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Readingomnivore Reviews

Discussion in 'Book Reviews' started by readingomnivore, Mar 25, 2014.

  1. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    Sherwood Smith calls "The Poignant Sting" a homage to Jane Austen's Emma, providing glimpses of its four couples: the Eltons, the Martins, the Westons, the Churchills, and the Knightleys. It is available in digital format.

    Mrs. Augusta Elton resents that her claim to social precedence has fallen to three newer brides during her first year in Highbury. She scorns Harriet Smith Martin as a farmer's wife and refers to Emma's former governess as "poor" Mrs. Weston. She pushes for intimate friendship with Jane Fairfax Churchill, hinting for invitations to Enscombe. She's jealous of Emma Woodhouse Knightey's social dominance and of Emma's genuine friendship with Jane. Both are pregnant, Jane under the care of society-favorite Dr. Thayer, chosen by Frank Churchlill on one of his numerous stays in London, while Emma chooses their family physician Dr. Perry. Emma's curiosity has been aroused by Jane's aunt Miss Henrietta Bates, who's answered a question before Emma spoke it aloud. How is this possible?

    Smith presumes reader familiarity with the story and individuals of Emma, developing the characters along Austen's established lines. Action is slice of life, complete with details of Thayer's "modern" obstetrical practice that help explain why so many women died in childbirth. "The Poignant Sting" is a unique variant in Austen fan fiction. (A-)
     
  2. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE ORIENTAL CASEBOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES: NINE ADVENTURES FROM THE LOST YEARS is Ted Riccardi's collection of short stories originally published in 2011 and reissued in digital format in 2015. Set it various parts of the Orient, they originated or took place between Holmes's presumed death at Reichenbach Falls in 1891 and his return to London in "The Empty House" in 1894.

    The nature of the narratives put me off continuing past the first four stories: "The Viceroy's Assistant," "The Case of Hodgson's Ghost," "The Case of Anton Furer," and "The Case of the French Savant." They share several traits that distance the the reader from the action. One is perhaps the product of changing from print to digital format that omits words, usually verbs. Allusions to previous cases establish the chronology of the adventures; no reference to contemporary history establishes verisimilitude. All four occur in India or Nepal, but sense of place remains the generic "dark and mysterious Orient" with little differentiation between locales. Orientals move through more than one story without development beyond names, truly inscrutable. Holmes's more than usually terse explications of the cases offer little insight to the deductions that produce his conclusions.

    Most distancing is the "told to" nature of the stories, with key segments related to Holmes by other characters. By definition, Watson writes his narrative as Holmes recounts it some years after it occurred. In "The Case of Hodgson's Ghost," Holmes relates backstories provided by Oriental scholar Brian Houghton Hodgson, British Resident in Katmandu Edward Richardson, his daughter Lucy Richardson, and Mycroft Holmes. In "The Case of the French Savant" Holmes reports the story written some fifteen hundred years before by King Dharmadeva, translated and reported by Professor Sylvain Levi, with necessary information from Maharajah Deb Shamsher Jang Badahur, friend Gorashar, and a family of untouchables. Actions described at third or fourth hand create little excitement or sense of participation.

    A totally unrelated real-world problem irked me severely in "The Case of Anton Furer." Riccardi has Holmes with no special measures or equipment, open and read a 2000-year-old birchbark scroll. Both Holmes's decision to unroll the fragile artifact and its surviving his handling are unrealistic. No grade because not finished.
     
  3. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    WITH THE COLONEL'S HELP is Leenie Brown's latest novella variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2017.

    Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam, to aid his cousin Fitzwilliam Darcy's courtship of Elizabeth Bennet at Rosings, tells her of Darcy's great loyalty to his friends. Only recently Darcy saved Charles Bingley from marrying a woman indifferent to him. Realizing too late the woman's identity and seeing Elizabeth's intense resentment of Darcy's interference, the Colonel masterminds the plan by Darcy can win her heart. The first step--Darcy's letter disclosing his counsel to Bingley and his history with Wickham--has begun to change Elizabeth's feelings when, en route to London, they find an injured Lydia Bennet walking the road to London. Anxious for Bingley to know how he's hurt Jane, Lydia left Longbourn escorted by George Wickham, only to overhear the officer offering her favors in payment for his gambling losses. She escapes. Mr. Bennet blames Darcy for Lydia's situation because he'd not warned Meryton of Wickham's evil propensities, so he cuts Darcy's acquaintance with the Bennet family. Can the Colonel overcome this obstacle as well?

    Colonel Fitzwilliam and his strategies drive the action in WITH THE COLONEL'S HELP, with Darcy a morose and passive follower who accepts Bennet's dictum and plans to withdraw to Pemberley and to do his duty to Anne de Bourgh. Unsympathetic Charlotte Collins observes Elizabeth's distress after her walk with the colonel yet hectors her for details. More unlikely is Lydia's being so worried about Jane's well-being that she hies herself to London to enlighten Bingley. Lydia as concerned about anyone except herself is not convincing. As in most Austen fan fiction, she escapes all consequences of her scandalous behavior, which I find distasteful.

    WITH THE COLONEL'S HELP offers a different take on canonical characters. (B)
     
  4. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    MOURN NOT YOUR DEAD Is the fourth book in Deborah Crombie's Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James series. Originally published in 1996, it was reissued in digital format in 2010.

