For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund – A Review

For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund (2012)From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder

Several months ago I kept hearing a lot of buzz about a book by Diana Peterfreund entitled For Darkness Shows the Stars. Nearly every blogging friend I had seemed to be reading and raving about this novel.  As I did some research on it I discovered that it’s a young adult, sci fi/dystopic version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I was 100% interested. When Laurel Ann suggested I review it for Austenprose, I was at first super excited and simultaneously nervous. What if it didn’t live up to my expectations? Nerves aside, I dove in eager to see how Persuasion translated into a dystopic world.

Many years ago, the scientific over-manipulation of food, animals, and even people resulted in an event known as the Reduction, which set humanity back hundreds of years technologically and socially and ushered in a new nobility that outlawed most forms of technology. Elliot North is a member of this group, and understood that it was not her place to run away with her childhood sweetheart, a slave known as Kai. Now, years later, the world has begun advancing back to its former glory. A new generation is beginning to reignite progress and cause change, and with this comes the stagnation of the old elite. Therefore, Elliot’s estate is forced to rent land to the Cloud Fleet, a mysterious group of shipbuilders, in order to make ends meet. Little does she know that one of these men is Captain Malakai Wentforth, the same man she loved but dutifully left so many years ago, now under a new name. Although she wonders if this may be her second chance at love, Kai does not seem so sure. He also holds a secret which could alter the very course of their humanity for good or otherwise. Will Elliot be able to persuade him to give her a second chance? What will Kai do with his secret?

At first this book moved very slowly in my opinion. It took me a good 70 pages to really become invested in the story and understand the history as to how the world got to be in its present state. The terminology of all the different social classes was confusing at first, as the “racist” terminology that the upper class used was completely separate from how the underprivileged classes spoke. After I understood this, however, the book definitely caught my attention. Elliot is a conundrum of a character, as she’s stuck in this in-between place of fearing how modernization and technological advancement could harm society again, but also seeing how said advancements could help the depressing current state of affairs. She has all these people on her farm that she needs to feed, yet doesn’t have enough money or time to grow enough food. Therefore, she sees what genetically modifying food could potentially do to save hundreds around her. On the opposite spectrum her grandfather is extremely sick, but comes to find out that there are medications and procedures that had they not been outlawed could have prevented his continual deterioration. She’s a revolutionary in her own right, doing everything in her power to help those around her. The inner battle that she experiences for the majority of the book is an understandable one, and one that can be relatable in multiple contexts. She has all these things that she has been taught to fear, yet sees the benefits of certain modifications once Kai and the Cloud Feet people become a part of her life. She learns that not everything has to be a lesson in extremes, that everything doesn’t have to be either one way or another, and that sometimes the hardest sacrifices you have to make yield the best and worthiest results.

One thing that truly surprised me about this book was the characterization of Elliot’s father and Kai. Elliot’s father was extreme and harsh. The events towards the end of the novel and his reaction to certain revelations were frankly shocking. Upon first glance he seemed aloof, but he’s actually very observant and conniving. He knows exactly what buttons to push to get the results he expects. Additionally, I felt similar feelings about Kai. The level of his anger, rudeness, and spitefulness was too extreme in my opinion. At one point he violently grabs Elliot and is unforgivably rude to her. It’s understandable that he is angry over what happened between the two of them four years prior, but it just seemed a tad too much at times.

Upon finishing this book, I read the prequel, Among the Nameless Stars. The prequel delves into Kai’s journey after he leaves the North State but before he returns to it for the events of this novel. It definitely helped me get a better understanding of the emotional turmoil that Kai faced alone. His anger became more understandable, but only slightly. I’d recommend reading the prequel after For Darkness Shows the Stars, as there are things revealed that are better left as surprises.

