Book Review: Jane and the 12 Days of Christmas

Once upon a time, there lived a woman named Jane

who wrote novels that caused her warranted fame,

now she probably lies in her grave with unrest

because she stars in books that can be a shitfest,

and one of those novels is this:

20600462https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20600462-jane-and-the-twelve-days-of-christmas

So I received a free copy of Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, which is awesome, but the book itself is not one I recommend.

It’s pretty terrible – a “mystery” that doesn’t really contain much, you know, mystery.

It stars Jane Austen as a novel-writer/detective who just happens to stumble across murder all the time (this is the twelfth book in the mystery series). In this case, it is Christmas-time, and Jane is being snarky as she visits her relatives & visits old family friends in their nice house.

The whole book revolves around the concepts of legitimacy and honor, which could, to be fair, be interesting topics, but which are not in this particular novel.

Jane comes across as someone who is not fun to be around, and the insinuation is made that she derives the plot of Persuasion from the occurrences in this novel. Jane is noticeably judgmental, including being disdainful for the voiced opinions of a woman whose poverty Jane, herself, seems to have no conception of, and including negativity towards the parenting style of her brother and his wife which seemingly could be partially derived from the fact that Jane, herself, has never born children herself.

Oh, there’s also some romance that is hinted at, for no apparent reason whatsoever.

So… I don’t recommend reading this one. Unless you devour absolutely everything Jane Austen related, regardless of the virtue of its’ content, or you have been reading this series and really need to know what happens next.

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Because the goo…

Because the good news is that we learn just as much about writing from awful books as we do from top-notch books. That’s why we’re encouraged to read everything. So with that spirit in mind, I’d like to look at some of the glaring mistakes of No Name Book that no author should make and no self-respecting author should allow to be published with their name on it.

First, my personal pet-peeve, copious backstory dump. For those unfamiliar with the term, backstory dump is when the author packs the first couple of pages—or first couple of chapters in this case—full of block paragraphs of exposition. Not just any exposition, the life-story of the main characters including all of the important bits of their pasts that will play a role in the current story. No! There are so many ways you can convey that sort of information without dumping it all out in explanatory paragraphs at the beginning! Let it unfold gradually, through dialog and action, and as part of the natural arc of the story!

This quote is from Merry Farmer’s blog, which deals a lot with reading and writing and is often pretty entertaining at the same time. Some of her blogs are romance-specific, and I’m not generally a romance fan, but I still highly recommend reading her blogs – especially since she writes much historical romance, and so a lot of her posts are about “what the hell were these people thinking when –“

But on to my perspective. First of all, reading her blog post, I completely agree with her opinion of the copious backstory dump. Exposition tends to be boring. BUT while reading this particular blog post, I began to wonder – does it have to be boring?

There has to be a way to make even large chunks of information highly entertaining.

One of my favorite novels, ever, is Northanger Abbey. NA begins with a lot of exposition, but all of that exposition is also a parody of gothic novel beginnings. The author (Jane Austen) covers a great deal of time (birth to marriageable age) in a few pages, and writes clever, pithy lines that always make me giggle.

Is that the trick, then? Humor? If you make me laugh while reading, I don’t tend to notice the format of the reading – I just let the ab workout take over and gleefully turn the pages.

What are your thoughts? I feel like this topic is pretty relevant since many people are beginning novels today (NaNo for the win! I’m not doing it this year, but I will cheer for you).

V-Day

Not all of us want, or can afford, a night filled with lustful advances cleverly disguised as romance. So for those of us who are spending the night alone, why not fill your evening with a book? I stole this idea from the Confessions of a Homebody blog. She listed 10 of her favorite romantic novels. I would like to take this idea a step further. We’re not all in the mood for romance on V-Day (though many of us certainly are). Thus, I present: THE LIST OF BOOKS I MIGHT POSSIBLY WANT TO READ ON VALENTINE’S DAY, DEPENDING ON MY MOOD*:

  • If I want to read a book with a too-cutesy ending that makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit:
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

This book is magical (literally, and figuratively). I love the way that the novel highlights the importance of family and love. I also really like the feeling that the writing gives me – that little shiver, like I am reading a fairy tale story. The only problem, as I mentioned before, is that the ending is a bit too cutesy.

  • If I want to be reminded that there are women infinitely more crazy than I am:
Euripides' Medea

Euripides’ Medea

There are many different versions of this myth, but Euripides picked one of the more disturbing ones. He examines what, exactly, would inspire a woman to kill her own children. Not a pretty story; you will never believe a man who tells you you’re acting crazy again.

  • If I want to read a snarky novel with an awesome hero:
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Of course, Pride and Prejudice is also always a good novel. Yet I have an especial fondness for Northanger Abbey. I love the sarcastic, snarky tone as Austen makes fun of the very popular gothic literature prevalent at the time. And seriously? Henry Tilney might be my favorite of Austen’s leading men. Handsome, charming, and a good guy? Yes, please.

  • If I am feeling abused/neglected (whether those feelings are valid or not – I will feel how I want to, dammit!):
Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

I am a huge Sarah Dessen fan (and not merely due to my girth – I was a Dessen fan before my baby boy was born), and this novel is beautiful, as well as sad. It explores a girl’s relationship with her boyfriend, which begins in that sweet, magical way so many of our relationships do, but devolves into one full of abuse. Reading this realistic portrayal makes it hard for me to continue a self-pity party.

  • If I want to read a romance where one of the love interests dies:
Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska by John Green

So far, my favorite of the novels by John Green that I have read. Looking for Alaska is a smart read with a young male protagonist who is completely smitten. The love is realistic, and the novel does not end with the death. We all occasionally want to gasp with horror when one of our favorite characters dies, but it is nice to also read through the handling of that grief.

  • If I want to read a story about obsession:
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Yes, I could read Twilight again, if I want to feel like gouging my eyes out with toothpicks. Or I could read Nabakov, whose writing is fantastic, whose unreliable narrator makes me think, and who is very good at writing very creepy characters & situations. Anyone who thinks Lolita seduced Humbert Humbert is not reading this novel carefully enough. (And even if she did get a little flirty, which is hard to gauge due to the unreliable narrator previously mentioned, she’s TWELVE, and he is over 2 decades older than her. Twilight fans are exempted from understanding this argument, since they approve of a relationship between a teenager and a man over 100. Ew.)

  • If I want to read a story filled with atmosphere:

Rebecca duMaurier’s Rebecca.

I can’t find my copy (Oh no!), which is why there is no picture – a trip to the bookstore is obviously in order.

This novel almost seems like a romance. In reality, though, this marriage is exceedingly unhealthy, particularly when you take into account (SPOILER following) that the narrator is married to a murderer. But he loves her – at least, he says he does. Yay?

  • If I am in the mood for a YA book, and it’s inevitable love triangle:
The Hunter by L.J. Smith

The Hunter by L.J. Smith

As a teen, I read every one of L.J. Smith’s books I could get my hands on (and am, subsequently, still awaiting the conclusion of her “Nightworld” series Strange Fate). The “Forbidden Game” trilogy is one of my favorites. The first book starts right in the action, both of the love interests are dreamy, and the book is a short, quick read.

These books are the ones I will probably feel most inclined to read on February 14th. What are yours?

Books

*Think if I write in all caps frequently enough, Kanye West will want to sing on of my blog posts?