    When his wife and stepdaughter find the body of Alastair Gilbert, Commander at Notting Dale Division, with his head smashed in, Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Detective Sergeant Gemma James of Scotland Yard feel the pressure for a quick solution. Unpopular with his police subordinates for his rigidity, Gilbert alienated villagers who resent his assumptions of social superiority. As Kincaid and James dig into the case, they uncover a series of minor burglaries, tangled relationships dating back ten years to the death of Claire Gilbert's first husband, Gilbert's suspicion that she's having an affair, and allegations that a high-ranking policeman is corrupt. Both Kincaid and James struggle to cope with stress in their professional relationship introduced by their sleeping together.

    MOURN NOT YOUR DEAD involves several crimes of varying levels of felony, but the plot still manages a small surprise at their resolution. The reason for Gilbert's death is telegraphed. Kincaid and James sort their emotional baggage, but the murder of WPC Jackie Temple who'd been asking questions about police corruption, remains unresolved.

    Crombie includes many more characters than required to carry the action, but she establishes two believable communities, one the villagers and friends of Claire Gilbert, the other the cadre of police officers who solve the crimes. Her ability to create fresh individuals and to offer new insights to those continuing is a great strength of the series. Reading the books in order is helpful.

    Another strength is Crombie's ability to put the reader on site with the action: "Kincaid found the porch door unlocked. Entering, he stopped for a moment and closed his eyes. Even blindfolded, he would recognize that smell anywhere--damp and polish, overlain with a hint of flowers--ecclesiastical, institutional, and comforting as childhood memories. When he opened his eyes he found the usual stacks of leaflets in the narthex and a collection box... He wandered past the carved screens and into the dimness of the nave itself. Here the silence was almost palpable, and the only motion came from the dust mots stirring lazily in the rainbow-hued light that fell from the high windows." (115-6)

    Another satisfying entry in an excellent series. (B)
     
  5. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    BECOMING MARY is Amy Street's sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, with Mary Bennet as first-person narrator. It was published in e-book format in 2015.

    The Darcys have been married three years when Elizabeth invites Kitty and Mary for a summer visit. Mary does not want to go, but Mrs. Bennet will not consider allowing Mary to refuse the invitation. There are, after all, eligible young men in Derbyshire. Unhappy to be forced out of her comfort zone both geographically and socially, Mary is highly critical of all she sees about her, judgmental, sanctimonious, and vocal about others' shortcomings. She's furious that the Darcys arranged her pianoforte lessons from Georgiana's music master Signor Antonio Moretti. She's disgusted when heavily-pregnant Lydia Wickham intrudes with her three children, then more so when Wickham, newly released from debtors' prison, arrives. Mary's offended by the fashionable dress and social informality of Arthur Speedwell, rector of Kympton. She judges Elizabeth's interaction with Colonel Fitzwilliam inappropriate, a clear indication that her sister's betrayed her marriage vows. Can Mary change?

    Conflict in BECOMING MARY grows directly from Mary Bennet's perception of herself and her world. Problems unfold naturally because Street's characters are believable continuations of Austen's originals. Mary's epiphany fits realistically in the story, though her changed attitude is more reported than shown. That Darcy would house George Wickham at Pemberley, especially with Georgiana in residence, seems doubtful. The conclusion is rushed.

    Street uses colons excessively, sometimes two or more within one sentence. Word choice is occasionally suspect; i.e., "prevaricate" when "procrastinate" might better suit the context.

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    The huge change is in Mary Bennet. Except for her moralizing and craving for accomplishments, Austen leaves her undeveloped. Street's Mary is delusional in her self-confidence. "A teacher! For me! What did they think he could possibly teach me? I could already play with great dexterity and musical expression and understanding despite what people said. Anything else remaining to be learned I could master myself." (13) She's proud to be unlike the other Bennet daughters. "I must not forget that being pretty and charming were merely superficial qualities, and that I had depths of understanding and virtue that were unknown to my sisters." (14) Mary is convinced she's "...to be sent to Pemberley to be ignored and mocked, once again to be overlooked and unappreciated." (4)

    Mary resents Elizabeth, feeling contemptuous because "...[Elizabeth] had never really understood me or been able to comprehend the depths of my musical understanding. She played only to please and entertain others, and did not explore music as I did. Nor did she push herself to get better: once she could manage a few ditties she was content to trot them out when required." (14) Based on fleeting impressions of her sister's behavior, when she learns of Elizabeth's pregnancy, Mary jumps to a horrible conclusion. "My mind was galloping like a runaway horse: Lizzy with child! This was terrible news. Now Lizzy's debauchery had gone too far: she was carrying Colonel Fitzwilliam's child! No wonder she was feeling depressed; she must still be capable of some feeling of shame. And did she mean to pass it off as Mr. Darcy's own? To what depths she had shrunk!" (222) Mary relishes her self-imposed responsibility: "Now that I knew she was carrying Colonel Fitzwilliam's child, my duty had become even clearer to me. It was not fair that Mr. Darcy should go through life blind to his wife's infidelity with his own cousin. It was terrible to think that I must be the instrument that ended his marriage but I knew it was the right thing to do, even though it involved the lifelong shame of my own sister." (228)

    Objectively, BECOMING MARY is well-written, offering a unique view of the continuing lives of the Bennet sisters, definitely worth the time taken to read it. Subjectively, I so dislike this Mary Bennet that she spoils my enjoyment of the book. (A-)
     
  6. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    COLONEL BRANDON'S DIARY is Amanda Grange's variant of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, told by entries in Colonel James Brandon's diary. It was published in hard cover in 2008.

