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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Northanger Abbey Read Along: Misty's Responses

We're down to the end of Austen in August, so it's time for me to share my thoughts on this year's read along book, NORTHANGER ABBEY. (And you don't even KNOW how much I love this book!)

This is a long one, so I apologize, but it will be followed very soon by the last vlog of AIA, which is a giveaway! So at least there's that. =D

There were a lot of questions asked, so they can be found in full here:
Volume One: http://www.thebookrat.com/2014/08/northanger-abbey-read-along-discussions.html
Volume Two: http://www.thebookrat.com/2014/08/northanger-abbey-read-along-discussion.html

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Excerpt & Giveaway of Mr Darcy's Pledge by Monica Fairview!

Monica Fairview has been a staple of my Austen events since the beginning, offering up excerpts and cover reveals and taking part in our fun little Janeite Conversations that we do here in AIA. This year, she was prevented from adding her voice to the Conversations because she was sadly off gallivanting about and escaping from technology for much of this year's event. BUT that doesn't mean that she needed to miss out on AIA entirely...
Since she couldn't be here herself, she sent a familiar somebody in her place... I give you: a sneak peek of Mr Darcy's Pledge, and a chance for you to win a copy for yourself!

I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! | Favorite Lines in Austen: A Janeite Conversation

I have just done the thing I mock other people for, which is to use Caroline Bingley's famous words on reading in earnest. I've always found it so silly when people quote Caroline as if she's being serious and is a lover of the written word, when we all know, she's really just trying (and failing) to capture a man's attention...
But whatever, in this context, the quote is appropriate, AND it highlights something I'll be talking about in my response to Northanger Abbey, which is that Austen's words have take on a life of their own. To that end, our final Janeite conversation of this year is on our favorite Austen-penned lines. It's a difficult choice to make, and you've no sooner said your favorite than you realize, 'But wait! I forgot about...' Well, tough. I ask the difficult questions here. ;)
I asked...
This may be near impossible, but if you HAD to choose, what would be your absolute most favorite line in all of Austen?

Jane Austen MASH!


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Jane in Your Interwebs, part 2 + Items for the Discerning Janeite

For our last Austen in your Interwebs segment of this year, I'm going to share some of the other Austen goodies I have stockpiled in my bookmarks bar, PLUS some awesome actual physical things that you can actually physically hold to complete your Jane Austen collection. (Or at least, you know, grow it some more...)
So click through for awesome!

LBD Appreciation Post

We already know Pemberley Digital is awesome, and did amazing things with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.
But what you may not realize is that the fans have ALSO done amazing things with the LBD, like this Beauty and the Beast / LBD mashup (one of two; other below) I shared for Fairy Tale Fortnight. (Trust me, it's awesome.)

So I decided that I'd round up some of my favorite fan-made LBD videos and share them with you. Prepare to feel the need to rewatch the LBD!

* I find Puppet Pals generally obnoxious, but there is something so undeniably cute about these pals. LOOK AT JANE'S LITTLE MILKMAID BRAIDS. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

Living Austentatiously: a video diary from Cecilia Gray!

One last post from the fabulous Cecilia Gray, now that she's figured out the secret to being a fake Austen fan... ;)

Living Austentatiously

I have bad news. There's no easy way to say it. I'm just going to rip off the band-aid quickly. Ready? You're not ready. Who can ever be ready to hear something like this? I sure as hell wasn't ready. But we need to hear it. So here goes…

Short of shelling out mad cash for an immersive Austen experience, we will never be a Jane Austen heroine railing against the injustices of the time until we fall in love with a suitable and preferably rich gentleman. We don't live in the 1800's, Darcy isn't real, and we can own all the property we want.

Which sucks.

Ugh, sorry! I hate being that naysaying party-pooper. It brings me no pleasure, believe me. No, it's okay, go get some Kleenex. Take your time.

Now that the bad news is out of the way, let's get to some good news. We do have way better medical care, exciting and exotic food options, and streaming television…which, come on, even for book fans, you have to admit is to die for. But that doesn't mean we can't have a dose of Austen in our daily life, maybe with a modern twist.

Join me on my Austen-inspired day as I go from morning to night doing nothing except what Austen tells me to.

Cecilia Gray is the author of Kirkus starred series The Jane Austen Academy which reimagines all of Jane's heroines as modern teens attending the same California boarding school. Good for Austen and non-Austen fans alike! Check out the title and view the series trailer on her website.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

For what do we live..." | a Janeite Conversation

If there's one thing Jane Austen excels at, it's writing ridiculous, hilarious, ludicrous and/or shake-able characters. You get the feeling that she must have been surrounded by some real doozies, which lead not only to her ability to capture them on paper, but to one of her most famous quotes. So, for this Conversation, I asked...
For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn? Which Austen character(s) would you most like to make sport for? Who would be the most diverting neighbor / the most obnoxious neighbor, etc?

Posh Dancing

We're getting close to the end of #AustenInAugust now, and just as I like to have something silly near the beginning to kick us off, I like to end with something silly, too. We Janeites aren't all stiff petticoats and tightly-laced corsets, you know...
So please, do enjoy some POSH DANCING. ;)

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Austen Variations: Interview with Maria Grace, Susan Mason-Milks & Abigail Reynolds!

You've been enjoying the fruits of Austen Variations' labors throughout Austen in August, so today we're going to talk to the ladies behind organizing this site and the awesome projects on it!
Click through to hear more about how Austen Variations came about and what they have in the works, and make sure to check out the pieces I've featured from The Darcy Brothers and Persuasion 200!

