Friday, May 24, 2013

Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood by Abby McDonald

Book:  Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood
Author:  Abby McDonald
Date:  Now available
Source:  Publisher via Netgalley
My grade:  C

Abby McDonald gives L.A. the Jane Austen treatment in this contemporary take on Sense and Sensibility.

Hallie and Grace Weston have never exactly seen life eye to eye. So when their father dies and leaves everything to his new wife, forcing the girls to pack up and leave San Francisco for a relative’s house in shiny Beverly Hills, the two sisters take to their changing lot in typically different styles. Shy, responsible Grace manages to make friends with an upbeat, enterprising girl named Palmer but still yearns for her old life — and the maybe-almost-crush she left behind. Meanwhile, drama queen Hallie is throwing herself headlong into life — and love — in L.A., spending every second with gorgeous musician Dakota and warding off the attention of brooding vet Brandon. But is Hallie blinded by the stars in her eyes? And is Grace doomed to forever hug the sidelines?

Initial reaction
Not everyone should mess around with Jane Austen.  Just sayin’…….

Cover story
It’s alright.  It fits the story but it isn’t exactly unique.  I don’t really care for the title, because really, would the characters know that they are a Jane Austen re-telling?  They did that to grab people like me….HUGE Jane Austen fans!

What’s the Story?
I love Jane Austen beyond reason.  I can’t even count the number of times I’ve read my old copy of Pride and Prejudice or even watched Colin Firth come out of that pond……::sighs:: But I digress.  I have read all of Jane Austen’s novels, seen most of the film adaptations and whenever I see a re-telling, I feel a huge compulsion to read it right away.  So this one grabbed my attention immediately.

This is a re-telling of Sense and Sensibility.  And the author had great source material to work with, obviously, which is probably how this one ended up with a B+.  I mean, I ended up liking the story, but I didn’t love this one.  I love Sense and Sensibility.  This one seemed too obviously based on the original, if you know what I mean.  I like re-tellings, but it’s nice when the author tries to be a little bit original.  Some parts of this were original, but not tons.  Here are some examples:

  1. I liked that Willoughby was a rock musician.  That was a stroke of brilliance!
  2. It was interesting that Col. Brandon was a young guy back from Iraq.  I actually like it that he’s not a billion years older than Hallie.

Then, there were things that either didn’t work or I didn’t understand:

  1. Why Beverly Hills?  It seems to me that they are supposed to be falling into poverty, not living in their uncle’s posh guest house with a new aunt who pampers them with spa visits.
  2. I’m not sure why it was turned into a big deal that the girls were bi-racial.  It just felt out of place.  Like it was put there to make a statement instead of being an organic part of the story.  I mean, I normally don’t even think about the race of the characters, so when this one really stood out to me, it became distracting. And I’m great with books making statements, but I want a book to make a statement with some subtlety unless it’s absolutely meant to smack you in the face, like Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, for example.

So this book was a mixed bag for me.  I liked the way the author modernized the male suitors and I must admit, this Colonel Brandon was waaaaaaay better than the one who wooed Kate Winslet.  (I’m so sorry, Alan Rickman!  I love you, but your age difference with Kate just squicked me out……)  But it felt like this was just a re-hashing of the original that didn’t stand up to the genius of Jane Austen’s version.   I think that I would have to just send readers straight to Sense and Sensibility instead.  Or if you want a clever Jane Austen re-telling, pick up Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg. 

The Soundtrack

This soundtrack was hard for me, because I was less than inspired by this book.  But here goes nothing:

Anthem (Leonard Cohen cover) by Perla Batalla & Julie Christensen

I Was Gonna Marry You by Tristan Prettyman

Fidelity by Regina Spektor

Realize by Colbie Caillat

Better Things by Fountains of Wayne

The Final Grade

My final grade for this book is a C.  It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t stunning either.  It was about average.

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