When I’m With You (The Jane Austen Academy Series), by Cecilia Gray – A Review

When I'm with You, by Cecilia Gray (2013)From the desk of Lisa Galek:

I read a lot of young adult fiction and I notice that there’s often a tendency to feature a female main character who’s smart, sassy, and in control. Of course, these self-confident heroines are important and lots of real-life girls can relate to them. But, some girls are a little less sure of themselves. A little more naïve and a little too trusting. In fact, that’s something that many women struggle with long after they leave high school. No one knew this better than Jane Austen. Her heroines fit into a huge range of personalities and life experiences. In When I’m With You, Cecilia Gray gives us an update on one of Jane’s most underutilized, yet relatable teenage characters, Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey

Kat Morley just knows that one day she’s gonna be a famous actress. She’s been the lead in five different productions at her high school, the Jane Austen Academy, so it can’t be long until her name is up in lights. Continue reading “When I’m With You (The Jane Austen Academy Series), by Cecilia Gray – A Review”

The Trouble with Flirting: A Novel, by Claire LaZebnik – A Review

The Trouble with Flirting, by Claire LaZebnik (2013) From the desk of Lisa Galek:

There are tons of ways to flirt… and just as many ways to break hearts in the process. A casual smile or a wink can lead to long-awaited romance or lots of unwanted attention. Claire LaZebnik explores all this and more in The Trouble with Flirting, her contemporary young adult update on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.

This story is all about Franny Pearson, a high school student from Phoenix looking to get some real-world experience for her college admissions essay. When Franny lands a summer internship as a costume designer with her Aunt Amelia, she ventures from home to work for the prestigious Mansfield College High School Theater Program. Even though her days are filled with sewing and sequins – Franny is determined to make some friends among the theater kids this summer. Continue reading “The Trouble with Flirting: A Novel, by Claire LaZebnik – A Review”

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. Continue reading “For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund – A Review”

Emmalee: The Jane Austen Diaries #4, by Jenni James – A Review

Emmalee: The Jane Austen Diaries #4, by Jenni James (2012)From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder: 

Several months ago I had the opportunity to read Persuaded by Jenni James, a modern YA (young adult) adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.  I was really impressed with James’ ability to keep the depth of Austen’s works when translating them into the modern world and make them appealing to the YA crowd. When offered the chance to review her adaptation of Emma, I jumped and said yes! I’ve always found that Emma Woodhouse is a difficult character to relate to. (At least to me) The film Clueless did an excellent job showcasing her naivety while also reflecting that deep down inside she was a good person with good intentions. I was interested in seeing if James could also reflect this naïve nature while still making Emma appealing to teens.

Emmalee Bradford, the modern-day equivalent to Emma, lives a very satisfying life.  She believes that she is an expert matchmaker and never misses an opportunity to set her friends up on dates. Continue reading “Emmalee: The Jane Austen Diaries #4, by Jenni James – A Review”

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 bonafide 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 Continue reading “Persuaded: The Jane Austen Diaries #3, by Jenni James – A Review”

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame – A Review

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame (2012)Review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder

If you enjoy Persuasion, Downton Abbey, or even Gossip Girl, you’re going to want to pay attention to this review.  Abby Grahame’s debut novel, Wentworth Hall, is a combination of all of the above and more.  Filled with themes and story lines that involve the mixing of social classes, lies, deceit, unrequited/lost loves, gossip and more, this book is jam packed from start to finish.

The Darlington family is one of the most powerful families in all of England in the beginning of the twentieth-century.  Under their massive estate, Wentworth Hall, all the intricate daily goings-on of all the family members coincide with each other and secret and scandal run amok.  Maggie Darlington, the elder sister, has always been known to be more raucous and carefree, yet she is now much more reserved and secretive since returning from her year away.  Although her secret is not revealed until the end of the novel, its effects on all the other members of the household are immediate, as the Darlington family fights to save its polished image as it begins to crack amongst whispers in the local media.  A series of newspaper articles that are supposedly satirical on the surface seem to be all too similar to the actual lives of the Darlingtons, and soon everyone begins to speculate as to the fate of this famed family.  Will they be able to uphold the noble status of their estate?  What is Maggie’s secret?

Wentworth Hall can be summed up in one word – glamorous.  While the hall itself isn’t, Grahame’s rich writing and fascinating storylines can 100% be described in this way.  (For a perfect example of her glamorous writing style, check out the guest post she posted last week here on Austenprose)  I’m still surprised that this is Grahame’s debut novel.  Her understanding of the culture, most specifically the social aspects, is captivating.  Similar to Persuasion and even Downton Abbey, Grahame explores the mixing of social classes using a love story as her plot device.  Using the Edwardian Era as the backdrop for her sweeping drama allows her to use the upstairs/downstairs and master/servant mentality to clearly demonstrate her narrative style.

I really enjoyed all of characters different secrets and how they were revealed and unraveled, merging together in the end.  It wasn’t difficult for me to figure out what each person was hiding, but I think it’ll be less obvious for the younger crowds that pick this up to read.

