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Monday, 30 March 2015

Interview with The Darcy Madness author S J Nixon

Book cover: The Darcy Madness by S J Nixon
I thought it might be interesting to find out a bit more about what inspired the story 'The Darcy Madness' (you can see my review of it here), so I contacted the author, who has very kindly agreed to answer some of my questions.

This variation is extremely unusual, with the variation being that Mr Darcy is cursed, as are all Darcy men. Most of them are driven to madness by the curse and end up killing their wives and hence Darcy has decided never to marry and to let the curse die out with him. However, a faulty lock on the Netherfield Library door means that Darcy is forced to marry a woman he finds more than tolerable, though she is less than fond of him...

Here's the blurb (from Amazon):

Fitzwilliam Darcy is a man Cursed ...

Cursed to shoulder the burden of a dark insanity that has swallowed his ancestors whole...

Cursed to lose himself to a madness that will destroy everyone and everything he holds dear...

In this original retelling of Jane Austen's timeless classic Pride and Prejudice discover what happens when the Darcy family is afflicted with a dark, terrible secret that leads him to utter those fateful words ... 'Not handsome enough to tempt me,' and how an unforeseen twist causes his determination to avoid marriage at all costs to be unexpectedly thwarted by the compromise of a lady's reputation.

Can Darcy and Elizabeth resolve their differences to fall in love and live happily ever after, or will the Darcy Curse strike again...

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Thank you to author S. J. Nixon for joining me at Babblings of a Bookworm today! I'll get straight to the questions:

Friday, 27 March 2015

The Darcy Madness by S J Nixon

Book cover: The Darcy Madness by S. J. Nixon
I originally read 'The Darcy Madness' as it was being posted on the Jane Austen fanfiction site A Happy Assembly. I signed up for notifications to the post so I'd receive an email telling me when a new chapter was posted so I could read each update as soon as possible. When I saw that the story was available to buy on Amazon I was really pleased because I'd enjoyed it so much, it's always nice to see JAFF that you’ve enjoyed reading available to a wider audience.

The madness in question is a curse, which is the affliction of all male Darcys, though the exact nature of the curse isn’t clear at first. This story is from Darcy’s point of view so we are privy to his private thoughts, hearing just how he’s affected by the curse. Darcy appears to be battling with himself all the time, against the curse within him that has led to so many of his forefathers descending into madness and killing their own wives. With such a frightening future in prospect, Darcy has decided never to marry and therefore let the curse die out. But then he accompanies Bingley to Hertfordshire and meets the alluring Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Darcy quickly recognises the danger she poses to his feelings, and bearing in mind the danger she would be in if they married, he goes out of his way to repel her, making sure she hears him comment that she’s not handsome enough to tempt him. However, fate takes a hand, and during the Netherfield Ball, a faulty library door leaves Elizabeth and Darcy trapped together and in the eyes of society, they must marry.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Winner of an e-book of Aerendgast by Rachel Berman

A winner has been selected, at random, of the Aerendgast e-book. The winner is:

G

I have sent G an email to arrange for her to claim her prize. G, I hope you enjoy reading Aerendgast!

Edited to add: G was lucky enough to win a copy of the book on another stop of the blog tour, so we've chosen another winner, and that winner was....

Luthien84

Many thanks to Meryton Press for sponsoring the giveaway, and to Jakki of Leatherbound Reviews for allowing Babblings of a Bookworm to take part in the blog tour.


Friday, 20 March 2015

Winners of the Julie Klassen Secret of Pembrooke Park Blog Tour Giveaway

Book cover: The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen
This week, Julie Klassen announced the winners of the giveaway associated with the blog tour for 'The Secret of Pembrooke Park' which visited my blog last month (you can see my stop on the blog tour, a review of the book, here) and I was thrilled to find out that the winner of the grand prize made their comment on my blog on 26 February. Squeeee!

The winner of the grand prize comprising all eight of Julie’s novels: Lady of Milkweed Manor, The Apothecary's Daughter, The Silent Governess, The Girl in the Gatehouse, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, The Tutor’s Daughter, The Dancing Master, and The Secret of Pembrooke Park, one DVD of Northanger Abbey (2007) and a Jane Austen Action Figure (phew!) was:

Grand Prize - The Secret of Pembrooke Park blog tour
Bask in the glory of the Grand Prize!
Monica P!

