Friday, September 25, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

I wasn't sure if I wanted to read this work "By Jane Austen and
Seth Grahame-Smith."

The dilemma arose from how the author herself, whose work I adore, would perceive her literature being changed from something that upholds the virtues of common sense and prudence, to sensationalistic material.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and Maureen Johnson's inclusion of zombies into one of her former blog posts, strikes me as people saying, "Pride and Prejudice is boring, and I'm making it more interesting."

But I don't think Pride and Prejudice in its' original form and glory is boring. I like the character development and the way that I get wrapped up in the story despite the relatively small world of which Jane Austen wrote. It takes talent to make the ordinary, everyday interesting, and Jane Austen accomplished it.

Initially, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is amusing. By initially, in my own case, I am referring to the first few pages. It's kind of funny to see someone re-work authentic Romantic material to include the walking dead. After a few pages, though, I think the premise can begin to wear a bit thin.

I am, however, biased.

See, I'm not a big fan of zombies. To me, they're just...gross and relentless. Maybe that makes them realistic-ish, and I admit, I have a fairly strong stomach, but I just prefer more seductive undead creatures (and no, I'm not talking about the kind that glitter in the sun).

My biggest problem with the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, however, is that it takes a well-known, well-loved book, and changes the well-known, well-loved characters in that book. Spoilers will ensue.

Elizabeth and her sisters are zombie hunters, who have been to Asia to learn martial arts. Charlotte Lucas becomes a zombie. Mr. Darcy's aunt is some legendary zombie killer.

And, too often, where Ms. Austen's succinct prose and excellent ear at dialogue betrayed things about characters in a way that was not overly heavy on narration, in this "enhanced" edition, the author sometimes feels the need to go into explanation.

Basically, this book takes a book that is well-written and beautiful and turns it into a story that is not as well-written and farcical.

So, if you didn't like Pride and Prejudice in all of its nineteenth-century, wholly Austen-written glory, you might want to give this novel a try.

If, on the other hand, you're like me, and really enjoy Jane Austen's work the way that it is, already, I suggest allowing the opportunity to read this novel pass by.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Teenagers, and Angels, and Psychopaths, Oh My!

When I was a teenager, I became entranced with Elizabeth Chandler's writing when I read her Dark Secrets series. If I recall correctly, the books centered around the same location, but each book had its' own flavor, its' own strong, different female character.

I adored the Dark Secrets series and eagerly snatched up the latest book (there were four that I know of) when it was published. Then, I saw another book series by her, with pastel covers and romantic, off-putting titles (I don't tend to be a fan of pure romance). I picked them up and checked out the back cover, and found out it was romance with... angels. I declined buying the books. They sounded fantastic and ridiculous - and sappy.

Then, just a few days ago, I forgot to bring my book to work to read on lunch break, and had to go to Sam's Club to get something for home. Perusing the books section, I discovered this:

That's right. The Elizabeth Chandler Kissed by an Angel trilogy. I decided to give it a chance.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but I really enjoyed reading it. And since it's a romance, I decided to use this review as the last one for the Romance Reading Challenge I joined last December.

To begin with, I was glad I purchased the omnibus edition, rather than having to wait every few months for the next book to come out. The first two books ended on cliffhangers that made me eager to see what was going to happen next. A good marketing ploy to get people to keep buying the books, but kind of annoying for the reader.

The fact is, I did enjoy continuing to read, and I did want to know what happened next; thus, providing evidence that Chandler did a pretty good job creating suspense with this trilogy.

With regards to characterization, some of it was a bit scanty and stereotypical, but I think that, particularly concerning the main characters, Chandler portrayed different sides of some of the characters, sometimes so that the reader got to know the character(s) better, sometimes, to keep the reader wondering about the character.

The main character, Ivy Lyons, on the other hand, while pretty and smart, was too perfect. Of course, there were the standard myriad of guys drooling over her, and she was pretty, while not really seeming too aware of either fact. She was likable, but I kind of wanted to see more romance for other females in the books. And the fact is, when a girl builds a wall around herself such as Ivy does in the novels, the stand-offishness doesn't make guys want her more, it makes them give up even if they are interested.

I loved the character Beth, a romance writer - I was curious if that was how the author was, herself, as a teen. The character made me feel a bit bad, actually, being fictional and still more productive in her writing than I am.

The angels part of the books was essential, but not really too annoying. It was actually kind of nice - and since I'm pretty cynical, it must have been pretty well done, or I would let you know it was a cop-out/stupid/etc.

The books had an "old school" young adult feel to them – by which I mean that the story was interesting and well written, but it didn't feel like as much work had been put into the book as would be put into an adult novel. There is definitely humor and passion and suspense, but the romance feels unbelievable. Especially the "I love you"s. The reader doesn't really feel much of the romantic relationship between Tristan and Ivy. The reader experiences the chase, the first kiss, and a bit of the falling, but it feels like the two characters are "in love" in a “forever and ever” sort of manner way too fast.

I think this book definitely had its' moments, and I'm happy to say I still enjoy Chandler's writing, but if you're going to read it, don't expect a miraculously good book - though you can expect some miraculous happenings in the books.