Sunday, December 20, 2015

Death comes to Pemberley by P. D. James

Synopsis: 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.

My thoughts: I gotta say this is the first time I’ve read a kind of spin off from a book so dear to me, and It disappointed me. I’m not used to mystery books first of all, but because it’s related to Pride and Prejudice, I got very high expectations for it.

                I liked the way the writer conducted the story, it was very organized and straightforward, and I’m glad that she kind of kept, as much as she could, Jane Austen’s style. Also, the way she linked all Jane’s worlds was very well executed: P. D. James connected Wickham with the Elliots, from Persuasion and the Knightleys, from Emma. In the beginning of this book, James explains what happened after Darcy and Lizzie’s “happily ever after”: they have two boys, Fitzwilliam and Charles; the Bingleys visit always, since they live close to one another; Mary got married (yes, it was a shock for me too); Kitty remained single, and was happy to remain as an aunt; even Lady Catherine de Bourgh became softer and a little better mannered towards Elizabeth.

                However, I have a lot of disappointments with this one: it lacked the element of tension for me, the culprit was a very pathetic one, obviously the main suspected wouldn’t be hanged in the end because he is a key-character in the original Pride and Prejudice novel, and his death would be very criticized by the whole world and fan base of the first book, no matter how idiotic the same character was. Also, the end was very lame, and don’t worry, guys, because it’s no spoiler what I’m about to say: Mr. Darcy brings back all the suffering and everything that happened six years before their marriage – which is the whole novel of Jane – , with no need at all.

                Looking at the end, although it was a lovely reading, I don’t think I would read it again, and it’s not likely that I would read another book from the same author. I know that a TV series was recently made based on this book. I intend to watch it ASAP, but I don't look very forward to it. The trailer is down here, if you want to watch it!



Monday, August 3, 2015

Dreamer's Pool (Blackthorn & Grim #1) by Juliet Marillier

Synopsis: In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear. Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada. There she’ll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help.

Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais. He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convinced him Flidais is his destined true love. But Oran discovers letters can lie. For although his intended exactly resembles her portrait, her brutality upon arrival proves she is nothing like the sensitive woman of the letters.

With the strategic marriage imminent, Oran sees no way out of his dilemma. Word has spread that Blackthorn possesses a remarkable gift for solving knotty problems, so the prince asks her for help. To save Oran from his treacherous nuptials, Blackthorn and Grim will need all their resources: courage, ingenuity, leaps of deduction, and more than a little magic.

My thoughts: wow, long time since I last posted something here… but here we go.

This one has everything that a celtic, mythic afficionato – such as myself – would have loved, plus a strong headed woman with a dark past as protagonist. However, as incredible as it sound, although I liked it, it doesn’t stand among my favorite books.

I’m not familiar with the other novels from this author, though I have friends who read it already and love it with all their hearts. Indeed it is a fine, fluid reading with suspense, adventure, magic, tales, a bit of comedy and a tiny bit of romance as well, but it didn’t capture me as I thought it would, in the same way The Night Circus did, or even close to it.

I loved Blackthorn. She is a strong willed woman, who, against all odd, is trapped in a promise to stay seven years without seeking revenge for the man who imprisoned her in the first place. The book starts with her incarcerated in the lock up of this same man.

Grim was a joy. He really does remind you of a guard dog, watching his beloved master, even when she snaps at him. I even thought that perhaps they could be together, but I’m glad that they didn’t: not all books need to end with a couple. I even thought that Blackthorn would stay with Prince Oran, but again that would be unlikely: firstly because she hates royalty – although she trusts in the prince – and secondly because after all she’s been through is not in her nature anymore to have an amorous relationship with anyone. Yes, she loves Grim, because he stood by her even when she didn’t want him to, but that is a friendly love.

Prince Oran got in my nerves, and that’s a first ladies and gentlemen. Usually I fall head over hills for the good guy – although Donagan or Grim were good guys too – especially if he’s a prince, but he is so blind and so damn full that I couldn’t put myself to like him enough. And don’t even get me started on Lady Flidias: I’m not a fan of the all smoochy lovey-dovey thing, but I’d rather have that one than the bitch that she became! (But to know why she became a bitch, you have to read the book)

The cover is amazing, reminds me of a painting about a Shakespearian character: Orphelia, I believe her name is. And the sequel book cover is absolutely beautiful. I have to confess that the cover was one of the reasons I bought it. It brings magic right at the cover.

