Monday, November 26, 2012

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Pride and Prejudice holds a special place in my heart.  It was the first classic novel I actually liked.  It got me started on analyzing and thinking deeply about literature, putting me on the path to becoming a teacher.  It was my introduction to the rest of Austen's works.  It was one of the many movies I watched with my mom growing up.  It was witty and piercing social commentary and a swoon-worthy romance.  I've built the book up a lot , so I am critical of movie adaptations.  They just don't capture everything in my head.  The Collin Firth version is fabulous but oh so long; you can't really watch it in one sitting.  The Keira Knightly version, in my opinion, misses the real flavor and point of the novel.  It made me want to puke into my shoes the first time I watched it.  My opinion of it has since improved, but it still bugs me every time I watch it.

So, when I discovered The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, I was a bit hesitant.  I'm especially wary of modernizations of Austen's works.  Some things work well in 19th century England but not in modern America, like Charlotte and Mr. Collins.  However, I've been really impressed with how they've adapted and in some cases expanded the story.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a Youtube webseries developed by Hank Green (brother of John Green) and Bernie Su.  It's been running since April and has a format different than anything I've seen before. Lizzie posts new video blogs every Monday and Thursday. Aside from the main story in the vlogs, she and the rest of the characters are on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter in character and their interactions on social media are not just for fans--they add to the story.  Caroline and Bing's conversations are not essential to the progression of the plot, but we get to see another dimension to their characters.  And if you tweet them, they respond in-character.  It gets sort of meta-fictiony at times.  Even knowing full well that it's a fictional work from 200 years ago, it's sometimes easy to forget that these are not real people.

I love what they've done with the characters, especially Lydia.  I've never liked Lydia.  She's so flighty and brainless and boy crazy and reckless. In the Diaries, she still comes off that way at the beginning, but as you get later in the series you catch glimpses of Lydia being genuinely hurt by Lizzie calling her a skank.  You see her really care about her sisters.  Especially in some of her recent vlogs (Lydia has her own channel), we see more of her personality from her own point of view, rather than always filtering through Lizzie's commentary.   We are starting to see more about why she is so casual with guys beyond just her party-craze:  every guy in her life has let down or hurt either her or her sisters.  I don't know yet how the Lydia/Wickham situation will work, but I think it will be deeper than just a night in Vegas.  I'm excited to see how it turns out.  She's a deeper character in this adaptation than she usually is, and I find her story very interesting.

Other random thoughts:  Charlotte plays a much bigger role and is awesome.  We see more of Lizzie's flaws through her vlogs; she comes off at times as judgmental and vindictive sometimes.  I tend to idealize Elizabeth in the book and the Colin Firth movie, but she is a real, flawed person in the Diaries.  Mr. Collins is outrageous, as always.  Lizzie's impersonations are hilarious.  Fitz would be an awesome friend to have in real life and needs to be in the series more.  Some of the beginning episodes are a bit meh, but stick with it and they get better.

This is Lizzie's YouTube channel.
You can find the whole story in chronological order combining all social media outlets here.
And here is the first video.  A warning:  don't start watching the series unless you either have phenomenal self-restraint or a couple of hours you can dedicate to watching the whole series without guilt.  Once you start watching, it is really, really hard to stop.  Use extreme caution as finals approach.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Review: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry--Mildred D. Taylor
1976 by Puffin
276 pages--Goodreads

Ever since it won the 1977 Newbery Medal, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry has engaged and affected millions of readers everywhere. Set in a small town in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, this powerful, moving novel deals with issues of prejudice, courage, and self-respect. It is the story of one family's struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. It is also the story of Cassie Logan, an independent girl who discovers over the course of an important year why having land of their own is so crucial to her family. The racial tension and harrowing events experienced by young Cassie, her family, and her neighbors cause Cassie to grow up and discover the reality of her environment.

I first read Roll of Thunder in 7th grade and I despised it.  I hated it with the fiery passion of a thousand suns.  Okay, maybe that's an overstatement, but I thought it was dead boring.  I liked reading fantasy and that was about it.  I knew little about the Depression or segregation.  I didn't like historical fiction much and the story of a black family in the South didn't interest me at all.  I just didn't have the context to appreciate it.  I may not be giving my 7th grade teacher enough credit.  He may well have contextualized the novel, but I don't remember anything other than just reading the book.  Reading it now knowing much more about the Jim Crow era and what it meant to be black in the South during the depression, knowing about not just Martin Luther King Jr but Emmett Till and lynch mobs, having more context I appreciated the story much more.  It's still a slow moving novel, but it is very good.

