Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Rating: 3 / 5

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith is a re-telling of Austen's classic, retaining almost 85% of the original but now with 'ultraviolent zombie mayhem'. I must admit when I first heard of it I was conflicted between excitement (I have a fondness for zombies) and being slightly outraged over what promised to be a bloody massacre of Austen's work. The picture on the cover decided me, as I got delicious chills down my spine from the combination of the lady in innocent-white Regency dress, blood-shot eyes and rotting flesh, I knew I had to read it.

To start with, it's the longest I've ever taken to read P & P (over 3 weeks) even though I laughed a bit over the course of the book. While most of the story is Austen's, Grahame-Smith's voice quickly becomes apparent when it inserts itself into the work. I must mention the hilarious illustrations added through the book, often with zombies, Elizabeth and sharp objects.

And so the premise is that England is stricken with a deadly plague that creates zombies or Unmentionables as they are known. The unmentionables have a fondness for soft, mushy brains and can infect humans with a bite. The militia are sent out to various regions in England to help the local population with the unmentionable menace. The Bennett sisters under the tutelage of Mr. Bennet

The business of Mr. Bennett's life was to keep his daughters alive. The business of Mrs. Bennet's was to get them married.
are a deadly trained team who have vowed to His Majesty to protect Hertfordshire from the plague. Their mother sees ample oppurtunities to get her girls married upon Mr. Bingley (and his battle-hardened friend Mr. Darcy) moving to the neighborhood. However, the Bennett's training under the Chinese masters of the Shaolin earns them the criticism and scorn of the Bingley sisters and Mr. Darcy who have been reared thinking that a "superior" training can be found only under the Japanese masters. Will the Bennett sisters find true love amidst all the violent Katana-wielding, zombie-bashing, ninja-fighting, vomit-strewn pages of this book?

We (and an admiring Mr. Darcy) get the first inkling of the deadliness of the Bennett sisters at the ball where Bingley and Darcy make their appearance and after Darcy has delivered his famous set-down to Elizabeth "She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me"... Elizabeth instantly desiring to avenge her honour reaches into her ankle boot to remove a dagger with which to slash Darcy's throat when the ballroom is attacked by unmentionables.

As guests fled in every direction, Mr. Bennett's voice cut through the commotion. "Girls! Pentagram of Death!"

Elizabeth immediately joined her four sisters, Jane, Mary, Catherine and Lydia in the center of the dance floor. Each girl produced a dagger from her ankle and stood at the tip of an imaginary five-pointed star. From the center of the room, they began stepping outward in unison - each thrusting a razor-sharp dagger with one hand, the other hand modestly tucked into the small of her back.
The dainty fighting pose made this bit paisa-vasool for me!

Grahame-Smith tends to get raunchy often, inserting scenes, some which have the capacity to hideously rend Ms. Austen's gentle, well-bred world for the reader forever. The following occurs when Lizzy is in Netherfield to help nurse Jane (who has caught a cold from battling zombies in the rain) and the party are gathered in a parlour where Miss Bingley questions Bingley's intention on throwing a ball at Netherfield warning that Darcy would not like one..

"I should like balls infinitely better," she (Miss Bingley) replied, "if they were carried on in a different manner."

"You should like balls infinitely better," said Darcy, "if you knew the first thing about them."

Elizabeth blushed and suppressed a smile-slightly shocked by his flirtation with impropriety, and slightly impressed that he should endeavour to flirt with it at all.
With all the violence here, it's not surprising that the consequences to people in this book are much more explicit than Austen's subtlety. For instance, Charlotte Lucas marries Mr. Collins because she is stricken by the plague and Wickham is rendered paralysed from the neck down as punishment for running away with Lydia while Lydia has to take care of a cripple for the rest of her life.

So, while not perfect (I would have been happier with it as an original work if it contained less of Austen's work), of all the pastiches that seek to take advantage of Ms. Austen's cash cow, I think I have enjoyed this the most. Atleast, it made me laugh.

