Genre: Classics

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld – Review

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld – ReviewEligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Series: The Austen Project #4
Also in this series: Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Length: 13 hrs and 21 mins
Genres: Contemporary, Classics
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: one-half-stars

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is the fourth in the Austen Project of modern retellings of Jane Austen’s novels and attempts to bring her classic Pride and Prejudice into the 21st century.  Having read the other three Austen adaptations, I was intrigued to see how Sittenfeld would update the story of Elizabeth, Darcy, Jane and Bingley.  From experience I know that Austen adaptations, when done well, can be wonderful. (check out The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube if you don’t believe me.)

I really, really wanted to like this book – I love Jane Austen, and the pre released teaser sample sounded excellent – but no matter how hard I tried, it didn’t sit well with me.  In the interests of fairness, given how well known and beloved Pride and Prejudice has become, it was always going to be one of the trickier ones to adapt.  Let me talk about what I liked first.

What I liked

The modernisation.  Many things in the update worked surprisingly well.  The transfer of the action from Hertfordshire to Cincinnati was seamless and gave a very similar flavour of the small town mentality that caused Darcy’s snobbish attitude.  The Bennet family’s future being at risk because of the lack of a male heir is not something that would fit well with a modern tale, so Sittenfeld uses a more up to date threat which works in well.  Surprisingly the whole reality TV show plotline adapts well and served to enhance both the story and the characters.

The narration.  I listened to Eligible in audiobook format.  Narration duties were undertaken by Cassandra Campbell who did a great job of narrating the tales of the Bennet sisters.  I chose the book in audiobook format because of the sneak peek narration.

What I didn’t like

The chapter break up.  The audiobook is 13 hours and 21 minutes long, so approximately 800 minutes.  This is relatively short in terms of audiobooks.  I believe the hard copy comes in at around 500 pages.  There are over 180 chapters in the book.  Let me say that again.  One hundred and eighty chapters.  This means that, on average, there is a new chapter roughly every four minutes.  Some chapters last less than 40 seconds.  Especially in the audiobook I found it extremely distracting and detrimental to my engagement in the story to have it broken up so frequently.

Character development.  My biggest issue with Eligible was that I didn’t feel Sittenfeld accurately portrayed – or even at times understood – Austen’s wonderful characters and/or their journeys.  It is fair to say that, perhaps her interpretation of Elizabeth, Jane and Lydia just isn’t the same as mine; however I would argue that they also differ from Austen’s.

To take Lydia first; while both Austen’s and Sittenfeld’s youngest Bennet sister is young, immature and, yes, does occasionally push the boundaries of propriety I have never perceived her as being downright crude and vulgar as she comes across in Eligible.  Admittedly, I will never be able to read P&P with an Austen era mentality, so I could be wrong here. Secondly, Lydia’s story arc in Austen’s original has her family (and ultimately Darcy) having to step in to protect her from the consequences of an imprudent and ill considered decision.  While it is not an easy task to come up with a modern storyline that has the same shock value and social repercussions that nineteeth century Lydia’s running off alone with a man would have, and I can see what Sittenfeld was trying to do, I personally disagree with her choice.  At that point in the story I found myself thinking “What imprudent decision?  What consequences?”  Sittenfeld even has her Lydia try to sit down with her parents and discuss her decision before taking action and the impression I was left with was that it was a far more balanced and thought out decision than Austen’s Lydia would have made.  

Jane’s character arc, too, wasn’t always given the service it should have.  In my mind, in the original, Jane’s character flaw was that she wasn’t confident enough to express her feelings adequately to Bingley.  This allowed Darcy to interfere in the relationship believing that she was not very strongly attached to Bingley.  This is a flaw which she must overcome to achieve her happy ending.  In Sittenfeld’s reworking, it’s Jane’s circumstances which force her to be more reserved about expressing her feelings, therefore no flaw, no character development.

