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Who’s Psyched for the Pride & Prejudice & Zombies Movie?

When Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith first came out in 2010, I was excited to read it. As I read the book, I could picture some of the scenes unfolding on a movie screen, and now I’ll be able to see it in action. I’m really hoping that the sparring match between Lizzy and Mr. Darcy is in the film, since it was my favorite part of the book.

Here’s a bit of my review:

Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a mash-up of Jane Austen’s classic, Pride and Prejudice, and a zombie conflict. Grahame-Smith effectively weaves in the zombie attacks and how the Bennet clan dispatches them with skill. A majority of this novel is Austen’s words, but the dialogue and descriptions that are modified to accommodate zombies are done with aplomb.

I’m hoping that Anna and I can make a girl’s night out to see this movie!

William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace by Ian Doescher

Source: Quirk Books
Hardcover, 176 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace by Ian Doescher is just what it espouses to be, a Shakespearean rendition of Star Wars.  Doescher has clearly studied enough Shakespeare and is creative enough to pull this off, and as an avid reader and lover of Shakespeare and Star Wars, this one was a perfect fit.  In fact, I was chuckling to myself as I heard the movie version of Jar Jar Binks in my head speaking in near iambic pentameter.  It was hilarious.  If I could see this one filmed, I would.  There are people who hate Jar Jar, and there are people like me who just adore him.  What I loved about Doescher’s rendition of him is that there is more to the character than appears outwardly to the other characters.  The re-imagining of this polarizing character was fascinating, and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next – even though I know the story.

Amidala: “A youth is no more frail than older folk,
No less intelligent, no less sublime.
Our steps are newer, yet we are no jewel
To be protected and encas’d by them.” (pg. 20)

Anakin: “Why do we worship at the shrine of change?
Hath change e’er put a meal upon our board?
Is change betoken to something positive?
Or may it be that change for changing’s sake
But changes good to evil, bad to worse?” (pg. 99)

This rendition can be read for its homage to Shakespeare and Star Wars, and it can be read for its humor, but it also is multi-layered with meaning. What does it mean to accept change so easily, and does it mean that youth is unequal to older people with experience? Doescher also speaks of the hidden commentary in Star Wars about perception and the “locals” of Naboo, in that the Jedi believe them to be primitive and less worldly. Fans of the movie franchise and its many incarnations have debated many things like these, as they have been debated in the study of Shakespeare and other literature, why not do it in a modern and fun mash-up like William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace by Ian Doescher.

ianAbout the Author:

Ian Doescher is a Portland native, and lives in Portland with his spouse and two children. He has a B.A. in Music from Yale University, a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary. He is currently the Director of Nonprofit Marketing at Pivot Group LLC, a full service marketing, research and web agency in Portland, Oregon.

Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Book Covers by Margaret C. Sullivan

Source: Quirk
Hardcover, 224 pgs
On Amazon and on Kobo

Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Book Covers by Margaret C. Sullivan is chock full of covers from when Jane Austen’s books were first published to more modern renditions as publishers strove to attract the attention of young adult readers.  The covers range from plain leather and cloth to campy and romantic, but Sullivan does not stop there.  She offers her readers a bit of publishing and copyrights history, along with some family biographical notes.  Austen’s novels have endured for two centuries, and some volumes included illustrations by artists and critical introductions by famous critics of the time.  In the back of the book, there are synopses of the novels and a guide for buyers of Austen’s works, with some sage advice about staying within a budget — especially since some volumes can cost $500 or more.

This is a beautiful rendition of the publishing history of one novelist, with carefully reproduced covers, quotations pulled from the novels, and great comments about the books, the author, the publishing industry of the time, and more.  Readers of Jane Austen — no matter how new to her books — will love learning who coined the term “Janeite”, how wealthier buyers in the 1800s personalized their bound books with signature bindings, and critical comments about the book cover decisions that publishers made given the trends of the time.

Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Book Covers by Margaret C. Sullivan contains beautiful artwork, commentary, and more for Jane Austen readers, book publishing connoisseurs, and history buffs.  Using the resurgence of Austen’s work in movies to redesign book covers is just one trend that will captivate modern readers, but this volume has a lot to offer. A perfect gift for the Jane Austen lover or history buff in your house.

