[First read June 11 2008] [2nd reading June 17 2012]
*Please note: the author, who published this under the name of "Another Lady" also publishes under[First read June 11 2008] [2nd reading June 17 2012]
*Please note: the author, who published this under the name of "Another Lady" also publishes under the names Anne Telscombe and Marie Dobbs. I'm not sure if either is her real name, but for the sake of brevity, I'm calling her "Dobbs" from here on out.
To properly explain to you why I love this novel, first I need to set the scene: the year was 2008, I wasn't blogging yet, and was in need of some structure; I was planning my summer reading and wishing for something like Jane Austen, when I realized that there were all these adaptations out there. At first, I was a bit startled. People would dare to "continue" and "adapt" Jane Austen? The horror. But then I thought, Maybe I could just embrace it? Maybe I could have a "Summer of Jane" and read all the adaptations I can get my hands on... (sound familiar?) Well, it didn't work out quite the way I'd planned, because the first few I picked up (the names long since forgotten) were dreadful. Awful, awful, awful stuff. In fact, I had just read another completion of Jane Austen's last unfinished work (ie this one) called "Charlotte" - about which I wrote my most scathing review EVER...only to have a Goodreads pageload error when I hit publish and I lost everything. Thwarted!
Anyway, I was about to give up and write off all Austen adaptations as puerile trash, but I had one more book in my stack of library books that was waiting to be read. I was really hesitant to read it, not only because it was another Austen adaptation, but because it was an adaptation of the very same work I'd just finished and loathed. Even if it turned out marginally better (I wasn't expecting much), I doubted I'd be able to separate it from the crap that filled the other book. But I decided to suck it up and give it a chance, and oh my sweet Jane, if it didn't completely change my mind about Austen adaptations. It was a revelation.
Now, I'm not saying this was perfect by any means. And I don't know how Jane Herself would have actually finished out the story (the fragment, if you didn't know, is 11 chapters long, so a good amount of the groundwork had been laid), but I have to say, Dobbs did a really admirable job of taking what she had to work with, parsing it out and figuring out where Austen may have intended the story to go, as well as where modern readers might want it to go, and then embracing that and going there. Aside from one particular sub-plot (that of the foolish wannabe-rake who takes things too far), I really didn't have any trouble believing that the story Dobbs presented was the one Jane intended. It has her characteristic wit, and skewers the foibles of a population in a very Jane-like way. The hero and heroine Dobbs presents feel very well-suited to each other and to Austen's world, like they may be close to what Austen intended of them, and most of the things they go through worked for me.
I was also very impressed with how seamlessly Dobbs blended her writing with Austen's. I was so invested in the story (both the first and second times I read it) that I was 3/4 of the way through before I ever had the thought to wonder where specifically Austen's fragment left off and Dobbs writing picked up. I had to google, and then flip back and forth and compare. Dobbs did a very admirable job of mimicking Austen's tone and style without feeling forced or hitting many false notes. She captured that sly sense of humor, the sharp eye towards the follies of others, the characterization, the structure - she really took her time to make the story and the style - Austen's style - shine, rather than letting her own style intrude. Rather, when it came time for her to take over the story, she injected her style gradually, so that - even though the plot does become more absurd and somewhat modern in its telling - the transition happens at such a good pace, and the style remains consistent enough, that the reader is never jarred out of the story by an abrupt shift in style or content.
