Tag: Jane Austen

Nov 09

Literary Love Connection: A Puppet Show

Literary Love Connection 9

Happy Monday Bookworms!

I made you a video this weekend. Actually, all I did was be ridiculous, it’s just that this time I did it in front of a camera. A few (okay a lot of) months ago I was sent some AWESOME literary finger puppets from Gone Reading. I told them I wanted to do a puppet show and they were pretty stoked about it, but then LIFE. UGH. But! It’s here now. And it’s… Well. It’s something. Enjoy!

 

Please ignore my apparently uneven nostrils. Nothing worse than a weirdly paused video still. Yeesh.

 

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Jan 13

You’ve Read ALL THE AUSTEN. Now What?

Idiosyncratic Lit List 31

Salutations, Bookworms!

Let’s talk about Jane Austen. I love her to pieces, but she only wrote six novels and a handful of short stories. Six novels! What is one to do once one has finished ALL THE AUSTEN? I have good news for you, my fellow Austen-ites. There are a lot of other Austen nerds. Austen nerds who have written Austen-inspired books. I made a list for you. You can thank me later.

booksforausten

1. Longbourn by Jo Baker (review): This book might be my favorite on the list. It’s essentially Pride and Prejudice, from a servant’s perspective. I saw Jo Baker speak about the book (and she was SO NICE!) and she said that you could read Pride and Prejudice and Longbourn together and basically follow a character out of a room from Pride and Prejudice and see what they do below stairs in Longbourn. It’s a fantastic book, I can’t recommend it enough.

2. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler: This book isn’t among my favorites ever, but if you’re in the right mood for it, it can be fun. It’s basically a Freaky Friday scenario in which a modern woman who is obsessed with Jane Austen switches brains with a woman from Regency England. My favorite bit about this book was when the narrator discusses how dang stinky everyone is in the absence of deodorant and indoor plumbing. Details like that take some of the romance out of my daydreams and make me happy to live in the here and now.

3. The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler: A group of people form a club specifically to read all Jane Austen’s novels. How much fun would that be?! The book is a look at those in the club, but there’s obviously a good dose of Austen-licious-ness, so you know it’s a good time. Plus, one of the club members (a dude, no less) goes the extra mile and reads The Mysteries of Udolpho. I can just imagine Catherine Moreland clapping her hands with glee at the thought!

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4. First Impressions by Charlie Lovett (review): For those who love stories that tackle the origin of books, this is a big winner. This book gives a double dose of book nerd glory with a glimpse into the world of rare books AND an imagining of Jane Austen’s inspiration and writing process. Really, though. Can you imagine writing an entire novel with a quill? That seems like a recipe for carpal tunnel syndrome. Maybe THAT is why we only got six novels.

5. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (review): Okay, I’ll admit, there are a lot of hardcore Austen fans who will balk at this one, but hear me out. This book is Jane Austen repackaged in a fun, modern light. With zombies. But the Bennet sisters are total badasses! I love those girls, truly I do, but it’s refreshing to see them doing something other than waiting around for suitors to call. Even if that something is extermination of the undead.

6. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H Winters (review): You guys, I loved this book. Even more than Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesIt’s STEAMPUNK Jane Austen. And Colonel Brandon has a squid face. Purists probably hate this one as well, but I implore you, my bookworms, to give it a shot. Such fun!

Alright, Bookworms, I know there are oodles more Jane Austen offshoots out there. Anybody have a favorite? (I promise I won’t judge you if you love any of the Darcy-Lizzie sequels that include the scandalous bits.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I will use it to purchase shoe roses and tea cups, obviously.*

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Dec 02

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Audio Books, Classics 19

Salutations, Bookworms!

Last month I read Charlie Lovett’s First Impressions (review) and it reminded me that I still had one lonely unread novel to complete the Austen canon. I decided it was TIME. Time to visit Mansfield Park! Since I had such a stellar experience with the audio version of Northanger Abbey (review) I decided to try Mansfield Park on for size aurally. (Spoiler Alert: That was an excellent idea.)