I truly enjoyed the way that Peterfreund adapted Austen’s work into this dystopic world. It fit surprisingly well, especially the whole idea of differentiating social classes. The small pieces of the novel told in an epistolic fashion made me all the more anxious for the “Wentworth letter” (I can happily tell that you the letter does not disappoint.) Peterfreund has definitely earned a new fan in me, and I’m excited to continue this new series with her as she adapts The Scarlet Pimpernel next. 

Peterfreund’s website describes this series as, “In a distant future, teens work to rebuild their societies in breathtaking adventures inspired by timeless classics.” This series is made up of novels about hope, change, love, and redemption. I can’t think of traits I’d want the current teenage generation to learn more. This is definitely a series I’d recommend sharing.

4 out of 5 stars

For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund
Balzer + Bray (2013)
Trade paperback (448) pages
ISBN: 978-0062006158

Cover image courtesy Balzer + Bray © 2012, text Kimberly Denny-Ryder © 2013, Austenprose

Find Wonder in All Things, by Karen M. Cox – A Review

Find Wonder in All Things, by Karen M. Cox (2012)From the desk of Christina Boyd.

Jane Austen’s most serious and compelling work, Persuasion, is all about retribution, forgiveness and second chances.  Her masterpiece begins seven years after the broken engagement between the young heiress, Anne Elliot, and a junior naval officer, Frederick Wentworth—when he is thrown back into her sphere and both must face the pain from their past.  Karen M. Cox’s award winning novel, Find Wonder In All Things is a modern day homage to this Austen classic.  The tale begins with a lakeside friendship in the Appalachian foothills of Kentucky between Laurel Elliott and James Marshall.  As the two grow, childhood friendship turns to summer romance and halfway through Laurel’s first semester at the local college, James decides to move to Nashville to pursue his music dream.  He assumes she will drop everything to join him.  But at just eighteen and with a generous art scholarship, weighted by family expectations as well, who would fault her for refusing him and staying on the college track?

Eight years later, James, now rich and famous, returns to the lake to visit his sister, while Laurel has turned into a reclusive, starving artist.  Ok, not quite starving but by no means a financial success story.  And most definitely alone.  “Unbidden, he came to mind:  handsome, dashing and determined.  The eight years of separation had softened any flaws she ever saw in him, and now he was almost larger than life to her.  He had been right to believe in himself and in his ability to make his mark on the world.  He had made it, too – perhaps not in the way he intended but still successful beyond his wildest dreams.” p.115.  Captain Wentworth, I mean, James is determined to play it cool and aloof towards Anne.  I mean Laurel!  And Laurel’s regrets are freshly re-visited as she is keenly aware of her depraved status and jealously towards the younger woman James now bestows his attentions.  But Laurel’s generous, self-assured spirit unearths old feelings he thought long buried and a companionable friendship blossoms.  When a water skiing accident throws the two together, emotions come to the surface.  “And he had whispered her name and called her beautiful and sweet.  She could hear the words, and then ‘want…want…’  It had made her roar to life inside her lower belly.  Yes, she thought, I want too.’ But then he left.” p 177.  Maybe too much time and hurt had passed between them…

If you are looking for the cookie cutter formula of a Persuasion adaptation, this may not be it.  For example, you might be surprised that Austen’s pretentious, preening Sir Walter Elliot has been transformed into a struggling but kind hearted marina owner.  And Anne Elliot’s selfish, self-absorbed elder sister Elizabeth has morphed into an affectionate, married, and doting mother named Virginia.  Although many of Austen’s key characters have also been re-named and undergone a modern makeover, they remain comfortably familiar to the Austen fan.  I admit, some of my appreciation was in recognizing the subtle parallels. (Please note that although the prologue opens with Laurel and James as children, their tender love scenes later in years most assuredly rates this an adult read.) However, one need not have read Persuasion beforehand to enjoy this novel.  Find Wonder In All Things stands on its own and no wonder at all, why it was awarded the GOLD MEDAL in the Romance category at the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards.  Congratulations, Karen Cox on another lovely read!

