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Review: Emma

IMG_3381Recap: In this classic British romance novel, Emma is one of the most popular and well-liked bachelorettes in her community, but no matter how hard she tries, she is completely oblivious to the true wants and needs of the people around her. If you’ve seen the movie Clueless, it may or may not surprise you to know it’s loosely based on this Jane Austen novel from 1815. Emma is the “Cher” character — or rather, “Cher” is the Emma character — focused so much on matchmaking her friends that she misreads signals for her own opportunities at love — or misses them altogether. In the first half of the novel, she is intent on fixing up her new and lower class friend Harriet (“Tai” in Clueless if you’re still following along with the comparison) with her friend Mr. Elton. But every signal that she believes proves Mr. Elton likes Harriet is a sign he actually loves Emma. The result? Both Mr. Elton and Harriet are crushed.

This ripple effect continues throughout the novel as she encourages Harriet to refuse a proposal from a lower-class man, finds herself with feelings for a man who’s secretly already engaged to another woman in town and then tries to set Harriet up with a man who she ultimately realizes she, herself, actually has feelings for.

The gist: Emma is a hot mess. Movie producer Amy Heckerling had it right; she really is clueless. But it’s hard not to root for her anyhow. She is not the greatest friend, but she does try, and as a 21-year-old, can we really blame her for misreading signals from men? Weren’t we all doing that at that age?

Analysis: The truth is I bought this book at a used book sale years ago and never read it because it’s roughly 450 pages and 200-year-old British literature. Very intimidating. But once I started it, I found that it was incredibly easy to follow — much easier than some other classic literature I’ve read. Essentially, it’s a teenage rom com set in 1800’s Britain! It’s quite funny. I particularly enjoyed the Miss Bates character who can’t seem to stop talking. We all have someone like that in our lives.

Aside from the obvious romantic themes and tropes (falling for the one who’s been there all along, etc. etc.), Emma also speaks to much larger themes that still resonate today, including social and economic status as well as gender roles. I never realized how much of Clueless thereby also deals with these themes; it clearly does, but obviously not to the level and depth of Austen’s literature. Emma herself is a strong feminist, refusing to marry for most of the novel. It is more important for her to care for her ill father than to find a man to support her. She also makes her matchmaking decisions based on status, swaying Harriet away from the “poor man” and toward the more upstanding “rich man.” (This can be interpreted negatively in that she is focusing on who can better provide for her friend or positively, in that she doesn’t care for the class system at all and sees no problem in her friend dating outside her class.)

It’s an interesting look at much how much and how little has changed in the 200+ years since Emma was first published.

MVP: Mr. Knightley. As yet another love interest in this complex romance novel and brother of Emma’s brother-in-law, he is the only one who — though bitter and defiant at times — is frank and says what he means. When it comes to Mr. Knightley, there are rarely ulterior motives. He knows what he wants from the beginning and bides his time until he gets it, but never fakes feelings like many of the other characters in this novel.

Get Emma now on your Kindle for $8.00

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‘X-Files Origins’ YA Books Due in January

If you’re a lover of The X-Files and the recent reboot wasn’t enough for you, there’s no need to worry. According to Entertainment Weekly, just after the new year, a pair of young adult fiction novels will be released detailing Mulder and Scully as teenagers in the late 1970s.

The X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate and The X-Files Origins: Agent of Chaos are set to be released on January 3rd and tell the stories of how events in Mulder’s and Scully’s lives led to the professions they entered.

Honestly, I don’t know that adults will be rushing to the bookstore to pick up copies of these books unless it’s for their children. This is clearly the authors’ and publishers’ attempt at trying to pull a younger audience into The X-Files fandom. If successful, it would certainly give young kids something to talk about with their parents. But that’s if it succeeds.

Entertainment Weekly has several excerpts from the new books. 

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‘Clarissa’ Audiobook Now Available

Is it just me or is 2016 becoming more and more nostalgic for the 90’s? First comes the Fuller House reboot. Now author Mitchell Kriegman’s book, Things I Can’t Explain: A Clarissa Novel is available on Audible. The book is based on 90’s character Clarissa Darling from Clarissa Explains It All.

The audiobook — just released today — is voiced by Melissa Joan Hart’s sister, Emily Hart Madar. (Melissa Joan Hart played Clarissa in the 90’s television series.) Below is a special five-minute clip from the audiobook:

The book follows a grown-up Clarissa as she navigates her 20’s. I listened to the clip this mooring, and have to say it’s perfect for what it is. It definitely has more of a YA feel, but that’s the audience the show always targeted, and it’s a smart way to aim for a new generation of Clarissa fans.

You can download the Audible version of Things I Can’t Explain here.

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Harper Lee To Release a New Book: Why You Should Care

It’s not everyday that book news goes viral, or becomes worthy enough for the Associated Press to send out a breaking news alert.

But it happened today with the announcement that Pulitzer-prize winning author Harper Lee, who wrote the classic To Kill a Mockingbird is releasing a new novel — her first since Mockingbird was published 55 years ago.

According to The Guardianher new release, Go Set a Watchman, will tell the story of a grown-up Scout, the main character from Mockingbird. Apparently Lee wrote Go Set a Watchman before Mockingbird, but never released it. In fact, she didn’t even think the manuscript still existed after all these years, but her lawyer Tonja Carter allegedly found the manuscript three months ago. Plans to publish it were kept under wraps until today.

So why should we care? First of all, Harper Lee has kept a largely private life since the release and success of To Kill a Mockingbird, which won her the Pulitzer Prize. She has popped up in the news several times in recent years, but that was mostly for lawsuits regarding copyright issues. So the fact that she’s come out of hiding for so long and releasing a new novel to boot is huge.

Not to mention it’s somewhat of a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. How often do we wonder what’s happened to our favorite characters after we’ve finished reading a novel? (I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve hoped for Newland Archer and Ellen Olenska to get it on after I finished reading The Age of Innocence.) Sequels and the continuation of a story is a luxury, of which we often take advantage (hello, Hunger Games and Harry Potter).

It’s also worth noting that Harper Lee is 88, mostly deaf and mostly blind. Though she wrote the novel when she was younger, it is still quite a achievement to go through the process of publishing a book at that age and that state of health.

To Kill a Mockingbird was such a powerful book. It combines humor and warmth while also dealing with serious topics like race and rape — issues that 55 years later are still prevalent in our society. We can only hope that Lee’s latest endeavor will shed light on the important issues of a society that’s always striving for better future.

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J.K. Rowling’s Detective Series to Be Adapted into TV Series

Harry Potter may not be coming back to the big screen — or any screen — time soon, but J.K. Rowling’s other novels are soon expected to make their TV debut.

According to Entertainment Weekly, the BBC has announced it will adapt J.K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike novels into a BBC One TV series. The detective series was written under Rowling’s pseudonym Robert Galbraith. The TV show will start with the telling of the first novel in the series, The Cuckoo’s Calling, which was published last year. Rowling will be involved in the project, working with BBC and Bronte Film and TV. So far only two novels in the series have been published — The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm. A date for the TV series has not yet been announced.

But Bronte Film and TV is also helping Rowling adapt her other adult fiction novel, The Casual Vacancy, into a three-part series that will air on BBC One in February 2015. The Casual Vacancy is not part of the Cormoran Strike Series.

So…who will be watching?? Considering how much I loved The Cuckoo’s Calling, I know I will!

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J.K. Rowling Updates ‘Harry Potter,’ Plans More Detective Novels

rowlingWhen Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling ended her acclaimed children’s book series about the most famous wizard of all time, fans worried that would be the last we’d hear from the bestselling author. But time and time again, she’s proved us wrong.

First, she created Pottermore, a web site with games, stories, and details about the universe of Harry Potter. Then she wrote an adult novel, The Casual Vacancy. She penned a Harry Potter spin-off story collection called “The Tales of Beedle the Bard.” Then came two adult crime detective novels under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. And now there’s more.

Earlier this month, Rowling released on her Pottermore web site a new Harry Potter story, the first she’s written and released since the seventh and final Potter novel was released in 2007. According to Huffington Post, the online story describes Harry Potter and his friends in their 30s. It details what they’re up to now, how they look, and how they’re faring. It’s written in the form of a gossip column, penned by Rita Skeeter, a well-known character from the novels.

The story was such a huge deal for Potter fans that it crashed the Pottermore web site. It’s also led to speculation that J.K. Rowling would write another Potter novel. But so far, that’s just speculation.

In fact, it’s Rowling’s adult crime detective series that she’s more focused on at the moment. She’s already released two novels, The Cuckoo’s Calling and the recently-released The Silkworm, under the Robert Galbraith pseudonym. It was recently reported that she would pen seven novels in the so-called Cormoran Strike series — the same number of books she wrote in the Harry Potter series. But according to Time, she’s changed her mind and now plans to write more than seven Cormoran Strike novels, as Nolan Feeney explains:

“I really love writing these books, so I don’t know that I’ve got an end point in mind,” Rowling said at a crime-writing festival, the BBC reports. “One of the things I absolutely love about this genre is that, unlike Harry, where there was an overarching story, a beginning and an end, you’re talking about discrete stories. So while a detective lives, you can keep giving him cases.”

Rowling is apparently already halfway through the third novel in the series and has ideas for the fourth. Could this be her new legacy? Will Potter fans ever get more than the latest 1,500-word story about it?

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‘Gone Girl’ Author Gillian Flynn To Update ‘Hamlet’ as Novel

flynnThose of you who loved the bestselling novel Gone Girl and therefore its author, Gillian Flynn, have probably — like me — been wondering what she’s going to do next. The Gone Girl movie comes out in October, and Flynn has recently penned a comic, but there’s now even more news!

According to Entertainment Weekly, Gillian Flynn is working on an updated version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It’s part of an initiative by Penguin Random House Group to retell Shakespeare’s tales by some of today’s best-known authors. Hamlet will be published for Hogarth Shakespeare.

Flynn said in a press release that of all the plays she could have done, she’s excited to re-tell Hamlet:

Hamlet has long been a fascination of mine: murder, betrayal, revenge, deceit, madness — all my favorite things,” Flynn said in a press release. “Add to that some of Shakespeare’s most intriguing, curious characters — from the titular brooding prince to rueful Ophelia — and what (slightly cheeky) writer wouldn’t be tempted to reimagine it?”

All of these Shakespearean retellings are set to be released in 2016, on the 400th anniversary of the poet’s death.

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