I have already contacted Monica so that she can contact Julie regarding the prize, but there were also some copies of a paperback or e-book copy of 'The Secret of Pembrooke Park' available to three other lucky winners so if you'd like to know whether you were one of the lucky winners, please check out Julie's post on her site and note, the winners need to email Julie by this Sunday, 22 March, to claim their prizes.

Big thanks to Laurel Ann of Austenprose for arranging the blog tour and thanks to both Laurel Ann and Julie Klassen for allowing me to take part.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Aerendgast Blog Tour and Giveaway - Jane Austen Comebacks for Any Occasion

Blog Tour - Aerendgast by Rachel Berman

Today I'm taking part in the 'Aerendgast' Blog Tour with a fun post from the author, Rachel Berman, who has compiled some of Austen's wonderful quotes so you can always have a literary comeback at the ready!

Please see below for links to other stops on the blog tour and a chance to win an 'Aerendgast' e-book.

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Jane Austen Comebacks for any Occasion
The characters in the novels of Jane Austen always know just what to say. In celebration of the publication of my novel Aerendgast: The Lost History of Jane Austen, I’ve compiled a list of perfect Jane Austen character comebacks for (almost) every situation in life:

Jonny Lee Miller as Mr Knightley, looking unimpressed

1. When you and a friend disagree on the merits of a movie you’ve just seen - “Better be without sense that misapply it as you do.” – Mr. Knightley, Emma



Romola Garai as Emma Woodhouse


2. When you decide to get a manicure even though you haven’t paid your electric bill - “I always deserve the best treatment because I never put up with any other.” Emma Woodhouse, Emma
Colin Firth as Mr Darcy


3. When your waiter gets your order wrong - “My good opinion once lost, is lost forever.” – Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice
Benjamin Whitrow rollling his eyes as Mr Bennet, 1995 Pride & Prejudice


4. When you meet someone who ‘doesn’t like to read’ - “I have not the pleasure of understanding you.” – Mr. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
Corin Redgrave as Sir Walter Elliot, Persuasion


5. When you’re explaining why you don’t like going to clubs - “I am not fond of the idea of my shrubberies being always approachable.” – Sir Walter Elliot, Persuasion 
Kate Winslet as Marianne Dashwood, Sense & Sensibility 1995


6. When someone says they ‘don’t like’ Jane Austen - “Use those words again and I will leave the room this moment!” – Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility 
Kate Winslet as Marianne Dashwood, Sense & Sensibility 1995


7. When they’re out of your favorite cookie at the local bakery - “Mine is a misery which nothing can do away.” – Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility
Blake Ritson as Edmund Bertram, Mansfield Park


8. When you’re seated next to a real dud at a dinner party - “Let us have the luxury of silence.” – Edmund Bertram, Mansfield Park
Jonny Lee Miller as Edmund Bertram, Frances O'Connor as Fanny Price


9. When you’ve just returned from Las Vegas - “We do not look in great cities for our best morality.” – Edmund Bertram, Mansfield Park
JJ Feild as Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey One Smirk and we may be rational again


10. When you and your friends are interrupted when swooning about Mr. Darcy - “Now I must give one smirk and then we may be rational again.” – Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey


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Book Cover: Aerendgast by Rachel Berman
Aerendgast Book Blurb: What if Jane Austen was secretly married? What if she had a baby whose descendants are still alive today? Violet Desmond has just learned that her life is a lie. With sparse clues, she sets off to discover her hidden history and, simultaneously, an explanation for her vivid dreams-dreams in which a woman from the past narrates an impossible story involving a secret marriage and a child-a story intimately connected to Jane Austen. Violet reluctantly agrees to receive help from cavalier Peter Knighton. Blacklisted from his profession, Knighton can almost taste the money and accolades he'll receive for digging up something good on Austen. The unlikely pair begins a quest for answers that leads them to Aerendgast Hallows. Knee-deep in hidden crypts, perilous pursuits, and centuries-old riddles, Violet must put her literary expertise to the test as she battles to uncover the secret that her loved ones died trying to reveal-before an unknown enemy silences her as well.

Buy links:
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Giveaway time!

The lovely people at Meryton Press are giving away an e-book of 'Aerendgast' (Kindle or Nook) to a commenter on this post, so if you'd like to win a copy, just comment below. Please leave a way for me to contact you should you win. You can get a bonus entry for commenting on my review of 'Aerendgast'. This is open to international entrants, last day to enter is Tuesday 24 March 2015. - Please note this giveaway is now closed.


