My August Rewind (up late, but better late than pregnant... Err, never. Better late than never.
THE BOOKS: The Fairest of Them All| Carolyn Turgeon [re...more My August Rewind (up late, but better late than pregnant... Err, never. Better late than never.
THE BOOKS: The Fairest of Them All | Carolyn Turgeon [review] Mansfield Park | Jane Austen (obvs) Among the Janeites | Deborah Yaffe [review] The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. | Adelle Waldman [review] Austentatious | Alyssa Goodnight [review](less)
When I finished this on Goodreads, a GR friend asked me "Have you no shame?" and I just want to state for the record: no, I do not. I will pick up eve...moreWhen I finished this on Goodreads, a GR friend asked me "Have you no shame?" and I just want to state for the record: no, I do not. I will pick up every damn thing with "Pride and _________" or "___________ and Prejudice" in it... Nor do I regret that, because sometimes they turn out to be worth it. This was actually really enjoyable, though certainly aimed at a particular segment of the reading public.
It started out really rocky for me, actually, because it just felt like James was getting the characters (or the characters of the characters) wrong; Chloe-aka-Lizzie was really closed-off and downright rude, and Taylor-aka-Darcy was too suave and likable. I mean, Darcy's not likable - he's an ass. You grow to love him, and you appreciate him for appreciating the fantasticness that is Elizabeth, but he didn't write the book How to Win Friends and Influence People, ya know? (Well, maybe How to Influence People, but not so much the making of the friends...) They dynamic that works so well about this story is that Elizabeth is strong, smart, and lovable - but blinded - and Darcy is honorable, caring, and thoughtful - but doesn't show it. When you mess with that dynamic, you may have a pleasant story that works in its own right, but it fails as a P&P retelling by default. (For me, anyway.)
So on some level, yes, this did fail as a P&P retelling, because I don't think there characters were ever fully rectified, though they did have the classic moment of understanding and the reversal. But that aside, it's very recognizable as P&P, even as modern and young as it is, and (amazingly, because I wasn't expecting it), it did even inspire some of the same feelings I had with P&P. It pulls you in in a similar way, and you find yourself loving how the characters are always talking at cross-purposes and misunderstanding each other (willfully or otherwise), just as in P&P. The story moves very quickly, and other than a tendency towards telling over showing and some general cheesiness (especially in the dialogue, which is rough, and which was a big part of what was throwing me off in the beginning), it remains charming and wholesome throughout.
Now, that being said, I think I should share the author's disclaimer:
If you are hoping to find a YA book full of paranormal beasts, sex, or teens who act much more like under-aged adults, I suggest you save your money and do not buy this book. In fact don't buy any of The Jane Austen Diaries. However, if you are looking for a clean, lighthearted, sweet romance, where teens are good and happy and normal--like all of the teens I know (including my own!) then read on. You've come to the right place. :) --Jenni
This is going to be the major deciding point for most readers. Pride and Popularity is a very youthful, very wholesome retelling, definitely geared toward younger readers, and those hoping to avoid even the whiff of anything "quesionable" - and readers should know this going in. I didn't know, and just plunged right in, and it took me a bit to readjust my perception of what the story was going to be and who it was aimed at. The characters are, I wanna say, fifteen, which inevitably means the content is going to be cutesied up and a bit fluffier - and even more immature - than some Janeites may be looking for in their adaptations. I myself am hesitant when it comes to "fluff" but I think in this case, it's well done fluff. It's just wholesome and harmless, and it made me smile. And as I mentioned, it's a very quick read, so certainly not a waste of time for insatiable Janeites or those looking for something age-appropriate and sweet to introduce P&P to their pre/young-teens.(less)
I did a mini-review of this on the vlog, and I called it playful (like a Benny Hill sketch for porn...), and I think that's really what I got from...more3.5
I did a mini-review of this on the vlog, and I called it playful (like a Benny Hill sketch for porn...), and I think that's really what I got from it (and part of why I liked it). It sort of straddles the line between serious and silly, but it's done in a way that works. There are times when authors do parodies, spoofs, or just really random updates/adaptations of a classic, and you can tell that their main goal is to shock and amuse people who didn't like the classic to begin with - you get the feeling that they didn't like the classic to begin with, and that's why they felt the need to spice it up. But I don't get that impression at all from Szereto; as tawdry and bawdy and risque as this book can be, I think Szereto treated the original text with as much reverence as anyone can when turning the characters into sexual playthings. It's like a thinking-person's porn parody: the characters do things that are way out there, but still suited to who they are as a character; it's completely ridiculous and tongue-in-everywhere-cheek, but it works.
