Friday, June 5, 2015


This is probably the most obvious statement in the world to anyone who knows me or has read this blog for any length of time, but here you go: my reading/reviewing game has been way off. I mean WAY off. I can be something of a completest, so when I started to fall behind on reviews last summer my reading slowed to a crawl, in part, I think, because I kept telling myself I'd "catch up" eventually. Add in various personal, work, and family issues, and the backlog just kept growing as fast as my TBR pile. Well today my friends we are letting that pipe dream go. :)

What follows is my attempt to "review" some of the books that have been queued for ages. There are novels that I'd like to discuss in more depth, but at this point that will probably require a re-read in order to do them justice, so they are not represented here.

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard:

Philadelphia 1876. The Dead are rising. A zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor Fitt. Whoever controls the Dead Army has her brother. She avoids her mother's choice of husband for the lab of Spirit Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel. The situation threatens her reputation, and the lives of everyone in the city.

Spunky female heroine, late nineteenth century setting, gorgeous dress on the cover, and ZOMBIES. I liked Eleanor, liked the concept...but ultimately this book wasn't for me...far too much zombie-related gore (which is ironic, since I love the CW show iZombie with everything in me). 3 Stars.

I Married the Duke by Katharine Ashe:

I Married the Duke begins the Prince Catchers series by Katharine Ashe, award-winning author of historical romance.
Arabella Caulfield, one of three orphaned sisters, has clung to an ancient gypsy prophecy as the only way to save her family from endless heartbreak. Now she has twelve days to reach a remote French castle and fulfill her destiny: to marry a prince.
Along the way, Arabella meets Lucien Westfall, decorated naval captain and the new Duke of Lycombe. She thought he was a pirate. He thought she was a governess. Two wrongs have never made such a scandalously perfect right.
Readers of Regency romances and the works of Eloisa James and Lisa Kleypas will fall in love with the Prince Catchers books by Katharine Ashe.

While I thought the "gypsy prophecy" conceit unnecessarily stretched the bounds of credulity, Ashe is a gorgeous writer. Articulate prose, well-drawn characterizations, and a lush romance make this a memorable read. I look forward to revisiting Ashe's world and discovering the stories of Arabella's sisters. 4 Stars.

Endless Night by Agatha Christie:

When penniless Michael Rogers discovers the beautiful house at Gypsy’s Acre and then meets the heiress Ellie, it seems that all his dreams have come true at once. But he ignores an old woman’s warning of an ancient curse, and evil begins to stir in paradise. As Michael soon learns: Gypsy’s Acre is the place where fatal “accidents” happen.

I wanted to read Endless Night after seeing the deliciously creepy Masterpiece adaptation (which inserted Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple into the storyline). This has to rank as one of Christie's best standalone mysteries, a masterful study in the use of the unreliable narrator from the Queen of Crime. Well worth reading for a fresh perspective on Christie's capabilities, especially if -- like me -- you tend to gravitate towards Poirot or Marple stories. 4 Stars.

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James:

A rare meeting of literary genius: P. D. James, long among the most admired mystery writers of our time, draws the characters of Jane Austen’s beloved novel Pride and Prejudice into a tale of murder and emotional mayhem.
It is 1803, six years since Elizabeth and Darcy embarked on their life together at Pemberley, Darcy’s magnificent estate. Their peaceful, orderly world seems almost unassailable. Elizabeth has found her footing as the chatelaine of the great house. They have two fine sons, Fitzwilliam and Charles. 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 frightening mystery.
Inspired by a lifelong passion for Austen, P. D. James masterfully re-creates the world of Pride and Prejudice, electrifying it with the excitement and suspense of a brilliantly crafted crime story, as only she can write it.

I love mysteries and I love Jane Austen, particularly Pride and Prejudice, so theoretically this book should be full of win, no? Alas, that was not to be. I wanted to read this prior to the premiere of the Masterpiece adaptation last fall, and let me tell you that film is superior in every way in my view, particularly as regards pacing and characterization. There are moments in this book that I liked, particularly James's view of an older and more settled Darcy and Elizabeth (even stripped as they are of the spark they possess in Austen's work), but the execution was so uneven that in the end I was left wondering why James was considered such a popular mystery author to begin with and with no desire to further investigate her work. When a book clocks in at a a mere 300-odd pages and that feels about 30% too long, you have a problem. 2 Stars.

Well, this is all the catch-up I have time for at the moment. Going forward there may be more short review posts, but I really hope I can also get back into the rhythm of writing longer, more in-depth pieces as well. 


Heidenkind said...

I read the first few paragraphs of When Death Comes to Pemberly when it first came out and was just like, NOPE. I hated the screen adaptation.

Rissi said...

Yay! Glad you're back with so many fun reviews. Thanks for sharing Ruth. Looking forward to more reviews in the future - no matter their length.

Unknown said...

@Tasha - I was pretty entertained by the miniseries, but I had to pretty much disconnect it from canonical P&P in my mind to work best.

@Rissi - Thank you!