Monday, September 23, 2013

The Lady’s Maid by Dilly Court

The Lady’s Maid is a great story of friendship and of romance. 

 The story starts with two unwed young mothers in the 19th century.  Both are forced to give up their babies due to circumstances.  One of the babies born to a Gypsy mother and aristocratic father becomes Josephine (Josie), the daughter of a Baronet.  The other, Kate, the daughter of an aristocratic mother and soldier father, becomes the daughter of a servant.  The two grow up as fast friends.  As young women, they both discover they are in love with men unsuitable for their station in life and that life isn’t easy for a single woman.

I love how very different the two women were and how it was very hard at that time to make a living without marriage.  I loved their friendship, although Josie’s unfeeling treatment of her friend often made me want to reach into the pages and smack her. The story was interesting and kept me wondering what was going to happen next.  It was the perfect book for the start of fall and left me wanting to read more Dilly Court novels.

I reviewed this book as part of the TLC Book Tour.  For more information on the tour, check out this site.

This novel is available as an e-book in the United States

The Never List by Koethi Zan

Title: The Never List
Author: Koethi Zan
Read by: Kristin Sieh
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Length: Approximately 8.5 hours (7 CDs)
Source: Penguin Audio Review Copy – Thank-you!

I don’t think I will be able to sleep again after listening to The Never List.  The Never List is a great suspense story that seemed ripped from today’s headlines.  That feeling was actually an accident as this book was written before the real-life rescue of the three kidnapping victims (Michelle Knight, Gina Dejesus, and Amanda Berry) in Cleveland.

In The Never List, it has been ten years since Sarah escaped from her captivity in the basement of a madman.  She was able to lead to the rescue of two other women from the basement, but her childhood best friend, Jennifer, was killed before the rescue and her body has never been recovered.  Now afraid that her kidnapper will be released during parole, and wanting to discover where Jennifer was buried, Sarah starts on a journey to find the truth.  At this point in her life, Sarah lives basically alone in an apartment in New York and rarely ventures outside.  It is a monumental undertaking for her to start this journey.  She discovers that once she starts, the mystery is far deeper and far reaching then she could have ever imagined. 

The suspense in this book was great and kept me on the edge.  It was fantastic for making my journey to and from work seemingly sped by.  Kristen Sieh was a great narrator and did fantastic voices for the characters.  Overall, if you are looking for a great tail that will give you the shivers as we move towards Halloween, I highly recommend this novel.

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory

 Title: The White Princess
Author: Philippa Gregory
Read by: Bianca Amato
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: Approximately 18.5 hours (15 CDs)
Source: Simon & Schuster Review Copy – Thank-you!

If you have noticed, since school has gotten back into session, my reviews have diminished greatly.  I’m trying to get the second year of my program (new classes – new lab!) off the ground and things are quite hectic involving me working seven days a week.

Therefore, I’m going to try to do some brief reviews just to keep myself somewhat caught up on reviews. 

I enjoyed listening to The White Princess.  I am particularly fascinated by the War of the Roses, and The White Princess is the story of Elizabeth of York and her marriage to Henry Tudor that effectively ended the War of the Roses and created a new ruling house, the Tudors.  In this novel, Elizabeth pines away with love for her deceased Uncle Richard and is forced to marry Henry.  She despises him at first, but grows to love him over time.  Elizabeth was always a second fiddle in the Tudor court after Henry’s mother, Margaret, but she endures.

While I enjoyed this story, I grew weary of some of the repetitiveness of the story, especially Elizabeth lamenting the death of her lover, her Uncle Richard.  I was actually disgusted by this and felt no sympathy at all towards her.  I also thought it was strange that she and her mother hoped for a Yorkist prince to return and overthrow Henry.  At that point, Elizabeth’s own children were in line for the throne – why would you want to displace your own children?  It didn’t add up.

I thought that Bianca Amato was a great narrator and also enjoyed the medieval music that was played during breaks in the audiobook.  Overall, The White Princess was another enjoyable light historical fiction from Philippa Gregory.

Bridget Jones’s Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding

To celebrate the bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice with Austenprose, I chose to reread Bridget Jones’s Diary and Bridget Jones:  The Edge of Reason.  I also thought it was timely as I am greatly looking forward to Bridget Jones:  Mad About the Boy being released in October.

I’ll admit that when I first read the two books, I was a Singleton and related too much of the material.  My life as a married mother of three is far different now, but I still found the two books to be hilarious.  I love that Bridget is a relatable woman and I also love how Bridget Jones’s Diary is a modern take on Pride and Prejudice, while Edge of Reason is a modern take on Persuasion.

In Bridget Jones’s diary, Bridget navigates the waters of life and love as a single British woman in her thirties.  Her witticisms and observations on life are quite hilarious.  Bridget at first falls for her boss, the dastardly Daniel Cleaver, but also has a love/hate relationship with the handsome haughty lawyer, Mark Darcy.

Some of my favorite passages are when Bridget relates to Pride and Prejudice:

“It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party.  It’s like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting, “Cathy” and banging your head against a tree.”