There are other giveaway opportunities on this blog tour, here's the full schedule, below:

Blog tour schedule:

2 March: Guest Post at Austenprose 
3 March: Excerpt & Giveaway at My Jane Austen Book Club 
4 March: Author Interview at The Little Munchkin Reader
5 March: Excerpt & Giveaway at BestSellers & BestStellars
6 March: Review at Babblings of a Bookworm 
7 March: Guest Post & Giveaway at My Love for Jane Austen 
8 March: Review at The Delighted Reader
9 March: Excerpt & Giveaway at So Little Time… 
10 March: Guest Post & Giveaway at More Agreeably Engaged 
11 March: Review at Austenprose 
12 March: Excerpt & Giveaway at My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice 
13 March: Review at Diary of an Eccentric
14 March: Review at Margie's Must Reads
15 March: Review at Warmisunqu’s Austen
16 March: Guest Post & Giveaway at Austenesque Reviews
17 March: Guest Post & Giveaway at Babblings of a Bookworm
18 March: Guest Post at Laughing with Lizzie


Sunday, 15 March 2015

Henry Tilney’s Diary by Amanda Grange

Book cover: Henry Tilney's Diary by Amanda Grange
Amanda Grange has written a whole range of these diaries, Austen’s stories from an alternate point of view. Following my recent read of 'Northanger Abbey', it seemed a good time to see what the book may have looked like from Henry Tilney’s point of view. I’ve read a few of these diaries before, the Captain Wentworth one, which was my introduction to JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) and I followed that up by reading the Mr Darcy one. I enjoyed them both, although I felt, particularly with the Darcy one, that his character hadn’t quite been captured. I was interested to see how Austen’s most amusing hero, Mr Tilney, had been represented.

The story begins when Henry is aged 16, so about 9 years or so before the events of 'Northanger Abbey', and the author builds a picture of the family. At this time, Mrs Tilney is still alive, beloved by all her children and very much the centre of the family, although she has spells of illness. Henry’s older brother, Frederick is extremely wild. He is his mother’s darling and his father’s exasperation, and his wild behaviour is given as the reason for the fact that he, the heir to the estate, was sent into the army. Frederick is feckless with his money, and believes himself to be in love, until a rude awakening makes him realise that the woman he thought he loved was only interested in finding herself as rich a husband as possible. Frederick takes this very hard, and drunkenly warns his brother away from love:
‘Poking me affectionately in the chest, he went on, in a slurred voice, “You’re a good man, Henry, a very good man. You’re not just my brother, you’re my best friend and I love you, I do. So I will tell you something, Henry. Now listen carefully. Come closer. Closer. Never give your heart to a woman. Never, never, never. Promise me. Promise me!’
Henry and his sister Eleanor are very close. Their relationship was so lovely, with plenty of affectionate banter, and a shared love of gothic novels, which they read together. I enjoyed seeing so much of Eleanor Tilney, because in Northanger Abbey she is a lovely character and I would have liked to have seen her get a bit more page time. Here they are discussing how Henry could become suitably villainous if he were to feature in one of these novels:
“I don’t suppose I can become a rake all at once, but I will take it in stages. I will begin by making a mildly scandalous remark to the Lowrys’ governess, perhaps commenting on her shapely ankles. I will make a similar small beginning on gambling, betting five shillings on whether or not it will rain on Saturday, and proceed from there.” Eleanor laughed and ran through into the walled garden, where we were sheltered from the wind. 
“You will never make a good villain,” she said. “You will have to resign yourself to being a hero.”
The theme of Henry being the hero goes throughout the novel; I thought it was wonderfully apt when you consider that Northanger Abbey opens with a discussion about Catherine’s suitability to be a heroine.

