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review 2017-01-12 12:05
Music, mystery, beautiful writing and a story that proves reality is weirder than fiction
Ghost Variations: The Strangest Detective Story In Music - Jessica Duchen

I’m writing this review on behalf of Rosie’s Book Review Team. I was given an ARC copy of this book and I voluntarily chose to review it.

I enjoy reading in a variety of genres but have recently realised that I really enjoy historical fiction, as it offers me both, great stories and a background that’s interesting in its own right and that often offers me insight into eras and situations I know little about.

When I read the description of this novel I thought it sounded very different to what I usually read, but fascinating at the same time. A mystery surrounding a piece of music (a violin concerto) by a famous composer (Robert Schuman) that has been hidden for a long time. I love music but I’m not a deep connoisseur, and I didn’t realise when I read about the novel that the story was based on facts (it follows quite closely the events that took place in the 1930s, involving Hungarian (later nationalised British) violinist Jelly d’Arányi, and a concert Schuman wrote whilst already interned in an asylum) and included an element of the paranormal. It’s one of those cases when reality upstages fiction.

Despite the incredible story, that’s fascinating in its own right, Jessica Duchen does a great job of bringing all the characters to life. The story is told in the third person mostly from Jelly’s point of view, although later in the book we also get to hear about Ully, a character that although not based on a real person brings much to the equation, as it offers us a German perspective on the story. Jelly, who lives with her sister, brother-in-law, niece and their dog, despite her many admirers and some failed romances, is single and dedicated heart and soul to her music. I easily identified with Jelly, although our vocations and personal circumstances are very different, but I appreciated her dedication and love for music and for her family, her horror at the social and historical circumstances she was living through, her difficulties fitting in, as a foreigner living abroad, and her awareness of the challenges and limitations she was facing due to her age. There are very touching moments, for example when Jelly goes to visit her secretary and friend at the hospital and gives an impromptu concert there, when she organises a tour of concerts in cathedrals, free for everybody, not matter their social class, to collect funds for the poor, and when she becomes plagued by self-doubt, due to her personal circumstances and to her failing health. Jelly is not perfect, and she appears naïve at times, showing little understanding of issues like race or politics, limited insight into her own beliefs about the spirit world, her feelings and hesitating about what to do in her personal life, but she is a credible and passionate human being, and she gets to confront many of her fears by the end of the book.

Apart from the gripping story and the background behind the discovery of the concert, there is the historical context of the 1930s. As Schuman was a German composer, somehow it became a matter of national importance to recover the concert and claim it as a German work. The changes in Germany, the atmosphere of menace and threat, the rise of dangerous nationalism, and how that was also reflected in Britain, where the sisters lived, was well reflected and built into the book, especially when, at first sight, it seems to be only marginally relevant to the central mystery. As several characters observe in the novel, a piece of music is not ‘just a piece of music’ any longer and everything becomes vested with particular significance, thanks to manipulation and propaganda, no matter what the original intention of the composer might have been. I suspect most people who read this book won’t be able to resist comparing the historical situation then to our current times and worry.

This novel is a joy to read, one of these cases when the story and the writing style are perfectly matched and one can almost hear the music flowing from the pages. A wonderful novel that I recommend to anybody interested in the period and in good writing. I’ll be closely watching this author in the future.

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review 2016-11-23 08:36
Review - Mr Darcy's Obsession by Abigail Reynolds

Cross posted from The Pemberley Library


I'm a recent fan but I am so obsessed by Pride & Prejudice that I'm of the belief that I could happily read anything that even hints at being a retelling, variation, vagary, etc. since the original was over too soon. It's fitting that my first adventure into the world of P&P fanfiction  is titled Mr Darcy's Obsession and is authored by Abigail Reynolds.


What a book! I loved it. Slightly different from the original as they fork apart around the time of the Rosing's meeting but the beloved characters were just as I remembered them with a few new names thrown in for good measure. I'm not really familiar with the sub-genres yet but I think this one might be a 'What-if' and the story follows what would happen if Darcy had never been able to propose and Elizabeth's father had died, scattering the sisters and their mother to cope as best they can.


I wasn't sure what to expect as I'm still not used to how things veer off from the original but if they're all like this one then I'll be lapping them up! I loved Darcy and his attempts to meet Elizabeth, I loved the misunderstandings, I loved the new setting and most of all I loved the outcome.


