Month: August 2012

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Dreadfully Ever After by Steve Hockensmith

This is the sequel to Pride and Prejudice & Zombies, but the books have different authors.

I realized that while I said in the recent Booking Through Thursday that I avoid horror, this is actually horror. I don’t really think of as such because it’s more humor and weird Regency fused with fantasy. Unlike the other Regency fantasy book I read this month, this one is really different than Austen’s original works. Neither this nor the original are very Austen like, but this one is even farther away from conventional Austen.

I did not have a strong liking to the first book, but I decided to read the second for Austen in August. I was curious how they would continue it. Something I didn’t like about the first book is that I liked the adaptations of most of the characters except Elizabeth is very bloodthirsty and almost cold. She remains slightly more so in this book. These books aren’t big on character development don’t expect it. I do like the series for the idea of the Bennet girls being warriors

The novel was at times amusing, creepy, ridiculous, a bit offensive, and boring. I think the most interesting aspects of it were how the author adapted Kitty and Mary. I thought it was rather nice how Hockensmith really gave them page time development. Secondly, while I didn’t really like this book all that much, I think this author tried harder to than the first author of the zombie series. That doesn’t mean much though, but it was a quick read.

I would only recommend this book if you really liked the first zombie book, otherwise, this is a meh sort of reinterpretation of Austen’s works.

Read on my Kindle August 8-12th, 2012

Sunday Salon

This week I was productive in my reading: finished Mansfield Park, Shades of Milk and Honey and Lady Susan.

I am half way through Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After. It’s OK; I could have finished it yesterday, but I opted to read and watch things instead. The weather has cooled down significantly this week so I am back to knitting. Also, I read a lot this week. I will finish it today and the review should be up tomorrow.

Since I have read on four of the books I intended to read for Austen in August. I only now have to read Love and Freindship and PD James’s Death at Pemberley. I have decided not to read Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels by Deirdre LeFaye; I have too much to do this month and want to go back to reading some other things. I will put it in my TBR queue for after the reading challenge. I also recommend it; I skimmed through it and it looks like a very good companion to Austen’s works.

In other news, I need to knit & spin more as well as watch some of my backlogged movies & TV. I will perhaps post on the latter some Sunday Salon as well. I bought a new yoga mat yesterday because I’ve signed up for some classes. It is very expensive to join gyms and classes so I could only do so through group deal sites. I hope to be more active again in the autumn.

Even though there are a few more weeks of summer left, the weather is cooler and when September gets ever close, I just think of fall. It’s my favourite season in Canada, and I’m already thinking about my wardrobe for it.

What are you doing this August weekend?

Lady Susan by Jane Austen

In 2009, I read Sanditon, The Watsons, Lady Susan, and the juvenilia from the Everyman’s Classics compilation so this is technically a reread. I enjoyed the book, but I don’t think I remember much of it so I may as well reread and review this one for Austen in August and the Classics Club.

This features Austen’s attempt at writing a villain and an antihero for the protagonist. This is a short epistolary novella so it’s not first person, but you get to see several characters through the letters. Epistolary works are best in short forms such as this because the format is limiting. Many early English novels are in letter form, but it can drag. This novella had the right length.

Lady Susan is not a good woman. She is deceitful, spiteful, manipulative, vain, not a good mother and yet amusing to read about. Personally, I don’t alway need to like characters in books, movies and film or even feel sympathetic to them, but they must be interesting. I found Lady Susan interesting or at least good to dislike. Like many selfish people, she has this weird logic about the way of world. With her letters, you can really tell she cannot help but think like this. She is just that amoral.

This was a nice, easy read that also had a lot of classic Austen touches, but it really showed another side to Austen. Weirdly enough, it reminded me of all the Georgette Heyer Regency novels I’ve been reading. Heyer has more characters who are scandalous and coquettish. I would recommend Heyer for those Austen readers who like the tone of Lady Susan.

Read on the Kindle August 7-8th 2012.

On Booking Through Thursday this week:

Name a book you love in a genre you normally don’t care for. What made you decide to read it? Did it make you want to try more in that genre?

What genre do you avoid reading and why?

Generally, I am willing to read most genres. There are a couple I don’t read very much or at all. I would say high fantasy and science fiction are ones which I don’t read a lot from. I do read a lot of fantasy, but it’s not ‘high’, it’s usually ‘urban’ fantasy. High fantasy would be Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. The former I read because of the movies and it being a classic and the latter I plan to read for similar reasons. In Sci-Fi, I have read Hitchiker’s Guide series, Enders Game and a couple of Neal Stephenson books. I tend to go out of my genre for highly acclaimed genre books and those considered classics.

One genre that I avoid is horror. I don’t watch horror films at all either. Another is certain kinds of romance novels i.e. the kind you get at drug stores and in pulp fiction form. Similarly, there are a lot of mysteries in this format too that I don’t really read. I have liked mystery books, but again, more from classical side such as Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. I think I should try more mysteries, but I’ve never been particularly enamored with them. Similarly, romance is in most fiction that I read, but the straight pulp romances are just not for me.

How about you?

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

I saw the cover of this book on Pinterest. I do like a good looking book cover so I looked it up and found the synopsis intriguing. Kowal admits to this being heavily inspired by Jane Austen. The book is set in alternate world Regency where magic or glamour is available. Women are valued for their skills in this feminine art.

Jane Ellsworth is the protagonist. She and her sister Melody have a similar relationship to Elinor and Marianne Dashwood except Melody is far more insecure, selfish and spiteful than Marianne. Honestly, she is a little snit for almost all the novel. It was disconcerting to read. Most of the characters aren ot particularly well developed; I wish there was more time on Jane’s father or love interest. I did like Jane as a character though. Kowal paid many homages to Austen throughout the book. You can find hints of all her major novels in Kowal’s book.

If you remove the small glamour magic element, this is like any other Regency set romance. The addition of the fantasy element gives this book something extra which some conventional Austenites won’t like; however, if you enjoy Austen and fantasy, then go ahead. This book is a light read and relatively short in length. It is also marketed as a teen book too.

While I wouldn’t say this book as great or anything, it’s so light and quick that I passed my couple hours quickly. There is a recently published sequel to this called Glamour in Glass, and I have requested it from the library just to see how Kowal does there.

Read August 6th 2012.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Mansfield Park is the only major novel of Jane Austen I hadn’t read yet. I have seen a couple of adaptations of it so I knew the story.

In a reply comment in the Austen in August post, Roof Beam Reader commented that many people seem to leave Mansfield Park last or that it ends up being their ‘last’ of the Austen books. I think there are couple of reasons for this.

First, Mansfield Park is known as the most serious of Austen’s works. It has the most social commentary, and it has a slightly darker tone about socio-economics in Austen’s times. While Austen has social commentary in all her books, MP has the one which involves a greater inequality between the characters both financially and morally. While this doesn’t necessarily dissuade readers, it is probably the most realistic of Austen’s novels. It is definitely the most somber.

Secondly, Fanny Price seems to have a reputation among the Austen heroines. In the Austen choose your own adventure book Lost in Austen by Emma Campbell, there is one alternative ending which the reader is trapped forever with Fanny in an attic (the horror!). That was amusing, but not surprising to me. I have touched my toe in the waters of Austen fandom online and Fanny doesn’t seem to be many people’s favourite Austen heroine (Austeroine?). While Lizzie has wit, Elinor has sense, Emma has schemes, Anne has maturity, and Catherine has curiosity, Fanny has…? She has relatively less to recommend her. In fact, some find her “insipid” including Austen’s own mother.

I wrote the above even before starting the book. I went in to the book with an open mind and tried not to find Fanny Price annoying. A lot of Fanny’s personality is due in part to her upbringing. She is neglected and made to feel low by all her relations except Edmund. She is shy to begin with but her snobby relations don’t treat her like a person, more like a charity case or property. Only Edmund seems to care about her so I understand how Fanny would be someone without much bravery or self-esteem. Actually without Edmund to protect her, Fanny is abused like a slave girl to her aunts. She takes it all because she is brought up to take it all. Another reason is that her personality type is probably not something in which modern readers can appreciate since her primary traits are frailty, passivity, and morality. Being a forthright female was not something conventional in Austen’s time.

Continue reading →

The Classics Club monthly meme for August 2012:

What is your favorite classic book? Why?

I read a saying, “Asking a bookworm what her favourite book is like asking a mother who her favourite child is.” While I am not a mother yet, I can see how it would be similar because I love a lot of books for different reasons, but I love them all the same. My heart grows for more love of them. There isn’t one or two that I would want to keep rereading and sharing forever. It would be rather sad since i like variety in all things, especially in books.

Here are some of my favourite classics from my childhood and adolescence:

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie – One of my favourite books as a child, if not the favourite. I adored this story and the Fox animated series too (and the action movie). I always wanted to be Wendy when reading this book. It was fun, dark, and oddly mature and sad.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis – Another childhood favourite and also similarly, I also loved the 1980s BBC series (my love of books and TV/film feeds into each other a lot). I remember as a child knocking the back of every closet wondering if it would led me to Narnia and to tea with Mr Tumnus.

The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer – I had a big interest in mythology and fantasy as a kid. I was obsessed with the myths, especially Greek mythology. This is why I took Athena as my online name as well. The Iliad is rather violent; I think The Odyssey is a better read, but I feel one needs to get the full classic Greek experience by reading the Iliad. You can’t understand their mythology, their philosophy, their history without reading these two together.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – When I read and finished this at 14, I felt adult for the first time in terms of my reading. I had read other adult books before this novel, but this book seemed to be in a turning point in my life. It was a benchmark for me. It made me fall in love with Tolstoy’s writing and Russian Literature. I have a lot of respect for their lit, and after AK, I really did want to learn to read Russian for a long time. I have read War & Peace and do like it, but AK will be the book I reread every ten to twenty years. This reminds me that I need to buy a good copy of it.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Read this for school and loved it. This should be read and enjoyed early. The movie is amazing as well.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – It’s been ten years since I read this book and even now, I remember certain moments, passages, and writing. This book really stayed with me.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera – I’m not sure why I picked this book up, but the character studies in here are particularly interesting. The philosophy too and there are some great quotations here that I remember

Without listing all of their works, here are my favourite ‘classic’ authors:

Jane Austen – Immensely rereadable, fun, and romantic, I always feel comforted by Austen’s works.
William Shakespeare – All you can learn about life and people are in these pages. Hamlet is the tragedy I know best and I like Twelfth Night from the comedies. The writing in this always surprises, delights and enchants me.
John Steinbeck – I loved East of Eden.
E. M. Forster – I like A Room With a View and Howards End the best.
Rainer Maria Rilke – One of my favourite poets.

Honestly, I have more loves (Thomas Hardy, A. A. Milne, Richard Adams, Madeleine L’Engle and it goes on). I chose to leave out most of the authors and books from the last fifty years because then this post would be thrice as long.

I do notice that I love a lot of children’s literature, and with good reason. Even the ones I read as an adult, they do stay with you. I think some of the best classics are from those that you can read to children or they can read themselves.

How about you? What are some of your favourites?

Sunday Salon

This week I read and finished Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

I started Mansfield Park for Austen in August as well. I even started a review before reading the book because I wanted to write about why this was my last major Austen work. I am only at about page 48 so far, and it really is more serious than Austen’s other novels. It’s not as tongue in cheek; it’s still Austen observant, but it really is moralizing. I’ll hit it more in the review.

The weather continues to be dry, hot and not conducive to many things. It is a long weekend so we went on a road trip yesterday (not my idea), but I bought the things I wanted and ate some. However, I have been fighting a cold all week and been taking oil of oregano. I didn’t take it yesterday nor did I sleep a lot. I woke up a bit feverish, very dizzy and tired. I wanted to read MP today, but I also wanted to clean, organize my things, etc. I think I won’t do all that I want today. I really hope it rains and cools down soon.

Also, I am still glued to the Olympics and watching it everyday. It is proving a distraction to my reading. Ahh, well. It’ll be over soon and I have enjoyed it. It has made me miss the UK like mad though.

What are you doing this Sunday?

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Another classic children’s book I missed out when I was younger. I knew of this book as a child, but I wasn’t very interested in this genre at that time. I had a proclivity to mythology and fantasy then. I know I would have liked these books since I really liked the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I wish i had read these when i was younger; it is quite easy to attach to these girls. On an interesting note, I read Geraldine Brooks’s March a couple years ago and enjoyed that. Coming into this book, I had her vision of Father March which was definitely more layered than Alcott portrays in this book.

My favourite of the sisters in order is Beth, Jo, Meg and then Amy. I felt the latter two actually developed the most from beginning to end which is always a testament to the writer’s ability for characterization. I do not have siblings so I can’t relate to how the girls were to each other, but it was lovely.

I had some teary eyed reactions to certain scenes in this novel. The older I get, the more easily I cry or tear up when I read books or watch movies. As a child, this rarely happened. This is such a touching novel where all the characters develop but aren’t perfect, and it really emphasizes how there is always something in one’s life to be grateful for and people that care and love for you. It’s a very human novel.

The story made me a tad sleepy, and I mean that in a good way. It is very relaxing to read and well suited to bedtime reading to children. All the chapters end neatly and with optimism.

The whole novel ends without any loose ends. I do feel Laurie and his wife end up together as if thrown together. There wasn’t that much foreshadowing for them. Similarly, that Jo would end up with who she did too. Alcott wrote it in well and did surprise the characters

I know this is the first in a trilogy, but I don’t feel inclined to read further. The ending left everyone happy and content. I admit to liking part one slightly more than part two. Alcott had actually published them as two volumes which is why this book does feel like two books in some ways.

Read on Kindle July 27th to August 1st, 2012.

Magic MikeMagic Mike (29 07 2012) – Generally, I don’t really go to movies in theatres anymore because I can wait for the DVD. I also am use to watching movies alone, but the hype for this movie and how fun it was got to me. So I gave in and thought it would a good idea to go with a good girlfriend of mine and her friend too. It was fun; the dance sequences were very good. I went in going for Channing Tatum and left not feeling very impressed with anyone else. Most of the other dancers were not explored. Matthew McConaughey was standard greedy, unctuous business owner. The soundtrack was decent, but other than that, this movie doesn’t have much going on aside from the dance numbers. There was too much plot. I would have preferred just to watch a long music video of male strippers. It really was the only good thing about the movie. I knew going in that Cody Horn would probably not be good. In the scene where she sees him dance on stage, she looked angry and bored. I don’t think that was what the actor was going for. She was boring and had no chemisty with Tatum. While heis not the most talented actor ever, he is charismatic and has decent chemistry with many of his past co-stars, but with Horn, they had none. There was too much plot, and I kept thinking, “Forget this emoness and talking, let’s go back to the dancing”. Also, the writing was a bit lame. Why were the college guys in the sorority scene? Secondly, I have liked Steven Soderbergh in the past, but with The Girlfriend Experience and this, I have not been overly impressed with his work lately. His casting and certain visual choices leave some things to be desired. This movie had some very yellow scenes. I guess it was to emphasize the atmosphere and the location of Florida, but it was too golden sometimes. In any case, who cares about acting, plot, direction, and cinematography? The only reason I and any woman (or gay man) would see this again is for the dancing and the grinding scenes.

On Booking Through Thursday this week:

Overall, what factor most influences your choice of your next read?

What is it that makes you want to read a book by an author you have never read before?

Nowadays, I am back on reading challenges so I read my next books based on that. I also read based on my library checked out queue; I read what is coming due. This is why I buy books and don’t tend to read them for years because library or borrowed books become priority. When I don’t have a library to frequent, I do tend to read the books I buy right away. Another factor is mood. Sometimes, if I have read a couple of classics, I want to read something lighter or shorter. Likewise, if I read a couple of lighter books, I rather want something more literary or classic.

As for what makes me want to read books by authors I’ve never tried, I have a myriad of factors. It’s more like what makes me not want to read them is better. I was born with To Be Read List that I will probably never finish. I actually have a large collection of ebooks on one of my external hard drives. Ebooks are cheaper so I will tend to get them even if they sound remotely interesting to me. I have a number of interests so it can be piqued by topics, genres, settings, and more. I will tend to read a new author if they are well reviewed either by being bestsellers, award winners, or by looking at other book bloggers. My GoodReads feed has been a good way of adding new books to my queue. Other than that, I do tend to go to bookstores and libraries and read the backs of books to see what they are about.

How about you?