deliabarry: (summer reading)
What on Earth could they have in common? They are the authors of the three books on CD I listened to on my recently-ended vacation. Candace Bushnell, of course, is the author of Sex and the City. I've never read the book, and found it interesting. It's a series of vignettes and clearly a number of them were the basis for SatC episodes. But there are a more than a few differences from the TV show. In the book, Carrie is not the central character, but is just one among many. Several of the characters who show up repeatedly in the book are people whom we've never seen in the series. Most surprisingly, there's no Miranda. This audio version is read by Cynthia Nixon, and she was marvelous. She totally nailed both Kim Cattrall's and Chris Noth's inflections. It was a bit spooky, in a good way.

The Danielle Steele book is called Bittersweet. It's an entertaining enough story about a housewife who sheds her domineering husband, reinstates her career as an award-winning news photographer, and finds the love of her life. However, it was the most poorly-written, verbose mess I've ever experienced, and this was an abridged version; I shudder to think what the original is like. It boggles the mind to think that this woman has legions of fans and has sold millions of books.

The Jane Austen book was Pride and Prejudice. I listened to it immediately after the Danielle Steele book, which was supremely unfair to Ms. Steele. It just doesn't get any better than this.
deliabarry: (tea)
The Uncommon Reader
by Alan Bennett

One afternoon, the corgis got out of their usual area on the palace grounds, and Elizabeth Windsor-Mountbatten went after to retrieve them. In the course of doing this, she discovered a mobile library, the existence of which she had never suspected, parked by the gate. Because she is possibly the most polite person on Earth, she borrowed a book and like so many before her discovered the joy of reading. The results were life-changing, for her, her family, and her country.

Back in January, [livejournal.com profile] read_warbler posted about this book, and I thought it sounded charming, so when I saw it in B&N a couple of weeks later, I grabbed it. Life being what it is at the start of a semester, I didn't get a chance to pick it up until last Friday when we had a snow day. (All hail the snow day!)

This is a delightful little book, and it's already comfortably ensconsed in its space on my "to re-read" bookshelf. It's a novella, so it's a pretty quick read. And there's the pleasure of seeing someone else get sucked in by books in the same way that you did at some earlier time in your life, as well as the shock of recognition at the mental gymnastics the process takes her through. Not being British, I'm sure there were some subtleties about the royal family in there that went right over my head, but it didn't diminish my pleasure in the least. I look forward to reading more by Bennett.
deliabarry: (no books?)
Wives Behaving Badly
by Elizabeth Buchan

This is a sequel to Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman, which I read about a year ago. It takes place seven years after Minty stole Rose's job and husband Nathan from her. Nathan and Minty are now married with twin sons, a house that Minty has completely redecorated, strained relations with Nathan's adult children, and all the tedium that comes with daily life. Rose, on the other hand, is thinner and tanner, with a new and very successful career and a rekindled relationship with the man she loved before Nathan. And then an unexpected event throws all their lives into chaos.

I'll admit that I was more than a little happy to see that Minty's fortunes had taken a bit of a downturn from the last book while Rose's were on the upswing (which I'm sure had nothing to do with my age). Ultimately, the author is kind to her characters and gives them a better resolution than they perhaps deserved. Like the first one, there was nothing Earth-shattering about this book, but it was an enjoyable read.
deliabarry: (le petit prince)
What Came Before He Shot Her
by Elizabeth George

This book is a prequel to With No One As Witness, and details the life of Joel, the boy who shot and killed Helen Lynley.

I tried, I really did, but I only got through 96 of this book's 699 pages before I gave up. It's not that the book is poorly written, I don't think Elizabeth George is capable of poor writing, it's just such a depressing book. Living in the slums of London, with a dead father, a mother in a mental hospital, abandoned by the grandmother who had been raising him, and finally living with a well-intentioned but clueless aunt, George piles on one disaster after another in this boy's life; it just seems he really didn't have a chance.

George's books are always engrossing, well written, and worth any effort. I may well come back to this in the future. But for now, I've had enough of it.
deliabarry: (Jane)
Mr. Darcy's Daughters
by Elizabeth Aston

Twenty years after the end of Pride and Prejudice, the Darcys have five daughters (and two young sons, finally) whom they have left at home while they go to Constantinople for a year on a diplomatic mission. In their parents' absence, sisters Letitia, Camilla, Georgina, Belle, and Alethea get in and out of situations almost guaranteed to drive their uncle, Mr. (formerly Colonel) Fitzwilliam to distraction.