Now, four years later, my "Summer of Jane" - which was to be a single, read-it-all and move on project - has evolved into a yearly tradition, and I've stumbled across many more good - and more than my share of bad - adaptations. To make sure my enjoyment of Sanditon wasn't a fluke due to the horrid nature of the other adaptations I'd read, I bought a copy and curled up with it for a second time. It wasn't a fluke; I fell just as in love with it as I did the first time around, and if it weren't for the fact that people would look at me like, Who? in Austen conversations, I'd talk just as readily of Charlotte and Sidney as I do of Elizabeth and Darcy, Catherine and Tilney, Wentworth and Anne... This was the first Austen adaptation I read that made me feel anything even close to what I felt the first time I read any of Austen's works, and it remains one of the few to have done so....more
I am going to start by saying I am an Austenite. I do not take sequels and adaptations lightly. I had yet to meet one that satisfied me in more that aI am going to start by saying I am an Austenite. I do not take sequels and adaptations lightly. I had yet to meet one that satisfied me in more that a minimal, it-keeps-the-story-going sort of way, until I read this book (which I did today, not stopping once I started). LOVE. This is the only thing I have ever read in this genre that even comes close to making me feel the way I feel when I read my favorite parts of P & P. I love this book, I can see reading it multiple times the way I do Austen's books. Brilliant....more
If I could give this negative stars, I would. I had this whole long review (scathing) that I typed up, in which I suggested that the only thing this bIf I could give this negative stars, I would. I had this whole long review (scathing) that I typed up, in which I suggested that the only thing this book is good for is hitting Barrett in the head and putting the world out of its misery, but when I hit post, the page wouldn't load, and I lost it. The world may have been trying to tell me something there, but I stand by what I said, and when I have calmed down a bit, I will repost and let you know all about this piece of ill-conceived, incredibly ill-written bit of drivel from a woman who calls herself a scholar......more
I've said a number of times that I love Abigail Reynolds stories, but I have a confession to make: it wasn't always so. Now, hear me out - I spent halI've said a number of times that I love Abigail Reynolds stories, but I have a confession to make: it wasn't always so. Now, hear me out - I spent half a dozen+ years obsessively reading and rereading Austen's books before I knew there was such a thing as an adaptation or retelling. I stumbled upon them completely by accident when I was looking for more authors similar to Austen via a book recommender. To learn that people had actually taken Austen's worlds and characters and written new stories... well, needless to say, I was equal parts excited and dubious (and a little unsure of whether that was even legal? Haha). Of course, like any desperate Austenite, I checked out a stack of about 20 of these books from my local library, and decided I was going to have a "Summer of Jane"... This was 2008, pre-blog, and I needed a project. So I sat outside every day in the glorious weather and just read and read and read...and the more I read, the more disheartened I became. This wasn't my Austen. This wasn't my Darcy, my Lizzie. It wasn't the world and the manners I'd come to know... What was this? Every book I read made me more convinced that Austenesque fanfiction wasn't for me, and if I hated one, I hated them all. (It was too fresh, you see. I couldn't allow for such mucking about in my beloved stories.) One good traditional retelling and one good playful modern story would change that, and teach me to let go and have some fun with it (and, um... you've seen the result of that), but before those 2 stories convinced me to give it a chance, I couldn't seem to like the adaptations I'd read. And unfortunately, Impulse & Initiative was one of them.
Flash forward to 5 years later, when I have decidedly embraced the whooooooole genre - and still devote my summers to it - and I found myself kinda in love with these stories, these "Pemberely Variations," that Abigail Reynolds writes. And I was on the hunt for more, so while browsing on Better World Books, I came across one with a familiar title: Impulse & Initiative. I'd blocked out most of what I read That Summer, but Goodreads informed me that I'd read this one (or thought I had), and hadn't been too impressed. Figuring that it'd come at the height of my denial phase, when I wasn't willing to accept any sexytimes in my P&P, I thought I'd better buy it and give it another chance. And I'm certainly glad I did. (I probably need to track down all of the books I read that summer and give them another, less prejudiced* chance.)
Impulse & Initiative, which has since been republished as To Conquer Mr Darcy - and I have no idea if the story was changed at all for the repackaging - is a story that takes a more controversial (to my Regency sensibilities) variation, in that Darcy and Lizzie can't keep their flipping hands off each other before they're married. It's smexy. And though I like a fair dose of smexy on occasion now, it was too akin to a bodice-ripper then, and I was a book snob. I'll admit it. It probably is too much sexytimes for some readers, especially those who still hold Darcy and Lizzie - and the pace of Regency courtship - sacred, so reader, know thyself, and know that going in. But though it does take away some of the sweetness of the romance, and though it does replace it with a liberal smattering of lusty kisses and, you know, bodice ripping, it's really neat to see Reynolds attack the same story from yet another angle.
This time around, I appreciated the idea of Darcy not taking no for an answer - not in an aggressive, pushy Lord of the Manor way, but in an "I'm not going to let myself eff this up" way. I liked seeing him pursue Lizzie and actively try to win her over, and come out of his shell a bit. It's an interesting - and not entirely unbelievable - way to approach the story, and it's nice because it's active; we don't have to be told that Darcy goes away and changes offstage, we get to see the efforts and the fruits of those efforts, right there as they happen. It's fun to see Lizzie, too, won over despite herself. It's nice to see them both come a little undone, and frankly, there are times when it's hot as hell.
