Mr. Darcy’s Refuge by Abigail Reynolds

darcys-refuge-front-june-2013-font-changesmaller-397x600Story Title: Mr. Darcy’s Refuge: A Pride & Prejudice Variation
Author Name:  Abigail Reynolds
Category:  Pride & Prejudice
Category: Published Book
Story Url: Author’s website & Amazon
Content Rating:  Mature
Status: Completed
Length:   240 pages
Story Summary:   Trapped for three days by a flood, and trapped forever by society because of it…. The river isn’t the only thing overflowing in Hunsford when a natural disaster forces Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy to work together. The residents of flood-stricken Hunsford, seeking refuge in the parsonage atop the hill, are unaware they are interrupting Darcy’s disastrous proposal. Even worse, the flood has washed out the only bride to Rosings Park, stranding Darcy with the woman who has just refused his offer of marriage. But it may already be too late to redeem Elizabeth’s reputation…. In this Pride & Prejudice variation, the lane dividing the Hunsford parsonage from Rosings Park has been replaced by one of the flood-prone Kentish rivers. The storms are real – the spring of 1811 was remarkable for numerous thunderstorms in Southeast England.

Gioia’s Rec:
Abigail Reynolds is one of my favorite authors.  Her books are most assuredly among those I call my literary comfort food.  This particular one was new to me, and I inhaled it over a 24-hour period, in which I slept far less than I ought.

One of my favorite aspects of Dr. Reynolds’ books is that she knows the difference between dramatic tension and unnecessary angst.  (I’m not a fan of the latter.)  The backdrop to this story is a devestating flood which sweeps through Hunsford village on the night that Mr. Darcy shows up at the parsonage with an ill-worded, ill-timed proposal.  But the excitement doesn’t end there.  This book surprised me with several dramatic plot twists.  The various ways that our well-known characters and side-characters respond to those plot twists kept me captivated.

I was particularly moved by a few pointed depictions and denouncements of certain cultural norms for the Regency era.  In particular, the way Britain treated its children, its most precious and fragile assets, is horrifying.  Dr. Reynolds has our protagonists respond to this in culturally appropriate ways, yet with the sort of outrage that suits my modern sensitibilities.  Those reactions weren’t preachy or disrupting to the flow of the story, though.  Instead, the way that Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth respond to those circumstances allowed each of them to come to a better understandanding and appreciation of the other.

My Only Critique: This doesn’t count as critique, but just in case… One complaint I hear periodically about Dr. Reynolds’ books is that, because she originally posted many of them as fanfic, and then published the books, and then occasionally had another re-release of the books, some of her novels were known by two or three different titles.  So, when in doubt, check the author’s website, where the titles are clearly listed.  As it is, this particular book, Mr. Darcy’s Refuge does not appear to have been published or posted under any other name. So this advice is not actually needed in the case of this specific title.

Posted in Chick Lit, Col. Fitzwilliam/Elizabeth Bennet, Col. Fitzwilliam/Jane Bennet, Content Rating-P&P: Mature (R), Conventional (Canon) Couple, Deviates from canon at or post-Hunsford, Drama/Angst, Era: Regency, Het: M/F, Historical, Hurt/Comfort, Introspective, Marriage rushed or urged due to compromising situation, Meetings prior to canon, Mr. Bennet not thrilled with Elizabeth/Darcy romance, Mr. Darcy/Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Wickham/Lydia Bennet, Pride & Prejudice, Prior connections between Darcys and Bennets or related characters, Published Novel, Resolution earlier than in canon, Rivals vying for Darcy's or Elizabeth's affections, Romance | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Martian by Andy Weir

Story Title:  The Martian
Author Name: Andy Weir
Category:   Published Book
Category: SciFi
Amazon Url: Story Link
Content Rating:  Teen (for language)
Status: Completed, with movie made
Length:   385 pages
Story Summary:  Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.  Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Gioia’s Rec:
I ran across the movie, The Martian, a year or so ago and was captivated by the plot.  That drove me to go find the book.  I found it even more enthralling than the movie.  I saw a comic recently that does a great job of describing the target audience for the movie.  Do you remember the movie Apollo 13, the scene in which the NASA scientists dump a bunch of parts onto the table and announce that they need to make a solution to the problem using just the parts on that table?  The Martian will appeal to people who liked that scene.  I only took 6 hours of general science classes in college decades ago, so don’t let that comparison intimidate those of you without engineering or science backgrounds.  The whole point of the book is that the protagonist, Mark, makes the science easy to digest, with edge-of-your-seat excitement.  His ongoing war with the planet Mars has moments of insane hilarity as well as sheer terror.  There’s a lot of strong language in the book, because Mark has a notable, hysterical gift for comic swearing.  I’ve read the book through 4 times, and am working on my 5th read through with my kiddo.  The book has also become my latest fanfic fave.  I’ve found some good fics on fanfiction.net, but the majority are over at ArchiveOfOurOwn.org.

