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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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    TO MAKE YOU LOVE ME is Cassandra B. Leigh's variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2015.

    I do not see the point of this adaptation. The only significant change is to present the story entirely from Darcy's point of view. Leigh adds details, such as Darcy's telling the Matlocks of his engagement and Bingley and Darcy's exchange over Darcy's interference, but otherwise does not alter the sequence or import of events in Austen's original. She adds only three named characters, the Matlocks and a gardener/fishing guide at Pemberley. Leigh's characters are reasonably faithful to the originals.

    The book is longer than the story justifies. Leigh pads it with Darcy's dreams, every letter or note Darcy sends or receives, all toasts, full particulars of Lydia's marriage settlement, terms of agreement between Darcy and Wickham to bring that wedding about, and full disclosure of Elizabeth's marriage contract. There is little external conflict; Wickham quickly capitulates when found, while Lady Catherine contents herself with indignation at Elizabeth's intransigence at Longbourn and a vituperative letter to Darcy. The Matlocks fully support Darcy's choice.

    The important conflict in TO MAKE YOU LOVE ME is internal--Darcy's repetitions of Elizabeth's accusations in her refusal. They become tedious, but they show Darcy's changing attitude, making the alteration believable. They also point out an important similarity between Darcy and Mr. Bennet. Darcy's failure to neutralize Wickham following Georgiana's foiled elopement and failure to explode Lady Catherine's delusion of Anne's marriage echoes Mr. Bennet's refusal to exercise family leadership--avoidance. Keep the peace. Ignore unpleasaant duties and maybe they'll go away. Darcy's attitude is explicitly stated: "Suddenly remembering that he was expected for dinner, he turned and made his way to the house; he dared not anger his aunt.* Despite her frequent lectures on his family obligations and veiled references to his expected engagement to Anne, her wrath would be tempted to the limit if he was late to dinner." Darcy's turning his back on company to gaze out a window, ignoring people and making no effort to participate, differs from Mr. Bennet's retreat to his book room only in physical presence.

    I wish Austen fan fiction writers would post largely above their keyboards "NO NOUN, WHETHER SINGULAR OR PLURAL, CONTAINS AN APOSTROPHE UNLESS IT IS ALSO POSSESSIVE." End of rant. There's not much else wrong editing. But why bother when so little is added or changed? (C)

    *emphasis added
     
  2. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    FIRST COMES MARRIAGE is a novella by Elizabeth Sylvester in which she uses the names of characters from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Too much is changed to call it a variant on the novel. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    Various writers of Austen fan fiction have used Elizabeth and Darcy in a forced marriage situation in variations on Pride and Prejudice, but FIRST COMES MARRIAGE is the only one I've read in which they voluntarily enter a marriage of convenience, fully agreed that they are not in love and that the marriage will not be consummated. They barely know each other. Elizabeth is repulsed by the self-satisfied Collins and her mother's abuse; Darcy is harried by the unwanted attentions of Caroline Bingley. Marriage will save each from the more disgusting alternative, so they quickly marry. The newlyweds are attracted to each other but, before they can begin to sort out their feelings, Lady Catherine de Bourgh invades first the London house and then Pemberley Several weeks' separation during which Elizabeth visits Netherfield with Jane Bingley and Georgiana Darcy's staging interventions with their obtuse siblings, is required before Elizabeth and Darcy begin their "happily ever after."

    ^^^^REVELATIONS AHEAD^^^^

    The three major characters are much changed from the originals. Elizabeth's cowed response to maternal abuse and her later avoidance policy to handle Lady Catherine do not fit her independent, forthright spirit. Her even accepting Darcy's proposal is out of character because she knows little of his character and nothing of his circumstances; her situation at Longbourn is uncomfortable but not dire. Since her father refuses to force her to marry Collins, she is under no immediate or irresistible pressure to marry. Lady Catherine is her usual nasty self, but she is not Machiavellian. Despite Darcy's wedding delayed by calling the banns, Lady Catherine's intelligence network (Collins) fails, making the wedding a fait accompli before she learns of it. Servants in both Darcy houses would be well aware of the couple's sleeping arrangements, but Lady Catherine never realizes that their marriage is unconsummated; otherwise, she would demand an annulment, not divorce. (Annulment, though also rare, expensive, scandalous, and difficult to obtain, was much less so than divorce, especially when the couple had remained celibate.) Austen's Lady Catherine would have at least tried to suborn servants to gain ammunition for her anti-Elizabeth campaign.

