Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Northanger_Abbey_by_dop12  Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey is the tale of Catherine Morland, a clergyman’s daughter.  Catherine is invited to Bath by friends the Allen’s and there embarks on a journey of learning the social ropes and graces.  It is in Bath that she first meets Henry Tilney whom she secretly adores but as in all novels of this era, happenings, misinformation and misunderstandings keep the couple from becoming involved.  Eventually, Catherine is invited to the title location and learns more of the Tilney family, the General, and his mysterious deceased wife.

This one was a mixed read for me, while I love the genre and the time period, I do get frustrated by Catherine and what I call being an intentional air head.  There are times throughout the novel that you want to yell at her to open her eyes and ears.  I found myself asking, can she truly be that backwards and socially unaware.

The majority of the other characters are the stereotypes of their worst traits and gives one a very skewed, or perhaps very accurate account of society in Bath at the time.  It was a bit disappointing that some aspects of the story related to Northanger Abbey itself were not more developed.

Overall the novel is worth the read, and easily can be picked off in one to two days.  For me it ate up the better part of a cross country bus trip.

Jane Austen (1775-1817) was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction, was educated by her father and brothers and from her own reading.  Her works have garnered her a permanent spot in the history books and a favorite with critics.

Jane Austen

Savoured nearly every word of “The Witch’s Salvation” by Francesca Pelaccia

Witch Salvation

The Witch’s Salvation

 

By

 

Francesca Pelaccia

copyright 2013 – Self Published Work

 

The Book!

Every eighteen year old girl wants the perfect present on their birthday! Annie (Anasztasia) is no different and she wants the Fendi purse, knowing she cannot live without it. What she doesn’t want however, is to visit Romania and meet the Strigoaic. The Strigoaic, a 550 year old witch who cursed Anasztasia’s family (who happen to be immortal) and tossed them out of their beloved Wallachia five centuries ago. So why go meet a 550 year old witch? Well she may be the only hope of fixing the circumstances of Anasztasia’s birth. She’s mortal!! Her grandfather however plans to get her, her immortality, even if he has to deal with the witch to get it!

So off to Romania, where during the ball Annie is kidnapped by Matthias! Matthias, who’s family also happen to be immortal has made his own deal with the witch. Bring Annie to her, and she’ll let Matthias friend Austin back out of the mirror she’s trapped him in. Confused yet? Well, turns out that Matthias and Annie share a secret…he’s mortal too in a family of immortals. His family trapped in Wallachia, hers banned from setting foot there.

English: The castle of Vlad Tepes (Dracula), T...

English: The castle of Vlad Tepes (Dracula), Târgovişte, Romania. Română: Curtea domneasca din Targoviste (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Strigoaic has a plan, she wants to be free as badly as the Seneslau’s (Annie’s family) and the Barbat’s (Matthias clan) want out of the curse. So she offers them a deal. Go back in time and get the golden cup and bring it to her, and she will make them immortal. Or…they can get married and stay married which will break the curse.
The families take over and decide that getting married beats time travel. They begin to plan a wedding for these two not so star crossed lovers. But fate has a way of turning up, and the two find themselves in 1457 on one of the bloodiest days in Romanian history. Vlad III Tepes (yes you guessed it, the inspiration for Dracula) is set to massacre the nobles in the land, including Annie and Matthias great grandparents. Oh, did I mention he also has the golden cup, and they have 24 hours to make it back to their own time.

 
They set out on a race against the clock, and find that even 500 years ago in wild Wallachia, that there are friends to be had, and allies to help them on their quest. Will they save their families and gain their immortality, or suffer at the hands of Vlad III along with their long dead ancestors.

The Review!

Well, I vowed this year, no more books about Vlad Tepes or Dracula or anything related to the subject!  But this one crept in under the guise of being about witches, and I’m thrilled it did.  This one rolls Romeo & Juliet meets Dracula in with a good dose of Jules Verne time travelling.  Ok maybe not, but the story was definitely a fresh approach to this topic. The mix of historical fact, myth, and pure fiction to weave a story that captures you early, and keeps the interest through to the end.

Pelaccia’s use of the events of Easter 1457 in Wallachia, when Tepes massacred the local nobles who assisted in the death of his family (a bloody chapter in history, and ghoulish details are outlined in the book), serve as the historical reference point for this novel and gives an incredible backdrop for the tale. The families of Seneslau and Barbat are fictional but fit into this historical event, and once you let your mind slide over the time travel piece, it becomes a believable tale. The descriptions of the area are spot on, and the use of Targoviste and other actual locales lends to the readers ability to enjoy the tale as if its happening right before your eyes. The words “you are drawn into the story” is well suited to this piece.

