February 28, 2011

Mr & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy by Sharon Lathan

A couple of years ago I became obsessed with Austen fan fiction, a brief intense period in which I immersed myself in everything Austen (I recall at the same time Masterpiece Classic was releasing new series versions of a few Austen classics), though eventually I think I burnt myself out and I haven't really focused on it much since...though I do have a nice collection of Austen titles and fan fiction. I think the genre has become saturated and quality has suffered. Seriously, I will never be caught reading Pride & Prejudice and Zombies and I am so glad my favourite actor Natalie Portman decided not to take the lead role).  Recently though another series caught my attention in blog posts (mainly because of the book covers), which is Sharon Lathan's Darcy Saga.

I hold the Pamela Aidan Fitzwilliam Darcy - Gentleman series as the pinnacle of Austen fan fiction, which followed the same storyline as the original Pride & Prejudice, but from Darcy's point of view. I was expecting a lot from the Sharon Lathan series, my first foray in Austen fan fiction after a long drought) but after reading the first novel I admit I am bit gobsmacked. Usually I do some research on ratings and recommendations before I purchase books but I have to admit I didn't do so for this series and I wish I had. I'm not really sure how to proceed with reviewing the novel, in order to be fair and not give away any spoilers. For further reviews I suggest visiting LibraryThing. Here are a few observations that may be helpful in deciding whether you would want to read the series:

  • The novels follow the Darcy's directly after their wedding.
  • There is a lot of description about the Pemberley estate, manor and history of Darcy's family. 
  • New characters are brought into the story.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy contains a lot of romantic language and scenes of intimacy. (I am not a overtly romantic person but I do think I have sensitivity and the quantity of these moments and the verbosity of the characters frankly made me uncomfortable, something that takes quite a lot to do!) 
  • The peak of the story, all the action, comes in the last chapters of the book.
  • The novel is romance not literature.
  • Indirectly offers lessons in romance: when, where, why, and how often to say "I love you".
  • The book covers are certainly pretty.

Well, I purchased the series all at once with a Christmas gift card, so they are there sitting on the shelf, so I suppose they will all get read one day (maybe). I think for me that's it for now with Austen fan fiction...but for those who can't get enough please look to the Pamela Aidan series and Syrie James' The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen.

My Rating: 2.5


Related Posts:
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Rigler
Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange

Darcy's Story by Janet Aylmer

February 23, 2011

Mini Reviews for The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown and Altar of Eden of James Rollins

I read two action adventure novels recently, that I have a few lingering thoughts about.  What do you expect out of action adventure fiction? Yes, I want to be thrilled and I want fast-paced action. I want to learn something, or be taken to somewhere around the world I have never heard of or thought about before...but I also want relationships developing between characters.  Is this too much to ask for in action adventure novels with all the other elements packed in? I don't think so, but its often what seems to be lacking.

Also can I just say I DESPISE this new book size for mass market paperbacks...first they had to introduce the tall format which ruined the consistent height of my collections and the spacing between my bookshelves but now they have this extra wide and shorter format, more squarish.  Don't the publishers realize they are antagonizing their readers by introducing these new sizes...I try not to buy these when at all possible.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned unexpectedly to deliver an evening lecture in the U.S. Capitol Building. Within minutes of his arrival, however, the night takes a bizarre turn. A disturbing object -artfully encoded with five symbols-is discovered in the Capitol Building. Langdon recognizes the object as an ancient invitation . . . one meant to usher its recipient into a long-lost world of esoteric wisdom.

When Langdon''s beloved mentor, Peter Solomon-a prominent Mason and philanthropist -is brutally kidnapped, Langdon realizes his only hope of saving Peter is to accept this mystical invitation and follow wherever it leads him. Langdon is instantly plunged into a clandestine world of Masonic secrets, hidden history, and never-before-seen locations-all of which seem to be dragging him toward a single, inconceivable truth.

The most surprising thing about The Lost Symbol for me was unrelated to the content of the book...its actually amazingly long at over 600 pages...but look more critically and you will see that the chapters are short, very short.  I really dislike this format...making the chapters short to somehow make the book feel more fast-paced. Yes, the whole premise about the Masons and the inclusion of The Smithsonian was quite interesting but the ending dragged on a bit too much with this fluffy, rosy, bright hopefulness (I don't mind sappy but it seemed over the top for me). With all those pages you would think Robert Langdon would develop relationships with other characters but he doesn't...though I guess this is hard to do when a whole storyline falls within only a few hours. Still, its what I love about reading, the development of character's relationships...which was singularly lacking in The Lost Symbol.  There were interesting ideas and themes in The Lost Symbol, so if you like action adventure novels I would recommend reading it.