4.5 out of 5 Stars

Find Wonder in All Things, by Karen M. Cox
Meryton Press (2012)
Trade paperback (254) pages
ISBN: 9781936009176

© 2012 Christina Boyd, Austenprose

Persuaded: The Jane Austen Diaries #3, by Jenni James – A Review

Persuaded, Austen Diaries #3, by Jenni James (2012)From the desk of Kimberly Denny Ryder

Most of us bon-a-fide Austen lovers strive to share our love of Austen with everyone around us.  Whether it’s sharing her novels, a film adaptation, or a novel from the JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) world, we try and spread the “word of Austen” everywhere we can.

When trying to share Austen with the younger generation I’ve frequently found that teens lose interest due to the terminology and writing style of that time period.  The explosion of young adult writers using Austen as their inspiration is, I think, the answer to this problem! Jennie James is doing her part to get the next generation “into Austen” by modernizing each of her six major novels in her Jane Austen Diaries series.

In Persuaded, a modern retelling of Austen’s Persuasion, James introduces us to Amanda, a high school student who has a crush on her classmate, Gregory.  Although her heart tells her otherwise, she bows to peer pressure and rejects Gregory’s advances, telling herself that he isn’t good enough to win her heart.  Saddened, Gregory and his family move out of Farmington, the town in which Amanda resides.  Three years later, these words come back to haunt her, as Gregory returns to Farmington and is a whole new man.  He’s matured physically, and all the girls who previously mocked him are drooling over him.  Can Amanda convince him that her actions in the past were an act?  How can she make him believe that she’s secretly had a crush on him the whole time, and not just after his transformation?

James definitely writes in an upbeat and accessible way that is appealing to the young adult crowd.  This is especially important as winning this demographic over is crucial to the continued success of Austen’s works, and ensures that they will have an eager audience for many years to come.  I was curious as to how she would handle the adaptation of certain aspects of the original, such as the famous scene where Louisa Musgrove jumps off the Cobb at Lyme and hits her head.  With a bit of imagination and four-wheelers in the desert, James handled it quite well!  It dovetailed nicely with the modernity of the work, which included texting, email, and other modern comforts that made the book all the more appealing to younger generations.  Although the story seemed almost a bit too polished and puffy at certain times for me, it is most likely due to the fact that I don’t read YA fan fiction as much as I should.  Regardless, if you’re looking for a great way to introduce a friend or family member to the wonderful world of JAFF (and perhaps the original works themselves!) give Persuaded a try.  It’s a delightful, clean, and fast paced YA read that is sure to be a hit.

4 out of 5 Stars

Persuaded, by Jenni James
Walnut Springs Press (2012)
Trade paperback (242) pages
ISBN: 9780983829348

© 2012 Kimberly Denny Ryder, Austenprose

Giveaway Winners Announced for the Mercy’s Embrace Series

Mercy's Embrace Elizabeth Elliot's Story Book 1: So Rough a Course (2009)151 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance in the celebration of Laura Hile’s Mercy’s Embrace series event giveaway. The winners drawn at random are:

Mercy’s Embrace: Elizabeth Elliot’s Story, Book 1: So Rough a Course

  • sammieck25 who left a comment on May 26, 2012
  • Robyn Brown who left a comment on May 19, 2012
  • janashe who left a comment on May 5, 2012

Mercy’s Embrace Trilogy: Book 1, Book 2 and Book 3

  • Patricia Finnegan who left a comment on May 19, 2012

Congratulations winners! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by June 06, 2012. Shipment Internationally. Please choose print or eBook edition. Enjoy!

A big thank you to author Laura Hile for being the perfect guest author, and for offering all the great giveaway copies. The most exciting fact that she revealed this month is that she will continue writing the series. Congrats to the winners. Enjoy!