 
Matthias, the renegade nature loving prince, and Anasztasia the urban modern princess make a perfect pair as the mortals in this story. Trapped and freed by the circumstances of their respective births, they have spent their lives put down by the immortals around them. Now they find themselves the hope for both families and the ultimate salvation for their respective clans. The young love blossoming between them will tweak the hearts of the romance lovers.  Guys don’t panic…An adequate amount of blood and gore will keep you reading!

The Rating!

Well lets see…Witches – that’s always a sell point for me! Vlad Tepes (aka Dracula) – Yup! got me there too! and time travel – SOLD! Definitely one to enjoy!

Grab it already!

 

The Author!

Francesca

Francesca Pelaccia

She’s Canadian!! Francesca grew up in Toronto Ontario and went to University of Toronto where she studied English literature. She has taught, been involved with corporate editing and publishing and also taught English as a second language.

She lives just outside Toronto with her family. And this reviewer danced a happy chair dance upon reading in her her bio…that there is a trilogy in the works. Keep eyes peeled for The Witch’s Monastery!

More can be found at: http://francescapelaccia.com/

 

 

 

Praise for Deanna Raybourn’s novel “A Spear Of Summer Grass”

Spear of Summer Grass

A Spear of Summer Grass. by Deanna Raybourn

Published by Harlequin 2013

Delilah Drummond has finally done it! After the suicide death of husband number three and her staunch refusal to return the family jewels to her late husband’s family, her family can bear no more. And what do you do with a rabble rouser like Delilah in 1920’s Paris? Why of course…ship her off to Africa, out of the watchful eye of the press and away from the scandal that will drag the whole family down. It’s not so bad, her step father has a small manor house there, and with doughty cousin Dora along to mind her, how could she possibly get into any more mischief?

How indeed?

Delilah arrives at Fairlight, a falling down dream, wasting away in Kenya, a mere skeleton of what it could have, what it should have been. As newly appointed head of this estate, Delilah begins to take pleasure in what little Kenya seems to offer, starting with former love interest and painter Kit Parrymore. Parrymore, whom the natives call ‘Peacock’ stands as almost exact opposite to Ryder White, who becomes Delilah’s guide as she adjusts to life in her new surroundings. Delilah finds in Africa for the first time that she is actually starting to care about more than the latest sexual conquest or the latest silk dress. The natives, the animals, the estate all begin to soften this self proclaimed heartless woman.

As things begin to heat up on the African continent, and blood is spilt Delilah learns that some things are worth fighting for and what is truly important to her.

The Review!

WOWZAS! Where to begin. This novel grabs you at page one…well no…Delilah grabs you at page one and pulls you along with her throughout this stunning book. For this reader, Delilah Drummond has become one of my favorite literary characters of this year. She’s like the Scarlett O’Hara of the Africa Savannah. Quick tempered, bold, sexy, seductive, intelligent, and flawed. She has a strength learned from her Louisiana Grandmother Miette, and a rare talent for finding and putting herself into the most delicious scandal time and again. Underneath that however, she is afraid of love, afraid to open her heart, and afraid to lose one more thing she’s given her heart too.

Its at Delilah’s arrival in Africa that we are introduced to Ryder White. So very much her equal in many ways, strong, handsome, bold, and with a heart the size of a lion. Also like Delilah he is equally flawed, nursing a hurt from a former love that has kept him from finding another.

The writing as Delilah and Ryder become acquainted draws you into the story and Raybourn’s quick wit and humor is perfectly suited to this beginning relationship

 

“I see my reputation has preceded me,” I said, smoothing my skirt primly over my knees.

“You’ve already made the betting book at the club,” he told me, holding me fast with those remarkable eyes.

“Have I, indeed? And what are the terms?”

“Fifty Pounds to whoever names the man who beds you first.” he stated flatly

……..

“Tell me, who did you put your money on?”

He stretched his legs out to cross them at the ankle. He folded his arms behind his head and gave me a slow grin. “Why myself, of course.”

 

Delilah is one of those characters you can’t help getting caught up in. She is the type of person you’d either be thrilled to meet or cross to the other side of the street to avoid, either way, she’d catch your heart, and manages to do just that to every man and almost  every woman in the novel.

The Title of this piece “A Spear Of Summer Grass” comes from the Walt Whitman poem Song Of Myself, and seems an apt choice for this novel. The poem begins:

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,

I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

This novel is definitely Delilah’s song , and it is much later in the book that Delilah also refers back to this poetry though indirectly…

 

The men stood back, chanting a song of one who would not be forgotten, of loved ones lost and returned to the earth, and of the land itself which does not die but is always born anew with each fall of the long rains. They chanted of life, which is short as a spear of summer grass or long as the heart of the Riff itself, and of the silent land tat waits beyond. The chanted of Africa.

