Thursday, January 31, 2013

Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

With Austenland recently having been turned into a movie, that was recently screened at Sundance, I figured it was a great time to write a review of a book I read last year in my unfortunate non-bloggy phase. I don't know about you, but I'll definitely be looking forward to an opportunity to check out this movie!
Title: Austenland

Author: Shannon Hale


Who Should Read It? Are you a Jane Austen fan? Fan of sappy, sweet, forbidden romance? Especially those that occur for a girl who is just plain bad at love? Ever thought you were in love with Mr. Darcy but keep inevitably falling for the wrong Mr. Wickham? Then maybe this book is for you! If you answered yes to any of these questions, this book is for you!

What I Have to Say: I'll admit it. I'm a little bit in love with Mr. Darcy. I even have a necklace with an image of the fictional Mister Darcy, so that when I wear it, I can keep it close to my heart. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, or every time I watch one of the MANY video versions, I sob like crazy, especially when Mr. Darcy tells Lizzie "I love you, most ardently." I'm about to start crying right now, just thinking about it.

So you would think that a book about a fellow Austen lover, who goes to an amazing land where everything is Austen, would totally do it for me. And in many ways, it did. The Austenland Hale has created - yeah, I totally want to go there. There were some really awful seeming things about it, and, in many ways, I'm sure I would react the way that Jane did (you'll just have to read about that when you read the book). But in those awful things, Austenland remains true to the spirit of Pride and Prejudice, the spirit of 1816.

Really, I quite sympathized with Jane, even if I did somewhat understand how her obsession with Darcy and perfection left her a single New York "spinster" at the age of 33. Sometimes I wanted to punch her in the face or yell at her that she should do things differently, but still, throughout the book, I found myself rooting for her, hoping that she managed to either get over her obsession with perfection or find the man that would be "Mister Perfect" for her.

And then there's Hale's writing style. I've been a big fan of her in the past - I love the simplistic yet fantastical way that she presents things, the easy way her text flows smoothly from one idea into the next. Austenland was no different and, as it was the first time I'd read Shannon Hale in a while, it kind of felt like "coming home."

Now, while the style and the characters and even the idea of the book were very "Hale" esque, I sort of felt like the actual way the story played out wasn't. The characters didn't seem to really develop, and, aside from Jane, we never really got to know them, anyway. And then there's fact that Jane's dead Aunt sends her to Austenland as "therapy." I wished it would have worked that way for Jane, but I don't really get the feeling that she actually learned anything. She had so much opportunity for growth, and I just felt like she never took it. This made reading "Austenland" somewhat frustrating.

All this said, I'm somewhat wishy washy as to my overall feelings about the book. I loved it. I want to be single and go to Austenland. I want my own Mister Darcy! It has me dreaming that maybe such a place could exist! But then, I'm somewhat disappointed with the way Hale dealt with the world of possibilities. I'll still be reading Midnight in Austenland. No doubt!

Summary: Jane is a young New York woman who can never seem to find the right man—perhaps because of her secret obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-obsessed women, however, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become more real than she ever could have imagined. Is this total immersion in a fake Austenland enough to make Jane kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own? Don't miss Shannon Hale's next book, Midnight in Austenland, a mystery set at Pemberly available in February, 2012.

Cover Story: Soooo cute! I love covers like this! Even if I didn't know this book were by Shannon Hale or Jane Austen themed, I would want to read it just for the cover!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Review: Queen of Babble in the Big City by Meg Cabot

I know, I know, it's 3 weeks later. But I'm still around, and I'm planning on staying that way this year. So don't forget about me! :-)
Title: Queen of Babble in the Big City

Author: Meg Cabot


Who Should Read It?
Meg Cabot fans, of course! Anyone interested in that perfect fluff book that exists solely to brighten up their day.

What I Have to Say:
Um, yes. That's what I have to say. I don't know how to write reviews for Meg Cabot's books. Reason being that they're all the same to me. I don't say that in a bad way, though. I adore Meg Cabot. So much so that I genuinely believe that, if you've ever liked a Meg Cabot book, you're going to like all other Meg Cabot books, and so all that really needs to be said about a Meg Cabot book in a review is that it is a Meg Cabot book. Did that make sense?
This is a Meg Cabot book.
And I loved it. Naturally. Yes, Lizzie Nichols, the Queen of Babble herself, is slightly annoying. And yes, it is slightly perturbing that she seems to lack any common sense. No, I don't get what Lizzie Nichols sees in her supposedly wonderful boyfriend, Luke. And no, I don't get how oblivious she seems to so many obvious things. But I also wouldn't have expected anything other than that, and in a weird way, I sort-of love it for that. Because the characters are annoying in totally real ways, in almost lovable ways. And I do love them all, in the end.
It's fun, it's fluff, it's bubble gum. It's not going to make you think, it's not going to leave you awed, and it's certainly not going to teach you anything (except maybe a little bit of social protocol), but you're also not going to be able to put it down. It will make you smile, it will probably make you laugh, and it will make everything in your life feel all better for the short period of time in which you're reading it.
So, yeah, like I said, it's a Meg Cabot book. And it's wonderful.