    Darcy is the most changed of the three. Although both Elizabeth and Darcy are attracted at their initial accidental meeting, they have been together a few times in company when they, both furious--Elizabeth enraged by Collins and her mother and Darcy disgusted by Caroline's incessant smothering attention--meet, and he suddenly concludes that a strictly platonic marriage is an easy solution for each of them. Without further thought, Darcy proposes. No way would Austen's Darcy act so impulsively. Neither would Darcy accept Lady Catherine's long-term invasion of his home and disrespect for Elizabeth. He shows more concern for his aunt's than his wife's feelings, his later protestations of love undermined by his halfhearted defense of Elizabeth.

    Other problems include editing (apostrophes, again) and anachronistic words (e.g., "tizzy," an Americanism from the 1930s). Sylvester does not specify how long Darcy and Elizabeth remain married in name only and, while she says they with walk, talk, and gett to know each other as their attraction grows, gives only a few sentences of paraphrased interaction. Dialogue between characters is more often alluded to than directly quoted, with external action scarce. Everything is told, not shown. Attitudes and behavior between Darcy and Elizabeth are modern, not Regency.

    FIRST COMES MARRIAGE disappoints because it fails to develop an intriguing change in the canonical story line. (C-)
     
  3. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    FALLING OR MR. DARCY Is KaraLynne Mackrory's variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2012.

    Characters in FALLING FOR MR. DARCY are reasonably developed from Austen's originals, though the story line is much changed. Despite his best efforts, Darcy knows he cares for Elizabeth Bennet by the time she and Jane leave Netherfield; his rescuing her after she is injured on an early morning walk introduces Elizabeth to a relaxed, open companion to whom she's immediately attracted. His sense of duty to family and distaste for Elizabeth's kin are impediments for Darcy, while Elizabeth tries not to raise her hopes unrealistically. There is angst, mostly Elizabeth's, but it's not prolonged or excessive.

    When he realizes Wickham is in Meryton, Darcy warns Elizabeth, Mr. Bennet, and Colonel Forster of Wickham's history; he does, however, fail to take adequate precautions in London after a second warning letter from Wickham. Mr. Bennet's response to Darcy's warning and his long-held secret prove him a conscientious father. Other major changes include Collins's marriage; Bingley and Jane Bennet's courtship; Wickham's attempt to extort money and gain revenge on Darcy by using Elizabeth; and Lady Catherine's attempt to separate Darcy and Elizabeth. Actions are believable, though changing speakers for some of the confrontations makes them feel odd--Darcy uses Elizabeth's reasons when he refuses to promise Lady Catherine that he will not to propose.

    I do have some problems. Word choice is sometimes jarringly modern; i.e., stomping," "kids" for children, "scratch" and "blunt" for money, Spell check allows homophones to slip through. Derivatives are not always correctly used; i.e. "appall" as a noun. The flashback to Ramgate is intrusive, and inclusion of a long Wordsworth poem and several letters seem padding. Wedding preparations are definitely more modern than Regency. Elizabeth wears what on Say Yes to the Dress (The Learning Channel) would be called a fit-and-flare wedding gown; both she and Jane wear veils, not bonnets. Collins's marriage is performed a week after the engagement, with no license or time for calling of the banns (three consecutive Sundays). Mackrory has Elizabeth and Darcy "incandescently happy" at being in love, a phrase lifted from the 2005 film adaptation.

    Still, as Austen fan fiction goes, FALLING FOR MR. DARCY is one of the better reads. (A-)
     
  4. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    REBUILDING PEMBERLEY is a novel by Melanie Schertz using the names of characters from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2017. It changes too much of the story line to be considered a mere variant.

    When Fitzwiliam Darcy is twelve years old, the entire Pemberley estate burns in a catastrophic fire that kills Lady Anne Darcy and 25 servants and tenants. Gerald Darcy survives his wife for six years, a broken man leaving his son and his brother-in-law, the Earl of Matlock, to run and to rebuild the estate. In a decade, the estate is restored, a new manor house built, and estate income returned almost to the pre-fire level. Darcy has been ably advised by his uncle the Earl, importer Edwin Gardiner, and businessman Frederick Bingley, father of his best friend Charles Bingley. The men are respected friends as well as business partners. Gardiner's niece Elizabeth Bennet, with permanently injured legs, lungs damaged by smoke inhalation, and PTSD, is the only survivor of a fire that destroyed Netherfield Hall and killed the owner's entire family some six months before; she now lives with the Gardiners in Cheapside, brought to London for better medical care than available in Meryton and to remove her from her mother's histrionic chaos at Longbours. Insistent that she earn her keep, Elizabeth helps with accounting at Gardiner's warehouse, where she meets Fitzwilliam Darcy. They instantly fall in love. When Elizabeth is shoved into the path of an oncoming carriage, Darcy's pulling her to safety ends with them sprawled in the street, Elizabeth on top, hopelessly compromised. Darcy behaves with honor, and both are happy to marry within a week by special license. But more attempts on Elizabeth ensue. Why?

