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Mary and the Captain by Nancy Lawrence

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Mary and the Captain by Nancy Lawrence

This is another sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that focuses on Mary. I can’t say this one was as good as others I’ve read but I can’t say it was completely terrible either. It’s better than a lot of the work I’ve read and had a decent story line.

The story follows Mary as she is planning for a small family Christmas with Jane and Charles Bingley. Charles’ sister Caroline invites their other brother, Captain Robert Bingleyand her best friend Helen. Caroline is hoping that Robert will propose to Helen over the Christmas holiday, as he has been majorly courting her throughout the season. Mary is not happy with this as she does terribly around people and just wants to be around people with whom she can be relaxed and let her guard down.

Throughout the holiday activities, Robert notices more and more things about Helen he doesn’t like that he hadn’t noticed (or was prevented from noticing) before – and there are more and more reasons he finds to spend time in Mary’s company. He and Mary  work together to help save a stable boy Robert encounters on his way to Charles’ house. As the two spend more and more time together, the more Mary fights her feelings and becomes miserable. The events culminate in an eventful ball right at the end of the story.

I have to say the story line was original. I had a few twists and turns that I didn’t see, but for the most part it was fairly straight forward. You could see most of the events coming and how the people would react to them. I can’t say there was a lot of emotional development throughout the book, but that is mainly because the characters are set up and described so well at the beginning of the book and don’t change overly much throughout. They are fully developed characters that work in the story line, but the time frame doesn’t allow for major emotional or personal growth.

I’d recommend it to fans of Pride and Prejudice sequels that focus on Mary. This book includes Kitty and Jane to some extent, and of course Charles and Caroline are there, but there is minimal influence to the story line outside of Robert and Mary. I liked the way Jane was portrayed in this book. She seemed to be the individual that grew the most between Pride and Prejudice and this book. Overall, it was a good, solid, interesting read. I can’t say I’ll read it again readily, but that is mainly because once you know the story line, there really isn’t much to draw you back in. It is completely clean, and therefore suitable for all audiences.

My rating:

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Awakened Hearts by Susan Potts

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Awakened Hearts by Susan Potts

I have to say this is by far the best Pride and Prejudice sequel focused on Mary that I’ve read. I think it’s either fan fiction or a self-published author because it doesn’t have a cover and seems to only be available through Amazon Kindle.

The story takes place about two years after the conclusion of Pride and Prejudice. Sometime between the end of Pride and Prejudice and the beginning of this book, Mary has realized how pompous she sounds and becomes painfully aware of her shortcomings. The book describes how she isn’t really aware that most of her shyness and social anxiety, which leads her to be standoffish or rude, is mainly rooted in low self-esteem. At the beginning of the story, Mary is invited to Pemberly to visit Elizabeth and her new nephew, Elizabeth desiring to develop a closer bond with her sister. While at Pemberly, Mary makes the aquintaince of Georgiana and Colonel Henry Fitzwilliam (both of whom made appearance in Pride and Prejudice). Through these two and her sister Elizabeth, Mary begins to gain confidence and work through the issues that hold her back. Over the course of the book, Mary and Henry become closer and eventually fall in love. Henry is also dealing with issues throughout the book as he transitions from being the second son to being the only heir after his brother dies, and he has to take command of an estate and come to terms with his new lifestyle.

I thought this was an amazing well written book for starters. I never would have pegged it for a person’s first work. There are no, or minimal, spelling and grammar errors and the story flowed fantastically. The emotional development throughout the story was phenomenal and the descriptions of Mary’s life paint an amazingly vivid picture of what it can be like to grow up invisible. Furthermore, the struggles that Mary goes through are extremely relateable, particularly for me, and I emotionally connected with the book on a level I don’t usually do. The interactions between the characters was also natural and developed at a realistic pace. Furthermore, you get to read from a few different characters’ perspectives which adds more interest to how others view Mary and Henry throughout the book.

I actually felt that I was reading a continuation of Pride and Prejudice, not a book that was written more than a hundred years later. The vocabulary and phrasing wasn’t the same as Austen, but it also wasn’t completely modern. It seemed to be a wonderful blend of the two that gave you the same feel as reading Austen.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loved Pride and Prejudice and likes to read sequels, particularly those about Mary. It is an entirely clean book so it is suitable for all ages. The only references to sexual intercourse were made using “the marriage bed” and “her [wifely] duty”, and it was only described as a pleasant experience. Overall a fantastic historical light romance with strong emotional pull.

My rating:

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My Darcy’s Dream (Darcy Series #6) by Elizabeth Aston

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My Darcy’s Dream (Darcy Series #6) by Elizabeth Aston

So I didn’t think this was particularly part of a series when I bought it. While reading it I realized that, technically, it’s a stand-alone book. However, I think that reading the other books in the series first would have been a huge help. As I didn’t read Mr. Darcy’s Daughters I was confused on who the characters were and how everyone was related. I can’t say that those characters factored much into the story, however, they were referenced a lot. The only thing that really helped was that some of the characters provided backstory or servants called them by different names.

