12.26.2011

Monday Mailbox #31: Christmas, Part 1

This month's Monday Mailbox is hosted by Let Them Read Books.

Happy Holidays, everyone! Sorry this post is a bit late today. I was travelling most of the day and then decided I needed to rest and watch some movies. But now I can bring you part 1 of my Christmas take:

Jane Austen Made Me Do It, ed. by Laurel Ann Nattress
It's edited by Laurel from Austenprose and it looks like a lot of fun...except the Amanda Grange bit. Sorry, I don't think I can ever let her live down Mr. Darcy, Vampyre....among other things. 

The Water Theatre, by Lindsay Clarke
I think someone had this in their Monday Mailbox a few weeks ago...when I saw it I immediately added it to my wishlist. Yayyy Christmas!

The Inkheart Trilogy, by Cornelia Funke
These come in a boxset and they've been in my wishlist for a while. I'd kind of given up on getting them, but I decided to give them until Christmas (after which I would just buy them myself. I did go ahead and buy myself the DVD of Inkheart) but, as it turns out, I was gifted them. Again, yayyy Christmas!

Don't laugh. I'm not gay, nor am I terribly terribly interested in lesbian representability. However, this book does focus on three of my all-time favorite films: Rebecca (1940), All About Eve (1944) and The Uninvited (1944). I don't remember how I stumbled across this book online, but to find a book that discusses The Uninvited (which is one of those films that I feel like I and about 10 other people have ever seen, and no one's quite sure it actually exists even though it's kind of brilliant)...I just had to have it. I had to. But throw some Rebecca and All About Eve in there, and I think just about anyone could be sold on this one.

Kingdom Keepers is one of those series that you should absolutely love if you grew up in Orlando, going to Disney all the freaking time. If you know Disney like the back of...actually that doesn't really work for me...but let's say you know Disney better than you know your face in the mirror...this series is for you. There's a fourth one out now, but I've been waiting so long for this one, the fourth will just have to wait a little longer.

The Princetta, by Anne-Laure Bondoux
I reviewed this over a year ago, but I love the book and I love the cover. The hardcover was pretty cheap online, so I bought this one for myself for Chritmas. Yayyy Christmas!


To be continued...

12.19.2011

Monday Mailbox #30 - Giveaway Winner Announcement

This month's Monday Mailbox is hosted by Let Them Read Books

This week I received two books from Nicole over at Confessions of a Book Lush. She was getting rid of a bunch of things, giving away a pile of books she no longer required. So I ended up with:

The Water's Lovely, by Ruth Rendell

and

The Life Before Her Eyes, by Laura Kasischke

This one has a movie adaptation, so I guess I'll have to see it if I end up liking the book.


And I know that a lot of Monday Mailboxers insist that library books don't count, but I say they do. This week I borrowed an e-book (because getting to the library to pick up a book was proving to be too much, and take too much time - on their part...like actually confirming the hold). 

The Cookbook Collector, by Allegra Goodman

This one is for the Sense & Sensibility Bicentennial Challenge. 


Finally, I received my new paperback copy of A Discovery of Witches this week! And there was the giveaway of course...so someone else will be getting one as well! I'm happy to announce that the winner of a newly published paperback copy of Deborah Harkness' A Discovery of Witches is:

VAL K.

Congratulations!
Please check your e-mail for the winning confirmation, and respond with your shipping info so that Penguin Books can get that out to you.

Thank you so much to everyone who participated. If you still want a copy of A Discovery of Witches in paperback, it goes on Sale next Tuesday, December 27th. Pre-order yours now!

12.18.2011

Pride and Prejudice: Not Another Teen Movie

You know how sometimes you wake up in the morning with a hint of what you were dreaming about, and then you mull it around in your brain all day? This morning I woke up, not quite remembering what I had dreamt, but knowing that I must consider this: What if Pride and Prejudice were written today? I lay in bed thinking it over for a while, photoshopped images running rampant in my head. And I knew that I had to release these thoughts to the internets. So here we are. This is what my crazy mind has come up with:

Pride and Prejudice, by Stephenie Meyer (author of the Twilight series)


Pride and Prejudice, by J. K. Rowling (author of the Harry Potter series)



Pride and Prejudice, by Sara Shepard (author of the Pretty Little Liars series)



Pride and Prejudice, by Suzanne Collins (author of the Hunger Games trilogy)


You're welcome.