I got a lot of To Kill a Mockingbird vibes while reading this, but Roll of Thunder is a more immediate story.  As much as I like Scout and Atticus, they are not part of the black community.  All they risk is scorn; the Logans risk losing everything.  Their danger is ever-present and real.  Mockingbird has a wider focus and as such, loses some intensity while Roll of Thunder is tightly focused.

The characterization is great.  The lines of good and bad are not drawn down racial lines.  It's not super in-depth since it is a children's book, but there is some complexity in the characters.  Mr. Jamison is an honest, decent white lawyer.  Jeremy likes the Logans despite the racism in his family.  Many of the black families want to support the Logan's boycott, but they also need to survive.  TJ has been wronged by the system but is not absolved of personal responsibility in his bad choices.  Uncle Hammer's anger is justified, but his violent reactions are not.

I really appreciated the relationship between Mama and Cassie.  How do you raise a black child and teach her to have self respect, but also teach her that white folk won't see her as worth anything and she'll have to act a certain way to survive?  How do you decide how much to tell your child about the brutality going on around her when you know she sees some of it but may not understand everything?  How do you balance the need to protect your child with the need to let her grow up?

The book did a wonderful job of portraying racism through the eyes of a child.  How does a nine year old even process that she is despised because of the color of her skin?  Does she really understand what it means that the night men are riding?  Does she understand that her family could not just lose the land, but her father could be beaten or tarred or lynched?

The novel uses n word occasionally, and I can see this bothering some readers.  I don't particularly like the word's use, but I think it is justified in this story.  Taylor says in the introduction to the novel that history is not politically correct, that racism it is not polite; it is full of pain.  She does not sugar coat things or shy away from the truth.  She is tasteful about her use of the word, but you will want to take that into consideration in recommending the book to young readers.

The book loses points because while it is excellent now, it didn't appeal to me at all as a kid and I think many of my classmates agreed with me.  I feel like some Newbery winners are amazingly written from the perspective of adults, but kids don't like or appreciate them.  And if kids don't like the book, what's the point?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Top Ten Books I'd Want on a Desert Island

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This is a week late, but last week was too busy for me to get the post out.  So I'm putting it out on Monday...It's my blog; I do what I want.

I'll recognize that both How to Build a Raft  and the Desert Island Survival Guide are disqualified because they are too obvious and not real books.  Assuming I won't be rescued for a while, these are the books I'd want on a desert island.  I'm cheating and using lots of series.  

#10 Cyrano de Bergerac--This is my favorite play and the source for the name of my blog. Actually, if I had my choice, I'd want the filmed play staring Kevin Kline instead of just the book.  Of course, then I'd also need a TV and a DVD player and a source of electricity that would be better used signalling for help.

#9 Dragon Slippers--To comfort myself on the lonely deserted island, I will need a cutsey, fun, fairytale-esque adventure.  Dragon Slippers fits the bill.  

#8 The Giver--The dystopia would lose a lot of its effect outside the context of society, but I like the book well enough to bring it along.

#7 Anne of Green Gables--I was a quieter version of Anne when I was growing up.  Just as precocious, just as romantic, just as silly.  Hopefully I mellowed out as successfully as she did.  I would definitely want the first book, if not the whole series.

#6 The Lord of the Rings--I read the whole series years ago, but now the movies dominate my memory, so I need to reread it.  On my island I'd have time to appreciate the slow epicness of Tolkien's creation of an entire world, including all the languages and cultures.

#5 The Iliad and The Odyssey--Homer practically makes up the twin pillars of Western thought and literature. I seriously need to read these.  On an Island I'd actually have time to do so.  And there's poetic irony in having The Odyssey with me while being stranded.

#4 The Mistborn Series--I was blown away when I read these last summer.  They were epic and phenomenal and I want to reread the whole series again.  And Sanderson's writing is just great, so.

# 3 The Collected Works of William Shakespeare--I really like Shakespeare's use of language and if I'm stuck on a desert island, I'll have time to get to know it all.