My major disappointment was the vagueness of the ending.  This young adult novel builds and builds and does resolve itself, but with few details.  It’s like going from point A to Z with nothing in the middle.  It left me wondering if this was going to be part of a series.  If it is in fact scheduled to be part of a series, then the vagueness sets up the plot for future books nicely.  Despite this, the splendor of Grahame’s writing combined with the excitement of the plot made me into a big fan of Wentworth Hall.  I humbly suggest that it becomes the next addition to your “to read” pile.

4 out of 5 Stars

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame
Simon & Schuster (2012)
Hardcover (228) pages
ISBN: 978-1442451964

Kimberly Denny-Ryder is the owner/moderator of Reflections of a Book Addict, a book blog dedicated to following her journey of reading 100 books a year, while attempting to keep a life! When not reading, Kim can be found volunteering as the co-chair of a 24hr cancer awareness event, as well as an active member of Quinnipiac University’s alumni association.  When not reading or volunteering, Kim can be found at her full-time job working in vehicle funding. She lives with her husband Todd and two cats, Belle and Sebastian, in Connecticut.

© 2007 – 2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

A Preview of Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame (2012)Seven months until Downton Abbey season 3 airs on Masterpiece Classic PBS. So, what’s a Downtonite to do in the meantime besides re-watching the first two seasons again? Why – read of course.

Please join us today in welcoming author Abby Grahame on her blog tour in celebration of the publication of Wentworth Hall, released this month by Simon & Schuster. Set in Edwardian England, not only will its title intrigue most Janeites with its reference to a certain romantic Captain from Austen’s novel Persuasion, but its author was inspired by Jane Austen throughout. Abby has generously shared with us some insights on her inspiration for writing her first young adult novel.

BOOK DESCRIPTION

A must-read for Downton Abbey fans—a lush, historical novel about the secretive Darlingtons of Wentworth Hall.

Can’t get enough of Downton Abbey? Visit Wentworth Hall. It’s one of England’s oldest estates, and Continue reading “A Preview of Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame”

Echoes of Pemberley, by Cynthia Ingram Hensley – A Review

Echoes of Pemberley, by Cynthia Ingram Hensley (2011)From the desk of Christina Boyd: 

Debut author Cynthia Ingram Hensley presents Echoes of Pemberley, a contemporary Pride and Prejudice spin-off for young adults.

The modern day residents of Pemberley estate are the descendants of Jane Austen’s very own Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy.  A fatal plane crash eight years previous orphaned Catherine Elizabeth Darcy and left her in the guardianship of her older brother, Bennet.  Returning home from boarding school for summer vacation, sixteen year old Catie, having lived a sheltered life since the death of her parents, is ripe for a melodrama of her own.  Although she expects her break to be occupied with nothing more than riding her bicycle about her ancestral home and Continue reading “Echoes of Pemberley, by Cynthia Ingram Hensley – A Review”

Forbidden, by Syrie James and Ryan M. James – A Review

From the desk of Christina Boyd:

Look out, Alyson Noel. Make way, Becca Fitzpatrick. Heads up, Lauren Kate.  There is a spectacular new Young Adult (YA) writing team on the horizon! 

Forbidden, authored by a mother and son writing team is their debut supernatural novel chocked full of intrigue, romance and humor.  But whyever is a Jane Austen blog site reviewing such a book?  One with not even a mention of Mr. Darcy, nor a reference to Jane Austen, nor anything remotely Regency? Simply thus.  One of the authors, none other than the international best-selling author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen as well as the award winning The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, Syrie James, along with her son, Ryan M. James, ventures to offer us a larger allowance of prose to our daily study.
Continue reading “Forbidden, by Syrie James and Ryan M. James – A Review”

Epic Fail, by Claire LaZebnik – Review

Epic Fail, by Claire Lazebnik (2011)From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder: 

One of the greatest things about book blogging is the ability to spread the gift of reading to everyone that comes across my blog.  This is especially true with younger readers, who may have less exposure now to “the classics” than I might have had at their age.  So, any attempt to get younger readers engaged with great writers of the past is applauded by me.  Claire LaZebnik’s Epic Fail does just this by emulating the beloved Pride and Prejudice to be more accessible to young adult readers.

If you go to high school in Los Angeles, Coral Tree Prep is where you want to be.  And if you’re a guy that goes to Coral Tree, Derek Edwards is who you want to be.  As Continue reading “Epic Fail, by Claire LaZebnik – Review”

Sass & Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler – A Review

Sass and Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler (2011)Sisters Daphne and Gabby Rivera are as different as night and day! Older sis Gabriella is all “straight A’s and neat-freak genes,” according to younger, impulsively romantic sister “Daffy.” Sensible Gabby works part-time to help her single mom make ends meet while studying hard for a scholarship so she can get out of Barton, Texas. On the other hand, unsensible Daphne lives in a dream world, shopping for prom dresses instead of applying for jobs and literally falling head over heels in love with the new cute boy of the moment, Luke Pascal. Gabby is quite cynical about love, after witnessing her parents’ divorce. Who needs it? It only causes misery and pain. The sisters bicker and bark at each other, rarely agreeing on anything. The only stable person in their lives is dependable friend “Mule,” short for Samuel, who seems to always be there helping Gabby study and offering friendly advice. Continue reading “Sass & Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler – A Review”

Sass & Serendipity Blog Tour with Author Jennifer Ziegler

Sass and Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler (2011)Please join us today in welcoming young adult fiction author Jennifer Ziegler for the official launch of her book blog tour of Sass & Serendipity a new Sense and Sensibility-inspired YA novel that is releasing tomorrow, Tuesday, July 12, 2011, by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (Random House).

Growing up, I found great comfort in reading Jane Austen.  I can’t remember exactly when I discovered her, but it was sometime during my high school years.  From a purely literary standpoint I would have to say that Pride and Prejudice is her masterwork, but Sense and Sensibility has always been my favorite.

I adored the characters of Elinor and Marianne, and, being a sister myself, I could really relate to their relationship – especially the way they were so different and yet still fiercely devoted to each other.  I realized that sisterhood today wasn’t all that different from sisterhood two centuries ago, and I started to wonder when somebody would do a modern retelling – something that would stay true to the themes and moods of the book.

And here is where I make a confession:  I think, in some ways, Jane Austen wrote YA.  Before anyone tosses tomatoes at me, please allow me to explain…

Austen’s books centered around young women on the verge of adulthood.  They are nearly ready to leave the nest and take their spot in the world – and in the Regency era, the best landing of all would be that of a happy marriage to a good and prosperous man.  Standing on this threshold of life is the emotional setting for all young adult novels.  Teens are caught between the insular world of the childhood home and that of society at large.  Even if they don’t strike out on their own at the end, they have surely become more “adult” by the final page.

Austen never makes the search for a proper husband the point of her stories.  In every case the main character needs to go through some significant growth first.  Whether it’s Elinor learning to trust her feelings as much as her intellect, Marianne coming out of her fantasies and into her senses, Elizabeth learning not to judge too prematurely, Emma learning not to meddle in other people’s lives, and so on, Austen makes sure her heroines recognize and overcome character flaws in order to earn their happy-ever-afters.  Such maturation is central to young adult literature, as it is with all good character-based fiction.  However, in YA, the age of the protagonists is key.  Teens and early twenties don’t know as much about the world or themselves quite yet.  Because of this, the problems they face are brand new, but also – and this is critical – their emotions are brand new.  This is first love, first heartbreak, first crushing disillusionment.

Thus, when I really stopped to consider it, I realized that any retelling of an Austen novel would almost have to be a young adult book in order to stay true to these themes and arcs.  At that point it was a quick hop from “Someone should do an update of Sense and Sensibility” to “Yes … and why not me?”

Of course, it was a daunting suggestion.  Me update Austen?  Would I give the original source material the proper care and reverence?  The answer was no.  I mean, I knew I would do my best, but I also knew that I couldn’t duplicate Austen’s prose.  My writing style is just too different.  I also knew that the scope of the book would have to be changed – favorite scenes and characters would have to go.  An exact retelling, with faithful character match-ups and plot recreations would be impossible.  Any attempt would end up a mess.

So, to avoid disappointing Austen fans, my fans, and myself, I decided early on that my novel would pay homage to Sense and Sensibility without being a strict retelling.  It was the feel of the book – the themes of sisterly bonds, romance, and identity – that inspired me to update it in the first place, so that is where I would start.

Ironically, to be true to the tone and premise of her book, I had to stay far away from it.  In fact, I avoided all things Austen while drafting the novel (a huge sacrifice for me).  I didn’t want to be tempted toward replication, so instead, I worked from memory – the storylines, moods, and ideas that had made an indelible impression on me.

The result was Sass & Serendipity, a story of two sisters living in modern, small-town Texas, and their run-ins with romance, economic hardships, societal pressures, and each other.  It was tough to write – but fun.  I really enjoyed getting to “play Austen.”

And now that the book is out, I’ve gotten the best endorsement ever:  my sister, Amanda, loves it.  I hope others will, too.

Author Jennifer ZieglerAuthor Bio:

Jennifer Ziegler is the author of Alpha Dog and How Not to be Popular. Born in Temple, Texas, as a child she also lived in Anchorage, Alaska and then returned to the Lone Star state to attend the University of Texas, where she earned degrees in journalism and English. While there she fell in love with Austin and its many cool hangouts, music venues, swimming holes, and hip people. Upon graduation, she decided to settle there, working as a freelance reporter, editorial assistant, and middle school language arts teacher. Jennifer also met a cute musician guy named Carl and the two got married. Visit Jennifer at her website, or Facebook, and follow her on Twitter as @ZieglerJennifer.

Giveaway of Sass & Serendipity

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Sass & Serendipity by leaving a comment answering what intrigues you most about reading a Sense and Sensibility-inspired young adult novel or which character in the original novel is your favorite, by midnight PT, Wednesday, July 20, 2011. Winners to be announced on Thursday, July 21, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

Sass & Serendipity, by Jennifer Ziegler
Delacorte Books (2011)
Hardcover (384) pages
ISBN: 978-0385738989

© 2007 – 2011 Jennifer Ziegler, Austenprose

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