My Only Critique: There are one or two moments at the beginning when the writing feels vaguely amateurish.  However, I never could decide whether this was an author error, or if the author was deliberately using such moments to make Mark’s log entries feel casual, and like some random guy’s amateur writing style (when not writing for peer review).

Posted in Action/Adventure, Drama/Angst, Favorite Story, Gen, Introspective, Published Novel, Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi Novel, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Ladies’ Auxilary Pie Auction by Lauriofthepen

Story TitleThe Ladies’ Auxilary Pie Auction
Author NameLauriofthepen
Category:   Anne of Green Gables (Rilla of Ingleside)
Story Url: Story Link
Content Rating: All Ages
Status: Completed
Length:  5,992 words
Story Summary:   We know that Rilla has always been interested in Ken, but when did Ken start seeing Rilla differently?

Gioia’s Rec:
It’s so rare to find fanfic based off of one of my absolute favorite books, “Rilla of Ingleside,” the last book in the Anne of Green Gables series.  I feel I should write this rec with all the italics of an Emily Byrd Starr childhood composition, or all the drama of one of Rilla’s own early journal entries.

The story was originally meant to be a one-shot about an incident that is barely mentioned in the L.M. Montgomery canon – a pie auction in which Ken Ford bought Rilla’s pie.  Lauriofthepen takes that vague mention and created a charming tale of how and when Ken first became interested in Rilla, prior to his deployment in WWI.  But what really makes this story work is the second chapter, set right at the end of “Rilla of Ingleside,” in which Ken and Rilla are reunited. What makes the two chapters flow together so beautifully is the way that they contrast pre-war-Ken and pre-war-Rilla with their post-war selves.  As much as L.M. Montgomery did a phenomenal job of writing the ending to that book (one of the best and most passion-filled, single-word conclusions ever!), Lauriofthepen‘s epilogue is just beautiful and feels utterly right.  I adore it.

 

Posted in Anne of Green Gables, Drama/Angst, Fluff, Het: M/F, post-canon setting, Pre-canon setting, Reunion-fic, Romance, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

PSA: Still Here

Goodness. It’s been over a year since my last post. I’m actually still here and read as much as ever. However Hubby’s ill health turned out to be a heart defect which my youngest child has, too, landing them both in wheelchairs. Thus, writing up my recs has been increasingly difficult.

If you’re interested in my reading list, follow the links in the sidebar to my Fanfiction.net and AO3 accounts, where I continue to Favorite and Bookmark, respectively, those stories I most enjoy. Eventually, I hope to update my favorite books over here, too. In the meantime, the “Future Recs” section, above, has some of these noted, too. And if you’ve got favorites of your own to share, I’m always interested in reading your thoughts on the section, above, labled “Share Your Recs.”

Happy New Year, and many blessings, to you all.
Gioia

Posted in PSA | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Broken Wall by TaraSoleil

Story TitleThe Broken Wall
Author NameTaraSoleil
Category:  Harry Potter
Story Url: Story Link
Content Rating:  Mature
Status: Complete
Length:   80,648 words
Story Summary:   It was only a book. No harm ever came from reading a book.

Gioia’s Rec:
What a delight this story was!  I’m not normally a fan of stories in which Harry encounters the Mauraders as teenagers.  But this story introduces Harry to his parents in such an unusual way, it easily won me over.  This is not a time travel story, for starters.  In some ways it reminds me of SamVimes’ story “The Cartographer’s Craft.”  If you’ve read a time travel story in which Lily falls in love with James Potter just because she learns that they ended up married together, or if you’ve seen a teenage James try to act like a father to Harry, don’t make any assumptions about “The Broken Wall.”  None of that occurs here.

The focus of this story really isn’t on Harry and his parents.  The person who brought about this miracle isn’t too much of a surprise, though I won’t spoil you here.  The focus of the story is on that person and on the repercussions of those actions.  Dumbledore’s oft quoted canon remark, that it is our choices which define us, is certainly applicable here.  Can magic which is meant to be evil be used with good intentions?  And if so, are there repercussions?

