Kim’s Guest Review of Mr. Darcy Came to Dinner by Jack Caldwell

mdctdjcMy latest review for Austenprose is Mr. Darcy Came to Dinner by Jack Caldwell. The name Jack Caldwell may ring a bell for some of you. He is the author of Pemberley Ranch, a book that Todd and I both reviewed (see Todd’s/Mine.) Caldwell is one of the few male authors that exist in the Jane Austen fan fiction sphere. As such, he captures my attention with each novel he writes as he is able to offer male insight into Darcy’s mind (and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to know what that man was thinking?!)

Mr. Darcy Came to Dinner is a comedic retelling of Pride and Prejudice that lands Darcy in the living room of the Bennet household as he recovers from a broken leg. How did he got that broken leg? You’d have to ask Elizabeth’s adorable cat Cassandra! What ensues in the Bennet household as Darcy recovers is truly hilarious. I highly recommend this read!

For a direct link to my review click here.

Charlie’s Review of The Geek’s Guide to Dating By Eric Smith

17568806When I was given The Geek’s Guide to Dating by Eric Smith to read, I was intrigued by the concept as I identify myself as a 21st century geek. We all know that this is a cool thing these days, even though I have had these interests long before they were cool. As far as dating advice goes, anyone who knows me knows I don’t need that. I was quite the ladies’ man before I found the love of my life. So, I read this book solely based on the entertainment factor as I have no need for help in my love life. However, for all you out there looking for that special someone, The Geek’s Guide to Dating is not just entertaining, but may actually help you succeed!

From the publisher:

Boldly Go Where No Geek Has Gone Before! You keep your action figures in their original packaging. Your closets are full of officially licensed Star Wars merchandise. You’re hooked on Elder Scrolls and Metal Gear, but now you’ve discovered an even bigger obsession: the new girl who just moved in down the hall. What’s a geek to do? Take some tips from The Geek’s Guide to Dating. This hilarious primer is jam-packed with cheat codes, walkthroughs, and power-ups for navigating the perils and pitfalls of your love life with ease. Geeks of all ages will find answers to the ultimate questions of life, the universe, and everything romantic, from First Contact to The Fellowship of the Ring and beyond. The Geek’s Guide to Dating will teach fanboys everywhere to love long and prosper.

This guide is a geek reference bible. From Star Wars to Star Trek to Doctor Who, the list goes on and on. It’s very heavy on the video games references as well (just look at the cover.) All of these witty references have a purpose, though, and they apply themselves towards being useful knowledge. Whether you need help meeting someone in the real world or in cyber space, there is something here for you!

Referring to the reader as “Player One”, this book seems like it’s specifically made for guys, which is always a geek stereotype, but there are plenty of girl geeks out there too! With that being said, there is a little something for all of us here. This isn’t your average self-help nonsense. As I said earlier, this is more of a geek culture book, and reading all the references makes it a great read and much more than a dating book. This guide touches on not just how, but when to talk to the ladies. Something that stood out in the book was that it teaches readers that they WILL fail, and that is OK. Just as I have experienced in life, as has almost everyone else in the dating game, sometimes you fall, but you just have to pick yourself back up again. Learn from your mistakes and life just gets better. Eventually you all will be as lucky as me and find your Princess Leia (I am obviously Han Solo.)

All and all, Smith has constructed an excellent geek read, even if you aren’t looking for dating advice. It’s well written, creative, and funny (the list goes on and on.) His knack for understanding the geek culture really makes the book shine. I would love to see him write a Sci-Fi novel! While some may not agree, I really believe this book can appeal to not just guys, but girls as well. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves all things geek because at its core, that is what it really is. In the end, it definitely can help out with some dating hints, but you are going to want to read this for all its references.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Geek’s Guide to Dating by Eric Smith
Quirk Books (2013)
Hardcover: 208 pages
ISBN: 9781594746437

Special thanks to Quirk Books for my review copy!