© 2007 – 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Giveaway winners announced for Penguin Hardcover Classics

Persuasion, by Jane Austen (Penguin Hardcover Classics) 201258 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win either the Northanger Abbey or Persuasion edition of the Penguin Hardcover Classics, by Jane Austen, inscribed by the book designer Coralie Bickford-Smith. The winners drawn at random are:

  • Jennifer who left a comment on April 28, 2012
  • stilettostorytime who left a comment on April 26, 2012

Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by May 16, 2012. Shipment to US addresses only. Enjoy!

A big thank you to book designer Coralie Bickford-Smith for inscribing the new editions for our readers and to her publisher Penguin Books for offering the giveaway copies. Congrats to the winners. Enjoy!

© 2007 – 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Dreaming of Mr. Darcy Blog Tour with Victoria Connelly

Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, by Victoria Connelly (2012)Happy New Year everyone! What better way to start the new year than with a new Austen-inspired novel by Victoria Connelly? Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, her second novel in her Austen Addicts series, launches today by Sourcebooks. We loved the first in the series, A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, and are so pleased that Victoria has stopped by today to chat with us about her new contemporary novel set in serious Austen territory – Lyme Regis – where part of the plot of Persuasion is set.

When I first came up with the idea of a trilogy about Jane Austen addicts – with each book set in an Austen location – I was particularly excited about using the setting of Lyme Regis for the second book, Dreaming of Mr. Darcy (titled The Perfect Hero in the UK).  I love Dorset and have visited Lyme Regis many times and, of course, you can’t set a book in Lyme without referencing Persuasion if you’re a Jane Austen fan so I thought it would be enormous fun to set the book around the shooting of a new film version of Jane Austen’s final book.

In Persuasion, Jane Austen talks about how beautiful the countryside around Lyme Regis is and I wanted to include this in my novel too. I was lucky enough to spend time in Lyme Regis whilst writing the book and this was invaluable to me as a way of getting the details right and I found a gorgeous old manor house in the Marshwood Vale which stood in for Sir Walter’s home in the film adaptation.

I love writing in situ if I can and I spent a very cold day on a windswept beach at Charmouth writing the scene where my heroine, Kay Ashton, goes fossil-hunting with shy screenwriter hero, Adam Craig.  I’ll never forget how numb my fingers were but I was determined to get my page filled!

I also walked along the famous Cobb and found the steps from which Louisa Musgrove would have leapt.

I really enjoyed writing Kay’s story.  She’s a little like Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse the heroine of Emma because she’s a terrible match-maker, and she’s a bit like Catherine Morland, the heroine of Northanger Abbey too because she’s a romantic and finds it easy to get carried away.  She’s an Austen addict extraordinaire and loves painting and is working on her first book – The Illustrated Darcy – when we first meet her.

There are two heroes in Dreaming of Mr. Darcy.  I knew the actor playing Captain Wentworth in the movie version being filmed – Oli Wade Owen – would be dashing and would sweep Kay off her feet but there is also the quietly-spoken Adam, whom Kay just doesn’t seem to notice at first because she’s busy match-making him to Gemma – the actress playing Anne Elliot.

One of my favourite characters in the book is Adam’s outspoken grandmother, Nana Craig.  She has a love of colour and a hatred of the acting profession since her husband ran off with an actress several decades ago.  Nana Craig was a lot of fun to write and I love the scene where Oli ends up half-naked in her front room (but I’m not going to give too much away here!)

I have had such fun writing my Austen addicts’ trilogy and I hope you all enjoy the second part, Dreaming of Mr. Darcy.

Author Victoria Connelly (2011)About the author:

Victoria Connelly’s first novel was promoted in Germany to celebrate World Book Day and was adapted into a TV movie. Her second novel was published as a lead title in the UK and chosen as a “hot pick” in Closer magazine. Her new trilogy is her first foray into Jane Austen related fiction. Connelly lives in rural Suffolk with her artist husband, Springer spaniel and ex-battery chickens. Visit Victoria at her blog, on Facebook and as @VictoriaDarcy on Twitter.