Summary:Lizzie Nichols is back, pounding the New York City pavement and looking for a job, a place to live, and her proper place in the universe (not necessarily in that order). When "Summer Fling" Luke uses the L word (Living Together), Lizzie is only too happy to give up her plan of being postgrad roomies with best friend, Shari, in a one-room walk-up in exchange for cohabitation with the love of her life in his mother's Fifth Avenue pied-a-terre, complete with doorman and resident Renoir. But Lizzie's not as lucky in her employment search. As Shari finds the perfect job, Lizzie struggles through one humiliating interview after another, being judged overqualified for the jobs in her chosen field--vintage-gown rehab--and underqualified for everything else. It's Shari's boyfriend Chaz to the rescue when he recommends Lizzie for a receptionist's position at his father's posh law firm. The nonpaying gig at a local wedding-gown shop Lizzie manages to land all on her own. But Lizzie's notoriously big mouth begins to get her into trouble at work and at home almost at once--first at the law firm, where she becomes too chummy with Jill Higgins, a New York society bride with a troublesome future mother-in-law, and then back on Fifth Avenue, when she makes the mistake of bringing up the M word (Marriage) with commitment-shy Luke. Soon Lizzie finds herself jobless as well as homeless all over again. Can Lizzie save herself--and the hapless Jill--and find career security (not to mention a mutually satisfying committed relationship) at last?

Cover Story:
So many covers to choose from! I don't particularly love any of them, I'm going to be honest. None of them really seem to fit the wonderfulness of the book.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Review: College of Magics by Caroline Stevermeyer

Title: A College of Magics

Author: Caroline Stevermer


Who Should Read It? Lovers of cutesy fantasy!

What I Have to Say:
I liked this book. It was a super cute, super fast read involving everything from English tea to huge rifts in the balance of the world.

That said, let's start with the things I didn't like so much. While the characters very obviously developed throughout the course of the story, it was really hard to actually see that development happening, and I found myself wondering if they were actually like that all along, and I just didn't see it at the beginning. One characters in particular, Jane, changed so much that I actually started to dislike her, when she was supposed to be one of the ones I was rooting for. And if Farris, the main character, actually matured, I had trouble seeing it.

Then I also found it really difficult to imagine where the story was taking place. There just wasn't enough information for my imagination to go into overdrive, and my overactive imagination is one of the reasons I love fantasy so much.

Lastly, the entire story felt somewhat emotionally detached. Death, for example, didn't seem to exact any emotion at all. Since the emotion was lacking within the story, it was also hard for me to get emotionally involved.

Despite all of this, I really enjoyed the book. I liked the subtle way in which the students at Greenlaw learned magic without ever actually being able to learn it hands on. I liked the way the good guys slowly separated themselves from the bad guys. I liked the dreamlike qualities of the plot and the way new plot lines just sort of presented themselves with no real explanation but were just understood (I didn't like, though, how some of them, including the most important, the functions of the wardens of the world) never got explained. I liked the way it progressed smoothly and easily, thus making it a book that I ultimately enjoyed despite all the problems I had with it.

So would I recommend it whole-heartedly? Probably not? But if you've got a little bit of free time and are looking for a quick, fun, cutesy fantasy, I say go for it! I'll be reading the second one only if I find myself in that situation.

Summary:Teenager Faris Nallaneen is the heir to the small northern dukedom of Galazon. Too young still to claim her title, her despotic Uncle Brinker has ruled in her place. Now he demands she be sent to Greenlaw College. For her benefit he insists. To keep me out of the way, more like it!

But Greenlaw is not just any school-as Faris and her new best friend Jane discover. At Greenlaw students major in . . . magic.

But it's not all fun and games. When Faris makes an enemy of classmate Menary of Aravill, life could get downright . . . deadly.

Cover Story: While I get the point of this cover, I'm just not a fan. It feels too 1960's for me - not enough magic.

My Contests

None for now!