Kim’s Guest Review of Mr. Darcy’s Guide to Courtship by Fitzwilliam Darcy & Emily Brand

mdgtcfdMy latest review went live over on the Austenprose blog! This time I reviewed a HILARIOUS book entitled Mr. Darcy’s Guide to Courtship.  Guess who wrote it? None other than Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy himself!

Complete with guest sections from Caroline Bingley, Mr. Collins, and George Wickham – this was one book that had me laughing from cover to cover.

For a link to my complete review, click here.

This is my tenth completed review for the Pride and  Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge

#43 A Review of The Canterbury Tales (Graphic Novel) by Geoffrey Chaucer and Seymour Chwast

If I remember correctly, the first time I was introduced to The Canterbury Tales was in high school.  I remember instantly falling in love with Chaucer’s tongue-in-cheek humor and how he infused that humor with parables that left one with a lesson learned.  When I was at the bookstore and found that a graphic novel version existed, I of course needed to buy it and see how creative Seymour Chwast was in his interpretation of Chaucer’s great work.

For those of you not familiar with The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer writes the tale of 30 pilgrims that are making their way to the Canterbury Cathedral.  Chaucer originally intended for each pilgrim to tell a tale to and from the Cathedral, for a total of 60 works.  Unfortunately, he died after completing 24 tales, of which we will never know the true order in which they are meant to be told.  What is complete, however, are the funny, serious, intriguing, intelligent, and overall entertaining tales of these pilgrims.  From the shockingly raunchy and funny tale of the Wife of Bath to the pious tale of the Prioress, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales cover the whole emotional spectrum and evoke both laughter and sorrow from the reader.

One thing that I think makes people frightened to read The Canterbury Tales or any other Medieval literature is the language barrier.  When I first read the tales it was when I was still in school, and was therefore being taught how to translate the text.  Once I was able to understand fully what each tale was about, why certain themes were important, and what made them funny, I developed a love of them.  What’s great about the graphic novel version is that it’s written not in its original text but a hip, modernized version of today’s English language.  Even the illustrations got in the “modern game”, depicting the pilgrims riding motorcycles instead of horses.  In doing this Chwast has opened up The Canterbury Tales to  not only a new generation of readers, but also a whole new audience in general.

My only critique of the graphic novel is that some of the tales’ adaptations weren’t written cohesively.  The Canterbury Tales is a huge undertaking in its normal format, so to squeeze all of that into 144 pages of text and illustrations is definitely not a simple job.  I felt that some of the stories could have used a little more tender loving care in their adaptation.  Despite this, the humor and morality of the tales still shone through well enough for any newcomers to the tales.

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my twelfth completed review for the Around The Stack In How Many Ways Challenge

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer and Seymour Chwast
Bloomsbury USA (2011)
Hardcovers: 144 pages
ISBN: 9781608194872

Adam’s Review of Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

Hark! A VagrantWelcome back to another of my graphic novel reviews.  I am really excited about writing this review because it combines two of my greatest loves: history and pop culture.  Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton is a series of little cartoons which not only tell their own individual stories, but combine history and literature with different pop culture events.  This book creates a great series of little vignettes which are sure to make anybody laugh, regardless of their mood.

While the book doesn’t really have a central plot, it’s still completely enjoyable reading all of the individual vignettes.  The vignettes make the book a quick and easy read.  Before realizing it you’ve finished half of the book.  You just keep telling yourself  “just one more vignette and then I’ll go to bed”, but then you can’t put the book down.  I really enjoyed seeing how Beaton integrated pop culture into some of our favorite books and historical moments.  One excellent example is the cartoon called “Suffragettes and the City”, a play on Sex and the City.  It was so interesting to see how they combined Susan B. Anthony and Carrie Bradshaw and made it make sense.  Both of them are examples of independent and strong-willed women, but seeing them as one thought brought tears to my eyes from laughing.