About the Author:

Margaret C. Sullivan is the author of The Jane Austen Handbook, (my review) editrix of Austenblog.com, and an active member of the Jane Austen Society of North America.

William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher

Source: Quirk Books
Hardcover, 176 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher is the second installment in this series and combines the longevity of Shakespeare’s plays with that of George Lucas’ iconic science fiction movie franchise, Star Wars.  Like in the first of this series, Doescher uses the chorus to describe action, but he also uses characters to describe some of the action.  Moreover, he provides the inner thoughts to characters who do not have them in the movies, such as Lando, and in that way, he provides greater depth to their characters.  Even the animals and creatures, such as the Wampa on Hoth, have voices that are heard, though that can be a bit silly — though likely meant in fun.  Yoda of the movies may sound Shakespearean, but here there is an added twist in that he speaks in modified Haiku.

“Hath not a Sith eyes?
Hath not a Sith such feelings, heart, and soul,
As any Jedi Knight did e’er possess?
If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you
Blast us, shall we not injur’d be?” (page 34)

Readers will find homage to the classic plays, including The Merchant of Venice, and many of the asides, monologues, and soliloquys provide much greater depth to the story and characters.  While these books follow the movies, Doescher also uses his imagination to make the story reminiscent of Shakespeare’s tragedies and histories — with this book in the series reflecting the betrayal, love, and duals prevalent in the classic plays.  William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher is refreshingly fun, and while it does offer some deeper characters than those in the movies, it is not meant to be taken too seriously.

Also Reviewed:

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope

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About the Author:

Ian Doescher has loved Shakespeare since eighth grade and was born 45 days after Star Wars Episode IV was released. He has a B.A. in Music from Yale University, a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in Ethics from Union Theological Seminary. Ian lives in Portland, Oregon, with his spouse Jennifer and two sons. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is his first book. Visit Ian online at www.iandoescher.com. [Photo by Shan Applegate]

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher

Source: Quirk Books
Hardcover, 174 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher is another entertaining mix of classics and modern pop culture, combining the iambic pentameter and language of Shakespeare with the modern pomp of science fiction movies by George Lucas.  Doescher uses the plot and characters of the original Star Wars movie with an inventive and lyrical play format from Shakespeare.  He combines his knowledge of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Hamlet, and other plays with the pop culture of space travel.

“”O gods above, why have I once again
Been short with R2, sending him away?
I trust he knoweth well I hold him dear,
Though in his presence oft my speech is cruel.
‘Tis words that do betray my better self
When harshly they express my droidly rage.'” (page 21)

What’s most interesting is how he translates R2-D2’s beeps and ticks into thoughts and statements to C-3PO and the other characters.  These droids garner more human-like qualities through the Shakespearean language. Complete with asides and soliloquy, Doescher clearly has studied not only Star Wars but also Shakespeare’s plays and methods. In the back of the book, he talks about the similarities between the two greats and the influence of classic myths and archetypes that came before them.  And like any mesh of pop culture and classics, this novel includes more modern language and drawings to illustrate what would occur on stage.  In some cases, a Greek play-like chorus is used to narrate the action.  One of the best scenes happens when Luke Skywalker, like Hamlet, speaks to the helmet of a stormtrooper as if it were Poor Yorick.

“Forsooth, a great disturbance in the Force
Have I just felt. ‘Twas like a million mouths
Cried out in fear at once, and then were gone,
All hush’d and quiet–silent to the last.
I fear a stroke of evil hath occurr’d.” (page 88-9)

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher is just the first installment in another line of Quirk Books that is bound to find a willing audience.  This action-packed retelling does not stray far from George Lucas’ creation, but what’s intriguing is how Doescher uses Shakespearean language to spice up the drama.  It’s witty and fun, though the term “verily” seems a bit overused.  At any rate, an entertaining novel to spend a rainy afternoon or snowed in evening with.

