Cover of Highland Knits
Highland Knits: Knitwear Inspired by the Outlander Series by Interweave Editors, Interweave (April 28, 2016) ISBN: 978-1632504593, Trade Paperback, 112 pages. List Price: $22.99 (Amazon: $15.63 / Kindle: $11.99).

I loved the knitted items that I saw watching season one of Outlander so I was naturally interested in seeing what would be in Highland Knits. I was impressed that the items were definitely in keeping with the simplicity and usefulness. The book has patterns for four Cowls, two Caplets, two Gauntlets, one Arm Warmer, one Shawl, one Shurg, one Wrap, one scarf, three Boot Cuffs, and one Stockings.

About half the patterns call for bulky or chunky yarns and seem like they’d knit up fast. The rest of the patterns call for worsted or Aran yarn. So basically all the pattern are geared to keeping you warm and snug on those crisp fall days and nights and the colder winter weather. All of the patterns are classic enough to fit into current fashion for keeping one warm and different enough to stand out as special.

I read the digital edition. Sometimes knitting ebooks are difficult to work with because the photos are small and charts are hard to read. Highland Knits handled this by making all the photos and charts enlarge to screen size with a double tap. Some patterns are only written and others are written and charted. When there is a chart it tends to be simple so screen size is not the problem it would be with a complicated pattern.

I feel in love with the photo showing the Brimstone Faux Fur Cowl designed by Claudia Maheux. The yarn called for was Louisa Hardings Luzia (80% viscose, 20% nylon; 43 yeards/39.5 meters per skein, 7 skeins) and was listed as bulky. Knit on US size 10 straight needles. Reading over the pattern I wondered how faux fur yarn which I’d looked at often in various yarn stores could be called ‘bulky’ but then it said to use two strands held together. It seemed like an ideal pattern to try to learn by doing just how clear the directions actually are to follow. But I ran into a few snags.

The first snag was that the yarn that was called for was out of stock — and several sites implied it was no longer made — and the few places that carried it had prices that were marked up a lot — imagine 10 times or more the original price per skein which was rather high to begin with. Yeah, there was that to burst my bubble. But with Goggle-Fu, I managed to find several yarns that seemed to meet the criteria of the original yarn. I ended up using James C. Brett Faux Fur which I purchased from It comes in several different shades and I choose a silver-ish version listed as H2. Each skein was 90 meters or 98.42 yards. The yarn is 90% Supersoft Nylon 10% Polyester. I ordered 4 skeins and doubled it was just enough as I had barely any left at the end of the project. Total project cost was about $26.00 US. The yarn is hand wash only and dry flat.

Here are two photos of the finished cowl. A front view and a side view. It’s very thick and heavy and my hubby was kind enough to model it for me while I took pictures. It’s also very, very warm.

Brimstone Faux Fur Cowl

My real problem came at the end of the project. When starting the pattern called for a provisional cast-on. The Glossary had directions for the Provisional (Crochet Chain) Cast-on. They were very clear and I followed them and had no problem getting the project started. The problem all came at the end when you pull out the crochet chain to expose the live stitches. That’s where it all when pear-shaped. The crochet chain wouldn’t pull out or at least it wouldn’t pull out easily. So, while I knit the cowl over 4 evenings it took me a few hours per night (or until I couldn’t keep my frustration in check for a week to manage to pick up the stitches. Even then I wasn’t sure I had all the live stitches, I’d seemed to pick up several extra as I tried to free the crochet chain from the live stitches but a little judicious pulling didn’t seem to generate any runs so I called it a win.

Next was to use the Kitchener st to join the beginning of the cowl to the end of the cowl to close the circle. This was faux fur and very fluffy it was difficult to see individual stitches using two strands together and I’d just fought a valiant battle with the crochet chain my reading glasses and a magnifying glass to finally get the 55 live stitches recovered so … I decided to do a three-needle-bind-off instead. The three-needle-bind-off was a lot easier on my nerves, solidly melded the two ends together and, more importantly, with the faux fur was hard to identify or see among the fluff of the fur.

I believe the provisional cast-on would have worked well if the yarn had been smooth but with the faux fur it just exceeded my personal capabilities and I should have realized that when I started. However, the final project came out beautifully and I’m looking forward to using it when I need warmth with a bit of class or even just when I feel I want to look special for me.