First, could you ladies tell us a bit about yourselves and what led you to banding together to create Austen Variations, the site, and your own particular variations, in general?
Austen Variations Admins: Maria Grace, Susan Mason-Milks and Abigail Reynolds
Austen Variations Admins: Maria Grace, Susan Mason-Milks and Abigail Reynolds

Review-ish Thing: Mr Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo

Last night was our #WednesdayYA chat of Mr Darcy Broke My Heart, and rather than doing a straight-forward review of the book (which would probably be pretty similar to my review of Jane Austen Ruined My Life, honestly...), I thought I'd share some of the thoughts expressed during the chat last night. We all seemed to be on the same page with this one, which was basically "I liked it, but..."
And frankly, sometimes we were hilarious.
Click through to see what we loved — and what drove us nuts — and to share your thoughts on the book if you missed the chat!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

“what is Miss Morton to us?”! – Class Values in Sense and Sensibility | guest post from Lindsay

Earlier in Austen in August, Lindsay gave us her dissection of class values and nature vs nurture in Emma; today she's back to take a similar look at the equally class-contentious (but from a different perspective) Sense & Sensibility.
Check it out, and let us know your thoughts in the comments!

“what is Miss Morton to us?”! – Class Values in Sense and Sensibility
by Lindsay Zaborowski

As with Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey, themes of personal characteristics attached to class permeate the events of the novel Sense and Sensibility. Here, however, the positive qualities of the middle class are weighed against the potential for evil that can result from going to an extreme in individualistic, capitalistic strains. In the novel, characters exercise class values in a range of ways that can all be construed as middle class, but they have radically different results as the lesson in the problem of taking any thing to extremes is imparted upon the reader.
Lucy Steel presents a classic picture of the social climber. She was born and raised in the lower middle class, but rejects this simple background in favor of doing whatever she can to gain access to the upper classes. In this way, Lucy Steele exhibits a sort of depraved capitalism, a capitalism taken to the nth degree and used on people instead of commodities. Though not well educated she is clever, and uses her charms to flatter the right people. Eleanor, whose opinion the reader is arguably supposed to respect, calls her “illiterate, artful and selfish” (134). When Edward loses his fortune because he remains faithful to his promise to marry her, she diverts her attentions to the younger brother Robert, who is now to inherit, finding his weakness of vanity and exploiting it so he will marry her instead. In addition, she flatters Mrs. Ferrars so well that in the end she accepts Robert and Lucy into her company despite Lucy’s low background (345). Thus, Lucy gets everything she wanted (riches, a good social standing), but we are to understand that these things are irrelevant in comparison with the true affection found in the pairing of heroines Marianne and Eleanor because of Lucy’s unlikable and selfish character.
Robert and his mother belong to the upper middle class, but their tastes reflect more upper crust tendencies than Edward’s. Edward values people based on personal merit while his mother and brother are more concerned with outward behavior and appearances. Thus, Robert chooses Lucy Steele because on the outside she appears to be something worth having, but underneath she is all selfishness and ambition with little education. Mrs. Ferrars similarly chooses to try to marry Edward to a certain Miss Morton not because of her personal qualities, but because of whose daughter she is. When Marianne enquires on why they should be concerned with Miss Morton’s supposed talents, all Mrs. Ferrars can say is that “Miss Morton is Lord Morton’s daughter” (221). In the end, their predilection for choosing people based on outward appearance and their behavior toward themselves, however false, backfired for Mrs. Ferrars and Robert when they gain Lucy Steele as a member of their family. In the end, her ultimate worth to them will only be her ability to appeal to their vanity.
In terms of selfishness and artifice, John Willoughby serves as the male counterpart for Lucy Steele in the novel. Though they differ in that Willoughby appears to have really felt something for Marianne at one time, he is nevertheless as self-involved as Lucy Steele. He fully admits to his dissolute tendencies to Eleanor in the end, but instead of reforming himself he stays on the same course. In dictating his cruel letter to Marianne, he claims to have has no choice, that “In honest words, [Miss Grey’s] money was necessary to me, and in a situation like mine, anything was to be done to prevent a rupture” (306). Eleanor retorts with the opposing view that “You are very wrong, very blamable…You have made your own choice. It was not forced on you” (307). Eleanor recognizes that he only came to see Marianne because he is afraid she will die thinking badly of him, not because of his fears of her actually dying. He chose to marry Miss Grey because she had the fortune and played the part of the society woman, not because she had an intrinsic value. He, like Lucy Steele, tries to make himself seem innocent in all situations, but the characters around them can see what they really are. The selfish tendencies of Lucy and Mr. Willoughby blind them to any possibility of their having faults.
To balance these portraits of middle class values gone wrong, there are characters that, despite their upper class lives, favor a more middle class approach. Mrs. Jennings is the most prominent example: as she rose through the ranks and joined the upper classes, she does not change, despite the ridicule she engenders from those around her. Robert Ferrars has only this to say about her: “we only knew that Mrs. Jennings was the widow of a man, who had got all his money in a low way; and Fanny and Mrs. Ferrars were bother strongly prepossessed that neither she nor her daughter were such kind of women as Fanny would like to associate with” (215). He does not consider that her personal qualities may affect the relationship, but only that her husband making money in a “low way” must have some bearing on her character. Though she at times seems vulgar, her true intentions are good, something that Eleanor recognizes as she helps her nurse Marianne (288).
Similarly, Colonel Brandon and Edward Ferrars chose their ideal partners from among the middle class, despite the presence of upper class candidates (such as Miss Morton). Their insistence on viewing people as individuals earns them happy relationships. Though it may seem that Eleanor and Marianne do not get a rich enough reward at the end of the novel, it is important to note that they get exactly what they said they wanted in the end (90). They may not have fabulous riches, but their happiness and satisfaction is more important.
The characters of Sense and Sensibility reflect the different qualities of the newly risen middle classes in a way that fits into the overall themes of the novel, which direct the reader towards realizing that nothing in excess can be good. A balanced approach to life, not unlike the one Austen takes in her plotlines and writing, is the more sensible course for achieving reason and happiness.
Work Cited:
Austen, Jane. Sense and Sensibility. New York: Penguin Books, 2003.
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Unpopular Opinions & Under-Appreciated Characters | guest post from Renee!