The story follows Mr. Darcy’s niece Phoebe (the daughter of Georgiana – which I didn’t figure out until halfway through the book). She had been proposed to be a man that she was completely in love with and thought above reproach. Her father rejects the proposal, describing the man as a rake and wholly unsuitable for his daughter. When she searches for answers she stumbles upon circumstances that make her believe her father. In despair she retreats to Pemberly for the season where she is joined by Jane and Charles Bingley’s daughter Louisa. The two wish to spend a quiet season in the country, only planning the traditional mid-summer ball for the Pemberley estate. Unfortunately, their plans are side-tracked when the Phoebe’s lost love reappears in the country seeking her out.

Overall, the story wasn’t bad but I was expecting something a little more mature, in the same vein as Austen. This story was, however, very predictable and seemed geared toward a younger audience. It is a completely clean read, so suggesting this book to teens, particularly girls in may 7th grade or up would be completely acceptable. They may not understand all the undercurrents or side comments that go on with the snide remarks that were typical of the Victorian era society but that is not altogether a bad thing.

The characters were fairly well developed, but could be done a little better. There was very little actually connected to the original Pride and Prejudice but that is to be expected in the sixth book in a sequel series. The story line could have picked up its pace somewhat though. The majority of the book were Phoebe avoiding the man that only wanted to talk to her in order to explain things. If they had done that soon, there honestly wouldn’t have been much of a book. The side story with Louisa Bingley was a nice touch and I actually enjoyed that plot line more. There were also the standard characters resembling members of the original book, but that made it somewhat more predictable instead of adding in new personalities that could add strife and drama.

All-in-all a light, enjoyable read that is good for the beach or an easy night. Not a whole lot of thinking involved or elegant, advanced vocabulary like you’d expect from Austen, but a clean, fairly interesting read. I’d suggest it to young adults more so than grown adults. I would, however, suggest reading the other books in the series first.

My rating:

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Bag of Bones by Stephen King

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Bag of Bones by Stephen King

This was the first Stephen King book I’d ever read. My husband loves Stephen King, but I can’t stay this particular was a favorite for either of us.

The story follows Mike, a writer, after his wife passes away. He moves to their lake house and things get a little…ghosty. He begins to get mysterious messages on his fridge, hears children crying in his house, and knows he isn’t alone in the house. He meets Mattie and her daughter, who are currently fighting a custody battle with Mattie’s father-in-law. The further the book goes on, the more Mike helps Mattie and the more he looks into the mysterious disappearance of Sarah Laughs, a black singer who used to own his house. The two interests collide in unexpected ways and there are numerous twists and turns throughout the story before coming to its rather brutal ending.

So, the first thing that ticked me off was his over-description of certain events that didn’t actually have anything to do with the story. Fortunately, this was primarily at the beginning and faded after a couple chapters. The second thing that kind of annoyed me was how obsessed Mike became with wanting to sleep with Mattie. I know he was a guy and all, but even my husband said it was kind of extreme. The third thing is that there was a lot of violence. I can’t say there was a whole lot of it, the majority of it was only eluded to or implied, however there were a couple particularly violent scenes. Overall, though, the book is just…dark.

There were a lot of difficult topics the book addressed as well, but they were handled really well I think. Racism, small town loyalty, egoism, arson, demonic possession they were all present in the book, but woven into the story line brilliantly to serve a purpose. I can’t say I was a fan of these items while reading, but they painted a true picture of what dealing with the issues is like.

Also, what kept me going in this book was the writing. I mentioned before that he was over-descriptive with things that didn’t pertain to the story line. However, once he got to the story line, the amount of detail and his phrasing sucked you right in and made you feel like you were Mike, you were living this crazy, paranormally-twisted world. I mean it was brilliantly written. If I pick up another Stephen King book, it will be because of how he writes.

Overall, I would have to just say that I wasn’t a big fan of the story line, but the book was amazingly well written. If anyone likes ghost mysteries, horror, murder mysteries, or psychological thrillers, this is a definite read. It’s a little longer than a standard novel, but shorter than most of Stephen King’s other works. If you aren’t too keen on violence, particularly towards women, this is probably a pass. Also, this would be a good read for ghost story readers. Lots of ghost action going on here – LOTS. It made some of the events really interesting to have the ghosts involved, particularly some of the back story. However, if you are just getting into Stephen King, I don’t think this would be a book I’d recommend, start with The Shining instead is what my husband suggests.

My rating:

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A Murder is Announced (Miss Marple #5) by Agatha Christie

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A Murder is Announced (Miss Marple #5) by Agatha Christie

So this was my first Miss Marple book by Agatha Christie. I had read several of her other books, but none from the Miss Marple series. I can’t say I was disappointed. There were twists and turns, hilarious and interesting characters, and a rather original story line that I have come to expect from Agatha Christie.

The story follows an announcement in the local newspaper about a murder that is going to occur at one of the local houses that night. Friends and townspeople that read it believe it to be a joke or a murder mystery dinner and decide to stop by. At the appointed time, the lights go out, shots ring out, and a dead body is found. From there, the story unfolds as they investigate the dead man and who might have wanted to murder him.