Looking over the patterns in this book there were several that looked great for gift giving as they used bulky yarn and would knit up quickly. This particular cowl that I made would have only taken several hours from start to finish if not for the provisional cast-on problem I ran into. I spent more time looking for a substitute yarn than actually knitting — if I don’t count the time trying to finish it off.

Check the book out online by using the look inside option. I think it is a good one to have on hand for making truly useful and stylish cold weather accessories.

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Tudor Roses by Alice Starmore.  ISBN: 978-1606600474.  Hardcover. Calla Editions; Revised Expanded edition (November 8, 2013).

There are a couple of things that I can tell you right off. First, this edition has no sweaters for men. So the Henry VII and Henry VIII sweaters are missing. Second several of the women’s sweaters have been revised. There’s also a couple of new sweaters for women in the Tudor line.

[Reviewing Note: I own the original Tudor Roses, 1998 edition, and will try to give my impressions as to the changes as I go through this new edition. Note that I’m reviewing a digital advanced reader copy so while I have photos and text information, I can’t comment on instructions as this copy not formatted for reading the knitting instructions and all the charts are missing and formatting was problematical.

4/28/17 Update: I bought a copy of the newly revised hardcover edition of Tudor Roses because I feel in love with a couple of the new sweaters, now seeing others in these new richer saturated colors — well I found myself willing to buy this copy.]

Below is a photo of what I mean by richer colors. The photo from the new book is on the left and the old book on the right. Photo were snapshots with my phone’s camera with flash.

Comparison of Mary Tudor Sweater in new and old book

A major difference is the sweater photos in the 1998 version were mostly taken outdoors in natural settings. This new edition is more controlled with studio photographs (several of each knitted item) against a black backgrounds. This makes for more uniformity in displaying the knitted items and keeps the focus on the pattern, style, and colors.

All of the women’s sweaters from the 1998 version are in this version though the color choices have changed for many of the sweaters. There are also several new sweaters each named for a woman important to the Tudor line: Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort, Lady Mary, and Mary, Queen of Scots. Though some of the sweaters for the women have changed as the sweater on the cover of the new edition is Jane Seymour’s and in the 1998 edition her sweater was a pullover.

Here’s a partial list of the differences between the 1998 version and this edition:

  • Elizabeth of York’s sweater has also changed to be more of a bolero or vest instead of the original longer length though the stitch pattern is basically the same.
  • Margaret Tudor’s sweater is shown in a cream and the sleeve pattern has been changed while the body is the same.
  • Anne Bodeyn’s sweater has changed to a stunning fitted jacket that draws the eye with a contrasting thin stripe detail.
  • Katherine Howard’s sweater is the same but the color is now dark blue with a liter blue for the diagonal stripes giving it a bit more drama.

Each section starts with a short letter from the point of view of the woman featured, giving a flavor of who she was and how she viewed her place in the world. I found these short notes to be touching and to bring this woman to life as a person not just a historical figure. Reading these notes made it easier to see how the sweater fit with their personality and position which added an extra layer of enjoyment to the book.

I’d suggest going to the Amazon website and take advantage of the Look Inside feature to determine if you wish to purchase this book. It is a beautiful edition with just enough changes to make it worth purchasing even if you do own the 1998 copy. However, others may have a different view of buying a new edition of an already owned pattern book. Check it out and decide for yourself.

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This post is going to be a bit of a whine. We’ve been dealing with a lot of health issues this year and it seems that things get better and then they get not so very much better — meaning things slide downhill. I was just congratulating myself that I’d made it through Capclave okay with only a minor headache and a few muscle spasms. Then, I felt up for World Fantasy Convention (WFC) in Columbus, Ohio. Had a great time at both conventions.

Got a lot of exercise as well as fresh air walking about within a 1/2 to a mile of the hotel while in Columbus. However, had a couple of severe muscle spasm and a low grade migraine the last two day which got worse on the drive home to Maryland. The day before we left to come home, our cat sitter texted that the cat, Dorian, had a few accidents but was still greeting her when she came to the house and didn’t seem lethargic.