mansfieldparkI don’t typically take a lot of notes while I read, but this time I did and I’m going to give them to you (mostly) unfiltered, because, well, I think my note-writing self is funnier than my right-this-second self. Before we get there though, a synopsis. It’s early 19th Century England, and therein live three sisters. One marries rich, one marries poor, and one marries intermediately. The rich one is completely indolent, but has some kids. Because she’s rich, she doesn’t really have to do anything what with all the servants and governesses and such. The poor one had 8 zillion kids and is extra super poor as a result. She’s probably too busy with her 8 zillion kids to notice she’s broke. The intermediate one is childless and annoyed that she’s not richer, so she spends most of her time being horrible and sticking her face in other people’s business (that’s Mrs. Norris. More about her later.) Intermediate sister decides that rich sister should take in one of poor sister’s kids because she wants to appear charitable without actually having to do anything. Fanny Price is thus fostered to rich sister and her family, wherein she falls totally in love with her cousin (which would be gross, but it was once a totally acceptable thing so I’m trying not to judge.) Anyway. The cousin is rich, older, and a catch, so Fanny’s chances are crap. A lovelorn little Cinderella, our Fanny Price. And now for my reactions…

1. I like Mrs. Norris about as much as I like Filch’s cat. Which is to say, of course, not at all. I wouldn’t mind seeing this shrew petrified. SHE JUST KEEPS GETTING WORSE! Wicked, onerous woman!

2. I’m loving audio books for Austen. I think the aristocratic accents add to the experience.

3. Mr. Rushworth’s obsession with height is cracking me up! “Mr. Crawford is so short. Short shorty short short. Who cares if I’m incredibly dull? At least I’m tall!”

4. Crawford is a SCOUNDREL, what with his flirting with Maria and then trying to bewitch Fanny for sport. Pfft! (He only gets worse, BTW.) Interestingly, his name does not start with a ‘W’ like Wickham and Willoughby. There goes my theory about Jane having her heart broken by a dude with a ‘W’ name.

5. Fanny is rather Cinderella-ish. Not quite, but almost. She’d need some singing forest creatures and fewer actual maids to really make it work.

 Yes. That just happened. I managed to compare a woman to a caretaker’s cat and wish good riddance to them both. I don’t know about you, but that seems like a fine day’s work to me. Tell me something, bookworms. Do you ever take notes while you read? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Nov 10

First Impressions by Charlie Lovett & GIVEAWAY!

Contemporary Fiction, Giveaways, Historical Fiction 32

Dearest Bookworms,

You’d think I’d be tired of Jane Austen tributes and spinoffs at this point in my reading career… But you’d think wrong. When I was contacted by the publishers of Charlie Lovett’s new novel, First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen I was really excited. Not only do I love Jane Austen, but I also enjoyed Charlie Lovett’s last novel, The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession (review). Everybody loves a subtitle, no? *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. I swear on the grave of Jane Austen than the following review will be truthful.*

first impressionsFirst Impressions is told in a dual narrative ping-ponging between the life of modern day Sophie Collingwood and the life and creative process of one Jane Austen. Sophie has recently finished her master’s degree and is feeling rather shiftless. She takes a job in an antiquarian bookshop until she gets things figured out, only to receive two requests for the same extremely obscure book in rapid succession. In researching the book, Sophie is drawn into a scandal that calls into question the authorship of Pride and Prejudice… And it might get her killed. Book enthusiasts can be intense, yo.

Throughout the narrative we’re brought back in time to see Jane Austen forming a close friendship with her elderly neighbor Richard Mansfield. The two have a bond that undeniably shapes Austen’s work, but just how much of an influence was Mansfield?

Back in the present, Sophie’s got mysteries to solve, not the least of which revolves around a pair of suitors. Sophie must channel her inner Elizabeth Bennet to figure things out and live to tell the tale.

And now I shall share my impressions of First Impressions, because it’s what I do and I wanted to smush the word “impressions” into a sentence thrice. (Ha! I win!) I typically enjoy dual narratives, and I liked Lovett’s take on Jane Austen’s life and writing process. I found Sophie to be a spunky heroine, though I will admit I found Sophie’s love life full of rather heavy handed Pride and Prejudice parallels. However, considering the whole book is awash in Austen fandom, it seemed fitting. (Also, never trust a dude whose name starts with a “W.” Scoundrels, the lot of them!) As in The Bookman’s Tale, I loved the peek into the antique book world that Lovett provides. As a person who has always focused on the content rather than the medium, it’s a glimpse into another delightful corner of bibliophilia. I doubt I’ll ever be the sort of person who seeks out first editions, but I can (and do!) appreciate historical objects. (Seriously, you should have seen me flipping out over the copy of the Magna Carta I saw at Salisbury Cathedral. I practically had to bust out the smelling salts. Oh, the vapors!)

As an extra special treat for all my favorite book nerds, the awesome folks at Viking/Penguin have sponsored a GIVEAWAY of BOTH First Impressions AND a gorgeous Penguin Classics hardcover edition of Pride and PrejudiceThis giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada only. Check out the Rafflecopter goodness below to enter!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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Oct 20

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H Winters

Audio Books, Classics, Humor 19

Yo Ho Ho, Bookworms!

If I were to write up a personal ad, I would list some of my “likes” as Jane Austen, pirate lingo, audio books, and penguins. Obviously penguins. Because my library rocks my world, I was able to obtain an audio copy of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H Winters. It’s the Austen story you remember with a steampunk twist… And man-eating sea creatures, naturally.

senseandsensibilityandseamonstersElinor and Marianne Dashwood are, as in the original Sense and Sensibility , lovely girls of extremely modest fortune thanks to their greedy brother and his nasty wife. Of course, in this version of the story, the Dashwood patriarch was taken out by a sea beast. For some reason, all the creatures in the ocean are now PISSED at humanity and seek ways of destroying it at all costs. Because why not? Thanks to their want of fortune, the very worthy Dashwood ladies are not much favored in their search for suitable husbands (despite Elinor’s MAD SKILLS at carving driftwood.) Heartbreak happens. Healing happens. PENGUIN THEMED WEDDINGS happen.

It’s probably only because I listened to Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (review) in fairly rapid succession (as opposed to the gap of several years between when I read the originals), but it occurs to me that perhaps Ms. Austen had her heart broken by a cad whose name began with a “W.” Wickham, Willoughby… That can’t be a coincidence can it?

This book had the funniest descriptions of an evil ocean ever. I mean, “great burbling salt cauldrons of death”?! That is glorious. Truly though, the absolute best thing about this book was Colonel Brandon with a squid face. Sure, there were sexual innuendos, endless creative descriptions of a treacherous sea, an underwater colony, and glorified pirates absconding with native women to keep as wives, but giving Colonel Brandon tentacles was a stroke of pure genius.

If you’re an Austen purist, you’ll probably hate this book every bit as much as you’d hate Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesIf, though, you don’t consider Ms. Austen’s work beyond the realm of satire, you should definitely give these books a try. They are so much fun!

Talk to me Bookworms! What are some of the “likes” you’d put in YOUR personal ad? (You can tell how long it’s been since I’ve been in the dating game, because I’m pretty sure “personal ads” as such no longer exist. Pretend it’s Match-Harmony-Cupid-Face or whatever.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Aug 25

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Audio Books, Classics, Zombies 23

Salutations Bookworms,

Some things just go together. Coffee and cream. Peanut butter and chocolate. Spaghetti and meatballs. Jane Austen and undead creatures. Yep, I recently enjoyed the audio book version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It’s an odd little mash-up of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice and Seth Grahame-Smith’s vision of how Austen’s England would have responded to a zombie apocalypse.

ppzThe version I listened to (wahooooo library!) was the second release of the book. It included EXTRA “ultra-violent zombie mayhem.” Alright, alright. You know Pride and Prejudice. Now that zombies are introduced into genteel society, young ladies’ expected accomplishments go beyond the rigors of embroidery and fancy fingerwork on the pianoforteIt’s now fashionable to have your daughters trained in martial arts so that they can easily decapitate a few manky dreadfuls before tea. Nothing mucks up a nice country ball like an attack of the undead.

The five Miss Bennets have been re-imagined as badass ninjas. In addition to negotiating the niceties of society, they now have to make sure they aren’t eaten alive or stricken with the mysterious ailment that will turn them into flesh-eating monstrosities. Oh yes. And Mr. Darcy keeps making dirty jokes about balls. (We clearly share the same sense of humor.)

Now, there are many out there who are probably outraged at the idea of a beloved classic getting such an irreverent treatment. It didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the original. In fact, I found it cheeky and fun. It was especially amusing to listen to gory zombie scenes read by the most proper of English accents. I happen to think that Ms. Austen would find this version of her novel innovative if nothing else. If you like Jane Austen, zombies, and a heavy dose of ridiculousness, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is the book for you.

