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Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake

Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake

This is one of those times where I watched the movie before reading the book. I absolutely loved the Dances with Wolves movie. I never actually knew it was based on a book until a few weeks ago. when I found that out I ordered it and started to read it the day after it came (I didn’t have time in the actual day it came to start LOL). I was not disappointed by the book at all. I actually have to remark that I was impressed with how well the movie followed the book. There was very little left out and the few things they added in the movie helped to add to the story rather than distance itself from the book.

The story follows Lieutenant John Dunbar as he is assigned to a fort in the middle of the Indian frontier. seven he arrives, the fort is abandoned and he is the only soldier. He begins to complete tasks and waits for more soldiers to arrive, all while finding a peace living alone in the frontier and making friends with the animals he shares space with. You learn about his past in the civil war and his attitude toward the world and its inhabitants. He inevitably encounters Indians, Comanche, and talked the first steps in learning their culture. Little by little he is drawn deeper and deeper into their culture, particularly with the help of a white woman who was adopted by the tribe as a child. You learn her story as well over time. The story comes to climactic ending after the arrival of new soldier at the fort.

I was greatly impressed with the depth of the main character. You get pieces of thoughts from other characters scattered throughout but you primarily focus on the thoughts and actions of the lieutenant. Through his eyes your learn of a new culture and way of living. You learn about personal peace and evaluate how you see the world. You gain a respect for living of the land and see beauty in nature. But must of all it opens your eyes to the destruction one race can have on the world, how one person can set of a chair reaction of catastrophic or wonderful events and how each individual action crates ripples that shape our lives. The story isn’t action packed, but it moves steadily on with new ideas and events and revelations within the characters that keep you engrossed in the story and lets you continue to think about the story after you’ve put it down for the night or when you had to go to work. If I could have I would have read the book in one sitting. However, I was not able to but am thankful I had the in-between time to think about what I read and how I can relate to it or what it means to the world.

I’m surprised this book is not recommended reading in high school or college. It paints a beautiful picture of Comanche life and the impact white civilization had early on in their movement west. It also gives insights into sitting others, self evaluation, and how to view the world. I recommend this book to everyone. I’m very interested in reading the sequel to this book as well, The Holy Road.

My rating:

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Revel: Twelve Dancing Princesses Retold (Romance a Medieval Fairytale, #4) by Demelza Carlton

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Revel: Twelve Dancing Princesses Retold (Romance a Medieval Fairytale, #4) by Demelza Carlton

When I was growing up Twelve Dancing Princesses by the Brothers Grimm was my favorite fairy tale. When I came across this adaptation, I knew I had to read it. I was not disappointed by how well the author adhered to the original tale, but was also able to make it fresh and uniquely her own.

Twelve Dancing Princesses is the tale of twelve princesses (go figure) who live in a castle with their father. Each night he locks them in their room. Every morning he unlocks the door and finds twelve pairs of dancing shoes that have been danced to pieces. The king is baffled by these events and wants to solve the mystery of how his daughters dance new shoes to pieces every night. Therefore, he issues a challenge – Any man who can solve the mystery will be given land, a title, and have his choice of the twelve princesses for a wife. The men have three nights to solve the mystery or their life is forfeit. Men come and men go, but the princesses continue to dance away until one man solves the mystery.

The author decided to adapt the story so that the princesses were in exile from the king’s harem because of his wife’s jealousy. Also, she focused on one man and one princess. From these two points of view she weaves the tale. I find it was much more emotional and much easier to connect with the story, particularly as an adult. There are some areas which are not suitable for children (sexy passage near the end) but the majority of the book is well written and clean.

The characters she chose to focus on in the story are extremely well developed. I think she could have expanded more on the other princesses, you only really get a feel for a couple of them, and increase interaction with the Queen’s cousin, who is guarding the princesses. She also gave a great story line to the princes the princesses went off to see each night. I think she took the essence of the story, all of the key points, and held true to them while also honoring them and enhancing them with the deeper, more complex story line. I think in the end I actually enjoyed this more than the original as it was so much more complex and emotional it drew me in more than the the original fairy tale ever did.

I think if anyone mildly liked Twelve Dancing Princesses when they were younger, this is a definite must read. It is so interesting as to keep your attention. It is also a widely enjoyable fantasy read, as well as a historical romance. I’d recommend it to anyone that likes romance, historical fiction, historical romance, or magical romance.

My rating:

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The Cater Street Hangman (Charlotte and Thomas Pitt #1) by Anne Perry

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The Cater Street Hangman (Charlotte and Thomas Pitt #1) by Anne Perry

I’ve read several books in the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series, but somehow I’ve never managed to read the first one. Well, I’ve managed to correct that! As per usual with this series I listened to it on audiobook, which is what took me so long since I haven’t been driving as much in the summer. Davina Porter did another fantastic job with the narration as I’ve come to expect from her.

The story follows the Ellison family (Charlotte’s family) as they begin to deal with a hangman killing females on a street away. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the killings, just a single female, strangled and mutilated in the night. First it was a maid from another house, then the daughter of a close friend, then another maid from their house, slowly getting closer and closer to their lives. Inspector Thomas Pitt is assigned to the case and regularly interacts with the family in his pursuit of the killer. In doing so, he becomes more and more enamored with Charlotte, as she deals with her own feelings and the crazy family drama that is erupting around her, mostly from her two sisters and her grandmother.

The story is not completely full of twists and turns, but the ones that do occur are quite surprising. I didn’t see the answer until almost right before it was revealed. You meet a multitude of characters, some interesting, some annoying, all well developed, and are pulled in to the world of the upper class. It is interesting to watch the upper and lower classes meet through Thomas Pitt.

This book is a definite ode to the series and a great starting point. I can see why all the other stories are so well developed and unique because this book is what started them all. The story line is unique in its obstacles and turns, but also somewhat mundane. There are the things you expect to happen, but they either happen in a way you didn’t expect or they happen and have an effect on other events that you didn’t expect. I’m not sure I explained that right but I can’t seem to think of another way to say it…

Anyway, if you’ve never read this series, feel free to start right here at the beginning. This is a definite must for any historical mystery readers. Also, any readers who enjoy murder mysteries or are getting into murder mysteries, this is a fantastic read. There are no gory details or steamy scenes. It is a romance, but only as a secondary, possibly tertiary story line. Also, anyone who likes historical fiction, probably not 100% accurate mind you, would also really like this read. I’m glad I finally took the time to read it. I was honestly ecstatic how surprising it turned out.

My rating:

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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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