About the Author:

Ian Doescher has loved Shakespeare since eighth grade and was born 45 days after Star Wars Episode IV was released. He has a B.A. in Music from Yale University, a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in Ethics from Union Theological Seminary. Ian lives in Portland, Oregon, with his spouse Jennifer and two sons. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is his first book. Visit Ian online at www.iandoescher.com. [Photo by Shan Applegate]

8th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.

Giveaway: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice Turns 200

Jane Austen is best know for her novels and her close-knit family, particularly her relationship with Cassandra, who painted a famous portrait of her sister and for burning a number of her sister’s letters following her death.  Following her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, Austen turned to her second novel, Pride & Prejudice, originally titled First Impressions.  Her second novel has been one of my favorites for many years, and I think I’ve read it at least five times or at least parts of it at any given moment.  Each time I read it, I learn or discover something new, and I think that is the mark of a successful author.

January 28, 2013 is the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s most beloved novel, Pride & Prejudice.  Austen’s novel examines the differences between social classes, elements of marriage and morality, and comments on the societal expectations regarding the manners and education of women in different circles.  It is often considered a great love story even as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy spar with one another and must overcome great adversity and societal impediments to find their way back to one another. 

The novel and the author have become so popular in modern society that a number of spinoffs, continuations, and re-tellings have cropped up in recent years, and there are a number of blogs dedicated to her novels and those other novels and books.  Facebook even has a page dedicated to the 200th birthday of Pride & PrejudiceCheck it out.

As part of my Jane Austen celebration, check out the giveaway below.

Quirk Books is offering one copy of The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret C. Sullivan to one winner in the United States, Canada, or United Kingdom.

I reviewed this in February of 2011, and said that it was “a great companion for the Jane Austen fanatic and fan because it offers guidance on how young men and women navigated a complex set of social rules and even broke them at times.  As each moment in life is addressed, Sullivan also offers moments in Austen’s work where traditions are bent.”

If you want to check out my interview with Sullivan, feel free.  She offers some great insights into her love of Austen and what books she recommends for fellow Austen lovers.

Quirk Books is offering one copy of Pride & Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith to one winner in the United States, Canada, or United Kingdom.

In my review from 2010, I called the novel “an exercise in revision and an examination of Austen’s characters in a new light.  Many readers will disagree with Grahame-Smith’s portrayal of Lizzy as a cutthroat assassin who is quickly turned by her own emotions or strict sense of duty and honor, particularly since she often talks of dispatching her peers for slighting her family, imagines beheading her own sister Lydia simply because she prattles on, and other unmentionable actions.”

To enter for one or both of these books, leave a comment about the first time you read Jane Austen and what you enjoyed about her work or the first time you read Pride & Prejudice and why you would reread it.  If you have never read Austen before, leave a comment about what book you’d be interested in reading and why.

Deadline to enter is Jan. 11, 2013, at 11:59 PM EST.

Review of Quirk’s The Baby Owner’s Books

Normally, I don’t review three books in one post, but I’m making an exception for this set of baby-related books.  When the publicist at Quirk found out my husband and I were having our first child, they kindly sent us some reference guides on caring for her.

The Baby Owner’s Manual by Louis Borgenicht, MD, and Joe Borgenicht, D.A.D., can be used as a reference guide by all new parents and probably some who already have children.  The main approach of the book is similar to how a manual would talk about your new stereo or other consumer product by first describing its parts and functions and then discussing care and maintenance.  There are tips on how to perfectly swaddle the baby and how to deal with emergency situations.  Included also is a section on what accessories are not included, such as bottles and diapers, and a caution that some “models” may vary.  New parents don’t have a ton of time to read this book cover-to-cover, but it is easily dipped into for advice, particularly if they encounter a particular problem at feeding or bed time.

Readers will enjoy the instructional tone, but also the witty nature of the concept of baby as product, which eliminates the need for hard-to-understand medical jargon and other instructional nonsense that leave parents confused or bored.  Most of these tips are practical and easy to employ without incurring great expense, which is fantastic since most things related to babies are expensive and time-consuming.

