Bookish Gifts: Jane Austen Edition

I’ve been thinking of doing a bookish gift post that had a specific fan theme, and since it’s the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice I spent this weekend surfing the web for Jane Austen themed doodads. It should be no surprise, knowing how popular Jane Austen is, that I found a lot of Jane Austen themed objects. This is even with me making sure I wasn’t repeating bookish gifts I had featured here before. Enjoy. (Click pictures for enlarged views).

bookish austen gifts 1

1. Jane Austen bandages ($5) 2. Jane Austen Literary Chocolate (set of 6, €25) 3. Pride & Prejudice Hollow book safe ($62) 4. Jane Austen – Pride & Prejudice illustrated postcards (set of 5 –  about $10) 5. Replica of Jane Austen’s ring (£130 in gold, £60 in silver) 6. Pride & Prejudice Literary Transport mug (£7.95) 7. Made You Book sweatshirt ($42.99) 8. Pride & Prejudice peacock cuff ($40) 9. Pride & Prejudice book scarf ($42)

bookish austen gifts 2

10. Totes Adorbs pillow ($20) 11. Persuasion Book Purse ($55) 12. Jane Austen Bust (£18.00) 13. Austen hand drawn quote bookmarks ($12.51) 14. Jane Austen Book Titles Tote ($23.63) 15. Mr Darcy Literary T-shirt ($24.95) 16. Baby Lit Board books – Pride & Prejudice (counting); Sense & Sensibility (opposites) ($9.99) 17. PBS: The Complete Jane Austen Collection DVD combo ($111.99)

bookish austen gifts 3

18. Cozy Classics Board Books (Emma and Pride & Prejudice – $9.95 each) 19. Pemberley Rose Soy Candle ($12) 20. Jane Austen Silhouette necklace (pendant is laser cut in acrylic) ($19.90) 21. Pride and Prejudice pouch ($12) 22. “I Dearly Love a Laugh” quote pendant ($37.39) 23. Jane Austen mini button ($3) 24. Jane Austen library travel tin candle ($8) 25. Jane Austen graphic novels – Marvel classics (retail price between $15-$20 each) 26. Jane Austen stamp set (£5.30) 27. I Heart Darcy tote ($20) 28. From the Desk of Jane Austen – 100 postcard set ($20) 29. Gail Wilson Jane Austen inspired doll ($595 finished, $125 kit, extras from $10)

bookish austen gifts 4

30. Penguin Clothbound/Hardcover Classics (about $20 each) 31. Persuasion mug, Pride and Prejudice mug (£8.95) 32. Jane Austen/Mr. Darcy cookie cutter set (about $16) 33. Persuasion book clutch (other Austen covers available! – 60€) 34. Jane Austen and modern day DVDs: Lost in Austen and Clueless ($4-$10) 35. Jane Austen font (free for personal use) 36. Jane Austen and Bollywood DVDs: Bride & Prejudice, Aisha (Emma adapation), and I Have Found It (S&S adaptation) ($6-$15 each) 37. Jane Austen quote pencils (6 NZD)

Hope you liked these! If you’re interested in more of this kind of thing, check out the bookish gifts tag. P.S. There are so many Austen-inspired books I could have put here but I restrained myself. And if they existed, I would have included pre-order links for The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Austenland. Next time.

Advertisements

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfeund

This review is based on a uncorrected proof won through a contest on the author’s blog.

For Darkness Shows the Stars
Diana Peterfeund

The Premise: (from the back blurb) “It’s been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong–the Reduction–decimated humanity, giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed technology.
Eighteen-year old Luddite Elliot North has always known her place in the world. Four years ago she refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, instead choosing duty to her family’s estate. Since then the wold has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists threatens Luddite control; Elliot’s estate is floundering; and she’s forced to rent land to the Cloud Fleet, a group of explorers that includes a renowned Captain Malakai Wentforth–an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot what she gave up when she abandoned him.
But Elliot soon discovers Kai carries a secret–one that could change the society in which they live…or bring it to its knees. And she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.”

My Thoughts: The premise of For Darkness Shows the Stars was pretty much guaranteed to make me read it. It’s a retelling of Persuasion, my favorite Jane Austen book, and a futuristic romance? Um, yeah, sold.

In the futuristic world of For Darkness Shows the Stars, the social classes have been cleverly structured to mirror that of Regency England. The Luddite lords own all the land, and lives lives of noble leisure. Almost everyone else is Reduced. They are servants, trained by the Luddites to do simple tasks, and unable to take care of themselves. Many years ago, technology was abused, leading to to generations born with developmental difficulties (the Reduced) and world war. The Luddites were spared by their own caution, and now reap the benefits. But now there is also a new class – the Posts, rare children born from the Reduced that are just like the Luddites, but without their social position. As can be expected, their appearance has begun to shake up the social structure. Some Posts have run away from their estates and made their own fortunes in exploration and enterprise, forming a new class that is wealthy, if not noble.