My Rating: 4.0


Altar of Eden by James Rollins
Baghdad falls . . . and armed men are seen looting the city zoo. Amid a hail of bullets, a concealed underground lab is ransacked—and something horrific is set loose upon the world.
Seven years later, Louisiana state veterinarian Lorna Polk investigates an abandoned shipwrecked fishing trawler carrying exotic caged animals, part of a black market smuggling ring. But there is something disturbingly wrong with these beasts—each an unsettling mutation of the natural order, all sharing one uncanny trait: incredibly heightened intelligence. 

Joining forces with U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jack Menard—a man who shares with her a dark and bloody past—Lorna sets out to uncover the truth about this strange cargo and the terrorist threat it poses. Because a beast escaped the shipwreck and is running amok—and what is about to be born upon the altar of Eden could threaten not only the future of the world but the very foundation of what it means to be human.

I have mentioned many times that novels with themes of technology and science rock my world and James Rollins is one of my absolute favorite action/adventure authors who incorporates these themes. Normally I'm enraptured by the scientific theories Rollins includes in his novels, but in Altar of Eden I felt I was at times being lectured to about the science rather the than the story evolving from the science (this was even more apparent after comparing Altar of Eden to Awakening by S. J. Bolton, which incorporates scientific knowledge as well, but with a more natural feel than in this novel). Maybe it was because Altar of Eden was a departure from Rollins' Sigma series that I felt this way. Other than this aspect of the novel though, I appreciated the story even though it was a bit more far out than usual for Rollins. The main characters were multi-faceted, interesting, resourceful and pulled at my emotions. Read if you are a Rollins fan but if you have never read Rollins before, I would not start with this novel.

My Rating: 4.0


Related Posts:
The Doomsday Key by James Rollins
The Last Oracle by James Rollins
Ice Hunt by James Rollins
Deep Fathom by James Rollins
Subterranean by James Rollins

What Does My Bookcase Say About Me Meme?

1. “I’m a Jane Austen Addict” (Jane Austen The Complete Novels, Pamela Aiden series, fan fiction by Abigail Reynolds, Amanda Grange, Diana Birchall, Lost Memories of Jane Austen by Syrie James, Sharon Lathan's series, Just Jane by Nancy Moser, 2 Linda Berdoll and Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence...just to name a few...and I've not listed all my video titles!)
2. “I collect certain authors an series!” (20 Georgette Heyer, 40 J.D. Robb, Alan Bradley, 5 J.R.R. Tolkien, complete box set of Harry Potter novels, Christopher Paolini's Inheritance series, Kate Carlisle Bibliophile mysteries, 9 Philippa Gregory, 22 Tami Hoag, 4 Susanna Kearsley, 148 Jayne Anne Krentz, 97 Betty Neels, 40 Elizabeth Lowell, 14 James Rollins, 4 Thomas Harris, 11 Andrea Kane, Alison Weir, 19 Carla Neggers, 3 Dan Brown, Elizabeth Chadwick, Stieg Larsson, Sarah Dunant, Michelle Moran, Maria V. Snyder, Kathleen McGowan, Christine Trent and C.L. Wilson.)
3. “I like Gothic fiction!” (Ariana Franklin series, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Dracula by Bram Stoker, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Drood by Dan Simmons, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, 4 Victoria Holt, Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott, Perfume by Patrick Suskind, Eve Silver, A Whisper in the Dark by Louise May Alcott, 3 Kate Mosse and 3 S. J. Bolton.)

4. "Classics call my name!" (The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson, Middlemarch by George Eliot, To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee, Vanity Fair by William Makepeace, Lolita by Nabokov, Master & Commander by Patrick O'brian, Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy and The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery ans 2 Oscar Wilde novels.)

5. “I collect Victorian novels!” (The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey series, Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily Ashton series, Elizabeth Peters Amelia Peabody series, Leanna Hieber's Guards and Goddesses' series and Libby Bray's Gemma Doyle young adult series and Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue.)
6. "Fiction involving Asian history or locations fascinates me! (Empress Orchid and The Last Empress by Anchee Min, 3 Amy Tan, Empress by Shan Sa, Peony and The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, The Red Queen by Margaret Drabble, 3 Lisa See novels and Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.)

7. "I like books that have themes of art, math or science or similar!" (Contact by Carl Sagan, Michael Crichton, Dune by Frank Herbert, The Rule of Four by Caldwell and Thomason, Girl With a Pearl Earring and Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier, Signora Da Vinci by Robin Maxwell, The Savage Garden by Mark Mills, The Eight by Katherine Neville, The Tailor's Daughter by Janice Graham, Karen Essex and Sarah Dunant.)