The companion The Baby Owner’s Maintenance Log wasn’t as useful given that new mothers and fathers are merely scrambling around trying to find time to sleep, let alone write down each feeding and bowel movement.  Inside, there are spaces to record name, birth weight, eye color, bowel movements, feeding times and ounces, and of course developmental feats like rolling over.  To be honest, readers will not likely have time to write all of these moments down, though doctors will expect you to know roughly how many ounces the baby is eating, how frequently, and how long s/he sleeps.  It would be a blessing to have all of that information written down in one place, but from a practical standpoint, it is unlikely to happen unless the parents are super-organized and write down the details in the moment.

Finally, The Baby Owner’s Games and Activities Book by Lynn Rosen and Joe Borgenight offers a wide variety of activities to do with a baby and is grouped by specific age ranges to ensure proper development.  Again, this reference guide offers a fun and non-clinical look at development.  Surprisingly, I found myself doing some of the activities outside our daughter’s age range, but she seemed to just go with the flow and gobble up the knowledge.  The age ranges are not hard and fast rules/categories.

Babies tend to learn by modeling after activities done by their parents.  If you make a funny face, they will try it to — emulating you.  If you clap, they will try to clap.  Its fun to watch babies grow and adapt to new activities, even at ages younger than those outlined in this book.  There are probably activities that new parents will not have thought of or done that are included in this book, like having their child smell different flowers, etc.  These are merely exercises in development, but also in having fun with baby!

Overall, Quirk has an excellent set of baby manual books to help new parents that won’t be overly prescriptive or boring.  They will teach new parents and babies alike, but also be fun and enjoyable.  The only one in the set that seems least useful is the log book, but that’s just due to time constraints.  It could come in handy for parents who have nanny’s or babysitters and want to know what their baby did when they were at work or having date night.

This is my 40th-42nd book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Haiku Mama by Kari Anne Roy

Haiku Mama by Kari Anne Roy is a slim volume of 17-syllable poems called haiku, which is a Japanese form of poetry.  Rather than celebrate the joys and beauty of nature, these haiku celebrate the joys and frustrations of new motherhood.

These little poems, including the one featured in the 91st Virtual Poetry Circle, not only will make mothers chuckle, but they also contain a bit of truth that will have them nodding “yes, yes, yes.”

The poems are cute, quick reads for busy moms and the book contains illustrations on a number of pages, though readers may wish for more apt illustrations considering some of the topics addressed in the haiku.  For instance, one haiku discusses the typical technique of pretending the spoon or fork carrying the food is an airplane entering the hangar (aka the child’s mouth).  An illustration of the airplane and hangar method and its food-splattering results would pack even more of a punch.

However, this volume of poetry is not meant to be analyzed too closely, but merely taken for what it is . . . a way to decompress, laugh with another mother who has experienced the same thing, and look back on raising a child with some whimsy.  Haiku Mama by Kari Anne Roy is just the break a new mother needs.

About the Author and the book:

Quirk Books, an independent publisher, makes this volume of haiku poetry available from Kari Anne Roy, the perpetrator of Haiku of the Day blog.  Please check out her blog and her bio.

As part of the National Poetry Month 2011 blog tour, please stop by Rhapsody in Books for today’s tour stop and review of I Wanna Be Your Shoebox.

 

 

This is my 4th book for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

 

 

This is my 10th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Interview With Margaret C. Sullivan, Author of The Jane Austen Handbook

I recently read and reviewed The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret C. Sullivan (check out my review) by Quirk Books and adored the set up, the illustrations, and the information within its pages about the Regency period in England and the instances it plays a pivotal role in Jane Austen’s novels.

Author and Jane Austen blogger, Margaret C. Sullivan kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her book and her writing.  I’m happy to have this interview as part of the Celebration of Indie & Small Presses this month, and I hope you enjoy it.

1.  When did you begin to fall in love with Jane Austen and her writing and why?

I didn’t read Jane Austen’s novels until I was in my late 20s, and even then it took me a few years to work my way through them. I read Emma and Pride and Prejudice a year or so apart and liked them well enough to keep going. The third of her novels I read was Persuasion and I fell in love, hard. I loved the language and the dark humor and the intensity of feeling, not to mention the best love letter in the history of Western literature. “You pierce my soul.” All these years later those four words still make my toes curl.