Finally, we come to Elizabeth, the second oldest Bennet sister.  My impression of Elizabeth from Austen’s original was that she is an intelligent, strong willed woman, who has a strong sense of self worth and who is not prepared to compromise that.  Sittenfeld’s description of her Liz’s relationship with Jasper does not show a woman with a strong sense of self worth.  Perhaps that’s Eligible Liz’s character arc, to regain that sense of self, but it’s not the arc of Austen’s character, and as such I didn’t feel it should have been part of the story, especially as Austen’s Elizabeth already has a strong character development arc in overcoming her prejudice of Darcy.

While there were some excellently written parts of Eligible, for me, it is the weakest of the Austen project books in terms of bringing Austen’s characters to life in a modern setting.  I gave Eligible only 1.5 stars out of five.

If you want to see a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice done well, I recommend you rather take a look at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube.

one-half-stars

Reading roundup – 3rd July 2014

Here in Canada Tuesday was the national holiday, Canada Day, so I had a day off work.  I was particularly pleased it fell on a Tuesday as that’s the day new books are released.  I was therefore able to spend a pleasant afternoon listening/reading The Jedi Doth Return, the third and final part in Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars.

Reading roundup – 3rd July 2014The Jedi Doth Return by Ian Doescher
Series: William Shakespeare's Star Wars #3
Also in this series: The Empire Striketh Back
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Various
Length: 3 hours and 35 minutes
Genres: Classics, Contemporary Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

As with the other two in the series, Verily a New Hope and The Empire Striketh Back, Random House Audio has done a fantastic job with the audiobook – it is a full cast audio with a talented cast and enhanced with sound effects and John Williams’ iconic music.  (Doetscher had the backing of George Lucas for this undertaking). Like the two earlier books, this is one I would recommend in audio format.  The cast is superb.  Audiobook listeners should remain right to the end for a cameo appearance by the Bard himself!

While I really enjoyed The Jedi Doth Return, I wasn’t quite a head over heels in love with it as I was with the previous two books.  Perhaps it’s because the novelty had worn off somewhat.  I still wish these had been available when I was at school studying Shakespeare!

I gave The Jedi Doth Return four stars out of five.

This week I have also been on a major Robin Hobb kick.  It’s been some time since I read her Farseer trilogy and as she has a new book in the Farseer series, Fool’s Assassin, coming out in August, I thought I should refresh my memory.  I’d forgotten how much fun the Farseer trilogy is, once you get over the initial painfully slow setup.  I read Assassin’s Apprentice and now I am onto Royal Assassin.

Added to my library this week

Random House of Canada was kind enough to give me an ARC of The Shadow’s Curse by Amy McCulloch.  This is the second in a YA fantasy duology started by The Oathbreaker’s Curse, which I also reviewed.  I’m interested to see if McCulloch does pick back up those plot points I in which I was most interested.

Nancy Richler’s The Impostor Bride was on special this week on Amazon.  This has been on my watch list for a while, mainly because it is set in my hometown of Montreal.  It seems to be a character driven chicklit drama.  It may be a while before I get round to reading it, but I will review it when I do.

That’s all for this week folks.  Have a good weekend!

four-stars

Ironskin by Tina Connolly – review

Ironskin by Tina Connolly – reviewIronskin by Tina Connolly
Series: Ironskin #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Rosalyn Landor
Length: 9 hrs and 33 mins
Genres: Classics, Contemporary Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Ironskin by Tina Connelly is a retelling of Jane Eyre with a fantasy twist.  Unlike similar classic/fantasy blends such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Jane Slayre, Ironskin avoids the humorous side of such a juxtaposition and plays it relatively straight.  It tells the story of Jane Eliot, a young woman who must wear an iron mask to contain the effects of a injury sustained in the war against the fae.  Although the war is long over, she is still very much an outcast and takes employment with one Mr. Rochart looking after his young daughter, Dorie.  Dorie, it seems, has also been affected by the fae.

What I liked

The adaptation.  This version, while not following the exact plotline of Jane Eyre, does an excellent job of maintaining the characterisations and emotional beats of the original story.  Like Jane Eyre, our Jane Eliot lives at the fringes of her society, and this has a large influence on her character.  Edward too, is very similar to the Edward Rochester of the book – his guilt for his past is a block in his admitting his feelings for Jane.  Ironskin focusses mainly on the Jane/Edward relationship and hits most of the same emotional beats as the original with the love, betrayal and reunion.  I didn’t feel Ironskin came quite up to the emotion of the Jane Eyre ending where Jane is finally reunited with Rochester.  The fae side of the story was nicely woven in along with this key relationship.