Giveaway of Dreaming of Mr. Darcy

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by leaving a comment answering what intrigues you most about reading a Persuasion-inspired contemporary novel or what characters you would like to see Victoria write about next, by midnight PT, Wednesday, January 11, 2012. Winners to be announced on Thursday, January 12, 2012. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, by Victoria Connelly
Sourcebooks (2012)
Trade paperback (368) pages
ISBN: 978-1402251351

© 2007 – 2012 Victoria Connelly, Austenprose

Persuasion: An Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen, edited by Robert Morrison – A Review

Persuasion: An Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen, edited by Robert Morrison (2011)Last year, the good folks at the Harvard University Press presented the first installment in their commitment to annotate all six of Jane Austen’s major novels. Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen and edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks set the standard for the series: an unabridged first edition text, annotations by an Austen scholar, full color illustrations, over-sized coffee table format (9.5” X 10”), extensive scholarly introduction, and supplemental material – all pulled together in a beautifully designed interior and stunning cover. It was a grand slam home run. Now, just in time for holiday gift giving, Persuasion: An Annotated Edition was released this month supplying the same powerful presentation; this time to Jane Austen’s final, most profound and poignant novel, Persuasion.

Packed in the side margins of almost every page are running commentaries by editor Robert Morrison. Adding explanations, asides and illuminations, readers will be aided in understanding the narrative that may appear to the first time reader as a simple story of love lost and regained, but in actuality, is quite layered in complexity: laced with historical context, social commentary and influenced by Austen’s personal life. The illustrations run the gambit from paintings and line drawings of country manor houses and city dwellings similar to the residences of the principal characters, portraits of the monarchy, political figures, contemporary authors, Austen and her family, title pages of books of the era including Austen’s, maps, fashion plates, and images from famous illustrated editions of Persuasion by A. Wallis Mills, Charles Edmund Brock and Hugh Thomson. Of note are the helpful and interesting appendixes which include the two canceled chapters of Persuasion that were deleted by Austen herself, “Biographical Notice of the Author’ written by her brother Henry Austen, a list of further reading, and credits for the illustrations.

Students will be happy to know that quotes from major Austen scholars abound: for example, the famous “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.” love letter in volume II, chapter 11 (p 290) from Captain Wentworth to Anne Elliot rightly receives two plus pages of small type commentary from leading Austen experts such as Stuart Tave, Roger Gard, Deidre Lynch, Mary Favret, John Wiltshire, and Tony Tanner alone. There are numerous others as well, placing this edition in the scholarly category because of the numerous citations.

Besides the unabridged text, scholarly notations and quotes from deep thinkers, this edition is sumptuous eye candy for the Janeite. It is a real pleasure to have so much information collected and assembled for our edification and enjoyment. Morrison offers a lengthy and lucid introduction, but I wished that he had continued his personal observations and opinions more extensively in his annotation and not relied so heavily on quoting others. If this edition has any shortcomings, like its predecessor, the quality of the illustration does not match the content therein.

Next year we will be treated to their next annotated edition, Emma. After HUP has completed Austen’s six major novels, one secretly hopes that they might consider her novella, Lady Susan. Often overlooked, it is one of my personal favorites and could attract more readers if properly explained.

4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Persuasion: An Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen and edited Robert Morrison
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (2011)
Hardcover (360) pages
ISBN: 978-0674049741

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

The Deception at Lyme (Or, The Peril of Persuasion), by Carrie Bebris – A Review

The Deception at Lyme (Or, The Peril of Persuasion), by Carrie Bebris (2011)Guest review by Christina Boyd

In Jane Austen’s Persuasion, the famed seawall of Lyme is perilous to the heedless, naïve Miss Louisa Musgrove, whose fall is a critical turning point in the original novel.  But in award winning author Carrie Bebris’ new Austen-inspired mystery, The Deception at Lyme (Or, The Peril of Persuasion), the Cobb is indeed lethal.

Following their last adventure with Mr. & Mrs. Knightley in The Intrigue at Highbury (2010), this sixth installment of the critically acclaimed Mr. & Mrs. Darcy mystery series finds Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy, their toddler Lily Anne, as well as Miss Georgiana Darcy on holiday in Lyme. While at the famed seaside village, Mr. Darcy is set to collect the sea chest of his cousin of the Royal Navy, Gerard Fitzwilliam, who was killed in action aboard the Magna Carta three years prior. However, after the Darcys encounter the pregnant Mrs. Clay, who has suffered a serious injury from a fall at the base of the Cobb, their holiday turns topsy-turvy and once again the Darcys find themselves in the middle of peril and mystery.  After a horrific delivery, the Darcys must discover which of the dead mother’s amours is the father of this newborn son– a baby, they soon learn whose very being endangers the legacy of one, and the character of the other.  Was Mrs. Clay’s fall simply an unfortunate accident, or was she murdered?  And why?

Added to this machination, Mr. Darcy uncovers evidence among his cousin’s personal effects, indicating he might also have been murdered. Fortunately, Darcy is aided by none other than the champion of Austen’s Persuasion, Captain Frederick Wentworth, to discover the truth of this young lieutenant’s death. Several unforgettable characters from Persuasion, (Mrs. Smith, Sir Walter Elliot, Mr. Elliot, the Harvilles and Mrs. Frederick Wentworth nee Miss Anne Elliot), not only make appearances but Bebris has artfully carved out larger roles for some. True to form, the Darcys are ever attentive to detail in piecing together the facts and possible witnesses, “As the nurse handed Mrs. Smith her cane, Elizabeth realized herself she might have seen Mrs. Smith once before. There had been a woman on a bench on the Lower Cobb… Elizabeth’s party had been on the upper wall, looking down on from an angle, so the woman’s bonnet had prevented a clear view of her face, and even had it not, Elizabeth had no reason at the time to closely observe her. But the woman had possessed a cane.” p. 106.

Not only do we find the Darcys in company with Persuasion’s familiar faces but also Bebris artfully introduces a handsome young man (or two) to the plot, of which Miss Georgiana later finds she is not all together immune to their charms. “Darcy glanced from the sailor to Georgiana, and saw his sister through the strangers eyes – the eyes of a man.  A man who was not her brother, not her protector, but a warm-blooded buck who could not help but respond to the sight of a beautiful woman.  Worse—a man turned onshore after months at sea entirely deprived of women’s company.” p. 23 Oh, poor Darcy.

Carrie Bebris strikes all the right tones.  Her believable dialogue and relationships in and amongst Austen’s most memorable characters delivers another succinct, clever conspiracy to this award-winning series. Her deft understanding of Regency mores and thorough research of the local history and oddities of Lyme Regis, as well as His Majesty’s Royal Navy make it all the more perfect. Carrie Bebris once again has a hit on her hands—which will keep you guessing whodunit until the very end. I for one think The Deception at Lyme her best work yet!

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Deception at Lyme (Or, The Peril of Persuasion), by Carrie Bebris
Tor Books (2011)
Hardcover (304) pages
ISBN: 978-0765327970

Christina Boyd lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two youngish children and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Bibi.  She studied Fine Art at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Salisbury University in Maryland. Although life has taken her on a merry adventure through a myriad of careers including modeling, flight attending, marketing & sales, owning a paint-it-yourself ceramic studio… she has for the last nine years created and sold her own pottery line from her working studio. Albeit she read Jane Austen as a moody teenager, it wasn’t until Joe Wright’s 2005 movie of Pride & Prejudice that sparked her interest in all things Austen.  A life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, Christina has read and owns well over 200 Austen inspired novels… and cannot comprehend the neglect of the collection in such days as these.  Visiting Jane Austen’s England remains on her bucket list.

© 2007 – 2011 Christina Boyd, Austenprose