The key to enjoyment of Reynolds' Variations - the key to any retelling, really - is to allow yourself to go with it. I love exploring the "what-ifs" in any story, all the branching paths and possibilities and might-have-beens. And though sometimes those might-have-beens are probably best left as should-nots, in Reynolds' hands, there's always enough understanding of the characters and love of their stories and who they are, combined with a willingness to push that a bit and test those boundaries, that makes for really interesting, fresh, dependably enjoyable variations. And if you find things too far-fetched on occasion, too sexy or too straying-from-"reality," the fact is, Reynolds' writing is compulsively readable. She moves the reader along at a break-neck pace, making it near impossible not to devour her books in one sitting. And even if she changes things, and even if you can't be quite happy with every change that's made, she creates worlds and characters that, if you're anything like me, you can't help but love and find yourself craving rereads of.
So, all I can say is: Misty-of-5-years-ago, and Janeites out there who feel as she felt - lighten up. Let go, explore the possibilities, and if you can't bear to see your Darcyand your Lizzie do things you don't think they'd do, then pretend they're someone else. Because you're missing out on some good stories and some scenes that would set your Regency heart a-flutter. You're invited to the party, so come. You're missing all the fun.
Beatrice "Bertie" Shakespeare Smith has lived in the Théâtre for as long as she can remember. She loves the crazy cast of characters who populate herBeatrice "Bertie" Shakespeare Smith has lived in the Théâtre for as long as she can remember. She loves the crazy cast of characters who populate her life and she loves getting up to crazy antics with them. She loves the stories and the Stage and everything about it. (Well, maybe she doesn't love the Stage Manager...) But when Bertie's antics go too far, the Theater Manager asks her to prove herself to be a valuable member of the Théâtre -- or leave. Desperate not to be exiled from her favorite place in the world, the only home she's ever known, Bertie sets out to find her place in this zany world -- and she may find more than that.
I had been foaming at the mouth wanting to get my hands on this book ever since the cover was released. When my bookclub decided it was going to be one of the books we read this year, I agreed to be a good girl and wait to read it. And hey! I actually kept my word and was a good girl! Go figure. So after all that anticipation -- which is sure to kill anything -- that month's bookclub meeting was one of the most disappointing for me, ever. [frowny face:]
But here's the thing -- I loved the book. It's just that I was the only one, and after the cursory "ehhs" from all around, everyone moved on to what else they've been reading. This disappointed me, because though I love that portion of our meetings, I actually did want to talk about this book, but I wasn't going to keep dragging the conversation back to a book no one liked and listen to them bash it.
So my warning is, if you're a smart woman well into adulthood, you may hate this book. That seemed to be the consensus. But I loved it, and I'm about to tell you why...
I dig literary allusions. I accept that I am a nerd and embrace it. I was a bit worried about the allusions in this going in, though, not because I didn't think I'd like them, but because it is a YA book, and I wondered if it would even be accessible to the YA audience. Since I'm not a teen, I can't speak to this other than to say that a)I was the kind of annoying, precocious/pretentious teen that thought herself very literary, and I would have eaten them up, and probably looked into the ones I didn't get and expanded my drama base; and b) I've read a few reviews of the book that were written by teens, and they all seemed to love it, literary allusions included. Oddly enough, it was among adults that there seemed to be a problem. Except those of my friends actively involved in theater, the adults did not like the allusions; they appreciated them, but they admitted that 1/2 the time, they didn't get them. So I'm thinking that maybe I underestimated teens (and overestimated adults), and that really, Mantchev didn't take as big a risk here as I thought, because teens are still in school, after all, and the references are more current for them than they would be for an adult who doesn't read or watch dramas. Personally, I loved the allusions. There are a few in the quotes section below that tickled me to no end; they become these little inside jokes for those who do know about -- or enough about -- theater to get them, but I think you can still enjoy this without knowing all of them.
Another big draw for me was the world and the style in which Mantchev presented it. I loved the Théâtre and the Players and the world Mantchev created. It was really fun to become immersed in, and it was very visual and interesting. She took something well-known (the world's most famous stories and characters) and made them her own while still staying true to the original, and it came off very nicely. I could picture everyone, I could see them in my head -- her dramatic almost-play style was very effective and made me feel like I was, indeed, a part of the audience. The whole thing came off as very fresh and creative and unique, and I love that. There's just not enough of that.
But perhaps the biggest draw for me was Bertie. I never thought I'd like a character named "Bertie," I'm not going to lie, but like her I did. Berite is funny and feisty and creative and I adored her. There's a quote below that demonstrates her feistiness quite nicely, so I won't waste your time going into all that other than to say that she will win you over. She just will.