Beauty as a theme.  This is an interesting theme woven throughout the novel.  Jane, physically scarred as she is by the Great War, is very sensitive to this, especially as she sees the “pretty ladies” who congregate around Edward.  She must decide how best to compete for the love of the man she adores.  The whole fey beauty becomes a major plot point.

Supporting characters.  Although it focusses on Jane and Edward, I did enjoy the supporting characters in the book, especially Poole (half dwarven!) and Dorie.  I liked how Jane’s relationships with them are developed through the book.

The narration.  I was drawn to Ironskin as much by the plot as the audio narration sample.  When deciding whether to buy the Audible book or the Kindle ebook I often listen to the sample.  I loved Rosalyn Landor’s voice and narration in the sample and she did not disappoint in the least.  I loved the entire narration.  Maybe it’s because I am British (soon to be Canadian!), I generally warm to British narrators more than American ones.  Landor narrates this with a wonderfully rich received pronunciation accent and brings a lot of life to the tale.

Check out the sample here.

The pacing.  With the focus on Jane’s time at the manor, the story moves along briskly.  Like in the original, there are several hints at Rochart’s secret, and this keeps the audience intrigued.

What I didn’t like.

There was little I disliked about Ironskin.  There were a few occasions where a more modern turn of phrase was used which I found a little off-putting, but other than that I really enjoyed it.  Ironskin is the first in a series of books set in this world.  The second, Copperhead, follows Jane’s younger sister, Helen.  To be honest, I’ll probably give that a miss as the character of Helen rather irritating in Ironskin and I have no interest in following her story.  However, the third book, Silverblind, due out later this year follows a grown up Dorie.  Now that I am interested in, and will certainly pick it up in audiobook when it’s available.

I gave Ironskin four and a half stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible, Indiebound

Technorati Tags: , , ,

four-stars

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige – Review

dorothy must die
Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige – ReviewDorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
Series: Dorothy Must Die #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Devon Sorvari
Length: 14 hrs and 12 mins
Genres: Classics, Contemporary Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige was one of my most anticipated reads of the season.  I read and loved the prequel – No Place Like Oz –  and indeed my desire to read Dorothy Must Die sent me into a reading slump for a while as nothing else hit the spot.  Having read it, I can say that, while there was a lot to enjoy about Dorothy Must Die it didn’t quite live up to my anticipation.

What I liked

The protagonist.  I really liked our protagonist, Amy Gumm, and enjoyed following her journey. She is a strong, kick-ass heroine, yet is dealing with her own internal demons and has her own buttons that can be pressed.  Coming from Kansas as she does, she is the reader’s inroad to Dorothy’s Oz.  Many parallels are drawn between Amy and Dorothy; both are originally from Kansas, both were feeling trapped in their mundane lives with little escape from their farm/small town before their arrival in Oz.  Both are sensitive to the magic that is all around in Oz.

The worldbuilding.  While it’s fair to say that L. Frank Baum did a lot of the heavy lifting in his creation of the world of Oz, Paige has added her own twist to the world.   Baum’s Oz is clearly identifiable in the book, but there is a much darker twist to it with Dorothy’s influence.  It’s based on the children’s novels rather than the 1939 Judy Garland film in that there are characters mentioned who are in the books not in the movie, and also that the original slippers are silver not red.  I would suggest you read No Place Like Oz first before coming to Dorothy Must Die to get an idea of the background.

Good vs Wicked and Trust.  The question of trust and whom to trust and whom not to trust comes up too many times for it not to be a major theme in the series.  Amy is working for the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked and is repeatedly advised by the operatives not to trust anyone.  It’s clear that they don’t trust Amy either, keeping her in the dark until the last possible moment.  It’s a common trope in good vs evil fantasy that the good guys always win because they trust their colleagues to have their backs and are willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good whereas the bad guys are too busy looking out for themselves to implement any cohesive plans or trust their colleagues to work with them.  Although the so-called wicked have come together in Dorothy Must Die they don’t have that trust that good guys have.  It’s an interesting twist and I look forward to seeing how it plays out in subsequent books.

