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Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

AustenlandMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

From Goodreads.com:

Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen;or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It’s all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

I read Austenland as a mild Austen fan– I’m not obsessed, but I’ve read all the books, most of them more than once, and I’ve seen multiple movie versions as well.

I very much enjoyed this book on several levels.

First, it was cute and fun, and was just a pleasure on that surface level.The descriptions of Jane hiding her DVD of Pride and Prejudice, of her dealing with her (contraband) cell phone, and her dealings with the other guests at Pemberley were light and funny. The recaps of Jane’s previous “boyfriends” (anyone she’d ever dated) were laugh out loud funny at times, even while being sadly real. Also, I like fish out of water stories, and Jane trying to fit into a (faux) Regency England qualified.

Second, I was entertained by the Austen references. I wonder how many more I missed.  I’m a fan of books about bookish things, and again, this book fit into that niche for me.

Third, I appreciated the slightly deeper perspective of the book, looking at reality vs. fantasy in relationships, particularly in their early stages. I enjoyed getting to know Jane through the recaps of her past romances– they painted quite a picture of her when put together. Even better were her reflections as she moved through her Pemberley experience– she really was making an effort to think through her life.

In the end, I liked this book because it was the kind of book I like.  I really enjoyed The Actor and the Housewife when I read it earlier this year for similar reasons.  Like that book, Austenland won’t be for everyone, but Austenland lives up to its description.

I read this as part of the Everything Austen Challenge. This is the 4th item (out of 6) that I’ve completed– I’m probably not going to finish the challenge by the end of the month.

Thank you to Stephanie at Stephanie’s Written Word for organizing this challenge.

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Posted by on December 22, 2009 in books, challenge, reviews

 

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Review: Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris

Definitely Dead (Sookie Stackhouse, #6)My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank goodness, I enjoyed this one much more than the previous Sookie Stackhouse book!

Sookie has her love life under control, and is pursuing only one man– Quinn, a were tiger. She’s dealing with feelings from past relationships (or almost relationships), and that’s fine. We have an explanation for her rather extreme attractiveness to supernatural men.

I like how her relationship with Eric is playing out– she’s making it clear she isn’t falling in line as one of his subjects. Both are dealing with emotional fallout from past events, and are struggling for a grip on what this means to them.

I was interested in the background we get on Bill. I like the new character of Amelia.

Better yet, we have a plot or two! There were actual mystery/adventures that held my interest. There were also details of how vampire society works, and I always like that part of the world-building.

Looking around the net a bit, I found out there is a short story that falls between Dead as a Doornail and this one that fills in some of the details that I was wondering if I’d missed somewhere.

I read Dead as a Doornail for the Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge. This is book 6 of 9.

Other reviews:

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2009 in books, challenge, reviews

 

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Review: Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

Dead as a Doornail (Sookie Stackhouse, #5) My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This isn’t a full review, but does cover my main thoughts on the 5th Sookie Stackhouse book.

From Goodreads.com:

When Sookie’s brother Jason’s eyes start to change, she knows he’s about to turn into a were-panther for the first time. But her concern becomes cold fear when a sniper sets his deadly sights on the local changeling population-and Jason’s new panther brethren suspect he may be the shooter. Now, Sookie has until the next full moon to find out who’s behind the attacks, unless the killer decides to find her first.

This is very clearly my least favorite Sookie book so far. The number of men drooling over Sookie has gotten ridiculous, particularly since she returns the interest of most of them. Pick any two of them, and it would be fine. I might even be able to stomach a third. But

  • Bill (vampire #1)
  • Eric (vampire #2)
  • Sam (shape changer)
  • Alcide (werewolf)
  • Calvin (werepanther)
  • Quinn (weretiger)

(and I feel like I’m forgetting one!) is just way too many.

Sookie StackhouseI’ll read the next one because (other than her extensive taste in men) I still like Sookie. I’m interested in what happens with Jason, and I did find the whole shapeshifter storyline in Dead as a Doornail interesting, but it was overshadowed by Sookie’s romantic possibilities.

I read Dead as a Doornail for the Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge.  This is book 5 of 9, with an end of year challenge deadline.

Other reviews:

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2009 in books, challenge, reviews

 

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Everything Austen: Emma (movie) (mini-review)

EmmaI recently watched the 1996 movie version of Jane Austen’s Emma, featuring Gwynneth Paltrow.

I had three reasons for doing this now.  This first is that I like the book and this movie, and it sounded like a fun way to spend the evening.   The second was curiosity as to whether my 11 year old daughter would enjoy it. The third was to fill this month’s Everything Austen challenge slot.

I’d seen this movie several times before, and I knew I like it. I settled right into watching it, and frankly, I didn’t feel like being critical (hence the mini-review).

I find this movie true to the spirit of the book.  It makes changes as necessary to translate into a decent movie.  I like all of the casting, from Mr. Knightly (yum), to Mr. Woodhouse and Miss Bates (very funny) to Emma herself– far from perfect, but just appealing enough to have me rooting for her.

My daughter attempted to watch the 1970s BBC production with me, but just couldn’t quite hang in there.  She did stick around for all 2 hours of this one, losing track of the characters at times.  I don’t think it is going to become a favorite any time soon, but she’s still interested in watching Sense and Sensibility and maybe in reading one of the books.  I don’t see a hurry on those, but I certainly won’t stop her.

everythingausten3Me?  I’ve heard good things about the more recent BBC production, and so I may add a 3rd movie version of Emma to my challenge list. 🙂

I’ve now completed 3 of the 6 things I need to complete the Everything Austen challenge at Stephanie’s Written Word.    The deadline is the end of the year, so I’m still on track.  There are so many books I’d like to read and movies I’d like to watch, I may keep this as a regular event– one Austen a month!

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2009 in challenge, movie, Uncategorized

 

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Review: Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris

Dead to the World (Sookie Stackhouse, #4)My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OK, Dead to the World may be my favorite Sookie Stackhouse book yet.

If you haven’t read this series, start at the beginning, with Dead Until Dark. It is a wonderfully fun world with a psychic waitress, lots of vampires, and a collection of werewolves and other shape changers. I’ve really enjoyed it (except when I tried to take the second book a little too seriously)!

In this book, vampire Bill has left the country after Sookie ended their relationship. (No causation implied. Probably.) Sookie is settling back into her normal life (or as normal as it gets for a psychic waitress). Returning home from work, she runs into (not quite literally) Eric, the local vampire leader. He’s wanted to be naked and in Sookie’s company for some time, but this isn’t quite how either of them pictured that happening.

In spite of her New Years resolution not to get beat up, Sookie ends up as bodyguard to a highly befuddled Eric. He’s been cursed by a group of witches that is new in town and looking for trouble, big time. Lowering Sookie’s odds of success in her vow is the disappearance of her brother, Jason. Local law enforcement figure he’s off for an extended sleep-over, so it is up to Sookie to figure out where he is.

That’s the set up. It just goes on from there…

I think the world is growing richer in each book, as we see into the communities of the different “supes” (supernaturals).

I loved kinder, gentler Eric (although it really took a lot of suspension of disbelief to think that’s what he’d be like if a curse stole his memory).

Sookie’s brother Jason is increasingly making decisions that bring him (unwillingly) into contact with the supes, and it will be interesting to watch his situation play out in future books.

I think Pam has possibilities for becoming a very interesting character.

Sookie had my sympathy, she’s finally coming to terms with her “disability” (psychic powers), but it isn’t making her life any better– she’s just getting drawn into more and more bad situations. This doesn’t seem to have any likelihood of changing soon.

I’m a little worried where Sookie’s love life is going to take her in subsequent books. She’s certainly in high demand. Will it go to her head? Will it be too much for her? Will the situation get silly?

I like that these books are quirky without getting silly, and I hope this balance is maintained in later books.

It’s interesting for me to reflect back– this is the first Sookie book I’ve read on paper rather than listened to. I think the series works equally well either way, so I’ll be returning to audio after this. I still wonder why Netlibrary has all but this one…

I read this book for the

Sookie Stackhouse 4 books down,
5 books left to go.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2009 in books, challenge, reviews

 

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Review: An Assembly Such as This by Pamela Aidan

An Assembly Such as This (Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman, #1)My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.”

So begins the timeless romance of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen’s classic novel is beloved by millions, but little is revealed in the book about the mysterious and handsome hero, Mr. Darcy. And so the question has long remained: Who is Fitzwilliam Darcy?

In An Assembly Such as This, Pamela Aidan finally answers that long-standing question. In this first book of her Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy, she reintroduces us to Darcy during his visit to Hertfordshire with his friend Charles Bingley and reveals Darcy’s hidden perspective on the events of Pride and Prejudice. As Darcy spends more time at Netherfield supervising Bingley and fending off Miss Bingley’s persistent advances, his unwilling attraction to Elizabeth grows — as does his concern about her relationship with his nemesis, George Wickham.

This book just seemed to go on and on, without much happening, and no significant insight into Darcy’s character.

The narrator didn’t help matters for me. I didn’t enjoy his voice. He did a competent job with the reading, but he’s not going to be a favorite of mine.

My main problem is that during the course of this book, Darcy has no life other than worrying about his love life, worrying about his friend’s love life, and writing beautiful letters to his beloved younger sister. All of these are fine, but I’d seen Darcy to be a man with some substance behind him. I just don’t see it in this book.

I did like the concept. I liked where the storyline around Georgina (Darcy’s sister) was going.  I loved Darcy’s valet. Some of the other secondary characters have promise of being developed in the later books. I’m just not sure I’m going to bother to read them.

everythingausten2I listened to this as part of the Everything Austen Challenge. This is the second item (out of 6) that I’ve completed– I’m now on schedule!

Next up is either to watch a different version of Emma or read the Lost in Austen choose your own adventure book.  Or maybe something else entirely!

Thank you to Stephanie at Stephanie’s Written Word for organizing this challenge.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2009 in books, challenge, reviews

 

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Review: BBC production of Emma

Emma-BBCA few weeks ago, I bought the BBC Video Jane Austen Collection at Costco.  I love Costco finds, and this time I even had a coupon.

I picked out Emma to watch first.  This production is a miniseries from 1972, and is 270 minutes long (6 45 minute episodes).

On the one hand, I think it was quite faithful to the novel.  I like the book, and so I enjoyed this production. All of the performers did a fine job with their parts.  The casting for Harriet Smith and Mr. Woodhouse was particularly good– they were just as I imagined the characters.

On the other hand, I don’t think this production brought anything new to the story for me.

I feel somewhat shallow saying that I found this production dry.  It didn’t have a soundtrack, and I missed that.  The actors were relatively ordinary looking– I expect a fairly dashing Mr. Knightly, and a good looking (although not necessarily beautiful) Emma.   The whole series felt like it had the same (slow) pace.

Jane Austen fans will probably enjoy this version (although perhaps not find it a favorite), but I wouldn’t try to bring anyone new into the fold by watching it.

everythingausten2I viewed this as part of the Everything Austen Challenge. This is the first item (out of 6) that I’ve completed– I’m a little behind schedule, but I’m sure I’ll catch up at some point! I’m currently listening to An Assembly Such as This: A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentlemanfor my next item. Thank you to Stephanie at Stephanie’s Written Word for organizing this challenge.

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2009 in challenge, movie

 

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