My favorite vignettes were definitely the last groupings, which were all sitcoms set in Victorian times.  There were four different stereotypical situations of special sitcoms throughout the years, such as a “a very special episode” and “rating slumps” that were perfect fits for the Victorian time period parody.  The inclusion of Victorian dialogue was an excellent touch.  The “rating slumps” solution was to add a baby, which is a classic solution that sitcoms (especially in the 80’s) did to get higher ratings.  However, the father in this sitcom mentions that infant mortality rates are especially high and that maybe they should come up with a better solution.  I know dead babies aren’t something to laugh about, but it was really funny to see the smart way Beaton included this historical fact.  It really made me laugh.  Another one of my favorites (for obvious reasons) was a parody of Les Miserables.  In this particular one, the little details put into it was really good and made it hysterical.  For example, Beaton had Inspector Javert work for the Bread Task Force (Javert arrests Valjean for stealing a loaf of bread).  It not only showed that Beaton was creative, but also showed that all of the humor wasn’t in your face; a lot of the humor was subtle and you had to pay attention to the dialogue and pictures.

All in all, I loved this book and think it would be a great coffee table book that anyone from 13 to 130 would love.  You can actually learn a lot and laugh at the same time.  There is also a website where you can see some of the cartoons and not have to buy the book.  Even if you only read the website I can guarantee that you’ll love it so much you’ll want to buy the book.

5 out of 5 Stars

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton
Drawn and Quarterly (2011)
Hardcover  160 pages
ISBN: 9781770460607

#68 A Review of Anne Elliot, A New Beginning by Mary Lydon Simonsen

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Every time I read Persuasion one thought always pops in my head,  “I wish Anne had more confidence.”  Mary Lydon Simonsen makes my dream come true in Anne Elliot, A New Beginning.  Simonsen takes our beloved Anne and breathes new life into her meek  personality that prevailed in Austen’s original work.  This new and fresh look at one of my favorite Austen characters was too good to pass up, and the pages flew by as I got to witness a new and exciting chapter in Anne’s life as a liberated woman.

Anne Elliot is an old maid.  She is a spinster.  She is 25 years old and feels oddly liberated in this new status her family has given her.  With this new-found freedom she begins running.  Yes, you read that right, running.  To her delight, this new activity makes her more confident and secure in herself than ever before, and she is ecstatic when Captain Wentworth happens upon her company eight years after their initial tumultuous courtship.  Sound to good to be true?  Of course it is, nothing in life is ever this easy!  William Elliot, the heir to Kellynch (the Elliot estate), has come back from a long separation from Anne’s father following a disagreement long ago.  Now that he is back he finds Anne just as attractive as Wentworth does, and he attempts to gain her courtship.  Not is all as it seems, as Anne senses that William may have some tricks up his sleeve.  Will she be able to unite with Wentworth or will William become an insurmountable obstacle?  How will Wentworth react to her running when he finds out?

As I said in my opening, I’ve always wished that Anne had more confidence.  She finds all of this confidence running. WHAT a change confidence makes.  Anne is unafraid to speak her mind, and frequently does so, much to the displeasure of Lady Russell.  She stands up to Mary and makes her stop being such a hypochondriac, forcing  Mary to do something positive with her life instead of wasting it away worrying.  Anne helps the characters change their ways, while also forcing them to give her the respect she has deserved all along.  (All of this is done with hints of humor along the way).

I think you can tell by now that Anne Elliot, A New Beginning is a satirical retelling of  Persuasion. I’m usually really nervous about reading satirized versions of Austen’s novels because either a novelist takes it too far and makes it borderline ridiculous (see here), or they don’t change enough of the story to make it a satire.  Simonsen found the perfect blend between the two by infusing pop cultural references into the story that actually worked.  Anne is all about running, so the references to Nike and other modern running related items makes sense in the context of the story.  Also making Mary turn from a hypochondriac into a nurse was hysterical.  She goes from being afraid of everything to suddenly making sure there are always bandages around and proper first aid techniques in use.  It was a very humorous personality switch. 

 As usual Simonsen has given us a fresh take on an Austen classic.  It was refreshing and exciting to see her new iteration of Anne as a confident and determined individual.  All in all, I truly enjoyed Simonsen’s work and was happy to root for Anne and Wentworth until the end!