Writing style.  I did enjoy Paige’s writing style.  It came across as fresh and immediate and really brought me into the story.

What I didn’t like

Pacing.  Here we come to the main problem I had with Dorothy Must Die; the pacing was off.  For a significant chunk of the first half of the book Amy is training with the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked yet, due to trust issues mentioned above, has not been given a goal to work towards except the vague Dorothy Must Die.  This section drags on far too long and really slows the book down.  I would encourage you to work past this section though – it improves a lot once Amy is working on a more specific goal.

Misleading marketing.  HarperCollins’ blurb for Dorothy Must Die contains the following:

“My name is Amy Gumm—and I’m the other girl from Kansas.I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.I’ve been trained to fight.And I have a mission: Remove the Tin Woodman’s heart.Steal the Scarecrow’s brain.Take the Lion’s courage.Then and only then—Dorothy must die!”

If that is the blurb you’re using to hook readers into the book, it might be a good idea to have your protagonist actually work towards that goal in that book and not have it be a supposed finale twist that Dorothy can’t die until the Tin Woodman, Scarecrow and Lion have been neutralised.  Clearly, it’s a blurb for the series as a whole not just Dorothy Must Die.  When reading the book please bear this in mind so that you are not frustrated at the end.

The audio narration.  In general I really liked Devon Sorvari’s narration.  She really brought out Amy’s strength of character and kick-ass attitude.  However there were long pauses left at the end of each paragraph – long enough to be very noticeable and very irritating.  I kept wondering if I’d reached the end of a chapter.  Of course, it may not bother you at all.  Here’s a sample.

In general though I really enjoyed Dorothy Must Die and will definitely continue with the rest of the series.  Amy is a really great character and I love the world of Oz.  I look forward to seeing more.

I gave Dorothy Must Die four stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible, eBooks.com

four-stars

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermidNorthanger Abbey by Val McDermid
Series: The Austen Project #2
Also in this series: Sense and Sensibility, Eligible
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Jane Collingwood
Length: 8 hrs and 54 mins
Genres: Classics, Contemporary
Buy from AmazoniTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid is the second in The Austen Project series of novels which are modern retellings by contemporary authors of Jane Austen’s classics.  Perhaps it’s because I didn’t have the baggage of my knowledge and love of the original as I had with the first, I much preferred this second outing to Joanna Trollope’s updating of Sense and Sensibility.  Austen’s original story of Northanger Abbey tells the story of a sheltered young girl whose love of gothic novels leads her to make some very strange assumptions about the family of the young man she meets while visiting Bath.  During the novel she learns to separate fiction from reality and to develop a better understanding of human motivations.

What I liked

The updating.  I felt McDermid did a much better job than Trollope of bringing Austen’s characters into the 21st century.  They felt modern and fresh and their motivations seemed in line with a modern teenager or young person.  I could easily imagine sitting down to coffee with Cat and Ellie to discuss the latest novel.  And as evidenced by John Thorpe and Frederick Tilney, men who are too full of self-importance to consider the wishes of the women they are with are obnoxious in any century.  

As well as the characters, McDermid has done sterling work in updating the setting.  Transforming Bath into Edinburgh mid Festival worked incredibly well.  In their respective eras, both cities represent a cultural hotspot and a chance for our sheltered heroine to move into a wider world and social circle.  The Festival also allows McDermid to bring in events like dance lessons and a ball without their seeming too much out of place.

Cultural and social media integration.  This was something that was also better done in Northanger Abbey than in Sense and Sensibility.  Social media such as Facebook, email, texts and Twitter are an integral part of our characters’ lives and are used to drive the plot on in many cases.  The updating of the gothic novels much beloved by Austen’s heroine to Twilight and other contemporary vampire novels also works very well.