After Mrs Tilney’s death there is a break in the timeline, which picks up again a few months before the time that the Tilneys travel to Bath. Here we get the details of Eleanor’s forbidden romance, which was quite sweet. Henry approves of her choice:
‘I wondered how I felt about the idea of his becoming my brother-in-law. His gaze, as it fell on Eleanor, was rapt, and that was a point in his favour, for anyone who marries Eleanor must adore her to have my blessing.’
When we move on to Bath we have caught up to the point where the Tilneys meet with Catherine and so pick up with the opposite side of the story we already know from ‘Northanger Abbey’. There is quite a lot of Austen’s dialogue in this part, which I suppose is unavoidable, because the same scenes are being described. In NA, most of the best lines are Henry’s and here we are treated to his thoughts too.
‘Your heroine? Eleanor mouthed silently to me. 
I smiled, for Miss Morland certainly had all the hallmarks of a heroine. She was sweet and innocent and honest and loving. She had a great affection for her brother. She was, for the present at least, without a mother and under the care of her mother’s friend. And if she was not presently threatened by some cruel marquis, well she was young and there was still time!’
We also see Catherine’s visit to Northanger Abbey and the part that follows her return to Fullerton from Henry’s point of view, the argument with his father, but also some resolution for Captain Tilney’s story. I thought that part was really nicely done, because not only are reasons put forward for Frederick’s behaviour, but also we see him move on and get some closure.

As I said, I’ve read a couple of other books in this diaries series, but I thought this one was most successful in terms of capturing his voice and humour. I really enjoyed seeing the close relationship between Henry and his sister, seeing the possible back story for Captain Tilney and seeing some of Eleanor’s romance. If you are a fan of ‘Northanger Abbey’ I think you’d probably enjoy this book. I certainly did, it was the type of read where I kept finding myself smiling as I read along!

The only real downside I found with this book was the formatting. I read the kindle version and I wasn’t expecting any problems in this regard, as this is a book from a long-established publisher, but the formatting wasn't great, especially at the beginning. There are many spaces missing between words and line breaks in odd places. Thankfully, the missing spaces between the words was only at the beginning of the book because otherwise it'd be unreadable, but the line break problem happens throughout the book, almost as if it had been converted to kindle from a different format and the spacing not checked, not even on the first page. There were also instances of words being incorrect that seem to have been done by a spellchecker e.g. ‘deus ex machina’ was ‘deus ex machine’ etc. I was pretty unimpressed by this, I’d expect better from a publishing house. However, I am not going to let this affect my star rating, it gets a highly enjoyable 5 star rating from me.

5 star read

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Green Card by Elizabeth Adams

Book Cover: Green Card by Elizabeth Adams
32-year old British businessman William Harper is a man who has just received a tip off that he may have a problem; his ex-girlfriend, bitter at their breakup, has tipped off the authorities in the US with the lie that he is up to some dodgy dealings. Will is an English businessman, but he has a lot of business interests in the US and he’s never had trouble getting a working visa, but his visa will soon need renewing and this could potentially mean that he’ll be unable to come to the US for some time. Since one of his businesses is going through a merger he is particularly keen not to lose his visa to work in the US. His lawyer has a suggestion, a green card marriage. If Will marries an American he’ll be able to immediately apply for a 2 year green card, and if he’s still married when that one expires he could then apply for a 10 year green card. Will’s lawyer Andrew, who is also a schoolfriend of his, is the one who proposes the solution of a marriage to Will. Andrew also has a bride in mind, the 23 year old sister of Andrew’s girlfriend. The lady in question, Kate, is studying for a masters degree and working 3 jobs to make ends meet so it could be a solution to her financial problems.

Kate will do very well out of this situation financially – her living costs will be covered, tuition paid, she’ll receive a clothing allowance and a generous golden goodbye plus a house at the end of the 2½ years or so that it’d take William to get the 10-year green card. In return, she’ll need to live with him in his apartment, go to a number of functions with him, a date once a week, keep it a secret and she is also not allowed to cheat on him, although he has no physical expectations of her.

Green Card DVD cover
I was expecting this to be along the lines of the 1990 film ‘Green Card’ starring Andie Macdowell and Gerard Depardieu, where they feverishly try to learn facts about each other and falsify proof of a relationship but since the reality of getting a green card for a spouse is known to the author (she states this in the preface) the truth of it actually much more prosaic and this story is more about two people would wouldn’t have wanted to spend time together based on their first impressions of one another but who get to know each other over a period of time.  Kate gets to realise that although Will can be spoilt and snobby he has a good heart and genuinely cares for her. William gets used to Kate’s excessive perkiness and doesn’t even seem to notice that she can be a touch ungrateful, as well as being a champion at holding a grudge. I liked how the couple’s relationship grew into a really close, trusting friendship, and from very early on they put each other as a high priority rather than treating the arrangement as purely business.