    Colonel Brandon's diary establishes the back story to Austen's brief account of his family, the tragic end of his first love, and his guardianship of her daughter Eliza Williams. Grange develops these off-stage Austen characters and adds a few new ones, mostly Brandon's friends from Oxford and the Army, while staying remarkably true to the originals and to the story line in Sense and Sensibility.

    The great strength of COLONEL BRANDON'S DIARY is the narrative voice Grange establishes for the Colonel. As he matures from a naive eighteen-year-old in 1778 to the sensitive, sensible, responsible man who marries Marianne Dashwood in October 1798, his personality and insight evolve realistically. He's an effective foil for Sir John Middleton's hyperactive sociability, John Dashwood's familial irresponsibility, John Willoughby's rakish proclivities, and Edward Ferrar's stiff-necked weakness. The straightforward writing style reflect his direct character.

    COLONEL BRANDON'S DIARY is most well done. (solid A)
     
  7. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT is Harriet Knowles's new variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2017.

    George Wickham and Mrs. Younge were not the only miscreants in his attempted elopement from Ramsgate with Georgiana Darcy. Deep in gambling debt to a criminal gang, her fortune had been his last chance to escape them. Though injured by the gang, Darcy succeeds in rescuing his sister. Warned by anonymous letter that the gang is intent on her abduction and forced marriage to one of them, the Darcys go into hiding at Bayford House, a small country estate near Netherfield in Hertfordshire, posing as Mr. William Hudson and his sister Georgia. Georgiana meets Elizabeth Bennet in Meryton, and the girls become friends. Elizabeth senses something strange about their situation and, when one of the criminals shows up at the Meryton assembly looking for Mr. Hudson, she helps them to escape. Invited to Pemberley as Georgiana's friend, she's left when Darcy must go to France to rescue his cousin David Fitzwilliam, heir to the Earl of Matlock. Believing Wickham dead, with criminal gangs being rounded up by the authorities, and Pemberley under guard by the militia, surely Georgiana and Elizabeth are safe. Aren't they?

    I give up at forty percent of HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT. I can take the plot changes up to and including the Darcys' return to Pemberley and Elizabeth's visit. I doubt whether a Regency Elizabeth would be allowed to visit as the Darcys sole guest with only Miss Jones, Georgiana's new governess, to chaperone. What decides me to end it is the Earl of Matlock's demand that Darcy hie himself to the French-Spanish battlefields of southern France to rescue his weak, simple-minded heir. Colonel Fitzwilliam can't go because, if David dies, he becomes heir. Never mind that Darcy himself has no heir, it's his responsibility to the Fitzwilliam family. Darcy succumbs to his pressure lest the Earl have the militia moved away from Pemberley and endanger Georgiana. To whom should Darcy owe his first loyalty? To his much younger sister, still in danger from the criminals, or to his older cousin who stupidly, voluntarily put himself in danger to impress a woman of dubious virtue? Too much for me to swallow.

    No grade because not finished.
     
  8. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    KITTY'S LUCKY CHARM is Bianca St. James's sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, told from the point of view of Kitty Bennet. It was published in digital format in 2017.

    KITTY'S LUCKY CHARM opens at the double wedding of Jane Bennet to Charles Bingley and Elizabeth Bennet to Fitzwilliam Darcy. With her mother distracted by wedding preparations and the pregnant Lydia Wickham's visit to Longbourn, Kitty feels more than usually overlooked and inadequate. Though she and sister Mary become closer, her insecurity continues as Mrs. Bennet tells them frankly that the sooner they are married and gone, the better. When Elizabeth Darcy writes that she's soon to be confined for the birth of her child, Mrs. Bennet sends Kitty to Pemberley uninvited, to be a comfort to her sister. En route to London, Kitty is rescued from an overturned carriage by handsome young Francis Maddox. She's much impressed but doubts she'll meet him again. Maddox is son to a business friend of her Uncle Gardiner, who knows and approves him; he calls on Kitty at Gracechurch Street and again at Pemberley. Her insecurities make Kitty doubt her feelings and his possible attraction.

    Editing missed several problems. One is misuse of apostrophes in plurals and possessives, particularly in names. St. James initially identifies Mary as younger than Kitty. Elizabeth's newborn son is William, though Georgiana later refers to him as George. Elizabeth's attendant for her labor is Mrs. Jennet, later called Mrs. Nurse. Kitty calls Lady Catherine de Bourgh a "familial relation" of the Lucas family. This would be true only if Lady Catherine is kin by blood or marriage to Mr. Collins, which is nowhere implied in Austen. Lady Lucas exhibits a new painting acquired on a recent trip to the south of France, which seems highly unlikely during wartime. How likely is it that Francis Maddox, wholly unconnected and previously unknown to the family, would gift Lady Lucas with an expensive new pianoforte for her salon?

    I have no quarrel with the characters in KITTY'S LUCKY CHARM. St. James keeps to the canonical originals. Kitty's lack of self-esteem is a believable outgrowth of her birth order, her parents' neglect, and Lydia's dominance. Kitty's increasing confidence is realistically intermittent. Seeing her secure enough to stand up to her mother is gratifying.