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my twenty-ninth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Anne Elliot, A New Beginning by Mary Lydon Simonsen
Quail Creek Publishing LLC (2010)
Paperback 229 pages
Special thanks to Mary Lydon Simonsen for sending me my review copy!

#65 A Review of Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

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I’ve always enjoyed memoirs, and funny ones even more so.  You may remember my reviews of Augusten Burrough’s works that I’ve posted here, and how much I love these books as a whole.  Therefore, how could I not read David Sedaris’ hilarious addition to this genre?

In his work Sedaris writes a memoir of sorts, telling the reader about his upbringing via short stories that chronicle his life.  The first part deals with his earlier life in Raleigh, North Carolina and subsequent jobs that Sedaris held to make a living in New York City.  Sedaris describes how in his early years he felt that he didn’t fit in due to forced sessions with a speech therapist and music teacher that made him feel awkward.  He finds that he shares much more of his mother’s creative traits, and less of his father’s serious and cerebral attributes.  He jokes that he would gladly discuss how to achieve the perfect tan rather than talk about anything technical at a young age.  “Deux”, the second portion of the work (aptly named), describes his life after he moved to Normandy, France, with his partner Hugh.  It humorously depicts Sedaris’ failed attempts at French, and the irony of living in France with miserable language skills. 

Sedaris is a wonderful addition to the ever-growing memoir genre.  His stories are all told in a self-depreciating narrative, that makes you think through the laughter.  Some of the stories in the first half of the book deal with his life trying to make it in the art world, and the drugs he took during this era in his life.  While the creations that he and his group of friends created are hysterical, the issues he had with cocaine are really scary and show the darker side of his life.

Some of the stories are hit and miss, but it’s with “Deux” that Sedaris really hits his stride.  The first half of the book felt as if he was trying to impress you with as many crazy things as he could that happened in his early life, while “Deux” felt more like he just wanted to share his memories of France.  In all of the Sedaris books I’ve read, one story always stands out to me from each book.  For Me Talk Pretty One Day, it was “You Can’t Kill The Rooster”, which chronicled the relationship his younger brother “the rooster” and his father had.  I honestly had to wake Todd up in the middle of the night to share my laughter with him.  It was absolutely hysterical.

If you’re looking for a book that will give you a good laugh, then I highly suggest Me Talk Pretty One Day, or any of Sedaris’ other books.  His humor shines through even the craziest situations, and you can’t help but feel blessed with the life you have after reading his works.

4 out of 5 Stars

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
Little, Brown and Company (2001)
Paperback 288 pages
ISBN:  9780316776967

Todd’s Review of Textual Healing by Eric Smith

To be honest, when I first picked up this book I had no idea what it would be about.  Textual Healing?  Is that some kind of “Texters Anonymous” type of meeting?  Upon reading the back of the book, the mystery deepened.  “Few people have to deal with a haiku-speaking flower-shop-owning ninja every day on their way to work. Unfortunately for Andrew Connor, he is one of those people.”  Alas, upon reading that, I had to give it a try!  Kim’s contact (and friend) at Quirk Books, Eric Smith, was happy to offer us a copy to review, so I dove right in, now nervous about the prospect of ninjas on my own commute to work.

Andrew Connor is an average Joe.  Well, at least that’s how he sees himself.  The world predominantly views him as the author of Chasing Fireflies, the New York Times bestseller that was made into a made-for-tv movie on HBO starring Edward Norton and Penelope Cruz.  However, that was a few years ago, and Andrew hasn’t written anything since.  To add insult to injury, he finds his book for a paltry $1.37 at the local Barnes & Noble.  Terrified that his writing has become something of a one-hit-wonder, Andrew mulls joining a self-help group known as Textual Healing, run by his friend Stephanie.  If that wasn’t enough his girlfriend, Daniela, has left him as well.  If it seems like Ace’s life (his friends call him Ace) is in a sad state of affairs, then that wouldn’t be too far from the truth.  However, he does have a few things going for him.  He runs a moderately successful bookshop in Hoboken, NJ, has a number of good friends which he can rely on in his time of crisis, and has struck up a new friendship (and perhaps something more?) with a certain someone named Hannah.  Will Ace be able to overcome his sophomore slump?  What will happen between him and Hannah?  Will he ever get over his ex?

