Friday, May 09, 2008

REVIEW: Emma by Jane Austen

Adventures in Storytelling: Romance
Review by Alisha Iserman, Mount Pleasant Public Library

Although she was not extraordinarily well-known as an author during her lifetime, Jane Austen has gained much popularity these last two centuries. Not only have her novels been made into many film adaptations but there are also numerous Jane Austen sequel books such as Jane Fairfax: The Secret Story of the Second Heroine in Jane Austen's Emma by Joan Aiken, Lovers' Perjuries; or, The Clandestine Courtship or Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill: a Retelling of Jane Austen's Emma by Joan Ellen Delman and Mr. Darcy's Daughters by Elizabeth Aston.

When the novel opens, we find Emma Woodhouse and her father mourning the loss of Emma's governess of sixteen years. Though Miss Taylor marries and lives only a half mile away, they are both distraught with her departure. Not sad for too long, Emma finds comfort in befriending Harriet Smith, a young girl who may not be a gentleman's daughter. Emma attempts her matchmaker skills with Harriet. She wants to match her with a gentleman. And while focusing on Harriet's love life, Emma finds a love of her own. In fact, he is a certain gentleman that she has known for quite some time.

One of the aspects of Emma that I much enjoy is the relationship between Emma and Miss Taylor. Miss Taylor is Emma's governess but they act more like sisters. Emma goes to Miss Taylor when she craves conversation or even when she needs advice. Emma cherishes Miss Taylor's advice even though she does not always heed her advice. Another aspect that I enjoy is the setting. I like picturing the English countryside and the people who once inhabited it. I imagine huge estates with beautiful courtyards. I imagine taking tea with the characters on a porch overlooking the gardens. I also enjoy Emma as she plays the role of matchmaker. While she has good intentions, her matchmaking most often goes awry. This reminds me of my own attempt at matching my sister with different friends of mine. My intentions were always good; however, good intentions are sometimes not enough.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

REVIEW: Magic Flutes by Eva Ibbotson

Adventures in Storytelling: Romance

Magic Flutes by Eva Ibbotson
Review by Kim Olson, Lake City Public Library

Magic Flutes is a truly astounding book. As in all of Eva Ibbotson's work, the underlying theme of basic human goodness resonates throughout the novel. The story is intricate and detailed, and although the basic plot is romantic, the quality of the writing lifts this story far above a "romance." The central characters are beautifully drawn, the minor characters fully present, and the setting exquisitely presented. A young woman, the last remaining princess of the highest ranking family from the now-defunct Austrian Empire, faces the reality of life after WWI, when titles are officially abolished, and there is no longer money to support the trappings of royalty. She turns her back on her lineage devotes herself to art, working as a drudge for a minor opera company. She sells her magnificent castle, rife with history, to an English tycoon who wishes to lay it at the feet of the breathtakingly beautiful woman who captured and then broke his heart a decade earlier. Full of enchanting tidbits about life and culture in Vienna and Austria in the
years following WWI, this charming story unfolds with fresh delights on every page.

Appeal factors:
Eva Ibbotson's writing appeals to me primarily because of her gift for portraying what makes really good people good. She does this subtly and gracefully, without a hint of preaching. All
her books, which range from children's fantasy to realistic adult fiction, carry the same theme, with the same wonderful, well-informed prose. She has a gift for character and setting that bring a wonderful immediacy to her stories. Her adult books also tend to be full of tidbits of history and culture that show the breadth and depth of her knowledge of the world, and which add a great deal of appeal and interest to the plots. You don't need to be James-Joyce-literate to
understand her work, but it is still sophisticated enough to offer more to the more discerning reader. I am still searching for another author that appeals to me in this same way.

Connection with other titles:
I recommend everything by Eva Ibbotson:
The Morning Gift
A Company of Swans
A Song for Summer
Madensky Square
Journey to the River Sea
Which Witch
The Secret of Platform 13
The Beasts of Clawstone Castle
The Great Ghost Rescue
Island of the Aunts
The Star of Kazan
The Haunting of Granite Falls

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lie By Moonlight by Amanda Quick

Jayne Ann Krentz, writing as Amanda Quick, contributes another entertaining novel of romantic suspense in Lie by Moonlight. In Victorian England not everything is prim and proper, and all is not right at Aldwick Castle.