 

This one is so well thought out, even down to the name of the main character, Delilah, the temptress and seductress from the Bible. Raybourn hits home on every note with this one. The plot (and I will not give the novel away), draws you in and offers up a brilliantly told tale of the lives of these misfits on the African coast that the world seems to have tossed away and forgotten.

Rating!

You need to ask? Go get it, and read it already! Deanna Raybourn has hit it out of the park with this one, and has cinched herself a permanent home on my bookshelf. This one offers all the things you’d look for in a novel, and to be blunt, the strength of the writing of the main character sells this book.

Brilliant on all counts!

The Cover!

Perfect Choice, suits the title and novel.

Author!

A sixtRaybournh generation native Texan, New York Times Best selling author Deanna Raybourn graduated from the university of Texas at San Antonio with a double major in English and history. She now lives in Virginia with her husband and daughter.

To learn more – visit http://www.deannaraybourn.com

The House I Loved – by Tatiana de Rosnay – Book Review!

The House I Loved

The House I Loved 

by Tatiana de Rosnay
Published by St. Martins Press., NY 2012

THE BOOK!

Set in Paris in the 1860’s, it’s a tumultuous time for the city of love. Emperor Napoleon III has set the wheels in motion to modernize Paris, a plan to be carried out at the hands of Baron Haussmann. In layman’s terms houses, shops, hotels, restaurants and café’s will be torn down daily throughout the city to make way for the long straight boulevards that will forever change and modernize Paris. The winding medieval streets will be no more, and it is here that one woman takes a stand, and says,  Not my home.

Rose Bazelet, refuses to leave the home she shared with her husband Armand. The home where she raised her family. The home where she‘s held her deepest secrets for over thirty years. With the workers drawing ever closer, pick axes at the ready, Rose hides herself away in the cellar and waits out the days until they will begin the demolition of her home. Rose begins to write a series of letters to her beloved, deceased Armand, and through these letters, she is revisits her past, baring to the light her greatest and worst moments for her own self examination. As the tragic thought of loosing her home becomes evermore real, it is in her self made solitude Rose is left to question if she will make her final stand in her home, or accept the fate of her beloved Childebert Street as many of her beloved neighbors were forced to do….

Napoleon

Rue Childebert

Emperor Napoleon III top left; White house in the center was the inspiration for Rose’s beloved home.

THE REVIEW!

The novel opens with as a letter to Rose’s beloved Armand and in those first few lines De Rosnay sets the tone for the novel…


My Beloved,
I can hear them coming up our street. It is a strange, ominous rumble. Thuds and blows. The floor aquiver under my feet. There are shouts too. Men’s voices, loud and excited. The whinny of horses, the stamp of hooves. It sounds like a battle, like in that hot and dreadful July when our daughter was born, or that bloody time when the barricades went up all over the city. It smells like a battle. Stifling clouds of dust. Acrid smoke. Dirt and rubble. I know the Hotel de Belfort has been destroyed….-Rose Bazelet – The House I Loved – 2012

Rose Bazelet bares her soul to her beloved Armand in these letters, and we are taken along as she tells her story with a natural flow that holds to no set format, letting the details come to her as they do. Anyone who has ever written a letter to a loved one can attest that de Rosnay’s style hits its mark with this method of writing. The letters draw you in, as they are both beautifully written, and give a fictional first hand account of factual events that occurred in Paris in the 1860’s. de Rosnay scored points with this reader for her ability to write an accurate fictional story with minimal liberties taken. In her opening author’s note she mentions that the streets used in the book did indeed exist 140 years ago (see photo above), and little was changed by way of dates, places and people. This tale catches the heart as you travel along with Rose on her journey to make peace with her life before her attachment to her memories…the house she loved…is lost to the Prefects pickaxes and sledge hammers.

The first person narrative seemed both bold and admittedly somewhat annoying at the beginning, however, upon completion of the book, it played well to the story being told. It left the reader feeling like they experienced it first hand by someone who had lived it as it unfolded. Definitely worth picking up and adding to one’s collection.

THE COVER!

While the cover artwork ties into the story, it feels lacking of something that would make a reader take it off the shelf in the bookstore if not looking for it.

THE RATING!

Would definitely read again!

This one was a tough sell for me at first. I got hands on it when it was selected as the local Book Club’s selection. Not certain it would appeal to me, I read nearly two thirds and then sort of lost interest. The last forty pages however did keep my interest and overall I felt it to be the best writing in the book. Having read the full novel, I would re-read to pick up all the finer points that are sometimes missed on the first read.