I have to give Eric a lot of credit for his humor.  His wordy jokes and self-deprecating humor (or Ace’s humor shall we say) kept the story light and good-natured.  Even the initial breakup between Ace and Daniela has a healthy dose of humor that kept things in perspective.  Eric’s story appeals to the emotions in all of us: loss of a relationship, feelings of inadequacy and failure, apprehension about meeting someone new, etc.  Therefore, although the story does seem lighthearted on the surface it really does have a meaning behind the words.  In connecting with our shared experiences Eric taps into feelings that we’ve all shared and makes us feel better about the many uncertainties in life.  It’s as if he’s making a dramatic example using the number of pitfalls that Ace experiences all at once, but he’s telling us that it will get better as long as you have the courage to pick yourself up and move on.  It’s positive thinking like this that I feel is lacking in a lot of media today, where we’re constantly bombarded with the gloom and doom of life.  I feel that if more people thought like Ace does in this book, we’d be a lot better off and more self-assured.  So, as a quick pep talk and fun read, this book will make you laugh and reconsider your own thoughts about how you handle the tests life throws at you.  Also, it’ll make you reconsider buying a sugar glider as a pet.  So, with that in mind, pick this up and give it a try!

4 out of 5 stars

Textual Healing by Eric Smith
AuthorHouse (2011)
Paperback, 280 pages

#35 A Review of Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

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Charlaine Harris presents us with the 11th installment in the Sookie Stackhouse series: Dead Reckoning.  Up until now, our heroine Sookie has been chased and attacked by all members of the undead/supernatural worlds, provided her services to the vampire community, and become intertwined in relationships with vampire Bill, Alcide, and Mr. Eric Northman.  Seems as if nothing more can happen in Sookie’s life, no?  Not if Harris has anything to say with it! 

Just when Sookie thinks her life is settling down, Merlotte’s (the bar she works in) gets bombed. Suspicion originally falls on anti-shifter groups, as Sam (the bar’s owner) is a known shifter.  If this wasn’t enough, Sookie also has to deal with a growing rift between her and her love interest Eric, who is distracted and stressed himself.  He is working with his vampire-child Pam on overthrowing Victor, the right hand man of the king of Louisiana and Nevada, who is both power and money hungry.  The blood-bond between the two of them is truly tested through all of this, and Sookie must try to hold on to her feelings and sense of identity as she becomes disillusioned with herself after all of her dealings with the paranormal that have come into her life and disrupted her small town girl persona.  Also, we come to find out a little more about Sookie’s family history, as well as discovering how her telepathy came to be.  Will all these changes rattle Sookie beyond repair?  Will her relationship with Eric survive?  Will she?
I’ve come to the realization after reading all 11 books that Charlaine Harris has written them as one large series.  (I know what you’re thinking, “well duh it’s a series”).  What I mean when I say this is that while each book stands by itself, it’s really all one massive story that needs each book to get it to its final conclusion.  Some of the books are bigger on pushing the characters to a certain place emotionally, while others move us along with the plot. Many fans were complaining that book 10, Dead in the Family, was boring and not enough “conflict” happened. I think that Dead Reckoning  will make them happier.  The book moved the plot and characters to a place which will cause big things to happen.  Harris is slated to write 2 more books and let me tell you, the current setup will let these last two books to be action packed blockbusters.  In Dead Reckoning Harris doesn’t completely resolve certain plot pieces, so it’s not a stretch to think that she will revisit them and bring them to climactic conclusions.
Dead Reckoning is definitely for the more mature audience.  Sookie and Eric get it on hot and heavy, as usual.  There is also a lot of violence, as there is a fairly large fight scene that happens towards the end of the novel.  Those with queasy stomaches should prepare themselves.  However, it’s not all R rated.  Harris’ humor shines through, as it always does, with Sookie’s witty comments and hilarious inner monologue.  It was a treat as usual to read.
My only disappointment in the novel was the continuation of the “Pelt” storyline.  I understand that Harris is trying to complete the smaller storylines to make room for the monster conflict that will complete the series, but I just felt that it was already resolved and didn’t warrant any revisiting.  Despite this Dead Reckoning is fun, energetic, full of spunk, and one book in the series you will not want to miss!
4 out of 5 Stars
Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris
Penguin Group (2011)
Hardcover 336 pages