One thing I found very refreshing about the book was that it was low on manufactured drama – there were no Machiavellian third parties causing trouble, no giant misunderstandings and no unlikely complications. Aside from the fact that Will was very rich and needed to make a green card marriage it all seemed quite normal and realistic. This is a slow burner of a romance rather than a quick and dramatic story. I felt the book could have been a little bit shorter. It didn’t drag, but things sometimes moved quite slowly. However, my reading mojo has been all off lately, and despite the length of this book (approx 560 pages) I read it pretty quickly, which is testament to how much I enjoyed it. For those who like to know these things, there is hardly any swearing and although there are sex scenes, they aren’t particularly detailed.

Oatmeal spice cookies, recipe from Green Card by Elizabeth Adams
Kate is a very keen cook, and she makes various dishes at different points in the book which I couldn’t imagine the taste of (breakfast casserole?!), since I’ve never tried Southern cooking. A few of these recipes are included at the end of the book, which I wasn’t expecting. I was really pleased to see this so I could get a better idea of what they’d taste like. Some of them seemed a bit bizarre to me, and they seemed either more understandable or even more bizarre once I’d seen the recipes! In the interest of a thorough review, I have trialled a recipe, the oatmeal spice cookies, and they were very good, enjoyed by the whole family, although I think I’d try swapping the chocolate chips for raisins next time :)

Book Cover: The Houseguest by Elizabeth AdamsThis author has also written an Austenesque story, ‘The Houseguest’, which is a variation on ‘Pride & Prejudice’ and I’ll definitely try and read it sometime as I really enjoyed the humour and style of this author. I would rate Green Card as 4½ stars.

4.5 star read

* I received an e-book of Green Card from the author for my honest review.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Northanger Abbey 2007

Northanger Abbey 2007 British DVD cover
After watching the 1980s version of ‘Northanger Abbey’ I wanted to re-watch this one, as it’s been a few years since I saw it. The 2007 version was scripted by Andrew Davies, who famously scripted ‘Pride & Prejudice’ 1995 and also the 1996 ‘Emma’, starring Kate Beckinsale, and the adaptation of ‘Sense & Sensibility’ from 2008.

We open in the same vein as the 1987 version of ‘Northanger Abbey’, with Catherine having a wild imagining brought on by her choice of reading material. There are a number of these throughout the film, the earlier ones are daydreams, but the majority of them are dreams and they are so funny, really endearingly silly. Catherine imagines swordfights, dungeons, abductions and even, daringly, some nudity (although the viewer doesn’t see anything that needs blurring out!).

Sylvestra Le Touzel from Mansfield Park 1983 and Northanger Abbey 2007
Austen adaptation aficionados may well recognise Catherine’s neighbour, Mrs Allen, who she accompanies to Bath. The character is played by Sylvestra Le Touzel, who played Fanny Price in the 1983 version of ‘Mansfield Park’. I enjoyed her in the role, she was quite over the top and funny. Mrs Allen is quite an amusing role, I think, so it fitted well.  This one is muslin-obsessed!

Carey Mulligan as Isabella Thorpe - Northanger Abbey 2007
This version isn’t exactly the same as the book. Catherine’s leap of imagination in respect of General Tilney here is somewhat explained because hints have been dropped by more than one person in relation to his behaviour to his wife. I was also a little sad to see a few key conversations weren’t included such as the conversation Henry and Catherine have while dancing where they talk about the similarities between dancing and marriage (not because of its significance to the story, but just because I like that bit!) and also the part where Henry points out to Catherine that it’s not the attention of other men to Miss Thorpe that is the problem, it’s the fact that she accepts them. I know Catherine dismisses this view, but it underlines Miss Thorpe’s character nicely for the reader. That being said, her character is perfectly clear to the viewer. I felt the 1987 version of Isabella lacked subtlety but this version is far, far better, and here the viewer is led to pity her too.

Like the 1987 version, the setting of Northanger Abbey is too gothic looking, rather than the disappointingly normal-looking building that Catherine finds. Although the interior of the building is dark and a little spooky, however, her behaviour when she is at Northanger is more in line with the book.

J J Feild as Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey 2007
What makes this adaptation really stands out for me are the performances of the leads. Henry Tilney is played by J J Feild and he is entirely charming and lovely. The viewer can fall in love with him right along with Catherine! Although he teases her, it’s not done unkindly and she often teases him back, which puts them on an equal footing. Henry has nearly all the best lines in the script, and he delivers them really well. The conversation that Henry and Catherine have the first time they dance where he talks about the required discourse while dancing and finishes off with the line “Now I must give one smirk, and then we may be rational again.” was delivered so drolly, and accompanied by a very amusing over the top smirk that had me laughing along with Catherine!

Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey 2007
Felicity Jones is fantastic as Catherine. Her performance is the best thing about a generally wonderful adaptation. She is sweetly naive and unsuspecting of the motives of the more worldly people that she meets. You can completely understand Henry’s teasing of her, because she reacts so adorably to it! One thing I liked about this version of Northanger Abbey is that it’s clear that Catherine is by no means unintelligent, she’s just so sheltered that she’s only ever met honest, straightforward people. Conversational subtext goes entirely over her head.

Henry and Catherine, Northanger Abbey 2007
I think this might be my favourite adaptation of any of Austen’s works. The adaptation is entertaining and funny, the leads work well together and individually, and though some changes were made, in many cases this served to convey aspects of the book. I felt it was true to the spirit of the book. There was only one theme of the book that didn’t really translate for me, which was the defence of the novel found within the book, though since that’s the narrator making this argument it may have been tricky to convey without distracting from the main story. I would say that this version could be appreciated by people who haven’t read the book yet (although the book is wonderful and definitely worth reading) and I would heartily recommend it. A big fat five stars from me.

5 star watch

Friday, 6 March 2015

Aerendgast by Rachel Berman

Aerendgast Blog Tour

Today the blog tour for Rachel Berman's 'Aerendgast' stops here with a review of the book. For further posts on the blog tour, please see the schedule below my review.

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New cover: Aerendgast by Rachel Berman
Violet Desmond has a full life. She doesn’t have much family, since she is an only child, brought up by her grandmother. She led quite a solitary childhood, but she now has good friends, a job as a lecturer, and she is the owner of a historical house that she is in the process of sourcing antiques for and restoring. Her grandmother, Millie, is terminally ill but still in good spirits. Violet visits her one day and Millie gives Violet a very unusual cameo necklace, which belonged to Violet’s mother, and since Violet has nothing of her parents, not even a recollection, she is very pleased to have something to link to them. Millie impresses on Violet that the necklace is important and that it will help her find what she’s searching for, though Violet doesn’t know what is meant by this. After handing over the cameo, Millie takes a turn for the worse, and although Violet calls an ambulance, Millie can’t be saved.

While still reeling from Millie’s death, Violet discovers documentation that shows that what she was told about her life was a lie; she isn’t Violet Desmond, but Violet Atherton. She has two birth certificates, so one of them is fake. There is also a newspaper cutting detailing a fatal car crash in which Martin and Gwen Atherton and their daughter Violet all died. There are pictures of the Atherton family and Violet recognises the young girl as herself. The name of Violet’s godfather is mentioned in the article, Lord Blake Lockhurst. Violet is determined to find out the truth of the situation. Googling Lockhurst brings up the name of his home, Aerendgast, a National Trust property, and so she contacts him under the guise of seeking a job. She is offered a paid job working for Lockhurst as an archivist where she hopes to find some answers. Things aren’t helped by the fact that since the day Millie died Violet has started having some very vivid dreams about one of her favourite authors, Jane Austen:
‘Through Violet’s dreams, Austen revealed her life story, only it was much darker than the familiar tale ... and Violet felt Jane’s pain and pleasures as acutely as if they were her own. It haunted Violet during the day and hounded her at night as she struggled to understand what was happening.’
Why is Violet having these dreams? Over time they begin to manifest as visions in the day as well. Violet begins to wonder about the truth of Austen’s life. Could it have been very different to what is currently believed? Does this connect with Violet’s family? Who can Violet trust? And what secrets can be found at Aerendgast?

The story is mainly a treasure hunt story with a dash of romance thrown in, but it’s interspersed with Violet’s dreams and visions of Jane Austen. I always find books with Austen as a character quite melancholy – the thought of how short her life was, and how she didn’t find a lasting love herself despite writing about her heroines finding love. In this book, Jane’s story is worse than melancholy, she is treated appallingly and goes through some real heartrending misery. She has a secret love, and it’s fair to say that by not very far into the book at all I was very angry with him for being so utterly spineless and selfish!

