Pub: Jan 2013
A modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic novel, in which two sisters deal with the ups and downs of love.
“Sometimes,” she said loftily, “it is only a matter of recognition. Time means nothing. Nothing at all.”
Fans of modern-day retellings, here’s another one to check out! Trollope’s book based on Austen’s novel of the same name is probably one of the closer retellings that I’ve seen. Having just read the original, it was easy to see how nearly every scene lined up with one in the original, and nearly every conversation and turn of events was worked into the new story. Among the biggest differences — Marianne has asthma (thus her frequent illnesses), Margaret has more a personality of her own, and the antagonist (I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t read it) is involved in drugs.
Also among the differences was more angst — or perhaps it’s just more recognizable as angst in modern form. Whatever the case, I didn’t feel nearly as sympathetic towards Marianne or Elinor in this version than in the original, mostly because I got a little sick of them pinning all their hopes and dreams on the men in their lives. In Austen’s time, reliance on men and their money made sense due to the way their society was set up, but in modern times, it just made them look a bit pathetic. If anything, it creates an interesting comparison between how the interminglings of love, marriage, family, and finances have changed in the last two hundred years.
3 of 5 stars
Two sisters with differing sensibilities experience the ups and downs of love and loss during an era where wealth and connections played an important role in determining a good match.
Mrs. Jennings was a widow, with an ample jointure. She had only two daughters, both of whom she had lived to see respectably married, and she had now therefore nothing to do but to marry all the rest of the world
Sense and Sensibility is one of those books that I was certain I had read at some point, yet when reading it this past week, could not remember a thing about what had happened — possibly, at least in part, because at least some of the story lines bear remarkable similarity to plot lines of Austen’s other novels. I always love Austen’s prose, her wit and irony, and the way that the characters’ perceptions of the situation are so often completely misconstrued and misunderstood. Love it.
But try as I might, I couldn’t get fully invested in any of the characters. Elinor was my favorite, but a bit standoffish, even to the reader. Marianne was sweet, but rather melodramatic. And the heroes… eh… I guess not everyone can be Mr. Darcy.
Overall, a good read, but I’d pick Pride and Prejudice over it any day.
Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
An American doctor and her Indian husband adopt a girl from a Mumbai orphanage, who later travels to India in order to learn about her heritage and search for her birth parents.
At some point, the family you create is more important than the one you were born into.
This book reminded me a lot of Together Tea and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Fans of those novels and others like it will likely enjoy the East-meets-West contrasts and insights into Indian culture that ran throughout this book. The struggles that the poor of India — particularly women and girls — are faced head-on in this novel, with commendably blunt honesty.
Stylistically, there were some things about this book that detracted from my enjoyment of it, which some readers may not mind (or even notice!) — the greatest of which was the verb tense, which constantly jumped back and forth from present to past as people recalled whole scenes that happened days, months, or even years earlier — these constant flashbacks made the plot seem rather second-hand — something that the reader is told has happened, rather than something that we’re able to see for ourselves. I also really did not care for Somer’s character or story line — I found it difficult to relate to her or understand her motives for the things she did.
NEW this week
The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom
Life in a small Michigan town is turned upside-down when people begin receiving phone calls from deceased loved ones.
What would people say? She didn’t care. A few words from heaven had rendered all the words on earth inconsequential.
Though I’ve yet to read Albom’s bestseller Tuesdays with Morrie, I did read one of his recent novels entitled The Timekeeper and enjoyed it enough to want to try out this one as well. With a premise like this — people receiving phone calls from deceased family and friends — you know that you’re in for a book that explores people’s greatest fears, deepest emotions, and the lengths to which they’d go to reconnect with those they love. Albom totally nails the human emotions — from the devout believer to the skeptic to the outright hostile — and that’s really where the strength of this story lies.
I was afraid I wouldn’t be happy with the ending, but it was resolved in a way that was really satisfying.
The book’s low points were few and minor — initially, I found it difficult to place the characters, as there are many and their situations have such similarities. For some reason, the names seemed to meld together for me, and I couldn’t remember who was who.
Also, as someone familiar with Michigan’s geography, it did bother me that the author placed Coldwater on Lake Michigan, when in reality, it’s not (unless there’s another Coldwater, MI I’m not aware of?) At one point, it’s described as “90 miles west of [Alpena],” which would place it another place entirely — also not on the coast. Not sure why the author didn’t choose a town actually on the coast, or make one up for the story. Sometimes it’s the little things that bug me, I guess.
Defending Jacob by William Landay
2.5 of 5 stars
An assistant district attorney must defend his 14-year-old son, who is arrested for the murder of a classmate.
“Andy, as hard as this is for you, it’s not about you. It’s about Jacob. The question is, how far will you go for Jacob? What will you do to protect your son?”
What do I even say about a book like this?
Just the concept of having to stand by your child as s/he is accused of a heinous crime is just too horrible and depressing to even think about. I’d never have picked this up if it weren’t a book club book, and for good reason — it’s an awful topic to dwell on, and the emotions experienced by the characters were just… painful.
I think what bothered me most, though, was the ending. Highlight for spoilers: [The mother's actions made me feel literally sick, and the fact that Jacob's guilt or innocence was never determined made the whole thing feel unresolved, especially since we never find out what happened with the mother, either.]