Also, I liked the Scottish references in the names of the characters, as well as in the tales and myths that surround the story: Scotland, as well as Ireland, are famous for their fairytales and magical worlds. In general, I enjoyed this book, but I didn’t feel that sadness that usually overcomes you when you finish reading THE book. It was more a feeling of “very well… that’s finished… what’s next?” sort of thing :P. But I’m really interested in the second novel – especially because of the cover.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Yaa Asantewaa, the Queen Mother

Name of Birth:                Yaa Asantewaa

Place of Birth:                 Ejisu-Juaben Municipal District, Ghana

Date of Birth:                  date unknown, 1840

Place of Death:                Seychelles, East Africa’s coast

Date of Death:                 October 17, 1921

Described as “African Joan D’Arc”, Yaa Asantewaa was Queen Mother of the region of Edweso, part of the ancient kingdom of Ashanti and part of modern Ghana. She was the sister of Kwasi Afrane Panin, who became chief of Edweso when Yaa was really young. Near them was the Golden Coast, a place where the british campaigned against the Ashanti Empire by taxing, converting and taking control of parts of the tribe’s territory, including many goldmines.  

Prior to European colonization, the Ashanti people developed an influential West African empire. Asantewaa was the Gatekeeper of the "Golden Stool" (Sika 'dwa) during this powerful Ashanti Confederacy (Asanteman), an independent federation of Asanti tribal families that ruled from 1701 to 1896.

When the Ashanti started to resist the British domination, they decided to take possession of the Golden Stool, a kind of sacred throne for the Ashanti and symbol of their independence. In order to get it, the British captain C.H. Armitage was sent to intimidate the population. The Captain went from village to village beating children and adults, in the hopes of getting the throne. In 1896, Asantehene (King) Prempeh I of the Asanteman federation was captured and exiled to the Seychelles islands by the British who had come to call the area the British "Gold Coast." Asantewaa's brother was said to be among the men exiled with Prempeh I, deported because of his opposition to British rule in West Africa.

In 1900, British colonial governor Frederick Hodgson called a meeting in the city of Kumasi of the Ashantehene local rulers. At the meeting, Hodgson stated that King Prempeh I would continue to suffer an exile from his native land and that the Ashanti people were to surrender to the British their historical, ancestral Golden Stool - a dynastic symbol of the Ashanti empire. In fact, power was transferred to each Asantahene by a ceremonial crowning that involved the sacred Golden Stool. The colonial governor demanded that it be surrendered to allow Hodgson to sit on the Sika 'dwa as a symbol of British power.

Yaa was the only women present and the one in possession of the stool. Seeing that her comrades pretended to surrender to the British’s demands, she rose and said a passionate speech for the Ashantehenes, saying that she refused to surrender to them, and that if they would, she would call upon her fellow women and fight until the last one of them fell.

This speech unleashed the Yaa Asantewaa Independence war, that started on that same day. As leader of the revolution, she gathered a personal army of about 5.000 soldiers. During three months, she was able to siege the British fortress in Kumasi. After suffering in the first combat, reinforcements from Nigeria were brought to Ghana to deal with the troublesome Yaa. Finally, in March 3rd of 1901 the Queen Mother was arrested and sent to exile in the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean off East Africa, where she stayed until her death, at the age of 90.

Although arrested, her bravery stirred a kingdom-wide movement for the return of Prempeh I and for independence.

Today, Ashanti is an administrative region in central Ghana where most of the inhabitants are Ashanti people who speak Twi, an Akan language group, similar to Fante. In 1935 the Golden Stool was used in the ceremony to crown Osei Tutu Agyeman Prempeh II (ruled 1935-1970). Independence from the British colonialist was secured in 1957. On August 3, 2000, a museum was dedicated to Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa at Kwaso in the Ejisu-Juaben District of Ghana.

I must say this, if you the men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We the women will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields."

-- Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewa 


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children #1 by Ransom Riggs

Synopsis: A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography

My thoughts: I really liked this book! I thought it was well-written, dynamic and the pictures while you read were truly mesmerizing and intriguing.