Jane Austen has become something of a cottage industry in the last few years. It seems that every time I walk into a bookstore, someone has written yet another sequel to Pride and Prejudice. (Why oh why is it never Sense and Sensibility?) I picked this one up because it seemed as though it was likely to be the least offensive of the bunch. All in all, I think I chose well. This book was charming and enjoyable. The Darcy sisters have adventures and there's even a marriage at the end, which I'm sure would have pleased Austen. And even if none of these sisters have the intelligence, wit, and charm of Elizabeth and Jane Bennett, they were still fun to know for a while.

A final note: one character was absolutely perfect. Lady Caroline Warren, neƩ Bingley, was just as loathsome and obnoxious as she was in the original novel. It was a delight to sneer at her again.
deliabarry: (writers)
A Darker Place
By Laurie R. King

Professor Anne Waverly is a renowned expert on alternative religious sects, what a layperson would call cults. Her own experience as a member many years ago has served her well over the years, as she has infiltrated a number of these cults for the FBI. This time, her assignment is to investigate a group called Change.

The only books by Laurie R. King that I had read before this were her Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mystery novels, so this was quite a departure. I found Anne Waverly's journey to be a fascinating one. King builds the story slowly as Anne tries to unravel the multiple layers of belief and meaning at Change. Along the way, she breaks one of her own cardinal rules and becomes emotionally involved with two children enrolled in the school Change runs for children in the foster care system. The final revelations about the group's beliefs are explosive, in more ways than one.

The one complaint I have is with the end. The book ends quite abruptly, with no further information, and I wanted a denouement. I had my suspicions about Anne's future and the futures of those around her, as well as that of Change, but they were never confirmed or denied. After the emotional roller coaster of Anne's time in Change, I needed that denouement.
deliabarry: (girls)
The Virgin Blue
by Tracy Chevalier

In the mid-sixteenth century, Isabelle du Moulin married Etienne Tournier after he got her pregnant. In the twenty-first century, her descendant Ella Turner moves to France with her husband Rich when he takes a job there. Unfortunately, Ella's experience of village life isn't at all what she expected and to fill up her time she begins to investigate her family history. This fairly mundane activity takes her on a voyage into her family's past and her own present that goes far beyond anything she had expected, and includes a tragic link across hundreds of years to Isabelle.

I really like Tracey Chevalier's work, and this book is no exception. Although I always have trouble with books (or movies, for that matter) that require excessive suspension of disbelief (in this case, supernatural connections between Isabelle and her descendants), this time it didn't really bother me here. I got particularly caught up in Ella's very modern difficulties, some of which hit very close to home. This was a good read.
deliabarry: (girls)
Such a Pretty Girl
by Laura Wiess

Meredith Shale, a fifteen-year old incest survivor, has a very bad few days when her pedophile father is paroled and comes home after serving three years of his nine-year prison sentence.

This novel is not an easy or particularly pleasant book to read, but it is very powerful and moving. The author has done her homework. The situation, attitudes of Meredith's family and neighbors as well as Meredith's reactions are all very much in keeping with what friends who have gone through this have told me. In fact, Meredith's voice is so true I would hesitate to recommend this book to a survivor for fear of triggering a flashback. For anyone else, it's a must-read.
deliabarry: (Jane)
These Three Remain
by Pamela Aiden

This is the third book in the "Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman" series, which is a retelling of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" from Mr. Darcy's point of view. A friend of mine gave me the first one after I experienced a serious trauma (a house fire) last fall, insisting that it would take me out of myself in no time. As always, she was right. I plowed through the first two books in record time, and although in retrospect I think the first book was the strongest, I read this one just as quickly as I read the first two. All three books give depth, personality, and an independent life to a character who is little more than a cardboard cut out of the perfect man in Austen's original.

This third volume covers approximately the last half of Austen's book, from the time at Rosings to the end. We get to experience firsthand Darcy's humiliation, anger, and pain at Elizabeth's rejection of his proposal as well as his determination to become a better man, one who is more worthy of the woman he loves. Along the way he learns to see Georgianna as the woman she is becoming rather than the little girl she was, begins to afford Bingley the respect he deserves, learns something interesting about Anne de Bourgh and her own dreams for her life, gets mixed up in international intrigue, gives Lady Catherine the what for, and gets the girl. I like him. Supposedly, Aiden is now working on a book about Georgianna. I look forward to reading it.

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December 2016

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