The narration.  Narration for Northanger Abbey is done by Jane Collingwood and was excellent.  Being a Scot I did appreciate her attempt at a Scots accent for the Scottish characters in the novel.  In particular she brings across Cat’s good nature and John Thorpe’s horribleness perfectly.  Here’s a sample:

What I didn’t like

Bella’s “voice”.  The way this character spoke really irritated me.  I’m referring to her word choice “totes,” “BFF”, not the narration.  On the other hand, the character is supposed to be superficial so maybe McDermid’s done her job too well.

Motivations.  In Austen’s original I assume money was a strong motivating factor in the relationship choices made by the characters.  In McDermid’s updating, at some points it seems finances are a contributing factor, and at other times not.  it just didn’t seem clear.

All in all I really enjoyed Northanger Abbey and gave it four stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, iTunes, Audible, eBooks.com

four-half-stars

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars – The Empire Striketh Back – Review

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars – The Empire Striketh Back – ReviewThe Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher
Series: William Shakespeare's Star Wars #2
Also in this series: The Jedi Doth Return
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Various
Genres: Classics, Contemporary Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars – The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher is the sequel to William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, a retelling of George Lucas’s space saga in the style of William Shakespeare.  I would strongly recommend picking this up as an audiobook rather than ebook or hard copy – Random House Audio’s production is top notch with an excellent cast.  It is far more like a radio play than an audiobook and the excellent cast does a wonderful job of telling the story.

What I liked

The source material.  The original Star Wars trilogy is a darn good story.  It contains a lot of strong themes which would have been as relevant in Shakespeare’s time as today: love, betrayal, youthful impetuousness, struggle against tyranny.  Doescher therefore has a strong base on which to base his adaptation.  It also isn’t too jarring, for example, when Han rails against Lando’s betrayal in Shakespearean language as it is a theme and emotion found in many of Shakespeare’s works.

Yoda.  On my first listen through I was a little disappointed that Yoda didn’t sound too different from the other characters.  In the movies, he has a unique speech pattern and I was hoping that this would be reflected in Empire Striketh Back.  It was only on reading Doescher’s commentary that I realised Yoda was speaking in haiku!  Darn I wished I’d picked that up first time.  This is intended to reflect Yoda’s role as Luke’s master – or sensei – in the mystical force giving an eastern feel to it.  Brilliant. Appropriate and brilliant.

The production.  Random House Audio has gone full out to make this a radio play rather than an audiobook.  We have a strong cast, sound effects (including the iconic swish of the lightsabres) as well as snippets of John Williams’ memorable soundtrack.  It all combines to make it a wonderful listen.  

Doescher’s Notes and Commentary.  I the ebook edition I also possess, Doescher adds some commentary explaining some of the creative decisions he made while writing Empire.  This, combined with the teachers notes provides a fascinating new insight into the book.

What I didn’t like

There was nothing, I tell you, nothing i disliked about The Empire Striketh Back.  I already have The Jedi Doth Return on pre-order.  As the trailer says “these are the books you have been looking for.”

five-stars

Reading Roundup – 14th February 2014

This week I have read some fun books.  The first of these is William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher.  Doescher has taken the script for George Lucas’s Star Wars movie and translated it into Shakespearean English, complete with the Bard’s iconic iambic pentameter.

Reading Roundup – 14th February 2014William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher
Series: William Shakespeare's Star Wars #1
Also in this series: The Empire Striketh Back, The Jedi Doth Return
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Various
Length: 3 hrs and 31 mins
Genres: Classics, Contemporary Fantasy, Genre Bender
Buy from AmazonKoboAudible

In short, this is the most brilliant piece of writing I have read in a long time.  I am a big fan of the original trilogy Star Wars movies and it’s just incredible how well they work in Shakespearean language.  Doescher studied Shakespeare and is also a big sci-fi geek and his understanding of both media comes across very well.  The dichotomy of the sci-fi content in old fashioned language adds a real interest to the writing.  It’s also a heck of a lot of fun to play “spot the (adapted) Shakespeare quotation.”  For example, we have “Alas, poor stormtrooper, I knew ye not” referencing Hamlet’s thoughts on Yorrick.