Miss Marple shows up about a third of the way into the story actually, after the investigators have already started their work. There is a continuous series of twists and turns that you don’t expect. The array of characters makes the book lively as well. The majority are elderly women, but their interactions, reactions, and behavior are all fascinating. The story doesn’t stop at one dead body either. There is quite a rampage that goes on. The most amusing character was the maid – she was one of those people that are hilarious to read or watch but would be so very annoying to live with.

The characters and story line are extremely well developed and in no way are they predictable. From mysteriously oiled doors to distant heirs, the story moved very well and kept you guessing most of the time. Miss Marple reminded me some of Sherlock Holmes, but she was more present in the moment. She was sociable with the characters and seemed to get everywhere she wasn’t supposed to. I had not even guessed at who the real killer was until almost the exact moment it was revealed in the book.

I’d definitely recommend this to murder mystery fans. Aside from murder, the book is very cleanly written – no swearing or sexual scenes. It keeps you interested and guessing about the murder the majority of the time with the added bonus of being amused by the characters. Very well done. I will be reading another of this series in the future.

My rating:

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The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright

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The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright

This book I have to say was exactly as advertised. It is described as a literary fiction book focused on family secrets. Not something I usually go for, but the premise of the book caught my attention – a couple who wrote letters to each other every week pass away and their children find the letters. That seemed quite interesting to me, so I picked it up.

The story follows the three children of Jack and Laurel. Matthew is the eldest and lives with his wife in New York where they are having trouble getting pregnant. Samantha is a single mother who took a job with the local police force to stay close to home and raise her daughter. Malcolm is a hothead who fled the country after getting in a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. All three descend on the bed-and-breakfast their parents ran after their death and unwittingly discover the letters their father, Jack, wrote to Laurel every Wednesday since their marriage night. Within the letters, family secrets are discovered, hearts are broken, and family ties strained. Old loves add more strain to the situation. The epilogue at the end is actually an envelope glued to the back cover with a letter inside.

I can’t say the story line was very surprising, but there was enough interest to keep me reading. The book was full of emotion and easy to relate to. It’s actually interesting that through the whole book, you are rooting for Malcolm. There were a couple twists and turns, but it was fairly straightforward. It was really nice to read letters from Jack to Laurel throughout to gain information as the children were. It broke the book up nicely and gave you different perspectives on the events in the book. The end result of all the secrets and family drama was surprising in a way you wouldn’t expect.

The characters were amazing well-developed, particularly Jack who was only known through his letters. You don’t really get a feel for Laurel because everything you learn about her is second-hand. Aside from Jack, Malcolm and Rain are the next mostly developed characters. Matthew is probably the least developed of the siblings, but you get an image of him easily. The other characters in the small town are brought to life through simple interactions with the members of the family and through the letters being read. The story flowed well and moved nicely. There were no awkward areas where the story was dragged along. Between the letters, people arriving for the viewing and funeral, and Malcolm’s issues with his history, there was always something to move toward.

If you like literary fiction or family fiction, this would be a great book for you. I thought it was good, but not something I would pick up again. I feel like it would be more for people in their thirties or older. I’m almost thirty and I think a little more life experience would make the book more connectable and memorable. It does teach some great life lessons and gives some good advice on love.

My rating:

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The Chamomile by Susan F. Craft

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The Chamomile by Susan F. Craft

I wasn’t all that sure I’d like this book when I started to read it. It seemed a little too simple and it drug a little bit. However, a couple chapters in the story line really picked up. I was actually impressed with how much happened in the book without it seeming packed with ridiculous events pilled on top of each other.

The story follows Lilyan and is told solely from her point of view. She lives in Charleston with her brother, Andrew, and her companion, Elizabeth. After her brother is arrested for joining the Patriots, Elizabeth begins to work as a spy and pass along information. She meets Nicholas, a Patriot captain, and the two have a slow building, cleanly written love story.

The author did a fabulous job of incorporating some history into the story line. You didn’t learn a whole lot of history through the book, but you got enough to get a sense for the time period, learn some interesting tidbits, and follow the story and its place in history. The story line moved at a great pace, not too fast and not too slow. After the first few chapters, which kind of dragged on a little bit, the content really propelled the story along. I can’t really say action because a lot of the book was talking and getting information.

The characters were quite complex for a shorter book. You got a real feel for the characters and their personalities right from the start which is somewhat difficult to do. The book also really pulled you in to what Lilyan is feeling throughout the story and you feel what she’s feeling and hoping for her dreams. It’s also not a book where you start yelling at the characters because they’re doing something stupid. You don’t really feel that they are acting counter-productively to their wish, which is what happens in some books. The events happen in a logical order and are plausible enough that you don’t start wondering if this could actually happen.

I strongly recommend this to people who like historical fiction. It’s supposed to be for teens and young adults, but it can be read by adults as well. The story is complex and this would be a great read to start historical fiction. There is a love story wrapped up in the more complex war story line. It’s also a clean book, so it would be good for anyone. There is some violence, but it’s not over-the-top and it’s in a normal context. There are some rough scenes so I probably wouldn’t recommend it for below middle school. It was a great book, but probably not a re-read.

My rating:

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