12.15.2011

Review: Being the Fourth Jane Austen Mystery: Jane and the Genius of the Place, by Stephanie Barron

When reading Austen, it's often easy to forget everything that was happening in her world. The politics of the time go mostly unremarked in her books (with a few momentary glaring exceptions...I'm thinking this second of Persuasion and Mansfield Park); one hardly expects talk of a French invasion.

I think that's why Barron's series is so special - it's a little bit of Austen's real life, a giant sprinkling of her books, and a smattering of political intrigue. One minute you're saying "Hey - that line's from Captain Wentworth's letter in Persuasion," and in the next you're trying to figure out who killed the French lady.

Jane and the Genius of the Place occurs a few months after the passing of her father, while she spends some months with her brother Edward's family near Canterbury. While at the famous Canterbury Races, a woman is killed and, as honorary Justice, Edward and his family are dragged into the fray. What ensues is a twisted tale of spies, death and...wait for it...cross-dressing.

This book was perhaps less romantic than the Second in the series. And with no Lord Harold in sight for 99% of the novel, it was lacking in a certain amount of witty exchanges. But the murder, intrigue, and then more murder kind of made up for his absence. And there were all kinds of gems for Janeites to find - glimpses of Darcy, of Wentworth, Mrs. Elton, Mr. Collins, Mr. Rushworth and even Lady Catherine. Barron's edge is in mixing these characters of Jane's invention with the real historical figures featured in the novel. Because so much of Austen's correspondance was destroyed, we will never truly know what her interactions with these people were like, nor what persons were definite inspirations for her work. But Barron's novels make a rather fun game of guessing.

12.14.2011

Best Book Covers of 2011

Well...maybe not the best. Certainly my favorites, but probably not the best. Aesthetically, I know I'm drawn to certain colors more than others. And I know I favor certain styles over others. So I'm predisposed to be in disagreement when Publishers Weekly says that Helen DeWitt's Lightning Rods is one of the best covers of 2011 when it looks an awful lot like the new printing of Franz Kafka's The Trial by Schocken Books, and both of them look like Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

Even Johnny's terrified. 

So again, these are MY favorites. Some will probably coincide with the fancy pants critics, others will not. And actually only five of these are in my personal collection(*)...which means I have books to buy...

The Man with the Golden Gun, by Ian Fleming
Cover redesigned by Penguin UK.
(Penguin UK redesigned the entire 007 collection in this fashion. I've got one more in this list, but you can see all of them here.) 

The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes
This version of the cover by Random House Canada.

Amy Einhorn/Putnam

On Her Majesty's Secret Service, by Ian Fleming
Cover redesigned by Penguin UK

The Woman Who Heard Color, by Kelly Jones*
Berkley Trade

Blueprints for Building Better Girls, by Elissa Schappell
Simon & Schuster

How the Dead Live, by Derek Raymond
Cover redesigned by Melville House.

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, by Benjamin Hale
TWELVE

Three Stages of Amazement, by Carol Edgarian*
Scribner

Reagan Arthur Books

The Beginners, by Rebecca Wolff*
Riverhead Hardcover

The Waves, by Virginia Woolf
Cover redesigned by Penguin UK.
(This is another one where Penguin UK released a redesigned series. I have another one of this set on this list, but you can see all of them here.)

HarperCollins

Reagan Arthur/Back Bay Books

Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Ecco

Random House

Cover redesigned by Penguin UK

12.13.2011

Top Ten Books I Want to Give as Gifts


As always, Top Ten Tuesday is brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme: Top Ten Books I Want To Give As Gifts (and to whom...even if you won't actually give them!)

I've taken that little clause to heart - these are ten books that I want to give but, for various reasons, shall not.

1. Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen (to my cousin Gabriella) - Gabriella is thirteen years old, which is about two years older than I was when I first read Pride & Prejudice. She's not much of a reader, and much of what she does read is (sigh) YA fiction that doesn't have much merit. I would give this to her in an instant. But she wouldn't appreciate it, which makes me sad. 

2. MASH, by Richard Hooker (to my mother) - My mom loves the series, but I'm not sure if she's ever read the book. In any case, if she wanted it, I would lend her my copy. But I'm not gonna go out and buy it if she's already read it. 

