Book 333: Northanger Abbey (The Austen Project #2) – Val McDermid

McDermid, Val - Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen Project #2)The great part about The Austen Project, is I can read them in any order I want! Just like Austen’s original books :-D I decided to read this one as we just read the original Northanger Abbey for Jane Austen Book Club and I loved it. The not so great part is reading this one made me wonder if I would have enjoyed Austen when she was originally published. I say this not as a commentary on the writer, whose skills were amazing and the ending had me in hysterics on the T, but as a commentary on holding up a mirror to young adult society today. The summary of the novel (Amazon link), might not have made me read this if I wasn’t aware of the original, but McDermid drew me in pretty quickly.

The whole premise of the project is around the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s novels contemporary authors are retelling her stories in the modern age. We’ve all seen modern adaptations of classics like “Clueless” (Emma) and “10 Things I Hate About You” (Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew), but this is more along the lines of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Boooo!) or Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (YAY!!!!) in that the story is verbatim with minor changes. In this case it’s brought into the 21st century and takes place in Edinburgh instead of Bath.

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Book 331: Male Sex Work and Society – Victor Minichiello and John Scott (eds.)

Minichiello, Victor and John Scott - Male Sex Work and Society

This book simultaneously highlights what is good and what is bad about the white tower of academia. It explores a specific topic in depth, while establishing absolutely nothing, other than the need for more research. I received a copy of this book from the publisher and received no compensation for my honest opinion.

I’m going to start with my frustrations with the book (or academia/academics in a broader context) first and then move to what they did well. What frustrated me most about the entire collection were the isolationist tendencies of the authors. In a move to over-compensate for any sort of collective or global identity (and not Western-wash everything) every single paper started out within the first few paragraphs by using the almost exact phrase of, “due to cultural circumstances, male sex workers (MSWs) circumstances in this country cannot be compared to those in any other country.” The reason this was so infuriating is that there were clearly overarching themes, sexual identity (or lack thereof), technology and public health, to name a few, that Manichiello and Scott picked out and even acknowledged. However, rather than encouraging the authors to use them to tie everything together within the papers across borders and identities, they were used to bridge each of the papers between the papers in editorial asides. Seriously, if they would’ve just taken this as a given, at least 50 pages could’ve been cut out of the book due to repetitiveness.

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Book 330: Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen

Austen, Jane - Northanger AbbeyContinuing my “Jane-uary” theme, I’ve just finished Northanger Abbey in time for our Jane Austen Book Club (JABC) discussion, which was unfortunately postponed due to a blizzard here in Boston. In addition, this acts as my revitalization of my Classics Club attempt. I apparently only read two books last year. How embarrassing! I’ll read at least six this year with the JABC so that’s a bonus.

Let’s start with I’m ashamed to admit I forgot how absolutely lovable and amazing Henry Tilney is! This is one of the two Austen books I’ve only read once and that is will most definitely change in the future. On the scale of Austen heroes he’s always been lost in the non-Mr. Darcy fray for me. I think he is still behind Darcy, but his bookishness and (what I see as his) disdain for social norms made me laugh on numerous occasions!

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Book 329: Waiting for the Flood – Alexis Hall

Hall, Alexis - Waiting for the FloodIf I didn’t know better I’d say one of my good friends from high school (cough *Alexandra* cough) was writing under a pseudonym, “Alexis Hall” – HA! But that aside, I requested a copy of this novella from the publisher as the synopsis (Publisher’s website) caught my attention. I received a copy from the publisher and below is my honest response.

This is the story of Edwin and how he’s finally ready to get over his 10 year relationship which ended, not on bad terms, but on terms that he wasn’t able to comprehend. Having never been in a 10 year relationship (holy shit that’s 1/3 of my life – and Edwin’s!) I can’t really relate, but I can relate to coming out of a relationship not knowing what happened because it ended in a way that didn’t make sense and we apparently both thought and had different feelings on where things were and were going.

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Book 328: A Jane Austen Education – William Deresiewicz

Deresiewicz, William - A Jane Austen EducationWarning: Goodreads rant – skip to second paragraph. I’m not sure what jumped up everyone’s butts on Goodreads (I shouldn’t really be surprised), but this book doesn’t deserve as much vitriol as it has received on the site. So many people trashed it without even finishing the book, many obviously had read the synopsis (Amazon Affiliate link) and yet were shocked at what they read.

The book definitely deserves a lot of the criticism, but it doesn’t deserve the pure vitriol that Goodread’s reviewers thew at it. Sure, I wanted to smack Deresiewicz for being an insufferable grad student, but it’s very clear in the synopsis that the book was going to be full of naval gazing. He made a couple of questionable sexist and classist comments and he may have reduced a lot of Austen’s genius down to basics, but it would definitely work for people who are not familiar with Austen. Seriously, if you can’t find the good in a book, why bother finishing and trashing it? Just move on to the next book.

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