with journal entries sprinkled amidst the storyline, the reader begins to see what motivates Lydia to act as she does in public and with the soldiers. As the youngest daughter in the Bennet family, she seeks acceptance and love in all the wrong places.

Once in Brighton, Lydia is shameless in her pursuit of a husband and begins lavishing her affections on George Wickham. Despite his declarations that he can love no one, Lydia will have none of it, shunning Captain Trayton-Camfield, who seems to truly care for her. Lydia and Wickham run off to London together, and she expects them to get married, though it only materializes when Wickham is pressured by none-other-than Mr. Darcy. This is where Austen’s Pride & Prejudice leaves Lydia.

Lydia Bennet’s Story does not miss a beat, Odiwe has a strong command of Austen’s language, style, and characters, but she puts her own flare on the wild maven that is Lydia. Despite winning her prize–Mr. Wickham–Lydia soon realizes married life to her charming soldier is not all she expected it to be as his gambling and womanizing continue. In a way, Odiwe’s Lydia continues to fool herself that Wickham’s character is merely misunderstood, but soon his character is undeniable, and she is forced to not only deal with her loveless marriage, but their poor station in life.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Lydia is on page 290:

“Even in my reckless alliance, I believed I was in love and yes, a state of confusion it might be, but I submitted to it and felt my regard most wholeheartedly. And though I now believe my love was not truly returned, that I was mislead, I still believe in the power of true love.

Here Lydia expresses the evolution of her character and highlights how she has matured on this journey of love, hardship, and growth. She is no longer the silly, younger sister of Lizzy and Jane, but her own mature woman, though more bold than conventions are prepared to handle.

Readers of Jane Austen and Austen enthusiasts will enjoy this novel, but even those readers looking for a fast-paced “romance” will enjoy Lydia Bennet’s Story.

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, consisting of annotated sketches from the life of Jane Austen. She lives with her husband and three children in North London.

Check out Jane Odiwe’s blog here.

Thank you to Danielle Jackson at Sourcebooks for sending Odiwe’s Lydia Bennet’s Story along for me to review, and stay tuned for a guest post from Jane Odiwe on Oct. 31. See what she and Lydia have to say about Halloween!

Want to win a copy of Jane Odiwe’s Lydia Bennet’s Story, check out the guest post tomorrow to learn how.

Also Reviewed By:
Diary of an Eccentric
A Book Blogger’s Diary
Austenprose
Becky’s Book Reviews
The Book Zombie
Library Queue

***Contest Reminders for Readers:

A copy of Black Flies by Shannon Burke is up for grabs until Nov. 5

A copy of Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby is up for grabs until Nov. 5

Any Given Doomsday

LibraryThing Early Reviewers

I received Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland from Library Thing and St. Martin’s Press. The book is slated for publication in early November.

Quite a number of today’s urban fantasy books toy with the vampire myths and werewolf stories to modernize them and make them more relevant. When I started reading this novel, I knew I had to suspend disbelief. Elizabeth Phoenix is the heroine who grew up in foster care and grew into a tough young woman and cop. According to the short story, “In the Beginning,” Elizabeth is well known in her department as partially psychic; she has the ability to touch items and see what happened to the owners of those items. It is her power that ultimately leads to the death of her partner. This is all back story, which I presume the author wrote for herself so she could understand her character better. It’s not necessary to read it before you read Any Given Doomsday.

Elizabeth’s only friends have been her police partner, her childhood friend Jimmy Sanducci, and Ruthie, her foster mother. They all understood her and her gift. It’s this gift that they want her to develop to save the world. She learns a lot about herself and her powers as the book progresses, but her character does not evolve much for a heroine. She’s as hard-headed, sarcastic, and closed off as she is at the beginning of the book.

The characters in the book, particularly near the middle to the end, are obsessed with sex. Sex as a weapon, sex as a way to humiliate another human being, sex as a way to break free from the confines of themselves, and sex as therapy.

Elizabeth’s attitude throughout the book makes it difficult to like her, let alone empathize with her plight. Her intimate relationships with the men in her life are mind-boggling because they treat her like a paper plate–using her and tossing her to the side. The reader is expected to see her as the key to winning the battle, but it’s hard to view her that way when she constantly doubts herself and the men in her life, who are there to support her and help her grow, constantly toss her aside, become evasive in her presence, and disappear.

While I enjoyed the fast-paced nature of this book, I would only recommend it to readers of urban fantasy.

Anyone interested in reading this book for themselves, please feel free to email me. I will mail the book to the first person who contacts me, along with the short story.

Also Reviewed By:
Bookworm
The Sleepy Reader
Diary of an Eccentric
Amber Stults
Bitten by Books

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