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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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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Cover of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Story Adaptation by Stacy King. Manga: Classsic Literature. Morpheus Studios (Illustrator), Shane Law (Illustrator), Po Tse (Artist). Udon Entertainment (August 19, 2014). Price: $19.99.

Stacy King has adapted Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for a manga-reading audience with illustrations by Shane Law, Po Tse, and Morpheus Studios. Whenever a story is adapted for a different media format, choices must be made in order to use the strengths of the new media to tell the story. Overall this adaptation is beautifully done. The basic storyline is intact and the artwork is beautifully rendered as you can tell from the lovely cover image (though the interior artwork is all in grey scale).

The basic story is a love story that threads its way through horrible first impressions, misunderstandings, pride, and prejudice. Elizabeth Bennet, the second of five daughters of a country gentleman and his wife, is insulted when she overhears Mr. Darcy’s response to his friend, Mr. Bingley, urging Darcy to dance with her. Mr. Darcy is actually shy and uncomfortable in crowded social situations but she doesn’t know that at the time. Later Mr. Darcy realizes that she’s witty, educated, and not fawning over him; thus, he finds himself falling in love. Meanwhile, she is fed a lot of balderdash about Mr. Darcy from a man who has “all the appearance of goodness” and makes a grand impression on all he meets. There’s also a secondary love story involving Jane Bennet, Elizabeth’s older sister, and Mr. Bingley. As with most love stories things work out in the end but the journey is what makes the story a classic and loved by many no matter what format it takes — book, film, and now, manga.

Still, the problem with adaptations is that choices need to be made. This time the story is told and shown to be set close to the period in which Austen originally wrote it. However, the societal mores of the time depicted in this version do not match those that existed during this time period. For example, in the version of Longbourn shown in the artwork, no member of the Bennet family would be answering their own door let alone folding the linens; there would be servants to do such work.

It was a time when the distinctions of class were kept to and there were many rules of behavior that now-a-days we’d find archaic and maybe even silly. Upper class single women could not write to an unrelated male unless she was engaged to him. She’s have to write to his mother or sister and leave it to them to pass on the information. People could not simple talk to another person — they had to be formally introduced first. In fact, public venues such as assemblies usually had a designated person who was responsible for introducing people to one another if they were not yet acquainted and wished to meet. There are many instances where modern social customs are referenced that would, in the original work, be offensive to the characters of that time period. This may bother readers who are familiar with the original Austen work and time period — new readers reading Austen for the first time would most likely not even notice these issues.

However, if you read this version and enjoy it, you may want to read the original Austen novel on which it is based because the actual story is one that transcends the time in which Austen wrote. It’s universal appeal is why her works live on. Not only have her novels been adapted for film, manga, and classic comics, but they have, by other authors, been updated to modern times and still they resonate with readers.

Overall, this is a wonderful adaptation and a great way to interest new readers in classic literature.

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Cover of The Bad Miss Bennet
The Bad Miss Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel by Jean Burnett. Pegasus (October 19, 2012). ISBN: 978-1605983721. Pages 272. Hardcover. List price $25.95. (Amazon: $20.10 / Kindle: $12.99).

I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Bad Miss Bennet. I’ve read books where Lydia is redeemed to one degree or another but none where the author just doubled down on her behavior and attitudes.

In The Bad Miss Bennet by Jean Burnett, Lydia is a recent widow. Wickham was killed at Waterloo. She doesn’t really miss him as her love for him burned out years ago — but she hates wearing mourning colors, especially black. She resentful of having to live with Elizabeth and Darcy in the boring countryside. So, she makes arrangements to live in London with friends.

In London, her friends are deep in debt and help arrange card games in order to cheat and gain money to support their lifestyle. Lydia is very good at cheating at cards, having learned the fine art from Wickham. Eventually, there are repercussions and they need to find a new venue. Lydia eventually gets drawn in by a confidence trickster, finds a dead body in her quarters, and has many other other adventures — some quite upsetting (to the reader not necessarily to Lydia). Her life is one misfortune after another all blamed on others and nothing to do with her actions.

I had a difficult time reading this because I disliked the character of this instance of Lydia Bennet. She had no redeeming qualities. Even when she did something nice for someone it was in order to further her own plans. She’s given opportunities and chances to change her life but whether she couldn’t recognize the possibilities or chose to misinterpret them, she ignored them and continually reached for the new best thing. Mostly it all boiled down to being able to thumb her nose at her relatives (especially Darcy and his sister, boring Elizabth) and prove she’s better than they are — so there .