    There are some problems. In places, word usage looks as if a voice-recognition program was used; i.e., "regulated" instead of "relegated." Usage problems includes placement of apostrophes in plurals and possessives and use of nominative case pronouns where objective is correct. Formatting puts quoted letters in a large, ultra bold font unrelated to that of the main text.

    ~~~~REVELATIONS~~~~

    Other editing problems involve continuity. The father of James Ashby, Earl of Ashton, is referred to as the Earl of Matlock. Louisa Bingley and Hurst are engaged when Caroline is killed, but shortly thereafter, they are newly married. What happened to the customary restrictions on social activities and wearing of mourning clothing for three to six months' to mark the death of a sibling? (Wiki) There's also a problem about ages. By the of a decade the manor house at Pemberley is rebuilt, and Darcy's lived in it a year when he meets Elizabeth, making him 23± years old. Elizabeth's age is not given. If, as in the canon Darcy is about eight years older, Elizabeth must be 15±; however, it's stated that Lydia and Georgiana are the same age, also 15± years old. So how old is Elizabeth?

    The plot format is thriller, in that the villains' identities and motives are soon apparent with the mystery element how they will be caught. All the men around Elizabeth are remiss in guarding her, even after Caroline Bingley is shot to death by mistake. The resolution is unsatisfying because it depends on accident and the boasting of a drunken sociopath.

    Still, REBUILDING PEMBERLEY is better than average fan fiction. (A-)
     
  5. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    BANSHEE is the second title in Michael McDonnell's Dermot O'Hara Series Omnibus. BANSHEE was originally published in 2013 and the digital omnibus in 2018.

    When Peter Foley's fishing boat Saoirse capsizes in a storm as he tries to identify a huge dark shape in the water beneath him, it begins a disquieting time in Dermot O'Hara's personal and professional life. Peter remembers hearing a strange noise while trapped in an air pocket in the hull, later recognized as a submarine's sonar pinging, so Assistant Commissioner Quinn requirement that O'Hara to sign an addendum to his Official Secrets oath makes it obvious that something clandestine is going on. But what? In the meantime, O'Hara's wife Jo is spending time away from home, supposedly visiting family or friends, but Peter Foley sees her hugging an unknown man in a hotel dining room in Killarney. Is Jo involved in an affair?

    BANSHEE is technically more a thriller than a mystery. The suspense comes from a time limit to destruction rather than apprehension of a criminal. Its motif of official coverups is definitely topical, but O'Hara's role in its resolution seems inflated. He is, after all, a mere local inspector of the Gardai. The time line is muddled.

    Characterization is iacking. McDonnell adds numbers of individuals at best peripheral to the two story lines; he includes most of the Kenmare residents from THICKER THAN WATER, and few are developed beyond names and occupations. Much of the thriller element focuses on Peter Foley, giving bits of his backstory and providing him a love interest, while Jo O'Hara's whereabouts and activities dominate the personal story line. Dermot O'Hara is no further developed than in THICKER THAN WATER. Consistent failure to set off by commas names and titles when individuals are directly addressed is irksome.

    Sense of place is by far the strongest component of BANSHEE, but it is not enough to carry the novel. (C)
     
  6. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    YOURS FOREVERMORE, DARCY is a novel-length variant by KaraLynne Mackrory of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2015.

    Fitzwilliam Darcy, overwhelmed by his response to Elizabeth Bennet, pours out his feelings and explaining his behavior to her in a series of unsent letters, beginning with one the day following the Meryton assembly. The only one he dellvers is the Hunsford letter following her rejection of his proposal. It soon begins to change her perception of him. She's confused during his continued enforced (by a damaged carriage) sojourn at Rosings, and she's embarrassed when he and Colonel Fitzwilliam transport her and Maria Lucas from Bromley to London. Mr. Collins's arrangements, in his agitation to follow Lady Catherine's directions for their travel, leaves them stranded in Bromley. After her return to Longbourn, Elizabeth's feelings for Darcy continue to evolve, and she manages to spread news of Wickham's background in Meryton, while Darcy strives to change and continues to write occasional letters not sent to Elizabeth. When a new maid inadvertently sets up their delivery, Elizabeth reads and knows both Darcy heart and her own, leading to a happy reunion at Pemberley.

    YOURS FOREVERMORE, DARCY is well written, though there are some anachronisms (i.e., "real time") and questions of usage, none glaring. By the Regency, parchment was used for legal documents and rag-based paper for business and personal correspondence. Georgiana says the Darcy name goes back to the "invasion of Normandy," implying a medieval version of D-Day rather than the Norman invasion of England in 1066. The cello metaphor to describe Elizabeth's feelings is overdone. Characters are reasonable extensions of Austen's originals, the existence of the letters and their effect the main change in story line. Use of the letters serve as effective exposition to strengthen characterization. Angst is abundant but well-founded.