When one of my vlogger buddies, Renee of Nehomas2, asked if I'd be willing to have her share a vlog with us for AIA, one that was a bit of an emotional sore spot and that touched on some more difficult, potentially unpopular aspects of Austen, I was all sorts of HELLS YES.
And here it is in all it impassioned glory, and I can't wait to hear your thoughts on the matter.
Take it away, Renee!

Because I love a good literary debate, and because this runs parallel to something I've been wanting to discuss for ages and haven't found the time — AND because all serious Austen discussions make me wild-eyed passionate — Renee was . . . treated to the longest youtube comment I've ever made in my life (sorry!), which I'm reproducing for you here:
MY TAKE: I would dispute the idea that they're good looking, actually, as Austen makes a point to say that most of them are plain. Repeatedly, she talks about Catherine Morland being plain (the entire beginning of the novel is about her being downright plain, especially for a novel heroine), Lizzie being pretty enough to not be "plain," but it's implied (by strangers and family) that her looks are generally average, Anne being plain and losing her bloom (ie aging, looking tired, etc.), etc. etc. Now, plain isn't to say they're downright ugly, but plain back in the day was basically shorthand for "not pretty," and often the crux of their physical descriptions is that they shine in other ways, or are considered pretty once someone gets to know them (ie Darcy remarks on Lizzie's infamous 'fine eyes' after actually getting to converse with her and see the intelligence expressed in them; Anne regains her bloom when she starts feeling happier and free - she hasn't physically changed, but her personality wins people over).
Real expressions of BEAUTIFUL characters tend to be reserved for those who are tangentially involved with the main - Lizzie is 'pretty enough' but her sister is gorgeous (and thus the one novel readers of the day (and likely, now) would expect the hero to go for); even Emma, who is pretty much acknowledged a beauty, befriends Harriet, who she (and others, but maybe most especially she) consider to be Hellenic in the extent of her beauty, and HUGE plot-points in the novel revolve around not EMMA's but HARRIET's beauty. There's always someone more beautiful than the heroine - and the point seems to be that they shine despite that, because there are more things to life (and more things to women) than beauty.
I would actually argue that we think of these female leads as more beautiful than they are written because we have been trained to think of them as such - they will never not be represented by a beautiful actress doing that Hollywood standby of "plain" (slightly unkempt, maybe wearing glasses and dowdy clothing, still clearly beautiful). I think it's down to our conditioning, and not Austen's writing.

NOW, all that said - those side characters who are described as plain to the point of probably being considered ugly...I will admit that their fates are not normally enviable. In fact, they're often the least enviable, And I think this was very intentional on Austen's part, because I think she was trying to show what a shit end of the stick women got - if you were vibrant/witty/intelligent/funny/kind/rich enough, THEN society might forgive you for not also being the most gloriously gorgeous one in the room ("not handsome enough to tempt"), but if you didn't have some force of character to override society's need for beauty, then you were still pretty much fucked, and them's the breaks. I think she wanted her readers to see that, to understand how tenuous a woman's grasp was on security and happiness if she didn't fit that perfect mold...a thing we are still discussing in many ways today.

(On a side note, without making this ANY LONGER THAN IT IS, OMG, I would say that Austen was actually challenging social mores quite a bit - she is quite a bit subversive and sarcastic, but much more subtle (and of course, a product of her times) than the Brontes (who are a product of THEIR times). And PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do an Austen slut-shaming video for me next Austen in August!!)
Renee and I would seriously like to know your thoughts, and if you've ever wished for a heroine that was a little more YOU, or wished to see some more winning underdogs in Austen and classics in general. (But be nice, please! Renee has expressed some terror that you're going to come after her with pitchforks. I tried to tell her that we don't handle pitchforks because it makes our kid gloves untidy, but she persists in her worry... ;P )

Share your thoughts on this (and on whether you, too, want to see that slut-shaming video!), and further the discussion in the comments!

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Persuasion 200: The Crofts discuss the lease of Kellynch

We're down to our final installment of Persuasion 200. If you missed it, we already took a look at Wentworth-at-Sea and wondered along with Anne; if you're left wanting more after today's visits with the Crofts, courtesy of Mary Simosen (which I know you will be), make sure you visit Austen Variations for more Persuasion 200!
And big thanks to Maria Grace & the folks at Austen Variations for sharing these with us!!

P 200 feature image

The Crofts Discuss the Lease of Kellynch Hall by Mary Simonsen

With Anne deliberately absent from the manor house, Admiral and Mrs. Croft had toured Kellynch Hall with Mr. Shepherd, the leasing agent, and Sir Walter. Afterwards, the Crofts discuss their reaction.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Matchmaker, Matchmaker: a Janeite Conversation

At our last chat, we discussed how likely (or unlikely) certain Austen pairings were to have happy lives together. When I wrote the question, it got me thinking about which characters across books would make great pairings. If they could cross over, would some characters be fast friends or instant love matches? The idea has all the makings of some great Austenesque stories, so I'm hoping this one will prove fruitful to all the Austenesque writers out there.
(Ahem. wink wink nudge nudge.)

