Thursday, June 24, 2010

Everything Austen II

Remember last summer about this same time when I joined the Everything Austen Challenge online?  Well, Ms. Stephanie at Stephanie's Written Word is at it again!! She's sponsoring Everything Austen II, starting July 1st and going through January 1.

Here's the blog post for exact details.  But here's what you do:
"Truly, the list can be endless! All you need to do is pick six Austen-themed items to read, watch or craft to participate. Note that you can mix it up a bit – maybe commit to watching three movies and reading three books – or if your TBR pile is huge, pick out six movies you would like to watch – YOU DECIDE!" (Quoted from Stephanie's blog post.)

So---da, da, dada, da, daaaaa (that was a drumroll) here is my list.  A bit longer than last year so I have some options to roll around.  (Remember how I didn't do very well with non-fiction?)

  • Read: Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford (currently sitting on my nightstand.)
  • Read: A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen edited by Susannah Carson (also currently sitting on my nightstand)
  •  Bake something from The Jane Austen Cookbook (remember last year's Everything Austen?  I did find the cookbooks. I read them, but didn't make anything.  Now is the time!)
  • Figure out Abigail Reynolds JA continuation books---what haven't I read and read one of them.  (I don't have the time to figure out what I've read etc right now.)
  • Read: Persuasion (got a pocket copy for Christmas and it's time to crack the spine, also sitting on nightstand.)
  • Watch: Northanger Abbey, some version or another.  (I don't own the newer BBC productions so this might be my impetus to purchase them.)
  • Read: The Annotated Pride and Prejudice (edited by David M. Shapard) by participating in my Pride and Prejudice Group Read online at Austenprose. (Hmm, that's too, was on my nightstand for eons until last week...)
  • Read some/skim/part of: Jane Austen's World by Dierdre LeFay (on nightstand, too.....qualifying this so I have a chance in Hades...)
  • Watch the film: "Jane Austen in Manhattan" (Stephanie suggested this one and it sounds interesting.)
  • Watch: Mansfield Park.  (Again, might be inspired to find one of the newer ones, as  I am not sure I can handle the horrific 1980's BBC version of Mrs. Bertram and Pug....)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Trio of Books

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo
Guideposts Publishing 2010, 268 pgs.
3 Bonnets.

First and foremost, a sincere thank you to Laurel Ann at Austenprose. I won this book in a giveaway from Austenprose in February and just got to it late last month.  Like I've said earlier here, I'm just getting back in the saddle and that includes getting back on the reading bandwagon.

I had the pleasure of reading this darling novel on a Saturday afternoon during my freetime (aka naptime).  It was a quick, delightful, fun read.  Albeit, I did bristle at the thought of the missing manuscript alluding to such a different story to P&P.   It irked me and didn't feel true to anything Dear Jane could ever have written.  Ever.  I also thought Claire's naivetee was a bit overdone.  She was just a bit too clueless about her own life and awareness for my taste, although that doesn't make her story and journey not true or realistic for others.

Summary:  Claire Prescott is a young woman who takes her sister's place at a summer seminar on P&P at Oxford University.  Claire doesn't get the Mr. Darcy thing that most P&P devotees seem to get so she's not that excited about the seminar.  In the meantime, between  finding herself befriending an elderly English woman who might just have a long lost Jane Austen manuscript hidden in her home, and meeting her own Mr. Darcy, Claire must come to terms with some personal problems of her own--her her American boyfriend showing up in Oxford unexpectedly.

According to Jane by Marilyn Brant
Kensington, 2009. 269 pgs.
4 Bonnets (No period costumes here, but some great 80's and 90's references and wit to make Jane proud!)

Now here's where it gets embarrassing:  another sincere thank you to Stephanie at Stephanie's Written Word & Marilyn Brant (author and blogger at Brant Flakes) for my copy of this book. It's even an autographed copy! I ummmm, errr, think I won this book late last fall.  I know.  Please don't say anything other than the look you are giving me right now.  I know.   If you only knew how deep my reading pile is and I don't blog about everything I read.  I need to take a course in speed-reading.
Le Sigh...

According to Jane begins in Ellie Barnett's sophomore English class.  Her teacher has just handed out P&P to read, the obnoxious Sam Blaine is ruthlessly teasing and snapping Ellie's bra and there it is--a "tsk" from out of nowhere.  It happens again.  And this is how Ellie comes to hear Jane Austen's voice inside her head.  Turns out Jane has been waiting quite a while to give advice to someone and Ellie is just the person.  Told from Ellie's perspective, with snippets of she and Jane's conversations, readers grow up and move from relationship to relationship with Ellie and Jane as Ellie searches for The One with Jane's guidance, all the while staying away from Ellie's Mr. Wickham, Sam Blaine. Or is he? 

Outlandish? Yes.  A bit strange at first?  Yes.  Delightful in it's originality? Yes.  This novel is an enjoyable read.  I enjoyed Ellie as she tries so hard to figure out relationships and find some kind of peace which seems always just out of reach.  It irritated me that Jane Austen was incredibly prejudiced against Sam Blaine, so much so that Ellie struggles to listen to her own voice.  It made the reader wonder what Ellie's relationships would have been like without Jane's ever present voice inside Ellie's head.  Would she have made different choices?  Would she have learned to follow her own heart and gut much earlier?  My only small hang-up with the novel was that it was a bit predictable (it's pretty clear that Sam Blaine is Ellie's Mr. Darcy), but it didn't detract from the novel for my taste.

The Season by Sarah MacLean
Orchard Books, 2009. 343 pgs.
Young Adult Fiction
2 Bonnets

Summary: Place--Regency England 1815.  17 year-old Lady Alexandra Stafford is about to take part in her first "social whirlwind of a London season."  Alex, along with her two best friends, Ella and Vivi are engaged in balls, dinner parties, dress fittings and weekends in the country.  All the while they are trying to figure out how the marriage market of a season works.  Amidst it all the hustle and bustle of the season, they get involved in the Earl of Blackmoor's death by helping his son, Gavin, with the mystery of his father's death.  

This novel was more than predictable for me.  Alex and her girlfriends dread the London season and the ton.   They do everything in their power to escape dreadful suitors.  They get into some trouble with their mother's because they are avoiding suitors.  They get involved in a murder plot.  One could see the next point in the plot before the next chapter.  I had the plot of the book laid out in my head with just a few chapters in.  MacLean does a good job of explaining the season, high English society and customs of Regency England, but for this reader it was nothing new and bordered on a boring.  Granted, it is a young adult fiction novel and it a good romance novel without inappropriate content for younger audiences.  And so it receives 2 Bonnets for being a bit bland for my taste, but also hints and mentions of Jane Austen.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Back in the Saddle

I keep singing Gene Autry's song, "Back in the Saddle Again."  I can't get this song out of my head lately.  It's just stuck there.  And it might be because I'm feeling Back in the Saddle Again for several reasons...

1. Literally, I am back in the saddle. My bike saddle that is.  My bike has been taken down from it hanging space in our garage and has been dusted off.  After a hiatus (a pregnant summer and well, no real excuse last summer other than no free time), we've attempted to ride again. On Memorial Day we did our annual Memorial Day ride.  Rather than go for what had become our annual excursion to Elm Creek Park Reserve and do a nice long ride complete with DQ  (because we'd earned it!), we changed our tune this year.  We added a Burley bike trailer (thank you, Craigslist!) and a toddler to the mix.  We rode a whopping four miles along the Rice Creek  and had a break at the playground and it was quite delightful.  And hilarious as said toddler had to keep lifting her helmet up to look out and then she fell asleep a block and half from home.

There have been several other attempts at this biking business since then.  My computer got an update (um, errr, I made have needed to update a setting starting with the letter W, um, errrr....), the toddler hasn't fallen asleep any other time and now when we say let's go for a bike ride, she points to the yellow Burley trailer hanging from our garage rafters. And let's just say that my saddle can tell that we are back in the saddle again.  Ouch!

2. I tried on some pants that were packed in a galaxy far, far away just before school got our for the year and lo and behold--they fit.  I knew there was a reason to keep them for two years...Back in the saddle--need I say more?

3.You can tell summer is here.  I am attempting to read blogs again and read and read and read (both for work and for pleasure).  Can you say back in the saddle again?

4. I am also excited about 2 fabulous online Janeite opportunities.

The first: An online read of Pride and Prejudice sans zombies hosted by Laurel Ann at Austenprose.
I offer you the reading and event schedule here--do be sure to check out her clever image for this group read.  If you know the zombie cover, then you should appreciate the image. 

The second, Stephanie at Stephanie's Written Word has done it again!---Everything Austen II Challenge!  Second verse, same as the first.  Maybe this time 'round I'll actually read some non-fiction like I'd challenged myself to do for the first go 'round.  Now I must go read some P&P, naptime is almost over and I've got a schedule to keep for this group read thing.