    Some bits I do not understand. How is it, when it's grossly improper for a young woman even to receive a letter from an unrelated gentleman, that Elizabeth and Maria Lucas, completely unchaperoned even by a maid, travel from Bromley to London with two unmarried men, and compromise is never mentioned? Darcy meets and is impressed favorably by the Gardiners on this occasion, yet when he sees them at Pemberley, he must ask for an introduction. Has he forgotten them? How is it that Wickham manages to sell his militia commission and disappear without Colonel Forster's foreknowledge, when he (or his superiors) would have to approve the sale? As written, Lydia's elopement is gratuitous, made doubly so by the change in her choice. And why, oh, why, does Elizabeth's meeting Darcy at Pemberley require that he be in deshabille, a la Colin Firth in the 1995 miniseries? Authors, it's become a cliché.

    Still, YOURS FOREVERMORE, DARCY is better than most fan fiction. (A-)
     
  7. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    PENGUINS AND MORTAL PERIL is the first book in Ruby Loren's Madigan Amos Zoo Mystery series. It was published in digital and paperback format in 2018.

    Madigan "Madi" Amos, a keeper at the Avery Zoo in Gigglesfield, Southeast England, who's been successful in recognizing and correcting impediments to the zoo's breeding programs, covers Ray Myers's absence one Saturday morning in mid-July. She finds him dead in the bottom of the penguin pool along with he sledgehammer that smashed his head. Following unfavorable publicity over the death of a serval who'd eaten a poisoned rat, the zoo has been picketed by animal rights activists, the logical suspects, but there's no progress on the death. Madi does not mean to get involved, but other incidents occur--an earlier attack on an apprentice zookeeper, scurrilous posters attacking the zoo, a break-in to the food-storage warehouse by burglars bringing in poison, and finally the bombing of a Board meeting that kills three people. Madi discovers builder Lowell Forrester prowling about after hours and overhears him talking with Mr. Avery, Senior, the zoo's owner. She's involved despite her initial decision, finding that Lowell is a private detective. What is going on, and why has Avery, Sr., hired a detective instead of going to the police

    The theme of PENGUINS AND MORTAL PERIL appeals to me because I'm interested in what used to be called "natural history." To disclose my prejudices, I do not favor animals being kept in zoos for purposes of amusement; no matter how well run, a zoo cannot provide a natural life. I am also convinced that preservation in properly regulated zoos and breeding programs is infinitely preferable to extinction in the wild.

    Plotting in PENGUINS AND MORTAL PERIL is simplistic. The prologue shows Ray Myers murdered as part of a conspiracy. Knowing this sets up only one scenario that makes sense. The only major product of zoos (besides dung) is exotic animals; equally obviously, someone high in the Avery Zoo management must be involved. Description of zoo operation conveys no sense of authenticity, and Loren gives no specifics about the actual working of the scheme. Too much depends on coincidences that have Madi in the zoo after hours to identify and overhear conspirators. Involving squirrel monkeys in the climax is funny but not very believable. Sense of place is lacking.

    Characterization is sketchy. Madi is the only character with much individuality. She's an appealing first-person narrator, intuitive about animals and people, dedicated to animals (she adopts a newborn runt kitten rejected by its feral house cat mother), a closet chocoholic, and creator of an online comic strip based on her zoo experiences. Other keepers are more types than individuals, several with only given names, and many more than needed to carry the plot. There's the obligatory romantic interests--a younger apprentice zookeeper and the private detective. I like that Madi rescues the detective from the criminals.

    Since I took PENQUINS AND MORTAL PERIL from Kindle Unlimited as part of a five-book omnibus, I will probably read the next just to see if the series improves. I'm not particularly impressed with this first offering. (D+)
     
  8. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE LETTER OF THE LAW by J. Dawn King makes so many changes to Jane Austen's story line in Pride and Prejudice that it is a new story using the names of the original characters. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    Because a Regency woman's prospects for marriage depends on her successful debut and first Season in Society, an experienced mentor able to advise, instruct, and chaperone the debutante is essential. For this reason, George Darcy adds a codicil to the will that named his son Fitzwilliam Darcy and nephew Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam as guardians for his daughter Georgiana. Unless one of them is married before she reaches her sixteenth birthday on 11 November 1813, her guardianship passes to his sister-in-law Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who will guide Georgiana through the process. When reminded of this codicil, the men have 33.5 days in which one of them must marry or they pass Georgiana over to the aunt who terrifies her. The colonel leaves in two weeks to rejoin his regiment in Spain, so it's up to Darcy. Convinced no London lady of his acquaintance is suitable, he visits his friend Chalres Bingley in Hertfordshire in hopes of finding an appropriate woman. He meets Elizabeth Bennet, who promises to help him find a wife. Then their troubles begin.

    i do not want to do spoilers. King piles on external conflict and plot twists to a fantastic level. There are common sense holes in time lines, distances, decisions, and characterization, but she makes it easy to suspend disbelief and just enjoy. Despite the emphasis on the importance of Georgiana's Season, attitudes, particularly those of Darcy, Elizabeth, and Colonel Fitzwilliam, are much more modern than Regency. Most others are reasonable projections of the originals. Several added characters are sketches only, though they do have important roles in the plot. Editing is not perfect, but it's much better than average for fan fiction.