Violet works together with a treasure hunter, Peter, to look for clues to help her discover the truth of her visions. Whether she can trust Peter remains to be proven... This part of the story reminded me somewhat of those Nicolas Cage treasure films, National Treasure, although here the ‘national treasure’ being searched for is the truth of the life of a well-loved writer. There were some very exciting moments and puzzles to discover. The only thing with this type of high drama is that I didn’t find it particularly believable. It sounds odd to say it, but the visions from 200 years ago seemed more real than the action taking place as the actions being described in the visions were more prosaic. I was also surprised by how some events unfolded because the behaviour of the characters sometimes seemed illogical to me. This meant that it took me quite a long time to connect with the story set in the present day, because the passage of events sometimes didn’t seem likely.

Being a huge admirer of Jane Austen, I really enjoyed the connection to her works. The idea is put forward that parts of Austen’s novels were inspired by events that she had lived through, which is a really interesting concept to explore:
“Maybe she covertly wrote her own life into her books because she wanted someone to discover everything she’d had to hide. Maybe there’s something in her books, something we’re meant to find?”
Violet is a pretty likeable character, although she sometimes seems a bit too trusting and open for her own good. I liked her habit of talking to herself while she was reading, she often had the same thoughts as me, although she expressed them with more swear words! The reader gets to know Violet better than the other characters in the story, and it’s a bit of a mystery as to who she can trust and who is trying to manipulate her for their own ends.

I’d recommend this book to people who enjoy plenty of action and excitement in their reading. The mystery is very fast-paced so I don’t think it’s the type of thing you can work out while you’re reading, as clues keep being uncovered.  There was a lot of focus on Austen and her works which I really enjoyed. Her hidden story made me feel quite sad and angry on her behalf, but it was very inventive, and meshed with some of the known facts about Austen, such as her dislike of Bath and the reason why so much of her correspondence was destroyed, which I thought was a nice touch. The story is concluded in this book but there could be scope for further adventure. I thought this was an entertaining read and I’d rate it at 3½ stars.

3.5 star read

*Many thanks to Meryton Press for providing an e-ARC and Leatherbound Reviews for allowing me to be part of the blog tour for 'Aerendgast'.

Buy links:

Blog tour schedule:

2 March: Guest Post at Austenprose 
3 March: Excerpt & Giveaway at My Jane Austen Book Club 
4 March: Author Interview at The Little Munchkin Reader
5 March: Excerpt & Giveaway at BestSellers & BestStellars
6 March: Review at Babblings of a Bookworm 
7 March: Guest Post & Giveaway at My Love for Jane Austen 
8 March: Review at The Delighted Reader
9 March: Excerpt & Giveaway at So Little Time… 
10 March: Guest Post & Giveaway at More Agreeably Engaged 
11 March: Review at Austenprose 
12 March: Excerpt & Giveaway at My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice 
13 March: Review at Diary of an Eccentric
14 March: Review at Margie's Must Reads
15 March: Review at Warmisunqu’s Austen
16 March: Guest Post & Giveaway at Austenesque Reviews
17 March: Guest Post & Giveaway at Babblings of a Bookworm
18 March: Guest Post at Laughing with Lizzie

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Northanger Abbey Adaptation – 1987

DVD cover: Northanger Abbey 1987
I had been putting off watching this adaptation for a while, because the only other version of Northanger Abbey that I’ve seen, the 2007 version, I really loved, so I thought this one would suffer by comparison. Also, the cover of the DVD put me off. Our hero, Henry Tilney, is supposed to be aged 24 but the actor playing him is a fair bit older, and Catherine’s hair looks like it’s had a tonne of hair mousse applied, so I wasn’t enticed. However, now I’m stuck in a chair recuperating it seems like a good time to tackle my ‘To Be Watched’ list.

This version of Northanger Abbey starts out with one of Catherine’s imaginings as she reads one of her lurid romances, so the gothic romance idea is introduced from the first and it’s very strong throughout the story. Some of her imaginings are ridiculous, while others are a bit disturbing. I don’t think the adaptation conveyed the right sense of these books being ridiculous and over the top, as the book is clearly poking fun at the genre. The setting was also a little disappointing in this regard. Northanger Abbey is pretty creepy here, which could fuel even a less active imagination, whereas it should be disappointingly comfortable and modern, thereby highlighting how absurd Catherine’s flight of fancy is. General Tilney is also more sinister in this adaptation than in the book.

The Thorpes, particularly Isabella Thorpe, are presented quite straightforwardly as who they are rather than more subtly which I thought was a missed opportunity as one of the things I liked about the novel is the juxtaposition of Catherine’s imagination seeing more than it should when there is no basis and her naivety causing her to miss a real life deception being played out in front of her eyes.