3. Peter Pan, by J. M. Barrie (to Rick Perry) - By now you've probably seen the ridiculous anti-gay "Strong"  Rick Perry for President commercial where he's wearing Heath Ledger's coat from Brokeback Mountain, and which features music by a gay composer. Yeah. Good times. Anyway, Rick Perry is a douche, and I think he lacks imagination. I would give him Peter Pan for two reasons. 1) I think he could benefit from its fantasticality. 2) I think it's be an hilarious addition to his commercial.

4. Fezariu's Epiphany, by David Brown (to Nathan Fillion) - Because he's into this sci-fi stuff and he might actually like it, whereas I felt it read like a video game. Also, Nathan Fillion is pretty. 

5. The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen (to Jane Austen) - for editing purposes.

6. Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger (to the crazy I dealt with last week who kept demanding something I couldn't give them) - I hate this book. And I hate this person. Also I think their selfish disregard for others is a perfect parallel to the novel. And I'm hoping I could find a hardcover copy so I could chuck it at their head.

7. Peter and the Sword of Mercy (Peter and the Starcatchers #4), by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson (to Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson) - I would like to give this book back and ask them to fix it. 

8. Brian Jacques' Redwall series (to my cousin Michael) - Michael is ten years old and, like his sister, is not much of a reader. When I was just a little older than him, these books were the most amazing things to me...they gave me something to turn to when I hated everything around me. I think he might come to like them. But I fear they would just sit in a corner. 

9. The Last Flapper, a play by William Luce (to Keira Knightley) - If the Fitzgerald biopic The Beautiful and the Damned EVER gets off the ground with the previously announced Knightley as Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, she's going to need to learn to act. She's also going to need this play. 

10. The Pigeon Wants a Puppy, by Mo Willems (to everyone) - Because it's just the cutest darned thing and everyone deserves to have a little giggle during the holidays.

***

DON'T FORGET!

You can still enter for a chance to win a new paperback copy of A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, from Penguin Books. Open to US residents. Entries will be accepted until 11:59PM on Sunday December 18, 2011. And remember, you can only enter once, but you can get a bonus chance to win by mentioning the event and linking to this blog on Twitter (make sure you mention @lalalalaurs)!

12.11.2011

Monday Mailbox #29: a book, a giveaway, and a store

A Book

This month's Monday Mailbox is hosted by Let Them Read Books

Received one book this week, but I'm anticipating the arrival of at least 4 more in the next two weeks - and then Christmas is here, and you know what that means! (more books! yay!)

The Deification, by Jack Remick

Just out from Coffeetown Press on December 1st, I received this book as a part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. Since I only got it on Tuesday or Wednesday, I'll be reviewing it in January. 


A Giveaway

For the very first time I'll be hosting a giveaway this month!


On December 27th, Penguin Books will be publishing the debut fantasy hit 
A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES by Deborah Harkness in paperback for the first time. It debuted at # 2 on the New York Times bestseller list and has now been published in 34 countries. Warner Brothers has since acquired screen rights to A Discovey of Witches and its sequels. The second installment in the All Souls Trilogy, Shadow of Night, is due out in summer 2012.

The Literary Gothamite and Penguin Books are giving away a new paperback copy of A Discovery of Witches. Fill in the contest form to be entered. The contest is open to US residents until 11:59PM on December 18th. You can only enter one time, but you can get an extra entry by linking the giveaway on Twitter (just make sure you mention @lalalalaurs)!


A Store

You may have noticed a new tab up on the left there that says Store (New!)
This is a feature offered by Amazon Affiliates that lets me make a little mini-store of all the books I've reviewed on TheLiteraryGothamite.com so that you can find them all easily (and so that I can find them all easily...let's face it, I'm not the most organized person in the world), and then order them via Amazon. Feel free to browse through that - no pressure. Much as I enjoy the 20 cents I might get from you actually buying one of those things through that page, it's more an organizational tool that anything else. 

Happy Reading!

12.08.2011

Review: Brightsea, by Jane Gillespie

Nancy Steele (or Anne as her sister sometimes calls her) is perhaps not the most interesting, nor the most memorable character in Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility. She is a silly, dull-witted young woman whose manners are managed only by her sister Lucy’s criticism, and at nearly thirty years of age she seems to be ever on the look out for a beau of any shape or size.

She derives her best pleasures from being teased about relationships that are more real in her mind and more important to her vanity than any true relationship she has ever had. And it is she whose discretion falters, and who accidentally reveals the secret engagement that Lucy and Edward have been contriving to hide for four years.

Miss Steele is an oft-forgotten character, loved by none and pitied by few. When Lucy runs off with Edward’s brother Robert, she “borrows” the last of Nancy’s money (one assumes, for wedding clothes) and leaves Nancy without a means of returning home. Mrs. Jennings pities her and gives her five guineas so that she can return to Exeter to be with friends after her sister’s abandonment.

Jane Gillespie’s Brightsea, which picks up about ten years after the events of Sense & Sensibility, finds Nancy under her sister’s roof, but as-ever-trying to her sister’s patience and pocket-book. She is pawned off onto the Palmers for a short time (Charlotte Palmer’s character is perhaps the most accurately duplicated of the stock characters) and, while there, is made aware of a situation that would get her not only out of her sister’s hair, but into some cash. She removes to Brightsea, a fictional resort town of the glittering persuasion, where she installs herself as companion to a young, fashionless and prospectless orphan heiress, fresh from school and with little to no interest in society – the complete opposite of Nancy in every way (at least, in Nancy’s mind).

The disparity in their personalities provides a certain amount of entertainment, but Nancy’s forwardness and her need to compete with Lucy (who arrives for a visit later in the novel) overpower even young Louisa and her eventual romantic dramatics. There’s a devious plot on-hand to help the story along, but it’s hard to get past Nancy who (I believe it can be assumed, so close is the resemblance) was modeled after Austen’s titular Lady Susan. At only 160 pages, Gillespie’s novel is neither very long nor very fulfilling but, since Nancy (in this incarnation) is so modeled after another Austen character, there is at least a significant level of amusing Austenesque banter and style to get the reader through. 

Daisy Haggard as Nancy Steele in the 2008
BBC TV mini-series. 
Gillespie's novel (published in 1987) is out of print. No doubt its focus on what is originally a fairly obscure, fairly uninteresting character (and one who is erased completely from the most famous adaptation of the novel - Ang Lee's direction of Emma Thompson's adapted screenplay from 1995 - though she did make an appearance in the BBC mini-series 13 years later) has, I'm sure, contributed to the book's lack of popularity. 

And these days, with so many Austenesque novels based in sex or the supernatural, it's easy to see how a novel so rooted in true Austen fashion might be overlooked - especially one that is so short! But truth be told, it is (much like Lady Susan) enjoyable enough even given the main character's stupidity, and I think a true Janeite would at the very least appreciate it for its silent tributes and not so silent ridiculousness. 

12.05.2011

Review: Eliza's Daughter, by Joan Aiken

Generally speaking, orphans and misfits are more present in Dickens or Brontë than in any Austen novel. Oliver has...well...an entire cast of characters, and Great Expectations has Pip and Estella (who had might as well be an orphan). Jane Eyre's title character is an orphan (Adele is one, too), and Charlotte Brontë's unfinished titular Emma (continued in greatest effect later by Clare Boylan as Emma Brown) is also an orphan. And then of course there's Emily Brontë's Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights.

The plight and peril of orphans is compelling, and if you don't think so, look to Disney. Over 70% of Disney animated features are about (or in some cases feature) orphans, children of single parents or, in some cases, either neglectful parents, kidnapping victims, or runaways. Jane Austen, however, doesn't deal so much with orphans or children of ambiguous birth. Single parents? Yes. Children who, for their own sakes, might be better off as orphans? (I'm looking at you, Anne Elliot, Fanny Price, and Anne de Bourgh) Yes.

But there's only a small handful of what one could consider orphans or Dickensian misfits (Fanny Price may be treated like Cinderella, but she's no orphan). I can think only of Harriet Smith (who is not really an orphan, but the illegitimate daughter of a rich merchant), Georgiana Darcy (who, while an orphan, is of a rich family and therefore not subjected to such a life as Pip or Jane Eyre), and Eliza Williams who is the orphaned illegitimate daughter of Colonel Brandon's sister-in-law neé childhood sweetheart. Eliza, in turn, bears Willoughby's illegitimate daughter, the protagonist of Joan Aiken's 1994 novel Eliza's Daughter.

Unlike Willoughby's Return I thought this book was neither very good, nor very faithful to the tone of its predecessor. Instead of a novel of manners, Aiken's writing is decidedly and defiantly feminist. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but Aiken seems to have sacrificed tone, style, character and integrity all to make a social statement about an illegitimate orphan who embraces her origins and allows history to repeat itself because she said it could, denying that fate or circumstance had anything to do with it.

From the beginning, Eliza is an unreliable narrator. She tells the reader straight out that she will skip over certain episodes in her history, and that she will refuse to share certain personal instances because they're too hard to relive or too personal or whatever bullshit excuse is employed. That said by the time you get to the end of the novel, you may feel misled and lied to. I know I did.

But it's not just a distrust of the narrator that spoils this book. On top of that misfortune, Aiken has completely misunderstood the Austenfolk. John Willoughby is perhaps the most accurately portrayed, but Edward, Elinor, Marianne, Margaret, Mrs. Dashwood and Colonel Brandon all suffer both from the ravages of time as well as the destruction of Aiken's pen. Edward - who, while not lively or overtly passionate in the original, was at least kind and patient and gentlemanly. Aiken's Edward is sour and completely dispassionate and neglectful. The Marianne of old was vibrant and full of poetry and music and light. Aiken's Marianne is bitter and spiteful and unkind.

This, on top of the narrator's seeming dislike for honesty, truly spoils the experience of the novel. And while I'm all for women taking their fates into their own hands and standing up for themselves and for what they believe in, I believe that Aiken's novel is meant to be an antagonistic caution against everything established in Sense & Sensibility. I hate to speak ill of the dead (and Ms. Aiken passed away in 2004) but this book was a real disappointment.

12.02.2011

Review: Willoughby's Return, by Jane Odiwe

Hello, Jane Austen, my old friend. Or, rather, Jane Austen as continued by Jane Odiwe. I'm not gonna beat around the bush here - I loved this book. Austen sequels are a dime a dozen and some of them are truly awful. But then, once in a blue moon, you come across an author who not only obviously adores Austen (to the point of distraction, and I'll get to that later), but one who respects the original work enough to emulate it and then proceed in the same vein.

Willoughby's Return (2009), subtitled "A tale of almost irresistible temptation" is neither dry nor tawdry. This is no lifeless pile of words built upon Austen's frame, nor is it overly sexual; it remains comfortably in the appropriate time period. The story catches up with the Dashwood girls about three years after the events of Sense and Sensibility. Elinor and Edward have two young ones, Marianne and Brandon have a young son, and Margaret - never a diffident girl to begin with - has grown up and is ready to make her mark upon society.

John Willoughby was of course the foul rogue and spoiler of women whose abandonment of Marianne's love in favor of wealth almost killed the poor girl. You would think these parties would never stand to be in one another's presence ever again. But when Willoughby is involved in some business with Brandon's nephew, fate seems to have a different plan. While Brandon runs off to Lyme to care for his ward and her sick daughter (that being Willoughby's daughter), Marianne finds herself confronted over and over again by Willoughby and his unabated passion. Meanwhile, Margaret confesses that she herself was once in love with Willoughby, falls in love with someone else, is seemingly rejected by someone else, and ends up resembling the Marianne Dashwood of old in every way.

The story is well-constructed and the characters just as alive (if not more) as before. However (and here comes the point of distraction I was talking about) a large portion of the plot is drowning in pastiche. All of Austen's novels are represented, as if this book were the Austen Olympics. I wish that she had focused less on cramming in so many recognizable instances that had no place in the world of Sense and Sensibility.

At the same time, the novel is deeply engaging, it's funny, the characters are passionate and honest renderings of their originals, and the new characters (while some of them caricatures of other Austenfolk - i.e. Brandon's sister is so very obviously molded from the same clay as Mrs. Ferrars) are none too numerous that one cannot keep track of them, nor so flat as to be forgotten. Odiwe's insight into both her original characters and the classic characters is truly admirable. Now I need to go add her other books to my wishlist...

Next time I'll tell you all about another Sense and Sensibility sequel...one that resembles the works of Charlotte and Emily Brontë much more than it does Austen...