    My only quibble involves King's note that she moved the date of the action to 1813 so that she could include the reading of Johann David Wyss's Der Schweizerische Robinson. Its only function in the story seems to be the demonstration that both Elizabeth and Jane are fluent in written and spoken German. (A-)
     
  9. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    DARCY'S LAST CHANCE is Josie Linley's novella-length variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2016.

    En route to tour Pemberley during their holiday in Derbyshire, Elizabeth Bennet and the Gardiners are injured in a carriage accident. Mrs. Gardiner has bruised ribs, Mr. Gardiner a broken arm, and Elizabeth amnesia from a blow to the head--she remembers nothing before the accident. Found by Darcy, they are taken to Pemberley for treatment, to remain as guests until pronounced able to travel. He pays them every attention, explains his acquaintance with Elizabeth from Hertfordshire but not their time in Kent, and soon has Elizabeth falling in love with him. To protect her and the Gardiners from malicious gossip and charges of being highwaymen brought by a nosy neighbor Mrs. Strugnell, Darcy tells the magistrate that Elizabeth is his fiancée; Elizabeth lets his statement stand. But what will happen when she discovers their history?

    'This is a pleasant story, most of the angst Elizabeth's anxiety over her lost memories. There's little doubt about the couple's feelings for each other, the suspense coming from how Elizabeth will recall her past. Characters are good continuations of Austen's originals, though Caroline Bingley's nastiness toward the Gardiners and Elizabeth is quickly shut off.

    Two quibbles about the text. One is the repeated use of "discomfit" (verb) as a noun instead of "discomfort." On arrival at Pemberley, the injured Gardiners and Elizabeth are taken to the blue drawing room, where they are served tea and all three examined by Dr. Shaw. With Darcy's help, Shaw sets Mr. Gardiner's arm(apparently without removing his shirt), ascertains that Mrs. Gardiner's ribs are only bruised, and discovers no other injury to Elizabeth except her amnesia, still with Darcy present. Only then are they taken to guest rooms. I don't think so.

    DARCY'S LAST CHANCE is a quick, comfortable read, but it contains nothing extraordinary. (C)
     
  10. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    KITTY is Abby Wilton's variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Originally published in 2002, the revised edition of KITTY was published in digital format in 2018.

    When Kitty Bennet goes for an extended visit to newlywed Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy at Pemberley, she enters a new life, one in which she will be "finished" and emerge with Georgiana Darcy into Society. At eighteen, keenly aware of less than happy marriages--those of her parents, the Collinses, and the Wickhams--she has no interest in marriage but is anticipating life in London. In the meantime, she enjoys fellow guests Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam and Darcy's friend from University, John Thornfield, the enigmatic Earl of Thrapsten, aloof, complete with a hinted-at past scandal. In London, she learns to navigate the dangerous currents of Society, propriety, and relationships, with some of the most dangerous coming from her family.

    ~~~SOME POTENTIAL REVELATIONS~~~

    I''m of two minds about KITTY. On the one hand, Wilton's use of Kitty as first person narrator of her story reveals one of the most consistent voices in Austen fan fiction. Kitty says what she thinks, often out loud and in public. Her inexperience (despite being "out" in Meryton") and immaturity are clear and, at first, most believable. However, her naiveté lasts too long. She remains oblivious to events and people that directly affect her life, a perfect target for manipulation.I like her but would like to shake her and tell her to wake up.

    I'm also doubtful about Lord Thornfield (the title most often used). As Darcy's contemporary, a former officer in an elite regiment, a wealthy man of the world, he's oddly diffident in his relationship with Kitty. He conceals his feelings and alternates between jealousy and comradeship, manipulating her and jumping to conclusions. His calling her "Kitten" seems indication of seeing Kitty as an indulged pet more than as a woman to be respected.

    Incidents in KITTY recall scenes from other novels. A listing of all the times she doesn't think about Thornfield echoes Emma's not thinking about Mr. Knigtley in Emma. Mrs. Lily Hampton's telling Kitty about her relationship with Thorn brings to mind Lucy Steele's revealing to Elinor Dashwood her engagement to Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility. The "incandescent happiness" quote comes in from the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Lord Thornfield resembles Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre: Rochester's home is Thornfield Hall, each man conceals his past with another woman and his current feelings from its object, whom he deliberately makes jealous. Each provides expensive clothes his loved one can't afford. Kitty's flight home to Longbourn following a major quarrel with Thorn parallels Jane's escape from her untenable position at Thornfield.