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    The most important new figure is Francis Maddox, an ideal Austen suitor--handsome, ambitious, of good moral character, well-to-do without being too far above the Bennets socially, and in love with Kitty. I, however, have some reservations. Maddox rescues Kitty from the wrecked carriage; he inquires about her to Mr. Gardiner and calls on her once in Gracechurch Street before she continues to Pemberley; he delivers the Gardiners' baby gifts to Elizabeth at Pemberley and there proposes marriage to Kitty. It's their third meeting, only the second time they've conversed of anything except the accident. Without consulting Kitty in any way beforehand, Maddox had solicited the Gardiners' approval and obtained Mr. Bennet's consent to marry Kitty. Ignoring Kitty bodes ill for longterm happiness. His involvement in Lady Lucas's salon is St. James's deus de machina, wholly unconnected with prior events, to bring Maddox and Kitty together again. I don't see Maddox as authentic.

    KITTY'S LUCKY CHARM is acceptable but not memorable. (C)
     
  9. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE CASE OF THE DISHONOURED PROFESSOR is one of the novellas in Roger Jaynes's anthology SHERLOCK HOLMES: A DUEL WITH THE DEVIL. Jaynes sets up the collection as three previously unpublished stories in which Dr. John H. Watson reveals the long-running duel between his friend Sherlock Holmes and Professor James Moriarty before their meeting at the Reichnbach Falls. All three date to late autumn-early winter of 1888. The anthology was published in digital format in 2003.

    In THE CASE OF THE DISHONOURED PROFESSOR, Holmes and Watson are en route to London from Scotland via Durham when they encounter Jonathan Thatcher, who recognizes them and consults Holmes about his missing brother, Durham University Professor of Mathematics Aubrey Thatcher. The week in which he was to be confirmed to the University Senate and announce his betrothal to Miss Ann Lowell, Professor Thatcher disappeared and is suspected of murder. Threatened by library clerk Arnold Samuelson with exposure for plagiarizing his doctoral thesis, the police think Professor Thatcher shot him, left his body in a railroad yard to be mangled, and absconded with his savings and Miss Lowell. Evidence of his guilt is overwhelming, but is it too good? Holmes's investigation demonstrates how deep the conspiracy goes.

    The most modern element in THE CASE OF THE DISHONOURED PROFESSOR is Jaynes's sense of place. He is skilled in providing little vignettes that draw the reader into the scene: "A half-hour later, our four-wheeler was clattering over Durham's historic Framwellgate Bridge, as we crossed the sparkling waters of the River Wear to reach the curled-finger peninsula of land that made up the heart of the city. Before us was spread a breathtaking panorama of ancient England--the majestic Durham Castle, beneath whose flags was housed much of University College, and off to the right, University Library and the huge cathedral itself, towering above the river, its western towers and the stone columns of the Lady Chapel below shining white in the bright, midday sun."

    Jaynes's development of character is reasonably consistent with Conan Doyle. Holmes's unaccountable delay in examining the body delays solution of the mystery. The back story of Moriarty's departure from academia is logical but inconsistent with Holmes's identifying his enemy as an organizational genius. Jaynes's writing style and plot structure also reflect the originals. From the probability of forged evidence and on a woman's always dressing in shades of blue, Holmes ties Professor Thatcher's situation to a notorious forger who escaped arrest two years before.

    As new adventures of Sherlock Holmes go, THE CASE OF THE DISHONORED PROFESSOR is well above average. (A-)
     
  10. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    "Hope at Dawn" is Leenie Brown's short story published with the e-book novella AND THEN LOVE. I found no publication date.

    "Hope at Dawn" is the tale of the reunion of Nicholas Sidemore and Kathleen Witherfield, separated by her male relatives since he had been too poor to aspire to the daughter of an Earl. With no contact for many months, neither is certain of the other's feelings. Does the absence of her locket, asked as a token of her return, mean she no longer loves him? She's returning unmarried, with a baby girl Aine. Now a wealthy banker, is he a last chance for a ruined woman?

    Pleasant, quick read, standard lover's separated by relatives, nothing memorable. (C)
     
  11. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    "An Heir for Pemberley" is Jane Grix's short story sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2016.

    "An Heir for Pemberley" opens in the fourth year of marriage for Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, as Elizabeth goes into labor with their first child. It recounts their thoughts and feelings as her labor continues, especially Darcy's fear for his wife and child since his mother and her baby died in childbirth. Elizabeth recalls some details of Jane, Lydia, and Charlotte's confinements, and Grix reveals some Regency obstetrics practices.

    Pleasant, easy read, reasonable levels of emotion, nothing special. (B)
     
  12. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    GENTLEWOMAN URGENTLY SEEKS HUSBAND is D. L. Carter's 2017 e-book variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It opens after the ball at Netherfield and the Bingley party's withdrawal to London.

