3.5-4 There are things I really liked, and things I really didn't, but would still recommend. This is a strange, very unique graphic novel, and what i3.5-4 There are things I really liked, and things I really didn't, but would still recommend. This is a strange, very unique graphic novel, and what it lacks in showiness, it makes up for in uniqueness....more
4.5 Snuck this one in in-between review books because I remembered how much fun Texas Gothic was; do not regret. And yes, I know snuck is not a word. Y4.5 Snuck this one in in-between review books because I remembered how much fun Texas Gothic was; do not regret. And yes, I know snuck is not a word. You can pry it from my cold dead lips....more
I had originally intended to have a vlog in defense of Lydia Bennet filmed to go along with today's review, but alas, I somehow managed not to accountI had originally intended to have a vlog in defense of Lydia Bennet filmed to go along with today's review, but alas, I somehow managed not to account for Labor Day, and that just didn't happen. Next year, I suppose, but I do have to say, I've come to look at a lot of Austen characters differently as I've gotten older and pondered more, and I can't seem to muster up the annoyance and dislike of Lydia that I once held. (And even though I didn't end up talking about her in it, Lydia was actually one of the main inspirations behind this book chat about Austen's bitches, in which I found myself defending characters I never thought I would, including the likes of Caroline Bingley and Mrs Norris! I know, I surprised myself. And we're all just gonna ignore that unfortunate lipstick choice, 'k?)
But all of this is to say, since I am always on the look out for Austen rewrites that address characters beyond just Lizzie & Darcy, I've been finding myself especially curious to see what writers would do with Lydia's story, and whether she can be made sympathetic and still retain her Lydia-ness — so of course, I was very happy to learn that the second book in Maria Grace's Queen of Rosings Park series was tackling "the Lydia problem"! And for the most part, I think it does so quite well.
Now, before I get into all of the pros and cons and whys, I need to make clear that the Queen of Rosings Park series takes a very different approach to the canon of Pride & Prejudice, shaking pretty much everything up and creating a whole new (and rather unpleasant) upbringing for the Bennet sisters. This means that the Lydia we know from P&P is already on quite a different path than what we're used to. I mean, she's still Lydia, and she still does the traditional thoughtless-Lydia things. But her life and the events that have formed her are just not the same, and that really comes into play in this story, in how her transformation comes about. But though her life and experiences are so different, and her internalized feelings maybe more extreme as a result, I found them to be a pretty fascinating and potentially accurate reflection of who she is or could be.
The idea of Lydia as a creative, who loves to draw and paint and seems to have almost an inexplicably exceptional natural talent for it, at first seemed a little off to me. I couldn't picture Lydia applying herself to something, and I wasn't sure if she really had that spark of creativity and intelligence needed to be the talented artist that she appeared to be. But then — silly as it is — I recalled the scene with the bonnet, the very ugly bonnet, that she might as well buy as not; she had plans, you see, to pick it to pieces and rework it. On first reading, this seems like another bit of frivolity on her part -- shallow, heedless, bad with money, idle hands and devils work and all that. But actually it speaks to a a self-assuredness that she can remake it into something more, and a desire for creativity and occupation -- albeit not one she finds boring. Add in the fact that the Bennet girls never had masters to teach them such things, or seek out the seeds of such a talent, and it becomes a little less far-fetched that those seeds could be inside Lydia, just waiting to burst forth.
It actually became one of my favorite aspects of the story, seeing Lydia's burgeoning ability, almost an awakening, and watching how it brings her to life. (Having this an aspect of her brain and personality also makes sense in other ways: many creatives struggle with the mundane, some with learning things in a traditional manner; many are flamboyant, messy, and flout convention -- there are a lot of aspects of her personality that actually dovetail quite nicely with this choice on Grace's part.) Her growing passion for art, and the realization that she has a talent and isn't just a trifling, silly girl, actually works (in a rather sad way), with some of the negative aspects of her life — and I don't just mean the altered course that Maria Grace has laid out. Even the treatment of her family in the original text plays well with Trouble-Lydia's need for approval, and general amazement that she's good for/at something. It is actually very sad, and sadly realistic, and makes you question whether her unchecked penchant for fun at all costs is a distraction from how unhappy and undervalued she feels — and how in turn, this would make her exceedingly easy prey for Wickham...
I found these things very fascinating, and they added such a nice layer to the story, because not only do they serve to give Lydia more depth, but they also cause me to reflect back on the original text in new ways, which is part of why I love Austenesque stories so much. (This, by the way, is something I find Maria Grace particularly talented at.) I had only two real detractions, and these are they:
1) There came a point where the male lead made my skin crawl a little bit, and I was almost really put off by him, and their relationship. BUT I came to realize that this is just as much a story of redemption for him as it is for her, and if I can forgive her some things, I can forgive him, too, so long as he's demonstrated a willingness to be better (and he has. He certainly has).
and 2) It definitely needs a little more Lydia feel. I make allowances for the fact that this is, as mentioned, a totally new interpretation of her (and all of the characters), and so, because her life has been so different, she's obviously not going to behave quite as Austen's Lydia would. Bus she starts out a bit too demure and tractable, and she learns and grows too easily. I can't help but feel Lydia would dig in her heels more, and she's certainly not an easy character to make feel shame (as evidenced by her wedding and reaction in the original text -- she was essentially ruined, and still found it all a lark). Even in her manner of speech, she feels a bit too mature and buttoned up, right from the start, for me. I need a few more "Oh, la!"s and general noisy exclamations. This Lydia is no wallflower, certainly, but she's lacking that characteristic boisterousness that makes Lydia Lydia. And frankly, I want to see a Lydia that can be "reformed" and have a Happy Ever After while not being totally dampened or losing her spark.
