Archive for August, 2009

Vampire Academy – Book Review

va_cover

by Richelle Mead

ISBN: 9781595141743

Published: 2007

www.richellemead.com

I knew nothing about this series when I picked up Vampire Academy and admit I only bought it because I’m fascinated with the popularity of these beasties.

What is it about vampires that makes them so irresistible.  I guess it has something to do with the intimacy of the attack.  The victims never seem to be flailing in pain or screaming.  They are seduced by said beastie and willingly present their necks to be drained of their precious liqueur.

Richelle Mead’s vampires possess all the necessary traits to make them irresistible.  She also provides us with two different types of vampire.  The Moroi are peaceful, don’t kill and are, unusually, alive.  The Strigoi are the dark to the Moroi’s light, they take pleasure in killing and are actually dead.   The Strigoi are Moroi gone bad.

A Moroi becomes Strigoi if they drink till they bring on the death of their victim or feeder.  The Strigoi are much stronger than Moroi and are a great threat to them.   Moroi blood sustains the Strigoi better than any other but the Moroi can also be made into Strigoi forcibly.  Given this threat, the Moroi have guardians to help keep them safe.  The guardians are called Dhampir and are offspring of Moroi + Humans or Moroi + Dhampir or Dhampir + Human (confused?).  They are not vampires but possess heightened senses and strength.  Both Moroi and Dhampir are schooled at academies and this is where Richelle Mead bases her story.

Rose Hathaway is Dhampir and guardian to her best friend Lissa Dragomir.  Lissa is a Moroi princess and the last of her family.  2 years ago the girls had to flee St Vladimir’s Academy as it was no longer safe there for Lissa.  It seems Strigoi are not the only danger to Lissa.  Not knowing who to trust, they asked no-one for help, kept moving and evaded capture – until now.  They are returned to the Academy to finish their schooling under strict supervision.  The blame falls on Rose for Lissa’s kidnapping, she is put on probation, given extra training and confined when not training.

Lissa is still in danger and Rose still doesn’t know from where or from whom.  Not being close to Lissa is a problem but her and Rose share an unusual and secret bond that allows Rose to monitor what Lissa is feeling.  There is one danger Rose is certain off  and that is the danger of Lissa to herself.

Rose has to somehow, keep Lissa safe, complete her training so she will be officially given guardianship of Lissa after graduation, repair her reputation and not fall in love with her instructor.

I enjoyed this book despite being very irritated by the main character Rose.  The characters are teenagers but the angst, tantrums and drama was a bit much for me.  I’m aware they have an excuse as their brain lobes are disconnecting from each other at that age but the adult characters were far too forgiving.  Maybe I’m being too harsh – I’m so happy to be a grown up that it’s not easy being back in a teenage world.  Vampire Academy wasn’t as exciting as I hoped for but still entertaining.  I can’t say I loved the book but I must have like it because I picked up the next one straight away and am happy to read the whole series.   If you are into vampire fantasy then I’m sure you will like it too.

Posted on 27 August '09 by , under Paranormal Fantasy, Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy, Young Adult. 3 Comments.

Everything Austen Challenge Task 10

emma

Emma 1996 Movie

Every time I watch this movie I am struck by how well Gwyneth Paltrow portrays Emma and all her foibles.

1996 gave us two adaptations of Emma – one for cinema and one for TV and I have to admit to admiring them both equally.  I can’t separate them.

Having said that, I may have a tiny preference for this one for reasons of loyalty to fellow aussies Toni Collette and Greta Scacchi.

Gwyneth’s Emma is lovely and sweet.  A little different from the novel, where you take longer to warm to her.

Emma can do no wrong in the eyes of those around her and becomes self-important, considering herself queen of her domain.  She thinks she knows what is best for all those around her but as she arranges her players she soon learns the error of her judgement.  She learns the difference between true kindness and condescending to be kind.

The acting is wonderful and sure, each convincing in their characters.  Even those in love with Ewan McGregor will want to slap his face.  One of my favourite characters in Emma is  Jane Fairfax and I thought Polly Walker was mesmerising.