I would have liked a Lydia with more depth — one who learns from her mistakes or at least has an inkling that she made mistakes. Time after time she makes the same ones hoping for a different outcome. While time has past for her, she’s basically the same as the Lydia we met in Pride and Prejudice. Her character fixed as Austen wrote her.

Burnett has managed to set Lydia into an interesting time period and because of her character flaws examined some of the politics and social changes at that time in history. She also left the ending open for a sequel. The Bad Miss Bennet is true to the original character of Lydia, extrapolating to a what she would be like after years of Wickham’s influence. The writing will draw the reader in but you may not enjoy the characters or care that much about what happens to them. Lydia is the viewpoint character and all impressions of other people are colored by Lydia’s thoughts and beliefs.

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Pride and Pyramids: Mr. Darcy in Eqypt
Pride and Pyramids: Mr. Darcy in Eqypt by Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb. Sourcebooks Landmark (July 1, 2012). ISBN: 978-1402265341. Trade Paperback ($14.99 /Amazon $10.99) Kindle eBook $10.09.

Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy have been married for fifteen years and have six children (Beth 13, William 12, John 11, Laurence 9, Jane 8, and Margaret 6). Laurence was the only boy who had not yet gone away to school and Elizabeth was already dreading the day when she’d have to send him to boarding school too.

The Darcys had planned to have a portrait of the family done and Mr. Paul Inkworthy has been hired to do the preliminary sketches, as the artist doing the finished work does not travel. Mr. Inkworthy was good at his job and also kind enough to offer Beth some helpful feedback on her drawings. He was also unobtrusive and undemanding but his preliminary sketches were excellent.

This was the era when the people of Britain and America were captivated by anything Egyptian. Edward Fitzwilliam, Col. Fitzwilliam’s youngest brother, had been enthralled by Egypt when, as a child, he’d heard the tales of his father’s adventures in Egypt with Darcy’s father and another man. They’d been treasure hunting and nearly died. It was believed that they’d found a tomb filled with treasure but had lost the map and no longer could find it. Edward was determined to go on the next expedition led by Sir Matthew Rosen, who currently had an exhibit at the British Museum. He’d come to visit the Darcy’s hoping they’d support him in his efforts with his family.

Darcy realized that Edward would go no matter what they said. He also realized that Elizabeth was captivated by the idea of going to Egypt and their children were at the right age for travel. They decided to join Edward. The family visit to the museum and the enthusiasm of the children would have persuaded them if they weren’t already leaning in that direction anyway.

Meanwhile, Margaret had taken to a small wooden doll of an Egyptian woman that Edward had brought to the house when he’d come for Darcy’s assistance. Margaret said the doll’s name was Aahotep, she was sad, and that made her mean to other people. This is when I believed that this was going to be one of those paranormal-leaning books. Margaret’s doll and the way she kept it with her and spoke for it and to it reminded me of several books I’d read where a character got possessed by a doll and did things they shouldn’t. Since Margaret was so young, this bothered me, but while this particular thread of the story gave me the willies it was not as dark as you might think and the author’s took it in a genuinely different direction than you’d expect.

Needless to say, traveling with children, servants, tutors, governesses, and all their luggage and household items required a lot of consultations with others of their class who had traveled to Egypt. They also asked Mr. Inkworthy to join them to sketch the family as they traveled so as to have a series of pictures to remind them what the trip was like when they returned home.

Organizing such a trip was of like planning a small war, including renting a ship for their own use, and making sure that all the connections could be made all along the way. They also needed to hire a local guide to aid them when they arrived in Egypt. And there was the necessity to notify family that they were leaving. Mrs. Bennet being their biggest worry. She insisted on seeing them off at the port, an event that caused a huge change in their plans.

Naturally, since Mrs. Bennet knew about the trip, Lydia also knew. Thus Wickham hatches a plan that he believes will allow him to get even with Darcy. Lydia, of course, is as obtuse as usual, but a bit wiser to the plotting of her husband. But as you’d guess she’s up for an adventure.

All of these subplots come together in Egypt for an exciting adventure that carries real danger for all the Darcys. The dig and the camp reminded me a lot of Elizabeth Peters’ books featuring Amelia Peabody on archeological digs in Egypt.

I enjoyed reading Pride and Pyramids. It takes Elizabeth and Darcy out of the familiar and yet keeps them in their time period and consistent with having had years to get to know and understand each other. They are parents and concerned for their family and their future. But still playful with each other and in love.

Fans of Austen’s characters will enjoy this follow-on and the growth of Elizabeth and Darcy. Their core character remains and the story grows out of who they are and where they stand in society.

Get it and enjoy. I’d love to hear from those who have already read the book.

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Cover of Cozy Classic's Pride and Prejudice
Cozy Classic’s Pride and Prejudice, adapted by Jack and Holman Wang based on Jane Austen’s novel. Simply Read Books. Board book edition. ISBN-13: 978-1927018125 (November 15, 2012) Price: $9.95 (Amazon $8.95).

This book is advertised as a children’s book for ages 1 to 3 years. I’m sure some children in that age range will love the book because the photos are bright and colorful, the pages sturdy (thick pasteboard), and — if I remember my child at that age — good to chew on or bang around. A parent can even read the book to them. On the left hand page of each two-page spread is one word written in clear big letters the words are: friends, sisters, dance, mean, sick, muddy, yes, no, write, read, walk, and marry. Opposite the word is the photo.

The cover image is a good indication of what the interior photos are like. (The cover photo is used to illustrate muddy.) Each photo includes a felted fabric doll of one or more of the major characters: Jane and Elizabeth Bennet, Darcy, and Charles Bingley. There are different versions of them because the clothing changes for various scenes. The photos illustrate the word. For example the word sisters has a photo of Jane and Elizabeth looking into a mirror together.

If you are a Pride and Prejudice fan, and watch the movie with Colin Firth often with your child, then the photos might be familiar to the child. Otherwise, I’d say this is more a book for adults who enjoy the Austen novel and want to have a collection of all or a number of the variations of the original story.

It’s also different and fun. The felted dolls used are extremely well done and I really wish there had been patterns available for those who wish to make the dolls. There’s even a pretty close resemblance to the characters from the Firth movie version of Pride and Prejudice.

The words and photos match up with major events in Pride and Prejudice so your imagination can fill in the story with just these prompts. The problem is that for a child the connection would be tenuous at best and non-existent at worse. But, as I said earlier they may just enjoy the photos and you, as a fan of the original story, can fill in the blanks with a shortened version of the plot.

Great gift for the Pride and Prejudice fan that has everything else and may not think to check the children’s section of the bookstore.

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The Guardian has a short photo slideshow of the 10 best characters in Jane Austen’s novels chosen by Paula Byrne, who wrote The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things (HarperCollins, January 2013).

It’s an interesting mix of characters. I don’t really have a problem with the characters they chose but some was a bit sidetracked by the actors they chose or didn’t show who had portrayed those characters. For example, Mansfield Park has been made it to the screen (TV and movie) several times yet they showed the bookcover rather than Mrs. Norris — wonder why.

What your take on this. The link to the slideshow is:
10 Best Characters in Jane Austen’s Novels.

Opinions?

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Cover of Jane Austen Made Me Do It edited by Laurel Ann Natress
Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart edited by Laurel Ann Natress. Trade Paperback. ISBN: 978-0345524966. 464 pages. Ballantine Books (October 11, 2011) (Amazon: $10.20 / Kindle: $9.99)

Jane Austen Made Me Do It is an anthology of original stories Inspired by, who else, Jane Austen. Some of the stories are follow-on to one of the original Austen novels, a few are variations on a scenes, and some are modern interpretations of her works. There are 18 stories in this collection and each story has a quote from one of Austen’s novels or letters to pair with the story. Some of the quotes are difficult to connect with the stories while others are obvious inspiration for the story that follows.

Jane Austen’s Nightmare by Syrie James: Jane Austen dreams that her characters are alive in the world and not happy with the way they were treated in her works — with a few exceptions who love their role in their book. The dissatisfied characters are up in arms (think Dr. Frankenstein and the unhappy townspeople). What really makes it are the characters reasons for their dissatisfaction.

Waiting Persuasion by Jane Odiwe. This was a overview of Anne Elliot’s meetings and dealings with Captain Wentworth as she waits for him to speak to her father and ask for her hand. It fills in for the reader their earlier courtship that took place prior to the opening of Persuasion. I really like these type of stories as the fill in some possible background for fans of the book.

A Night at Northanger by Lauren Willig. This is a modern tale. Cate, a journalist, has a job working with a reality TV type show called Ghost Trekkers. She’s fed up with the job and the fake ‘reality’ of the show. She gets has a very interesting talk when the power goes out on a shot at Northanger Abbey where they were to interview Mr. Morland Tilney-Tilney. This was a very tongue in cheek, or not.

Jane and the Gentleman Rougue: Being a fragment of a Jane Austen Mystery by Stephanie Barron. A tale of star-crossed or at least society-crossed lovers, espionage, a duel, and clever misdirection. Can’t do much detail on this one or it will be spoiled for you.

Faux Jane by F.J. Meier. This was a delightful play on the old Nick and Nora Charles (and their dog, Asta) mysteries. However, it’s much more modern and involves some Jane Austen memorabilia.

Nothing Less than Fairyland by Monica Fairview. Emma and Mr. Knightley have returned from their honeymoon. The move of Mr. Knightley into the Woodhouse home is not going well. When Emma has an idea — a wonderfully, brilliant idea, or so she hopes. However, she must work quickly while fending off Mrs. Elton. It was a good idea and showed a definite growth and maturity in Emma.

Love and Best Wishes, Aunt Jane by Adriana Trigiani. A modern Jane Austen writes a letter to her newly engaged niece, Anna. This I found interesting because of the need to update letter writing to more modern times and fits well because Austen was an avid letter writer. The sentiments are at times insightful, poignant, and humorous.

When Only A Darcy Will Do by Beth Pattillo. Another modern story. Elizabeth is a poor American student in London. To earn money, she’s set up a website and is offering walking tours of Jane Austen’s London. Things get complicated when one of her customers show up dressed in Regency garb.

Heard of You by Margaret C. Sullivan. Returned from their wedding trip, Anne and Captain Wentworth visit the Crofts at Kellynch. Captain Wentworth tells the story of how the Crofts originally met and courted. This was another story that fills in the backstory of two of Austen’s characters for readers.

The Ghostwriter by Elizabeth Aston. Yes, there is a ghost. Sara is having a problem with her latest book and her boyfriend has sent a goodbye letter. She needs help and surprise a ghost shows up with some excellent advice and witty advice and asides. This was fun and homorous and more than likely not at all what you’d think it would be like.

Mr. Bennet Meets His Match by Amanda Grange. A fill in the background story of how Mr. Bennet met and courted Mrs. Bennet — because readers have always wondered how that happened.

Jane Austen, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! by Janet Mullany. A modern story only barely touching on Jane Austen but very moving in its own way. A young teacher is chafing under the rules of the older, longtime teachers. She is saddled with supervising the detention of three young girls. This was very well done even though a bit stuck in the 60s.

Letters to Lydia by Maya Slater. Maria Lucas and Lydia correspond during Maria visit to Rosings and beyond. Readers get a peek into Maria’s view of events at Rosings when she visits with Elizabeth. We also get some interesting insight into Lydia — and Maria’s impressions of her.

The Mysterious Closet by Myretta Robens. Cathy Fullerton is on holiday at a converted abbey but it may be a bit too much of a Gothic atmosphere. She’s in the dungeon section of the abbey. This was a bit weird. While the story was fun, I kept wondering why Cathy was so calm and accepting — I’d have been freaking out. But nevertheless a fun story to read.

Jane Austen’s Cat by Diana Birchall. Jane Austen is visited by two of her nieces, and their cat, after having written Mansfield Park. It’s not so much a story as a discussion of writing and characters though a story is told on the spot to the younger niece which in which all the major characters are cats fit into the story of one of Austen’s novels.

Again … Mr. Darcy by ALexandra Potter. After a fight with her boyfriend, Emily invites her girlfriend to come to London with her. While her friend shops till she drops. Emily gets another interlude with Mr. Darcy, this time he’s been happily married to Elizabeth. This one was better than I expected thought these helpful time-traveling characters stories are wearing a bit thin for me.

What Would Jane Austen Do? by Jane Ruino and Caitlen Rabino Bradway. This was my favorite story in the book. The point of view character is Jamie Austen. His mom is a Jane Austen fanatic and family belief is she married Jamie’s father to get the name ‘Austen’. Jamie is in high school and he’s a bit of the problem for the Principal and the Guidance Councilor. It’s not what you think — really. I loved this one for it’s originality and freshness and because it was so in tune with today’s high school scene.

The Riding Habit by Pamela Aidan. Darcy and Elizabeth are at their London home. A quiet ride to teach Elizabeth how to ride gets very exciting indeed.

The Chase by Carrie Bebris. This story was also very different. It’s supposedly the story of an event that happened to one of Jane Austen’s navy brothers involving a naval battle with French ships. Quite a nice piece of historical fiction based on fact.

Intolerable Stupidity by Laurie Viera Rigler. This was a hilarious story that got me laughing out loud. Fitz Williams is defending the authors of retitling, follow-ons, adaptations, etc. in court. Tawny Wolfson is the prosecuting attorney for Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. Of course, the judge is Lady Catherine. Imagine such a story in a book of stories that are retellings, follow-ons, and adaptations, etc.

All in all this was a volume well worth reading. I like some stories more than others which is generally true of any anthology, however, there wasn’t a clinker in the lot.

The book has been out since October of 2011 so should be readily available if you haven’t read it already. If you have read the book, as always, I’d love to hear your opinion.

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