I asked . . .
And as a follow-up conversation toour last chat about (un)happily ever afters, if you could pair up any two characters from different Austen novels, whether romantically or otherwise, who do you think was just meant to meet and be together? Who wouldn't fail to hit it off or become fast friends? And who would be oil and water?

Why We Love Pemberley Digital | guest post from Joy Penny

Who doesn't love Pemberley Digital? Seriously. They're pretty much amazing.
BUT IF for some reason you haven't discovered the amazing modern (ultra modern, even) things they're doing with Austen's work — because, you know, you've been living in a cave, apparently — Joy Penny is here to tell you what's what when it comes to Pemberley Digital, AND she takes a look at one of my favorite aspects — PD's attention to creating a diverse cast!
Check it out and share your favorite scenes, retellings or casting decisions in the comments. And don't forget, Joy's also giving away a copy of her book, A Love for the Pages, so you might wanna check that out!

Why Austenites and New Fans Alike Love Pemberley Digital
We all have that friend or family member who looks at our obsession with historical romances as something of an oddity. “I prefer romantic comedies,” she tells you before you can explain that Ms. Jane Austen just might have invented the romantic comedy she enjoys so much. Two singles not looking for love or, in the case of someone like Marianne, perhaps too desperately seeking it? Check. Misunderstandings (“He’s the last person I’d be with!”), loving the wrong person for a bit and a lot of regret? Check again. A happily ever after in which all misunderstandings are cleared up? You’re looking at an Austen novel, and by extension, an Austen-based TV series or film.
Maybe it’s the period costumes or the rich countryside settings. Perhaps the dialog seems a bit odd to the ear trained to hear modern slang. Maybe Jane Austen’s status as a classic literary author makes the casual reader think “school assignment” and assume the pages are a snore fest. (I’ve had to tell more than one person how Austen’s narration is full of humor!) Whatever keeps your friends and family from reading Austen, or if they’re not big readers, at least watching your favorite adaptations with you, you’re probably not going to convince them to change their minds on your own.
And if there’s one thing that Austenites can concede, even if we love immersing ourselves in period pieces and escaping to that time in history and (unless you’re British) that place that’s so unlike our own, it’s that, owing to the time she wrote in, there isn’t a lot of variety of people in Austen novels. I can’t think of anyone, even among minor characters, who’s not Caucasian (sorry if I’m wrong), and even the most “diverse” Austen might get – aristocrats vs. the working class, such as Emma vs. Harriet – is rarely in focus. Her heroines and their love interests are, if not born into high society, raised or thrust into it. The most pitiable characters are simply low on the high society social ladder, but they can still get away with spending most of their days in leisure with servants to assist them, even if virtually “impoverished” like the Dashwood sisters.
So what’s an Austenite looking to show her friends and family that Jane Austen stories are timeless and accessible to do? Check out Pemberley Digital.
Pride and Prejudice, Emma and even Sanditon Get a Modern Makeover
As you might guess from the channel name, Pemberley Digital was born out of a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Although they weren’t the first to modernize an Austen story (Clueless is one of the most memorable to come to mind), LBD was the first YouTube series—free to watch—to modernize Austen that made a big splash. Like Emmy-winning splash.
Elizabeth Bennet, now a grad school student with two sisters instead of five, narrates her life into the camera under the guise of a school project. Inviting her sisters and friends to vlog with her, the plot of Pride and Prejudice unfolds with fun reenactments, clever dialog and a lot of humor. Famously, because she can’t stand him and there’s no logical reason for him to know about Lizzie’s online diaries, Darcy himself doesn’t appear for quite a long time. But you feel like you’ve met him because Lizzie and the rest of the cast are that effective at bringing their impressions of him to life.
Welcome to Sanditon followed. A shorter series with many more liberties taken with the original material, it acts as a spin-off to LBD. Based on Austen’s unfinished novel only with Gigi (Georgiana) Darcy as the primary observer, it updates Sanditon to a small town in California and invited the audience—the real audience—to submit videos weighing in on events while pretending they lived in the town. It was an ambitious idea and fun to watch, although not as popular as the ones based on Austen’s completed novels.
Emma Approved, the most recent and currently airing series, turns Emma Woodhouse into a successful party planner, life coach and professional matchmaker, which is a clever twist on Emma’s meddling, if well-meaning, attitude from the original book. Harriet is her plucky personal assistant who goes from shy and awkward to more confident under Emma’s guidance—although, as in the book, she takes Emma’s relationship advice entirely too seriously.
Austen Gets Diverse
Other than the fresh take and modern setting, Pemberley Digital gets so much right about bringing Austen stories into the modern world—like making the cast more diverse. Asian American actors play important roles in LBD such as Charlotte Lu (Lucas), Bing Lee (Charles Bingley) and Caroline Lee (Bingley). The Griffiths siblings in Welcome to Sanditon are African American. But Emma Approved is where diversity really shines.
Main character Emma Woodhouse is played by an Asian American actor, as is her sister, Izzy (Isabella) Knightley, and Frank Churchill. Since Pemberley Digital works exist in the same world, Asian American Caroline Lee from LBD even takes the place of a minor character (to name her would be to spoil!) in a brilliant merging of two characters with similar dispositions. Sweet if a tad annoying Maddy Bates and her niece (and Emma’s friend/rival) Jane Fairfax are both African American. Although there have been diverse adaptations before, such as Bollywood versions, Pemberley Digital makes Austen’s work more multicultural and reflective of the world we live in—so everyone can see that her stories are really timeless and accessible to all.
These adaptations are turning non-Austenites into fans of her work. Check out any comment section for these videos, and you’ll find a lot of people guessing what might happen and begging the book readers not to spoil the plot. These are the very people we’ve longed to introduce to Austen’s works, and they’re responding to these twice-a-week YouTube video versions in spades.
We’re hoping for more Austen adaptations in the future, although Pemberley Digital’s next project is actually Frankenstein, M.D. (with a female Dr. Frankenstein!), so time will tell if the company goes back to finish the Austen catalog or continues branching out to other public domain works. In the meantime, share these videos with your romantic comedy-loving friends (and tell them to read the book version that just came out), and you’ll finally be able to geek out about Elizabeth and Darcy or Emma and Knightley together!

