Tag Archives: Reviews

All Roads Lead to Austen by Amy Elizabeth Smith

Two stars

Professor Smith started with a question: does Jane Austen’s writing transcend culture and language? To find answers, she traveled in South America for a year and conducted Jane Austen book clubs in Spanish. Her readers ranged from scholarly academics to stay at home moms. 

At least in theory, the idea works well. Better yet, sometimes Professor Smith “lets her hair down” and expresses her frustrations with living abroad. She comes across whiny, cranky, and exhausted. I loved it.

But unfortunately, it does not last. For the most part, All Roads Lead to Austen presents a very careful, very sanitized, and fairly politically correct look at a few reading groups Professor Smith pulled together while traveling around South America. 

The book clubs all sounded the same. It did not matter if they were discussing Pride and PrejudiceSense and Sensibility, or Emma. The same comments about Jane Austen and her applicability to modern audiences get rehashed with the same results and conclusions. While this ought to have been “further proof” of the author’s hypothesis about Austen’s universal applicability, it mostly left me saying, “Yeah, duh.” 

Perhaps because the author is translating conversations that took place in Spanish, or perhaps because her own Spanish was still rather basic, the conversations and commentary all sounded very…juvenile. I think the problem lies with the fact that despite Professor’s Smith optimistic plan to form Austen reading groups across South America, most of her readers are exhausted, regular people who often either didn’t finish the book or just wanted to comment on the movies instead. Does it still make the writing interesting? Sure, but it lacks an academic edge. It turned any “evidence” the book provides about readers and Austen into little more than anecdotes. 

I like what the author tried to do. I just don’t think it worked the way she planned and it falls short of really making much of a difference in the Austen literature. 

 

 

(Also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ELLA!)

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

I am super late to the party but let me just echo all the reviews I’ve seen elsewhere and say…Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was an awesome movie. 

It was interesting. It was funny. It blended humor and action in a way that didn’t feel at odds. It had cool animation. There was a great lesson at the end. It left me wanting more while simultaneously wrapping everything up enough to be satisfying.

I won’t lie, I was skeptical about the hype. But there is a reason for it. 

Totally worth watching. 

Image result for into the spider verse


Tuesday Teaser #TuesdayBookBlog

Tuesday teaser is a weekly bookish meme hosted by http://www.booksandabeat.com

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two or three *teaser* sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • Be careful not to include spoilers ~ make sure what you share doesn’t give to much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others.

Share the title and the author too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR list if they like your teasers!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You want to order? I got other customers to think about.”
He looked around the deserted cafe as the 7UP clock clicked loud and lonely on the far wall. “Other customers? Where?”
“On their way over here.”
“Oh.” (pg. 6-7)

I just finished a business book and a psychological thriller, so now I’m aiming for something a little more light-hearted. I think this one will fit the bill quite nicely. 


Marie Lu

Marie Lu is a popular Young Adult writer whose works always seem to be hovering about my to-read list never getting read. I finally decided to change that and over the past week or so read the first books in her two trilogies: The Young Elites and Legend. Unfortunately, neither overly impressed me. 

The Young Elites has an X-Men, fantasy feel. Certain survivors of a deadly fever start developing superhuman abilities. Society fears and alienates them. A few band together and become rebels, openly opposing and attacking the corrupt, inefficient government. I did not particularly care about any of the characters and this removed a lot of the emotional punch from the story. The writing style annoyed me. In the end, this book was more creative than Legend, but never enough to win me over.

With Legend, I liked the characters separately but was driven to distraction by their awkward insta-love. This is an unoriginal, dystopian novel that relies heavily on the usual trope but doesn’t particularly add anything. The writing style annoyed me so much I nearly gave up after the first two chapters. There is certainly some possibility here but it lacks the world-building necessary to be something really interesting. 

I might try her third series when it comes out but I probably won’t go out of my way to read it. 


Listening to Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady

I’ve been listening to Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady on audiobook and it is slowwww going. Granted, the book is long (over 20 hours) but it seems to be more than that. I dislike all the characters! There is no plot. And James is so dang wordy. I’m finishing disc 16 of 18 and the only thing keeping me going is the thought that I’m almost done.