But again, Grace has a juggling act of being both true to Austen and to the quite altered retelling that she's set out to tell, and I do make allowances for that. All told, this is another strong book in a fascinating series, and though it may be too far removed from the original to make it to everyone's liking, I think it is an excellent example of what a classic-inspired retelling or continuation can be. Definitely recommended for fans of the series, JAFF, and those curious about Lydia (as well as those who just plain like historical romance that falls on the more wholesome, rather than steamy, side). If you're reading it for the Austen: definitely read book 1 first; you'll really need that world-building. If reading it for the histrom, you could probably jump right in, without knowing more than the basics of P&P, and still find it completely enjoyable.
Those of you who watched my First Impressions video on Interference will likely have suspected I was going to love this. I was smitten right from the first page, couldn't get over the voice and the fantastic dry humor, and well, everything, basically. There may have been "delighted jazz hands" in the video, so. . . Basically I said it was on track to be a favorite of 2016, unless it took a nosedive, so now the question is: did it?
Thankfully, thankfully, it did not. Interference was strong from beginning to end. It was warm and endearing and funny, and captured the place-feel very well. As I said in the video, it set up a lot of interesting contrasts well right from the beginning (there vs here, then vs now, us vs them). I can't speak to the Friday Night Lights of it all, as I've never watched it (couldn't get past the nauseating shaky-cam of the first episode; someone tell me if the camera work gets better and its worth sticking around?), but I'd imagine that any YA small town slice-of-Americana that heavily features football probably garners the same comparison.
What I can speak to is the Austen of it all, and I gotta say, it hits Emma notes in very clever ways, much the same way Clueless did: not over-the-top, but with all these little nods and easter eggs for Austen fans, while interpreting and reinventing the story in fresh, fun ways. There's some really smart thinking in using the daughter of a politician to reframe the story of Emma for the modern day -- the theme of manipulation for the greater good and that sense of well-meaning superiority that is such a part of Emma's world fits perfectly with a daughter who has been raised on the campaign trail and in front of cameras. It's one of those strokes of perfect obviousness that is borderline genius — of course! Of course a modern Emma would get her manipulation skills and ability to spin things to her benefit from a politician father! Of course someone whose grown up in a world where people are both passionately fighting for what they feel is right while also being absolutely sharks would pick up some of Emma's puppet master tendencies. It's really a very clever mash-up.
Now, like Emma, whom many readers have MAJOR likability problems with, some readers may never connect to Kate, or may want to jump ship before she learns some lessons and wins her likability points. But as I've always said, Emma is one of my favorite characters, and I relate to her a lot. I relate to her hard, y'all. I've got as much Emma in me as I do Lizzy (that's right, I'm a self-important smartypants who knows whats best for everyone else, but never takes her own advice. Soz!), so I loved Kate from the start. One of the joys of Emma for me is that, even when Emma is getting herself (and those around her. Oops) into colossal snarls, following her own misguided compass, you can always see why she thinks she's right. Her actions, though inevitably wrong, make sense. The same is true of Kate; she doesn't listen when people tell her that she's interpreting something incorrectly, and she doesn't kowtow to someone else's greater understanding of a person's character that they've known their whole life — she knows how things have worked for her in the past, where she's from, and she knows how she'd expect people to react, and why should here be any different? She goes full-steam ahead with her schemes, convinced that she's right and someone just needs to try, and that may frustrate some readers, but I get her — because how do you know if you don't try? And frankly, I like a confident (some may say cocky, I say confident) YA heroine or young woman in general. (I think that's part of the reason that I actually resent Knightley a little bit. He just had to be right. =/)
I don't know what else there really is to say. In many ways, it's a typical, familiar story; that doesn't bother me, because it just makes it seem relatable and familiar-like-a-friend, rather than just the same old, recycled storylines. (And I mean, it is a retelling, so... I expect that feel.) Its main character may put some people off, but I love her; but then, I do tend to love the MCs that no one else does (and I'm okay with that). As always, I'd say just know yourself as a reader: if you're not a fan of Emma, there's a good chance you won't like her rewritten. If you love fluffy, fun contemporary,* you might like this. And if you're not, you won't.
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments, especially if you've read this or watched my First Impressions and have thoughts on the style! Also, can I hear from some fellow Emma lovers out there? It was many, many years before I realized that a lot of people didn't actually like her (like, seriously, many years. I read it when I was 17, and I think I only realized last year when our read along was Emma. I was baffled(ish), startled, and a little bit heart-broken.) And if you end up picking this book up, please come back or find me on twitter and let me know what you thought!
*Speaking of, the synopsis compares this to Elizabeth Eulberg (with which I agree) and Sarah Dessen, and now I wanna know: is this how Sarah Dessen writes? Is this the kind of story she tells? Because if so, I've been missing out and need to change that. Someone who's read this, let me know, pls!
Okay, now Vaughan and Staples are just toying with our emotions. (That said, I am so happy with how things came out in this one, and I SWEAR TO ALL THOkay, now Vaughan and Staples are just toying with our emotions. (That said, I am so happy with how things came out in this one, and I SWEAR TO ALL THAT IS HOLY, if anything ever happens to Ghüs and/or Friendo, I WILL RIOT.)...more