2.  When did this love of Austen transform itself into more than just a hobby and into a passion with its own blog and other books?

Not long after I started becoming really enthusiastic about Austen’s work, we had the mid-1990s rush of film adaptations—first Sense and Sensibility, then Persuasion, then Emma (it actually took me a couple of years to get around to watching the 1995 Pride and Prejudice—I didn’t have cable, and was really intimidated by the idea of renting six videotapes). Around the same time there was a big rush of Austen biographies, and it was easy to feed the beast. Things calmed down around 1999, and then in early 2004 it started up again—a new film version of P&P was being planned, the producers were trying to get financing for Becoming Jane—and there was very little information, so rumors were being passed around as fact. I thought the fandom needed a news site, like the Harry Potter fandom site The Leaky Cauldron, dedicated to news about Jane Austen in popular culture, and I started AustenBlog. There is still a lot of interest in Austen-related films, despite the generally disappointing nature of the recent batch of films (in my opinion, which is not widely shared).

3.  Explain your thoughts on the phenomenon or retellings, sequels, and mashups with zombies that now attach themselves to Jane Austen’s novels?

I’ve been writing Austen fan fiction, some of which I have published, for more than ten years, so obviously I’m quite open to the idea in general. However, some of the quality of these productions is not good. Some are very well-written, but I personally prefer those that adhere more to the originals. There are some books that have been very popular that go far afield of the originals, but they are not to my own taste unless they are doing it for satire and humor.

Speaking of far-out satire, I thought the idea of the first monster mashup, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, was really funny, and I still do—and funny on many levels, not just the whole crazy juxtaposition of Austen and zombies, but the idea of repressed 19th-century British gentry being “zombies” like the suburbanites in the Living Dead movies. I also liked the presentation of the book as an edited “classic” novel—that kind of humor is very much to my taste, and I think would have been to Jane Austen’s taste as well, as she was a gifted satirist and understood a subtle, straight-faced approach to humor.

I had no idea it was going to be such a big hit, and I had no idea that it would create such a really nasty backlash against Jane Austen. The hipsters who hated being forced to read her books in school now had an excuse to trash her, and sometimes in a manner that showed the critics distressingly ignorant of the actual novels (“they’re all bonnets and tea-drinking!”). I realize Austen’s books are not to everyone’s taste, but she took the novel and dragged it into its modern form from a morass of 18th-century melodrama and overwritten romance (in the literary sense, meaning not reflecting real life) and showed that it was okay and even interesting to write about everyday people and events. A lot of the “rules” we now follow for writing fiction can be found in the way Austen shaped her books differently from her predecessors—write what you know, concentrate on your hero’s story, and leave out stuff that doesn’t move the plot along, however amusing or interesting. You don’t have to like or even read her books, but I submit that all those writing fiction today owe her a debt. We can draw a line in the development of the novel from Richardson, Burney, Radcliffe, and Fielding through Jane Austen to Dickens, Eliot, James, right up to the present. I doubt that in 2011 we would be writing 12-volume epistolary romances if Austen hadn’t published, but I think literature would be poorer for the loss.

4.  Do you have a retelling, sequel, or film adaptation?  Why do you enjoy those particular ones over others?

I don’t know if I have one over-arching item that stands out, but certainly within the individual categories I have favorites.

My favorite retelling is Colonel Brandon’s Diary by Amanda Grange. Brandon has a really romantic, dramatic backstory, and it’s all right there in Sense and Sensibility if you look carefully! But Grange did a great job not making it overly melodramatic and unAustenish. When Eliza died in Brandon’s arms, I cried; being on the train at the time, it was kind of embarrassing. But if you ever thought Marianne Dashwood should not have married Brandon because he was a boring old guy in a flannel waistcoat, read his backstory, because it’s as romantic as she could ever have wished. I mean, he fights a duel, for crying out loud!