“The Broken Wall” is two parts action/adventure, one part romance, and, if you choose to focus upon it, perhaps one part wisdom mixed with hope.  (Feel free to ignore that bizarre formula. I’ve never claimed to be good at math.)  Don’t let the latter parts intimidate you, though, if you’re not in the mood for deep thinking.  Though I admittedly inhaled this story too quickly to focus excessively on the contemplative moments, I’ve been left feeling reflective afterwards, thanks to the marvelous writing, the characters’ careful contemplations, and the author’s own insightful thoughts, made obvious in every carefully crafted moment within this story.

In the end, though, it isn’t the deep thoughts which made me such a fan of “The Broken Wall.”  It’s the pure fun and excitement which captivated my imagination.

Spoilers are below in the tags, so I’d recommend avoiding them for now, especially as the sole ship is like nothing I’ve ever read before.

Posted in Action/Adventure, Content Rating-HP: Mature (R), Harry Potter, Hermione-centric, Maurader-centric, Sirius Black/Hermione Granger, Spoilers for Half-Blood Prince | Tagged | 4 Comments

We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy by Caseen Gaines

We Don't Need RoadsStory Title:  We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy
Author Name:  Caseen Gaines
Category:   Published Book
Story Url: Amazon Link
Story Url: Publisher’s Site
Content Rating:  All Ages
Status: Completed
Length:   288 pages
ISBN: 0142181536
Story Summary:   A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the wildly successful and beloved Back to the Future trilogy, just in time for the 30th anniversary

Long before Marty McFly and Doc Brown traveled through time in a flying DeLorean, director Robert Zemeckis, and his friend and writing partner Bob Gale, worked tirelessly to break into the industry with a hit. During their journey to realize their dream, they encountered unprecedented challenges and regularly took the difficult way out.

For the first time ever, the story of how these two young filmmakers struck lightning is being told by those who witnessed it. We Don’t Need Roads includes original interviews with Zemeckis, Gale, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Huey Lewis, and over fifty others who contributed to one of the most popular and profitable film trilogies of all time.

With a focus not only on the movies, but also the lasting impact of the franchise and its fandom, We Don’t Need Roads is the ultimate read for anyone who has ever wanted to ride a Hoverboard, hang from the top of a clock tower, travel through the space-time continuum, or find out what really happened to Eric Stoltz after the first six weeks of filming. So, why don’t you make like a tree and get outta here – and start reading! We Don’t Need Roads is your density.

Gioia’s Rec:
As with most Gen-Xers, the Back to the Future trilogy is a big part of my childhood and teen years. So I was delighted to see that a definitive book had been written on the making of the trilogy. The stories contained within “We Don’t Need Roads” were immensely entertaining to me, and I happily forced family members to listen as I quoted sections from the book ad nauseam for days. But although I enjoyed the book, I’m not sure whether others will be as interested as I was in some of the minutia, unless they are big fans of the series or of the movie industry in general.

My husband and I both have extensive backgrounds in the entertainment industry, with decades of experience under our belts. Therefore, the things that were interesting to me — such as the details of pre-production, casting, production, and even some post-production, or the way the special effects were set-up, or the frustrating situation with Crispin Glover’s absence in the last two movies — may not be interesting to everyone else.

Thankfully, the book is laid out in such a way that if one isn’t as interested in, for example, how the hoverboards were made to look real on screen, it’s easy to skip that section. You won’t need to keep up with every detail in the book in order to focus solely on the info that interests you. And while the numerous subjects of his interviews certainly provide an ocean of information, the author very helpfully skimmed those interviews down to the essentials, and even kindly reminds the reader periodically who the different individuals are, whether cast, crew, or Eric Stoltz.

Probably the three biggest stories which captured my mind as I read this book were the firing of Eric Stoltz after five weeks of shooting, the absence of Crispin Glover in the second and third movies, and the horrific accident in which stuntwoman Cheryl Wheeler was nearly killed.  I won’t spill details regarding Eric Stoltz, as I think that tale is too good for me to attempt to retell it.

You can see Cheryl injured if you watch the hoverboard race around the Clock Tower in Part 2. Just watch for the female villain to fly toward the glass, only to hit the pillar, then begin falling 30 feet to the concrete below. The Cassandra comparisons are hard for me to avoid seeing in this situation. There were many, many warnings and questions — from both Cheryl and others on set — which ought to have prevented that catastrophe from occurring, but were instead blown off and ridiculed, in a snide manner which infuriates me and makes me want to summon Hermione Granger and point her at the patriarchy.

