These are all books I read over the summer that have been patiently waiting to be reviewed, so in order to clear them off my side table and feel accomplished, I figured some mini reviews were in order!
The War Within These Walls by Aline Sax, illustrated by Caryl Strzelecki
This young adult graphic novel chronicles the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943 from the eyes of a teenager, Misha. When he can no longer stand to watch the disease, starvation, and violence take the lives of the Jews forced to live within the walls of the ghetto, he decides to join the resistance fighters planning to stand and fight the Nazis as they prepare to liquidate the ghetto. The War Within These Walls combines a first-person narrative with dark illustrations to emphasize the desolation and despair in the ghetto. It’s a powerful novel, and although I read it in one sitting, the images still haunt me months later.
Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili-Slaw Dogs by Mary Jane Hathaway
A fun modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma set in a southern town where people take their garden parties and Civil War reenactments seriously. The novel centers on old friends, Caroline, a journalist who leaves her job to care for her ailing mother, and Brooks, a journalism professor dealing with his own family issues, who must contend with their changing feelings for one another amidst all their disagreements. It was fun to pick out all the allusions to Austen’s novel, and there are recipes, too!
“Darcy and Elizabeth: Lost in Love” by Mary Lydon Simonsen
A sweet short story based on Pride and Prejudice by one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired fiction. While touring Pemberley with her aunt and uncle, Elizabeth Bennet gets lost in a garden maze. Darcy is still dealing with Elizabeth’s rejection when he returns to his estate, and both are surprised to encounter one another. “Darcy and Elizabeth: Lost in Love” was a quick read that made me feel sad that it was over but satisfied at the same time.
“Almost Persuaded: Miss Mary King” by P.O. Dixon
This short story inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice focuses on Mary King, the heiress who catches Mr. Wickham’s eye but who luckily manages not to be trapped into a marriage with the scoundrel. Tired of competing with the Bennet sisters, Mary finds herself easily charmed by Wickham. It was nice to get a glimpse of a secondary character that isn’t paid much attention, but I was surprised to see a bit too much of her in a steamy seduction scene. My only complaint is that it ended too soon, and because I’d grown to care for Mary a bit, I wanted to see if she ever got her happy ending.
Bits of Bobbin Lace by Maria Grace
This was a free download from the author’s website that features bonus chapters from her Given Good Principles series of novels inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I’m a big fan of the series, so it was fun to revisit the characters again. I especially liked how the bonus chapters featured a wide variety characters, including Mr. Darcy’s parents, Elizabeth’s parents, Charlotte Lucas, and even Mr. Bingley’s sister, Louisa. However, you’ll definitely have to read the series first so you can appreciate these extras.
“A Tale of Two Matchmakers” by Marilyn Brant
This very short (and free, on the author’s website) story is inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma and involves a matchmaking fairy named Sylvia. Sounds odd, but it was sweet, humorous, and took only a few minutes to read. The story is set at the Box Hill picnic, and Emma tells the fairy about all the “matches” she has made, but Sylvia sees what Emma does not. It’s a fun little scene that is oddly satisfying given its brevity.
“The Poignant Sting: Homage to Jane Austen’s Emma” by Sherwood Smith
This is a short sequel to Emma, which mainly focuses on Emma Knightley’s friendship with Jane Churchill, both of whom are expectant mothers. I really enjoyed it, but it felt like it ended just as it was getting started.
“Amish Knit Lit Circle: Pride & Prejudice (Episode 1)” by Karen Anna Vogel
This is a short story about a group of women, some Amish, some not, who get together to knit and discuss books. I liked the writing style, and the characters were intriguing. However, despite being “Episode 1,” it felt like I was missing something. And then it ended pretty abruptly.
Have you read any of these? What did you think?
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