A sequel I read a long time ago and then re-read quite recently for my Jane Austen book group is Pemberley Shades by D.A. Bonavia-Hunt. It is a really charming sequel to P&P, about four years after the Darcys are married. Lizzy is witty and amusing, just as she ought, and it’s fun to watch Darcy not only take her teasing but actually enjoy it and tease her back—clearly he has learned! Bonavia-Hunt obviously read J.E. Austen-Leigh’s Memoir of his aunt, in which he passed on some tidbits Jane herself let drop about the lives of her characters after the novel ended, and some whimsical bits in her letters about Mrs. Darcy’s and Mrs. Bingley’s favorite colors.

My favorite film adaptation is the 1995 Persuasion (which is also my favorite Austen novel). While not a perfect adaptation, it is beautiful and romantic and feels very real, and the cast is just marvelous. It’s the only adaptation of Persuasion that doesn’t mess up Captain Wentworth’s gorgeous letter to Anne. Also it makes me want to drink tea, and tea is good for you. They are forever drinking tea in that movie.

Some other books and films I’ve enjoyed that are not directly in those categories are The Jane Austen Book Club (both book and film), Michael Thomas Ford’s book Jane Bites Back, which is a hilarious sort of spoof of the worst excesses of Janeitism that I think Jane herself would have loved, and Laurie Viera Rigler’s books Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict. The thing all these have in common is that they celebrate our love of Jane Austen without being twee or overly sentimental.

5.  Beyond reading Austen-related materials, what other books have you read recently and would recommend to others?

Unfortunately I haven’t had much time to read non-Austen-related stuff lately! I read a lot of classics, but in many cases they are books that Austen would have read, so that makes them kind of Austen-related. However, I do recommend them on their own: anything by Fanny Burney, The Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliffe, and the rest of the “horrid novels” named in Northanger Abbey.

I’m a big fan of Elizabeth Gaskell’s work and there’s a Gaskell Blog that is running a reading challenge for 2011. Austen fans should check it out—I think they would like Gaskell’s work.

My favorite modern book that I’ve read in the last year or so was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. What a charming, thoroughly delightful book, sweet and romantic and heartbreaking. I just loved it. It’s not a very recent book, but I recommend it highly!

6.  Please describe your ideal writing space versus your current writing space or if you currently have your ideal writing space, please describe it (you can also include a few photos of your favorite aspects of that room).

I think my ideal writing space is in my head more than a physical place. It’s hard for me to write when I am busy and stressed out—there is too much furniture up there (as Gandalf said of Barliman Butterbur in The Lord of the Rings, my mind is like a lumber-room: thing wanted always buried). So anywhere where I am left alone and have time and space to clear out my head and concentrate on my task works for me. That can be anything from a busy coffee shop to the balcony of my apartment on a warm spring day. Lately I’ve been getting a lot done by getting up very early (5 a.m.). If I went to bed early and am well-rested, that’s the best time of day for me to write.

7.  What projects are you working on now? Could you provide my readers with a few hints?

A few years ago, I wrote a novella for the Jane Austen Centre at Bath’s online magazine, a sequel to Northanger Abbey called There Must Be Murder. It was serialized over a year. I had some requests for hard copy publication, so recently I published it as a paperback, and it’s also available as a free ebook—I’m very enthusiastic about ebooks and have four ebook readers, plus my smartphone! I also have a short story in an anthology being published by Ballantine later this year called Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by my friend and fellow Jane Austen blogger Laurel Ann Nattress. My story is a tidbit of backstory from Persuasion, inspired by my love for Age of Sail novels such as the Hornblower series.

I’m also working on a couple of things off and on, some Austen-related and some not. I don’t like to talk too much about stuff in progress, though, in case it goes pear-shaped, as it so often does. I have lots of concepts but they don’t often develop into actual plots. 😉

Thanks for having me! This was fun.

Thank you, Margaret, for being part of the March Celebration of Indie & Small Presses.

About Quirk Books:

An independent publisher from Philadelphia, Pa., Quirk Books/Classics blends the work of classic literary masters with new scenes of horrific creatures and gruesome action. The publisher strives to mesh class literature with pop culture with the hope of creating literary cult-classics.

