Monday, April 20, 2015

The Bad Miss Bennet by Jean Burnett

Posted by Rebecca Brendel

Reviewed by: Becky Brendel

What I Read: The Bad Miss Bennet by Jean Burnett

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: After her husband's death in the Battle of Waterloo, Lydia Wickham (of Pride & Prejudice infamy) determines to make her own way in the world instead of obeying her stuffy brother-in-law, Mr. Darcy. Misadventures dog her heels across the European continent, however, as she finds herself entangled in a matter of international diplomacy - and encounters a singularly attractive, if roguish, highwayman.

What I Thought: Aside from matching Lydia's narrative style to the way she speaks in the original Pride & Prejudice, Burnett chooses to put her own spin on this unofficial "sequel": Lydia tells the story in first person, gets up to all sorts of explicit romantic misadventures, and spends as little time as possible with the original Pride & Prejudice cast. This works in Burnett's favor, since of the rest of the cast, only Darcy ends up sounding remotely like himself - as seen through Lydia's eyes, granted, which makes for some of the most humorous scenes in the book. Burnett even manages to parody the infamous "pond scene" from the A&E miniseries; the reference was self-indulgent, but I laughed anyway.

The plot itself resembles one of the "sensation" novels Lydia loves so much (likely on purpose - a nice way to nod to the period while matching the plot to its heroine's character). Lydia falls victim to a highwayman's charms, is embroiled in the theft of some royal jewels, nearly ends up a "kept woman", and remains blissfully unaware that her attempts to live "independently" really just put her at the beck and call of others. The book even reads like a serial novel, with several standalone episodes taking Lydia all over both England and Europe before loosely wrapping up towards the end. Since so many of these escapades were predictable, however, I can't honestly say I read this book for the plot.

Lydia herself, though, makes a wonderful storyteller. She's sprightly and honest with herself about what she wants (especially when those priorities are shallow); she just has no idea how to go about getting it without also getting into trouble. But because her perspective is unique and unreliable, she makes an engaging first-person narrator. Lydia may never learn from her mistakes, and I wouldn't want to be her friend - but I'd happily listen to her tell stories at parties.

Readalikes: Anything by Georgette Heyer, for more Regency-era romance; Longbourn by Jo Baker, for a much bleaker take on the Pride & Prejudice story. (And Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James, if you just can't get enough of stories where Wickham dies.)

Or look this book up on NoveList!


Friday, April 10, 2015

Queen of the Dark Things by C. Robert Cargill

Posted by Rebecca Brendel

Reviewed by: Andrew Zollman

What I ReadQueen of the Dark Things by C. Robert Cargill

Find It @YCLD: Here! 

What It's About: Screenwriter and noted film critic C. Robert Cargill continues the story begun in his acclaimed debut Dreams and Shadows in this bold and brilliantly crafted tale involving fairies and humans, magic and monsters -- a vivid phantasmagoria that combines the imaginative wonders of Neil Gaiman, the visual inventiveness of Guillermo del Toro, and the shocking miasma of William S. Burroughs. Six months have passed since the wizard Colby lost his best friend to an army of fairies from the Limestone Kingdom, a realm of mystery and darkness beyond our own. But in vanquishing these creatures and banning them from Austin, Colby sacrificed the anonymity that protected him. Now word of his deeds has spread, and powerful enemies from the past--including one Colby considered a friend--have resurfaced to exact their revenge. As darkness gathers around the city and time runs out, Colby has to turn to forces even darker than those he once battled for aid. C. Robert Cargill takes us deeper into an extraordinary universe of darkness and wonder, despair and hope to reveal the magic and monsters around us . . . and inside us.

What I Thought: C. Robert Cargill is all about the story and the characters. Although most of his creations aren’t perfect, it’s the defects and difficulties in their lives that he highlights to make them special. Colby’s character never really had a childhood like anyone else. He never quite fit in, and always shut himself away in a book rather than to deal with humanity and everyone outside his bookstore.

I liked that the author made him into a strong but subtle character with a deep intellect and understanding of his surroundings and the people he meets. The story traveled to far off lands and still hit close to home for each character and their own personal conflicts. I strongly urge you to read Dreams and Shadows  before this book. Even though they are separate novels you will have a greater respect for Colby and his outlook on life and the scary things he has seen in his travels.

Readalikes: Shaman's Crossing by Robin Hobb

Or look this book up on NoveList!