Concordia Glade wants to protect her four students from an insidious evil that she perceives. She and the four young women are attempting to flee when they meet an enigmatic gentleman, Ambrose Wells. During his investigation of a murder, he stumbles across these ladies, rescuing them from a man with a gun. He soon realizes that they are tied in some mysterious way to a crime lord in London and need his protection. The intrepid Concordia intrigues him, while the dangerous Mr. Wells appeals to her.

To gain emotional distance and keep things professional, Concordia hires Ambrose to investigate the mystery surrounding the young women. They end up working closely together, finding much to admire in each other. Quick’s writing style combines suspense and romance with witty repartee to create an enjoyable page turner.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Dark Celebration by Christine Feehan

On her Web site last December, Christine Feehan said she wanted to give her faithful readers a special Christmas gift. She succeeded brilliantly with Dark Celebration. The basic thread of the story is that lifemated couples have traveled to the Carpathian mountains for a reunion for the Christmas holiday. Prince Mikail, the hero of the first book of the series, Dark Prince, is concerned for the health and safety of his people with so many collected in one place. As he visits each lifemated couple, humorous encounters ensue, but the story isn't a light romp because danger lurks. I look forward to at least two future tales as new couples are added to the familiar favorites Feehan writes about here. Although the end seemed a bit abrupt, it left me wanting more, which is the aim of every author. Dark Celebration is a just that; a celebration of Feehan’s prolific body of work and of her faithful fans.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Deception of the Emerald Ring by Lauren Willig

This is the third book in the series by Willig, following The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and The Masque of the Black Tulip. They are sort of a combination of Regency romance and chick lit that are fun to read.

Eloise Kelly is in England to find information on the flower spies The Purple Gentian and The Pink Carnation, since everyone knows about The Scarlet Pimpernel. She manages to find the information unmasking The Pink Carnation in family papers belonging to Mrs. Selwick-Alderly, but her really cute great-nephew Colin Selwick is adamant that it not be published. Throughout the first two books, the story alternates between Eloise and Colin (the chick lit part of the story) and the Regency romances that tell the story of the flower spies and their organization. In this third volume, Letty Alsworthy tries to stop her sister Mary from eloping with Lord Pinchingdale, who is a good friend of The Purple Gentian. When Letty is the one found kissing Lord Pinchingdale at midnight in his coach wearing her nightgown, they must marry. Immediately following the wedding, Lord Pinchingdale goes missing, and Letty discovers that he has sailed to Dublin, so she follows. Together with The Pink Carnation, they manage to stop the Irish revolution of 1803.

I like the historicals better than the story of Eloise and Colin. The current story is stretched out over all the books and gets annoying at times. I had taken The Secret History of the Pink Carnation home and not gotten it read, but after Nancy Pearl recommended it in one of her columns, I checked it out again and enjoyed it. The covers, while beautiful, don't really do a lot to recommend these books, in my opinion.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Circle Trilogy by Nora Roberts

Morrigan's Cross, Dance of the Gods, and Valley of Silence
Hoyt Mac Cionaoith is grieving. His brother Cian has been killed, and worse, changed into a demon. Because Hoyt is a sorcerer, his grief has conjured up a raging storm. The goddess Morrigan appears to him in a vision--telling him the creature his brother has become is a vampyre and that Hoyt is part of a charmed circle of six needed to defeat the vampire queen Lilith. She sends Hoyt from his home in eleventh century Ireland to twenty-first century New York City, to find Cian, who will also need to be part of the circle, which is to include a sorcerer, a witch, a warrior, a shape-shifter, a scholar, and the damned one.

When the group has assembled, (Hoyt, Glenna, the red-haired witch, Blair Murphy, a vampire slayer descended from Hoyt and Cian's sister, Larkin the shape-shifter, cousin of Moira, scholar and future queen of the mythical Geall, and Cian) they must learn to hunt and kill the demons before Samhain, when they will travel through the Dance of the Gods to the mythical Geall and fight Lilith's army at the Valley of Silence.

Nora Roberts' trilogies have been leaning more and more to the supernatural. It isn't something I would have picked up by any other author, but she tells a compelling story. People who enjoy her trilogies will probably enjoy this one, if they can get past the idea that they are reading "vampire books". As in other trilogies, there is plenty of steamy romance and suspense, and I found them hard to put down.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I Read Romance

I Read Romance is the place to come to find good romances to read--or listen to. Librarians in Iowa are always on the lookout for good books, always reading, always ready to connect readers with the right book.