I have both the audiobook (narrated by a troupe of Shakespearean actors including the author himself) and I strongly recommend experiencing William Shakespeare’s Star Wars in audiobook format rather than the written word.  The cast really brings it to life.

Here’s a sample:

I gave William Shakespeare’s Star Wars a resounding five stars out of five.

Hobbit LessonsDon’t Even Think About it by Sarah Mlynowski
Genres: Young Adult
Format: ARC
Pages: 336 pages
Buy from AmazonKoboeBooks.com
three-half-stars

I was given the chance to review Don’t Even Think About it by Sarah Mlynowski for an honest review through Netgalley.  It is an upcoming young adult novel in which a class of teenagers suddenly develops the ability to hear peoples’ thoughts after receiving a vaccine.  Mlynowski explores both the positive and negative sides of the ability in quite an interesting and thoughtful way and there is quite a bit of humour in the book as well.  The characters weren’t particularly well developed – pretty typical two dimensional teens.

All in all though it’s a fun, quick read.  I gave Don’t Even Think About it three and a half stars out of five.

Bobby Ether and the AcademyBobby Ether and the Academy by R. Scott Boyer
Genres: Young Adult
Format: ARC 
Pages: 368 pages 
Buy from Amazon •

Bobby Ether and the Academy by R. Scott Boyer was the second book I received free to review through Netgalley.  It tells the story of a boy who discovers he has supernatural powers and is taken off to a safe place for protection.

I have read the first few chapters of the book, and in all honesty, I doubt I will finish it.  While I am grateful for the opportunity to review it, i has so far failed to grab my attention and the impression I have is that it is written for a younger audience.  Now some books of that kind can transcend age groups – I’m thinking Harry Potter or Percy Jackson – but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.

Now, there is nothing inherently bad in what I have read, and a different audience may love it.  For that reason I’m not going to give it a rating as I think it was just not really what I was looking for in a read.  Feel free to check it out and let me know in the comments if you enjoyed it.

Added to my library this week

This week Audible had a first-book-in-the-series sale so I went a little mad.  I picked up The Fairy-Tale Detectives: The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley just because it sounded like a lot of fun.  For some reason, the Kindle book I own of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies isn’t the one that’s Whispersync for Voice enabled, which is annoying, so I took advantage of the sale to pick up the audiobook.  The final book I picked up from the sale was Enclave by Ann Aguirre, mainly because I’ve heard a lot of good buzz about this series. 

Finally I picked up Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children in Kindle format. I’ve been seeing some YouTube videos of the author and his new wife, Tahereh Mafi of Unravel Me fame, and they are both just so cute and funny.  It really made me want to read their books.

That’s all I have this week – what are you planning to read?

Reading Roundup – 6th December 2013

Reading Roundup – 6th December 2013Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman
Format: eBook
Pages: 433 pages
Genres: Classics, Epic Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunes
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

I received a copy of Philip Pullman’s Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm free to review from Netgalley.  Growing up in Scotland, my parents often read to me or I read the original, non Disneyfied versions of traditional fairytales.  I can still remember being particularly horrified that, in the traditional version Snow White’s wicked stepmother was forced to wear burning hot iron shoes and to dance until she died and that Cinderella’s stepsisters had their eyes pecked out.  At my university, one of the courses you could choose to study was Traditional Fairy Tales, which demonstrates just how deeply embedded in the European psyche these stories are.

In this collection, Pullman chooses from among the many variants of the traditional stories, occasionally adding his own spin and after each story gives a little background into each tale along with an explanation of what changes he made.  it’s a fascinating read and well worth picking up.

I gave Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm four stars out of five

The Goddess Hunt by Aimee CarterThe Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
Series: Goddess Series #1
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Fantasy
Format: eBook
Pages: 298 pages
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
five-stars
Having read and loved Aimee Carter’s Pawn, I decided to check out her Goddess Test series based on Greek Mythology, specifically the Hades/Persephone story.  While I enjoyed The Goddess Test and felt it was a fun read, well written and with engaging characters it didn’t engage me to the same extent that Pawn did.  I will probably pick up the sequels to The Goddess Test at some point though.

I gave The Goddess Test three and a half stars out of five.

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken In Time by Alexandra Bracken
Series: The Darkest Minds #Novella
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Format: eBook
Pages: 14 hrs and 57 mins
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunes
five-stars

In Time is a companion novella to Bracken’s Darkest Minds series and tells the story of Gabe, a young adult who has decided to become a skip tracer – a bounty hunter for escaped Psi children.  Of course, the first kid he tries to recapture is our beloved Suzume…  Like The Darkest Minds, In Time is beautifully written.  Unlike Darkest Minds it’s written from the point of a non Psi person, and one who is taken in by the government’s anti-Psi propaganda.  It’s beautiful to see how his attitude changes through his contact with Zu and that he comes to realise these kids are every bit as human as he.  I would suggest reading Darkest Minds before this as it explains the world more clearly.

I gave In Time five stars out of five.

Through Netgalley I received Under the Radar, a collection of cross-genre samples from Doubleday Canada and Tundra Books.  The first of these is Touched by Fire by Irene Watts, a wonderfully detailed historical novel set in early 20th century New York.  Elizabeth Wein’s Rose Under Fire tells the tale of a female pilot in WWII.

From the sample Little Red Lies by Julie Johnston seems to be a contemporary YA coming of age novel.  The sample didn’t grab me personally, but then again that’s not a genre I often read.  Death of a King by Andrew Vanderwal was the sample that intrigued me most.  This time travel historical novel seems to be in a similar vein to Connie Willis’ Oxford time travel series which I adored.  Of course, time travel stories are very execution dependent, but this is one I would be interested in reading in full.

Apparition by Gail Gallant is a supernatural YA ghost story.  it didn’t particularly appeal to me, but if ghost stories are your thing, you may want to check it out.  Thomas Wharton’s Tree of Story is in the epic fantasy genre from what I read in the preview.  The final book in the sampler is Paula Weston’s paranormal romance Shadows.  The main character, Gabe, seems interesting enough, but it is perhaps a little too early to tell from the sample.

If any of these interests you, please check them out at your bookseller of choice.

Added to my library this week

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday there have been a few great deals that I have picked up this week.

I picked up both the Kindle and Audible versions of Pawn, the first in Aimee Carter’s new YA dystopian series.  I absolutely loved it – expect a full review next week.

Ryan Winfield’s Park Service could be an interesting read.  It was less than $1 on Kindle so I decided to give it a go.  i’ve not read it yet, but  the synopsis sounds intriguing: From New York Times bestselling author Ryan Winfield, a thrilling tale of friendship, betrayal, and adventure.
What would you do if everything you had been taught turned out to be a lie? That’s the question fifteen-year-old Aubrey VanHouten must answer when he stumbles onto a post-apocalyptic paradise where the few remaining humans live on the run from deadly drones controlled by a mysterious Park Service.

I’ve been hearing great things about Victoria Schwab’s The Archived, so this week I finally gave in and bought it on Kindle.  In Schwab’s world, the dead are Archived and our heroine must work to prevent their escaping into our world.  From reviews I’ve heard, and from the sample, Schwab’s writing style is very engaging.

Another book I picked up on an excellent deal on Kindle was Kresley Cole’s Poison Princess.  From the synopsis, a group of mismatched teens must band together to save the world from a supernatural threat.  It could be either appallingly bad or very good, but for just over $1 I was happy to take that chance.

I absolutely adored Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, so this week I added her Fangirl and Attachments to my library in both Kindle and Audible formats.

Being a sucker for gentle cat mysteries, I added Lending a Paw to my Kindle library.  This appears to be a debut novel for author Laurie Cass, but I am happy to give it a try.

My second pre-order of the week was Dangerous Women, an anthology of short stories collected by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.  The list of contributing authors – including Martin himself! – is incredible; Jim Butcher, Diana Gabaldon, Brandon Sanderson…  The theme of the anthology is women kicking ass and taking names, so should be interesting.

