Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to PemberleyDeath Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is fluff, but enjoyable fluff if you aren’t expecting either a murder mystery, or the continuing voice of Jane Austen. P.D. James has her own style – that of omniscient narrator – but it fits the time period admirably. Still, it is narration, and lacks the sparkling dialog that characterizes Jane Austen. Those who are intimately familiar with Pride and Prejudice may tire of the endless rehashing of those events. Those who are not, may appreciate the filling in of the back story. I enjoyed learning where P.D. James has taken our familiar characters in the six years since the end of P&P. As for the murder mystery, this is not so much a who-done-it as it is an exploration of how the characters react to these events and the unfolding murder trial. All in all, this is probably better than most of the P&P sequels out there.

Description: It is 1803, six years since Elizabeth and Darcy embarked on their life together at Pemberley, Darcy’s magnificent estate. Elizabeth has found her footing as the chatelaine of the great house. Elizabeth’s sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live nearby; her father visits often; there is optimistic talk about the prospects of marriage for Darcy’s sister Georgiana. And preparations are under way for their much-anticipated annual autumn ball. Then, on the eve of the ball, the patrician idyll is shattered. A coach careens up the drive carrying Lydia, Elizabeth’s disgraced sister, who with her husband, the very dubious Wickham, has been banned from Pemberley. She stumbles out of the carriage, hysterical, shrieking that Wickham has been murdered. With shocking suddenness, Pemberley is plunged into a mystery and a lurid murder trial.

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Life of Pi

Life of PiLife of Pi by Yann Martel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved the first third of this book. I loved Pi and his rambling thoughts about life, animals, religion, and experience. 5 stars up to that point. But after the shipwreck it drifted down to 3 stars, so I’ll give it 4 overall. The lifeboat experiences became tedious, too many gory details, although perhaps it was intended to portray the monotony of endless days just trying to survive. This is not a fantasy novel. But it is not quite allegory either. It reminds me of a phrase we use at church after the reading of scripture. “I don’t know if it really happened this way, but I know the story is true.” This book is not what I expected. It is a witness to the worst that can happen to a human being and how we frame our experiences in light of whatever beliefs we have about life, God and the universe that allow us to survive and make sense of things without going insane. I look forward to seeing the movie.

Book Description: Piscine Molitor Patel, nicknamed Pi, lives in Pondicherry, India, where his family runs a zoo. Little Pi is a great reader. He devours books on Hinduism, Christianity and Islam, and to the surprise of his secular parents, becomes devoted to all three religions. When the parents decide to emigrate to Canada, the family boards a cargo ship with many of the animals that are going to new zoological homes in North America, and bravely sets sail for the New World. Alas, the ship sinks. A solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the surface of the wild blue Pacific. In it are five survivors: Pi, a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan and a 450-pound Bengal tiger. With intelligence, daring and inexpressible fear, Pi manages to keep his wits about him as the animals begin to assert their places in the foodchain; it is the tiger, Richard Parker, with whom he must develop an inviolable understanding.

The Boleyn King

The Boleyn King (The Boleyn Trilogy, #1)The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Setting: England, Hampton Court,
Time: 1553-1554

Main characters: Anne Boleyn, her daughter Elizabeth, her son Henry IX (known as William), Dominic Courtenay (son of a traitor, mother “a Boleyn”, ward of George Boleyn, Lord Rochford), Genevieve Wyatt (known as Minuette)

First paragraph, Chapter One: “I am seventeen today and have decided that, although I shall never be a scholar like Elizabeth, I can at least keep a diary. My history is quickly told – daughter of a French mother and an English gentleman, no siblings, and no parents since I was eight….”

Favorite line: “Whistling softly, William stepped into the privy chamber and surveyed the pieces of what looked to have been a matched set of pottery vases scattered around the fireplace. His mother stopped in midpace, skirts swirling around her, and he said, ‘Whose head shall I have off this time, Mother?’ ”

I enjoyed this alternate view of history. The son of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn is about to come into his majority. England is divided over the succession, with the dispossessed Mary the center of Catholic conspiracies. At the heart of this novel is a document that purports to testify that William was NOT the son of Henry VIII. A woman is murdered and Minuette, Dominic, Elizabeth, and William attempt to solve the mystery, and become swept up in the court intrigue. William is not immune to the temptations of privilege and power. Dominic is determined to prove himself different from his traitorous father. Elizabeth, as the sister of a king, is a political pawn to be given in marriage wherever it will be to the best advantage. And Minuette writes in her diary and agonizes over whether she loves William or Dominic. Without giving any spoilers, let’s just say that there are plenty of loose threads still at the end of the book, to be continued in the next installment, The Boleyn Deceit.

Description: The Boleyn King is the first book in an enthralling trilogy that dares to imagine: What if Anne Boleyn had actually given Henry VIII a son who grew up to be king?

Just seventeen years old, Henry IX, known as William, is a king bound by the restraints of the regency yet anxious to prove himself. With the French threatening battle and the Catholics sowing the seeds of rebellion at home, William trusts only three people: his older sister Elizabeth; his best friend and loyal counselor, Dominic; and Minuette, a young orphan raised as a royal ward by William’s mother, Anne Boleyn. Against a tide of secrets, betrayal, and murder, William finds himself fighting for the very soul of his kingdom. Then, when he and Dominic both fall in love with Minuette, romantic obsession looms over a new generation of Tudors. One among them will pay the price for a king’s desire, as a shocking twist of fate changes England’s fortunes forever.

About the author: Laura Andersen has one husband, four children, and a college degree in English that she puts to non-profitable use by reading everything she can lay her hands on. Books, shoes, and travel are her fiscal downfalls, which she justifies because all three ‘take you places.’ She loves the ocean (but not sand), forests (but not camping), good food (but not cooking), and shopping (there is no downside.) Historical fiction offers her all the pleasure of visiting the past without the inconvenience of no electricity or indoor plumbing. After more than thirty years spent west of the Rocky Mountains, she now lives in Massachusetts with her family.