    Despite being a revised edition, KITTY abounds with editing problems: lack of commas where needed, anachronistic ("same old same old") and slang terms, poor word choice and omitted words, words spelled incorrectly, homophones. Some may be caused by changing formats, but the second half of KITTY seems to have escaped proofreading altogether. Cutting some of the repetitive details of daily life to tighten the plot would help; the denouement is drawn out to anticlimax, reprising the action from Thornfield's point of view. The major problem is the massive impropriety in Thornfield, a male totally unrelated to Kitty, giving her first an expensive coat, then a "friendship" ring. Such gifts are in total violation of the strict rules of conduct demanded of unmarried young women, not to be overlooked by Darcy in loco parentis or by Regency Society.

    Multiple grades for KITTY: for interesting story line, reasonable introduced characters, and especially Kitty's voice as narrator (solid A); for lack of editing and inadequate revision (C).
     
  11. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE SILENCE OF THE SNAKES is the second book in Ruby Loren's Madigan Amos Zoo Mystery series of novellas. It was published in a five-book bundle in Kindle format in 2017.

    Madigan "Madi" Amos, former utility zookeeper at the Avery Zoo, is on her second consulting job as an animal welfare-breeding program expert at the Snidely Safari and Wildlife Park when she rescues the lion keeper incapacitated in the enclosure by a drug. That day, Lowell, the private detective from Penguins and Mortal Peril shows up at the park (special emphasis on reptiles and amphibians, particularly snakes--all venomous) unexpectedly "for a visit," he says. After closing hours, an agitated young man shows up with an ailing green mamba needing veterinary help, so he's come to the park. Madi promises to get a keeper to check Mr. Limey after the staff dinner marking the end of the summer season, during which she and Lowell witness Lord Snidely, the park's owner, and an unidentified guest experience sudden outbreaks like that of the lion keeper. When she and Lowell return, George Ashdown is missing, Mr. Limey hidden, and George's fianceé Jackie Bennet dead with a meat cleaver in her head. The next morning, Madi discovers Marie, Jackie's roommate, asleep in Madi's office, then £5,000 hidden in the false bottom of Mr. Limey's vivarium. So they can investigate on their own, she and Lowell withhold this information from the police, even though Marie confesses she and Jackie had sold snake venom (for drinking purposes) supplied by George. Subplots include the Serpentine Emerald, a "cursed" Snidely family jewel said to kill anyone trying to steal it and on-going events at the Avery Zoo.

    I'm giving up at 28 percent of THE SILENCE OF THE SNAKES. It manifests all the things that irk me in cozy mysteries. There is absolutely no justification for Madi and Lowell to withhold knowledge from the police about Marie and her activities or of the found cash. No one apparently tells the police about the sudden attacks, four in the space of two weeks. The police either miss Marie when they search the crime scene or ignore her presence in Madi's office overnight. Characterization is lacking. Only five characters to this point have full names; most are identified by their roles at the park. Naturally, they fall over themselves to volunteer information to Madi and Lowell, each of whom shows enough curiosity to make a sleeping sloth suspicious. I just can't take it.

    No grade because not finished. Series a bust for me.
     
  12. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    AN ESCAPE FROM LONDON is the third novella in Meg Osborne's Three Sisters from Hertfordshire series of sequels to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    Caroline Bingley lives in London with newlyweds Charles and Jane Bingley, discontent at no longer being mistress of her brother's household and increasingly desperate as her chances for marriage dwindle month by month. John Ashton, ne'er-do-well middle brother of Henry Ashton (engaged to Georgiana Darcy) and Robert Ashton (engaged to Mary Bennet) is in London, seeking friends who can assist him to a career in India and avoiding the temptations of alcohol and gambling. When he meets the Bingley party walking in St James Park, his luck changes for the better--learning their connections, Bingley invites Ashton to reside with them until his business is complete. Caroline is not best pleased because Ashton recognizes her plight, just as she recognizes his ploys. Can they come to a mutually beneficial arrangement?

    AN ESCAPE FROM LONDON is an enjoyable quick read, more new story using Austen characters than a true sequel, but well done. Canonical characters are reasonably faithful to the originals, and John Ashton is an attractive protagonist. An ex-Army officer, drinking and gambling, perhaps suffering from mild PTSD, at loose ends for gainful employment, he strikes out from his brothers in Derbyshire to make his way in the world. His change of habits is a bit too swift and too easy to be quite believable, but that's why it's called fiction. Likewise, Caroline's self-knowledge seems overdone, though it's gratifying to see that she does come to appreciate Jane's gentle nature. It's hard for me to see Caroline as ever deserving a happy ending. Meow!