Overall a lovely adaptation of Austen’s Emma.

Posted on 24 August '09 by , under Jane Austen & Austen Inspired. 3 Comments.

Perfume – The Story of a Murderer – Book Review

perfume

By Patrick Suskind

ISBN-13: 9780140120837

ISBN-10:  0140120831

First Published: 1989

I can’t believe I’m using the word ‘delight’ to describe a book about a murderer but I have to. Patrick Suskind has written a really unusual book and takes us on a journey that is full of … well… smells.

Perfume is based in 18th century France and focuses on Jean-Baptiste Grenouille’s education in the alchemy of perfume making. He is a very unique character and is distinctly set apart from the society which worships the magic of perfume. Grenouille is blessed or cursed with an extraordinary sense of smell and his obsession with obtaining the most powerful scent in existence, costs him his sanity and morality. Nothing is more important than the ‘scent’ and he will do anything to obtain it including murder.

I found myself so immersed in this character that I easily accepted his behaviour as reasonable. The magic of perfume making is so engaging or intoxicating that I hardly remember there was murder. I loved this book so much and would recommend it to anyone for the unique experience is offers but it possibly requires a strong stomach.

Posted on 23 August '09 by , under Historical Fiction, Reviews. 8 Comments.

Year of Wonders – A Novel of the Plague – Book Review

YearofWonders

by Geraldine Brooks

ISBN-10: 0142001430
ISBN-13: 978-0142001431

I have listed this book on more top 100 book lists than I can remember.

Geraldine Brooks swept me away to 17th century England with her fictional drama inspired by the true events of 1665 in the village of Eyam in Derbyshire.  Eyam took the revolutionary step of quarantining itself when the black plague arrived in the village.

The story follows the struggles of Anna Frith during that year of isolation.  She endured the deaths of her family, the decent of her community into hysteria and the temptation of a forbidden relationship.

I love a book that stimulates thought and a desire to research a subject further. The village of Eyam has since been referred to as ‘The Plague Village’ and from those events of 1665 has secured itself a unique position in current society. Many of the descendants of the survivors of that time have now a gene Delta 32 that protects them from the plague and although research is still ongoing, it appears may also have an immunity to HIV/AIDS.

Geraldine Brooks’s story is penetrating and after closing the book I let out an audible ‘Wow’.

Posted on 23 August '09 by , under Historical Fiction, Reviews. No Comments.

Colonel Brandon’s Diary – Book Review

Colonel Brandon's Diary

by Amanda Grange

ISBN: 9780709086161

Published: 2008

www.amandagrange.com

Another treasure from Amanda Grange.  I am well on my way to a new author crush.  I love these books about the Austen men.  Jane Austen never gave us any scenes that involved just men.  She had never observed men without the influence of women in the room, so therefore didn’t write about them.  I’m so glad Amanda Grange did.

This diary spans a time of 20 years unlike Darcy’s Diary which was just 2.  Colonel James Brandon’s character, when entering Sense and Sensibility is obviously still very affected by his tragic past.  This diary gives us some insight into that past and how the Colonel became the outstanding man that he is.

It outlines his troubled relationship with his family and the devotion to his first love.  His first love Eliza, a ward to his father, is forced to marry Brandon’s brother, the heir of the Brandon estate.  His brother is selfish, cruel and indulgent and while James is abroad, Eliza is cast out by his brother.

When he returns to England, he is now Colonel Brandon.  He seeks out Eliza and finds her dying and with a child.   The Colonel cares for Eliza in her last days and takes on little Eliza as his ward.  He raises Eliza as best a single man can.  She is as romantic and headstrong as her mother was and he indulges her too much.  Eliza is allowed on a holiday with a school friend and her father to Bath.  While in Bath she disappears.  Brandon searches for her in vain and after several months is losing hope of recovering her.

During this time, he is introduced to a family, recently moved into Barton cottage, owned by his friend, Sir John Middleton and on his estate, Barton Park.  Mrs Dashwood has lost her husband and the Dashwood estate was passed down to his son by his first marriage John Dashwood.  John Dashwood offers no assistance to his stepmother and 3 stepsisters who are forced to accept the charity of their cousin, Sir Middleton.

From his first meeting Miss Marianne Dashwood, he is taken with her spirit and beauty. For the first time since Eliza, he has feelings for a woman again.   Unfortunately, Miss Marianne does not believe in 2nd attachments and is also very much in love with a much younger man, the dashing John Willoughby.

Another beautiful book by Amanda Grange.  It is wonderful to spend more time with the characters from Jane Austen’s books.  So often, I have finished her books and wished I could spend more time with the people she wrote.

Posted on 21 August '09 by , under Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Reviews. 6 Comments.

Darcy’s Diary – Book Review

darcysdiary

by Amanda Grange

ISBN: 0709078609

Published: 2005

www.amandagrange.com

I’m glad Amanda Grange has written quite a few Austen inspired novels because I’ve not had my fill of her!

Discovering more about Fitzwilliam Darcy through his diary entries gives the book a personal, intimate touch.  We know so little about the Austen men because her books only involve them as they related to her female characters.  Amanda Grange has done a wonderful job of presenting Darcy and I am just as in love with him as Elizabeth Bennet.

The diary spans a time of just under 2 years.  Darcy is a single man of great fortune and is satisfied with his life.  His valuable time is spent caring for his sister Georgiana, running his estate, Pemberley and maintaining suitable connections.  When Darcy decides to surprise his sister by joining her at the seaside, he is horrified to discover that she was about to elope.  Her seducer was someone he intimately knew and despised, George Wickham.  Wickham was only after his sister’s fortune but had convinced her that they were in love.  Darcy was lucky to have arrived in time to save his sister from ruin.  After seeing Georgiana safe again, Darcy meets with his friend Charles Bingley to help him find a home to lease for himself.

Bingley’s choice is a grand home in Hertfordshire and settles at Netherfield.  It is here that Bingley and Darcy meet the Bennet sisters.  Despite her unfortunate connections Darcy finds himself drawn to the feisty Elizabeth Bennet, who it seems has been sent to test him.

From here Amanda Grange  treats us to the familiar scenes from Pride and Prejudice but told from Fitzwilliam Darcy’s point of view.

What a wonderful book is Darcy’s Diary.  I enjoyed it so much I’ve added to my bedside table Colonel Brandon’s Diary, Edmund Bertram’s Diary and Mr Knightley’s Diary.

Thank you Amanda Grange.

Posted on 21 August '09 by , under Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Reviews. 2 Comments.

The Zombie Chicken Award

Zombie Chicken Award
I can’t believe the lovely Heather from Gofita’s Pages considered my blog deserving of a Zombie Chicken Award.  I’m clucking and drooling with delight… thank you Heather.  Heather has also just given her blog a makeover and it looks fantastic.  The details of the award are as follows and then on to my choice of deserving blogs.
The Details:

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken – excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all.

and the awards go to…..

1.  Kat at the Book Thingo – such a romantic but she’ll kick butt when she has to.  I spend loads of time browsing her blogworld.

2.  Michelle at Galleysmith – a terrific blog and a girl who I’m sure never sleeps, might explain her crush on True Blood!

3.  Stephanie at The Written Word – who by hosting the Everything Austen Challenge has given me great pleasure and a means for getting my Austen reviews written!

4.  April at Cafe of Dreams – for whose dedication and enthusiasm for book blogging is infectious.

5.  Clare from My Pride and Prejudice - who has gathered together the most extensive ‘all things Pride and Prejudice’ this Austen fan has seen!  She, also like me, has an obliging husband who with good grace puts up with our Austen obsession.

Posted on 21 August '09 by , under Awards. 3 Comments.

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen – Book Review

lostmemoirsjaneausten

by Syrie James

ISBN: 978-0-06-134142-7

Published: 2008

I am scrambling now to read a Jane Austen biography, to remind myself that this tale of her life is fictional.  I wish so much that it were true.  The content of her work feels so real to me, that I truly believe, some must have been actually witnessed by herself.  Given my belief, I easily fell into this lovely FICTIONAL memoir of Jane Austen.

A chest, bricked into a manor house attic, is discovered during repair work.  The contents of the chest, manuscripts and a ruby ring, prove to be fantastic as they are memoirs written by Jane Austen.  Written in the last years of her life, they relate events involving herself and a gentleman she meets at Lyme, Mr Frederick Ashford.

The charming Mr Ashford inspires feelings and expectation in Jane that she had long since stopped hoping for.  They meet only briefly and rarely but are both effected by the deepest of connections. Their acquaintance  inspires Jane to pick up her pen again, not having written for 10years and she revisits her beloved novel Sense and Sensibility.  Having always had to imagine the feelings of a woman in love, now she can write with authority on the subject and it brings truth to her characters.

I loved this book and after returning it to the library will be purchasing a copy for my Austen collection.  Blending real facts with the imagined gives this book a feeling of truth and you will have to keep reminding yourself that it is a story only.  If you don’t like the assumptions made by books narrated by true historical figures, then this isn’t for you.  I felt very comfortable with the way Syrie James presented Jane and felt she was true to the woman who shared so much of herself through her books.

Posted on 17 August '09 by , under Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Reviews. 7 Comments.

Everything Austen Challenge Task 6

I wasn’t going to include this as a task but have since changed my mind -

I had read Pride and Prejudice again just before I joined the challenge so I’m hoping I can get away with adding this review as a task.

I wrote my review at the end of July and click here to read it.

Hope you like it.

Posted on 13 August '09 by , under Jane Austen & Austen Inspired. No Comments.

The Man Who Loved Jane Austen – Book Review

themanwholovedjaneausten

by Sally Smith O’Rourke

ISBN-13: 9780758210388

(Re-Print) Published: January 2009

First Published: April 2006

I was feeling pretty ordinary this week, so decided to self-medicate with a nice romance novel and to kill two birds with one stone, I chose a Jane Austen inspired book for the Everything Austen Challenge.  I’m so glad I picked this book up from the library, it was like soaking in a warm bath and was just what I needed.  Sally Smith O’Rourke has written a lovely, uncomplicated fantasy romance.

Eliza Knight is an artist from New York and is looking to add a standard lamp to her unit decor.  Her shopping trip results, like so many good shopping trips do, with no lamp but her bringing home a beautiful 200 year old antique vanity for her bedroom.   While inspecting some damage on the vanity, she moves the wood backing and two letters fall out.

One letter was sealed but the other was open and reads:

“May 12th 1810.  Dearest Jane, the Captain has found me out.  I am being forced to go into hiding immediately.  But if I am able, I shall still be waiting at the same spot tonight.  Then you will know everything you wish to know. F. Darcy.”

The unopened letter was addressed “Jane Austen – Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Chawton Great House.”

Could the letters be real?  Was Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice a real man?

The letters are found to be authentic, so Eliza is now the owner of, not only two Jane Austen letters but also her bedroom vanity.  Being the owner of these items is not enough for Eliza, she has to discover more about the real Fitzwilliam Darcy.  Why is he a mystery? Why is there no mention of him in history?  Were he and Jane Austen lovers? Why did Jane Austen’s family destroy so many of her personal letters after her death? Eliza determines to find answers to these questions and her life is forever changed by the attempt.

Let this book pamper you and take you on a lovely journey into Jane Austen’s time.  The story moves along at a pleasant pace and I never felt the need to skip ahead.  It is not a book that I would want to pick apart and look at the details too closely.  I simply accepted the characters as presented and was comfortable with the way Jane and Darcy were depicted.  The Man Who Loved Jane Austen is a peaceful book and was just the presciption I needed for my maladies.

Posted on 13 August '09 by , under Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Reviews, Romance. 1 Comment.