After reading Rapunzel’s Revenge I picked up Calamity Jack, which smoothly picked up where that had left off. This one adds to the Old West-fairy tale mashup with a bit a steampunky attitude (or, at least, a few contraptions that seem to fit that, if not the vibe). Sidekick Jack is the main focus of this story, as he returns to the town from which he was soundly booted. The bad guys seem to be taking over in the guise of “protecting” everyone from the giant ants that are wreaking havoc on the city. Jack and Rapunzel think it all seems a bit suspicious. Here we get more elements of the traditional Jack and the Beanstalk tale-a beanstalk, a giant, the goose and her golden eggs. The same elements of adventure and fun and witty repartee are here as they were in Rapunzel’s Revenge. These two were a nice change of pace from my usual novels and I really enjoyed them. Hoping the fact that they are numbered #1 and #2 means there will be a #3!
I just happened to see this at the library, hadn’t even heard of it, but I love Shannon Hale‘s novels and was excited to see this somewhat oversized graphic novel. Her ability to fracture a fairy tale, create a new backstory, and bring life and spunk to her heroines is equally present in this rollicking funny book as it is in her more “literary” novels. There was an Old West vibe to this, which was very interesting, and thus a bit tall tale-y, too. I loved the fun she had with Rapunzel’s quest for revenge and her companion, Jack (of soon to be beanstalk fame.) Besides Jack there are a few other familiar fairy tale references, such as the goose who lays the golden egg. This was a quick read and I was happy to have Calamity Jack on hand to keep reading.
[Caveat: I'm trying to make good on my New Year's Resolution and get caught up to speed on this blog. That means I'm writing about books I read months ago, my memory might be spotty, and I'm just going to jot down a few sentences.]
Oh man, I can’t believe I read this last April (for real!). Rereading the summary of the book I remember that I loved it. Shannon Hale never disappoints me with her incredibly realistic, yet made up worlds that are at home in fairy tales. In this one a woman and her maid are shut up in a tower for years. They nearly starve to death and of course nearly go mad (I think?). A beastly horrible man with a crazy secret and crazy power wants her for his own. A tale with an amazing heroine-great for teens and adults.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Colin Firth is the perfect Mr. Darcy. No one knows this better than Jane Hayes, a thirtysomething New Yorker who has given up on men after a string of disappointing boyfriends. It seems that real men just can’t live up to that ideal brooding handsome romantic figure of Mr. Darcy, from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (specifically, Mr. Darcy of the awesome BBC miniseries). Jane’s elderly great-aunt sees Jane’s obsession and leaves her an unusual gift in her will: a three week vacation in Pembrook Park. This, it turns out, is an estate in England where women go to live the Regency fantasy. For three weeks Jane will dress and act as if it is 1816. Things seem set up to provide her with a romance as well, but she hopes to leave the experience cured of her Mr. Darcy fixation and not succumb to any romantic feelings. And thus begins the most surreal experience of Jane’s life. She is actually living a Regency romance! She is known as Miss Erstwhile, passes her days with embroidery and strolls, wears a corset, eats weird foods, and tries her best to speak as if she is a Jane Austen character. It’s all very weird and trying as she finds herself somewhat repelled by the fantasy/reality, while at the same time giddy about the prospect of a ball and intrigued by Mr. Nobely.
I absolutely loved this book. What an unexpected treasure to have found. I did not know it was coming out, hadn’t heard any hype about it, just happened across it at the bookstore. What drew me in (besides the lovely title and cover) was the author–Shannon Hale is a ya author who’s written a few of my favorite fantasy-fairy tale type books (The Goose Girl, Enna Burning). This is her first adult novel, and while nothing like her previous books I’d so enjoyed, a winner.
A must read for Jane Austen and/or Regency romance romance fans. I doubt there is a Regency reader who hasn’t daydreamed about living in that world and here Jane actually gets to experience it!
Check out Shannon Hale’s website and her amusing inclusion of a letter she sent to Colin Firth.
Aug. 12 Update: I saw Becoming Jane Austen last night, which was just delightful. I thought it did a wonderful job of showing that it was really sucky how you couldn’t just go out and get a job to earn a living–man or woman. That most people were dependent on profitable and sensible marriages, that your welfare could be entirely in the hands of one person, that one could easily be ruined by mildly unconventional or thoughtless behavior. I think we (like Jane in Austenland) tend to romanticize Jane and the time period in our heads, but in fact we are most likely better off living now. The scenery and costumes were gorgeous, and it was romantic, but I thought it was a good dose of likely reality too.