Also from a publisher letter: “Quirk Books isn’t just a creative publishing company, it’s also a place where dreams come true (especially the ones involving monkeys), where there are no stupid ideas, where words and pictures live together in ironic bliss, and where bills are paid, invoices are sent, and numbers are crunched. In Quirk, you’ll find a publisher of impractical reference and irreverent nonfiction (probably the first ever). You’ll find a publisher of humor books, of pop culture books, of gift books, of reference books, and of hybrid books that cross over from market to market and genre to genre.”

The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret C. Sullivan

The Jane Austen Handbook:  Proper Life Skills from Regency England by Margaret C. Sullivan, which Quirk Books will publish on March 8, is a nonfiction step-by-step guide on how to live in Regency England as a young lady or young man, though most of the advice pertains to women.  Chock full of illustrations of common dress for men and women, among other traditions, the handbook is practical and fun.  Humor is not forgotten either, as Jane Austen would have poked fun at certain traditions, so too does Sullivan.

For instance in the section “How to Raise Your Children,” among the tips listed to maintain decorum and sanity in the household is to provide children with cake!  “If all else fails, liberal slices of cake solve many a child-rearing problems.” (page 72)

The book is divided into three sections:  logistics of life among the gentry in Regency England; the ins and outs of daily life; and the rules for choosing a prospective husband.  Readers interested to learn how much Mr. Darcy is worth today should check out the handbook because apparently there is some controversy in the matter.

Each chapter contains a quote from one of Austen’s novels that applies to the contents of each chapter, and readers new to classic Austen books can rely on this handbook to understand the differences between a port-chaise, a hack, and other forms of transportation as well as the differences between various dresses worn by young ladies.  There is a schedule of a woman’s typical day running a household, the responsibilities of gentleman, what these people did in their leisure time, and how to recognize the gentry from royalty and more.

The appendix contains synopses of Jane Austen’s novels and other works, plus a list of film adaptations, sequels, retellings, and other “paraliterature.”  There are a number of other resources, a glossary, and selected bibliography as well.  The Jane Austen Handbook:  Proper Life Skills from Regency England by Margaret C. Sullivan is a great companion for the Jane Austen fanatic and fan because it offers guidance on how young men and women navigated a complex set of social rules and even broke them at times.  As each moment in life is addressed, Sullivan also offers moments in Austen’s work where traditions are bent.  Overall, a fantastic guide to a time period that many modern readers have a hard time imagining but will have fun navigating in not only Austen’s novels but also in the handbook.  It gives new meaning to role-playing.

About the Author:

Margaret C. Sullivan is the editrix of Austenblog.com. She lives in Philadelphia.

This is my 7th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith

Steve Hockensmith’s Dawn of the Dreadfuls is a whimsical prequel to the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies mash-up.  But even though it is a prequel, the struggles with the zombies occurred long before this story begins and this is just a rebirth of the plague.

“Capturing a dreadful, it turned out, was the easy part.  Getting it to go where one wanted — that was nearly impossible.

Dr. Keckilpenny’s custom-built zombie net fit over the unmentionable’s head and upper torso snugly enough, pinning its arms to its sides.  But the only way to get the creature to do anything other than hurl itself, snarling, at the nearest sign of life was to push or pull it by the attached rod.”  (Page 192)

In this story, the Bennet girls are being trained in the dark arts following the rise of the undead in the English countryside.  Unlike previous mash-ups, Hockensmith stays true to Austen’s language and characterizations, as much as he can with the introduction of zombies and ninjas.  Mr. Bennet seeks to take on the tutelage of his daughters on his own, but the Order soon sends him Master Hawksworth, a young man of 26, who takes a keen interest in his daughter Elizabeth.