Crispin Glover’s involvement with Back to the Future is complex, yet absolutely worth reading. I don’t think that anyone is ever going to know the whole story here, as Glover’s 1990 lawsuit was settled out of the court, which means that the documented facts of the case will probably never be publicized. I understand where Glover was coming from in his creative requests for the character of George McFly, and I agree that it was uncool for the producers to use prosthetics to make another actor look like Glover in the sequels. They should’ve simply recast the role, as was done with Marty’s girlfriend, Jennifer. Additionally, some of the details about the producers’ sequel negotiation tactics struck me as having been more about making Crispin publicly submit, acknowledge their authority over him, and return to the set as a chastened, humbled creature, rather than focusing on what was good for their franchise. And while Glover did receive some remuneration from the lawsuit, he also likely sabotaged his Hollywood career.

Yet, having worked exclusively in production, I know I would have been driven batty by some of Crispin Glover’s on-set behaviors. He made life immensely difficult for the crew, at a time when they were working around the clock, and thus exhausted, over-worked, and enormously stressed.  Reliable reports from the set of the first film describe Crispin defiantly disregarding directions and figuratively digging his heels in by arguing constantly over seemingly every step of the production. Frankly, he is lucky they didn’t fire him the first day he pulled that behavior on set.  And if, during negotiations for the sequels, Crispin really did insist upon a salary equal to that of Michael J. Fox (a charge Crispin denies) along with script approval (which means Glover could have forced the writers to change any parts of the script Glover disliked), then “the Bobs,” as they are called in this book, were right to be firm in their negotiating terms. It’s also worth noting that the producers of the film are far more forthcoming about the mess than Crispin Glover is, which could imply that Glover doesn’t want to admit to some of his poor business decisions.

Ultimately, I was left feeling most sorry for Jeffrey Weissman, the actor who replaced Glover and was treated poorly on set when the sequels were shot, and was unfairly blackballed in Hollywood afterwards. I felt badly for Crispin Glover, who doesn’t seem to have been deliberately malicious during either Part 1 production or Parts 2 & 3 negotiations, even if he was an enormous pain in the rear to deal with. I felt less badly for the producers, even though they may very well be right about Crispin’s diva antics, because they seem to have responded badly to his obdurate behavior by being intentionally unkind in the end.  No matter how he behaved, they did not need to use their positions of power to avenge themselves on a man who was no threat to them.  I may be biased, though, because the vengeful, mean streak which runs deep in Hollywood is the very reason why I’m very grateful to now be out of that industry for good.

Behind-the-scenes stories such as those above are what make this book a great read. A huge chunk of the book was about the making of the first movie. The stories about the two sequels felt rushed and abbreviated. It seemed to me as if way too much time was spent on issues like Mattel’s toy hoverboard controversy and the Back to the Future fandom as a whole. I’m not particularly interested in learning about why certain fans started websites, conventions, or fan clubs. The last chapter, in fact, was rather tedious for me. I’d rather hear more about how Bob Gale and Bob Zemeckis envisioned 2015 for the film, why the films mispronounce “gigawatt,” and what ideas didn’t make it into the scripts. I was also a bit frustrated that the book’s author, Caseen Gaine (and, by extension, his editor and publisher) didn’t seem to know the definition of the word “nonplussed,” as it yanked me out of the narrative each time he misused it. Overall, though, there’s little to complain about here. The book’s trivia will entertain nearly all fans, and the negotiations, production problems, and publicity details will enthrall any cinephile.

Posted in Non-Fiction Book, Published Novel | Tagged | Leave a comment

Innocent by MarauderLover7

Story Title:  Innocent (I only recommend Chapters 1-71)
Author NameMarauderLover7
Category:  Harry Potter
Story Url: Story Link
Alternate Url: Google Doc
Content Rating:  Mature (I’m not sure why it’s got such a high rating. I would’ve said “Teen,” and that’s just for the language.
Status: Complete
Length:   494,191 words
Story Summary:   Mr and Mrs Dursley of Number Four, Privet Drive, were happy to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. The same could not be said for their eight year old nephew, but his godfather wanted him anyway.

Gioia’s Rec:
Harry-3-harry-james-potter-22431766-400-414This is a first for me.  I adored chapters 1-71.  I am not recommending the rest of the story, though, particularly chapter 79.   I’ll explain why at the end, because if your interests are anything like mine, I strongly suggest you skip the last act of this story.

First, I do recommend it as one of the best stories, if not the best, that I’ve ever encountered in which Sirius rescues Harry from the Dursleys. The author not only does a masterful job of creating well-developed, age-appropriate, dynamic characters and riveting plots, MarauderLover7 also created magical spells and theories which flowed naturally into JKR’s world, while still belonging wholly to this story. “Innocent” was a rich and vibrant world, and I was absolutely mesmerized for a week by this epic length tale.

