Tuesday, February 22, 2011
That's exactly what I said... but the truth is, this really was the chip on my shoulder talking. The book wasn't high school in the sense that it dealt with the usual young adult sagas of friendship, parents, school and of course boys. I mean, it dealt with all those things, but Julie (main character)'s voice isn't so whiny I can't stand it or anything. And I don't feel any marked lack of sympathy for her petty little issues... well maybe a little bit annoyed with the way she gives into Ashley (best and crazy friend), but in general, she's a good kid ;). The problem is actually in quite the direction - I felt like I'd taken a wrong turn from the parking lot and stumbled into the Globe Theatre or onto the Yorkshire moors (was that not poetic? :)) Julie's secret longing for the man (boy) she (thinks she) can't have... Parr/Grandison/whatever his name is penning anonymous poetry in her honor. Never mind that I'm not quite sure what took them so long to get together, because I wasn't convinced they couldn't have sorted everything out months earlier, you cannot expect me to believe high schoolers ever achieve this depth feeling, or that if they do, it has any lasting meaning whatsoever. It was actually ridiculous... but I think that was kind of the point. The book was an homage to Jane Austen, I suppose, because Ashley and Julie love P&P... but I think it drew more than a bit on Romeo and Juliet and such, and I think was deliberate. Nothing like a light take on a tragedy as a stage for subtle humor, I suppose.
And in that vent, it was on the funny side, I guess. Not laugh out loud or anything, but it's certainly less annoying to think of it that way than to take it seriously. Or not too seriously anyway... but it's not entirely farcical. The truth is, the only enjoyment to be got out of it relies on suspending all skepticism and buying in to the romance. As a reward, you get... well I suppose you get angst, but I have to say I didn't even really enjoy the angst... maybe because I failed in total suspension, I don't know. But I just couldn't see enjoy the pining like I usually do :) Still, you know, he's a nice guy, very talented, and all that other stuff too :) and she's got plenty going for her too. It was nice when they got together at the end, and it wasn't total torture waiting for them either.
Friday, February 18, 2011
If you recall (and do I even need to say it? I know you don't :)) I enjoyed the first one despite its mystery genre, because I found Flavia delightful and the setting, 1950's English country, just like home :) (well home a century late, maybe :)) But Sarah Sp. had told me that Yaffa had told her that the second wasn't quite as good, and anyway, in a book that owed so much to the freshness of its narrator, the second one would be hard pressed to deliver. That's not particular to this series; in general, you can get away with less of a plot in the first one, because whatever little twist led you to write the book can carry the day on its own. But by the second, you usually need to bring something extra, or it's just more of the same. Anyway, I was ready to be forgiving of #2 not quite living up to #1. And specifically, I was kind of expecting the mystery to take more of a central role than it had in the first one, which of course means more of the book in which I am less interested.
To my surprise, I found that the mystery was not in fact front and center at all. Well… that's not quite true, the book did revolve around the newly introduced characters of Nialla, Rupert, the Inglesbys, Dieter, etc. all of whom are involved in the whodunit. But the murder doesn't even happen until about a third of the way in, and for most of the rest of the book, Flavia isn't directly after the culprit. She's chasing around answers here, there, and everywhere, but not in a particularly directed manner. Just your usual (or unusual) nosy eleven year old. So in that sense, it doesn't even feel much like a mystery. Just good old suspicious Flavia, poking her nose in everyone's business. And doing a great job of it too! That's really the main reason to like Flavia, she is a very capable girl. Thinks on the fly, puts it all together, and pretty near unflappable. She's just fun to hang around. Especially in short twenty minute bursts of reading, which is mostly how I got this book finished. And it's a sign of how much I enjoyed it that it wasn't easy to close the book at the of the train ride, especially as I got closer to the end.
Yesterday, I was almost thinking of reading it at work, it was getting so exciting. But then, I didn't. And when I finally read the last few chapters last night, it was kind of weird… because it never really ended. The mystery was solved, but it stayed in the background as much as it had been the whole time. Flavia just figures it out, tells Inspector Hewitt the whole story and that's it. Now the truth is, this was better than repeating the first book's tense and dangerous climax when the culprit nabs Flavia, but it was so non-eventful I was like… that's it? There's not another chapter? A bit of a letdown…. but only for a second. And that I got over it. It's not like I was left without closure. It was just that the book never really reached the peak of the crescendo I was expecting. But that didn't make the rest of the climb less captivating.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Verdict: 3/5 - b/c this is my genre, when all is said and done
Friday, February 4, 2011
Laurel Ann on Austenprose had mentioned that this book is only *very* loosely based on P&P... I'd say it's loose to the point that P&P is more of an inspiration than a basis. The characters have similar names... Beth Bennet, Will Darcy... and some of the same relationships (though not all... Colonel Fitzwilliam is Darcy's employee, not his cousin). Their personalities... some follow as closely as is reasonable, while with others no attempt is even made. As for the plot... well there was hate-at-first-sight , two proposals, and Darcy saves the day... but I have to say, that was about it. My point is, this was *not* P&P... but who cares? It's not like it would have been P&P done right anyway. The front cover had a quote saying it was P&P crosses Gone With the Wind... it does take place in the aftermath of the civil war, but I'm not sure how much they have in common other than that. It was closer to Harvey Girls than to either of those two, I'd say, or to the Virginian. It feels wrong to compare those classics in any way with this book, but hey, if it's P&P crosses anything...
So let me evaluate this book without reference to P&P, or GWtW, or whatever else... yes, it was stupid. It's published by Sourcebooks, which seems to be the premier source for Austen paraliterature of all varieties of fluffiness and junk. Huvi pointed out a few rather infelicitous phrases, but nothing I hadn't seen before... non-sequiters, overly dramatic flights of fancy... but I found it rather easy to ignore. The truth is, I think I knew right away this book was going to be stupid, so I didn't bother investing. It moved pretty slowly, but actually picked up speed whenever it veered from P&P, maybe because I didn't actually know the story already :) And the western drama was... western drama. Guns, cowboys, and lots of blustery speech. So... well, so male.
In the end of the day, that's what amused me most about this book. How utterly male it was. First of all, the women are totally less sympathetic than usual, more sappy and idiotic. And the men are strong, wise and brave. Oh and the guns. A lot of threats and a fair smattering of violence too. And then there's the male perspective of romance... really it almost takes all the fun out of it. Just so much less subtle. But you know, almost funny in a way, at least in this book. When I first read the author blurb, I'm like who is this guy? What kind of guy writes a Jane Austen inspired novel? But after reading, my conclusion is that whatever inspiration Ms. Austen offered Jack Caldwell, it's not exactly what she intended or what we would necessarily expect. And I guess it worked for him, because he certainly had fun with his fairly unrealistic but very faithful-to-form cowboy romp (is that word too sissy? sorry 'bout that, I reckon :)) It sure was funny to see Darcy in jeans and hear the uncouth syllables of Texas emanating from that silver-spooned filled mouth.
So yeah this book was dumb, don't get me wrong. But I don't actually care, since I never thought it was going to be decent. And I was of course, proud to be right was again... men just can't write books I want to read (except English comic writers, of course :))