So that's why I liked it. But to be balanced, I am going to give you a few of the drawbacks that my bookclub found, and that you may not like, either:
The tone does come off a bit young. Not unbearably so, and I think it's really just a part of the lightness, the breeziness of it, but it does read younger than I expected, and than my bookclub was willing to stomach.
The allusions, again, may not be everyone's bag.
The love triangle(ish). This is actually a drawback of mine. It's not that I didn't like the 3 characters involved, or the tensions between them, because I did. [side note: Ariel is one of my fave lit characters, so I loved his role in this. And nothing to do with the triangle, but Ophelia is another fave, and I loved her role, too.] But I am so sick of the Team _________ shit, really I am, that I just kind of cringe when I see someone using that formula. You will never hear me say that I am Team anybody. It irks me. Someday there will be a rant on this, but I'm not going to take up this review to do it. But seriously. Enough with the Teams and the triangles.
There is a certain predictability that may bother people, but I don't think it's overwhelming or detracts all that much from the story. Just a fair warning.
Some of my favorite scenes and quotes: "What are you doing here?" "I heard the water running." Ophelia lifted her arms up and smiled into the ghostly, aquamarine lighting. "I thought I'd come and drown myself. I won't be in the way, will I?"
~ ~ ~
A sudden, trumpeted fanfare sent them leaping apart, the blast of noise precefing the messenfer from Act Four of Richard the Third. He entered Stage Right, unrolled a parchment scroll, and cleared his throat. In a strong, sonorous voice, honed to cut through the bedlam at court or merely backstage, he proclaimed, "And now, the bane of your existence, the killer of all joys, the Stage Manager --" He was interrupted when the murderers from the same production leapt from the flies and stabbed him repeatedly with big rubber knives. The messenged pulled crimson scraves from holes in his tunic and did a lot of unnecessary groaning before his assassins dragged him offstage by the ankles. "What was that all about?" Nate demanded. "Early detection system," Bertie said. "I get advance warning that the Stage Manager is coming, and the messenger gets extra stage time."
~ ~ ~
Something darkly tempting and longing-filled bloomed under the sun-warmed grass and damp earth. She opened her eyes, wanting to ask a question she didn't yet know, but before she could find the words, Ariel turned away.
~ ~ ~
"I think they'll make excellent mummies, as they've already had their brains removed."
~ ~ ~
Mrs. Edith had told her once that the costume made the character, but only now did Bertie understand what she'd meant. The corset was dainty, demure, pin-striped, and it wanted her to slap Ariel across the face. But Bertie was more than the sum of her clothing, so she cocked her arm and punched him as hard as she could in the stomach.
~ ~ ~
Gertrude pointed at Macbeth, who was holding up a cruller and muttering, "Is this a doughnut I see before me?" Then he noticed the raspberry jam on everything and started to shriek.
~ ~ ~
The Brigands charged in with weapons drawn. "Who are you?" Young Bertie asked. "We're the bad guys!" their leader announced. "What are you going to do?" "Plunder and pillage!" one of them yelled. The others immediately shoved him "Not in front of the kid. Ralph! Fer cryin' out loud..." "Oh, yeah. Sorry! We're here to take your candy!"
I was very excited to read this book when I read about it, and though it wasn't necessarily as exciting to read, it did live up to my expectations inI was very excited to read this book when I read about it, and though it wasn't necessarily as exciting to read, it did live up to my expectations in some ways.
The story follows a group of people living on Nollop Island (named after Nevin Nollop, the "quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" guy,)somewhere off the coast of South Carolina. Nollopians are devoted to language, and though they live in contemporary times, they have little technology, and they speak like inhabitants of some antiquated English village. When the letters of Nollop's famous pangram begin dropping off of his statue in the town square, the town council begins banning the use of those letters. The first offense for using a banned letter (in writing or in speaking) is public chastisment; the second is flogging or being placed in a head-stock (you're choice!); the third is banishment on pain of death. The inhabitants must learn to function and communicate in a community that is rapidly dwindling in language and size; some learn they must fight back against oppression.
I was put off at first by the language (which was extrememly grandiose in the beginning), but I knew that it was going to provide contrast for the end, so I stuck with it. I'm glad I did. The story is told through a series of letters, so the reader gets to experience with the Nollopians the loss of each letter (they begin to jump out when someone uses one that is banned). It's fun to watch as language is chipped away and the characters become increasingly desperate finding ways to communicate. From this aspect, it is a fun and somewhat silly read.