The story weaves together the lives of numerous characters scattered throughout the wizarding community. Kreacher is a real treat, the relationship Remus has with Greyback’s pack was brilliant, Tonks’ relationship woes as a new graduate were very discerningly written, and even Petunia was written in a way that was quite astute.  I was equally fascinated with the author’s insight into the House of Slytherin, for example. I know many fanfics, and perhaps even the books, seem to indicate that the Slytherins learn their lessons of ambition and cunning while at Hogwarts.  However, MarauderLover7 rightfully illustrates that it is in the home that children first learn such lessons. For example, from Lucius Malfoy we learn that he believed a parent should quit showing signs of physical affection to a child after the age of 5; that the child no longer needs it. Additionally, we see scenes in Malfoy’s home in which the children of Slytherin families ridicule one other heartlessly, even mocking a girl for crying when her mother dies, while the parents do nothing to stop this malicious behavior. It makes sense to me that the children are prepared in this manner when I consider how malevolent Pansy Parkinson is toward Neville Longbottom in canon during that first flying lesson. MarauderLover7 is also correct in establishing the idea that a child’s behavior is the responsibility of the parents, not the school.

The ending plot thread, though, ruined the entire story for me and left me so enraged, I was a mess for the rest of the day. Details are below, due to the obvious spoilers. For those of you who don’t want spoilers, I’ll simply suggest that you stop reading before you hit Chapter 72. Every major plot point is resolved by the end of Chapter 71. Chapters 72-80 are an entirely different story arc which is unnecessary for one to understand or enjoy the previous 71 chapters. If I’d had someone to offer me that advice, this recommendation would likely be much longer, as I waxed rhapsodic about the thousands of reasons I loved the brilliantly-written story.

Spoilers below.

Spoilers below.

My Only Critique:  The Serpent Sworn mystery which Harry and Sirius stumble upon in Chapter 72 turns out to be an incredibly manipulative, dangerous test set for certain characters by people they trust. It’s comparable to the Season 1 episode “Helpless” on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  For the perpetrators to have thought it was a good idea to throw this traumatic exercise at anyone – much less those who had fought in a war, had lost others in battle, and naturally had resulting difficulties with trust issues (and rightfully so, given their awful pasts) – was nothing short of vicious cruelty.

In Deathly Hallows, Remus scolds Harry that he can’t avoid killing enemy combatants; that it’s dangerous to keep disarming them without permanently disabling them from a battle. Canon Harry stands firm against Remus, and I think it’s probably the right answer for Harry at that age and in that moment. But those of us who are parents know very well that we would absolutely not hesitate to kill someone who was a threat to our child. The fact that nobody is killed as a result of the senseless, callous Serpent Sworn test is a matter of pure chance. Sirius and the person who fights at his side appear to be in grave danger for their lives, and Sirius is terrified for Harry’s life throughout those scenes. If he and the person assisting him had killed someone in defense of others, only to find out later on that it was a hoax perpetuated by people they trusted, it would have devastated them. Frankly, Sirius’ ally in that scene many not have survived such an unveiling, considering the similar grief and shame that person was already fighting. Had I been in that situation, I would have packed up my child and fled upon discovering it to be merely a nasty test. The main thing that test taught me was that Sirius was right not to trust anyone else, except perhaps for his only ally during that awful battle.  I was already struggling with Dumbledore’s behavior toward Sirius, both in denying him a trial in 1981, and in denying him help again in Chapter 76. That so-called test, though, was just too huge and risky for me to accept.  It wasn’t that I had a problem with the way the author characterized Dumbledore; she was spectacular in that regard. I simply struggled along with Sirius on the matter of trusting Dumbledore in light of his mistakes.  Therefore, when Sirius laughs off the Serpent Sworn test at the end of Chapter 79, my love for this story was greatly hurt. I felt manipulated and betrayed.

In spite of my complete melt-down at the end of Chapter 79, I really do recommend this story.  As readers here should know, I never recommend a story unless I am nuts about it.  This is simply the first time I’ve ever had to discriminate between sections of the story.  There are two sequels: Initiate, which is completed, and Identity, which is still in progress.

Posted in Action/Adventure, Alternate Universe, Baby/Kid-Fic, Character Study, Content Rating-HP: Mature (R), Friendship/Mentorship, Gen, Harry Potter, Harry rescued from the Dursleys, Harry-centric, Introspective, Sirius Black avoids or escapes Azkaban earlier than in canon, Sirius-centric | Tagged | Leave a comment