While it definitely held my attention and kept me wondering, I’m not sure that I could really recommend this book. It reminded me a lot of The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne, so if you enjoyed that, you may like this one as well.
NEW this week…
Teardrop by Lauren Kate
2 of 5 stars
After her mother’s death, Eureka is left with a mysterious book, a thunderstone, a locket, and questions about what really happened and who is the strange boy who has been watching her and protecting her since then.
Ander had a choice: fulfill his obligation to his family or– No. The choice was simpler than that: save the world, or save the girl.
The premise of a girl whose tears have the power to drown an entire continent, and a tie-in with Atlantis sounded really neat. Unfortunately, it takes Eureka over 300 pages to figure out what the reader is told on the summary on the back of the book. *sigh*
This sets the entire rest of the novel up as, well, a set-up. We find out about the angsty PSTD-ridden Eureka. We hear a lot about her best guy friend who then, after one scene with Eureka, starts taking on an entirely different personality, which then Eureka must explain to us is totally out of the ordinary for him, because, of course, we’ve only had one scene with “normal” best guy friend. And there’s a mysterious new guy. And mysterious artifacts. And we only start to get any answers in the last fifty pages.
Overall: A very long set-up for the series, ending in more questions than answers.
A Great Catch by Lorna Seilstad
Lake Mawana Summers #2
2.5 of 5 stars
Spunky suffragette Emily and baseball pitcher Carter fall for one another in a turn-of-the-century Iowa resort town.
She could do this. She could balance Carter, baseball, and her suffrage work. She could do it all and still not leave anything out.
While I loved the setting and atmosphere of this fun, lighthearted, summery read, I found that I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the first book in the series. Though there’s a subplot about stolen money, the main plot revolves around the misadventures of a rather stubborn suffragette whose main flaw seems to be that she’s clumsy. Perhaps it’s just a pet peeve of mine, but it’s one of those tropes that I find horribly overdone. I mean, she really thinks that a guy is going to dump her because she’s clumsy. Really!? *sigh*
Though it had its cute and sweet moments, perhaps I was just in the wrong mood for it at the time, because I found myself increasingly annoyed with the characters’ ridiculous assumptions, stubborn silent treatment, and fickle emotions. Too much rom-com, not enough historical fiction for me.
Making Waves by Lorna Seilstad
Lake Manawa Summers #1
3 of 5 stars
When spunky Marguerite goes to spend her summer at Lake Manawa, her greatest wish is to evade her boring suitor Roger, but finds much more excitement (and romance) when she decides to learn to sail.
“Dear God,how can I live a vanilla life when I’m a strawberry girl?”
In preparation for National Novel Month, I’ve been trying to read books that take place at the turn of the century, and found this one, about a Midwestern summer lake resort, just the sort of thing I was looking for. The author really brought the reader into the setting, and left them with a sweet story as well.
Like many Christian historical romances, this is definitely a bit cheesy in places, and the main character may not necessarily be someone that I’d like to be best friends with, but the lighthearted humor and happily-ever-after ending is sure to satisfy fans of the genre.
NEW this week…
BZRK Reloaded by Michael Grant
3 of 5 stars
The members of BZRK take on Bug Man and the Armstrong twins once again in this microscopic thriller.
They said what didn’t kill you made you stronger. No, it left you with holes blown through your soul. It left you like Vincent.
After reading BZRK, I was fascinated by the series’ premise: warfare fought at the nano level with tiny biots picking their way through the landscape of the human body in order to mess with the victim’s mind. If that sounds creepy to you, then read no further, because it gets a lot creepier and this is probably not a book for you. The Armstrong twins are the most psychotic, disturbing villains I’ve ever encountered, and even the ‘good guys’ struggle with whether what they’re doing is really ‘good.’ BUT it is highly imaginative, edge-of-your-seat, and incredibly intense. Not for the faint of heart, but if you enjoyed the first book, you’ll love this crazy thrill-ride as well.
I don’t know how many books are planned for this series, but I could easily see this stretching out to a six-book series like Gone because there really are so many different ways the author could twist the plot from here.
NEW this week…
Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield
3 of 5 stars
William Bellman is hardworking businessman who seems to have it all, until a plague hits town, taking those dear to him and planting in his mind the concept of a business with a curious partner and macabre purpose.
William lost himself in calculations. What was the measurement for bereavement? How to count, weigh, evaluate grief?
As much as I liked this book, it fell short of me loving it, though I so wanted to. It was as if all of the elements were there for a dark, haunting, beautiful story of life and death and grief, but the pieces just failed to fall into place. I think that having “A Ghost Story” on the front warped my expectations, so that when the “ghost” really ends up not being so much of a “ghost” as simply the dark presence of death overshadowing Bellman’s life, it’s quite the letdown. The mysterious Mr. Black was both too present and too absent, and the deal he strikes with Bellman is vague at best and left me wondering — well, I think I understand what just happened there…?
There also seemed to be a number of subplots and threads that just didn’t have any sort of follow-through — characters who never tied into the main plot, questions that weren’t answered, and parts where the author went into great detail about the smallest thing that then never amounted to anything. It left me feeling rather unsatisfied in the end.