But it's good on another level, too, in that there really is something serious going on here. In such a slim book on such a silly topic, Mark Dunn is able to get to the heart of governmental oppression and abuses of power. There are some strong statements here, and as it's sort of like seeing oppression in fast-forward (everything happens so quickly), it becomes apparent how it's the little things to pay attention to. It may seem silly to ban the letter 'z', and of little importance, but this silly little thing is a rather large sign. From that aspect, I thought the book was very successful.
It's also fun just as a lover of language. Some of the made-up words in the beginning are irritating, but in the context of the story, it works and you get used to it.
My one warning is that if you don't have a large vocabulary (not necessarily even one you use, just your understanding of language), and you are not a "word person", there's really no point in reading this, and you likely won't enjoy yourself.
Pop over to my blog for some truly perfect bonus material that I couldn't put here....more
Somewhere under a 4 for me. Maybe even as low as a 3.5.
The Looking Glass Wars is an alternate history retelling of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s AdventuresSomewhere under a 4 for me. Maybe even as low as a 3.5.
The Looking Glass Wars is an alternate history retelling of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass books. Beddor reimagines the children’s classic as non-fiction: Alyss Hart, a Wonderlander, comes to Earth in a time of crisis (her evil aunt Redd has attacked Wonderland in her quest to become the Queen of Hearts), and she finds herself in a far different reality. On Earth, she is just a young girl with no allies and a fading Imagination. When she is adopted by the Liddell family, and comes across the young deacon Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) she thinks she has found a sympathetic soul. She tells him her story -- which he then publishes in the drastically altered tale that we know. Disheartened, Alyss (now Alice) tries to adjust to life on Earth and forget about Wonderland. But all is not right in Wonderland, and the two worlds Alyss knows are about to collide.
For much of this book, I was fairly indifferent. It came highly recommended by a number of friends, and I am completely smitten with the Alice story and will read/watch* anything having to do with the insanely fabulous world Carroll created. So I really wanted to love this, and at times I did. But for much of the book (probably the first ½ or so), I just didn’t. I felt Beddor struggled to find the tone he wanted; it waffled back and forth between an imitation of Carroll’s light, irreverent style, and a more current, action-drama feel. Also, with attention divided between the two worlds, Wonderland and Earth, it never felt like either got the attention it deserved, and I never got to really live in either and experience it, which was disappointing. But there were moments when I got what I wanted, when the worlds became real and the action was compelling, and the tension was high and I was in it. I just wanted that to be more consistent. Eventually, the book did find a middle path and start to come together, and I will say that I saw enough in it to like that I will certainly keep reading, and do not really regret spending the money on it. I am not saying this is not a good book, just that I wanted more, and didn’t quite get it. On a side note, the card soldiers (idea and illustrations) was absolutely brilliant.
*And would you believe I missed Alice on SyFy? Remembered it was on when Ep 2 was nearly over. Really, desperately irritated with myself on that one. Esp. as the Mad Hatter in it is simply delicious. Must track it down and watch.
I felt that some of the choices Beddor made were just kind of iffy and it sometimes made the story less believable, or at least questionable. Perhaps the biggest was his choice of the starting age for Alyss, combined with the love interest in Dodge. In the beginning of the story, Alyss is celebrating her 7th birthday. Dodge, her best friend and future guard, is three years older. Now, for those ages, I can believe that there may be some infatuation on the part of each child, and I can even believe that they are devoted to each other in their child’s way. I’m okay with it when you set them up as future love interests -- I don’t mind seeing early where this is going, and knowing who to root for. But I don’t buy it when you try to set them up as already in love and acting like star-crossed lovers. It’s too weighty for their ages, and it just seems a little silly at best, and a little creepy at worst. Their interaction was amateurish, which I guess it at the heart of my complaints with the book in general. The second choice that bothered me was how easily things happened. As someone who works in film, I would have expected Beddor to be a little more concerned with the journey and the struggles that develop a story and add tension. I would feel tension building and I would think something was going to be thrilling and crucial, and instead it would end too quickly. As a result of the idea of Imagination that Beddor set up, things came to easily and ruined the tension level. I am looking forward to reading book 2: Seeing Redd, and I have high hopes that with experience, Beddor will improve and do the story credit; he’s a good storyteller, just not necessarily as good a writer -- yet. Bonus materials and what not on the blog....more
In Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, we witnessed one of literature's favorite heroines, Elizabeth Bennet, fall in love while fighting valiantly againsIn Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, we witnessed one of literature's favorite heroines, Elizabeth Bennet, fall in love while fighting valiantly against the zombie menace that had overtaken England. Now, in this lively prequel, PPZ: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, learn how the hoardes of unmentionables became said menace, and lively Lizzie found herself becoming one the British Isles foremost warrior-maidens.