Just after Christmas last year, Dorian had a severe downturn in his health but recovered and is known in the vet’s office as the miracle cat because they didn’t think he’d make it at all. He’s got a heart problem and only 1 half of a functioning kidney and is 14 years old going on 15 (so in cat years that mid-70s). We got home to number of accidents (from both ends – use your imagination) throughout the house. We called the vet and took him right in. He was dehydrated and with really high levels in his blood work that indicate his kidney may be shutting down. They did some rehydration and gave him anti-nausea meds along with some other medications. We took him home and had to bring him in again today. He was there all day for treatment. His tests came back today much better in some way and yet still worrisome. He’ll go in again tomorrow and then we may, depending on his test results, have to start making some very hard decisions about his quality of life. He’s more active and moving about but seems not himself. I’m cautiously optimistic but still worried.

Afterall, what can you be but cautiously optimistic when the cat sits and stares at the bubbling water bowl for extended period so time. Maybe it is cat meditation. Currently, he’s crawled under the lowest level of the cat tree and is not sleeping but probably contemplating the universe and his place in it.

Meanwhile, the magazines ( and went up as planned on November 1st. However, I still have some things to do — essential the reviews I was doing still need to be finished and added to the contents as well as writing the overview editorial for each magazine. Hoping that a good nights sleep will finally vanish the migraine — it is really hard to think clearly when someone invisible is using your head for an anvil.

If the headache finally eases off with a good nights sleep, I can finish up tomorrow while Dorian, the cat, is again at the vets. But, with so much stress my allergies and asthma have kicked in. This puts a bit of perspective on the migraines — though on the whole, lots of pain vs difficulty breathing seem to be in a tie.

Life goes on so far.

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Cover of A Jane Austen Devotional by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
A Jane Austen Devotional by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Compiled and written by Steffany Woolsey. Cloth bound hardcover. ISBN: 978-1400319534. 224 pages. Thomas Nelson; Gift edition (January 10, 2012). (Amazon: $10.76 / Kindle: $8.79)

Each day of the year has a quote from one of the novels of Jane Austen or from one of her letters to family. If you love all things Jane Austen then this is a lovely volume to have. It’s not a calendar but more of a jumping off point for meditation on family, friends, society, expectations, and daily life.

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Slept in this morning so didn’t get down to our first panel until 11. But feeling much better today with a bit more sleep last night.

11:00 a.m. Beyond Strong Female Characters.
Panelists: Ellen Kushner (leader), Terri Bruce, Kathleen Howard, Delia Sherman, Natalie Luhrs. (No Photo)
Description: In a 2015 post on, Liz Bourke puts forth that “volition and equal significance are better ways to think about, and to talk about, women’s narratives and storylines and presences in fiction,” rather than agency or strength. Bourke goes on to discuss the possibility of different types of heroism, and the possibility of a character being able to make choices in one form or another. The essay ends with the questions “Is the female character represented as having a will of her own? Does the narrative respect her volition? Does it represent her as possessing an equal significance with everyone around her, even if people around her don’t see her as equally significant? Does it, in short, represent her as fully human? Fully human, and not a caricature or a type?” Panelists will discuss ways to give women equal significance beyond physical strength.

Some comments in no particular order.
Need true well-rounded characters that come alive on the page. However, most writers are also readers and we all have some shorthand phrases to sketch characters and indicate a type or trope and most overcome that handicap when writing.

Noted that there’s never a program on going ‘beyond the strong male character’ which says a lot about how men and women are viewed when the term strong comes up.

Strength does not need to be physical — sometimes it is endurance, logical response to situation cues, or other non-aggressive reactions. Need mental as well as physical abilities — to think outside the box sometimes.

One way to tell if you have a well written character is to think would this anger me if written by someone else.

Character must learn and grow not be TSTL (Too Stupid To Live). Must be able to change and be adaptable.

My husband attended the panel on Colonization….
Colonization and Beyond Panel Members

11:00 AM Colonization and Beyond: The Fiction and Science of Exoplanets.
Panelists: Diane Martin, Gregory Feeley, Jeff Hecht (leader), Vandana Singh, Ian Randal Strock.
Description: In the last few years NASA’s Kepler space telescope has discovered over 2,000 real planets around other stars (exoplanets). But can we ever reach them? This panel will explore the differences between science fiction’s portrayal of interstellar travel with the reality of such a journey. Speculative concepts for humanity’s eventual settlement of distant planets have been the stuff of science fiction for well over a century. How has science fiction addressed exoplanets, and what technology—now in place or still fictional—will get us to those worlds some day?