Just finished reading ....

.... Khaled Hosseini's 'A Thousand Splendid Suns'. As some of you might recall, I didnt like Kite Runner and it took me all this while to work up to the second book. While I wasnt much into the plot, I thought this was the better effort since I liked that it was set against the Afghanistan political backdrop and we got more of an account of political events this time around. However, the end, pretending that the country was just fine after 9/11 made me stop believing everything he had to say. And, that emotional connection that I require with a book just wasnt there.

The interesting thing I found was Hosseini's account of both Mariam's and Laila's feelings when they donned the burqa, both of them felt surprisingly secure and safe from prying eyes. I wonder if this is truly a woman's POV or something made up, because my instinctive reaction - as a woman- is to scoff wholeheartedly. That Laila who is as modern as an Afghani woman could be, being brought up by a progressive father, encouraged to study and forge her own way would have the same reaction as the more unsophisticated Mariam seems unbelievable to me. And the idea that anyone would willingly embrace the loss of freedom. But, maybe I am not sensitive enough to appreciate what the women have been through and where they are in their head.

Also, the thing that totally bugged me and took me right out of the book is the dialogue. In the beginning it wasn't so obvious, but the language quickly attains the cadence of Americanese "It's the whistling, the damn whistling, I hate more than anything", Rasheed saying 'You think?!' to someone at one point of time.

And what irritated me even more was the interspersing of Farsi thrown around in the book. I've said it before but I'll say it again. It does not work logically, because this is a work written in English, but the context is that the characters are Afghani and conversing entirely in Farsi. So, either they talk in Farsi all the time or they talk in English all the time. How can they talk in English with some random Farsi words thrown in? I might have been forgiving of the second language if there was a glossary of terms at the end, or if the words were entirely contextual.

I wont review since I said everything I wanted to say with the Kite Runner.

Have you guys read it? What did you think?

The Curse of the Pack Rat!

Whew, we moved, finally!! It turns out that the books were the least of our problems. An overstocked kitchen was the worst. Even after donating away atleast 1 big box plus some little ones we were left with 5 boxes to carry over. To fit into a tiny kitchen, which will become overloaded if I add a handkerchief into one of the drawers.

B: Why do we have 200 glasses and 500 spoons for 2 people????

Harassed Mover (after spending 2 hours on a single cupboard): I feel as if someone underneath keeps pushing pans up as soon as I remove them.

CP (in her head ignoring all the bad vibes): La lala lalala

However, the breaking point came over the shoes and bags. Obviously, with all the high emotion involved, it wasn't the greatest week/ weekend.

So, just a quick not-so-disinterested poll for all you ladies (heck, let's hear from the men too), how many pairs of shoes do you own?? An actual count please, including even the tatty pair you wear only for gardening/ washing the dog. And bags???

Review: A Lady's Secret

Rating: 3 / 5

In Jo Beverley's A Lady's Secret, Robin, the Earl of Huntersdown, is returning to England from Versailles when he comes across a swearing nun. Convinced that the beauty in nun costume is an adventuress, he offers to provide her an escort looking forward to some amusement over a long journey.

Petra D'Averio or Sister Immaculata, aforementioned nun, is at wits' end. Rejected by Milanese society since she is the bastard of an English lord, she has no friends to support her after her mother's death. She needs to find her father before her old lover Count Ludovico, can capture her. After meeting carefree and rakish Robin she's unsure if she's leaping from the frying pan into the fire. But, she accepts Robin's help and the rest is a sort of comedy of errors on the journey with villainous Italians, murderous peasants, a papillon dog and a hero and heroine whose secrets are revealed over the course of the journey.

The book was likable and entertaining enough that I didnt stop reading. It has some humorous moments, fun banter between the principals and a clever spin on an old nursery rhyme (Who Killed Cock Robin). But, I'm a bit tired of all the stereotypical contrivances of this genre. And I'm sick of rakes who spend the entire book lusting after the heroine or pages full of sexual innuendo only to suffer from instant regret once the deed is done.