Peter Firth as Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey 1987 and Colin Baker, Doctor Who
Peter Firth - Henry Tilney (L) / Colin Baker - Doctor Who (R)
As regards casting, this adaptation has Henry Tilney played by Peter Firth, who apparently is most famous for the ‘Spooks’ TV series (called ‘MI-5’ in some countries), but I thought I recognised him as Doctor Who from the Sci-fi series of the same name. The series is long running, and has different actors playing the title role. I thought Peter Firth was the Doctor back in the 1980s. Actually he didn’t play Doctor Who, I was mixing him up with Colin Baker, who was almost his doppelganger back in those days!

I wasn’t keen on him as Henry. He came across as really quite cold and humourless, and when you consider how funny some of Henry’s dialogue is that doesn’t seem right at all. I didn’t find him charming either, and I couldn’t really see what Catherine saw in him.

Northanger Abbey 1987: Catherine Morland played by Katherine Schlesinger
I quite liked Katheine Schlesigner’s portrayal of Catherine, though I don’t think Catherine’s extreme youth (she was only 17, remember) really came across, and since that is what excuses her behaviour such naivety is harder to comprehend. I also didn’t feel that the leads had much chemistry between them. You couldn’t really see what drew them to each other. The ending scene was so out of nowhere that I thought Catherine was imagining it!

Another thing about this adaptation that struck me was the background music, at times, was really bad, particularly during the gothic imaginings scenes. It was quite synthesised, and I think there was even a bit of saxophone at one point. It was just far too modern.

You may feel from reading all this that I didn’t enjoy the adaptation but you’d be wrong, because I enjoyed it despite all the above! It’s actually pretty amusing. If you’ve read the book you can fill in the gaps. If you hadn’t read the book already, I’m not sure somebody watching would get the joke. I think the main shame for me with this version, is that I thought it was almost like ‘Northanger Abbey Lite’. I know this is true of all adaptations, to an extent, as to get the story in full you’d be better off reading the book, but I felt that particularly with this adaptation, it didn’t do anything in much depth. I wouldn’t recommend it as an introduction to ‘Northanger Abbey’, you’d be better off reading the book (obviously!) but if you didn’t fancy starting with the book, start with the more recent adaptation, which I plan to watch next. This version gets 3 stars from me.

3 star watch


Sunday, 1 March 2015

Planned Reading for March 2015

Well February wasn't a great month in reading terms. Although I'm still stuck mostly in a chair, it's somehow not conducive to reading! This sounds odd, but it turns out I really lounge about when I read and now I must sit all tidily and primly so I have some catching up to do as I didn't get all my February reads done. I don't suppose that it helps that I feel a bit guilty about reading as I'm doing so little, which I know is silly as I'm doing what I can, though it's not much! I am also not able to sit in my favourite reading places as they are, respectively, too low and too upstairs :) As the month went on I got better at reading in the chair though, so hopefully I can play catch up with the February books I haven't got to so far. I have some other reads planned for March too...

Book Cover: Emma and Elizabeth by Ann Mychal
For my non-Pride & Prejudice-inspired read I hope to read Ann Mychal's 'Emma & Elizabeth', which is a continuation of Austen's unfinished work, 'The Watsons'. I read 'The Watsons' last year and it had definite potential to be interesting. We have some idea how Austen intended for the story to end but I understand the author here has gone another way with it. I have heard lots of good things about this book. I actually planned to read this last year, but I didn't get to it.

Book Cover: The Husband Maker by Karey White
For my contemporary read I plan to read 'The Husband Maker' by Karey White. This is a story about a woman called Charlotte who gets a reputation as a 'husband maker' when it appears that every man she dates goes on to marry the next woman he dates after her. This time she's hopeful that things will be different.

Book Cover: A Peculiar Connection by Jan Hahn
For my historical read I plan to read 'A Peculiar Connection' by Jan Hahn. This is going on a blog tour beginning right at the end of March and I will be posting my review as part of that. The words of this title might ring a bell with you. In 'Pride & Prejudice', when Lady Catherine goes to see Elizabeth at Longbourn, Lady C refers to the engagement between Anne de Bourgh and Mr Darcy as being 'of a peculiar kind'. Here, the variation is that Lady Catherine divulges something to Elizabeth that stops the wedding going ahead. I have no idea what it is, but I am looking forward to finding out!

What do you have planned to read this month?