# 2 The Collected Works of Jane Austen--Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion always rank high on my list of favorites and I like all of Austen's books.  Her social commentary may not mean much on a solitary desert island, but I can still enjoy the verbal swordplay.

# 1 The Harry Potter series--Duh.  These are some of my very favorite books and Harry Potter was my childhood--I grew up with Harry.  If I had nothing else to read, I could be satisfied with Harry.

Let me know what your top ten picks are in the comments.
Mini tangent:  How about I get shipwrecked on a dessert island instead?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review: Foiled by Jane Yolen and Mike Cavallaro

Foiled--Jane Yolen and Mike Cavallaro (Illustrator)
April 2010 by First Second
160 pages--Goodreads

Aliera Carstairs just doesn't fit in.

She's invisible at high school.

She's too visible at the fencing gym.

Aliera's starting to wonder...where does she belong?

I love browsing shelves.  I always find books I never would have encountered otherwise.  This was the case with Foiled.  I was actually looking for American Born Chinese, which was not on the shelf despite the library catalog's insistence that it was checked-in.  Scouring the shelves, I discovered this book, which looked interesting enough to check out, so I did.  When you browse you find both jewels and duds, and as much as I didn't want it to be, I think this one was a dud.

This was my first real venture into graphic novels.  I'm not counting the time a couple years ago when I flipped through the Artemis Fowl graphic novel but figured it was only for those who couldn't finish the real book.  This year I was introduced to graphic novels as a different, completely valid, and vibrant form of story telling, so I was excited to give a graphic novel a try.

The illustrations are great.  Cavallaro focuses in on just the right images, images I wouldn't normally have considered such as shadowed silhouettes on the wall.  He captures the characters' personalities wonderfully.  He does some great things with color too.  The majority of the story is unexpectedly cast in two tones.  This is explained away by Aleira's colorblindness, but it was a very different choice that did some great things with the story.  The gray/brown tones make the rare colors significant.  Cavallaro even makes the publication information page look interesting.

I liked the graphic aspect of the book but had issues with the novel aspect.  It feels like the book just a set up for a longer series, but doesn't have a story of its own.  It's as if Harry Potter stopped after Hagrid announced "Yer a wizard, Harry."  What?  You can't sotp it there!  The plot that is present feels haphazardly thrown together.  This drives me insane because Aleira's character is awesome   She's snappy and strong and unsure of herself and exactly what a high school girl feels like, and the plot didn't do her justice; it didn't really let her do anything.  The conflict isn't introduced until the middle of the book, but then that's not the real climax, and we go through some tunnels and ...what?   Maybe the problem was that Yolen didn't introduce the fantastical elements early enough; they're sprung on us halfway through the book without any preparation, so it just feels clunky.  

I didn't even dislike the book. I wanted it to be good and I saw the potential for awesomeness.  The lack of awesomeness when such potential was there was frustrating.  I really wanted to like the book, but it just left me kind of meh.  Hopefully, my next try with a graphic novel will be better.

**Random notes that didn't fit with the rest of the review:  Avery is creepy and not in a masterful Ben-Linus-manipulative-awesomely-creepy way, just in an euhhh off-putting way.   I can see why he was characterized that way, but I didn't like it.  I liked the use of fencing throughout the book.  It's a sport not often used in books and I wish we could have seen more of it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Book Chat: Spines

I know this is waaaaay late and that the Misty from The Book Rat's November book chat will probably show up later this week, but here at last I've finished my response to her October book chat about book spines.

Books Mentioned:
The Humming Room--Ellen Potter
Breadcrumbs--Anne Ursu
My Life as a Book--Janet Tashjian
The Mysterious Benedict Society--Trenton Lee Stewart
The Maze Runner--James Dashner
Jane Austen Made Me Do It--Laurel Ann Nattress
1984--George Orwell
Mistborn--Brandon Sanderson
Hero of Ages--Brandon Sanderson
The Three Musketeers--Alexander Dumas

Be sure to to check out Misty's original video and everyone who as made a response.  If you have any great book spines, be sure to share them.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Review: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Breadcrumbs--Anne Ursu
September 2011 by Walden Pond Press
313 pages--Goodreads

Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. They had been best friends since they were six, spending hot Minneapolis summers and cold Minneapolis winters together, dreaming of Hogwarts and Oz, superheroes and baseball. Now that they were eleven, it was weird for a boy and a girl to be best friends. But they couldn't help it - Hazel and Jack fit, in that way you only read about in books. And they didn't fit anywhere else. 