While the panel was billed as discussing exo-planets, the discussion really ranged over the more general topic of planetary exploration in general, based on the idea as one panelist put it: Exo-planets are the new mysterious thing to look at because we’ve explored the solar system and found it boring. There are no canals on Mars, and no jungles on Venus.

Several tried and true topics were rehashed, such as whether or not we have the right to explore other planets, and if so, how much care should we take to not contaminate any indigenous (most likely microbial) life we might find there. Do we have the technology to reach other planets? Most science fiction is still wrapped around fantasy elements like warp drive and wormholes which, while scientific in concept, still have no basis in currently workable scientific theory. Colony ships were mentioned, but dismissed with the warning that they’d either fail due to extreme complexity, or that the people that arrived wouldn’t really be us. An interesting point was that it may be impossible (or at least extremely difficult) for a pregnancy to come to term outside the normal gravity of Earth. The panel was divided into two primary factions. One that seemed to take the view that we either can’t do it (too expensive, too difficult) or that we shouldn’t do it (ethics). The other that we can and should. We may not be able to do it now, but that’s never stopped us before, we just need a bit more bootstrapping. A final topic discussed was on the tone of science fiction. Strock believes that we need SF to recapture some of the old fashioned feel of going out and having adventures … proving that humans can be a force for good, if for no other reason that to stop it from being so depressing. Others on the panel disagree, feeling that the current SF, as dreary as it is, is a more accurate portrayal of the foibles of humanity that still need to be overcome, not just waved away with magically diverse and accepting Federations.

NOON. Engineering in Fantasy.
This sounded like such a good panel and I went to the room and found it had been moved next door which was a smaller room. It was packed with a triple line of people standing in the back and already warm so I moved to another Noon panel.

Colonization and Beyond Panel Members

NOON. Red Planet Rover, Red Planet Rover, Will Humans Come Over?
Panelists: Ian Randal Strock, Jim Kelly, Sioban Krzywicki (leader), Jeff Hecht, Lisa Cohen.
Description: With talk of private space flight and one-way trips to Mars, is any of it really likely? Is it achievable in the near future? Is there any real demand and is it possible to ensure it isn’t only for the fantastically wealthy? What would it take to make Mars a round trip, even if it is a very, very long layover? We’re discovering that the void of space is far more hostile to humans than we’d thought; can problems like radiation, weightlessness, and boredom be solved for the near future?

Strong agreement that money is always an issue.

Yes, we can go technically on all issues but should we since it is very likely to be a failure on many points?
Personally, I felt that they panelists were unduly negative, but I could see their points. It is highly likely that not all possible variables can be pre-planned for because for a first try there will be a lot of unforeseen problems and deaths are highly likely and probably inevitable to some degree, possibly for everyone sent.

Other issues discussed was the medical problems of weightlessness and effects on the body and balance/coordination, radiation, and boredom. Again, lots of negativity when, in reality, all of these items can be overcome, even if they haven’t been yet.

Lots of time spent on whether we have the right to go to another planet at all whether or not indigenous life exists or not. We’d be terraforming it just by being there and do we have a right to do that. Should we wait until we’ve done a better job searching for indigenous life? Frankly I think that part is overstated. Mars is a big planet. A colony in one spot will not destroy evidence on the rest of the planet.

What about children born on Mars or on the trip out? Could they survive back on Earth if that became necessary. Again, lots of frowning, but very little research has been done on these points to determine if they’re truly a problem or not.

Lots of interesting issues to contemplate.

If Thor Can Hang Out with Iron Man Panel Members

1:00 P.M. If Thor Can Hang Out with Iron Man, Why Can’t Harry Dresden Use a Computer?
Panelists: Elaine Isaak, E.J. Stevens, Gillian Daniels, Andrea Phillips, Alex Shvartsman.
Description: In a series of tweets in 2015, Jared Axelrod pondered “the inherent weirdness of a superhero universe… where magic and science hold hands, where monsters stride over cities.” This is only weird from the perspective of fantasy stories that set up magic and technology as incompatible, an opposition that parallels Western cultural splits between religion and science and between nature and industry. Harry Dresden’s inability to touch a computer without damaging it is a direct descendant of the Ents destroying the “pits and forges” of Isengard, and a far cry from Thor, Iron Man, and the Scarlet Witch keeping company. What are the story benefits of setting up magic/nature/religion and technology/industry/science as either conflicting or complementary? What cultural anxieties are addressed by each choice? How are these elements handled in stories from various cultures and eras?