WANT MORE??

Wikipedia has a great article on:: Haussmann’s renovation of Paris

Here’s a link to Rose’s beloved Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

THE AUTHOR!

Tatiana De Rosnay was born in 196Tatiana1 in the suburbs of Paris. Her father is French scientist Joel de Rosnay . She was raised in both Paris and Boston, and in the early 1980’s obtained a Bachelor’s degree in English literature at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. She has published 12 novels in French and three in English.

To learn more check http://www.tatianaderosnay.com/

The Bookman’s Tale – A Novel Of Obsession

Bookman's tale

The Bookman’s Tale
A Novel of Obsession

by

Charlie Lovett

Due to publish late May, by Viking

**Penguin Canada

The Book!

Meet Peter Byerly. A somewhat reclusive antiquarian bookseller who has left America behind to spend his time in the English countryside after the death of his wife. Devastated by the loss of Amanda, a woman who drew Peter out of his shell and into the world, he finds himself sliding back among his books unable to cope without her. However nothing, not even Amanda, could have prepared him for what was about to happen. Visiting an antique bookshop Peter finds himself stunned while browsing an eighteenth century book on the forgeries of William Shakespeare, as a water color portrait, that bears a striking resemblance to Amanda tumbles from the pages. Being a Victorian piece logic dictates this cannot be the woman he tragically lost such a short time ago. However the resemblance is uncanny and Peter sets off to learn more.

In an obsessive quest to learn the identity of the woman in the painting. Peter is forced to step out of his self created shell, with the spirit of Amanda ever present encouraging him to move forward.  It’s a journey which leads him back through time to Shakespeare and to a book which may finally prove that the legendary man from Stratford-on-Avon truly did write his own plays.  Peter’s journey also forces him to reflect on his own life, and he makes many discoveries along the way.  But has he learned too much?  And will one of the worlds longest standing mysteries finally be solved?

 The Review!

WOW! Ok…So I loved this one!

When shopping for a novel, have you ever picked one up and thought “Yup! This is going to be great!” That is the reaction I had to this novel from the moment I received it in the mail and read the back cover. Happy to say, Mr. Lovett did not disappoint.

The novels main focus is on Peter, an antiquarian bookseller, who has lost his wife a few months prior to the opening pages. To say that Peter is socially inept would be an understatement, as he seems to struggle with even the easiest of human interactions. But that was not the case with Amanda, who from day one was able to draw him out and into the world. Peter discovers himself doing things that he’d have never thought possible without her. It’s the story of Peter and Amanda that captures the heart of the reader, a couple that Amanda refers to as “nuts and bolts“. There are several scenes in the book where Peter interacts with Amanda on a spiritual level, that highlight the special and unique bond these two shared. Peter’s journey shows the reader the weaker and stronger parts of his character, and speaks to overcoming ones flaws even at ones weakest. Peter is wonderfully written and one gets the feeling book lovers around the world will take an instant liking to him.

The other main focus of this piece is the mystery behind Shakespeare’s plays, and the long standing question of whether the plays were truly written by the legendary man from Stratford-on-Avon.  Lovett, does an incredible job of taking the reader through time as the mystery unfolds. The characters he brings to life  on the page help to build a stunning tale; a personal favourite for this reader was the use of real historical figures such as Christopher Marlowe, playwright and of course Shakespeare himself.  The author’s firsthand knowledge of the antique book business is paramount to this story and shines as he lays out details of the business, the history of the book, and gives the reader the needed foundation to be able to sit back and enjoy the ride.

It becomes evident as you read The Bookman’s Tale, that Lovett has a passion for books, and is able with ease to weave that passion into a believable and fascinating story that made this reader want to read the last word only to turn back to page one to enjoy it a second time….and a third time….

The Rating!

A+ – Top shelf Book!

This one screams to be made into a movie. Remember where you read that when you are buying the popcorn on opening night!

The Author!

Charlie Lovett

Born in Winston-Salem NC, USA 1962, Lovett attended Davidson College and in 1984 went into the antiquarian book business. In 1997 he received his MFA in writing from Vermont College (now Vermont College of Fine Arts). Lovett has written several books including 11 non fiction works. The Bookman’s Tale is his breakthrough novel and he is currently working on two projects, one of which promises to do for Jane Austen what this novel did for Shakespeare. More can be found on his site http://charlielovett.com

Two final notes:  

There are a few books, authors and playwrights mentioned throughout this novel. If you have time and inclination it is always a bonus to check some of them out.

The novel is due out in stores shortly. Once you’ve read your copy, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.