There are going to be some of you reading this review who are going to be surprised that I decided to read this. You may recall from my review of Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies that I was, shall we say, less than pleased. You're thinking, 'Why would she even bother if she didn't like the first one?' It's simple: Dawn of the Dreadfuls has a different author. It was a risk I was willing to take.
It was worth it.
PPZ: Dawn of the Dreadfuls blew the socks off the first book. Now, Steven Hockensmith did have some advantages in that writing a prequel was a bit more of a clean slate; though he did have to remain faithful to the world and characters created, he did not have to try to work his words into those of another and make it seamless. That's not to say he had an easy task. He still had to mimic Austen's writing, create a believable prequel that could plausibly lead up to both the original text and Grahame-Smith's altered one, and he still had to find a way to strike a balance between Regency-era novel and zombie romper. I think he did admirably on all counts.
In PPZ: DOD we get to watch as the dreadful plague, thought vanquished for years, returns to England. The Bennet girls find themselves in a peculiar situation, as their father intends them to learn the ways of the warrior, whilst their mother (and society) wishes them to go to balls and marry well. Young teens all, they've never been faced with the zombie menace -- or the handsome, red-coated officers who come to Meryton to battle them. The resulting mash-up of their experiences -- learning how to wield battleaxes and practice the Pouncing Panther and remain demure, proper English ladies at the same time -- makes for exactly the type of story Quirk Books is trying to present: fun parodies of literature's Greats that hit the mark without being condescending, insipid, or utterly ridiculous.
The best compliment I can give Hockensmith is that there were times, in the midst of the ridiculous Regency zombieness, that it felt like Jane Austen could have written it. Nearly all of the things I didn't like in the first book were well done in this prequel. Unlike G-S, Hockensmith captured her tone and liveliness and humor well, and he remained faithful to the characters and world she created. Lizzie is both the sharp girl of Austen's classic, and the budding fierce warrior of Grahame-Smith's parody. Her sister, Jane, is as charming and sweet-natured as ever, and Mrs. Bennet is ever anxious that her daughters marry well before someone fall victim to the unmentionables and leave them all ruined. He kept their characters and personalities intact, while skewing the story just enough to make their actions still make sense in much-altered circumstances.
All told, there's a little something for everyone: fans of Jane will find a fun twist on her work, and a real effort to stay true to her and her language, with little surprises planted for those familiar with her most famous work; fans of zombies will find brain-munching dreadfuls in abundance; fans of romance will find some romantic plot twists and general funness; fans of strong female characters will certainly love Elizabeth. If you didn't like the first one, I think you'll like this. If you did like the first one, I think you'll like this more. And if you've been unsure of whether to try one of these lit parodies that's suddenly all the rage, I think this is a good place to start. I would recommend getting your hands on a copy in time for Helluva Halloween II...(yeah, it's coming)....more
When I agreed to be part of the Android Karenina blogsplosion, I knew it was going to be an interesting experience. I've read the P&P inspired booWhen I agreed to be part of the Android Karenina blogsplosion, I knew it was going to be an interesting experience. I've read the P&P inspired books -- and obviously am familiar with P&P -- so I got the in-jokes and the references, and could compare it to the original. With this, I haven't read Anna Karenina (and am generally not big on the Russians, save Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago), so I knew that I would have to approach this mash-up differently.
On the one hand, I wouldn't be biased comparing it to the original because I wouldn't know what was the original, and what was not (save the robots -- pretty sure that's all Tolstoy... ;p). At the same time, though, there was a potential to be greatly confusing, and for me to wonder if there was some significance to the addition of robots.
Basically, the latter is what happened. Even though the writing flowed smoothly for me and I couldn't really tell where Tolstoy left off and Winters began, I still found myself wondering what it was all about. Was the insertion of robots really necessary? Was this needed in literature, did it add something to the story? Basically, what's the point? I found I kept asking myself this. The thing is, I think there may have been a subtle reason. I remember reading once about Anna's dream of beaten iron (a famous scene from the original) and assume that this was Winters "in" for the story he created -- there's a groundwork for the horror in Anna's metaphor. And I think there were times when the cruelty exhibited toward the robots (as at Princess Tverskaya's house, when the Iron Laws are tested) did add a layer of humanity (albeit at its worst) that made the robot aspect a bit more believable and linked the desperation of their case with Anna's. They also seemed to act as mirrors of their masters, externalizing the internal, which was interesting. (<-- though I found myself wondering if this took away from the beauty and subtlety of the original; of course, not having read it, I have no idea. It was just one of the many "wonderings".)