Someone made the point (and I don’t remember who and I’m paraphrasing anyway) that SF is about the futures that we don’t want or are afraid of while Fantasy is about possible wonderful pasts that we wish we’d lived in. Personally, I think we have a lot of SF that is about futures we wish we’d achieve also, but that’s just me.
There’s a lot of fear of old ways of life being driven out by new ways — makes people nervous and afraid.
Fear that technology will take away our humanity — becoming cyborgs or robots.
I believe it was Phillips that said: Whether something is science or magic depends upon whether you deploy the word ‘quantum’.

Isaak said sometime along the lines of magic tending to be a limited resource and not everyone could do it. Science on the other hand was something that everyone could do if they learned how — once the machine was set up anyone could turn the crank and make it work (flip the switch and you get lights).

Daniels made and interesting comments about why Iron Man, Thor, and Scarlet Witch could all co-exist. To paraphrase: It’s like Marvel bought up a lot of different properties with completely different rule sets and mushed them into one universe.

There was also a fair amount of discussion on whether magic really remains magic if it’s been reduced to reproducible, controllable, science-like principles, rather than the older philosophy of wild and unpredictable forces, or if it just becomes a less-explained replacement for science.

Tim Powers Interviewed by Gary K. Wolfe

5:00 P.M. Tim Powers Interviewed by Gary K. Wolfe.
Photo Order: Gary K. Wolfe and Tim Powers.
Very interesting conversation where Tim Powers explained where some of the bit of information joined to give him the start on several of his books. He also talked about finding the fantastical/off-kilter bits of biographical information where you could hang a plot within the actual events of a historical person’s life.

We took the rest of the evening off.

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Thursday: July 7th, 2016

We drove up yesterday (Thursday). We’d planned to leave early but decided to stop at Patient First to check out the splotches that had appeared after clearing brush in the side yard. Result: long delay and poison ivy. Nothing looks, or looked like, poison ivy but there it was. So, prednisone to the rescue and the usual weird side effects. It also meant we didn’t get into the hotel in time for the Thursday night programming — again — even though the GPS saved us from several huge backups along the way so that it ended up only taking 11 1/2 hours.

Friday: July 8th, 2016

Registration opened at 10:00 a.m. and was in an area that allowed lots of free movement. So it took surprisingly little time to get a badge, schedule, map of the programming rooms, and the program book.

Programming started at 11:00 a.m. but unfortunately, we were slow at checking our schedules and figuring out what to attend.

Using Real Historical People in Fiction Panel Members

Noon: Using Real Historical People in Fiction.
Panelists: (left to right) Jeffrey Ford, Steve Rasnic Tem, Tim Powers, Phenderson Clark, Sarah Smith (leader).
Description: From Byron to Philby and beyond, Tim Powers’s secret histories use real historical characters to do things they never did, and say things they never said. What is the author’s responsibility in this situation, to the historical figure, to history, and to the character?

NOTES: In no particular order, the panelists talked of:
Don’t letting the research take over the story
Make sure that you don’t do anything out of character or people will be pulled out of the story (and write to you about it). People have expectations of historical people and you have to make sure that you give reasons that mess with those expectation, unless you’re really writing outside the box of what was.
Google books may help you find original source material dealing with the historical figure.
Google Earth can be very helpful in visualizing places that you haven’t been to or can’t remember details about.
Writers are concerned with authenticity; but, if a fact is going to sound/appear/be unbelievable to the reader don’t use it. Tim Powers gave an example of finding usage of the word groovy, in the 1960’s context, in a book from 1910. It’s a fact, but readers will never believe it.
Readers have an expectation of truth when dealing with historical characters so you must lead them along if you’re going to diverge with information that makes your story plausible.