    So much goes on in GENTLEWOMAN URGENTLY SEEKS HUSBAND that it's difficult to summarize without doing spoilers. The plot is divided roughly in thirds. The first covers Mrs. Francis Bennet's obsession that her oldest daughters must marry forthwith lest she experience extreme poverty like that of Mrs. and Miss Bates of Highbury, widow and daughter of Mr. Bennet's University tutor. Mrs. Bennet abuses Elizabeth physically and all her other daughters (except Lydia) emotionally, ordering them to compromise themselves if required to gain a husband. The second portion is the comedy of errors of Elizabeth's visit to Hunsford, where Mr. Collins's reading and his babbling of Charlotte's private correspondence to Lady Catherine produces a scheme to marry Elizabeth off to a hand-picked (by LCdB) suitor and thus save her visiting nephew Darcy from the designing hussy. The third segment covers the engagements of Elizabeth to Darcy and Jane to Bingley and the havoc wrought by Mrs. Bennet's continued delusional behavior. The story line is over the top and, while it contains comedic elements, Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet's behavior undercuts the humor. Tightening the action with another revision could improve the flow.

    Some word choices grate. A "sachet" and a "cachet" are very different things. "Deloupe" occurs in neither the Kindle nor the Merriam-Webster Dictionary on-line. Describing Lady Catherine as a "relic" of Sir Lewis de Bourgh may be accurate, but a widow is a "relict." The feminine form of the male name "Francis" is generally spelled "Frances." Some word choices are anachronistic.

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    Carter stays reasonably faithful to most of Austen's original characters, just heightening personality traits, i.e., Jane as painfully shy and overwhelmed by her mother's expectations. The only important introduced characters, Elizabeth's suitors in Kent, are developed only enough to show them as unsuitable.

    Two characters are extravagantly exaggerated. One is Collins, a caricature even in Austen. Carter's clergyman far exceeds the original in his vanity, pomposity, stupidity, maliciousness, and abject dependence on Lady Catherine. He is without any redeeming value.

    The other is Mrs. Bennet. While she's never appealing, Carter makes her an out-of-control mother for an episode of Dr. Phil. Monomaniacal about an impoverished widowhood, she rages and abuses her daughters. She boasts of entrapping Mr. Bennet in marriage and coaches her daughters on displaying their figures to full advantage, telling Jane and Elizabeth, "I shall not have you live with me. There is only one choice available to you. Find yourselves husbands and as soon as possible, by any means necessary," including getting pregnant. She is hateful (literally) toward all her daughters except Lydia, taking Elizabeth and Jane's pocket money to supplement her favorite's dress allowance. Mrs. Bennet dragoons relatives, friends, and near-total strangers into her matrimonial campaign, and she never stops interfering or criticizing even after her older daughters are engaged. Throughout, her only thoughts are for herself--an affluent widowhood and superior social status via her daughters' marriages. When her behavior has caused the Gardiners to cast her off and her married daughters to remove their younger sisters from her corrupting influence, she complains of her lonely existence at Longbourn and herself as ill-used by ungrateful family. For once in fan fiction, Mrs. Bennet gets some of what she deserves.

    GENTLEWOMAN URGENTLY SEEKS HUSBAND contains interesting alternatives to the canon. It suffers from the uncomfortable juxtaposition of comedic actions with grotesque characters. (B-)
     
  13. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    ARTIFICE AND ATTRACTION is Mattie Rowden's 2017 novel based on Jane Austen's characters in Pride and Prejudice. It changes too much to be classed as a simple variation.

    ARTIFICE AND ATTRACTION divides into two parts. The first section covers Jane and Elizabeth Bennet's Season in London with the Gardiners. Mr. Bennet is ill at Longbourn, so they need to marry well and soon. Elizabeth meets and impresses Fitzwilliam Darcy who, after Elizabeth meets and quickly befriends his sister Georgiana who's housebound with an undiagnosed illness, proposes marriage. Without knowing his or her own feelings, Elizabeth accepts. It covers their wedding and developing love. The second portion occurs a month after the wedding, with Darcy back in London on business and Elizabeth in charge at Pemberley, when Mrs. Bennet with three daughters, Charles Bingley and family, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh with entourage, all unannounced and uninvited, descend on the same day.

    The first portion is serious in tone, shifting focus between Elizabeth and Darcy, exploring their feelings as expected in Austen fan fiction; the second is a farce replete with rude behavior and flying insults, told mostly from Elizabeth's point of view. Their difference in tone is so great that Rowden seems to have grafted two stand alone stories. Writing style is more modern than Austen, as are some attitudes. Dating the action is problematical. Charles Bingley escorts his sister to Paris to outfit herself for the Season, yet England and France are still at war. Is this likely? Also questionble is the inclusion of Mary and Henry Crawford and the Rushworth scandal from Mansfield Park. The Crawfords are casual acquaint-ances developed just enough for Darcy and Elizabeth to disapprove of them; they provide gossip for the Bingley party but are otherwise irrelevant.

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    Elizabeth and other canonical figures, except Darcy, are reasonably faithful to Austen. Elizabeth's confusion about her own and Darcy's feelings and about her decision to accept his proposal are reasonable. Darcy is another matter. Despite growing love for Elizabeth, Darcy's proposal displays all the passion of a turnip. He cites Elizabeth's friendship and ability to help his sister recover from her illness, her ability to manage an estate and servants, her enjoyment of country life, and his duty to marry. Visiting Longbourn to ask Mr. Bennet's consent and meeting her family for the first time, Darcy is so repulsed by Mrs. Bennet and the younger girls that he accuses Elizabeth of deliberately misleading him about her background. He expresses so little emotion toward her that, after their wedding, Elizabeth doesn't know if or when he plans to consummate their marriage. It's only in the denouement, when he ousts Lady Catherine from Pemberley that Darcy shows much of Austen's original.