The hero, Robin or Cock Robin is one of those beta heroes I think. Much like the crowing cock, he makes grand promises to the heroine to protect her and falls flat. Often. His only saving grace is he is charming. Petra is a good character, she's gutsy and well able to take care of herself. Since, Petra saves herself each time, it beats me why she is in love with Mr. Cocky. And then we have a married villain pursuing Petra across Italy, France and England only to make her his mistress. Illogical, much? Even Petra wonders why.

I've read Ms. Beverly's medieval romances before and they were good reads. If you want to start off with her, I'd say pick those up.

Review: Red Lily (In the Garden trilogy)

Rating: 3 / 5

Red Lily is the third part of the In the Garden trilogy. Read the reviews for the first and second parts.

It's almost 6 months after the events of Black Rose. Things have settled down enough at the In the Garden nursery for Roz and Mitch to get married too. Hayley Phillips, Roz's poor cousin, many times removed, is feeling irritable and anxious under the June Tennessee sun. And downright hot whenever she comes across Roz's son, Harper. After circling each other for 2 years, Hayley finally makes her move, to find that Harper has been interested all along.

And of course, as with the previous books, the elements of love and passion combine to bring out the ghost's insanity, this time centered on Hayley and Harper. But, the ghost has learned new tricks, she can now possess Hayley, and she soon finds that she likes inhabiting a body ... a lot!! Can the 6 friends work together fast enough, to find Amelia's grave and ensure she gets the burial she deserves, before she seriously injures Harper and Hayley. And, to do that they have to find out what exactly happened at Harper House, way back in 1892.

Meh. That's my feeling after reading this book. When a ghost is more interesting than the primary couple in the romance, that's what you can expect. Just ... meh.

I think my problem was that even after 2 books, Harper and Hayley just weren't all that interesting to me. Hayley is very young, a great character in the other books, energetic and fun, but here she quickly gets overly emotional. The type who if taken to a nice hotel, gabs about being Cinderella and how no one has ever done anything as nice for her before etc etc, entirely too talkative, even for a book. And who says woo-hoo and awesome a lot.

Harper, it's difficult to get a handle on him. He's a loner, preferring his garden to people, but then you have him involved with a steady stream of women and little bits of sophistication like him sipping wine (sexily) when on a date with Hayley thrown in and he seemed too much a mix of all other Roberts heroes - Roarke, Logan etc for me to understand him. Like any young couple, they spend the majority of the book having misunderstandings and fighting, and that part seemed real to me. The way they resolved the misunderstandings, hmmm not so much.

With the trilogies I read before, Roberts made sure to keep the most interesting couple last, I remember the tension between the vampire and the other-world Princess to be so great that I practically inhaled two books to get the third in the Circle trilogy. I understand why they were last here, after having a baby in the first book Hayley obviously needs time to be interested in a relationship. But, while they were good side characters, they don't work so well at center stage. Add in that the final scene with the ghost was pretty cliche, straight out of a lot of horror books/ movies and I was quite disappointed. I always expect more out of Nora.

But, if you take the overall story binding three books together, you realize what a master Roberts is with pacing. The ghost which seems benevolent in the first part, gets truly unhinged and malevolent in the next two and Roberts keeps feeding us information about her along with the main romances without missing a beat. And the thing that I love best about her books, the family aspect, towards the end you truly get how these people have all come together to be one big, extended family. Characters are so well-defined that scenes like Hayley talking about Harper to his mother, which would have seemed eeky, have exactly the right voice.

And you have to admire Roberts ability to tie together all the gardening analogies with the story and character arcs of women from different generations. And her knowledge on the subject, even if I got cross-eyed reading about all the fecund pistils and swollen stamens. Ok, I'll stop now.

So, overall as a trilogy, it's about average. Do yourself a favor and dont read the books back to back. Sometimes the sentence structure and language can seem very repetitive.


Series Order
1. Blue Dahlia
2. Black Rose
3. Red Lily

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