This is not for the faint of heart, mind. It's thoroughly blush worthy. Or, fan-worthy, I guess. But when it comes to things like this, I think well-cone ones make you blush and laugh, poorly done ones make you cringe; this made me laugh over and over again. It can be too much at times, just due to the length of the book and pace of the...encounters, but I think those looking for either a really funny, silly, steamy time with their favorite characters won't be disappointed.
Verdict: Buy it if you like some serious smut, get it from the library if you're unsure (but not embarrassed to be seen checking it out...)
Dracula in Love isn't just a fill-in-the-gaps retelling of Dracula, fleshing out the story from Mina's point of view. No, it is a sort of femini...more4-ish.
Dracula in Love isn't just a fill-in-the-gaps retelling of Dracula, fleshing out the story from Mina's point of view. No, it is a sort of feminist retelling in which Mina asserts that the story that everyone knows, the story that's been told by men, is false. True to their Victorian beliefs and morés, the men have cast the women of the story as either saints of harridans, relegating them to sidelines to seethe or swoon as they may. But thinking, feeling, intelligent Mina isn't having it. There is so much more to Mina's story, things her husband and the doctors and lovers who have spun the story so far have no idea about. Because for Mina, the story begins long before Jonathan travels to the continent to do business with a Count...
It's been a long, long while since I read Dracula. I was thirteen, and I devoured it, but in some ways, it left me unsatisfied. I think that same dissatisfaction may have been the impetus for Essex's reimagining of the tale, at least in part. I mean, the story is so wrought with Victorian fear of female sexuality and human passions in general, so to have it told by a female character who is neither sinner nor saint but just human and humanly flawed, with human cravings - it fills the tale out and makes it more authentic and powerful to me. I really, really liked the idea of getting Mina's side of the story, and of having Mina be lass passive and perfect and more passionate and strong. In that respect, I got what I wanted out of the story.
But what I wasn't expecting, and what I found most fascinating, was her interactions with the men of the story, human and inhuman alike. Dracula's role in this is not the demonic, power-mad, lustful creep of a villain. Or at least, not for the most part. There is certainly a fair amount of lust and a good deal of power and submission. But he bears no resemblance to this guy in looks or manner. Though he is somewhat...unnatural, I guess you'd say, he's not really the villain of the piece. Dracula doesn't appear to be all-encompassing evil. He was terrifying to the Victorians for what he made them confront (lust, mortality), but a thinking, passionate woman need not necessarily fear, so Mina's reaction to him, slowly evolving, intrigued, is appropriate and enjoyable.
All of the domineering men, Drs. Seward and Von Helsinger, Arthur Holmwood/Godalming, even sometimes Mina's husband Jonathan, they're the ones you have to watch out for. And they're the perfect types of villains to creep the bejeezus out of me, because they are overzealous fools given unchecked power they shouldn't have, over people who have no real defense against them. Reasons this makes my skin crawl more than monsters under my bed: a) they feel completely justified in the awful things they do, b) their victims have no real recourse, because in the eyes of the law, they are justified, c) just by virtue of being men, they win control, and anything one could try to take control back would further cement their authority and add to their claims that everything they're doing is justified, and d) they are 100% real. I mean, not these particular characters, of course. But men like them, Victorian psychiatrists and the like, really did exist and practice horrific things on people whom we would consider completely sane. It's this horrible vicious circle that meant that any woman in the Victorian era who had the audacity to express a lustful thought was fair game for their experimentation and "curing" and if she dared stand up for herself and fight, it was further proof that she was insane and needed curing.