    ARTIFICE AND ATTRACTION has some intriguing changes that deserve more attention. Developing these changes, concentrating the diffuse emotion, and treating the unintended house party as a separate story would strengthen the novel. (B-/C+)
     
  14. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    RUINED FOREVER is another of D. L. Carter's novels using characters from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2015. Carter changes too much to call it a variation.

    The plot is too long and too convoluted to summarize easily. It's more a Grade B thriller than Jane Austen. Gossip holds Elizabeth Bennet responsible for William Collins's accidental death, Aunt Phillips makes the situation worse with revelations of the Bennets' legal affairs, Meryton society ostracizes the Bennet family, George Wickham plots to take over Longbourn, Lady Catherine de Bourgh charges Elizabeth with murder, Lydia defies her father for Wickham, and that's in only the first two-thirds, along with the older daughters' evolving romances. Drama is heaped up and runs over. More isn't always better. Sometimes it's too much.

    Have editors gone extinct? Word choice causes problems. "Compliment-complement" are different words, as are "fiance-fiancee," "sachet-cachet," and "solider-soldier." "Gip" as a variant of "gyp" does not fit its context. Sir Benjamin Michael is properly Sir Benjamin, not Sir Michael. Carter misuses apostrophes in plurals and possessives. Would Mrs. Bennet and Jane be allowed to attend the reconvened coroner's inquest when neither is a witness?

    Elizabeth and Darcy are sufficiently faithful to Austen. Elizabeth's reaction to treatment from people she'd thought friends is reasonable, as are her doubt and confusion over Darcy's feelings. Initially conscious of her unsuitability as wife, Darcy cannot stand aloof and see Elizabeth suffer injustice. Both literally see Darcy as Elizabeth's knight. Mr. Bennet, Jane, and Bingley all demonstrate non-canonical strength of will. Carter adds some new characters, the most developed of whom is Marcus FitzWallace, curate of Meryton who follows his own agenda.

    ~~~POSSIBLE SPOILERS~~~

    Carter enlarges the flaws in several individuals. Barely characterized by Austen, Carter makes Aunt Phillips's gossip and conniving with Lydia malicious, consciously calculated to injure Thomas and Elizabeth Bennet. Mrs. Bennet, who blames Collins's death, scandal, ostracism, everything wrong in her life, on Elizabeth, deliberately undermines daughter and husband at every opportunity. Lydia is a narcissist who glories in her ability to cause trouble. She's far more modern than Regency, threatening to report Mr. Bennet to the constable for abuse when she's punished, clearly needing a Dr. Phil treatment program for oppositional-defiant teenagers. Lady Catherine de Bourgh moves past malevolent in her persecution of Elizabeth into monstrous with her years-long abuse of daughter Anne. It is gratifying that for once she gets at least a small taste of what she's got coming.

    RUINED FOREVER contains some attention-grabbing changes, but it misses Austen by a long shot. (B-)
     
  15. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    EASY ERRORS is the twenty-second book in Steven F. Havill's Posadas County mystery series. The most current installment, it was published in digital format in 2017. He describes it as a pre-prequel, the first prequel being One Perfect Shot, which details Estelle Reyes-Guzman's joining the Posadas County Sheriff's Department. Set a few years earlier, EASY ERRORS covers the first case worked by Deputy Robert Torrez. Undersheriff Bill Gastner narrates.

    When three local teenagers are killed in a horrendous automobile crash, Gastner and Sergeant Lars Payson are first on the scene along with new-hire Robert Torrez. Fresh out of the academy, 22-year-old Torrez is riding with Payson on an orientation tour, preparing for his first patrol the next morning. Two of the passengers in Chris Browning's wrecked Suburban are Torrez's younger siblings Orlando and Elena. Torrez reports as scheduled for duty the next morning, when he and Gastner respond to a complaint of a stock tank and windmill being shot up. Nearby Torrez finds fiirst a carbine belonging in the Browning vehicle, then the body of Darlene Spencer, reported missing overnight by her mother; she'd been with the Torrez siblings and Chris. Autopsy findings turn up strange evidence: Orlando may have died from cardiac arrest caused by alcohol, an overdose of corticosteroids from an asthma inhaler, coupled with a major asthma attack, before the crash; sixteen-year-old new driver Chris had been legally drunk; Darlene died from a ricochet .44 calibre bullet only a short time before found, wounded the previous night and left to bleed to death. Recovered bullets and shell casings show at least four weapons involved in the shooting spree, but the teenagers had only a .30 caliber rifle. Who else had been involved, and why had no one sought aid for Darlene?

    The plot in EASY ERRORS is typical Havill, opening with the sheriff's department fielding a realistic series of complaints that, upon investigation, merge into a bigger situation. It is old-style police procedural. As evidence is found and theories are formed, they are revealed--no hidden information, no lone wolf super-detective, no staged "reveal all" denouement. One of the great strengths of the series is Havill's cadre of professionals who, despite their idiosyncratic personalities, function efficiently. In this pre-prequel, Havill skillfully blends earlier members of the Posadas County Sheriff's Department with its contemporary personnel (Estelle Reyes-Guzman is currently Undersheriff, Robert Torrez Sheriff, Gastner retired but still consulted on occasion).