                What I liked: the pics, the romance that develops during the reading, the theme, the strong headed girls, their superpowers. The way this story is told was made in such manner that it was almost impossible to put it down.

                It kind of reminded me of X-men: there are two types of people in this world – according to the book – the common folk (like you and me) and the peculiar, people who were born with a special ability that made them special. In the past, both types lived happily and in peace, the peculiar in some cultures viewed as demigods. But recently, they were hiding as a chance of survival: from the common folk who didn’t understand the talent of the peculiars and because of that, felt threaten by them; and from their own kind, but evil version, known as hollowgast, that hunt peculiars down and eats them.

                In order to survive, they lived in loops in time: it is like a worm hole that no one can see or feel, and only peculiars are allowed to cross. In those loops, time has stopped in a specific date and it would rewind itself every night. For en example, if there was a loop in a part of Nagasaki when the nuclear bomb crashed, and the bomb exploded at midnight, when it hit it, time would stop and return to the first ray of light of that same day, preventing peculiars children from dying in that bomb explosion. The day wouldn’t change either, nor the actions of everyone else of that day: if the loop was in December 10th, once it rewound it would still be December 10th, and everybody else – apart from the peculiar children – would repeat their actions day, after day. I know it sound very confusing, but once you read it, you’ll get it. LOL

                The romance was cute, but a little disturbing. However, I can’t explain more without giving too much away.

                What I didn’t like: there wasn’t a specific thing that irritated me. It was, in a few parts, kind of predictable, but in others I was really surprised to see how creative the author was.

                I will not give five stars because I didn’t feel that compelled in it. It wasn’t something that made me read it day and night non-stopping, or better said, even though I read it quite quickly – I had a lot of spare time this week – it wouldn’t be something that would keep me down 24/7 if I didn’t have time at all.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Overnight Socialite by Bridie Clark

Synopsis: Lucy Jo Ellis, from a small town in Minnesota, moved to New York with the dream of becoming a famous designer, but so far, working in a dress shop cutting out patterns, she hasn’t gotten very far. Wyatt Hayes is a Harvard-educated anthropologist from money, very old money, who just dumped his socialite girlfriend. Suddenly inspired while waiting for a taxi, he bets his friend that he can turn a girl, any girl, into a bona fide New York socialite, no matter how corn-fed she is. Lucy needs a job, so she agrees to the experiment. In a whirlwind of personal trainers, designer gowns, spa retreats, and elocution lessons, Lucy is transformed, and now she must decide which of the Lucys is really her, and if Wyatt is simply a scientist or if there is more to his story.

My thoughts: the main reason why I picked this book – besides the fact that it cost me a dollar to buy – was the huge resemblance to My Fair Lady, the Audrey Hepburn’s musical/romance/comedy movie in Technicolor, since it’s no mystery that I’m a Hepburn fan. I proved myself to be absolutely right.

                This book is about a socialite anthropologist to pick a random girl and turn her into the next “it” girl of le crème de la crème of Manhattan. Does it ring a bell? Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgings, phonetic academic, perhaps? Anyway, Wyatt – that’s the name of the anthropologist – makes a bet with his friend Trip Peters that Lucy Jo – that’s the random girl – would be perfectly ready for the grand-huge-master-super-dupper-important ball three months away and that she would fool every blue-blood in the room.

                So the games begin. As I said, this reminds every bit of My Fair Lady’s plot, except its period of time – one was around the eighteenth/nineteenth century and the other was twenty-first century – and the fact that the story brought other characters into view, such as Cornelia Rockman – Lucy Jo’s nemesis - , Eloise Carlton – Lucy’s best friend and a designer as she wanted to become one day – and others that don’t come to mind now. Those other angles were what kept me from saying this was a complete copy – although it is, most of it anyway – of the movie.

                Wyatt is a stupid little macho when the story is beginning. But after a while, when he realizes that he actually cares for the girl’s feelings, he starts to respect her and support her with what she has always wanted in her life: to be someone in the fashion industry. But it’s saddening to think that only by this path that a man can finally respect a woman’s wishes and decisions – but let us not be so gloomy. I cannot say I didn’t have my share of laughter – it is a chick-lit novel after all – but this is not enough to make into my top 10 favorite books of all times.