Tell me something, Bookworms. How do you feel about this sort of classic re-imagining? Yay or nay?

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Jul 14

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Classics, Historical Fiction 33

Hello Bookworms!

I am SO EXCITED today! I’m going to my very first author event tonight to meet Jo Baker at my local library. I’d had Longbourn on my shelves for a while when I saw the announcement for her visit and bumped it up my reading list. I have to send a big thanks out to Kelly from Read Lately for sending me her ARC of Longbourn just because I commented that I was excited to read it. Book bloggers can be super nice, in case you didn’t already know that.

longbournLongbourn follows the events of Jane Austen’s fabulous and much loved Pride and Prejudice, but this time it’s from the perspective of the servants. The only reason the five lovely Bennet sisters were able to spend their days playing piano, working on needlepoint, and worrying about attracting husbands is because they had people doing their cooking, cleaning, and laundry for them.

Sarah is the main protagonist and a servant at Longbourn, the Bennet homestead. Sarah was orphaned as a child and eventually landed a place in service at Longbourn. While it’s a good deal better than a workhouse, it’s not a glamorous position. I mean, it’s the early 1800s. There are chamber pots to empty, fires to light, and (GAG) menstrual rags to launder.

You guys, I LOVED this book. One of my favorite things about reading historical fiction is the dirty gritty stuff. I like to know what MY life would have been like if I lived back in the day. It de-romanticizes things for me and makes me super grateful for indoor plumbing and electricity. I certainly wasn’t raised a destitute orphan, but I wasn’t born into an outrageously wealthy family either. I don’t know that I’d be in service, but I probably would have to get my hands dirty from time to time.

If you enjoy historical fiction, Jane Austen, or classic story re-tellings, Longbourn is fabulous. Oh, and never fear, Bookworms, I’ll be sure to inform you of all the different ways I manage to embarrass myself in front of Jo Baker.

Tell me something, Bookworms. Does historical fiction ever make you grateful for living in the here and now? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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May 30

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen: The Fellowship of the Worms goes Classic

Book Club, Classics 30

Cheerio, Bookworms! smarty-mcwordypants-199x300

It’s that time again. The Fellowship of the Worms is now in session! This month’s selection was Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. WARNING: We will be discussing the WHOLE book. This will no doubt include SPOILERS. If you did not read the book and would like to participate, pick up a copy of Northanger Abbey and give it a read. This post will be here waiting for you when you finish. Now that the particulars are out of the way, I’ll remind you of the premise here. I’ll pose questions in bold and answer them in regular type.  If you don’t want your opinions influenced by my rantings, stick to the bold first. Feel free to answer them in the comments, or if you’re so inclined, on your own blog. A linky list will be provided at the end of this post for anybody who has reviewed Northanger Abbey on their own blog, even if it has nothing to do with the following discussion questions. Don’t be shy, please link up!

1. When tackling a classic, there’s always a bit of difficulty (at least for me) adapting to the language. Did any of you struggle with Ms. Austen’s flowery and polite prose?  I didn’t actually READ this novel, I listened to an audio version on a road trip. I think that was a wise choice, because the narrator was fantastic. There were a few points where I thought to myself, “Dang. The inflection helps a ton. I probably would have fallen asleep trying to read that sentence.” (I should mention I do most of my reading before bed… Though I will admit that classics tend to conk me out much faster than contemporary works.) I especially enjoyed the narrator’s inflection and found myself laughing aloud more than I would have expected… And yelling, actually. Because JOHN THORPE.

 2. And since it wouldn’t be the Fellowship of the Worms if I didn’t insight violence, how much did you want to northangerabbeypunch John Thorpe? I was so thoroughly irritated with John Thorpe I can’t even tell you. I wanted to punch him SO SO SO much! Acting like he owned Catherine, cancelling plans on her behalf, being a money-grubbing jerk weasel. Ugh. Horrible. And always hating on novels and talking about his stupid horses. Because, you know. His horses are better than your horses. His carriage is better too. Oh, and did he mention his horses?

3. The prevailing opinion of the time by the presumed literary elite was that novels were silly and not worth reading. Does this attitude surprise you at all? It really does surprise me that novels used to be considered inferior reading. I mean, I know a few non-fiction snobs who refuse to read fiction, but they’re few and far between. Most people I meet who prefer non-fiction aren’t jerks about it. Of course, book snobbery is TOTALLY still a thing. There are the highbrow literary fiction folks who turn a stink eye toward YA and Romance (and I have to admit I occasionally fall into the snobby category. I’m working on it, though.) so I suppose things haven’t really changed all THAT much, except that now SOME novels are considered worthy.

4. Money, money, money. Was anybody else appalled by the fact that these people were SOOOO fixated on money? I saw Isabella’s true colors a mile away. I mean, her brother was obviously a gold digger  from the first, but General Tilney surprised me. I mean, he CAST CATHERINE OUT. How unimaginably rude! And all because her fortune wasn’t what the wicked Thorpe had initially rumored and THEN denied? Seriously. Catherine was a catch. A bit of a ninny, maybe, but I suppose that was rather prized at the time. I know class snobbery certainly hasn’t disappeared, but I’d like to think people are better about it now… Maybe I should meet some rich people and test the theory. Wait! Is this why I don’t know rich people?! Now I’m giving myself a complex…

5. Ah Catherine and her runaway imagination. In what ways did you find Northanger Abbey parodied gothic novels? Anybody have an inclination to check out the The Mysteries of Udolpho? Catherine’s expectations upon arriving at Northanger Abbey cracked me up. She was like “Where are the secret passageways? We need more ghosts here!” It was like she expected foreboding musical accompaniment in her explorations. DUN DUN DUN! I was terribly amused by her assessment of General Tilney. Though it was proven false that he murdered his wife, he clearly was a bit of a turd. Just not a murderous turd. Part of me wants to read The Mysteries of Udolpho just so I can say that I did, but who am I kidding? The odds are incredibly slim.

Alright Bookworms, it’s your turn! What did you think of Northanger AbbeyPlease link up below if you’ve written a review of Northanger Abbey somewhere on the interwebz or if you’ve chosen to answer The Fellowship questions! Don’t be shy, y’all!

[inlinkz_linkup id=407325]

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Apr 25

Fellowship of the Worms Announcement: Northanger Abbey

Book Club, Classics 38

How Now, Bookworms?

It’s been a little while since our last installment of The Fellowship of the Worms, so it’s about time for another selection, methinks. I was talking to one of my favorite Bookworms (hi Ashley Z!) on Facebook about this month’s book choice, and she mentioned she had a hankering for a classic. I’ve been meaning to read some more Jane Austen for a while now, so it seemed like a serendipitous opportunity. I’ve chosen Northanger Abbey! (Cue applause.)

northangerabbey I have a road trip I’m planning to make in May so I’m considering listening to the audio version on the long drive. I don’t typically listen to audio books except in the case of a road trip, so it’ll be an adventure. Here’s the synopsis via Goodreads:

A wonderfully entertaining coming-of-age story, Northanger Abbey is often referred to as Jane Austen’s “Gothic parody.” Decrepit castles, locked rooms, mysterious chests, cryptic notes, and tyrannical fathers give the story an uncanny air, but one with a decidedly satirical twist.

The story’s unlikely heroine is Catherine Morland, a remarkably innocent seventeen-year-old woman from a country parsonage. While spending a few weeks in Bath with a family friend, Catherine meets and falls in love with Henry Tilney, who invites her to visit his family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Catherine, a great reader of Gothic thrillers, lets the shadowy atmosphere of the old mansion fill her mind with terrible suspicions. What is the mystery surrounding the death of Henry’s mother? Is the family concealing a terrible secret within the elegant rooms of the Abbey? Can she trust Henry, or is he part of an evil conspiracy? Catherine finds dreadful portents in the most prosaic events, until Henry persuades her to see the peril in confusing life with art.

Executed with high-spirited gusto, Northanger Abbey is the most lighthearted of Jane Austen’s novels, yet at its core this delightful novel is a serious, unsentimental commentary on love and marriage.

I’ve heard that this book is one of Austen’s cheekier novels, so I’m looking forward to it. An exciting perk of choosing this book is that you can download a Kindle version for FREE. That’s zero dollars and zero cents, and there should be copies-a-plenty at your local library. I will be posting discussion questions and my thoughts on May 30. As always, I will be relying on your participation to make me feel less alone in the universe. If you’d like to join in the discussion (please, oh please?) you can leave comments on the post, answer the questions I pose in a blog post of your own, or simply link up a review you’ve written of Northanger Abbey

Group reading really is the best way to do the classics, don’t you think? Who’s with me?

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