    Characterization is always strong. Gastner is an appealing narrator--professional, self-deprecating, honest, perceptive. He sizes up young Torrez succinctly: "I was delighted that Robert Torrez hadn't bothered to ask permission for whatever it was that he was doing. He didn't show much inclination to 'play well with others,' but what the hell. I had plenty of deputies who were social gadflies--who'd travel in packs if they could." Later he observes, "Torrez sat silently...taking his time organizing an answer. Watching him mull things over, I had the errant thought that in coming months and years, lawyers were going to learn quickly that Robert Torrez on the witness stand would force patience on them, rather than the young deputy being rattled by the pressure."

    Gastner's story-telling voice is outstanding in evoking scene. "After cartwheeling two or three times, the wreckage of the boxy Chevy Suburban had folded itself, passenger side first, around one of the massive highway support pillars. Other than the pinging of cooling metal, the place was silent. In cruel irony, the smashed truck had taken out the descanso, a white cross and religious souvenirs, marking the spot where the year before Freddy Sandoval had lost his bout with the same interchange buttress. The drunken Freddy had been northbound on NM61, and his aging Plymouth wagon had strayed--like a homing missile--straight into the interstate support pillar." His snippets of local history add greatly to the sense of Posadas County, New Mexico, as a real place.

    What else to say? EASY ERRORS is a most pleasurable read. (A)
     
  16. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE COURTSHIP OF EDWARD GARDINER is Nicole Clarkston's prequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2016. It opens in London in May 1800, with most of the action occurring in Derbyshire two months later. It offers believable younger versions of many of the canonical characters and provides insight into the origins of their adult relationships.

    Edward Gardiner, already a successful businessman, travels north with brother-in-law Thomas Bennett, accompanied by eight-year-old Jane and seven-year-old Elizabeth, to attend his ailing brother Thaddeus Bennet. Jane becomes ill en route, unfit to travel, so Gardiner and his nieces remain in Lambton while Bennet continues on. Madeline Fairbanks, who does much of the work in her father's accounting business, obliges her friend the innkeeper's wife by helping care for girls. Gardiner and Miss Fairbanks are much attracted, and romance quickly follows. A violent storm requires fourteen-year-old Fitzwilliam Darcy to shelter with three-year-old Georgiana at the inn, where Elizabeth impresses him as both kind and outspoken. Charles Bingley comes to Pemberley with his father on business, beginning the boys' friendship; George Wickham shows himself as an accomplished manipulator. Lady Catherine, already pushing marriage between Fitzwilliam and her daughter Anne, tries to dictate his education and preparation for Society.

    THE COURTSHIP OF EDWARD GARDINER offers a satisfying back story to the marriage that inspired the adult Elizabeth and Jane's dreams for themselves. Both protagonists are appealing. Development of the relationship, as well as the external action, is plausible. My only issue is with the burning of carcasses of sheep and cattle killed in the hailstorm. Country people would have done their utmost to utilize and preserve as much of the meat as possible.

    THE COURTSHIP OF EDWARD GARDINER is the best Austen fan fiction prequel that I have read. (solid A)
     
  17. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    BRYANT AND MAY: STRANGE TIDE is Christopher Fowler's 2016 addition to his long-running Peculiar Crimes Unit series, set immediately following The Burning Man. It is available both in print and digital formats.

    Ali Bensaud survives the explosion of a human-trafficking boat in the Mediterranean in which almost two hundred refugees died, to eventually arrive in London to begin a new life. Partnered with Cassie North, he emerges as the charismatic leader of a New Age Life Options Centre popular with well-to-do bored wives. Arthur Bryant is on medical leave for his idiosyncratic form of Alzheimer's, with the continued existence of the PCU in grave danger. Can it function without him? When the body of Lynsey Dalladay turns up at Pleasure Beach Tower Hill, chained by an antique silver necklace to a stone so that she drowns in the incoming Thames tide, it appears not. The unit turns up little. Bryant's condition worsen--the blackouts become hallucinations in which he goes back in time to places associated with the case--as he potters about on the case. As progress comes slowly and more people die, with John May as the chief suspect in one of the deaths, connections gradually emerge.

    Some things about BRYANT AND MAY: STRANGE TIDE I like. One is the parade of books and experts on highly esoteric subjects that help define Bryant's character; e.g., Medical Treatment of Congolese Tribal Elders 1870-1914 is crucial. Another is the continued development of the individual members of the PCU as they persevere while facing dissolution of the unit and their relationships evolve. Flashes of humor provide a third pleasure. In an interoffice memo, Acting Unit Chief Raymond Land asserts: "Sometimes I sit here trying to imagine ways in which this unit could be more disrespectful than it already is. Maybe Mr. Bryant could apply for a post as a Selfridge's Santa this Christmas and traumatize hundreds of small children, or you could falsely arrest a national treasure. Dame Judi Dench perhaps, or Paddington Bear." (10)

