Books I read this week 4/22/2017

Austenland

Author: Shannon Hale

Series: Austenland #1

Tags: Contemporary, Austen, Regency, humor, Stick-in-the-Mud

Format: Audiobook

Rating: Yay!

 

Funnier than I expected it to be!

 

I’ve seen the movie with Keri Russell, which was kind of meh. I wasn’t expecting much from the book. I was happy to find that it is actually pretty funny most of the time!

The writing was enjoyable, adorkable. The narrator of the audiobook added to the tongue-in-cheek-ness of the humor, reading certain parts in that fake dramatic almost British voice that a person would use if they read out loud silly love scenes or sappy Facebook posts.

I love, also, that the character is by turns either totally weirded out by the experience, or 100% all in.

 

The plot is, in keeping with the tradition of Rom Coms, totally absurd. Jane’s great aunt leaves her an all inclusive stay at a Jane Austen immersion getaway, complete with actors to “fall in love” with. The fact that she didn’t choose this gift makes it a bit more believable that she rebels against it throughout half of her stay.

She should be weirded out, because that is a totally weird thing to do.

The men are almost escorts, if you think about it.

We try to skirt around the escort thing, but it’s difficult. Man, it is so difficult.

 

Of course, being the Austenite that I am, I can’t help but squee about imagining living like Austen for a couple of weeks. The whole romance aspect would be super duper embarrassing. Ditto on remembering that most people are there to cater to the strange whim of living like Regency gentry.

 

Jane has an “unhealthy” obsession with Mr. Darcy (to this, I shrug my shoulders) and decides to use this time to cast off her need for the hyper romance of the Austen era and men in general. In doing so, she gets a man.

Funny how that works out.

 

I’ve never been one to 1) hide my obsession 2) feel bad about it 3) feel that it warps my sense of reality 4) hold reality to the standard of romance novels, so I just kind of watch like, so that must be what it’s like.

It’s that old trope that’s been around since women started reading, that romance novels warp your brain. I don’t believe it. You can make the argument that Austen didn’t believe it, either. In Northanger Abbey, Catherine is enriched by her experiences through novels, as a sort of practice of finer feelings.

There’s a book about this subject that I want to read. Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Novels Explained.

 

The one thing I don’t get is why did the clients of this strange place show up not knowing who their romantic opposite would be? I’m assuming these women have read Austen over and over again… They are used to knowing who ends up with who at the end. The owner of Austenland seems to have an idea. Why the subterfuge?

A weird plot twist at the end, and then Jane goes home with someone she does not know at all. But, hey! If you were to spend $$$ on an immersive Austen experience, wouldn’t you want to take home a souvenir of a real, live Mr. Darcy??

I would.

Vision in Silver

Author: Anne Bishop

Series: The Others #3

Tags: Urban Fantasy, Alternate World, vampires, werewolves, shifters, coyotes, crows, elementals, precognition, ponies?

Format: audiobook

Rating: Yay!

 

HMMMMMMM…..

 

I was surprised by this book. Normally when I start in the middle of a fantasy series I resent it. I tried #4 of this series once, but gave up. The cover gives me the impression that is it a post-apocalyptic and/or distopian young adult novel, so I was not willing to give it a try.

I decided to give it a second go when I saw #3 added to OverDrive.

And I …liked it.

really liked it.

I’m still a bit perplexed by my reaction.

 

Like most Urban Fantasy novels, this series has its own take on vampires and werewolves, the good ol’ mystical fallbacks of the fictional world. However, the world building is far deeper than I expected.

A lot of Urban Fantasies just say, “look! A vampire in the city!” and leave it at that. Others dig deeper and make up some (often cliche) culture around the vampires. The ones that I like the most usually try to answer the question:

“What if [insert mystical creature] was introduced into humanity as we know it? How would that affect our culture, and theirs?”

I love that kind of mental exercise. If done well, it can make the reader contemplate humanity. If done poorly, it’s funny.

 

The Others series seems to ask the question, “what if humans were not the top of the food chain?”

The Others are pretty much all magical beings: vampires, werewolves, etc. They control the land and all raw resources, and always have. Humans live in cities apart from the Others, and have to rent land from them, as a kind of second class. The story starts during a time when humans are trying to rise up against the Others, at the same time that the Others are attempting to learn more about and coexist with humans.

It’s HEAVY on politics, social plots, the pettiness of man, etc. Normally, I don’t go for that, but maybe I only balk when it’s bad or cliche? I found myself very interested in this plot, despite past history of not giving a fuck.

 

Into the mix, there are also human women that are born with strange and dangerous precognitive abilities. In order to have a vision, they need to be cut. The thousandth cut is said to kill them. The women are sequestered in compounds at a young age under horrible conditions. One woman, the main character, escapes.

By the third book, the main character, Meg, is firmly ensconced in an Others community, just trying to figure her shit out now that she is free.

 

Here’s another thing this series does well:

Another thing I LOVE in fantasy novels is the outsider’s perspective of human culture. You know, as if an alien dropped from the sky, and you have to explain everything to them.

A lot of Urban Fantasies attempt that, they say stuff like “I’m a wolf that’s sometimes a human, not the other way around,” but eventually you start to feel like they are humans who once read a fourth grader book report on wolf behavior, and made up weird culture bullshit based on it.

In this series, the Others don’t have much experience with humans, and they are in constant wonderment of human culture. I like to watch the open curiosity between both beings, kind of like when a red panda meets a rock for the first time.

via GIPHY

 

Meg is doing the same thing. She completely missed out on socialization because of her compound experience, and is learning about the world down to the very basics. Her and the leader of the community, a wolf named Simon, circle each other, trying to figure out the world, humans, Others, and each other.

 

Meg and Simon have a budding romance going on that is so fucking subtle it is driving me insane. But in a good way.

I, who have watched three seasons of an anime just because one character sighed in the direction of another character, am thoroughly enjoying their slow build. Their earnest attempt to get to know each other, while not crowding, is so cute!

I mentally congratulate the author for not pushing the romance. Poor Meg is trying to figure out the world right now. She doesn’t need to be jumping into a relationship.

However, I might break down if it goes on too much longer. It’s the third book, and they…*spoiler*… held hands.

GASP!

 

This is not a romance. I don’t know it got into the Romance category of OverDrive, but a hint of maybe the beginning of romance with all these supernatural politics flying around is not the same thing. Sometimes I wonder if there is something sexist going on with the romance designation. I can’t imagine that most fantasies DON’T have romances within their plots.

Is it because it’s about a female main character? An urban fantasy? Vampires? Written by a woman?

Interestingly, the first two books are NOT categorized as Romance, because I found them on OverDrive later when I searched for them! Hooray! Now I can go back to the beginning. I was very afraid I would have to read them with my eyes.

2 Comments

  1. Gwen Wendy

    The narrator was Katherine Kellgren, and thankfully not Keri Russell. I don’t think she would have done it justice. To be clear, she narrates it in an American accent, and only uses a British accent when British characters speak. There is also an intro to each chapter where she tells the story of each of her boyfriends in flowery language, and that’s where the narrator uses that psuedo-British accent.

    Apparently, Katherine did the narration for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, AND a book called “Jane Bites Back” which is a book about Jane Austen as a vampire!

    I guess that means her resume says something like, “Off-kilter Jane Austen Inspired Fan Fiction” as her niche.

  2. Sister1

    Who was the narrator of Austenland?

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