Since reading P&P I've watched both the BBC drama with Colin Firth and the movie with Matthew MacFadyen and loved them both in their own ways and I'm not sure which Darcy is my favourite. Reading this I pictured Colin Firth as Mr Darcy so perhaps he'll be my guy when reading the FF's. Suits me! Can't wait to build up my library with more of the same...




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text 2016-11-19 14:15
OMG! Finally able to post!!!

I have no idea when I last posted but I'm guessing it was about 20 million years ago because that's how long it feels like!


I haven't had a 'text post box' to write my post in since all that hooha with the slow site etc.    Did anyone else lose their box?  It's been well over a month for me. I guess not as I see lots of posting going on on my dash.


Anyhoo, between the slow site back when, feeling a bit poorly and then the missing box I've been absent for so long I feel a out of my depth now I can post again.  Not sure why I've finally got a box back but I'm glad I have.


While I've been gone I've been reading a bit here and there and mostly it's been JAFF.  That's a new find for me and I'm obsessed with it!  JaneAustenFanFiction,  Can't get enough of it!  Does anyone else read it?  It's not online like the Harry Potter stuff though, it's actual printed books (and ebooks but I'm stickin to paper).  I've been making a new blog especially for it in case this one didn't come back on for me, but the new one is on blogspot like my other one.  If anyone wants to catch up now and then I'm over there quite a lot lately, behind the scenes tinkering with it and making it how I like it.  It's new so there's nothing really on it yet but it's a work in progress :)




So, that's my news, such as it is.  Not a lot going on really apart from reading a bit here and there.  I miss you all though


*Edit* Forgot to say...So far I've found 844 JAFF books (not counting the ebook only ones!) so my reading list is pretty full for the next 20 years :D

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text 2016-06-17 17:34
Pride & Prejudice Book Haul!


I was admiring the book haul post from Murder by Death and lamenting the condition of books v's the online marketplace description of books, when I was overcome by a need to share my own book haul for this week.  I debated it for a bit because I'm a bit embarrassed by the amount of books I buy but I couldn't resist sharing my newest pile of Pride & Prejudice spin offs, retellings, variations, vagaries, sequels, prequels...published fanfic...whatever, to do with P&P because it's a thing of beauty.


I've even started a new blog just to deal with my P&P variation addiction :)  Not 'quite' ready to share yet as it's empty atm but it will give me an outlet to fangirl a bit.  I have the good grace to blush a bit when I say these purchases are just from this week. Not a very good pic I'm afraid but you get the idea.


Send help, please.  Thank you,.

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review 2016-03-23 21:31
Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A Tale of a Gentleman and an Officer
Darcy and Fitzwilliam: A tale of a gentleman and an officer - Karen V. Wasylowski

I've owned this book for...years (wow, far longer than I thought by at least a couple of years!) but I'd never read it before now. It both was and wasn't what I was expecting.


The book is broken into three sections: Darcy, The Colonel, and the Family. The first two sections focus on Darcy after his marriage and the issues he and Elizabeth face surrounding that (Aunt Catherine, a baby, etc.) and Colonel Fitzwilliam as he deals with what war has done to him mentally and emotionally as well as finally finds a woman he can't live without. The last wraps up the situations both face as well as other elements.


I can't in good conscience recommend this book. The attempts to make it sound contemporary were...to me, nonexistent and there were several plot points that I found...implausible is a kind word.


Yet I loved this book. I've not laughed so hard at an Austen-esque book since Austen herself. Yes, some of the characters were a bit (more than a bit OOC though there were reasons given, but this book shocked loud laughs out of me again and again.

The best had to be when Lady Catherine and Marie Fitzherbert (the Prince regent's wife whose marriage was dissolved by George III) stage a noble raid on a woman who is trying to sever all ties between the woman Fitzwilliam loves and her child from her first marriage. How they get her to change her mind is hilarious and worth the read by itself.

(spoiler show)


There were also some truly poignant moments. I've never seen a P&P pastiche deal to a such a degree with Col. Fitzwilliam's profession and the toll that would take on him.


So while I say try this only if it sounds really interesting to you (or like me, you have to try basically every P&P pastiche once), this is basically one of my guilty pleasures.

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