    Most of all, Fowler's evocation of the atmosphere and history of London is outstanding: "Those who built London thought about their home in the long term. Westminster Hall dates from 1393 and has the largest timber roof in northern Europe. When it needed restoring in 1913, a lot of the roof had to be replaced. The original timbers came from Wadhurst in Sussex. The estate's owners must have realized that new wood would be needed in roughly five hundred years because they had planted a stand of oaks for that specific purpose. By 1913 the wood was ready to be cut and the hall was repaired. By comparison, many of the City of London's new skyscrapers are reckoned to have a shelf life of about fifteen years. Despite its accelerating pace, the metropolis is ultimately changeless. Its people remain the same because London is a state of mind. They do not make London. London makes them." (299-300)

    Some things about BRYANT AND MAY: STRANGE TIDE i dislike. One major villain is not introduced until page 374 of 433. Foreshadowing is strange. The killer's attitude and behavior make him a natural suspect, but foreshadowing ranges from obscure to nonexistent, and many connections remain unclear. Pacing for much of the story is glacially slow, with a rapid flurry of violent activity, then a drawn-out denouement. A pursued man picks up a shotgun; in the next sentence but one, he fires a rifle, then the blast impact suggests a shotgun. Most of all, I dislike the implication that Raymond Land, gormless twit that he is, prostitutes himself with a female Internal Affairs investigator, to keep the PCU open.

    BRYANT AND MAY: STRANGE TIDE suggests that, like its protagonists, the series nears its natural end. (C)
     
  18. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    Leenie Brown calls OXFORD COTTAGE a variant of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, though more accurately it is a novel using characters from the novel. Changes to canonical characters and plot carry nto entirely new territory. It was published in digital format in 2014.

    Thomas Bennet, Henry Fitzwilliam (Lord Matlock), George Darcy, and Mr. Phillips met at Oxford and continued their friendship beyond; all four are investors with Edward Gardiner. Lord Matlock first meets Elizabeth Bennet when she is five years old; impressed with her intelligence, outspoken nature, and enthusiasm, he decides she will grow into a perfect wife for his twelve-year-old nephew Fitzwilliam Darcy. By the time she's fifteen years old, the other men in the group agree but, since George Darcy knows the burden his impending death will place on his son, they agree to wait to introduce the pair until Darcy has settled into his role as master of Pemberley. They arrange the meeting when Jane, Elizabeth, and Mary Bennet are in residence at Oxford Cottage, where the Bennet sisters are living for the summer of 1811 to learn household skills and management through practical experience. Darcy and Elizabeth are soon in love. Impressed by the Bennet girls' training, Darcy brings Georgiana, along with her companion Mrs. Sophia Younge, for a long visit with them. In league with George Wickham, who's intent on acquiring Georgiana's dowry and revenging himself on Darcy, Mrs. Younge sets up the abduction of Georgiana and Elizabeth.

    So much changes from the original--no lack of happiness between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, no entail, no condemnation of Elizabeth's impertinence and strength of mind, no discrimination against Trade, no Mr. Collins or Lady Catherine or Caroline Bingley, no thwarted elopement from Ramsgate. Eliizabeth's perceptiveness and mental acumen are exaggerated beyond believability, her dealing with the kidnappers hinting of O. Henry's classic short story "The Ransom of Red Chief." Darcy is largely passive, Colonel Fitzwilliam in charge.

    Issues with OXFORD COTTAGE range from apostrophes in plurals and possessives to minimal characterization to geography. Rosings can be reached from London in one day; Rosings is one night's wagon ride from Longbourn, but where is the Blue Thistle pub, monthly meeting place for the four men, in relation to them? Attitudes (especially those toward the "fallen" maid Hannah) are modern, not Regency, as are elements of Darcy and Elizabeth's wedding ceremony. Mrs. Younge and Wickham are involved in sex-trade trafficking, very much a contemporary preoccupation.

    The largest issue involves plot structure. The external conflict in OXFORD COTTAGE is the abduction of Georgiana and Elizabeth. Climax and turning point coincide near the midpoint of the book, with the falling action dissolving into sweetness and light--no more external conflict, no lasting emotional damage from the abduction, no angst. It's definite anticlimax.

    OXFORD COTTAGE is not close to Austen. (C)
     
  19. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    DREAMING HIGHBURY is Ellen Mary Soule's sequel to Jane Austen's Emma. It was published in digital format in 2017.

    The story opens some short time following the marriages of Emma Woodhouse to George Knightley and of Harriet Smith to his tenant Robert Martin; both women are newly pregnant. Sir Rupert Broom, acutely sensitive to noise and commotion, has withdrawn from London Society and moved to Tinkling Tower, an estate on the lower slopes of Box Hill near Highbury. Jane Fairfax Churchill returns home, deserted by her husband, to teach music at Mrs. Goddard's school her Parliament bill of divorcement gives her the right to remarry. Frank Churchill lives on the Continent with his mistress, too deeply in debt to return to England. Jane and Sir Rupert are attracted. However, before he proposes to Jane, Miss Bertha Plimpton, who'd prompted his escape to the Surrey countryside, arrives from London to claim him in marriage.

    I'm giving up at thirteen percent. So far the most developed character is the repellent Mrs. Augusta Elton, who begins in DREAMING HIGHBURY where Austen's snob left off. Others, including the Knightleys, are a blurred background of names. Attitudes and events are thoroughly modern. Miss Plimpton's arrival at Tinkling Tower, unescorted, unannounced, uninvited to spend the day in the home of a bachelor living alone, is just too much. Nothing encourages me to keep reading. No grade because not finished.
     

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