Along the way the Bennet sisters work hard to polish their skills, vanquish unmentionables, and reclaim their dignity in a society that finds their modern ways unappealing until it is convenient for them.  From the strong and reserved master to the single-minded Dr. Keckilpenny, the Bennets meet obstacles head on and overcome them.  Some of the same societal prejudices exist in this mash-up, but it’s also full of fun dialogue, swift action, and bungling antics.  And readers will see a different side of Mr. Bennet and learn some of Mrs. Bennet’s past in Dawn of the Dreadfuls.

And for fun, check out this cool book trailer.

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Don’t forget to stop over at 32 Poems Blog and Diary of an Eccentric today as part of the National Poetry Month Blog Tour today!

This is my 22nd book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

This is my 4th book for the Jane Austen Challenge 2010.

FTC Disclosure: Thanks to FSB Associates and Quirk Classics for sending me a free copy of Dawn of the Dreadfuls for review.  Clicking on title and image links will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated.

© 2010, Serena Agusto-Cox of Savvy Verse & Wit. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Savvy Verse & Wit or Serena’s Feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

“Sadly, this action prevented her from saving the second musket man, who had been pulled from his perch.  He screamed as the dreadfuls held him down and began to tear organs from his living belly and feast upon them.”  (Page 117)

Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a mash-up of Jane Austen’s classic, Pride and Prejudice, and a zombie conflict.  Grahame-Smith effectively weaves in the zombie attacks and how the Bennet clan dispatches them with skill.  A majority of this novel is Austen’s words, but the dialogue and descriptions that are modified to accommodate zombies are done with aplomb.

“‘My dear Miss Elizabeth, I have the highest opinion in the world in your excellent judgment in all matters within the scope of your understanding, particularly in the slaying of Satan’s armies, but permit me to say, that there must be a wide difference between the established forms of ceremony amongst the laity, and those which regulate the clergy.  After all you may wield God’s sword, but I wield His wisdom.  And it is wisdom, dear cousin, which will ultimately rid us of our present difficulties with the undead.'” (Page 77)

Fun and entertaining on a base level, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is an exercise in revision and an examination of Austen’s characters in a new light.  Many readers will disagree with Grahame-Smith’s portrayal of Lizzy as a cutthroat assassin who is quickly turned by her own emotions or strict sense of duty and honor, particularly since she often talks of dispatching her peers for slighting her family, imagines beheading her own sister Lydia simply because she prattles on, and other unmentionable actions.

“‘Jane, no one who has ever seen you together can doubt his affection.  Miss Bingley, I am sure, cannot.  She may not be a warrior, but she has cunning enough.  Dearest sister, I implore you — this unhappiness is best remedied by the hasty application of a cutlass to her throat.'”  (Page 95)

However, one of the most perceptive and playfully done sequences in the novel is the sparring match between Mr. Darcy and Lizzy.  Some readers could find this sequence too forceful, but others may view the physical combat between the characters as just a manifestation of their verbal tete-a-tete in the original novel.  The elements of zombies and ninjas provide additional circumstances that further delineate the class differences Austen sought to examine in her novels, enabling readers to further investigate the social conventions and prejudices inherent in this society.

There are other instances, however, in which these revised scenes do not work as well, and many of the social conventions of the time are overlooked in favor of ensuring the Bennet sisters, who are of little means, were shipped to the Orient for training in the deadly arts — even if it was with the inferior Chinese Shaolin monks –and were prepared for combat, which is inevitable in a nation nearly overrun by the undead.  In Austen’s novel, it would be unconventional for Lizzy to converse so openly with Wickham about Darcy, and it would be outside convention for Darcy to write her a letter to explain himself.  Here, convention is defied even more so in that the Bennet women are trained to kill — even if it is only zombies — and Lizzy openly displays her talents and shuns marriage.

Austen purists will NOT enjoy this novel unless they loosen their reverence for the author’s work.  Overall, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a creative revision with an edge that modern readers may enjoy for its drama and action-packed zombie slayings.  There is a lot more to this rendition than simple entertainment.

This is my 3rd book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge, though should I consider it a new author if a majority of the book is written by Jane Austen, who is an old favorite.

This is my 2nd book for the Jane Austen Challenge 2010!

FTC Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies from FSB Associates for review.  Clicking on titles or images can bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated.