Book Reviews · The Classics Club

The Handmaid’s Tale Review

38447Goodreads Summary: Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

My Thoughts: Wow. Just Wow.  I knew I would probably like this book with all the hype about the Hulu series, but it really blew me away.  It was different than I expected too.  I thought it would be a lot gorier.  While the whole concept is dark, the way Offred speaks with her matter of fact tone, and the way she relays the information in small, unorganized rambles, kept it feeling lighter but seemingly more sinister.  I absolutely loved the structure of the plot and timeline.  The small bits of information we got about the past, randomly interspersed with the current events, kept me turning the page.  I just had to know how the world got to be like it was.  I really appreciated the mundaneness of the story, as opposed to the epic fight we see in most dystopian novels.  It really made it feel real, and somehow more interesting.  I totally felt for Offred and the Handmaids, and while The Wives were so unlikable, as a woman, I felt for them too.  The whole society and way of life of The Republic of Gilead is disgusting, and yet makes for a very compelling story.  Reading about the situations these people were put in often made me sick to my stomach with my jaw on the floor.  It was appalling, and yet I could not stop reading.  I loved Moira and how her spirit helped Offred stay sane in her situation.  I was surprised that I actually liked the Commander.  I thought his behavior was a great juxtaposition to the villainy of men in Gilead, and made the reveal of who he most likely was and what he accomplished in his office, even more shocking.  The ending killed me.  I couldn’t believe that Atwood would leave us hanging like that, but it worked so well, and made me think back on everything I just read in a completely different light.  This book is absolutely brilliant, and I think it is a must read for everyone.

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Book Hangover

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Book Reviews

The Gwythienian by Savannah J. Goins Review

36327173Goodreads Summary: Seventeen-year-old Enzi Montgomery had worn the stone around her neck for years. It was set in a cheap metal fitting, nothing fancy. But it made her wonder if she was crazy. Sometimes, when she had it on, she could disappear. She couldn’t make it happen. It just worked on its own. But always at convenient times, like when she’d needed to hide again from Caleb. Maybe she’d only been imagining it; insomnia could do that to you. The nightmares had never left since that day seven years ago and she’d never really learned to cope with them. But what if she wasn’t crazy? When she finds out that someone else has been searching for the stone—someone from another world—she must decide what to do with it. Should she get rid of it? Or find out what other secrets it holds?

*A big thanks to Savannah J. Goins for this ARC in return for an honest review!*

*Mild spoilers ahead! Proceed with caution!*

My Thoughts: I had a lot of mixed feelings about this book.  After reading the first few chapters I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, but Goins’ easy going and fast pace writing style made it an enjoyable read.  That being said, my biggest issue was that I found it difficult to connect to the characters.  I could not stand Enzi.  She was whiny and negative about herself and her life.  The scenes with her bullies actually made me laugh out loud because they seemed so unrealistic and unmotivated.  As the story progressed and we learned more about Enzi’s dark past and trauma (which I thought was handled really well), I grew to empathize with her more, but I still found it hard to want to root for her.  Despite my feelings about our protagonist, I became invested in the mystery surrounding her powers and her father.  The more we learned about the necklace and it’s connection with the other realms, the more interested I became.  Goins did a great job of developing the realms and their histories, and making us excited to learn more about each one.  The problem was that I became more interested in the other realms than I was with Odan Terridor and the Gwythienians, a race of talking dragons.  While I found the Gwythienian lore and customs intriguing, I felt no connection to them as a whole.  I’ve never had an affinity for dragons, and overcoming my traditional view of what a dragon is was difficult for me, and I think it hindered my ability to fully immerse myself into their world.  I appreciated the slow build in Enzi and Gaedyen, a Gwythienian’s, relationship.  I found their friendship really endearing and enjoyed their banter.  As their journey with the stone progressed, you could definitely see the powerful affect they had on each other’s character arcs and growth.  However; I did get a little weirded out when Enzi started to develop romantic feelings towards a dragon.  Despite its flaws, I  did enjoy the plot and mysteries of this story.  After the huge cliff-hanger ending, I am invested and want to know what the future holds for Enzi, Gaedyen and the fate of the realms.

Book Reviews

Prism by Nina Walker Review

35999390Goodreads Summary: What if color held the secrets to powerful magic?

Forced to move into the palace, Jessa begins training as a Color Alchemist under the direction of the kingdom’s most eligible bachelor, Prince Lucas. As an alchemist, Jessa must capture and harness the color of living things. Every color has a unique purpose, except red. Red is the untapped magic no one can access—until Jessa.

Prince Lucas is running out of time. His mother is deathly ill and healing magic hasn’t worked. When Lucas suspects someone is using alchemy to control her, he sets out to discover the truth, no matter the cost.

PRISM is the first installment of a unique young adult romantic fantasy series where a dystopian world with a Victorian flair meets the dynamic magic of color!

*I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review!*

My Thoughts: I loved this book. I am surprised by how much I loved this book.  When I first read the summary, I was interested, but I had no idea what was actually in store.  I am enamored with the concept of color alchemy and the world of Prism.  Walker did a fantastic job of explaining the power and how it works, as well as showing us the futuristic world of New Colony.  I ate up every tidbit of information, that was well dispersed throughout the book, giving us just the right amount to keep us knowledgeable, yet guessing at what was to come.  I loved her reasoning for how this dystopia came to be, and I can’t wait to find out more about the world outside of New Colony.  The main character, Jessa, was so refreshing in a YA dystopian-fantasy.  She wasn’t whiny, had a healthy self-esteem, and a passion for ballet and family.  It was also nice to see a dystopian society from a middle-class perspective, as dystopian heroes tend to be from the lowest class, and we don’t often get to see that side of the world.  The perspective switches between Jessa and Prince Lucas were very effective.  Lucas was a likable narrator, and I really enjoyed his story line and the way it weaved with Jessa’s.  I appreciated the build in their relationship, and though there was a strong immediate attraction, it didn’t feel like insta-love.  There were a bunch of dynamic supporting characters, and all of them were integral to the action.  No one felt unnecessary.  The plot was thoroughly engaging, and it was very easy to read.  Despite a few overly-used, repetitive phrases, I really liked Walker’s writing, and recognized the distinct voices of each narrator while still remaining a cohesive style.  The plot twists were great, and for the first time in a while, I actually didn’t see some of them coming.  I am so happy that I was given the chance to read this fantastic story, and my hopes are high for the next book!

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Book Reviews

Remember For Me by Diana Tarant Schmidt Review

30461830Goodreads Summary: Clara Eros thought her life was ending with Alzheimer’s. She was mistaken. A war between good and evil has raged for as long as humanity has existed, and the balance of power between its forces has always remained equal. But that longstanding balance has begun to shift, and the survival of mankind may be at risk. What is the source of this duality, and how do the proponents of light and darkness use humans to further their cause? When Clara Eros awakens with no memory, her questions are fundamental: who is she; and why is she here? The answer she receives is predetermined and singular: she has been recruited to fight a battle against the reign of darkness. But is Clara just a pawn in a much larger game? Once her transformation is complete, Clara finds herself, in body and mind, as a younger, stronger version of the person she can no longer remember, and now she must search for the common thread hidden within malevolence and turn the tide in a war where humanity is succumbing to chaos and brutality. Will she be strong enough to bring humanity back into the light?

*I was given my copy of this book by the author in turn for an honest review! Thanks Diana Tarant Schmidt!*

My Thoughts: What an interesting book.  When Diana Tarant Schmidt contacted me about reading and reviewing her book, Remember For Me, I was caught immediately by its premise, and how her idea came to be.  Having seen first hand the pain that dementia and Alzheimers causes, I was very intrigued by her fictionalized account of this disease, as well as the trouble we find our world in today.  With gorgeous prose that is carried throughout the book, the story jumps right in, with little given information, and I’ll admit I was a little confused at first.  The concept of the Go’ El and Poneros, as the forces of good and evil in the world, is amazing and complex.  I was completely on board with the idea, once I started to figure out how it all worked.  I thought the examples she chose to show, as the workings of either group, were very effective, but I would have liked more concrete detail about how these groups operate. While the characters and story line are engaging, I found that the plot took a back seat to the philosophical questions and ideas that this book brings to the surface.  Each event was a little rushed through, and many seemed to not have definitive endings, but you still got something out of each moment.  There were some entertaining scenes and surprises, but as a whole the plot was a little underwhelming and abstract.  And yet, I didn’t totally mind, because I got so much more out of this story.  I felt like I could relate to every character in some way, and all of their emotions were vibrant and real.  As someone who has always struggled to understand people’s blind faith in religion, I appreciated, and was pleasantly surprised, at how open minded and inclusive this story was, while getting across a peaceful and generally faithful message.  I kept thinking how relevant this book is right now, (wars, terrorism, shootings, domestic abuse, etc.) and I loved this concept as an explanation for both the world’s beauty and its destruction.

Book Reviews

Netgalley Review: Sparked by Helena Echlin and Malena Watrous

cover118067-mediumGoodreads Summary: Fifteen-year-old Laurel Goodwin wakes up to find her older sister Ivy missing from their Airstream trailer in the Oregon redwoods. A recurring nightmare convinces her that Ivy was abducted, but no one takes her dream seriously, including her mom. Laurel, a loner, has to learn to ask for help, and Jasper Blake, a mysterious new kid who shares her love of old books, quickly becomes her ally. Together they find their quiet town holds a deep secret and is the epicenter of a dark prophecy. Laurel soon learns that her worst enemies, mean girls Peyton Andersen and Mei Rosen, are developing powers that she needs to find and save Ivy. With time running out, Laurel realizes that power doesn’t always take the form that you expect. And once she learns to look beyond her snap judgments, she develops an unexpected gift of her own.

*Thanks to Netgalley and Inkshares for this ARC copy of Sparked in turn for an honest review*

My Thoughts: I was super excited to read this book.  I had heard great things, and I was drawn immediately to its dark enchanting cover.  Sparked was a perfect fall read, with a fast paced plot, a bunch of twists and turns, and a group of interesting characters.  The plot of this book was clever and exciting, and I couldn’t wait to see where it would go.  Although I picked out the major ending twist towards the beginning of the story, there were plenty of other minor twists that kept me thoroughly entertained.  While I loved the concept of “the sparked,” and the ancient prophecy, I wanted more information about how it came to be, and how it all worked.  It felt a little underdeveloped and rushed through.  The way it was presented made it hard to follow, and I found myself having to reread those bits to make sure I hadn’t missed anything important.  The prophecy came out of nowhere, and with very little detail and explanation was just accepted by everyone.  I was along for the ride, so it didn’t take me out of the story completely, but I definitely had a “That seems fake, but ok.” moment.  I absolutely loved the different powers that emerged within each of the characters, but I really wanted more detailed information about how they worked and grew and where they came from.  Laurel was a surprisingly likable narrator, despite her “I’m not as beautiful and special as my sister” syndrome.  She annoyed me a little at first with her whining, but I grew to like her as her character developed and the story progressed.  I admired her courage and drive to do whatever it took to find her sister, Ivy.  I loved their close relationship, and how they helped each other through their rough family history. Her romantic interest, Jasper, however; was so bland to me.  I felt completely indifferent towards him throughout the book, and while I appreciated the slow burn of their relationship, it felt really anticlimactic and I felt no chemistry between them.  My favorite character was Peyton.  I liked her immediately, even when she was the classic mean girl, and couldn’t wait to see how her character developed.  I was hoping for a bigger arc for her and Mei, but as most of the story is Laurel’s perception and journey, I understand why it developed as it did.  I was pleasantly surprised by the perspective switches, and I felt that they worked really well in furthering the plot and giving us better insight to each of the “sparked”.  Even with its faults, I had a good time with this book.  Sparked was a fun, fast read that fans of the Supernatural YA genre will definitely enjoy.

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Book Reviews

Bubblegum ARC Review

*I received an ARC copy in return for an honest review! Thank you Sari Taurez! Expected Publication 10/9/17*

35615310Goodreads Summary: Tiana is your typical pampered young blonde with a love for expensive shoes, hot guys, and murder.

After Tiana is cut off from her family’s riches, she takes advantage of her talents and becomes a killer for hire. It’s a lucrative business in her country, where a call to the police can amount to a lifetime of debt.

Her first client: Julia, a lower-class IT genius, lesbian, and devout Catholic. When the orphanage Julia volunteers at is targeted by the infamous brothel-owner Bobby Nails, Tiana is excited to take the job. But when she discovers Bobby Nails has a full army of mercenaries at his disposal, Tiana wonders if she may be in over her head.

Tiana and Julia face an unexpected adventure as they seek vengeance against the elusive Nails. Along the way they are joined by Ruby, a pyromaniac ex-prostitute who catches Julia’s eye, and William, a mysterious acrobatic fugitive searching for his daughter.

In the end, will they be enough to stop Nails and the chaos he has created?

My Thoughts: When Sari Taurez contacted me about reviewing her new book, Bubblegum, I was immediately attracted to the cover and the synopsis. It sounded very refreshing, unique, and full of girl power.  I knew from the prologue that I was gonna be in for an interesting journey, and I was not wrong.  This book moves fast.  The plot is action-packed and exciting, and for such a quick read, a lot happens.  There were so many great action sequences, that I found the transitions a little lacking, and would have liked  more development between each major event.  The plot line was unique and fun to follow.  It definitely has a heightened comic book vibe, and I think it would be fantastic on screen.  It has a few twists that I really enjoyed (even if I did see them coming).  Our protagonist, Tiana, is a feisty, selfish, impulsive, and sarcastic anti-hero, and I liked her.  I rooted for her throughout the entire book, and connected with her character more than any of the others.  As an actress, I kept thinking how fun she would be to play.  Her partner in crime, Julia, I found to be really dull in comparison, and I wanted her to have a stronger arc.  This book has such an array of diverse characters, which was refreshing to read, but they seemed a little under-developed and one dimensional to me.  The futuristic world of Bubblegum was interesting, and I wish we could have had it fleshed out a little more.  The concept was cool, but the way she described it was pretty vague, and I would have loved a few more details and explanations.  We only got glimpses into how the world worked, instead of being completely immersed in it.  There were a few inconsistencies in the perspective switches too, and I often had to go back to the beginning of the chapter to see who’s perspective I was supposed to be reading. This book’s main focus is in its actions, and although it had exciting scenes, I needed more than that to hold my interest.  All in all, I didn’t love this book.  It was ok, but was a little lacking in everything but girl-power and action.

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Book Reviews

The Thousandth Floor Review

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

24921954Goodreads Summary: NEW YORK CITY AS YOU’VE NEVER SEEN IT BEFORE.
A thousand-story tower stretching into the sky. A glittering vision of the future where anything is possible—if you want it enough.
WELCOME TO MANHATTAN, 2118.
A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. Everyone there wants something…and everyone has something to lose.
LEDA COLE’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.
ERIS DODD-RADSON’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.
RYLIN MYERS’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will this new life cost Rylin her old one?
WATT BAKRADI is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy for an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.
And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is AVERY FULLER, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.
Amid breathtaking advancement and high-tech luxury, five teenagers struggle to find their place at the top of the world. But when you’re this high up, there’s nowhere to go but down….

My Thoughts:

I am obsessed with this book.  To say that it was addictive is an understatement.  I could not stop thinking about these characters or this story when I was not reading.  I couldn’t even get it out of my head when I was out at the bar with friends.  It’s that good.  Katharine McGee did an amazing job creating a futuristic New York City.  It was kind of surreal to read about a futuristic NYC, while being in the current one.  Everything was over the top, but not to a ridiculous standard.  The idea of vertical urbanization, is a very realistic, and logical way that huge cities can continue to grow and expand with technology.  I loved the tech and gadgets that she created for this time period, which all made sense with the trajectory we see technology moving toward now.  I loved learning about the structure of the tower, and the way that it completely changed the dynamics of the city as a whole.   The use of the phrases “up tower” and “down tower,” as the common vernacular, really tickled this “up-town” girl. The fact that people could live a completely full life, just as we do today, without ever leaving the tower was mind blowing.  The few glimpses that we got of the rest of the world were also super intriguing, and I want to know more about what the future outside The Tower looks like.

Inside this beautifully crafted world, were a group of super dynamic characters.  McGee did a great job of writing diverse characters, without seeming like she was trying too hard to be diverse.  They all had interesting and developed arcs, especially Leda and Eris (who was my favorite).  The switching of perspectives with each chapter weaved together a very exciting and fast paced plot.  There was never a character whose chapter I dreaded.  I connected with them all in different ways, and could not wait to find out what was going to happen to them.  I finished the book with my jaw on the floor, and celebrated when I realized I only had to wait a week until the second book was released (it is now in my hands and I could not be more thrilled)!  I still have a humongous book hangover, and I think The Dazzling Heights will be the only cure.

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Book Hangover

Book Reviews

Love & Gelato Review

Goodreads Summary25756328“I made the wrong choice.”

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

My Thoughts:  This book was very nostalgic for me.  It brought me back to when I was in high school and I LIVED for this type of story.  A teenage romance in Italy with a mysterious flashback story? What else could you possibly want?  When I first started reading, I wasn’t sure I was going to love this book.  It took me a while to get on board with the characters, and the writing seemed a little juvenile.  I was annoyed that Lina wouldn’t give Howard a chance and I was even more irritated at her friend, Addie, for not supporting her.  But then I thought back to when I was 16 and I would have felt the same way.  Once I got into the meat of the story, I admit that I was hooked.  I read the whole book in a few hours.  I was swept up into Lina’s journey, her relationships, and her mother’s secret past.  I thought that the unveiling of her mother’s story was done really well in the journal, and I just fell in love with Howard.  There were some twists that I expected, and others that I didn’t, which surprised me.  I thought it would be a predictable ending.  Lina was a very likable and relatable character.  I did get frustrated with her a few times, but I knew she’d figure it all out in the end.  I liked her love interest a lot.  It was a little insta-lovey, seeing as they only knew each other for a couple days, but with they way their relationship developed I was ok with it.  There was a great collection of minor characters as well.  I especially loved the different students at their school.  They created a great environment for Lina to fall in love with Italy. Speaking of Italy, Welch clearly did her research on her location.  I felt like I was there with Lina and her descriptions were very specific and beautiful.  This book definitely awakened my wanderlust, and I might have looked up flights to Italy after finishing…  In the end, I liked this book far more than I expected to.  It was such a cute, heart-warming story, and I haven’t read one of those in a long time.  I laughed, I cried, I had all the feels.

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Book Reviews

Netgalley Review: Starswept by Mary Fan

34377743Goodreads Summary: Some melodies reach across the stars.

In 2157, the Adryil—an advanced race of telepathic humanoids—contacted Earth. A century later, 15-year-old violist Iris Lei considers herself lucky to attend Papilio, a prestigious performing arts school powered by their technology. Born penniless, Iris’s one shot at a better life is to attract an Adryil patron. But only the best get hired, and competition is fierce.

A sudden encounter with an Adryil boy upends her world. Iris longs to learn about him and his faraway realm, but after the authorities arrest him for trespassing, the only evidence she has of his existence is the mysterious alien device he slipped to her.

When she starts hearing his voice in her head, she wonders if her world of backstabbing artists and pressure for perfection is driving her insane. Then, she discovers that her visions of him are real—by way of telepathy—and soon finds herself lost in the kind of impossible love she depicts in her music.

But even as their bond deepens, Iris realizes that he’s hiding something from her—and it’s dangerous. Her quest for answers leads her past her sheltered world to a strange planet lightyears away, where she uncovers secrets about Earth’s alien allies that shatter everything she knows.

My Thoughts: I recently joined Netgalley, and Starswept was my first approved book! I was immediately drawn to the beautiful cover.  When I read the description, I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous.  I usually stick to the fantasy side of the Sci-fi/Fantasy genre, but I was intrigued by the idea of this story.  A dystopian-future performing arts school? Sign me up!  From the first sentence, “They tell us not everyone deserves to matter.”,  I fully bought into Fan’s future world, and the more that was revealed, the more interested I became.  As a performer myself, I absolutely loved the idea of Papilio.  The arts world is cut-throat enough as it is, and the heightened competition was interesting and morbidly exciting.  It started off a little slow, but I was so invested in the world of Papilio that I didn’t care.  The world of the Adryil was also very intriguing.  Fan did an amazing job of building it and I found myself actually becoming afraid of them and the idea of their powers.  She created a great, sinister environment, that made me wonder “How did things get this way?”  I did find the characters a little sterile and bland, but it almost worked with the style of the story.  I wish we were shown more of the depth in their relationships though.  I didn’t feel the strong connection between Iris and Dámiul, and their relationship was a little too insta-love for me to fully support.  However; Fan’s writing style is absolutely gorgeous, and I found myself awed by certain sentences.  The ending was really exciting, fast-paced, and maybe open ended?  It definitely left room for a sequel.  Overall, I liked this book, and appreciated reading something really original and different.  The plot and the world building made for a very enjoyable and immersive read.  Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me the chance to read this beautiful story!

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Book Reviews · The Classics Club

Sense and Sensibility Review

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

14935Goodreads Summary: ‘The more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!’

Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

My Thoughts: I read Pride and Prejudice a few years ago, and I wasn’t the biggest fan.  Everyone loves Austen, so I have been wanting to give her another shot for a while now, and I am actually glad that I did.  I liked Sense and Sensibility a lot more than I expected to.  I was fully engaged in the plot, which surprised me.  Part of the reason I didn’t love Pride and Prejudice was because not enough happened.  They kept dancing around everything, and I needed more action.  This one had a bunch of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, and I thought that the speed in which the events happened was well paced.  It still dealt with the manners and social graces of the time, but there was more to it.  There was also a ton of shade and passive aggressive drama that made me inwardly squeal.  I loved the characters too, especially Elinor and Marianne Dashwood.  I found my self getting frustrated with both of them for opposite reasons, which I enjoyed and kept me reading and wanting more for them.  I loved watching both of them deal with all of these ridiculous people, but my favorite was the battle between Lucy and Elinor for Edward’s heart.  It did take me a while to get used to Austen’s language, but once I got accustomed to it, it was easier to comprehend.  I did have to focus more than normal, so reading it backstage with a big load of distractions wasn’t easy, and it took longer to finish than it normally would.  That said, I really enjoyed it and now I can say that I get it, and I am an Austen fan.  I am excited to read more of her work.

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