Fantastical Dystopias Panel Members

3:00 p.m.: Fantastical Dystopias.
Panelists: (left to right) Sabrina Vourvoulias, Victoria Janssen, Ada Palmer, Andrea Phillips, T.X. Watson.
Description: Dystopia is popular in YA fiction for a variety of reasons, but why do authors frequently base
their future dystopian society on some flimsy ideas, rather than using history to draw parallels between past
atrocities and current human rights violations? Is it easier to work from one extreme idea, such as “love is now
considered a disease” rather than looking at the complexities of, for example, the corruption of the U.S.S.R or
the imperialism of the US? If science fiction uses the future to look at the present, is it more or less effective when using real examples from the past to look at our present through a lens of the future?

NOTES: Discussion was wide ranging covering such ideas as:
Can you only have dystopias in fiction or do they exist in reality?
Whether it is a dystopia or utopia is often in the eye of the reader?
There’s a difference between stories that have a dystopian background but are about other issues and stories that are about the dystopia itself.
Much discussion over whether “Huckleberry Finn” was dystopia on just a story of reality? Does time make the difference?
If some things are better and some things are worse and some haven’t changed, is it utopian, dystopian or neither?

We then spent an hour or so in the books room and what with talking to many of the booksellers, people we knew, and publishers, we only saw half of the tables. Of course, we also bought several books and will have to go back again this weekend to see the rest. This year the aisles are wide and the atmosphere is very conducive to browsing and shopping. Good for the dealers but not for budgeting buyers.

Unfortunately, we’re beat. I’ve got a head start on a migraine and we’re turning in early.

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This past month has been one thing after another. It seemed like I spent half the month in doctor’s offices or waiting for someone who was in for a procedure to drive them home.

I’m now taking an extra antihistamine and, for the last few days, it’s been making me feel like a zombie. When asked a question there’s a significant pause while I have to parse the sentence and retrieve the answer. May make you drowsy. May make you sleep through your day with your eyes open and minimal functioning. On the plus side the itching is nearly bearable but the headaches are back.

The upshot is that the two magazine ( and are going to be up online on time but missing the reviews assigned to me. Those reviews will be added in over the next few days as they’ll take me longer to draft, write, and edit. It helps if you’re awake — or so I’ve been told.

I missed Balticon this year also. I got email with my program schedule and I wasn’t on anything as far as I could tell so, since I was feel crappy I decided not stay home and sleep. Hopefully, next year May won’t jump on me with both feet.

Enough whining from me. But hopefully, I can get back to updating my blog regularly.

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Manga Classics: Emma by Jane Austen; Adapted by Crystal Silvermoon, Edited by Stacey King. Illustrated by SunNeko Lee. ISBN: 978-1927925355, Udon Entertainment (June 18, 2015). List Price $19.99 / Amazon $16.93.

Continuing their Austen classics in manga format, Udon Entertainment has released Emma by Jane Austen, adapted by Crystal Silvermoon. The story stays true to the original plot.

Emma’s governess turned companion, Miss Taylor, has just married a local gentleman, Mr. Weston. Emma feels that the marriage proves her ability as a matchmaker and she sets her sights on finding a marriage partner for her new friend, Harriet Smith. Emma believes the new cleric, Mr. Elton, would make a good match for Harriet. Unfortunately for Emma, Mr. Elton has a totally different idea for the role of his wife-to-be.

Emma, as it soon becomes obvious, isn’t as astute an observer of the people around her as she believes she is. Even with warnings from her brother-in-law and close friend, Mr. Knightley, she forges ahead with her plans. There’s a few other plot lines involved in the story as Mr. Westin’s son, Frank Churchill, visits the area about the time a local widow’s niece, Jane Fairfax, drops in for a visit.

Misunderstandings, confusion, embarrassment, and of course a few twists and turns as well as a surprising and a few not so surprising matches between various characters occur. Austen’s books often, or should I say always, end with a wedding or at least a proposed happily ever after to follow the last page.

The artwork is lovely, as you can tell from the cover image. As with most manga, you read from the back of the book to the front and there is a short tutorial explaining how to read the pages (top to bottom but right to left). For those who have never read manga before this is a nice touch so you get off to a good start.

For true fans of Austen’s works you will find some liberties with the social conventions that existed at the time of the story. Women could not write to unrelated men — but, this does take place in this book. There’s also several other social convention that would not have happened to the characters due to their positions in society so some scenes are a bit jarring.

This adaptation will give readers the storyline and the characters with much of the same delightful tone as the original work by Austen. This is a great series and a wonderful way to introduce readers to these classics.

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