#22 A Review of Jane Goes Batty by Michael Thomas Ford

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Michael Thomas Ford, where have you been throughout my entire life when I needed a good laugh?! Jane Goes Batty the second in the “Jane Bites” series which pegs Jane Austen as a vampire.  Turned by Lord Byron over 100 years ago, Austen, now Jane Fairfax, runs a small bookstore in upstate New York.  At the end of the first novel, Jane Bites Back, we see Jane finally achieving one of her dreams: having her manuscript Constance published as well as her love life blossoming with boyfriend Walter. All seemed well when we left Jane, but boy were we wrong!

Jane Goes Batty takes us deeper into what is “being a vampire.”  Byron has begun giving Jane “how-to-be a vampire” lessons, which include teaching her to become invisible.  Since the attack by fellow vampire Charlotte Brontë, Jane’s felt uneasy about her safety and the safety of those around her.  On top of her vampire training, Jane is struggling to write the draft for her second novel, is dealing with the “paparazzi” due to the success of her novel, and is trying to help out with the film version of Constance.  Add to all of this her first meeting with boyfriend Walter’s mother, a woman who believes her son should be dating a nice Jewish woman that he can marry.  (Imagine if she knew what Jane really was!!)  Throw in a cast of crazy characters, romantic misunderstandings, baby vampires, and a murder and you have one hell of a storyline in Jane Goes Batty.

Michael Thomas Ford has an incredibly sharp-witted sense of humor that makes his writing a joy to read.  His Jane Austen is exactly how I’d imagine her to be in real life: full of life, sometimes shy with new people, but never afraid to speak her mind through her sharp wit.  I sometimes think that these traits are what draw readers, especially women, to read Jane Austen.  Her strong personality shines through with her writing, and I think Ford got it completely right when he wrote Jane as she is in this book.  She reminds me of Elizabeth Bennett!  The “past” that Ford comes up with for Jane is side-splitting.  The sheer fact that Jane was part of the original Rocky Horror Picture Show had me rolling on the floor laughing.  All I could picture was a woman in a dress of Austen’s time doing the timewarp.  Needless to say I laughed for a while with that image in my head!

The one weak spot of the book is the relationship between Walter and Jane.  Considering Jane wrote STUNNING love stories between Lizzie and Darcy, Anne and Wentworth, etc, I would expect her to have a stunning love story.  Walter seems a bit lackluster.  Don’t get me wrong, he cares about Jane and loves her, but their relationship seems to be lacking the spark I’d expect Austen to want for her own love life.  I mean come on, real Jane almost ran away to marry the man she loved!  Walter doesn’t seem like that guy to me.  Maybe this will be a plot piece down the road?

The book is incredibly fast paced and written to keep your attention from start to finish.  The humor of the book is tounge-in-cheek with tons of witticisms being made about the Jane Austen fan fiction industry (just as in the first book).  Keep your eyes open for the pact that Jane makes with Walter’s mother.  It’s sure to have you cracking up and waiting with bated breath for the next book in the series Jane Vows Vengeance.  The pieces all fit to make this book a must read for Austen fans everywhere!! 

4 out of 5 Stars

Jane Goes Batty by Michael Thomas Ford
Random House Publishing Group (2011)
Paperback 304 pages
ISBN: 9780345513663