One series I’ve been hearing a lot about and keeping an eye on prices is Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies.  This week on Kindle the first book was priced at $1.99 so I had to snap it up.  For those of you unfamiliar with Uglies, it’s a YA dystopian series in which everyone undergoes mandatory cosmetic surgery at age 16.  But does the surgery only affect your appearance…?

Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series is another one I’ve been price watching.  This week the first book, Cinder, is available on Audible for only $6.

The final deal I picked up this week was Pivot Point by Kasie West.  This has a very intriguing premise; whenever our protagonist is faced with a choice, she is able to look into the future and see both outcomes.  That sounds very intriguing.  Thanks to The Perpetual Page Turner for alerting me to this.

Several months back, BBC Radio made a new production of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere with a cast list that was off the charts.  It included Christopher Lee, Benedict Cumberbatch, James McEvoy, Natalie Dormer.   I’d been keeping an eye out for it on Audible, so when I noticed it last week, I snapped it up.

In Other News

This week Amazon made the entire internet stop for a second and emit a collective “what the…?” when it announced that it is working on PrimeAir in which orders will be delivered within 30 mins by pilotless drones.  it won’t be available for several years (and what are the bets it’s a US only service?) but here is the concept video


However, what I found even more brilliant was the UK bookstore Waterstones’ response –  it announced the Ornithological Waterstones Landing Service:

Enjoy!

four-stars

Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

Sense and Sensibility by Joanna TrollopeSense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope
Series: The Austen Project #1
Also in this series: Northanger Abbey, Eligible
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Kate Reading
Length: 10 hrs and 10 mins
Genres: Classics, Women's Lit
Buy from AmazonKoboAudible
Evelynne's rating: three-stars

Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope is the first in The Austen Project series of books in which contemporary writers rework Austen’s classics to bring them into the modern day.

In a world without the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Emma Approved and Clueless, Trollope’s updating of Sense and Sensibility might appear fresh and fun.  In comparison to these other modernisations, however, it comes across as unimaginative and safe.  Too often it appears Trollope has simply transposed the characters and situations from Regency England to the modern day without using more up to date equivalents.  A few references to Facebook and Twitter don’t make a modern adaption.  In all fairness, perhaps Trollope was given a tight brief by HarperCollins to keep it close to the original.  

What I liked 

Faithful to Austen’s characters. Trollope stayed true to Austen’s characters.  Elinor is still the level head of the family, Marianne is still a hopeless romantic, Willoughby is still a cad.  The relationships between them remained true to the original – the interactions between the characters still follow the same themes.  The characters follow the same development arcs.  It’s clear Trollope understands the motivations of her characters and the main themes of the original.  

Timeless story and themes.  The conflict of head vs.heart is universal and is beautifully described by Austen.  Trollope brought this across to the modernisation very well.

The narration.  Kate Reading was the narrator for this, which is one reason I bought it also from Audible.  Kate is one of my favourite narrators, and she didn’t disappoint here.  With Kate you get a sense of the character just from the voices she uses.  Here’s a sample

What I didn’t like

Characters transposed not reimagined.  While it’s true that the characters are true to their Austen versions, they should have been updated more to reflect the world in which they were living.  In our 21st century, women of Elinor’s and Marianne’s ages cannot and should not expect to have a man support them – a major focus at their age should be how they are going to support themselves and pay their bills in future.  I didn’t feel that was adequately reflected in this modernisation.  I mean, what the heck does Marianne DO all day other than moon around over Willoughby?

Out of date settings. Trollope retained the grand estates – Norland Park,  Delaford,  Allenham – and even some servants.  I felt this made the book somewhat harder for a modern readership to relate to. Other modern Austen adaptations have successfully updated the grand estates to large corporations with no ill effects to the themes of the books.

Modern references for references’ sake.  There are several references to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, mobile phones etc scattered throughout the book, yet none of them are used to progress the story in any way.  That feels rather unrealistic in our always-online modern world.  For example, it would have been far fresher – and would not have harmed the theme in any way – for Elinor to have learned about Lucy Steele’s marriage from her Facebook profile or a tweet. 

All in all, Trollope’s Sense and Sensibility was an OK read, but lacking in creativity and imagination.  I gave it three stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, iTunes, Audible

three-stars
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers