Bookish Radness, Fiction

The Joy that is Jane Austen Retellings (and Some New Ones to Check Out!)

Today is one of the days we honor Jane Austen. It can be a bit weird to honor someone on the anniversary of their death (She passed away on July 18th, 1817), but I guess when you’ve forever impacted the literary world, people do that, and honestly, I’m here for all the Austen celebrations. Today, I wanted to share some recent Austen retellings I’ve read. I love retellings – whether movies or books, it’s such a fun way to experience Jane. I’ve decided there are three types of Austen retellings:

1. An almost exact retelling, but names, dates, and locations changed. These can be hit or miss.
2. A barely recognizable version of Jane, where the author tried to hard to be different, but it usually ends up not working.
3. The best kind. The author has enough changes to make it different, but the nod to the genius that was Jane. These are obviously my favorites.

Am I missing any? I tend to lean toward Pride and Prejudice retellings, which also seem to be the most popular.

What’s a favorite Austen retelling of yours? If you say Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, let’s hang out. I don’t care that Jane might be rolling over in her grave, I love that movie (it’s one of those rare ones where I like the movie more than the book).

Finally, here are some recent ones I’ve read. As with any book, some I liked better than others, there were some things I wish the authors didn’t do, but overall, I think they’re all worth checking out. Have you read any?

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal: In this one-of-a-kind retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in modern-day Pakistan, Alys Binat has sworn never to marry—until an encounter with one Mr. Darsee at a wedding makes her reconsider.

A scandal and vicious rumor concerning the Binat family have destroyed their fortune and prospects for desirable marriages, but Alys, the second and most practical of the five Binat daughters, has found happiness teaching English literature to schoolgirls. Knowing that many of her students won’t make it to graduation before dropping out to marry and have children, Alys teaches them about Jane Austen and her other literary heroes and hopes to inspire the girls to dream of more.

When an invitation arrives to the biggest wedding their small town has seen in years, Mrs. Binat, certain that their luck is about to change, excitedly sets to work preparing her daughters to fish for rich, eligible bachelors. On the first night of the festivities, Alys’s lovely older sister, Jena, catches the eye of Fahad “Bungles” Bingla, the wildly successful—and single—entrepreneur. But Bungles’s friend Valentine Darsee is clearly unimpressed by the Binat family. Alys accidentally overhears his unflattering assessment of her and quickly dismisses him and his snobbish ways. As the days of lavish wedding parties unfold, the Binats wait breathlessly to see if Jena will land a proposal—and Alys begins to realize that Darsee’s brusque manner may be hiding a very different man from the one she saw at first glance.

Told with wry wit and colorful prose, Unmarriageable is a charming update on Jane Austen’s beloved novel and an exhilarating exploration of love, marriage, class, and sisterhood.

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin: A modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice for a new generation of love.

Ayesha Shamsi has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.

Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and the unsettling new gossip she hears about his family. Looking into the rumors, she finds she has to deal with not only what she discovers about Khalid, but also the truth she realizes about herself.

Unequal Affections by Lara S. Ormiston: When Elizabeth Bennet first knew Mr. Darcy, she despised him and was sure he felt the same. Angered by his pride and reserve, influenced by the lies of the charming Mr. Wickham, she never troubled herself to believe he was anything other than the worst of men–until, one day, he unexpectedly proposed.Mr. Darcy’s passionate avowal of love causes Elizabeth to reevaluate everything she thought she knew about him. What she knows is that he is rich, handsome, clever, and very much in love with her. She, on the other hand, is poor, and can expect a future of increasing poverty if she does not marry. The incentives for her to accept him are strong, but she is honest enough to tell him that she does not return his affections. He says he can accept that–but will either of them ever be truly happy in a relationship of unequal affection?

Diverging from Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice at the proposal in the Hunsford parsonage, this story explores the kind of man Darcy is, even before his “proper humbling,” and how such a man, so full of pride, so much in love, might have behaved had Elizabeth chosen to accept his original proposal.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi: Pride and Prejudice gets remixed in this smart, funny, gorgeous retelling of the classic, starring all characters of color, from Ibi Zoboi, National Book Award finalist and author of American Street.

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.

Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge (This is a book I got to work on, so yes, a little biased : ): “Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience – or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.”―Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Just a few years after their father’s business scandal shatters their lives, Jane and Celia Woodward find themselves forced out of their San Francisco tea shop. The last thing Jane wants is to leave their beloved shop on Valencia Street, but when Celia insists on a move to Austin, Texas, the sisters pack up their kid sister Margot and Jane’s tea plants, determined to start over yet again.

But life in Austin isn’t all sweet tea and breakfast tacos. Their unusual living situation is challenging and unspoken words begin to fester between Jane and Celia. When Jane meets and falls for up-and-coming musician Sean Willis, the chasm grows deeper.

While Sean seems to charm everyone in his path, one person is immune – retired Marine Captain Callum Beckett. Callum never meant to leave the military, but the twin losses of his father and his left leg have returned him to the place he least expected—Texas.

In this modern spin on the Austen classic, Sense and Sensibility, the Woodward sisters must contend with new ingredients in unfamiliar kitchens, a dash of heartbreak, and the fragile hope that maybe home isn’t so far away.

Pride and Prejudice and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev (I actually haven’t read this one yet, but I’m really excited to): Award-winning author Sonali Dev launches a new series about the Rajes, an immigrant Indian family descended from royalty, who have built their lives in San Francisco…

It is a truth universally acknowledged that only in an overachieving Indian American family can a genius daughter be considered a black sheep.

Dr. Trisha Raje is San Francisco’s most acclaimed neurosurgeon. But that’s not enough for the Rajes, her influential immigrant family who’s achieved power by making its own non-negotiable rules:

– Never trust an outsider
– Never do anything to jeopardize your brother’s political aspirations
– And never, ever, defy your family

Trisha is guilty of breaking all three rules. But now she has a chance to redeem herself. So long as she doesn’t repeat old mistakes.

Up-and-coming chef DJ Caine has known people like Trisha before, people who judge him by his rough beginnings and place pedigree above character. He needs the lucrative job the Rajes offer, but he values his pride too much to indulge Trisha’s arrogance. And then he discovers that she’s the only surgeon who can save his sister’s life.

As the two clash, their assumptions crumble like the spun sugar on one of DJ’s stunning desserts. But before a future can be savored there’s a past to be reckoned with…

A family trying to build home in a new land.

A man who has never felt at home anywhere.

And a choice to be made between the two.

Book Reviews, Fiction

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage by Julie Klassen | Book Review

Living with the two Miss Groves in Ivy Cottage, impoverished gentlewoman Rachel Ashford is determined to earn her own livelihood . . . somehow. When the village women encourage her to open a subscription library with the many books she has inherited or acquired through donations, Rachel discovers two mysteries hidden among them. A man who once broke her heart helps her search for clues, but will both find more than they bargained for?

Rachel’s friend and hostess, Mercy Grove, has given up thoughts of suitors and fills her days managing her girls’ school. So when several men take an interest in Ivy Cottage, she assumes pretty Miss Ashford is the cause. Exactly what–or who–has captured each man’s attention? The truth may surprise them all.

Meanwhile, life has improved at the coaching inn and Jane Bell is ready to put grief behind her. Now if only the man she misses would return–but where is he? As the women of Ivy Hill search for answers about the past and hope for the future, might they find love along the way?

As with the first book of this series, I could not wait to dive into Julie Klassen’s latest and go back to Ivy Hill! As she always does, Klassen once again captured my attention fully, with each and every character.

While the first book isn’t completely necessary to read this one, I admit, it makes it so much more enjoyable. It would be easy to think that a book with some many people, especially three women, could get lost or overwhelming, but nope. It only gives you more characters to love. Much like Jane Austen’s characters draw you in, so does each one in these.

There’s romance, there’s scandal (what Austen-inspired novel doesn’t have that right? :), the unexpected and the resolutions you so thoroughly enjoy. I’m purposely not going into each character, as I want the readers to go in without too much from me. But trust me when I say that each character has their own journey you root for and not all is as it seems. The only bad thing about this novel, is that I have to wait for the final in the series releasing late 2018. So rude…

What series do you wish BBC would pick up and make into a mini series? I really need this one to be brought to life.

(Thank you to Bethany House for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Book Reviews, Fiction

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay | Book Review

Falling into the past will change their futures forever.

Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues—particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.

But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.

Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings arise, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.

I’ve been a fan of Reay’s novels since her debut! I always look forward to what’s coming next and this did not disappoint.

Like Austen’s heroines, Reay takes Mary and Isabel on their own journeys of self discovery. Full of mistakes, misunderstandings, romance and touching moments that remind you it’s never too late to find yourself.

As a fan of Austen’s novels, I thoroughly enjoyed all the references and characters brought up throughout the novel. Reay did an excellent job of paying homage to Austen’s stories, characters and Austen’s incredible talent, but also made the story her own (sidenote: I loved that Mary was an engineer and how that played into the novel). It’s a story that grabs you, charms you and makes for an excellent read.

And of course I loved the all the references of Austin. How could I not?

If you enjoy contemporary women’s fiction, add this one to your list!

Have you read Katherine Reay’s novels? If so, which one is your favorite?

(Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Bookish Radness, Movie Musings

8 of the Best and Worst Movie Adaptations

There’s something that happens to all book nerds when they hear the rumors are true and their favorite book is coming to the big screen. First there’s absolute excitement.

Then, utter terror. Because WHAT IF THEY RUIN THE BOOK FOR ALL ETERNITY?? Like when you hear about terrible casting or who was chosen to direct it and all you can say is this:

These types of details can ruin a book nerd’s life folks. Dramatic? Yep. But no less true. So today is a list of movies gone right and movies gone…well..those I don’t speak of.

(Some of) The Best

The Client (or any Grisham novel really): The casting on this was phenomenal, it’s an excellent read and action packed. Oh and Mark Sway (be sure to say that in a very Southern accent). Seriously Tommy Lee Jones is so fantastic in this one, as is Susan Sarandon. I think I might need to stop writing and go watch it. I also loved The Pelican Brief, but that could be more based on the fact that it stars Denzel Washington and well, need I say more?