I think this is where Essex's book shines. Her human characters can be pretty monstrous, and her portrait of Victorian life and what it meant to be a woman, especially a passionate woman, is very well realized. You can tell she has done a lot of research and a lot of work to bring Mina's world to life. Mina herself straddles the line between proper Victorian woman and fully-realized, passionate woman. She has friends in her life who aren't afraid to express their passions and break the mold, and they are presented in realistic ways, as forward-thinking suffragettes, etc, lending more authenticity to the tale. Because of them, Mina doesn't feel out of place, and the story doesn't feel false or as unrealistic as it could have, given the setting. It was reminiscent of the original, but modern and feminist and womanly enough to be believable. I'm sure Mina would have struggled with some of the things she struggled with, and the feelings and dreams and ordinary experience of sexual awakening and how startling that is for her. From this aspect, it is very well done.
There were some minor setbacks for me. There were times, especially in the beginning, when I just wanted the story to move on. I am not a big fan of excessive description; I am all for setting a scene, and for showing, not telling, but I get more than a little antsy when I feel like useless description has brought the action to a halt. This is a style preference, and I know there are plenty of readers out there who love to have all the minutia described so that they can really see everything in detail. But for me, there were times when I wanted to skim or set the book aside because it wasn't getting on with it at a quick enough pace for me. This was less a problem for me as the story moved along and got into the meat of it, especially once they reached the asylum.
I think there are also those who will be put off by the sexualization of the story. I never found it to be pornographic per se, but it certainly leans toward the erotic at some points. I think this is in keeping with the original in a weird way, since it was so very much about repression and forbidden sexuality (ie, everything that screams Victorian...). While it's never what I would really call explicit, it will most certainly make some people blush; I wouldn't suggest reading it to your grandma. (Well, I may have read this to my grandma. She would have cracked up.) There were times when everything was a little over the top for me, or a little timed ("It's been X pages, time for some writhing..."). But overall, I found it an interesting way to modernly explore what was actually a sexualized tale à la Victorian morés.
I don't remember Dracula enough to really compare specifics, but I think it's certainly an interesting riff on the story. Especially to have Mina telling the tale, firmly and with conviction, because Mina was always the focal point for me anyway. The added gothic elements, like Mina's lifelong bouts with supernatural and Essex's take on the vampire mythology, as well as the very creepy, very gothic and very authentic use of early psychiatry, really brought the book to another level, and made it creepy in a new, modern way. (That sounds like a contradiction, that the use of the Victorian beliefs made it creepy in a modern way. But I think you know what I mean. I hope.) It didn't completely sweep me off my feet, but for the most part, I was pretty pleased with Essex's take and the Mina she presents. If you're not adverse to a little lovin', and you enjoy the gothic ambiance, I'd recommend this one. (less)
Just under 4. There were some things that bothered me (pet peevishly), but for the most part, good fun.
I wasn't sure what I'd be getting with this one...moreJust under 4. There were some things that bothered me (pet peevishly), but for the most part, good fun.
I wasn't sure what I'd be getting with this one. It has a super cute cover (one of my faves in my big ole' Janeite stack), but I am always a little apprehensive when it comes to anything that smacks of romance. I find it even more dubious when a Janeite novel opens with a mangling of Austen's famous "truth universally acknowledged" line. But the fact of the matter is, as clichéd as this could be, it was also great fun, and enjoyably readable. I kid you not when I say I knew exactly what was going to happen by page 4 (I was actually on page 4 when I said it aloud), but it was still fun getting there.
It reminded me very strongly of Austenland (in plot and in tone), and though this made it that much more predicatble, it was welcome, as Austenland is one of my favorite Janeite books. I still like Austenland more, but Weekend had the same sort of self-indulgent funness to it. It was cute and bubbly and there were numerous times when I found myself not just casually smiling, but grinning. The whole thing sort of reads as a nod to Janeites, with lots of in-jokes and other retellings and authors mentioned. It's a fangirl's homage to fangirliness.
As fun as it was, there were some things that held me back in my enthusiasm a bit. Emotions ran a little too high and were a little too easy for me, if that makes sense. I know part of the whole point of the story is the magic of this Jane weekend, and how it weaves its spell, but the main characters didn't seem very realistic, especially the men, and when people start tossing around the word love after a day, I can't help but roll my eyes and think they are doomed. And yes, I get that these uber-thoughtful, expressive, gorgeous men fulfill the stereotype and the wish of the ultimate Austen hero made flesh, but I would have liked a little more groundwork and struggle to get declarations of undying whatever. Part of what builds butterflies in your stomach when you read is that things take time and are difficult. Anticipation is built, and there are near misses where you think they are never going to get together and you just can't wait. I would have liked a little more waiting (which was impossible from the start, since the bulk of the book takes place over 3 days).
From the Jane-ish standpoint, it was a good take on the common tropes. I've already mentioned the men being the embodiment of the swoon-worthy Austen hero (and they certainly did their best), but the two main characters, Katherine and Robyn, were good Jane-inspired female leads. They each were reminiscent of several Austen heroines, without ever being a straight copy of any. It was more a nod to Austen, in a modern woman and setting, and I enjoyed that. Katherine at times was a little too petulant for my tastes - she is a grown woman; I don't ever want to read the word 'pout' applied to an adult character I'm supposed to like. That being said, I still did like her and root for her. Robyn had my heart from the beginning, surprisingly (I thought it was going to be all about Katherine for me). And I loved seeing how their lives came together in the end and all of the storylines were resolved - even if I did see them coming. They were infused with enough believable emotion that I fully enjoyed it and never wanted to set the book aside. It was like watching a chick flick - you may know exactly what is going to happen, but that doesn't stop you from wanting to watch it (again and again and again...)(less)
Hmmm... Wrote this review last year but somehow missed posting it here. So:
This one is kind of an odd one for me because I'm really torn. On the one h...moreHmmm... Wrote this review last year but somehow missed posting it here. So:
This one is kind of an odd one for me because I'm really torn. On the one hand, there were times when I was completely in the flow of things and enjoying it. It was pleasant and I liked the story and where Hamilton was going with it - even though it is not at all what I thought it was going to be. I settled in prepared (purely based on the title and my own preconceptions) for the story of Darcy's time away from Lizzie after his disastrous proposal. I thought it was going to be a fill-in-the-blanks story that took us into Darcy's mind during their time apart, when he has his (seemingly miraculous, unexpected) transformation from arrogant ass to thoughtful heartthrob. I didn't think it was going to be a "variations" type tale that would take the story to a point and then branch off into a different direction, which is what happened. So I wasn't prepared for the story that was presented, and though I was able to adjust my thinking to that and go with it, I was a little disappointed that I wasn't getting the story I had prepared myself for.
But that was a tangent; sorry. As I was saying, I was able to go with the story Hamilton set out, and enjoy it most of the time. But what held me back - and really had me actually considering setting the book aside, despite the fact that I liked it most of the time - was that there was an incredible amount of dialogue. It was endless. They talked and talked and talked, and talked about talking before they talked some more. I wanted to trim away so much of it. It was unnecessary and unskillful, with so many things placed in people's mouths rather than exposition, where they should have been. Darcy is very reserved, and Lizzie, though outspoken, doesn't necessarily wear her heart on her sleeve, so to hear both characters (and every other) spilling their guts and blathering on about every thing, all the while dancing around each other in formal Regency politeness - needless to say, it's not something I have a taste for.
I wanted so very badly for some of it to be internalized or shown through actions and subtle non-verbal cues, which Austen does so very well. Not to mention that it always sends up a red flag when any character gets to speak uninterrupted for 1/2 a page or more. That's not realistic in any setting, but especially not in a close-lipped, reserved Regency setting. Add to this the characters didn't seem to speak like themselves, and it really knocked me out of the story.
There was a shifting back and forth between characters, too, that didn't really work for me. I wanted Darcy's story and would have preferred to see things only filtered through his eyes, or to have action only happen when he's onstage, and everything else be relayed (much as generally is with Austen, only centering around a female). This swung back and forth between a multitude of characters, and though I could see there was a good attempt at making the transitions as smooth as possible, it would have been better not to be in everyone's heads. If you don't know what other characters are thinking, but simply have to really on conjecture based on their words and actions, there is room left for an element of doubt and tension, which is always good.
Also, even though I could tell effort was made at smoothly transitioning, sometimes the transitions would be out of left field and leave me baffled. One sentence would take you days, weeks or months in advance of the present action, only to have the character "remembering" right back to where you just left off, so that the scene could be finished. It was weird and unnecessary.
So those are two huge negatives, and they make me hesitant to give this a hearty recommendation. And that's where this gets tricky, because there were times when I really, truly did enjoy this and felt the take on the tale and the characters was an interesting one. I guess in the end, whether you decide to read this or not is really going to come down to personal preference. If you enjoy a lot of dialogue in which everything is laid out and ground is well covered, and if you like shifting perspectives, then the things that bothered me probably aren't going to bother you, in which case you should pick it up. If you dislike those things, or they are particular pet peeves, you should probably avoid this. I find myself somewhere in the middle, liking it but wanting more.(less)
Though I was familiar with Abigail Reynolds and her Pride and Prejudice/Pemberley "variations" series (and had even seen this book with a different ti...moreThough I was familiar with Abigail Reynolds and her Pride and Prejudice/Pemberley "variations" series (and had even seen this book with a different title, From Lambton to Longbourn), I had never actually read anything by her. I'm not sure why, maybe it was the covers or that there were just so many of them I was afraid they were churned out and passionless. Whatever the reason, I didn't pick them up, and I see now that I need to rectify that.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Did I enjoy it unreservedly on the level of Austen? No, and I doubt I ever will of any Austen fanfic. But did I enjoy it more than I generally do a fanfic? Absolutely. Reynolds captured the language and, more importantly, the feel and tone of Austen really well. I actually felt like her Darcy and Lizzie were quite close to the Darcy and Lizzie I know and love, which is one of the tests for me: too many times, I barely recognize my Darcy and my Lizzie in fanfics, or their brightness shines through only sporadically. This not only felt more authentic to who they are as Austen set them out, but it also expands on their characters rather nicely. I was pleased with her treatment of Darcy, especially. There were things revealed about him that made me actually reconsider Austen's Darcy in a new light, which is a rarity. I felt that my knowledge and understanding of him was expanded, and I found myself rethinking some of the events of Pride and Prejudice and saying, You know, that kinda makes sense... This was especially impressive to me because it was unexpected and doesn't really happen. Reynolds showed great insight into the story and the chararacters, and human nature in general.
Another thing I really enjoyed was that it takes one teeny, tiny line from a pivotal moment and expands out down a path of "what-if?" in ways that seem realistic and make sense. Reynolds stays true to the original story, working in key moments as if they are fixed, but also creates a new timeline and interactions and stays true to the path she sets out to explore. With the fixed points, readers don't miss out on some of their favorite tension filled and/or swoonworthy moments; they just see them come about in a different way. I especially liked that the path Reynolds took means that we see more of a struggle for Lizzie. Knowing that Darcy spends months upon months in the original in the pain of love, it is nice to see some of that visited on Lizzie, and feel that they are on equal footing when it comes to overcoming obstacles and working and desiring each other on the same level.
For a more modern sensibility, Reynolds has given us some sexytime, which I have to say, I am always very hesitant about when it comes of Austen fanfic. Not only does it bother me from the standpoint that a makeout sesh is wholly historically inappropriate for their stations, and would have been grounds for some duelage, but it also often just devolves into one smexy-but-meaningless encounter after another. And though I don't mind that in other books (dotdotdot) I do mind it in my Austen. Part of what I love about Austen is that things are kept so close to the vest, and that passion, no matter how strong and hard to restrain, is restrained (if only barely). I love the struggle and the tension and the anticipation. But many authors are writing from and to modern sensibilities, which often demand some sexytimes, and that can be disastrous. Fortunately, Reynolds does a pretty good job with this. There is good tension and the stirring up of butterflies, and some naughty but not too naughty make-out seshes that take it far enough without making the reader say "Really?" There's also a sense of fun about it, too, that makes it work.
Needless to say, I will be reading more from Abigail Reynolds. ;P(less)