Book Review and Contest Announcement – The Unearthly Series


“I’ve learned that a storm isn’t always just bad weather, and a fire can be the start of something. I’ve found out that there are a lot more shades of gray in this world than I ever knew about. I’ve learned that sometimes, when you´re afraid but you keep on moving forward, that’s the biggest kind of courage there is. And finally, I’ve learned that life isn’t really about failure and success. It’s about being present, in the moment when big things happen, when everything changes, including myself.” ~ Clara

(Excerpt from the Unearthly series by Cynthia Hand)

Being 16 and navigating through high school is hard enough, but can you imagine learning that you’re only “part human” and that you are put on this earth to complete a mission or a “purpose”?  Such is the premise of the Unearthly series of books by Cynthia Hand.

Clara Gardiner thinks she’s a typical teenager until the day her mother reveals to her that she’s part angel, complete with wings that can be summoned on command and the ability to fly.  Furthermore, she’s been put on this earth to fulfill a purpose which will be sent to her in the form of visions or dreams, and her one goal in life – the reason she was born – is to fulfill that purpose.

Shortly after her 16th birthday, Clara’s visions begin.  In a recurring daydream, Clara is transported to a forest fire where she sees in the distance a boy she feels destined to save.  The visions continue until she and her mother are able to conclude that her purpose is connected to this boy and  the forest fire, and the family uproots and leaves everything they’ve known to begin the quest to fulfill Clara’s purpose.

What happens, however, when Clara gets thrown a curve ball and the purpose she feels meant to fulfill seems less important than the direction that her own free-will wants her to go?  Will she follow her purpose, or will she choose a different path?  And what happens if she doesn’t fulfill her purpose?

Cynthia Hand has created wonderful page-turners in her first two books in the Unearthly Series, Unearthly and Hallowed.  In Unearthly, we’re introduced to Clara and her family, and Clara’s friends in her new school.  Strangely, this new town where her family has moved to seems to be a hotspot for “angel-bloods” – those who are part human and part angel.  For the first time, Clara can freely discuss with her close friends her visions and challenges, and she quickly learns that her new friends and their own purposes are deeply intertwined with her own.

Unearthly and Hallowed are an outstanding beginning to a new series of books target toward young adult readers, but the storyline is interesting and mature enough to appeal to even adult readers.  And, they’re this week’s FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY!  This week, we are giving away gently-used copies of BOTH BOOKS to one lucky winner.  Simply complete the entry form below and click “submit” to enter.

This contest begins today and will end on midnight on Friday, June 15th.  The contest winner will be announced on Monday, June 18th.  Please remember that this contest is open only to Rochester-area residents, and you must be able to pick up your winning copies within 10 business days of winning notification.  Please note that no copies will be mailed.

For more information about this series of books, visit the author’s website at


Book Review & Contest Kick-off – Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to Pemberley
A Review by Catherine H. Armstrong

It’s been only a few years since I finally picked up Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and then only because I felt somewhat guilted into doing so.  I had recently read several novels in a row where Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy had repeatedly been referenced, and I was feeling a little “uneducated” because I had no idea who these two characters were or why they were so beloved.  So I picked up an old, dusty copy of Pride and Prejudice, dusted off the jacket, and began reading.  I immediately fell in love.  Who knew that something written so long ago would resonate so deeply within me?  Who knew that I would count it as among my Top 10 Favorite Books of All Time?

Since reading the original work by Austen, I’ve so fallen in love with the characters that I never miss a chance to read another author’s “sequel.”  I want to know what Darcy and Elizabeth have been up to.  How have their lives changed since the closing pages of Pride and Prejudice?  With this in mind, I was ecstatic to see a new book, Death Comes to Pemberley, that would hopefully address some of my questions.

It’s been six years since the weddings of Elizabeth to Darcy and Miss (Jane) Bennet to Bingley.  Both families are settled in homes with close proximity to the other, and the sisters and best friends freely visit each other as often as their responsibilities will allow.  Even their households become somewhat intertwined with the impending marriage of a Pemberley parlour maid to the butler in the Bingley’s household.  Everything is right in the worlds of the Darcys and the Bingleys until the ominous events on the evening of the eve of Lady Anne’s Ball when the sister to the two women, Lydia Wickham, arrives at Pemberley with no small amount of commotion.  Her husband, Mr. Wickham, and his friend have disappeared into the woodlands surrounding Pemberley and shots have been fired, leading the coachman and Lydia to surmise that disaster has struck.

Immediately a search party of Darcy and his male guests ensues, the result of which is finding the nefarious Mr. Wickham cradling the dead body of his best friend and confidant, Captain Denny.  “He’s dead!  Oh God, Denny’s dead!  He was my friend, my only friend, and I’ve killed him!  I’ve killed him!  It’s my fault,” cries an obviously distraught and inebriated Wickham.

Has Wickham declared his guilt in the death of his friend, or was this the ramblings of a man who feels his actions have simply contributed to the untimely death of his friend?  An Inquest would be assembled to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to presume the guilt of Wickham in his friend’s death.

Death Comes to Pemberley sees the return of Austen’s most beloved characters:  The Darcys, The Bingleys and the Wickhams of course; but also the return of the forbidding Lady Catherine and the ridiculous Mr. Collins.  The long-suffering Mr. Bennet is still patiently enduring the dramatic and embarrassing antics of his wife, and the sweet Georgiana – the younger sister to Mr. Darcy – has grown and matured into a graceful young woman with several marriage prospects.

Author P.D. James

While Jane Austen might have a few words to say about such scandal coming to her beloved Pemberley, there can be no doubt that fans of Austen’s original story will find much to recommend itself in P.D. James’ sequel to Pride and Prejudice.

Death Comes to Pemberley is available through the Rochester Public Library.  However, as a kick-off to our Free Book Giveaway, a gently used copy of this book will be awarded to one lucky blog-reader just for reading this review and entering our contest.

To enter, simply complete the form below and your name will be entered into a drawing to receive a free, hardcover, gently used copy of Death Comes to Pemberley.  Please note that this contest is open only to Rochester, MN-area residents only, and you must be available to pick up your free copy at the Friends of the Library Bookstore within 10 business days of notification, and during normal bookstore hours.  No copies will be mailed.  This contest is open until Midnight on Friday, May 11th, and the winner will be announced on this blog on Monday, May 14th

Good luck!