The somewhat steampunkish element was interesting, too. I wouldn't call it straight steampunk (note to purists) but that mash-up aspect was there, and I liked it. Ball gowns and polished copper faceplates just work for me, I guess. (Also, the idea of a "float" was fabtastic. What is a float, you ask? A float is what happens when technology enables you to ramp up the excitement of a formal ball -- you simply puff jets of air on the "ballroom floor" to lift dancers off of the ground, creating new -- and even more difficult to master -- dance steps. Genius.)
But I still found myself questioning. I kept wondering what the point was, and how it fit into the big picture, and I kept feeling like I was missing something. I think, had I read the original, I may actually have enjoyed this more. I did enjoy it on a somewhat forgettable level, but I may have found it more compelling if I were familiar with the story, which is not the fault of Ben Winters. I think he did a good job from what I can tell, but I feel like I'm in a place where I just don't know what to do with it. I'm missing the in-jokes, so the humor seems like it's just detracting from the famously sad and serious story, which leaves me with a feeling of a weird tone and confusion. I think if you're reading it because you've read Anna K and are curious, it may work for you; if you're reading it in place of Anna K, it may not.
One last note: the illustrations did nothing for me. Sorry, illustrator... ...more
In Jane Greensmith's Intimations of Austen, I've found something that I generally feel lacking from Austen spin-offs and sequels. It's hard to put4.5
In Jane Greensmith's Intimations of Austen, I've found something that I generally feel lacking from Austen spin-offs and sequels. It's hard to put my finger on, but it's a pleasurable something. I think it's in the fact that, where many writers strive to "sound like" or feel like Jane -- and fail -- or imitate her characters in a sort of cardboard way, Greensmith chooses instead to give us embellishments on the characters and stories that we love, but in her own style and her own voice. Her stories don't just recycle what Austen wrote, they play off of them and expand them, taking them in new and interesting directions. They are short and sweet little snippets of maybes and what-ifs.
Greensmith often adapts a darker, more somber tone than some may like to see on their beloved Austen, but I think she also shows great insight into the stories, characters, and more importantly, the time and realities of the era. It also seems like her stories are the result of real ponderings, philosophical think-sessions brought on during rereads of Austen; they read like they've been mulled over and considered, not as if they are writing prompts (Imagine Darcy has synesthesia: go!) or challenges to distort Austen and see what comes out. They touch on or answer some of the things I've wondered myself when I reread Austen, or the odd little train-of-thought pieces that crop up and lead you somewhere that you were expecting to go, but maybe always knew you would. You find yourself confronting what-ifs, like what would happen if Darcy had been forced to promise not to propose to Elizabeth, or confronting real possibilities, like how does Fanny trust Edmund's love is real, and does she learn to speak up? Things that I've always asked myself when reading Austen are present in this book in really interesting ways, sometimes sublte with a kicker, and sometimes head-on.
Perhaps one of the things I found most impressive was the little links or overlays within the Austen realm. The twists and plays on one Austen story have implications for another, and this interconnectedness was really enjoyable; there were great "aha" moments. I need someone else to read this, because they are the kinds of things I want to discuss. I am so itching to get spoilery on you, but I absolutely won't do that, because the twists and revelations are what make these stories what they are. But I feel like this would be such a great book to read with fellow Jane-lovers and discuss over tea (or margaritas). [So if any of you read this book and want to have virtual tea/booze time with me...:]
So if you're in the mood for embellishments on the stories you love, I'd say pick this up. At 9 short stories and just over 100 pages, you certainly won't regret the time spent, and I think it will have you thinking long after you close the book.
I am a bit in love with the idea of this book. I've always been so caught up in Lizzie and Darcy's story that I've sort of ignored all of the other coI am a bit in love with the idea of this book. I've always been so caught up in Lizzie and Darcy's story that I've sort of ignored all of the other connections in the book. I think each is really worth being explored - Lydia's disastrous marriage to Wickham, Charlotte's desperate marriage to Collins -- but especially the nearly thwarted love between Jane and Bingley. Here we have a couple who are enamored almost from the start, and there has to be a reason more than their general amiability. The idea of getting to explore this and experience all of the little flutters of budding love between these two, and then their painful separation, in which each is convinced the other doesn't love them, culminating in their glorious reunion -- this really appeals to me, and I think there is a lot of potential in it for a great stroy.
Unfortunately, I felt like I was reading a first draft of this story. I don't know if I've ever talked about my years spent as a college-level writing tutor (helping people write better papers, not helping people learn to write -- it always amuses me when people mistake what I did), but reading this, I felt Tutor Misty kick in. My hand was itching for sticky tabs and colored pens. I often had to read things over a second time to get the correct tone of it -- commas were misplaced or misused, or not in use at all when they whould have been; quotes were unattributed, and pronouns were often unclear (ie: who the hell is talking, and who the hell is being talked about?). There were missing and incorrect words (dual v duel, etc -- and that's setting aside the fact that there was an effing duel in the story). I know there are people who can set things like this aside, or who don't know grammar rules themselves, so things like this just slip by them. I, however, had a hard time getting past it. I couldn't get into the flow becuase I was constantly wanting to correct.
I also wasn't totally convinced of the story Miller created. Jane and Bingley's time apart was filled with instances that I just didn't buy, and I felt the characters through out the book (not just J & B), as well as their dialogue and actions jsut felt a bit forced and inauthentic. Things felt obvious and heavy-handed at times, and the prose was underdeveloped in favor of placing info and actions in the words of the characters, creating forced and unnatural dialogue, as well as a sense of dissatisfaction overall -- like I wasn't getting the meat of it, I was never really getting to delve into this hidden in plain site love affair, which I was looking forward to doing.
Now, I hate writing really negative reviews, and I don't want to completely warn people off of this book. I think that with work and development, I could actually like it quite a bit, but the combination of a pure "fanfic" feel, my expectations and desires for a nuanced and somewhat bittersweet love story, and my uber-tutor spideysense worked together to make me pretty critical of this one. I'm sorry that's the case, and I hope I don't make Ms. Miller mad, or regret participating in Jane in June, but such is life. I am always honest, if not completely tactful. ...more
In Dreams Begin is such interesting for me, in concept and execution. Though I think there are a lot of people out there that are like "W B who?" andIn Dreams Begin is such interesting for me, in concept and execution. Though I think there are a lot of people out there that are like "W B who?" and who would hate a storyline that bounces back and forth between past and present (and between different characters bodies), these things really attracted me to it. I'm not going to lie, I like me some poetry, Yeats included. And I also am a fan of stories that strive to recreate or even rewrite the life of a real person, not in a biographical way, but as a work of fictitious art. It fascinates me. I also like stories that shift back and forth, so long as I don't feel like it's a cheap device used to build suspense and keep me on edge in an otherwise laaame story (I'm talking to you, Dan Brown). Skyler White does it well. When the story shifts -- even frustratingly in the middle of something -- it feels natural and real, not gimmicky. I liked both worlds that were created, and I like who Laura is in both.
The romance, too, worked for me. Things come quick, and you know I'm normally not a fan of that, but in this, again, it felt right. It worked for the story and the fantastical aspects of it. All of this -- the time-shifting, the body-switching, the revolutionary ideals, all of it work together in this grand way to create a sense of destiny, in which case the romance between Laura and Yeats doesn't seem at all far-fetched: it seems fated. I feel a little differently about Ida, the little nutjob, and her 'romance' but the fact is, I liked her, too, and it worked on its own level. And there was sexytime. Boy, was there sexytime. Occasionally in crypts, but who's counting?
I talked a bit in my review for White's debut and Falling, Fly about her poetic style. There, it didn't always do the story justice, but here it almost always works very nicely. There are times when it's a little overwrought or confusing, but for the most part, White has a knack for phrasing something just so. Things will be going along as normal and then she'll describe something in a certain way, or say such and such of the characters, and it just kind of stops you in your tracks. You can see it. As strange a turn of phrase as it may be, you absolute
I do have similar warnings as I did in and Falling, Fly, though. This book is not for everybody. Because of the time- and body-switching, it probably could get very confusing for some people, and it definitely takes it out of the 'light read' category; you do have to pay attention. Also, the poetic prose will turn some off and confuse others, without a doubt. And of course, there is AFF's steamy test*. But all in all, I think In Dreams Begin is an improvement over AFF. White has found her niche and created something pretty compelling here. And she made me want to read about the real lives of Maud and Yeats. And that's saying something.