To celebrate nearly being done, here are a few of my status updates from the past few weeks: (SPOILERS – maybe?) 

2% in – “I believe I have discovered another ENFP! Unfortunately, at the moment I do not like her.”

20% in –  “List of things I hate so far:
The ENFP main character
British lords
American girls
Men
The word “interlocutor””

24% in – “I think I can blame this book for my reading slump, and I’m not even reading it! I’m listening to it on audio. I guess the bright side is that while avoiding it I have heard a lot more pop music on the radio… Actually, I take it back. That is not the bright side. That is the dark side. I’m slowly dying inside. SOMEONE HELP ME.”

50% – “You mean…I’m only halfway through? *sob*”

60% – “Ahhh yes, abrupt confessions and angsty lovers are CLEARLY not enough. Better add an unhappy marriage.”

70% – “That awkward moment when your main suitor is dating you for your stepmom…”

72% – “Did James just say Pansy lives in a “virginal bower”? Why yes, yes he did.”

80% – “Am I done yet? No? Please?”

 


Kimchi & Calamari by Rose Kent

I stumbled upon Kimchi & Calamari by Rose Kent while browsing at a local library and I am so glad I did. The book was surprisingly charming and adorable while also handling real life issues in a believable way. 

The plot follows 14-year-old Joseph Calderaro, Korean by birth but raised Italian by his adopted parents in New Jersey. He doesn’t fee like he belongs in either world. When his social studies teacher assigns an essay about heritage, Joseph struggles to merge his two worlds and discover who he truly is. 

The book’s main focus is adoption, but also balances the struggles of middle school, girls, and the meaning of family. I like that the ending doesn’t get corny and wrap up with a perfectly written essay or something. I really thought it would. While it has a “happy” ending, Joseph’s struggles are never underplayed or overplayed. They were realistic. He is a middle school kid who just wants to figure out where he comes from. 

I definitely recommend this one for older grade school/middle school readers and anyone interested in adoption, Korean/Italian culture, or just a good, “coming of age” story. 


A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Jamie Watson is the great-great-great-grandson of the famous James Watson. All his life, he has dreamed of meeting his generational counterpart, Charlotte Holmes, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes. When an unexpected rugby scholarship moves him from London to a Connecticut prep-school, Watson finds himself at HER school! A Watson and Holmes, once again thrown together. Pity she apparently hates him. However, when students start dying in situations resembling Sherlock Holmes’s famous cases, the two must set aside their differences and work together. But can they succeed with the shadow of August Moriarty hanging between them? 

“You’ve never seen Watson and Holmes like this before.” ~ promises the front cover. Doesn’t that plot sound COOL? Just writing it out made me want to re-read the book. The problem is, the actual story is not nearly as good as it sounds. This is a book with a lot of possibility but it fails to live up to it. Imagine Sherlock or Elementary and then stick it in a very Young Adult style plot (complete with romance) and you get an idea. But perhaps not the idea, because that still might be cool. 

No, A Study in Charlotte wants to be more ambitious than that. Besides having the lousy temperament of a Holmes, Charlotte is saddled with all sorts of emotional and physical baggage. I was sick of her by the end. Her character is only saved by Jamie, who as the narrator, smooths out a lot of her more obnoxious traits. I really liked Jamie Watson. I found him believable, wistful, and sweet. It was easy to see his counterpart in the original Watson and he actually saved this book for me. 

Take away her backstory and I probably would have liked Charlotte as well. The problem is, I don’t like these two characters in the setting given them. There is a lot of mature content in this book, referenced if not explicitly described. This isn’t a story that needs to be dark. It would have been charming as a squeaky clean, Middle School read. There are these two (potentially) endearing characters and this wonderful family background for them and it is just…unnaturally morbid. There isn’t enough to make it really and truly dark in the way that gives you good goose bumps. It is more like, distressing dark that makes you pity the characters, especially because half the time I felt like they didn’t have to go through what they did. The villain felt contrived and too predictable. 

In the end, I give this book 2.5 stars. There is so much it could have been. However, it left me dissatisfied and I don’t think I will bother with the sequel. I definitely recommend finding Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes‘s mysteries instead.