“That is precisely my feeling about Darcy and Elizabeth.  They are my chosen representatives in the field of shagging, or rather, courtship.  I do not, however, wish to see any actual goals.  I would hate to see Darcy and Elizabeth in bed, smoking a cigarette afterwards.  That would be unnatural and wrong and I would quickly lose interest.”

Overall, I loved reading Bridget Jones’s diary again and it really makes me want to watch the movie again.  Bridget Jones:  The Edge of Reason is a good sequel, and so much better than the movie version. I remember watching the movie at the theatre incensed that they totally blew the Persuasion theme of the novel.  In The Edge of Reason, Bridget is back and in a functional relationship with Mark Darcy.  Under the persuasion of self-help manuals and her friends, she is sure that something is wrong with her relationship and soon the two are divided.  Like Captain Wentworth and Anne, Darcy and Bridget move on, but can’t forget each other.

One of my favorite scenes is when Bridget interviews Colin Firth.  She is supposed to ask him about his new movie, but all she can talk about is his portrayal of a wet shirted Darcy.  Classic.

Both novels are well worth checking out for their humor and for their Austen moments.

Book Source:  My personal library.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Best of Daughters by Dilly Court

I have found a new favorite author – Dilly Court. Dilly Court is an English novelist who writes wonderful romantic historic fiction. I read The Best of Daughters while we were camping over Labor Day weekend and I loved it!

If you are a fan of Downton Abbey, like me, you will appreciate the setting of The Best of Daughters. Daisy Lennox is the daughter of a well to do stock broker growing up in Edwardian England. She is rich, beautiful, and privileged, but she wants more out of life. She joins the suffragette movement to fight for woman’s rights, but she finds her world soon crashing down when her father’s business partner leaves the country with all of the firm’s money.

Daisy seeks to reinvent herself in the country and finds herself physically attracted to Bowman, the mechanic that is fixing her father’s car. She also finds that the entire neighborhood is under Bowman’s spell. Daisy’s mother’s dream is that Daisy will marry her childhood friend, Rupert. While Rupert is wonderful and attractive, Daisy finds herself wishing for the spark that she finds with Bowman. WWI soon intervenes and Daisy finds herself making hard choices, but also doing the best that she can for her friends and her family.

I loved the twists and turns that the novel took with the fate of Daisy and her friends and family. I had a very hard time putting this book down, I’m just glad it was a vacation weekend. I loved the romance, but I really loved the setting and the hard realities that WWI put everyone through. Having Daisy as a nurse on the front experiencing it first hand was a wonderful narrative, but it was also sad to read at times. As WWI drifts further back in time, it’s easy to forget the horror that it really was.

I read The Best of Daughters as part of the TLC book tour. For more on this book and The Lady’s Maid check out the TLC website.

Unfortunately, you cannot buy a hardcover copy of Dilly Court’s books in the United States. The good news is that you can purchase eBooks of her novels at the following site:

Great British Reads: Historical and Contemporary eBooks from across the pond:

After Her by Joyce Maynard

 “A little over thirty years ago, on a June day just before sunset – alone on a mountain In Marin County, California – a man came toward me with a length of piano wire stretched between his hands and the intention of ending my days. I was fourteen years old, and many others had already died at his hands. Ever since then, I have known what it is to look into a man’s eyes and believe his face is the last thing you will ever see.

I have my sister to thank that I am here to tell what happened that day. Two times, it was my sister who saved me, though I was not able to do the same for my sister.

This is our story.”

Wow – what a fantastic opening!! This opening of After Her by Joyce Maynard instantly drew me into the novel. I read through this novel in record speed and was entranced. Rachel and her sister Patty are the closest of sisters growing up in the 1970’s. Their beloved father left them and their mother for another woman. Their mother was never really able to cope after that and immersed herself in her books and basically left the girls to raise themselves.

In the summer of 1979, the girls are riveted by the story of the sunset strangler, a killer of women that is lurking in the mountains right behind their Marin County California home. Their father is the lead detective on the case and they suddenly find they have notoriety at school. When their father has trouble catching the killer, the two girls decide to help him on the case, thereby putting themselves in harms away.

The ending of this book took a quite different direction than I thought. The book was wonderfully written, but the ending seemed rather loose. This could be because the beginning of the book sets you up for one type of ending, but you get a different ending and I felt slightly cheated. This aside, I loved the mystery and suspense of the novel, but I also loved the story of the two sisters. I had a sister two years younger than myself and we grew up playing in the woods behind our home. It was the 1980’s rather than the 1970’s, but I could relate to much of the novel. Maynard revels in the freedom the two girls have and points out how it is better than today when children are so closely monitored. On one hand, I agree, but on the other hand, I admit I felt bad for the girls that they had no parent that watched their activities and cared at all. I don’t think that is a great childhood either.

Overall, even though the ending wasn’t what I expected, I loved the great writing, characters, and suspenseful story. I also enjoyed The Good Daughters by Maynard, she is a wonderful author.

Book Source: Advance Review Copy from William Morrow. Thank-you!