8. "I need another bookshelf!" (Most of the free space at the front of each shelf is filled with stacks of books and there is little remaining free space.)

9. “I buy a lot more books than I can read!” (The right hand side of my bookshelf contains books I haven't read and the left side contains books I have read.)

So, what does your bookcase say about you?

February 14, 2011

Awakening by S. J. Bolton

An idyllic village is thrown into turmoil in a startling, heart-racing thriller.

Veterinary surgeon Clara Benning is young and intelligent, but practically a recluse.  Disfigured by a childhood accident, she lives alone and shies away from human contact wherever possible. But when a man dies, following a supposed snake bite, Clara learns that the victim's post mortem shows a higher concentration of venom than could ever be found in a single snake.

Assisted by her softly spoken neighbour and an eccentric reptile expert, Clara unravels sinister links to a barbaric ancient ritual, an abandoned house and a fifty year old tragedy that left the survivors fiercely secretive.  Then the village's inventive attacker strikes again, and Clara's own solitary existence is brutally invaded.  For someone the truth must remain buried in the past...even if they have to kill to keep it there.

S. J. Bolton's suspense novels are like no other mystery suspense novels I have ever read. Browsing Chapters a couple years ago, I happened to see the cover of Sacrifice (a bright gold ring on a gloomy bluish coastal background) and it intrigued me so I read the back blurb...I love elements of science and the supernatural...so I took a chance on Bolton's debut. Well, I wasn't disappointed and Sacrifice stayed in my thoughts (and possibly nightmares) for days after I had read it.  I continued to follow the efforts of Bolton, acquiring Awakening and an ARC copy of Blood Harvest.  So I've finally gotten around to reading Bolton's sophomore effort, Awakening, and its just as gripping and creepy. For me, it didn't have the shock value of Sacrifice but it was more focused. Yes, there is a lot about snakes in this book, but if anything they are treated with respect...and its the humans who are the real serpents!!

What do I love about these novels.  Pungent description, authenticity, damaged female protagonists, multi-layered plots, and science and the supernatural co-mingling (slightly gothic feel). I don't like horror but I love a good thrill and a bit of ugliness doesn't turn my stomach.

The Times stated of Bolton "S.J. Bolton has elevated herself to the High Priestess of English Rural Gothic. If she carries on like this she will have worshippers in their millions."  I heartily agree. If you appreciate great mystery/suspense novels, YOU MUST read Bolton. An author not to be missed!!! S. J. Bolton's next effort is Now You See Me, to be released May 26, 2011 in hardcover.

My Rating: 4.0


Related Posts:
New Release by S.J. Bolton - Awakening
Sacrifice by S.J. Bolton

February 12, 2011

Deeds of the Disturber by Elizabeth Peters

Can fear kill? There are those who believe so--but Amelia Peabody is skeptical. A respected Egyptologist and amateur sleuth, Amelia has foiled felonious schemes from Victoria's England to the Middle East. And she doubts that it was a Nineteenth-Dynasty mummy's curse that caused the death of a night watchman in the British Museum. The corpse was found sprawled in the mummy's shadow, a look of terror frozen on the guard's face. What--or who--killed the unfortunate man is a mystery that seems too intriguingly delicious for Amelia to pass up, especially now that she, her dashing archaeologist husband, Emerson, and their precocious son, Ramses, are back on Britain's shores. But a contemporary curse can be as lethal as one centuries old--and the foggy London thoroughfares can be as treacherous as the narrow, twisting alleyways of Cairo after dark--when a perpetrator of evil deeds sets his murderous sights on his relentless pursuer . . . Amelia Peabody

Deeds of the Disturber did not recommend itself to me as well as the previous novels in the series. The setting of this installment was London, not very exciting compared to the wonderfully described desert and Cairo scenes of Egypt in the past novels. Many of the secondary characters were just not likeable or very interesting. The continual overt battle of wills between Amelia and Emerson diluted the usual sparkling banter between them.  The story had fits of starts and sections that seemed to drag on.  I also guessed a crucial element of the story early on which ruined my enjoyment.

But I did learn another new word...ratiocinative!

In my opinion, events in Deeds of the Disturber did not advance the Amelia Peabody series significantly.  A good read but does not have the vibrancy of the earlier efforts in the series.

My Rating: 3.5


Related Posts: 
The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters
Curse of the Pharaohs by Elizabeth Peters
Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters