Posts Tagged ‘explore the many genres of jane austen challenge’

I can’t believe I’m already wrapping up my 2012 reading challenges.  It seems like I say this every year, but this year just flew by.  Here’s a break-down of my challenge progress:

hosted by War Through the Generations

I signed up for the Wade level of 4-10 books for the 2012 World War I Reading Challenge at War Through the Generations, which I co-hosted with Serena.  I wish I would’ve had more time to read all the World War I books on my shelf, but at least I completed the challenge.

1. The Gendarme by Mark T. Mustian
2. Mr. Darcy’s Angel of Mercy by Mary Lydon Simonsen
3. The Beauty and the Sorrow by Peter Englund
4. A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry
5. A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear
6. The Penguin Book of World War I Poetry edited by Jon Silkin
7. The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey
8. Shadows Walking by Douglas R. Skopp
9. Archie’s War by Marcia Williams
10. My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young
11. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
12. Overseas by Beatriz Williams

hosted by Existing’s Tricky

I signed up for the Explore the Many Genres of Jane Austen Challenge because I liked the idea of reading Austenesque novels in different categories.  The challenge was hosted by Shanna from Existing’s Tricky, who passed away in April.  Her passing made me determined to complete the challenge in honor of her love of reading.  I completed the challenge by reading a total of 8 books.

1. Variation:  Henry Tilney’s Diary by Amanda Grange
2. Sequel:  The Three Colonels by Jack Caldwell
3. Jane Austen as a Fictional Character:  Searching for Captain Wentworth by Jane Odiwe
4. Paranormal:  Emma and the Vampires by Jane Austen and Wayne Josephson
5. Modern Adaptation:  Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly
6. Mystery:  The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy by Regina Jeffers
7. Supporting Characters:  The Unexpected Miss Bennet by Patrice Sarath
8. Books by Jane Austen:  Emma by Jane Austen

hosted by Historical Tapestry

I signed up for the Severe Bookaholism level of 20 books for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2012 at Historical Tapestry.  Once again, I was an overachiever and completed the challenge with 43 books.  I don’t think it’s much of a challenge for me to read historical fiction, but I challenge myself to see how many books in this genre I can read in one year.

1. The Gendarme by Mark T. Mustian
2. The Last Nude by Ellis Avery
3. Catalyst by Paul Byers
4. Summer of My German Solider by Bette Greene
5. The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy
6. The Golden Hour by Margaret Wurtele
7. A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry
8. My Secret War Diary by Marcia Williams
9. A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear
10. The Last Storyteller by Frank Delaney
11. Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin
12. The Three Colonels by Jack Caldwell
13. The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose
14. The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey
15. The Music in Her Mind by Robert Gilkes
16. Obedience by Jacqueline Yallop
17. Shadows Walking by Douglas R. Skopp
18. City of Thieves by David Benioff
19. I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits
20. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
21. The Sins of the Father by Jeffrey Archer
22. The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley
23. Archie’s War by Marcia Williams
24. The Far Side of the Sky by Daniel Kalla
25. My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young
26. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
27. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
28. The Shadow Children by Steven Schnur, illustrated by Herbert Tauss
29. Flight From Berlin by David John
30. Across the Mekong River by Elaine Russell
31. The Siren of Paris by David LeRoy
32. The Mirrored World by Debra Dean
33. The Time of Women by Elena Chizhova
34. Khatyn by Ales Adamovich
35. The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony
36. The Soldier’s Wife by Margaret Leroy
37. A Parachute in the Lime Tree by Annemarie Neary
38. The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap by Paulette Mahurin
39. Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal
40. Princess Elizabeth’s Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal
41. The Violin of Auschwitz by Maria Àngels Anglada
42. None But the Brave by Anthony A. Goodman
43. The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman

hosted by Savvy Verse & Wit

I signed up to read at least 1 book for the 2012 Fearless Poetry Exploration Challenge at Savvy Verse & Wit.  I completed the challenge, reading a total of 7 books.

1. Mountain Intervals, Poems From the Frost Place 1977-1986 edited by Donald Sheehan
2. The Penguin Book of WWI Poetry edited by Jon Silkin
3. Catalina by Laurie Soriano
4. What Looks Like an Elephant by Edward Nudelman
5. Three Women: A Poetic Triptych and Selected Poems by Emma Eden Ramos
6. Sonics in Warholia by Megan Volpert
7. Beyond the Scent of Sorrow by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

hosted by Suko’s Notebook

I signed up to read 1 book for The Jodi Picoult Project at Suko’s Notebook, and I completed the challenge by reading the Jodi Picoult book that had been sitting on my shelf unread for too long.

1. Second Glance by Jodi Picoult

I think keeping my challenge participation to a minimum meant that I was able to finish them all this year.  Let’s see if I can keep to that in 2013.  I’ll be posting my 2013 reading challenges later today.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Weakened as the vampire was from lack of sustenance, it was nevertheless clear that Harriet had only frantic moments to live before she would succumb to his vicious designs.

Mrs. Goddard fainted dead away and fell to the ground as Emma came running from the house, waving her father’s old sabre in both hands.

With a single, clean swath of the sword, Emma severed the head of the vampire.  It bounced on the ground and rolled a few feet, and then the body of the creature collapsed as well.

(from Emma and the Vampires, page 17)

Emma and the Vampires is a fun and silly retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma.  The plot is the same as Austen’s original, but with vampires thrown in (of course).  Emma Woodhouse is essentially a frivolous, spoiled rich girl, who also happens to be clever and has a good heart.  No amount of chastising from her friend and brother-in-law Mr. Knightley will stop her from trying to match her friend Harriet Smith with the vicar Mr. Elton, and nothing he can say will persuade Emma to think poorly of Frank Churchill, who waltzes into Highbury seemingly interested in winning Emma’s affection.

While Emma is busy making a mess of her love life and Harriet’s, a pack of wild vampires is roaming around Highbury, attacking the young girls at Mrs. Goddard’s school and draining them of their blood.  Mr. Knightley, an aristocratic vampire, insists something must be done about the vampire menace, and while he prepares the final attack, Emma finally realizes she’s been clueless about everything, including her own heart.

In Emma and the Vampires, Wayne Josephson sometimes uses Austen’s original prose and sometimes paraphrases, almost like he’s simplifying the text for younger readers while inserting vampires for excitement.  The vampire additions, however, leave much to be desired.  Whether Emma realizes that Mr. Knightley and most of the other gentlemen of Highbury are vampires, how these men became vampires, their feeding habits, and the difference between the aristocratic and wild vampires are not fully explored.

However, I enjoyed Emma and Harriet as vampire slayers, lopping off heads and reaching under their skirts to pull out the wooden stakes tied to their legs with ribbons.  I could picture Emma and Knightley fighting the vampires side by side as equals, while Mr. Elton and Frank Churchill stand back with the fainting ladies.  Emma and the Vampires is not meant to be taken seriously, and while it was the right book for me at the moment, I would have enjoyed it a lot more had Josephson given more depth to the vampire story line.  I think this book would be a fun, light read for fans of the Austenesque and an amusing introduction to Jane Austen for younger readers.

Book 8 for Explore the Many Genres of Jane Austen Challenge (Paranormal)

I was saddened to learn that Shanna from Existing’s Tricky lost her battle with cancer in April. To honor her memory and her love of books, I am determined to complete her challenge. May she rest in peace.

Disclosure: Emma and the Vampires is from my personal library.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★★

‘I think every woman has that within her which would set her free, if only she could act on her inner feelings and be true to herself.’

(from Searching for Captain Wentworth, page 272)

Have you ever wished you could meet a long-dead favorite author and maybe even see firsthand the people and events that inspired your favorite novel?  In Searching for Captain Wentworth, Jane Odiwe’s heroine, Sophie Elliot, gets the opportunity to meet and even befriend Jane Austen through her ancestor, Sophia.

Needing time away to mend her broken heart and determined to begin the novel she’s always wanted to write, Sophie heads to her great-aunt’s house in Bath, which has been in the family for generations.  When she observes her dashing and mysterious downstairs neighbor, Josh, drop an old glove, Sophie has good intentions of returning it to him.  But this is no ordinary glove; Sophie soon determines that it allows her to travel back to 1802 and see Regency Bath through the eyes of Sophia.

Sophie, unsure each time she travels through time when or whether she’ll return to the present day, finds life in the Elliot home unbearable at times.  Sophia’s father seems only to care about the family’s connections, and her arrogant sister, Emma, rests all her hopes on marrying Mr. Glanville and is none too happy about Sophia getting in the way.  If you love Jane Austen’s Persuasion as much as I do, you won’t have any problem identifying the similarities to Anne, Sir Walter, and Elizabeth Elliot.

The one thing that makes life tolerable for Sophie/Sophia is hanging out with the Elliot’s neighbors, the Austens, particularly the sisters Jane and Cassandra.  Sophie is a fan of Austen’s novels and getting to know the real Jane and especially learning whether or not she had a true love make the temptation of the time-traveling glove too hard for her to resist.  And of course, there is Jane’s charming brother, Charles, who is home from the Navy and touches Sophie’s heart in a way no other man ever has.  Meanwhile, in the present, Sophie and Josh navigate a flirtation that is both sweet and awkward…and complicated by the fact that Sophie can’t bring herself to give back the glove.

Given my love for Persuasion, it’s not surprising that I adored Searching for Captain Wentworth.  I certainly could understand how Sophie was torn between two worlds.  Who wouldn’t want to be friends with Jane Austen?  Odiwe’s Jane is as feisty, witty, and funny as we expect her to be.  And because Sophie is so likeable and so real, especially her desire to start a new life and get over her past disappointments in romance and her career, I couldn’t help but root for her to find happiness in whatever century she chose.

But Searching for Captain Wentworth isn’t just about time travel and romance.  Odiwe does a great job showing what women in the Regency era had to endure, from being pushed into marriage and constantly reminded of their familial obligations to a feeling of being trapped by society and how their time was never their own.  It made me feel sorry for Sophia, who wasn’t as lucky as Sophie in being able to escape her world with a magical glove.

Odiwe makes Jane Austen come to life, and her love for Austen and her novels shines on every page.  Searching for Captain Wentworth is a believable imagining of who and what could have inspired Austen to pen Persuasion, and I was impressed by Odiwe’s ability to persuade me to believe the unbelievable.  I turned the last page thinking how much fun it would be to get my hands on that glove, even if I’d never be able to fake my way through a Regency dance despite having watched the movie adaptations of Austen’s novels countless times.  You don’t need to have read Persuasion to enjoy this novel, and since Odiwe is one of my favorite authors in the Austenesque genre, I think it’s the perfect book for a day curled up with a blanket and a hot cup of tea.

Book 7 for Explore the Many Genres of Jane Austen Challenge (Jane Austen as a fictional character)

I was saddened to learn that Shanna from Existing’s Tricky lost her battle with cancer in April. To honor her memory and her love of books, I am determined to complete her challenge. May she rest in peace.

Disclosure: I received Searching for Captain Wentworth from the author for review.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★★

“Mr. Knightley loves to find fault with me you know–in a joke–it is all a joke.  We always say what we like to one another.”

Mr. Knightley, in fact, was one of the few people who could see faults in Emma Woodhouse, and the only one who ever told her of them: and though this was not particularly agreeable to Emma herself, she knew it would be so much less so to her father, that she would not have him really suspect such a circumstance as her not being thought perfect by every body.

(from Emma, page 12)

Finishing Emma was a bittersweet moment for me, as it meant that I have now read all of Jane Austen’s novels and now must be content with re-reading them again and again.  Which I will do, of course, I love them that much.  I’ve long heard that people either love or hate Emma based on their feelings for the heroine, and thankfully, I found much to like in this book…even when I wanted to shake some sense into Emma or hang my head in disappointment at her actions.  I was surprised that my love for it rivals my love for Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion, and I couldn’t help but fall in love with Mr. Knightley.

Emma Woodhouse and her father are the most important people in the town of Highbury.  They keep a small circle of friends and don’t venture too far from their home at Hartfield, as the elderly Mr. Woodhouse is so worried about his health and that of all his loved ones that he wants everyone to eat gruel with him and always is complaining about drafts.  Emma has long been told that she is a handsome and clever girl, so she has a bit of a swelled head, and despite the protestations of Mr. Knightley, her brother-in-law, 16 years her senior, that she is not responsible for successfully pairing her former governess, Miss Taylor, with the widowed Mr. Weston, Emma insists that she must make one more match.

She thinks Mr. Elton, the local curate, should be paired with Miss Harriet Smith, a new friend of unknown origins who already likes a farmer who returns her affections.  Emma means well, but she manipulates Harriet into believing she should refuse Mr. Martin’s proposal and makes her think that Mr. Elton has feelings for her.  Of course, what Emma believes to be true is only in her imagination, and the truth of the situation makes Emma think twice about matchmaking…for a little bit anyway.

Things get interesting when Mr. Weston’s son, Frank Churchill, comes to Highbury and seems to set his sights on Emma, who can’t decide whether or not she’s in love, though it doesn’t matter because she insists she has no need to marry given her fortune, the fact that she already is essentially the mistress of her own home, and that she is so beloved by her father.  Mr. Knightley doesn’t like Mr. Churchill, and since Mr. Knightley is such a perfect gentleman and a good judge of character, you just know there must be a reason.  When Emma’s matchmaking exploits blow up in her face, she learns what it means to be in love even as she fears it may be too late for her to find happiness.

Oh, how I loved this book!  Austen did a fantastic job holding a magnifying glass over a small village, emphasizing their comings and goings and all of the gossip and painting such complete portraits of so many characters.  There are the ridiculous characters, like Mr. Woodhouse and Miss Bates, who babbles on and never lets anyone else get a word in; the intriguing characters, like Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax, the niece of Miss Bates who is quiet and disliked by Emma; and the obnoxious characters, like Mrs. Elton, who calls her husband “Mr. E” and can’t take no for an answer when it comes to Jane Fairfax and her future as a governess.

I couldn’t help but love Emma; she was self-important and manipulative, but she did have good intentions where Harriet was concerned.  I’m not surprised she thought so highly of herself, given how everyone but Mr. Knightley kept telling her how wonderful she was.  And Mr. Knightley!  When Harriet is slighted at the ball by Mr. Elton, and Mr. Knightley, dead set against dancing, comes to her rescue, I just about melted. I also loved the conversations between him and Emma, where he doesn’t mince words and tells it like it is. Emma does have some hard lessons to learn, and while he is critical of her, you can tell he has her best interests at heart.

As in her other novels, Austen also touched upon some serious subjects.  Social class was a major theme, with Emma indicating that she couldn’t be friends with Harriet anymore if she were to marry Mr. Martin, given his status as a farmer; Miss Bates’ standard of living as a poor spinster; and Jane Fairfax preparing for a life of service because, with both parents dead, she lacked a fortune.  Austen did a great job making these heavier topics obvious, but lightening the mood with the humorous characters and Emma’s matchmaking antics.

I could continue praising this book forever, but let’s move on to the discussion.  Blodeuedd from Book girl of Mur-y-Castell read Emma with me, and we decided to ask each other some discussion questions.  These are the questions I posed. BEWARE OF SPOILERS!

Where does Emma rank among the Jane Austen novels you’ve read?

Blodeuedd:  This is only my third Austen novel. And I do find it too hard to rank those I have read, I know the stories too well. I’d just say it’s one of her better novels, but then they are all good. 😉

Anna:  I’ve read all six of Austen’s novels, and it is difficult to rank them, especially my favorites.  Emma definitely is in the top three, though I suspect that whether Emma, Pride and Prejudice, or Persuasion is my favorite will depend on my mood at the time I am asked.

What did you think of Mr. Knightley? Is he as appealing to you as Mr. Darcy or Captain Wentworth?

Blodeuedd:  Mr. Knightley does have another sort of appeal than Darcy or Wentworth, but then all Austen’s men have their good sides and their bad sides. And I do like Knightley, there is just something calm over him, and he is waiting for her to see him. I have to like him, as much as her other men.

Anna:  That’s true, they all have their strengths and weaknesses.  What I liked best about Mr. Knightley is that, unlike Mr. Darcy or Captain Wentworth, you never wonder about him.  You know from the very start that he is a perfect gentlemen, one of the best men with whom Emma will ever be acquainted.  He may be quick to point out Emma’s faults, but when he calls Emma out on something, he’s right.

Did you like Emma as a person?

Blodeuedd:  I do like her too. Sure she should think before acting, but she does not mean bad. The things she sometimes says, well to be honest, I would think them too. So I do not find any faults in her. I guess I see a little of myself in her at times.

Anna:  For the first quarter of the book, I thought there was no way I was ever going to like her, but you’re right, she means well, and she grew on me after awhile.  She appears to have learned many lessons from her meddling, so there is hope for her.

What did you think of the secondary characters, Mr. Woodhouse, Miss Bates, Frank Churchill, in particular?

Blodeuedd:  Mr. Woodhouse, there I do feel sorry for Emma. His constant fear of things, it would be so tiresome. And he is not letting her leave, even if she wants to be there, think of the things she is missing because of how he is. He is not letting go.

Miss Bates, she does mean well too, but after listening to the audio I am more annoyed than ever. There it truly showed how it would be to listen to her.

Frank Churchill is an ass, there is no other way to put it. He did wrong by Emma and well he is an ass.

Anna:  I agree about Mr. Woodhouse and feeling sorry for Emma.  She can’t even marry without feeling guilty for leaving him.  On one hand, he’s ridiculously funny, but on the other, he’s quite sad.  Miss Bates was annoying, but I also pitied her.  She really needed a friend, I think, and Emma shouldn’t have insulted her like that.  Frank Churchill…you’re right, he’s an ass, but I don’t think he’s as bad as the villains in other Austen novels.

What did you think of the pairing of Emma and Mr. Knightley?

Blodeuedd:  It’s not a couple I would have guessed for, ok I would have guessed since it’s obvious, but you get the point. They are friends, so in that way they are suited. They know each other, but do I believe there is a burning passion? No, not really.

Anna:  There doesn’t seem to be a burning passion, I agree, but I think they are well matched.  Mr. Knightley is older and wiser, which Emma needs, and she will certainly add some excitement to his life.  I think it’s romantic in a way that no matter what Emma did wrong, Mr. Knightley couldn’t help but love her.  I think we all need someone like that, to love us despite our flaws.

Did any parts of the story surprise you?

Blodeuedd:  I can’t say it did.

Anna:  I agree, though I was a bit surprised by how the romantic declarations are made in dialogue, compared to Persuasion, where Anne reads Wentworth’s letter but when they walk together and discuss their love for one another, it sort of happens off the pages.

Did you have a favorite scene or passage?

Blodeuedd:  I do like when he goes all “badly done Emma!” on her. That passage hurts and I feel so sorry for her. When listening if felt like he was yelling at me. Poor Emma.

Anna:  I did feel a little sorry for her, but Mr. Knightley was right.  I loved when Mr. Knightley asks Harriet to dance when Mr. Elton refuses to dance with her.  That was so sweet, as well as the right thing to do.

The description on my copy of the book says Emma is often considered Austen’s most flawless novel. Do you agree or disagree?

Blodeuedd:  It is good, so for that yes it would seem flawless. But what makes it more flawless than her other books?

Anna:  That’s a good question, wish I knew!  I think her handling of the characters and various plots was flawless for sure.

Have you seen any movie adaptations of Emma? How did they compare to the book?

Blodeuedd:  I have seen…well a lot. Some good, some not as good, but I enjoy them, and I would say they are as good as the book sometimes. That is horrible to say, but I just love Austen movies. A lot. I am not going to say how much, but they can be so good.

Anna: I’ve only seen the Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam version from 1996, but I thought it was well done.  He was a great Mr. Knightley, in my opinion.  I watched it the day I finished the book.  I know what you mean about loving the movie adaptions.  They bring the characters and the time period to life.

Visit Book girl of Mur-y-Castell for the rest of our conversation!

Book 6 for Explore the Many Genres of Jane Austen Challenge (Books by Jane Austen)

I was saddened to learn that Shanna from Existing’s Tricky lost her battle with cancer in April. To honor her memory and her love of books, I am determined to complete her challenge. May she rest in peace.

Disclosure: Emma is from my personal library.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Review copy from Ulysses Press
Rating: ★★★★★

Edward picked up his sword.  “I will see to it.”  He put the gun in a holster under his jacket.  “I assume you have a weapon, Darcy.”  He did not wait for a response before he strode to the door.  Without turning around he said, “If anyone has laid a finger on Georgiana, he will know my fury.”  The sound of the door slamming throughout the small inn brought the world to a stand still.

(from The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, page 287)

The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy is a sequel to Christmas at Pemberley, which was a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  In Christmas at Pemberley, Regina Jeffers expanded on several of Austen’s secondary characters and threw in a few of her own creation.  In The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, Jeffers brings back some of her original characters and introduces several more, weaving them into what becomes a macabre tale, making it very different from the Austen-inspired novels I’ve read thus far.

Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy are enjoying their new son and preparing for Kitty Bennet’s wedding at Pemberley when the Wickhams arrive unexpectedly.  After the pair are kicked off the Pemberley grounds, Mr. Bennet confronts Mrs. Bennet, who doesn’t understand why her youngest daughter must be excluded from the festivities.  Mrs. Bennet must come to terms with her past foolishness regarding Lydia’s rushed nuptials and soon discovers that the life of her dearest child isn’t sunshine and roses.

Darcy has more than Wickham and business dealings to occupy his thoughts.  He and Elizabeth soon learn that his beloved sister, Georgiana, is missing and presumed dead.  Now the wife of Major General Edward Fitzwilliam, Georgiana is no longer Darcy’s responsibility, but he is not ready to give her up to another man.  Georgiana traveled to Scotland to prepare Alpin Hall for her husband’s return from the war at Waterloo, and Darcy had already grown concerned that she hadn’t written.  The Darcys learn that Georgiana fled to the moors on horseback after receiving a letter informing her of her husband’s death, and she never returned.  Darcy and Elizabeth set off to find Georgiana — but Wickham, determined that Darcy will not best him again, believes there might be something in it for him if he finds her first.

Meanwhile, evil things are happening at Normanna Hall, the estate neighboring Alpin Hall that is the home of the MacBethans.  A young woman is in shackles with no recollection of how she came to be there.  The matriarch of the MacBethan clan, Dolina, has plans for the woman, but her eldest son, Domhnall, still grieving the death of his wife and heir, wants to repair the damage Dolina has caused to the family name.  However, Domhnall is torn between loyalty to family and stopping the horrors in castle’s dungeons.

The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy is an exciting book that removes Austen’s beloved characters from their peaceful lives and puts them in the midst of unimaginable horrors and grave danger.  Jeffers does a wonderful job creating a dark, creepy, and fearful atmosphere but allowing the blood and gore to happen off the pages.  It’s not the type of mystery that challenges you to put together a series of clues sprinkled throughout the narrative, but one in which you simply sit back and enjoy the ride.  The horror aspect of the story, based on legend, was a great touch, one that I hadn’t yet experienced in an Austen-inspired novel.

What I most loved about The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy was Jeffers’ handling of the characters.  Darcy and Elizabeth are just how I imagined they would be after the events in Pride and Prejudice, content and playful with one another.  Wickham is more evil than in Austen’s portrayal, but maybe that’s because he’s front and center in this book and more in the background of Pride and Prejudice.  I like what Jeffers did with Lydia and Mrs. Bennet, but her handling of a more mature and in-love Georgiana is where the book shines.  Darcy is forced to contend with the fact that Georgiana isn’t a little girl anymore, and I found his coming to terms with her relationship with Edward — who is struggling himself to come to terms with the horrors of war — to be endearing.

I recognized Jeffers’ writing talent when I read (and loved) Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion, and with The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, she has become one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired novels.  It’s true that this book doesn’t need the Austen connection to be a good novel, but I enjoy watching Austen’s characters take on a life of their own in these variations.

Book 5 for Explore the Many Genres of Jane Austen Challenge (Mystery)

Disclosure: I received The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy from Ulysses Press for review.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★☆

Buford grunted.  “You and Denny have reconciled, I take it?”

“Yes, he is a good sort of fellow, in his way,” Fitzwilliam allowed.

“Even though he is friends with Wickham?” Buford goaded him.

Richard’s eyes were on his plate.  “I suppose I cannot hold that against him.  After all, I eat with you.”

It took a full glass of wine to relieve Sir John after he choked on his food.

(from The Three Colonels, page 305 in the uncorrected advance copy; finished version may be different)

Jack Caldwell’s latest novel, The Three Colonels: Jane Austen’s Fighting Men, is a sequel of sorts to both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.  It focuses on Colonel Fitzwilliam from Pride and Prejudice, Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility, and Colonel Sir John Buford, a character of Caldwell’s creation.  With Napoleon exiled to Elba, the three friends have returned to England to pursue political careers, manage their estates, and focus on matters of the heart.

Colonel Brandon is smitten with his infant daughter, Joy, and content in his marriage to Marianne.  Colonel Fitzwilliam must visit his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh to figure out why her estate is on the skids.  Colonel Buford, notorious for his liaisons with married women of the ton, sets out to reform himself and find a wife.

When Napoleon escapes from Elba, the three colonels must once again go off to war.  Colonel Brandon wonders why they need an old man like himself to fight and leaves Delaford Manor in the capable hands of his wife.  Colonel Buford must leave behind his new bride, Caroline Bingley, and Colonel Fitzwilliam leaves many things unsaid to Anne de Bourgh as all hell breaks loose at Rosings Park.  All three women understand the importance of being strong for their men, as war is more than enough for them to worry about, but they struggle to come to terms with the fact that the colonels might never come back.

Caldwell does a great job bringing all these characters together, all of them connected by friendship or kinship to Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, who play an important part in the story but stay mostly in the background.  Where The Three Colonels shines is in its transformation of Anne de Bourgh from a meek, sickly girl to a force to be reckoned with and in creating a repentant, sympathetic Caroline Bingley.  (How delighted I was, though, to see that Caldwell left some ice in Caroline’s veins when it came to a certain Mrs. Norris.)

The Three Colonels goes beyond the novels of Jane Austen to take readers onto the battlefield, where even Wickham makes an appearance.  After reading what these men experienced, you can’t picture them merely as handsome uniforms attracting the attention of ladies seeking dance partners.  Caldwell adds substance to what otherwise might be only a romance novel pairing up Austen’s secondary characters.

I appreciate the touch of masculinity that Caldwell adds to Austen’s novels in The Three Colonels (as well as Pemberley Ranch), but he pays close attention to his heroines as well.  He addresses the changing roles of women and their dominance in the household, with Brandon’s steward refusing to take orders from Marianne and Anne’s insistence that she help Fitzwilliam compile financial figures for Rosings.  I found so much to love in his treatment of Austen’s characters and enjoyed meeting Colonel Buford, who intrigued me because unlike Darcy, he is a hero with a blemished past.

I never would have thought to make Marianne and Elizabeth good friends in order to bring together the characters from both books, but Caldwell made it work.  Austen fans also will be delighted with references to Northanger Abbey and Persuasion and will want to see how he connects them to Lady Catherine.  The The Three Colonels is humorous and lighthearted, but also serious and touching.  Once I got past the first couple of chapters, I couldn’t put it down, and I sure hope Caldwell is hard at work on another Austen-inspired novel.

Book 4 for Explore the Many Genres of Jane Austen Challenge (Sequel)

Book 12 for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Disclosure: I received The Three Colonels from Sourcebooks for review.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Review copy from Berkley
Rating: ★★★★☆

Mary felt a chill for her sister.  ‘How easily a woman falls,’ she whispered.  ‘How narrow a path she must tread.’

Mrs Gardiner instantly felt a pang for talking so forthrightly to a young woman.  ‘Well,’ she said awkwardly.  ‘Yes, to be sure, but Mary, remember, that goodness is in part chosen.  Lydia was given all the advantages of respectable breeding and upbringing, and she chose to throw all that away for an irredeemable wastrel.  You have nothing to fear.  You have too much sense to lose your self-respect in a bad alliance.’

I don’t know what I fear more, Mary thought, but could not say as much to her aunt.  Losing my respectability…

Or never having the opportunity to prove myself.

(from The Unexpected Miss Bennet, page 42)

Oh, how I loved The Unexpected Miss Bennet, so much so that (for the moment, at least), it’s at the top of my list of favorite Austen-inspired novels.  Patrice Sarath’s novel is a sequel of sorts to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and this time, the focus is on the middle Bennet daughter, Mary.  Mary is not the most exciting character in Pride in Prejudice.  In fact, the poor girl is laughed at and dismissed by everyone and is known for reading and quoting Fordyce’s Sermons to Young Women and for her love of singing and playing the pianoforte, though she’s not very good at it.

In The Unexpected Miss Bennet, Mrs. Bennet has resigned herself to the fact that Mary is just Mary, will never be married, and will keep her company in her old age.  Mary is understandably worried about her future, as when her father dies, the family home will belong to their ridiculous and patronizing cousin, Mr. Collins.  With her two older sisters married off, her youngest sister disowned by the family, and her other sister, Kitty, just as obnoxiously flighty as their mother, Mary does a lot of soul searching and realizes that Fordyce might not have all the answers.

Her sisters Jane and Lizzy decide they need to take action to ensure that Mary doesn’t just waste away in the corner where she has long been relegated.  Lizzy invites her to stay at Pemberley, where she begins to blossom.  She meets Mr. Aikens, a man who doesn’t read, is passionate about horses, and has such an exuberant personality that a few minutes in his presence is exhausting.  For the first time, Mary is dancing, not playing the pianoforte, and she even beings spending time outdoors.  When a trip to Rosings with the Darcys to visit Lady Catherine de Bourgh turns into an extended stay for Mary and gives her a taste of independence, she learns to stand up for herself.  She might not be as beautiful as Jane or as accomplished as Mr. Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, but Mary proves that she can be more than what the world expected.

I enjoy when Austen-inspired novels take on characters placed in the background by Austen.  Sarath does not depend on the Darcys to carry this story; aside from Wickham rearing his ugly head, Mr. Darcy is hardly seen at all — and Sarath’s Mary is complex and intriguing enough to carry the story on her own.  Mary’s coming of age is exciting and wholly believable, and Sarath creates plenty of tension by placing Mary in the line of fire of both Lady Catherine and Mr. Collins.  Those scenes of heated dialogue are fantastic, and I couldn’t help but cheer Mary all the way.

The Unexpected Miss Bennet is a breath of fresh air in the Austensque genre and exemplifies why I can’t get enough of these books.  It is both unique yet true to the original, and I couldn’t put it down.  Sarath does a wonderful job creating a Mary who has newfound spunk and a sense of humor.  I never expected that Mary Bennet could be charming, but I think even Austen would approve.

Book 3 for Explore the Many Genres of Jane Austen Challenge (Supporting Characters)

Disclosure: I received The Unexpected Miss Bennet from Berkley for review.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Review copy from Berkley
Rating: ★★★★☆

Vincent’s pangs of remorse for his evildoing had preyed upon his mind and led to his cryptic comments as he lay on his deathbed, so all was explained.  A fine ending to a fine novel!

In real life, alas, things are not so simple.  Wives cannot be got out of the way by imprisoning them, husbands cannot be poisoned and good and virtuous heroines do not always marry the men they love.

(from Henry Tilney’s Diary, page 93)

Henry Tilney’s Diary is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey from the point of view of its hero.  Amanda Grange is well known for her diaries of Austen’s heroes (and even one of a rake), and I’ve enjoyed how she gets into the heads of the male characters and gives them a voice.

The novel opens in 1790 when Henry is just 16, giving readers a chance to meet the Tilneys in happier times.  Henry’s mother is still alive, though frequently ill, and his father, General Tilney, tries to whip his older brother, Frederick, into shape by forcing him to join the army despite the fact that he stands to inherit their estate, Northanger Abbey.  Henry and his younger sister, Eleanor, just 13, are very close and have similar personalities.  Both are romantics and take pleasure in Gothic novels.

Grange successfully uses the book-within-a-book technique to show how ridiculous and enjoyable Henry and Eleanor find such novels.  The two read A Sicilian Romance together and poke fun at the formula used by the Gothic novelists, with heroines who lose their mothers, are forced to marry men they don’t love, live in haunted houses, find family members hidden away or are locked away themselves, and faint at every turn.

Although each of the Tilney children has their own fortune, General Tilney is adamant that they each marry someone with money or a title, and he is always trying to set them up with children of his friends.  Even though Frederick has given up on finding the perfect mate, Henry and Eleanor wish to marry for love.  Henry even jokingly states that his heroine must first and foremost be a fan of novels.

Fast-forward eight years later, and the Tilneys are a more solemn crowd, having lost their mother and Eleanor falling for a man of whom her father would never approve.  A trip to Bath lifts their spirits when they meet Catherine Morland, a young woman who loves Gothic novels and whose innocence captures Henry’s heart.  When Catherine is invited to stay at Northanger Abbey, she can’t wait to see a real abbey, and Henry encourages her fanciful notions of ghosts behind its closed doors and within its secret spaces.  Meanwhile, he and Eleanor are wondering if their father has had a change of heart, as General Tilney bends over backward to impress Catherine even though she doesn’t have a fortune or a title.

Fans of Northanger Abbey will enjoy reading Henry’s side of the story, especially his thoughts on Catherine’s zeal for Gothic novels, his brother’s flirtations with Catherine’s brother’s intended, and John Thorpe’s bragging and designs on Catherine.  However, you could easily enjoy Henry Tilney’s Diary without having read Austen’s novel, though I suspect by the time you’re done, you’ll be rushing to get your hands on a copy of Northanger Abbey, where Austen’s humor is on display as Catherine fancies herself a heroine in a Gothic novel but merely ends up embarrassing herself.

I really enjoyed Henry Tilney’s Diary because it enabled me to revisit Northanger Abbey and see it from a different perspective.  It is impossible to know how Austen imagined Henry’s side of the story, but Grange understands Austen’s view of Gothic novels, respects the original novel, and obviously has a real love for the characters Austen created, so her take feels authentic.  I can’t get enough of these Austen-inspired novels, and those that are original but don’t stray too far from Austen’s works tend to be my favorites.

Book 2 for Explore the Many Genres of Jane Austen Challenge (Variation)

Disclosure: I received Henry Tilney’s Diary from Berkley for review.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Review copy from Sourcebooks
Rating: ★★★★☆

Suddenly Kay got very excited at the thought of being able to watch some of the scenes being filmed.  She had a front-row view of the Cobb for a start, and she wondered if Teresa would let her get even closer whilst they were filming.  Maybe she’d be asked to be an extra!  Or maybe nasty Beth would twist her ankle during the scene on the Cobb steps, and Kay would stand in for her, doing such an amazing piece of acting that Teresa would be completely bowled over and recast Kay as Louisa Musgrove.  During the wonderful scene where she jumps down the steps into Captain Wentworth’s arms, she’d look deep into the blue eyes of Oli Wade Owen, and he’d fall madly in love with her.

(from Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, page 53 in the uncorrected advance copy; final version may be different)

Dreaming of Mr. Darcy is the second in Victoria Connelly’s series about Jane Austen addicts, following on the heels of A Weekend With Mr. Darcy.  The heroine this time around is Kay Ashton, a young woman stuck in a dead-end job who inherits some money and decides to make her dreams come true.  She buys and remodels a bed and breakfast in Lyme Regis, a seaside town that plays an important role in Kay’s favorite book, Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and she plans to spend her time finishing her book, The Illustrated Darcy.

Kay is all alone in the world; she’s unlucky in love, her father left when she was a child, and she’s still grieving the deaths of her mother and a close friend.  But her quiet days walking along the Cobb and enjoying the views of the sea are turned upside down when the cast of the new big-screen adaptation of Persuasion rent rooms at her B&B.  She befriends the shy and insecure actress, Gemma, who’s living in her mother’s shadow, and the equally shy and unlucky-in-love screenwriter, Adam, who encourages Kay to have her work published.

Kay is too busy falling in love with the dashing actor, Oli Wade Owen, who plays Captain Wentworth, to notice that her efforts at matchmaking Gemma and Adam are failing as badly as those of Austen’s beloved heroine, Emma Woodhouse.  The minute Oli winks at her, Kay imagines herself as his wife, ignoring everyone’s warnings not to get involved with him.  Kay is a daydreamer, and she lets her fantasies about fictional heroes interfere with real life.

Dreaming of Mr. Darcy is a fun novel, one that makes me think my obsession with Austen-inspired novels is actually not that bad.  I loved how Connelly worked in the Austen references and especially the focus on my favorite Austen novel, Persuasion.  Her characters were likable, aside from the obnoxiously self-centered actress, Beth, who flirts endlessly with Oli, and Gemma’s mom, Kim, who is desperately clinging to the fame that has followed her since her one successful part years ago.  Kay was charming, even though I wanted to smack some sense into her.  I could see how her daydreams kept her from feeling so lonely, but she was so blind to the potential for happiness that was standing right in front of her.  Adam’s grandmother, Nana Craig, was a treat; I love feisty old ladies and their eccentricities.  Nana only wants the best for the grandson she raised, and her penchant for bright colors even if they clash was hilarious.  Gemma coming into her own and Adam learning to fight for what he wants were perfect complements to the main story.

There are lots of romantic mishaps and misunderstandings in Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, certainly reminiscent of Austen’s books.  Connelly is fast becoming one of my favorite authors of modern-day Austen-inspired novels.  I definitely recommend this one if you love all things Austen as much as I do.  If you’ve been shying away from the Austen sequels and retellings because you’re wary of authors tinkering with Austen’s characters, then you should give this one a try.  Connelly uses original characters and plenty of humor to create lively new stories, and her love and respect for Austen’s novels shines through.

Book 1 for Explore the Many Genres of Jane Austen Challenge (Modern Adaptation)

Disclosure: I received Dreaming of Mr. Darcy from Sourcebooks for review.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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I know I said earlier that I would be participating in very few challenges in the coming year, but please forgive me for taking on one more.  You all know how weak I am when it comes to the Austenesque.

Explore the Many Genres of Jane Austen, Jan. 1 - Dec. 31

The Explore the Many Genres of Jane Austen Challenge requires you to read 8 books, 1 each in the following categories of Austen/Austenesque novels:  Variation, Sequel, Jane Austen as a Fictional Character, Paranormal, Modern Adaptation, Mystery, Supporting Characters, and Books by Jane Austen.

I’m not going to create a list up front, but it won’t be a problem finding books in each category on my shelves.  However, I’m definitely going to read Emma, as it’s the only Austen novel I haven’t read yet.

The challenge is hosted by Shanna from Existing’s Tricky and even has a Goodreads group.

I can’t wait to start this one!

What challenges are you taking on in 2012?

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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