    Editing is better than average for fan fiction. The biggest anachronism is a long conversation between Caroline and Ashton centering on a paraphrase of Blanche Dubois's famous line in Tennessee Williams's 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire: "...I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers." Worth the time. (B+)
     
  13. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    THE LONELIEST MAN IN THE WORLD is the third and final novella in Michael McDonnell's Inspector Dermot O'Hara series. The three-novella set was published as a digital omnibus in 2012.

    Almost a year after the events recounted in Banshee, Dermot O'Hara prepares his subordinates to testify in court against shoplifters Stephen Cosgrove and Cahal Maguire; he want a conviction as a means hopefully to straighten the young men out. When they are convicted, Maguire threatens to kill Judge Deidre Connelly. O'Hara receives an international arrest warrant for John Andrew Mitchell, aka Gordon Loake, wanted in Thailand for prison escape after conviction in the 1970s as a heroin trafficker. O'Hara's longtime friend, Loake, who had been notified of his ex-wife's death in Hong Kong, goes missing. Judge Connelly is shot but survives. With a new Assistant Commissioner taking command and under pressure from the Department of Justice and Equality for an immediate arrest in both cases, O'Hara's lot is not a happy one.

    This series is more about people than mystery, with distinctive characters. The whole seriesneeds to be read in order and in close enough proximity to remember details of personality. Despite its title (Loake reference to himself in hiding), THE LONELIEST MAN IN THE WORLD centers around Peter Foley and, through O'Hara's meditations on his friendship with Loake, relationships.

    Characters are firmly grounded in place and time: "...[Peter Foley] strode up the green lane, overgrown with dock leaves and nettles. Further up on the hill, where green vegetation gave way to bracken and whin, he leaned against the gate dividing the lower path from the one that led up the mountain onto the bog. Far above, the mountain watched over him, its strength helping him recover his own. Turning round, he looked down across the gentle patchwork of green fields and hedgerow, land that his parents would have known well, hardly changed since their day. Beyond he took in the sweep of the bay and realized they were all a part of this; he and Nic, his parents, those gone before and those yet to come, we all joined in kinship and place across the years." THE LONELIEST MAN IN THE WORLD (A); series (B)
     
  14. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    WHERE THERE'S A FITZWILLIAM DARCY, THERE'S A WAY is Regina Jeffers's latest to date variant on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It was published in digital format in 2018.

    FitzWilliam Darcy (Jeffers's spelling) has just handed Elizabeth Bennet his letter of explanation when they are interrupted by an express from Mary Bennet. Thomas Bennet died suddenly of a heart attack, and she is much needed at Longbourn to help deal with the business arrangements to transfer the property to William Collins and the immediate future for the Bennet women. Lady Catherine de Bourgh, eager to arrange things and to minimize her own exertion, bargains with Darcy that, if he will travel to Hertfordshire as Collins's agent to inventory the personal property included under the entail and evaluate the estate, she will provide Anne with a proper Season in London and give up demands that he marry his cousin. For his cousin, and because he hopes to assist Elizabeth and to improve her impression of him, Darcy agrees. The Longbourn situation is bleak. Bennet's latest will is missing, as are business papers, but there is a reference to a mysterious property previously owned by Mrs. Bennet's great-grandmother Eugenia Rose Sommers Gardiner set up in a trust to provide independence for her female descendants without male support. But the details are missing, there's a mysterious new man of business in London unknown to Edward Gardiner and Mr. Phillips, and Bennet's created a treasure hunt for the needed information. Even if found in time, will the demands of the Gardiner trust mean separation for Darcy and Elizabeth, perhaps forever?

    I like WHERE THERE'S A FITZWILLIAM DRCY, THERE'S A WAY. Characters are reasonably faithful to the originals. Both Jane and Mary Bennet are strengthened, and I particularly like that Mary, fed up with Lydia's selfish, scandalous behavior, smacks her face to stop it. I can't believe that Lydia turns into a bluestocking. Wickham gets his just deserts, while Bingley caves to his sisters' ambition and his own impulsivity. It's a comfortable read, because it's clear from the beginning that Darcy will work things out. The exposition dealing with the Gardiner trust sits like a sodden lump, its exact provisions sill unclear after several readings.

    My big problem is with Thomas Bennet's dividing up and hiding in various places, pieces of information essential to protecting his family's interests when he dies. Done at the time of Collins's visit, Bennet clearly had the succession in mind, so it simply doesn't make sense that he'd deliberately construct a conundrum for his grieving daughters. The explanation that he meant it as a diversion for them is absurd. Otherwise, WHERE THERE'S A FITZWILLIAM DARCY, THERE'S A WAY is a decent read. (B)
     
  15. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    MR. BRADING'S COLLECTION is one of Patricia Wentworth's long-running mystery series featuring Miss Maud Silver. Originally published in 1952, it was reissued in digital format in 2011.

    Lewis Brading collects jewels connected with murders. Uneasy, thinking that he's been drugged and unauthorized persons admitted to the special annex housing the collection and sleeping quarters for himself and his secretary James Moberly, he consults Miss Silver. His using blackmail to hold Moberly on the job leads her to warn him of his danger and to decline the case. In expectation of marrying glamorous divorcée Maida Robinson, Brading executes a will leaving the collection and estate to her, disinheriting his cousin Charles Forrest. The day after Brading exhibits the collection to family and friends, he's found shot to death in a clumsily staged suicide scenario, the will burnt, and Charles Forrest the chief suspect. Fortunately, Brading had written Miss Silver asking her to reconsider taking his case and his executor Charles Forrest telling him to call in Miss Silver if anything happens.

    The Miss Silver mysteries are a comfort read for me, a known quality but with enough variation in plot to counteract the familiar elements, one of which is always a chaste romance. In MR. BRADING'S COLLECTION, the love interest is between Charles Forrest and his wife Stacy Mainwaring, divorced for three years, neither over their relationship. In MR. BRADING'S COLLECTION, Miss Silver helps Ledshire Chief Constable Randal March, an ex-pupil who holds his former governess in great regard, and terrier-like Inspector Crisp. Other characters are standard but vivid: exuberant, vulgar Myra Constantine, dweebish daughter Hester, social-climbing daughter Lady Minstrell, downtrodden secretary Moberly, would-be "other woman" Lilias Grey, Army chum Jack Constable.

    The plot depends on precision timing of the murder and on witnesses' lying to the police, both kept within believable limits. My only caveat involves Stacy Mainwaring's willingness to believe the worst of Forrest and to walk out of their marriage without telling him why. I presume it part of the British mid-century middle class obsession with respectability.

    MR. BRADING'S COLLECTION is a satisfying read. (B)
     
  16. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

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    GEORGIANA DARCY is Alice Isakova's sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, beginning some few months after the marriage of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. It is available in digital format.

    The plot takes Georgiana Darcy through her seventeenth year as she prepares to be introduced to London Society and the marriage market. With Darcy absence for estate business in Scotland, Georgiana and Elizabeth attend a house party at Kleistringham House, near Rosings in Kent, where Georgiana meets three potential suitors: Reverend Thomas Grey, curate succeeding the deceased Collins at Hunsford; Sir Mathew Leigh, wealthy, handsome Cheshire estate owner; and John Villiers, Eton and Oxford, scion of wealthy tradesmen. She accepts a proposal of marriage from one who proves unworthy, Following the house party, Georgiana visits Bath with Jane and Charles Bingley, where she meets Mr. Grey, now living with relatives Lord and Lady Edgerton, and barrister Michael Brydges, claimant to the Chandos barony. Will she ever find true love with a good man?

    Somehow, there is little sense of connection between the major characters in GEORGIANA DARCY. Elizabeth, her chaperone at Kleistringham, seems oblivious to Georgiana's growing attraction to her suitor, making no attempt to learn the man's antecedents and circumstances, then blithely within a matter of days, leaving Jane to deal with Georgiana's supposedly-broken heart. To have been so devastated by Wickham's deception, Georgiana's feelings about a second betrayal seem flat. There's no sense of chemistry between her and any of her suitors. Darcy and Elizabeth play no significant role.

    The plot is slice of life, with little external conflict shown directly. The first third or more is misleading. Set up as an older version of Lydia, Kitty Bennet resides permanently with the Darcys, where she feels entitled, kvetches, and moans about mistreatment. She then disappears until the falling action. Likewise, Ann de Bourgh meets a well-educated and honorable man whom she marries secretly to prevent her mother's interference; their courtship is tepid at best. After Lady Catherine discovers their marriage (on the day it happened--big secret!), they also disappear from the story until the epilogue. Better to have omitted the extended introduction of Kitty and Anne than to develop, then abandon, interesting possible subplots. As is, length exceeds the dramatic action.

    Two problems. One is the anachronistic attitudes about women's obedience to family and husband, medical practices, chaperonage and appropriate behavior of unmarried women, and the dignity of all labor. Modern attitudes for the major characters contrast sharply with those of the Regency period. Grace Brydges's attitude when she borrows Georgiana's jewelry for her wedding echoes Madame Mathilde Loisel's choosingMadame Forestier's diamond necklace in Guy de Mauppasant's 1884 short story "The Necklace."

    GEORGIANA DARCY reads well. It's just that it's seen through a glass darkly, not face to face. (B)
     

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