Harry Potter: Besides capturing my beloved characters so well, I thought the movies did an excellent job of being light-hearted in the beginning and then moving to the deeper and darker storyline as it went on. Of course there were a couple artistic additions to the movie, but nothing that drastically shifted it from the storyline. Although I’m still angry they had Dumbledore hollerin at Harry in the Goblet of Fire. Did not happen in the book people!

Lord of the Rings: The trilogy did not disappoint. I mean where do I even start? Where details left out? Of course. But have you read LOTR? We’d still be watching them if they included everything. But as with Potter, they did a good job with artistic license.

Pride and Prejudice: I know, there was a lot of details left out, but I added it because I love the movie a bunch and they did a fabulous job capturing the characters and their personalities with the casting. Who doesn’t love Darcy? Or want to punch Lydia? Anyone else annoyed beyond measure by Mrs. Bennett?

I also have to admit I’m not a huge fan of the BBC version. Mr. Collins in that version CREEPS ME OUT. Like I could barely handle any scene he was in. I really should be putting Emma on this list, because that one was pretty much word for word.

Catching Fire: Man oh man, did the second movie vastly improve from the first. I mean BY LEAPS AND BOUNDS. Not in the acting or special effects (I thought those were great in the first movie), but following the storyline. Can we chat about how much I cried my eyes out when they were in Rue’s district???? My oh my. Many friends who haven’t read the books understood a lot more after watching the second movie. So yes!! I can’t wait for the final book to be made into a movie!!

C- Category

The Hunger Games: Did I just write that? Especially after just gushing over the second film? I did. But hear this first – I like the movies and I’m counting down the days until the next one. But if we’re all being honest, they left out some major details. If you didn’t read the book, I’m pretty sure the mine explosion (shown as an elevator going down and then white smoke) was totally random. Plus, I’m still angry about the scene after it was announced two winners from the same district could win if they both survive. In the book, this is the moment you really feel and see that Katniss cares for Peeta. She literally YELLS OUT HIS NAME. The movie? A whisper. I shouldn’t be so angry, but y’all I AM. They also play up Team Gale/Team Peeta. LAME. As you can see from the previous category, they do much better with Catching Fire (although QUIT IT WITH GALE PEOPLE).

(Some of) The Worst

The Bourne Identity: My first thought after finishing the first movie (I loved the books) was “Did we read the same story?” While the movie series itself is entertaining and I enjoy each one they release, they get an F- for following the book. At least they got his name right.

Eragon: I hope they redo this one. So then we can all act like the first release didn’t happen. Such a great series, yet the movie…just no. No no. No. It didn’t work. Which is a bummer because a lot of the casting was fabulous. John Malkovich (sidenote: If you haven’t seen Red, you need to rent it/download it/amazon it immediately. He is reason alone to watch that movie), Jeremy Irons…you can’t go wrong with names like that. But, as much as it hurts to say, they did.

Alright, it’s your turn friends. Add your two cents with favorites and not so much favorites! Did I get mine right?

Bookish Radness

Okay, so I’m a Book Cover Snob…

I’ve been working on a fun confessions-type blog and in writing it, I’ve come to realize I’m kind of a book cover snob. Of all the things right? Sometimes I think I’m 12. But no world, I am not. You need to add a couple decades and that’s a bit closer.

But what do I love? The classics. Something about them – I want to frame each of the covers. So today I claim as book cover love day. I wish such a holiday would allow me a day off, but apparently my company doesn’t go for made up holidays on a whim. Whatevs.

Without further ado, these are the type of covers I want blown up on canvas and all over my library.

After reading this novel (and absolutely loving it), this mysterious and dark cover fits it perfectly. Have you read Rebecca? You need to if you haven’t!!
Maybe I love this because it reminds me of the awesome Disney vintage ride posters at the park and I love Disneyland. And y’all know my love of The Hobbit, so if you toss them together…Win. Plus it’s easy to almost miss Bilbo at the bottom, but when you find him – love!
I haven’t read much Cummings, but I still love the vintage vibe.
Can we first talk about the price? $1.95. Let’s bring these prices back. But this was also the first of the Narnia series I read and while it’s one of the lesser known ones, I loved it!
I’m so glad schools have to read this book because it really is one of the greatest pieces of literature. I think I need to read it again soon.
So creative!
Only because I love this book.
This fits the book so well.
The pipe people! The pipe!
Minus the fact that fahrenheit is probably the hardest word in the English language to spell, I love the book that uses it in the title.
This one gets a shout out based on the simplistic genius of this poster.
I hated everything about this book, but I can respect a very fitting cover.
Please tell me you get this. Please!!
I’m not really sorry for all the Lord of the Rings covers because, I mean, they’re all awesome.
I can’t help but smile every time I see this cover (or cry – stupid spider). But nostalgia at its finest.
I’ve seen this beautiful watercolor around Pinterest and other blogs and I think they are so beautiful. I recently found out they are by the artist Sara Singh (http://www.sarasingh.com/). I want one.
And one more for your viewing pleasure!

So how about y’all? What do you prefer in a book cover?