And then, one day, it was over. Jack just stopped talking to Hazel. And while her mom tried to tell her that this sometimes happens to boys and girls at this age, Hazel had read enough stories to know that it's never that simple. And it turns out, she was right. Jack's heart had been frozen, and he was taken into the woods by a woman dressed in white to live in a palace made of ice. Now, it's up to Hazel to venture into the woods after him. Hazel finds, however, that these woods are nothing like what she's read about, and the Jack that Hazel went in to save isn't the same Jack that will emerge. Or even the same Hazel.

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," Breadcrumbsis a story of the struggle to hold on, and the things we leave behind.

This was an absolutely beautiful read.  The prose is stunning.  Several times throughout the book I had to stop reading so I could jot down a particularly good passage.  Ursu's narrative voice reminded me of The Tale of Despereaux with the narrator who steps in now and then to comment, verging on meta-fiction at times.  The book has a hint of nostalgia with many nods to other children's stories ranging from Harry Potter to Narnia.

It's a very different fairy tale adventure from what we normally get.  There's no big showdown with the witch.  It's as much a spiritual journey as it is a physical journey, with more inner demons to fight than physical foes.  Early on, Hazel wonders why anyone would choose to stay with the Snow Queen.  Her journey through the woods is an exploration of why she herself would stay.

The book deals with some surprisingly deep themes for a middle grade novel:  growing up and how relationships change in response, mental illness, divorce, separation, and how children process such issues.  I wish the book had gone a bit further into this, but it would have distracted from the plot.  It's just so rare to see a middle grad novel deal with depression at all, that I wanted to run with it.  Anyone have suggestions on a children's book that does go deeper?  

Ursu develops all her characters well, but young readers will connect especially with Hazel.  Her doubts, her fear, her ache to belong resonates with many adolescents.  I saw myself in her as I read.

I fell in love with the first half of the book, but I didn't enjoy the second half as much.  This is because I read the first half in one sitting and I read the second half in 10-15 minute sessions before bed.  This is a book that is meant to be read in one or two dedicated sittings.  By breaking the reading up into a bunch of short bits, I lost a lot of the book's magic.  The book depends on a quasi meta-fiction vibe, and that style of storytelling takes getting used to.  Breaking out of the book so often made it hard to get back into the swing of the narrative.

The resolution is a bit clipped.  I wanted to know how Hazel and Jack's relationship would turn out.  We end knowing their friendship will never be what it was before, but that is all we get.  I think Ursu's ending was deliberate; as with much of the book, she's not going to just give us the answer.  She leaves it open to interpretation, and I still can't decide if I liked that or not.

I had a teensy issue with the title.  With a name like Breadcrumbs, I expected a bigger tie-in to "Hansel and Gretel."  I came into the book knowing it was a retelling of "The Snow Queen," but still, I thought we might get a double retelling out of it.  I'm still looking for the significance of the title.

This has almost nothing to do with the plot, but I love the wolves.  Ever since reading Julie of the Wolves in middle school, I've had a thing for them.  They are beautiful, majestic creatures and I love seeing them woven into stories in a positive light.

I really liked the book.  It's a different sort of coming of age tale.  One that focuses on how how friendships change and sometimes break as children grow.  One that resists change.  One that sends the main character on a journey in which her main opponent is her own self doubt.  It is magical and real and honest.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Review: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies--William Golding
Originally published in 1954
182 pages--Goodreads

William Golding's classic tale about a group of English schoolboys who are plane-wrecked on a deserted island is just as chilling and relevant today as when it was first published in 1954.

