Given the current state of things, blogging hasn’t really been a priority for me. I don’t want to go on a full hiatus yet though. So I’ve decided to do some very brief, probably disorganized, mini-reviews of what I read last month.
I ‘ve got five books to talk about and I’m going to start with my favorite and work my way down from there.
Unnatural Magic by C.M. Waggoner
My Edition: Paperback – 388 pages – 2019 – Penguin – ISBN: 9781984805843
This is a fantasy character study? About a world where humans and trolls live side by side, except not totally, because there are prejudices on both sides. And there’s magic! And feminism! And fluidity in expression of gender (from relationship interactions, household and community roles, and even clothing)! And a Victorian, steampunk kind of atmosphere!
I buddy-read this book with Zezee and we both really loved it. Honestly, I would be hard-pressed to describe this book without taking a really long time. There’s sort of a murder mystery, but the book is really about the characters and their daily lives. This doesn’t always work for me, but I definitely did this time. If you like slow-burn character developments set in a magical world, then you’ll probably like this. Also, men wear skirts and troll clan leaders are typically females while the men run households and care for children, etc. ALSO, many of the characters seem to be bi, and the magic system is somewhat akin to coding. I loved the magic and the characters and the world. OH ALSO, ALSO – ‘wed him, bed him, or throw him in the sea’ is my new favorite version of fuck, marry, kill. I’m torn between wanting more of this world and the characters and series fatigue, but really, I’d love more!
Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
My Edition: Paperback – 481 pages – 2019 – William Morrow – ISBN: 9780062839053
It’s an own-voices Pride and Prejudice set in San Francisco where Lizzy is a very talented neurosurgeon and Darcy is a chef.
Even if you don’t have a big boner for P&P/Austen retellings like I do, this is a great contemporary romance that should check the boxes for you hate-to-love fans out there (of which I’m one). I immediately loved the overall tone and light humor. DJ (Darcy) and Trisha (Lizzy) are great characters – I totally felt for them and was also groaning when they were both being total assholes. But you could understand where their pride in their jobs and the people they’ve become came from and how that leads to their misunderstandings. So human! There’s a lady Wickham – a fun spin, I think – and the Wickham arc was modernized well (he’s a tough character to bring to the 21st century!) and convincingly. I only hated that Darcy went by DJ because I kept thinking of DJ as his title – I don’t know why, maybe I’m just an idiot. Anyway, this is one I’ll happily reread!
Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen
My Edition – BOTM Hardcover – 429 pages – 2020 – Harper Teen – ISBN: 9780062857309
Like in an Austen novel, the Aston family has two daughters and no sons to entail the family estate to. However, unlike an Austen novel, the husband of the elder daughter is Definitely A Really Bad Guy and the family suddenly finds themselves in a variety of dangerous situations that could mean death if they don’t escape. So the younger daughter must marry someone who isn’t an asshole in order to keep the estate when her father dies someday. But can she Marry For Love and Not Just Convenience?
This book was very boring. It’s also odd because Austen’s works exist and the main character is like, her Biggest Fan, so she’s always thinking about what the characters have done in their novels and how she might speak or act in order to emulate Austen’s heroines. It was off-putting. I don’t know about you, but I don’t go about my daily life thinking about my favorite fictional characters, let alone trying to act like them. It almost felt like the author was just trying to cram in as many Austen references as possible. Also, it’s YA so each character still gets a full description (eye and hair color, clothing, etc.) the second they come on to the scene.
Instead of letting out the breath she didn’t know she was holding, the heroine in this book ‘straightens to her full height’ like all the time. It made me think she was walking around like Quasimodo when she wasn’t straightened. My notes also say, “everyone is a bit of an asshole; not rooting for either guy because they’re manipulative and shady; Vicky is a dolt.” The end was sensational and not engaging. There’s also a little on the topics of physical and mental abuse by a spouse, but it’s only touched on lightly and wasn’t meaningful. Overall, I felt this might have been better as an adult novel. Alas, it wasn’t for me and I won’t be keeping my copy.
Camp Austen by Ted Scheinman
My Edition: Paperback – 157 pages – 2018 – Farrar, Straus an Giroux – ISBN: 9780865478213
There’s a guy…who goes to Austen conventions and stuff…and writes about his experiences…
This was really boring and I’m so sad. I thought I would be totally into learning about the world of Austen conferences and conventions and the people who go to them and dress up because maybe someday I’d like to be one of those people. But nothing about this book worked for me. I only bothered to finish it because it was so short (and also given to me as a gift, twice lol). My notes also say, “…not even bad writing, just written in a way that didn’t keep my attention; I thought it would be a more detailed account of an Austen convention; I should have found this interesting.” Not for me, but if you think you’d enjoy some snippets about different Austen gatherings and little anecdotes, then maybe check it out.
And now, for the worst book of Austen Month, and the one I didn’t even bother to finish (though I did skim random bits towards the end).
Pride / Prejudice by Ann Herendeen
My Edition: Paperback – 405 pages – 2010 – Harper – ISBN: 9780061863134
Even though the cover says “Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet, and their forbidden lovers” Mum didn’t know this was porn when she was out book shopping and bought it for me.
“Hell yeah, I’ll read some P&P smut,” I thought to myself when Mum gave me this book and I realized it was smut. I figured it’d at least be cheesily entertaining. I was wrong, it was weird and boring. I’m by no means a big romance fan and my adventures with smut are primarily done via Archive of Our Own, so take everything I say with a grain of salt.
Right out the gate, Darcy and Bingley are banging each other. I assumed that every character in the book was secretly gay or bisexual and everyone was boning everyone else – I wasn’t far off. The smutty scenes were fairly tame though and honestly did nothing for me. In fact, some of them had me laughing because the author uses the words ‘bum’ and ‘bum-hole.’ Can’t we just say ass? I feel like they said ass in regency times. Maybe bum is a common term in erotica, but I didn’t find it even remotely erotic.
Taking the sex out of it, my biggest issue (aside from being hella bored) is with the characters. In the author’s notes about the story she writes, “While I may have ‘queered’ Austen’s novel, I don’t feel I’ve ‘changed’ it by turning her characters into something different from what they are in the original.” I have to disagree. Lizzy is vindictive (rather than snarky and stubborn) – she catches Darcy and Bingley boning and is rather loose with what’s supposed to be a secret, and something that’s considered illegal. She also looks down on the couple, thinking sodomy is very different than when she and Charlotte diddle each other. Yet, she’s also totally into the idea of Bingley being with Jane and doesn’t seem to mind that he also loves Darcy? I don’t know, I wasn’t paying much attention to that bit.
Darcy is the worst character, however. Any time he’s mad it seems like he’s barely keeping himself from straight-up beating the shit out of someone. There seemed to be a lot of fist clenching and he might have even thought about wanting to punch someone. That didn’t sit well for me. I’m not a rabid Darcy fan, but I don’t enjoy violent love interests in any romance. He gets worse once Bingley falls in love with Jane. He forces himself on Bingley while he’s sleeping and quite literally fucks him awake. He’s overly forceful, manipulative and borderline abusive. There was more than one scene that felt non-consensual and that’s another thing I’m definitely not into!
I hated Darcy and I hated this book. DNF. The end!
Well, that sums up most of my February reading. I know this is a kind of long post overall, but hopefully, the shorter reviews and pictures helped break up the post a bit. If you made it this far, thanks!