About the guest poster:  Joy Penny is a pen name for a writer who adores books. She also writes YA under a different name. A Love for the Pages (June 2014) is her new adult romance debut and is a modernized homage to Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.
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QUIZ: What type of Regency heroine are YOU?

The following (super fun) quiz was created by Beth (you know, the one who makes literary-themed makeup), who is asking us to discover what type of Regency heroine we would be. Turns out, I'm "Spirited" . . . (Who would have thought? ;P )

Take the quiz and then let me know in the comments what type of heroine YOU are. And for you Austen noobs, there's a cheat sheet after the quiz that explains some of the choices, in case you get stuck. Hope you at least brought your number two pencils, though . . .

Find out by answering the fun little quiz below!

Want to know why you got the answer you did? 

Feed Your Reader: HUGE Austen Variations / #AustenInAugust Book Sale!!

Because we love our Austen authors and they love us back, the FAB folks at Austen Variations have put together a MASSIVE Austen-esque book sale as part of the Austen In August celebrations!! I can't speak for you Janeites, but I know someone whose shiny new(ish) e-reader is about to get a whole lot fuller (sorry not sorry, bank account!).

So click through and let the bargain spree begin!

In conjunction with Austen in August, Austen Variation authors are holding a book sale. From August 27th through September 5th, the following books will be on sale:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Surprisingly Lovable characters

hosted by The Broke & the Bookish

Last week on Top Ten Tuesday, we talked about the most personally-irritating characters in all of Austen, so today I thought we'd do the opposite and show some love to the characters that maybe get overlooked a bit in the lovefests (or those that maybe not everyone loves...). So while everyone else in Top Ten Tuesdayland takes a look at the books they want to read but don't yet own, we'll be talking about my favorite surprisingly lovable Austen characters!
Kicking it off . . .

#WednesdayYA Chat Reminder!

This is your FRIENDLY REMINDER that the #WednesdayYA discussion of the second of this year's Read Along picks, Mr Darcy Broke My Heart, will take place on Twitter TOMORROW, WEDNESDAY THE 27TH AT 8:30 PM EST.

This is a SUPER quick read, so if you want to join us, you can pick up a copy here,and honestly, you could probably manage to read it in that time. If you've already read it or you're just curious what the discussion will bring, I sincerely hope you'll come chat with us, using the hashtag #WednesdayYA. Liz and I always have a lot of fun with you guys, and when you throw Austen into the mix! — well, let's just say, I. Am. Ready. (Charter, don't fail me now!)

Hope to see you there!

by Beth Pattillo
263 pages, Published February 1st 2010 by GuidepostsBooks
Claire Prescott is a sensible woman who believes in facts and figures, not fairy tales. But when she agrees to present a paper to a summer symposium at Oxford on her ailing sister's behalf, Claire finds herself thrown into an adventure with a gaggle of Jane Austen-loving women all on the lookout for their Mr. Darcy. Claire isn't looking for Mr. Anyone. She's been dating Neil -- a nice if a bit negligent -- sports fanatic. But when a tall, dark and dashing stranger crosses her path, will the staid Claire suddenly discover her inner romantic heroine? Her chance meeting with a mysterious woman who claims to have an early version of Austen's Pride and Prejudice -- in which Lizzie ends up with someone other than Fitzwilliam Darcy -- leads to an astounding discovery about the venerated author's own struggle to find the right hero for Lizzie Bennett. Neil's unexpected arrival in Oxford complicates Claire's journey to finding her own romantic lead.

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart is the story of a woman who finds that love isn't logical and that a true hero can appear in the most unexpected of places.

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Persuasion 200: Anne wonders...

On the first installment of Persuasion 200, Jack Caldwell gave us a look at Wentworth being daring on the high seas; today, Maria Grace takes us back to the mainland to visit Anne as she wonders . . .

Persuasion 200: Anne wonders if Wentworth will seek her out again.

All the news of Wentworth's exploits has got Anne thinking...

Anne lay the newspaper aside and maneuvered in the window bench until the sunbeam caressed her face. Such exploits, such bravery. Though there was not a soul with whom she could share it, had anyone asked, she would happily declare her pride in ‘her’ Captain Wentworth. The Asp and the Laconia—he had acquitted himself well indeed, far and away beyond anyone’s expectations. Her secret luxury, reveling in his success—how pleasing to have the morning room to herself and indulge—

“Anne. Anne!” Elizabeth barged in. “Why ever are you hiding here Anne? I have been looking for you everywhere.”

There was only one reason Elizabeth—or anyone else—ever looked for her. “What do you need me to do?”

“Now why would you say something like that? Truly Anne, you are so defensive and disagreeable, acting as though you are so put upon.” She strutted along the windows and snatched the newspaper away from Anne as she passed. “Father asked for this. He said there was news of the Darlymples in the society pages.”

“I had not noticed.”

Was that—yes it was, another new gown. How many was that this month? Two, three? Anne and Mary had recently reworked older frocks into something fresh when Father said it was not a good time to make purchases. Of course, Elizabeth would not be satisfied with anything less than the newest, finest of anything.

“Since you ask though.”

Anne cringed. Elizabeth’s you-should-forget-your-plans-and-serve-me-voice never boded well for her.

“Do nip into town and visit Boyd’s for me. I am out of marzipan.” Elizabeth folded the newspaper and tucked it under her arm.

“If you are so fond of it—”

“You cannot be serious. How would it look for me to go?”

“How does a walk into town compromise—”

“I told Miss Hartfield that I was too ill to join her for tea today. She is such a dull hanger-on. Now I cannot—” Elizabeth’s lip pulled back into a well-cultivated Elliot sneer.

Anne lifted her open hand. That expression left her little choice but to put aside her plans and address Elizabeth’s needs; otherwise a well-cultivated Elliot fit would follow. “I understand. I shall go now.”

“Good, and be sure they are wrapped correctly. Oh, and I want a large box.”

“Yes, Elizabeth.” No, she would exercise self-control and not roll her eyes—at least until she left the house.

“And should you see Miss Hartfield—”

“I will offer her your regrets.”

“And do be a dear and pick up a fresh bottle of Gowland’s lotion for me as well.”

Anne forced a place-holding smile to her lips. She would replace it with a genuine expression when out of Elizabeth’s view. “Anything else?”

“No, no, that will do. You best get on, then. Really, Anne, you dawdle so.” Elizabeth flittered out.

Anne pressed her back against the wall and allowed her head to thump the paneling. What joy was hers. At least the walk would afford her time alone with her thoughts which as exactly what she desired. Best not allow Elizabeth to know lest she deny her that as well.

Anne changed into her half-boots, donned her spencer and bonnet an slipped out before anyone could add more to her errands.

How very different things might have been had she been married now. She certainly would not be rushing out for marzipan. It would probably be a luxury she could ill afford. But life without a little marzipan was nothing to a life without Frederick.

Would she ever see him again? Surely she would. Life could not be so cruel as to deny her that.

What would he say to him? There was little news. Nothing ever happened at Kellynch or with her family. Surely he would have enough stories to fill enough conversation for both of them.

She smelled Boyd’s before she could saw the shop. She could recognize the fragrance anywhere, sweet, spicy, and comforting. The little confectionary boasted the best marzipan in the county, according to Elizabeth, although the clear cakes were more to her taste.

People, happy people, young and old, filled the cozy shop. Small tables crammed the front of the shop, surrounded by blissful customers enjoying Boyd’s wares and a few handsome young men vying for the attention of Boyd’s lovely daughters who worked in the shop.

Everyone always smiled here and the conversation seemed merry—a little haven away from the dull and dingy parts of life.

“Miss Elliot.” The confectioner’s youngest daughter, Miss Christina Boyd greeted her at the door. One of the perks of being an Elliot of Kellynch Hall, someone always noticed when you arrived—not that it was always a good thing, but it was consistent. “May I help you with something today?”

Anne closed her eyes and drew a savored breath. “It all smells so delightful.”

Miss Christina blushed and smiled, sweet as her father’s wares. It was difficult to imagine a cross word ever coming from her mouth. “Father will be glad to hear you said so. Would the elder Miss Elliot be requiring marzipan today?”

“Why yes, how did you know?” Of course, she knew, a wise shopkeeper always kept track of his best customers, but Miss Boyd deserved the compliment.

“It has been a week since her last box. A large one today?”

“Yes, please.”

“Right away.” Miss Boyd curtsied and disappeared in the crowd.

Anne wandered to the front windows, near the table where two young women tittered over newspaper accounts of naval victories. Oh, to be able to partake in such a conversation. Best remove herself from the temptation. She dragged herself to a display of barley sugar twists.

Fredrick had enjoyed those. Did he think of her as often as she did him? He had been so very angry when he left. Could he ever forgive her? Would he renew his attentions to her when he returned?


Anne jumped.

“Forgive me for startling you, Miss. I just thought you might enjoy something while you waited.” Miss Boyd handed her a rose patterned saucer with round almond clear cake in the center.

“Thank you.” Anne took the plate. Father would dismiss such thoughtfulness as the due of a baronet. But it was still kind and pleasing, especially when sweet Miss Boyd recalled her favorite confection when no one else could.

She bit into the clear cake, the sugary crust crumbling on her tongue. The jelly slowly melted into almondy-rosey sweetness that reminded her of Wentworth. He remembered these were her favorites, too.

If he did seek her out on his return, there would be no question as to her answer this time. There were not enough words for ‘yes’ in English to convey her sentiments properly. If only he would seek her out once more. In that, men had such a material advantage. They could be active in the world, seek out what they desired. Pursuing and fighting for it was their right, even their duty. Women were made for more quiet things, quiet unsatisfying things.

Things like bringing marzipan to Elizabeth.

Miss Christina brought the properly wrapped box and Anne left to seek a bottle of Gowland’s and return home for more quiet, unsatisfying pursuits.

Come visit Austen Variations to read more of Persuasion 200

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The Madness of Mr Darcy Excerpt & Giveaway!

Alexa Adams is an old friend to this blog — she's been a part of my Austen events right from the very beginning, and she always has a fun new take on P&P to share! This time 'round, as we head into the cooler weather and the fun creepytimes of Halloween, Alexa is sharing a sneak peek of her upcoming book, The Madness of Mr Darcy!
And hey, you might just get to win a copy for yourself, so... you might wanna click through. ;)

October 1831
The fire split the sky, illuminating the people running about everywhere, doing everything possible to staunch the flames. Reports confirmed that old Mr. Sellers, in whose cottage the fire began, was dead, and the lives of three more of the small community of villagers who comprised Kympton parish were feared lost as well. There were fainter murmurings, and the words “arson” and “Wickham” could be perceived.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Northanger Abbey Read Along Discussion Questions #2

Alright, we've come to the end of another Austen in August read-along! This makes me very frowny-faced, especially because Northanger Abbey holds such a special place in my heart, but I do love discussing it with you (even when I disagree).
I'll be sharing my answers to all these many, many questions in an upcoming vlog, but for now, here are the discussion prompts for Volume Two. Feel free to use them to start your own reaction posts to Northanger, or discuss in the comments, but remember, these are just prompts — you're welcome and encouraged to discuss any aspects that fascinate you, and not just the ones I've picked. =)
Happy chatting!

Top Funny Moments in Austen Adaptations | guest post from Maggie!

I love to have a fair amount of the funny bits mixed into my events. Clearly.
So a post dedicated to looking at the best funny bits is a-okay by me. (And you already know I love a good list.) Maggie from An American in France has decided to share with us her favorite funny moments in the many traditional Austen film adaptations, and frankly, these make me want to marathon some Austen films something fierce!
Click through for many a chuckle and glorious, glorious gifs!

Five Funny Moments in Austen Adaptations by Maggie Nambot (An American in France)

"I dearly love a laugh." - Elizabeth Bennet


Behind the Façade: Anatomy of a Regency London Season | guest post &giveaway from Kelly McDonald

It's no secret that Janeites love Balls.
Hmm, how to make this not sound dirty...
Austen fans love Balls. Nope.
Who doesn't love a good Ball scene? Almost there. 
Whether we like to dance or not, we Janeites can't help but lose ourselves in a brisk reel with a dashing hero — even if only in the pages of a book. There we go.

We all love a good Ball (dammit), and the crowded dance rooms of Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility and, well, basically every Austen novel are the frequent settings of the most crucial moments in these characters' stories. Kelly M. McDonald, author of Two Teens in the Time of Austen, is here to talk about the importance and the context of these settings and the requisite London Season, as well as to offer up a copy of her book to one of you!

Behind the Façade: Anatomy of a Regency London Season
Kelly M. McDonald (smithandgosling.wordpress.com)

In accepting Mrs. Jennings’ kind invitation to share her London home, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood gained access to the social whirl that constituted “The Season”. This pivotal section of Sense and Sensibility reverses Marianne’s romantic sensibilities: from a path glowing with dreamy sunshine, she walks headlong through storms until face-to-face with death. The cause of this reversal is embodied in Miss Grey, a wealthy young woman whom readers can assume was brought up among the London social circle the Dashwood girls are only visiting. The sole sighting of this rival for Willoughby’s affections is set amidst a glittering social gathering.

At the very least, Jane Austen knew about London’s social milieu through her cousin - the exotic Eliza de Feuillide, who counted among her sisters-in-law (since December 1797) as Mrs Henry Austen. Jane Austen’s letter to her sister Cassandra, dated 25 April 1811, describes an evening entertainment at Eliza and Henry’s Sloane Street residence. “There were many solicitudes, alarms & vexations beforehand of course, but at last everything was quite right. The rooms were dressed up with flowers &c, & looked very pretty.” Musicians arrived, followed by “the lordly Company”. Austen staked out a cool passage area, away from the “hotter than we liked” Drawing Room, which “gave us all the advantage of the Music at a pleasant distance, as well as that of the first veiw [sic] of every new comer. I was quite surrounded by acquaintance, especially Gentlemen”. Eliza’s party was on a slightly modest scale, according to Austen’s telling sentence that “Including every body we were 66 - which was considerably more than Eliza had expected, & quite enough to fill the Back Drawing room”. The party broke up after midnight.

Austen utilizes just such a gathering to quash all hopes Marianne had in meeting Willoughby in London. Chapter 6 (volume II) opens the fateful night on which the girls “attend Lady Middleton to a party”. Austen sketches the scene very lightly, recognizing that contemporary readers already possessed at least passing knowledge of such a setting. “They arrived in due time at the place of destination; and as soon as the string of carriages before them would allow, alighted, ascended the stairs, heard their names announced from one landing-place to another in an audible voice, and entered a room splendidly lit up, quite full of company, and insufferably hot.” There, across the crowded room, first Elinor then Marianne spots Willoughby; they, however, must wait for him to come to them. “He approached; and address[ed] himself rather to Elinor than Marianne, as if wishing to avoid her eye, and determined not to observe her attitude…” After this interview, the girls locate Lady Middleton, who was “in the middle of a rubber” at the Cassino table, and the trio depart the fashionable residence. A break-up - and Marianne’s breakdown - is the inevitable outcome of the evening.

The scene passes quickly, in only a few pages.

Few readers today will have much of a clue beyond Austen’s descriptors of “full” and “insufferably hot” to appreciate the world Willoughby is willingly joining, the milieu which instigated the speedy expulsion of the Dashwood girls -- first back to Mrs. Jennings’ Berkeley Street home, but ultimately back to their country cottage in Devon.

Described by Elinor, who is trying to shield her sister from public embarrassment (and scrutiny), as “not a place for explanations”, what lay behind such gatherings in “room[s] splendidly lit up”? In turning to a handful of contemporary letters and newspaper alerts, the brilliance of “The Season” illuminates how public a stage Willoughby’s coldness towards Marianne is played out upon. Austen utilizes rumor - the stories often originating with the gossip-gathering Mrs. Jennings - to feed readers pertinent back-story knowledge, as well as a few well-chosen red-herrings. It’s a good thing she was too busy attending to her recently-confined daughter, Charlotte Palmer, to attend the Dashwood girls to this party.

So here are Five things for a Regency Girl to keep in mind:

WHEN? “The Season” followed the Parliamentary calendar. On the heels of returning MPs came the wives and daughters. February was a good time to arrive; June would see you departing among the last of the diehard revelers.

WHERE? Think ‘Extravaganza’! Lengthy newspaper articles catalogue the “fashionables”. Titles lead the pack, with Balls opened by Duchesses; Routs hosted by Countesses; and Concerts lead by Marchionesses, but the plain “Mrs” swells the pack. A “splendid Ball and Supper” thrown by one “Mrs” on Portland Place had Fleet Street pens scratching away with superlatives: “The magnificent staircase was lighted up with crystal lamps & the Ball-room illuminated by costly chandeliers and lustres”; “a most excellent banquet consisting of every delicacy”; “dancing recommenced at three o’clock, and was kept up with proper spirit until six” -- SIX A.M., this is.

WHO? Choose your friends well, or work your way up the social ladder. Bigger balls means Bigger Bigwigs, More Impressive Titles, perhaps even The Royals. When in doubt, see “WHERE” above.

HOW? “It’s going to be a bumpy night”: The “string of carriages” took one letter-writer more than half-an-hour to reach the door; a BIG crush once you got inside the door, for this same correspondent only knew a relative was also in attendance by spotting her footman at the entrance. The average party on Portland Place counted three hundred guests. “Scene of Dissipation and Vice”? Indeed.
WHY? Well, Girls just wanna have fun!

To go along with her musings on high society and the London season, Kelly has offered up a paperback copy of her book, Two Teens in the Time of Austen: Random Jottings 2008-2013, to one lucky AIA reader! US only, fill out the Rafflecopter to enter; ends September 6th, 2014 at midnight EST. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

When Elizabeth Bennet captured the attention of Pemberley's wealthy owner Mr. Darcy, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice so captured the attention of her sixteen-year-old nephew, James Edward Austen, that he concluded a poem of congratulations addressed to his aunt with,

And though Mr. Collins so grateful for all
Will Lady de Bourgh his dear patroness call,
'Tis to your ingenuity really he owed
His living, his wife, and his humble abode.

The wife chosen by this son of a country clergyman experienced a youth far more stellar than his own, one befitting the wealth a landed-gentleman and Member of Parliament could provide. Emma Smith (1801-1876) and her friend and sister-in-law Mary Gosling (1800-1842), through their personal writings, have left a legacy of their lives dating from Regency London to early-Victorian England. Two Teens in the Time of Austen reconstructs this extended family's biography, as well as recounts the chronicles of a Britain at war and on the brink of great change (social, political, industrial, financial).

England rejoiced in the summer of 1814, for the Napoleonic Wars were presumed to be at an end. This was a momentous year for the Smiths of Suttons and the Goslings of Roehampton Grove. Mary Gosling visited Oxford just as these national celebrations ended. Emma Smith's father had died early in the year, leaving Mrs. Smith a 42-year-old widow: Augusta Smith gave birth to the youngest of her nine children days after her husband's death. Emma began keeping diaries on 1 January 1815. The girls are, at this date, fourteen and thirteen years old. Mary's stepmother hosted dazzling London parties; and Emma's great-aunt hobnobbed with Royalty. The privileged daughters of gentlemen, their teen years are a mixture of schoolrooms, visits, travels to relatives, stays in London during the "Season", and trips to Wales, Ireland, and the Continent -- in fact, the Goslings visit the site of the Battle of Waterloo and Mary has left her impressions of the war-torn region. Here is a tale worthy of Jane Austen's pen, as beaux dance and ladies choose their (life) partners. But happiness comes at a price for many.

Once Emma marries the Rev. James Edward Austen (Jane Austen's nephew), she settles into life as a country clergyman's wife, the mother of a large family. Mary loses her beloved Sir Charles Joshua Smith (Emma's brother) within five years of their marriage. The late 1820s and early 1830s are a difficult time for the family, and the nation also sees much strife, politically and economically. Siblings marry -- more Vicars become sons-in-law; while one only (Denis Le Marchant) mingles in the world of Westminster. Already the family has gone from the horse and carriage into the age of steam; now comes the age of the railway. In one letter, James Edward Austen Leigh writes of his excitement (and trepidation) at riding the rails when the speed gets up to the likes of 35 miles per hour! The early 1840s witnessed the deaths of several vibrant women this story contains: Lady Smith, Eliza Chute, Augusta Smith. Young Victoria is on the throne, but the legacy of George III and his Charlotte has never been forgotten.

Two Teens in the Time of Austen: Random Jottings, 2008-2013 introduces people Jane Austen met -- like the Chutes of the Vyne, as well as the niece she never lived to welcome into the family: Emma Austen Leigh, whose husband would later publish Recollections of the Early Days of the Vyne Hunt (1865) and A Memoir of Jane Austen (1870; revised, 1871).

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