At first, the stranded boys cooperate, attempting to gather food, make shelters, and maintain signal fires. Overseeing their efforts are Ralph, "the boy with fair hair," and Piggy, Ralph's chubby, wisdom-dispensing sidekick whose thick spectacles come in handy for lighting fires. Although Ralph tries to impose order and delegate responsibility, there are many in their number who would rather swim, play, or hunt the island's wild pig population. Soon Ralph's rules are being ignored or challenged outright. His fiercest antagonist is Jack, the redheaded leader of the pig hunters, who manages to lure away many of the boys to join his band of painted savages. The situation deteriorates as the trappings of civilization continue to fall away, until Ralph discovers that instead of being hunters, he and Piggy have become the hunted: "He forgot his words, his hunger and thirst, and became fear; hopeless fear on flying feet." Golding's gripping novel explores the boundary between human reason and animal instinct, all on the brutal playing field of adolescent competition.

I'm not entirely sure how I missed reading this book in high school since it is so often on the required text list.  Because it is a widely read book and it was published over 50 years ago, I will include spoilers.  If that bothers you, beware. 

Golding takes the Robinson Crusoe shipwrecked adventure story and turns it from a triumph to the human spirit to the decay of man's violent nature.  Disturbing?  Yes.  It's about the descent into savagery; I don't think that could be properly conveyed without some element of the disturbing. 

The slow breakdown of Golding's mini-society is excellently crafted.  It is incredibly creepy because it is so believable.  It's not just that the boys kill Simon in their primal dance, but that I can actually see this happening with a group of boys left all on their own.  I can see things getting out of hand and going irrevocably too far.  The book is a mirror to society, reflecting tendencies we see in people around us and in ourselves.

Golding meant for this to be an allegorical novel to analyze the breakdown from order to savagery.  He is not subtle, but his portrayals rarely feels overhanded.  Even though the characters have very specific and narrow roles (the intellectual, the savage, the leader, the prophet, the masses), they still have depth. They don't really have breadth, but within their roles they are deeply developed.  I also liked the depiction of the ever present threat of the Beast--the fear of the unknown, the compelling drive to violence, the savagery in all of us, the label attached to the scapegoat to escape the fear of ourselves. 

I really liked the ending sentence, where the officer turns away from the warlike boy savages to stare at his cruiser, the tool of the adult war that underscores the whole story. It's a reminder that the book doesn't just deal with the possible in society, but with problems we already have.

There is a strong connection to Lost. The Island brings out the best and the worst in people.  The rule of law breaks down.  There is a "prophet" in tune with the Island.  And there are enough Beasts, smoke monsters, and Others to keep everyone on the edge.  The Maze Runner spends less time on the collapse society but is another depiction of the cruelty people are capable of when they are desperate.

I didn't enjoy Lord of the Flies as much as I would have liked to.  It made me think, but not as deeply as other books have.  I wish I'd had the opportunity to study this in a class, because I would have taken more time and thought with it if I had read a physical copy instead of the audiobook.  I'm glad I read it, but I won't feel the need to reread it for a while.  This book has made it on to a lot of the "Best Books of the Century" lists, and I think it deserves its place.  It is a rich text that provides a lot of food for discussion, both about Golding's literary craft and his commentary on society. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Book Haul #2

I love book orders.  Just a small haul this time around, but another one is on its way.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Peterson
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
The Raven and Other Poems by Edgar Allan Pe
I'm nobody! Who are you? by Emily Dickinson
Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner

What books have come into your hands recently?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Loving Sherlock but Begrudging Holmes

I seem to have a habit of not discovering TV shows until they're a couple seasons in, or I hear about them and then decide for some strange reason that I'm not interested enough to pursue them, only to regret that decision later.  Now I'm anxiously awaiting the return of Downton Abbey in January and am slowly catching up on Doctor Who.  I should just give the BBC a free pass from now on. 

I tried out Sherlock a little while ago because I've heard so much about it from other Doctor Who/Downton Abbey fans.  This was a bit of a stretch for me; I don't like Sherlock Holmes novels, blasphemy though I know that is.  They're boring--and not because they're classics, but because you have no possibility of solving the mystery yourself.  Holmes solves mysteries by pulling out a random bit of information that no one else could possibly know.  "This pipe weed only comes from a small village in northern Madagascar so the murderer is obviously...  These footprints contain mud that is from Westminster Abbey so..."  Are you kidding me?  Lame, lame, lame, lame, lame. The fun in reading a mystery is trying to figure it out before the detective reveals the answer.  But when the key to the mystery is so obscure, all you can do is sit there and wait for Holmes to condescend to let you in on the secret.  

So, with trepidation I sat down and watched the first episode of BBC's Sherlock.  And oh my gosh, it blew me away.  While Sherlock does observe things we would never notice, those things are pointed out to the audience (think Psych but more sophisticated), so we can follow along with much of Sherlock's thought process.  Since we get to play a long, the mystery is a lot more fun.

Aside from the resolution of my personal pet peeves, it's just a good show all around.  They mysteries are interesting, the stories are modernized well, and the interplay between Cumberbatch's Sherlock and Freeman's Watson is engaging.  Actually, all of the characters are well done.  Moriarty is wonderfully creepy.  Mrs. Hudson has spunk while still being quaint.  Even Mycroft has a certain annoying charm.  Each episode is an hour and a half long, so we have time for a satisfying, well developed mystery.

And now season 3 won't air until next fall, giving me time to catch up on three seasons of Doctor Who. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Review: Jane Austen Made Me Do It by Laurel Ann Nattress

Jane Austen Made Me Do It--Laurel Ann Nattress
October 2011 by Ballantine Books
464 pages--Goodreads

“My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” If you just heaved a contented sigh at Mr. Darcy’s heartfelt words, then you, dear reader, are in good company. Here is a delightful collection of never-before-published stories inspired by Jane Austen—her novels, her life, her wit, her world.

In Lauren Willig’s “A Night at Northanger,” a young woman who doesn’t believe in ghosts meets a familiar specter at the infamous abbey; Jane Odiwe’s “Waiting” captures the exquisite uncertainty of Persuasion’s Wentworth and Anne as they await her family’s approval of their betrothal; Adriana Trigiani’s “Love and Best Wishes, Aunt Jane” imagines a modern-day Austen giving her niece advice upon her engagement; in Diana Birchall’s “Jane Austen’s Cat,” our beloved Jane tells her nieces “cat tales” based on her novels; Laurie Viera Rigler’s “Intolerable Stupidity” finds Mr. Darcy bringing charges against all the writers ofPride and Prejudice sequels, spin-offs, and retellings; in Janet Mullany’s “Jane Austen, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!” a teacher at an all-girls school invokes the Beatles to help her students understand Sense and Sensibility; and in Jo Beverley’s “Jane and the Mistletoe Kiss,” a widow doesn’t believe she’ll have a second chance at love . . . until a Miss Austen suggests otherwise.

Regency or contemporary, romantic or fantastical, each of these marvelous stories reaffirms the incomparable influence of one of history’s most cherished authors.

I won this collection from one of Misty's giveaways during Austen in August over at The Book Rat (thanks again, Misty).  I thought it was a collection of essays by authors on how Jane Austen had influenced their lives and their writing, but it turned out to be a collection of Austen spin-offs, continuations, and retellings.  This was my first venture into the world of Austen spin-offs, and for the most part, I liked it.  I didn't enjoy the contemporary stories as much, but that is due just to personal taste; I am rarely interested in contemporary adult stories.  Most of the stories were a fun, new look at Austen's characters.

Writing a review on a collection of short stories is difficult.  I can't really talk about overarching plot, characters, or writing style without going into a long list of every story and how it worked, so I'll just touch on my favorites.  
--In "Jane Austen's Nightmare" by Syrie James, the main characters of each novel come to tell Austen that she portrayed them poorly.  It was fun to see Emma being a busybody, Elinor claiming she is too perfect, and Fanny complain that Austen made her boring.  
--"Nothing Less than Fairyland" by Monica Fairview is a continuation of Emma.  I had never considered Emma and Knightly's married life, but trying to live in the same house as Mr. Woodhouse would be maddening.  I thought Emma's characterization was just a bit off, but it was a good story.
--"Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss" by Jo Beverley gives a widow a second chance at love.  Cute and short with a touch swoon-worthy Regency romance. 
--"What Would Austen Do" by Jane Ruino and Caitlen Rabino Bradway was a lot of fun, mostly due to the main character's voice.  A teenaged boy with an Austen-obsessed mother, he has just a touch of snark, some sarcasm, and the general teenaged 'all the adults in my life are insane' attitude.

Those who enjoy Austen spin-offs will enjoy this collection.  There's a wide variety of stories, from metafiction to mystery to contemporary romance to young adult to Regency romance to sequels to stories about Austen's family and more, so there's something in it for everyone.  


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