Within the current social structure, the Norths are high ranking nobility. Elliot’s position allows her to manage the household since her sister, Tatiana, and her father, Baron Zachariah North, have no interest, but as the younger daughter of an estate to which she’s not an heir, Elliot has little power against her father. In the years since her mother’s death, Elliot has deflected the worst of his selfishness, but as far as Baron North is concerned, he is lord and master. He reinforces his supremacy over Elliot subtly, with punishments designed to hit Elliot where it hurts the most. His latest act is to cut down a field of wheat that Elliot had secretly modified to end the food shortage on the North lands. Beneath his casual callousness, Elliot fears that her father choose her wheat field on purpose.

The loss of the genetically modified wheat leads Elliot to convince her family to rent out her grandfather’s shipyard to the Cloud Fleet, even though the Fleet is staffed entirely by free Posts. Admiral Innovation of the Cloud Fleet brings with him an interesting assortment of wealthy and adventuring Posts, among them his wife Felicia, Captains Andromeda and Donovan Phoenix, and finally, Captain Malakai Wentforth. But when Elliot lays her eyes on Captain Wentforth, she gets a shock. He’s Kai, the young Post boy she fell in love with but failed to run away with four years ago.

The set up of the book has quite a few nods at the original Persuasion, with Elliot in reduced circumstances, her frivolous family spending money while she worries about bills, and a newly wealthy lower class as a means for the Norths to survive. But For Darkness Shows the Stars really takes at most the skeleton of the original as a guide, choosing to make social commentaries in it’s own, very different way. Instead of drama playing out under the surface in drawing rooms, this story is more out in the open. Elliot has a close relationship with Posts and Reduced on her estate, relying on her Post foreman Dee and others for advice, and often visiting Ro, a pretty Reduced girl her age, for company. While Elliot works with the Posts and Reduced, others in her social class treat them no more than indentured servants or slaves. There are several examples showing the huge divide between the Luddites and others. For instance, the birthing and healing houses for the Reduced and Posts. These places are ill-staffed, and inadequate. Many Posts, in no need to be treated like the Reduced are, leave their estates but fall prey poverty and new forms of abuse.

Kai/Malakai keenly feels the unfairness of the class system and questions it — why should he be servant and answerable to the Luddites when he has skills and a mind just as sharp if not sharper than theirs? Letters between Kai and Elliot through the years break up the story and are evidence of their attachment, but also show the two questioning the Luddite beliefs. The dynamics between classes plays a more obvious role when Kai left the North Estate, and Elliot stayed, and later, Kai more openly holds a grudge over Elliot’s rejection than in the original. When Malakai shows up again with other successful Posts, what he’s done to achieve that success also becomes a plot point.

I liked these differences from the original story. I’ve read a lot of retellings, and I always end up liking the stories that take the bones of the original but infuse it with its own flavor over those stories that rigidly follow the script. Baron North is more scary than he is vain. Several characters no longer exist or are in very different forms, and of course, names have been changed, but characters are still recognizable, if different. I liked the concept of a future where events have produced a class system similar to the Regency period, and that use of technology was linked to religion. I liked that this was cleverly incorporated into the conflict between characters. More cleverness: the clues about where the story was set (not in the U.K). I enjoyed that the settings for many of the scenes were unique to this retelling.

And how did I feel about the romance? Kai and Elliot’s correspondence peppering the book showed their early friendship as children, with only a few hints of their romance later. Where the romance really resonated for me was in Elliot’s internal anguish over Kai. Her emotions now, which she takes great pains to keep hidden, tell me more than anything else. Kai is harder to read — the third person narration focuses more on Elliot — and he was surprisingly bitter at the start of the story. Later on, I felt like he showed a different emotion but you had to read between the lines to guess how he felt, until the expected letter. Like the original, Kai’s inscrutability makes Elliot’s feelings more palpable, and it was on Elliot’s behalf that I rooted for the couple.  This wasn’t a story that was about a new love, it was about already being in love and sick with it. I wanted them to be reunited. I liked the way that happened, and how some of the class issues (at least at the North estate) were resolved. Some readers may have wanted more social issues settled, but I didn’t think the scope of the story would have made that realistic. This ending was a beginning, and I was happy with that.

For Darkness Shows the Stars is out June 10th, 2012.

Overall: This is one of my favorite retellings. Readers should not go into this expecting a story that follows the Persuasion formula to the letter, but since For Darkness Shows the Stars is set in a post-apocalyptic society where new advancements are frowned upon, things are bound to go off script. And they do, in the best way. I liked this for being an homage but also for being incredibly original at the same time.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
Book Harbinger – “While overall this didn’t work for me”, recommends with reservations.
Angieville – “Everything about this book soars, from its supernal setting to the dreams its characters hold in their hearts.”

Modern Pride & Prejudice in Vlog form

If you follow my blog, you know that I am a big sucker for modern Jane Austen retellings. So I’m delighted that there’s a web series that just started, styled as a vlog diary from the point of view of a modern Lizzie Bennet – a 24-year old grad student in Mass Communications. Her best friend Charlotte Lu is in school for for TV and film production and holds the camera while Lizzie wryly describes her mother’s quest for her daughters to be married to a rich young man so they can have the White Picket Fence and 2.5 kids. Her sisters Lydia and Jane make appearances, and so far the three episodes (out of a reported eight that have been recorded so far) set up the story where a certain med student named Bing Lee has moved into “that house on Netherfield” (for $3 million).

Episode one:

 

Episode 2 – My Sisters: Problematic to Practically Perfect / Episode 3 – My Parents: Opposingly Supportive

I’m liking it so far – it’s a lot of fun. Here’s the link to the mashable interview with Hank Green and Bernie Su, who are behind this series, and this is Hank Green’s vlog post introducing it, and Bernie Su’s tumblr.

And here are some stills of Lizzie with Charlotte, Lydia, and Jane.

Impromptu Austen Week Wrap-up

Well, it’s been a busy week here, with much more posting than I’m used to. I hope that people got something out of my Impromptu Austen Week. I’m happy I was able to review everything I wanted to. Here’s a rundown of this week’s posts, if you missed any:

Austen Inspired Bollywood films:

Modern Day Austen retellings:

Austen inspired

If you are looking for more, check out my Jane Austen tag! I’ve got a soft spot for books set in the modern day that are Austen inspired. It may be a sickness. To make things easier, here are my favorites (click titles for review):

I Have Found It / Kandukondain Kandukondain (film)


I Have Found It (Kandukondain Kandukondain), is an Indian adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. This film is in Tamil, and came out in 2000.

Two sisters
The story is about a wealthy family that live in the village of Poongudi. Their wealth is from their grandfather, who has been confined to his sickbed for many years. In his stead his daughter and granddaughters manage his huge house, temple, farm, and college.


Sowmya, the oldest of the three daughters, is the practical, responsible one, and acts as the Principal of her family’s college and teaches classes on computers. She also takes care of the temple and farm. Her first suitor died, and since then she’s been labeled ‘unlucky’, and new suitors don’t want to take a chance.


Her younger sister Meenakshi (nicknamed Meenu), is the impetuous one, determined to marry for love, not practicality. She wants a pure, strong love, and a man who can quote poetry. She doesn’t hold back from speaking her mind.


Manohar is a young man with dreams of becoming a film director. Sowmya mistakes him as a potential match (sent by the matchmaker), when he goes to her house looking to film there. Seeing her sadness, Manohar starts to fall for her, but wants to wait until he makes a name for himself.


Major Bala is a wounded soldier who has become somewhat bitter after the war. He is wealthy, thanks to his flower business, but drinks and is grouchy. When he meets Meenakshi for the first time, he is taken with her singing. He encourages her talent, even buying her a tambura from Tanjore, and in exchange for her taking lessons, he stops drinking. While he really cares for Meenu, he considers himself too old for her.


Any potiential hope Bala has of winning Meenu is crushed when Meenu meets young financial wizard Srikanth, who helps her when she twists her ankle, can quote her favorite poets, and is just as impulsive as she is.


Then their grandfather dies, leaving the house to his son, who hasn’t visited in 10 years. To add insult to injury, this son then turns his sister and her daughters out of the house, forcing them to move to Madras.


There, without much money, they can barely pay rent for a small place, and the girls struggle to find jobs. In the meantime, Srikanth’s company goes bankrupt, and he disappears for a while.

Slowly their fortunes change through hard work and the help of friends, and Sowmya and Meenu marry the right men.

****

Overall, this is a much more traditional (and conservative, no kissing!), Indian movie than the previous Bollywood Austen adaptions I’ve watched (Bride & Prejudice, Aisha). The style reminded me of the Indian movies of my childhood, where the music has classical Indian instruments and style, actors lip sync with the songs, and where the dance sequences have metaphorical meaning within the story. It wasn’t uncommon for two people to be talking, then transported to Egypt and convey their flirting in a dance with multiple costume changes (P.S. Indian movies play the WHOLE song).  The pageantry in I Have Found It may read as cheesy to some, but made me nostalgic, and with two beautiful leading actresses, there were some gorgeous moments.

In terms of following Jane Austen, I think that this movie does a very good job. With a running time of two and a half hours, it follows the story (adapted to India) as closely as some BBC adaptions I’ve seen. Although the two sisters were very beautiful, I didn’t really think the actors playing their suitors where that good looking, but they won me over, especially Major Bala. He’s played by major Indian film star Mammootty, and I think his acting was the stand out performance. This movie ended up feeling very romantic. I was invested in the stories and I felt like each character had a nice backstory and that their emotions were well conveyed, so I rooted for them to be happy.


The two screenshots above are from my favorite dance sequence of the movie, mostly for how pretty the pops of red looks against that desert backdrop (ETA: but ignore the subtitles on this youtube video, they are SO off and don’t match the subtitles on the DVD, which make much more sense):

The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy by Sara Angelini


 

I was curious about this one, touted as “A thoroughly modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice“, with Darcy as a judge, and Elizabeth Bennet as a trial lawyer. Hmm. Liked the idea, wasn’t sure how it would play out.
 
The Premise: (taken from the back blurb) “Judge Fitzwilliam Darcy is terribly bored — ready to hang up his black robe and return to the life of a country gentleman–until he meets Elizabeth Bennet, a fresh-faced attorney with a hectic schedule and no time for the sexy but haughty judge. Sparks fly as the two match wits and battle their overwhelming attraction”
 
My Thoughts: OK, so the very first page of The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy worried me a little. He’s with Charles Bingley, who is debating whether to buy a Lamborghini Murcielago, and throws out a comment about selling his McLaren to Ralph Lauren a few years back. The in-your-face over-the-top wealth was semi-eye rolly, but Darcy is supposed to be very wealthy. Thankfully, by page two, when Darcy begins what starts off as a typical day at work as a judge, he started to become less like a fantasy and more like a human being. His wealth, thanks to inheritance, and his interest in American law, thanks to an American mother and a barrister father are established, as is why he is a judge at a young age (and why he’s tired of it). Despite his wealth and power as a judge, I thought Darcy was likable, even funny, at least in his head.
 

“Still irked by the sudden transfer of Judge Clayton’s calendar, the Honorable F. Darcy entered the courtroom with an annoyed swirl of black robes. Sometimes he imagined himself as Professor Snape when he wore them. Considering how frequently he wished he could zap some people out of existence, it was fitting.”

Pretty soon, Darcy meets Elizabeth Bennet, but his toughness as a judge does not make him very likable to her on her first day as a trial lawyer.  Since he also slicks down his hair and wears glasses to appear more experienced, Elizabeth mistakes him as older, not thirty-seven. Later, when she overhears him say about her, “Look, she’s not pretty enough to tempt me. Do you have any idea what kind of a headache even the appearance of impropriety could cause?”, she doesn’t focus on his sensible statement, but on his dismissing her as not pretty. Now she really doesn’t like him, but while she nurses her resentment, an oblivious Darcy notes her attractions:

“Having experienced the mortification of being found not tempting, Elizabeth found it very hard to take Judge Darcy seriously. On the contrary, she thought of him as a sort of joke.  She showed her indifference to him by refusing to take the bait when he said something offensive — as he did on a daily basis. While professionally she was without fault, she danced on the edge of disrespect with pert glances and cryptic Yes, Judge Darcys. She dubbed him Clark Kent — without the sparkling personality– and made fun of him on every opportunity. The ember of resentment had taken root and burst into a full-fledge flame of defiance.
Oblivious to her true feelings, Darcy quickly concluded that she was the most capable and intelligent attorneys he had the privilege to work with, crafting creative settlements and persuasive briefs. He was always impressed by her dedication when he ran into her at the elevator after hours or on the weekends.  She met each of his challenges with spirit and never backed down when he ruled against her; he enjoyed sparring with her. If he found himself looking forward to her cases, it was in a purely intellectual sort of way. It had nothing at all to do with her velvety brown eyes.”

 
While Darcy and Elizabeth are misunderstanding each other in the courtroom, Elizabeth’s sister Jane begins her residency at Meryton Hospital, and meets the very affable pediatric surgeon, Dr. Charles Bingley. Pretty soon they’re dating, which causes Elizabeth and Darcy to run into each other even more. On one occasion, a Halloween party, Darcy is in disguise as a racecar driver complete with helmet, and makes an impression on Elizabeth who doesn’t know who he is. Of course, he doesn’t reveal himself, but later, in a proposal-type scene with a law related twist, he finds out Elizabeth can’t stand him, and is horrified.
 
Until they start their relationship, this is a story with a delicious amount of slow burn and great exchanges where their hidden feelings (Darcy’s crush and Elizabeth’s dislike) bubble beneath the surface. I was enjoying the read, but then, things get VERY physical. I was actually surprised by the level of heat in this book because of the amount of slow burn before it. I had expected the story to continue to be demure, or for there to be a sex scene or two, but no, this Elizabeth and Darcy, they are quite sexually compatible. I feel like a prude, but it was a bit much for me, and I think a big part of this was feeling uncomfortable with all the sex and the characters are named Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. If they were named something else, or if this book wasn’t described as a modern Pride and Prejudice, I’d have felt differently about the sex scenes and their frequency. Maybe it just made me uncomfortably aware of the line between homage and fanfiction.
 
Of course, the characters don’t change just because they had sex. Elizabeth and Darcy continue to be likable, and I enjoyed the banter between them. However, once their relationship changed, so did the story. After they took that step into intimacy, their problem is that it is wrong for a judge to be involved with a lawyer to appears before him in court. This is where the story is most unlike the original — their feelings in the face of their responsibilities. I thought this was a great moral dilemma that they had to wrestle with and I was interested in how it was played out, at least half the book involves this issue and I wished it wasn’t so drawn out! It felt like they were going around in circles and rehashing the problem for a long time until a decision was finally made. It felt a bit like forced drama.
 
I would also say this is pretty loosely based on Pride and Prejudice. Darcy’s aloofness and Elizabeth’s initial dislike, followed by a sort of proposal and rejection, while her sister Jane and Bingley fall in love — these are there, but there are so many differences. Bingley doesn’t need Darcy’s permission to do anything, and is a much less codependent friend. Caroline Bingley is Darcy’s friend with benefits. Charlotte Lucus is a lawyer friend of Elizabeth’s, she’s a lesbian, and Bill Collins has a bit part as a habitual offender. Georgina and Darcy are both close, but Wickham is in Georgina’s past and is practically a non-entity in the story. I wouldn’t read this book expecting the same story as that of Pride and Prejudice, because you would be disappointed. I feel like the characters could have been renamed and the Jane Austen association taken away, and this could be perfectly fine if packaged as a contemporary romance.
 
Overall:  The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy is the one I would recommend for fans of the Romance genre, but not for those looking for something that exactly follows the Pride and Prejudice formula. This one falls squarely under the contemporary romance label, but it also contains a lot of sexual situations. The sex surprised me – It’s several months into the story before things get physical, but when they do, they really do! A part of me wished the characters were named something other than Elizabeth and Darcy because of this. I also felt the story could be tighter; I wouldn’t have missed some sex scenes or minded if the moral dilemma of a judge dating a lawyer weren’t so drawn out. Other than that, I enjoyed the way Darcy and Elizabeth were re-imagined as a judge and a lawyer, and the author wrote with authority on the judicial system. I also liked the easy humor in the characters and the great natural dialogue.
 
Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository
 
Other reviews:
I didn’t find any in my blogging social circle, let me know if I missed yours!

Such a Girl by Karen Siplin


 

Such a Girl
Karen Siplin

As a lover of Jane Austen retellings, I HAD to read this book when I heard that it was a retelling of Persuasion. Unfortunately I was disappointed in this one, and I think the big issue I had has to do with my personal aversion to angst in the books I read.
 
The Premise: Kendall Stark is a phone operator in a well-known New York City hotel. Nine years ago, she left the love of her life, Jack Sullivan, because her college friends didn’t think he was going anywhere. Now he’s a successful owner of a brewery who is visiting Kendall’s hotel, and Kendall is stuck in a lowly job and in an unfulfilling relationship with a married man.
 
My thoughts: When I began Such A Girl, expected it to be a light story based on the other modern-day Austen retellings I’ve read, but this story isn’t quite that. It begins with Kendall taking a smoke break and seeing her ex, Jack Sullivan crossing the street towards her. There is an awkward exchange as Kendall realizes that while Jack has done well for himself as the owner of a brewery, she’s still stuck where she is. In the hotel hierarchy, a job as a phone operator is low on the totem pole, and from Kendall’s descriptions of it, it’s a job with backstabbing co-workers, a micromanaging boss, and lots of angry guests screaming in your ear.
 
Kendall’s life of listening in on the hotel guests, hating her job, and her relationship with a man who was married was a big downer. Instead of amusing anecdotes from working at the hotel there is nothing but negative stories about the place.  I hoped that the tone would change as the story progressed, especially when Jack reenters her life, but this was not so. Instead Jack stays at Kendall’s hotel and begins to pay visits to her friend’s dinner parties, as a way of showing off his success. As a result there are arguments between the two (usually when Jack puts his foot in his mouth), that are really uncomfortable to read. Kendall seemed to divide people into those who are like her — living paycheck to paycheck but not looking to do more, and people who do have money, like the guests in her hotel. Jack did not help. I found Jack’s behavior passive aggressive, and Kendall’s reaction defensive. After these fights (which were frankly not sexy at all), I could believe that these two dated nine years ago, but that there was anything still there was harder to buy. Either way, neither Jack nor Kendall acted particularly likable and I had a hard time buying any chemistry between their characters.
 
At this point I figured out that: this is a really loose retelling of Persuasion. The only thing it takes from it is the story of two lovers who are separated and reunite years later, but all the side plots and side characters from that story are not here. Instead of the Elliot family, Kendall has her friends, Amy, Nick, and Gary, who didn’t think Jack’s antisocial and unambitious personality was right for Kendall, who was a sunny girl with goals in college (something she is not now). The rest of it isn’t there. Instead it’s replaced by numerous stories of hotel guests treating employees badly and conflicts with management, or Kendall and Jack’s repetitive fights that go no where.
 
Outside of Kendall’s life at the hotel and dealing with Jack’s return, are her home and love lives, and neither are tranquil. Her home is an apartment she and Gary rent, but a disruptive neighbor moves into the apartment upstairs making Kendall’s life even more miserable. I think I was supposed to side with Kendall, but frankly, I thought she was just as much in the wrong as her neighbor. Their conflicts just made me feel secondary rage. And as for her romantic relationships, Kendall has a casual relationship with Sage, a married man that she doesn’t love. Basically there was no where in Kendall’s life where she wasn’t unhappy or doing something self-destructive.  Things ultimately work out for her at the end of this story, but the ride was not easy.
 
Overall: This is a very readable story but at the same time it is very real.  I think it is best not to approach Such a Girl expecting a light-hearted retelling of Persuasion, because that’s not what this is. I really wanted to like this one because of the promise of a retelling, but every facet of Kendall’s life felt dreary to me.  I couldn’t connect to it.
 
Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

A Weekend with Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly


 

A Weekend with Mr. Darcy
Victoria Connelly

The Premise: Katherine Roberts is a university lecturer going to an annual Jane Austen weekend at Purley Hall, Hampshire. For the past three years she’s been invited to talk, but this year, she’ll also be meeting romance novelist Lorna Warwick for the first time. Lorna and Katherine have been exchanging letters for a while and have developed a close friendship through their mail. What Katherine doesn’t know is that Lorna Warwick is really a man named Warwick Lawton. Warwick never expected a fan letter from Katherine to turn into such a great friendship, and from his side, love. He’s panicked that when Katherine finds out he’s Lorna, all that they share will be destroyed. The Jane Austen weekend is Warwick’s chance to meet Katherine and tell her the truth, but when he sees her, he may not be able to go through with it.
 
Going to the same conference is Robyn Love, a Austen fan whose boyfriend Jace is completely insensitive to her and her interests. Her hope for a nice weekend by herself is thwarted when Jace invites himself to her trip at the last minute, and then expects her to rearrange her plans to spend time with him. When Robyn meets Dan at Purley Hall, it brings her incompatibility with Jace into sharp contrast. While Jace has completely different interests and can’t stand Jane Austen, Dan shares her love of animals and the country, and he’s willing to read Jane Austen. On the other hand, Jace wants to take their relationship to the next level and has been with her through a bad time. It all leaves Robyn very confused about what she should do.
 
Read an excerpt of A Weekend With Mr. Darcy here
 
My Thoughts: This is a story told in the third person, but it is a very intimate, confiding type of third person, often revealing the streams of consciousness of each of the characters as the story goes along. The three people that the narrative centers around are Katherine, Warwick, and Robyn. Katherine is a university lecturer tired of lying boyfriends (one caught with an ex-girlfriend, one caught with a wife!), Warwick is a popular romance novelist afraid of telling the world his real identity, and Robyn is a sweet Austen fan stuck in a bad relationship.
 
This is the first in a series called the Austen Addicts, and for good reason. When the book begins we are allowed a brief glimpse of Katherine, Warwick, and Robyn’s everyday lives, and then the setting changes to Purley Hall, where their three fates converge. Their reason for being there is of course the Jane Austen weekend, so a lot of the book is about the conference, which includes the lecture Katherine gives, the various events they go to, and general conference goings on. It is all Jane Austen, all the time! I enjoyed this to some extent.  The conference was a good way to show the characters meeting and getting to know each other over a shared passion for Austen and mutual dislike over the caustic Mrs. Soames. I was also really interested in some of the creative ways that Austen was celebrated at the conference.
 
The issue was that after a while, I wanted the story to be more about the individual characters instead of going into every minute detail of the conference. It got a little tedious, especially since, on top of the conference, the characters muse about Jane Austen whenever they can. At first it was cute when Robyn packed her Jane Austen books and went into detail about the state of each of her reading copies (of course she has more than one copy of each book), and when Katherine thinks about how her period drama DVDs got more use after a bad break-up. But over the course of the book, when Austen was referred to in every other page, and some small part of their life would begin a long internal monologue on Jane Austen, it felt like repetitive “filler”, and I started to feel irritation when the narrative went on another Austen-related rumination.
 
Warwick, Robyn, and Katherine were all likable characters, but I wanted to know more about them, and less about Jane Austen. The bones were there for what could have been an interesting set of characters: Warwick’s reasons for hiding the truth of his identity to Katherine, Katherine’s reasons for being wary of lying men, and Robyn’s conflict between what she knows (Jace), and what she wants (Dan). The story maintains a sort of light touch when it came to going into these issues. I think of all the three characters, Robyn’s story is what went the furthest, but it still felt like it could have gone a lot further. I felt like the narrative was playing things safe by focusing on Austen and the conference so much and avoiding character development.
 
Overall: This felt like one for the Austen-super-fans, because it’s a love letter to Jane Austen. The Austen conference in a beautiful country house and characters who can’t help thinking about their favorite author is great for a Janeite who wants to live vicariously, but as a chick lit novel, A Weekend with Mr. Darcy isn’t very substantial. The plot and character development were on the simple side of the spectrum. Once the charming setting wore off, I found the story flat.
 
Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository
 
Other reviews:
About Happy Books – “Lovely, charming, entertaining and beautiful”

Aisha (film)


Aisha (2010) is a Bollywood retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, in the same sort of vein as Clueless. It stars Sonam Kapoor as the gorgeous and spoiled Daddy’s girl, Aisha.

The story begins at the wedding of Aisha’s auntie Chitra to Col. Singh. Fresh from her success at matchmaking (for she introduced these two to each other), Aisha eyes the wedding guests for new matches..


…and she alights on Randhir, heir to a fortune (but a bit of a dork), and Shefali, a country mouse. So Aisha’s meddling begins


Aisha takes “poor Shefali” under her wing, giving her a makeover, while her cynical friend Pinky disapproves but goes along with it. Cue a lot of shopping at designer stores and a sleepover.


Arjun, the boy next door warns Aisha that she shouldn’t treat people like dolls (or something to that effect). Aisha finds him very irritating.


Aisha introduces Shefali to upper-crust Dehli society, where people watch polo matches and go on weekend rafting trips. Sometimes they help out at animal shelters. Shefali hangs on to Aisha’s every word and takes her advice as gospel, including whether she should accept the proposal of the hometown boy she likes.


Aisha dislikes Aarti, a returnee from New York (and Angelina Jolie look-alike), who seems way too cozy with Arjun.


On the other hand Arjun isn’t fond of Dhruv, Col. Singh’s prodigal son. Dhruv is very muscled and takes his shirt of a lot in this movie, and Aisha seems interested in him at first.


Because of her manipulation, eventually Aisha’s friends have had enough and leave her. Aisha is left alone to consider her sense of entitlement.


Of course everything turns out all right at the end.

I thought that Aisha was slickly produced with beautiful sets (I want to live in Aisha’s house) and gorgeous people, but while it’s a lot of eye candy, I had a problem with Aisha’s character. Rather than being a charming, well-meaning busy-body, this version of Emma came off as a spoiled snob who thinks she knows what’s best for everybody. She uses “middle class” as a real insult, and when her friends get mad at her for her judgmental views, Aisha truly deserves it. I understood why in the end she falls for the boy-next-door, but not why he falls for her. Otherwise this movie is very pretty, with the right dose of pageantry, and perfect music selections (I must download them all), but story-wise, it has an unlikable central character, which is too bad because the rest of it is rather cute. I particularly enjoyed the secondary romance with Pinky as one half of the couple. I’d say watch this for the pretty, not for the plot.

Aisha has a very nice website here.

Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg


 

Prom & Prejudice
Elizabeth Eulberg

This is a review of an ARC copy I forwarded on from another blogger.
 
The Premise:
This is Pride and Prejudice set in the prestigious world of uber-elite boarding schools where the most important thing in the world is the prom. Prom at Longbourn Academy can make or break a girl, and the student body doesn’t want a repeat of a few years ago, when a scholarship student not only snagged the most eligible boy from neighboring Pemberley, she showed up in a department store-bought dress and was featured in the New York Times Style section. For her predecessor’s faux pas, the newest scholarship student to Longbourn Academy, Elizabeth Bennet, is routinely hazed. The only people who treat Lizzie like a human being are her sweet roommate, Jane, and the other scholarship student at the school, Charlotte. Lizzie perseveres however. She has no interest in the Prom, but she’s delighted for Jane when she falls for the unpretentious Charles Bingley, but can’t stand his best friend, Will Darcy.
 
My Thoughts: This was a very quick read – I read it over the course of one evening in a couple of gulps. There’s only 227 pages and a lot of it is dialog so it goes very fast.
 
I thought that the idea of doing a retelling of Pride and Prejudice around a boarding school and around Prom was a really great one. The wealth of the characters and the visits to different houses translates well to this setting, and the reduced circumstances of the Bennet family is reflected in Lizzie Bennet as a scholarship student and Jane and her sister Lydia as daughters of a recently laid off executive. The core characters of the original are there (Lizzie, Jane, Lydia, Charles, Carolyn, Charlotte, Darcy and Mr Collins – Colin here), without the Bennet parents or any interfering great aunts.
 
That said, this Lizzie and Darcy are very different from the originals. Lizzie is determined and talented, but she doesn’t have the personality that observes the world and remarks upon it that the original does. In fact, she seems to build a wall between herself and the wealthy. Maybe this should be expected from the way she’s treated at school. In any case, Lizzie’s prejudice is against the very rich. Similarly Will Darcy different from the original. For most of the story his character basically stands there while Lizzie willfully misunderstands him and tells him off. I knew very little about him and had no idea why he keeps trying to see Lizzie after she repeatedly yells at him, except that this was a retelling of Pride and Prejudice and that’s just what he’s supposed to do. It is fine that Darcy and Lizzie are not the same as the original, but I didn’t feel any chemistry between them for most of the book, and didn’t understand why Darcy liked Lizzie. It’s only after they figure out their misunderstandings that their relationship becomes more believable and sweet, but the original attraction was something that felt unexplained unless I think about the original and what happens there.
 
Darcy doing something just because that’s what his character is supposed to do exemplifies what I had problems with in this story. I think it’s biggest flaw is a stiffness which seems to be the result in rigidly following a certain path. Take the dialog for example. As I already mentioned, there’s a lot of it, so it was a shame that I’d regularly hit a phrase that has odd, formal quality, especially when it’s coming out of the mouth of a teenager.  Maybe this was done deliberately, but in this setting, it’s jarring.  I had a hard time imagining teens who begin conversations with “Bennet? I’m afraid I don’t know your family. Where do you vacation?” or the a teenage boy saying, “How could you say such a thing to me?” during an argument.  When particular dialog was taken from the original and mirrored in Prom and Prejudice (take Darcy’s first declaration to Lizzie for example), it feels like it’s a pale copy that doesn’t hold the same feeling.
 
Similarly, the brilliant observations of high society that are in the original are missing from this retelling. Instead there’s a stereotypical view of the very rich, which makes any observation about them kind of moot. While I really liked the idea of the boarding school setting, I found the execution very shallow. A whole school is so obsessed with Prom that everyone would pick on some lowly scholarship student because of what another scholarship student did years ago?  Perhaps if it was one pocket of mean girls or some girl with a particular grudge, I’d have gone along with the idea, but this scenario of a whole school holding a grudge didn’t fly.
 
I wanted to like Prom & Prejudice, I really did, but it didn’t quite hit the mark.  It’s only when the story veers away from the original and focuses on Lizzie’s love of music that I felt like the story shone. These were the cute moments in the story and what ultimately made me kept reading and actually like how the story ended. I think that if this book broke script like this more, I would have been happier with it.
 
Overall: There are some cute moments in this high school version of Pride and Prejudice, and I liked the ending, but it has a stiffness throughout that kept me from enjoying it as much as I wanted to. It felt like the book spends too much time trying to emulate the original. I would have been happier if this book veered off into its own path and spent more time making the romance between Darcy and Lizzie believable and its own. However, I may be in the minority in my opinion, as I see a lot of reviews with a more positive response than mine.
 
Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository
 
Other reviews:
She is Too Fond of Books – positive
Steph Su Reads – 2.5 out of 5
The Compulsive Reader – positive
Amaterasu Reads – 4 out of 5
Galleysmith – mixed
Austenprose – 4 out of 5
 
Loved the trailer for this one: