Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Difference of Opinion--NA Is REVIEWED!!

I'm grateful for each and every reviewer who has taken the time to read my book, let alone write a review about it. I know both take time and effort, and it has humbled me no end to see the great gift these people have given me in choosing my work to look at. As a writer I have to face all sorts of opinions... never knowing what someone will think about my work. Of course, I do hope that it is received well, but once it's in the reviewers hands, there's nothing you can do about it. I hope to always be open and honest on this journey of mine, so I want to show both sides to every coin. Here are what three very different people felt about Northanger Alibi when they posted their reviews this week...

Laurel Ann over at Austenprose had this to say...

Northanger Alibi, by Jenni James – A Review

What qualifies a story as a retelling of a Jane Austen novel? Reverent adherence to Austen’s plot line? Faithful interpretation of characterization? Emulation of her prose style? I asked myself these questions several times while reading Jenni James’ new novel Northanger Alibi, the first book in her Austen Diaries series of contemporary counterparts to Austen’s six classic novels. At what point does an Austen retelling diverge so far that it is not a retelling at all? And, more importantly, does it really matter? This led me to evaluate my Janeitehood. Am I a Formidable, or an Iconoclastic Austen sequel reader? Honestly, if you can answer these questions immediately, you will know if you want to read this novel or not. I could not decide, so I continued reading.

Claire Hart is a sixteen year old country girl from New Mexico whose never been kissed. Like any teenager she’d like it to be otherwise. She is Twi-hard to the extreme having read the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer numerous times, seen the movies and obsessed over its heroes Edward Cullen and Jacob Black beyond the point of redemption. She is confident that she is now an expert on vampires and werewolves and can spot them on sight. When she and her sister Cassidy are given the chance to travel to Seattle with family friends for a summer holiday she is ecstatic to be near the epicenter of the Twi-world, Forks, Washington. Her trip to the Emerald City takes an interesting turn when she is introduced to Tony Russo, a handsome young man who likes to tease her, is interested in fine fashion, uses the word nice frequently and according to Claire’s first impression is definitely a vampire. Next she meets tall, dark and overbearing Jaden Black who is Quileute, the same local Native American tribe as the Twilight character Jacob and therefore must also be a werewolf. Everything she experiences is seen through the Gothic prism of Twilight characters and she is certain that her deductions are correct. Her sister is skeptical until she too starts reading the addictive novels that Claire has brought along with her. As both of Claire’s new supposedly paranormal male friends vie for her affections, she must learn to distinguish between fiction and reality and to trust her own instincts in matters of the heart.

Northanger Alibi is a charming tale written for a pre-teen audience craving more vampire and werewolf fare after reading the sensationally popular Twilight series. As such, it gently mocks the genre and its obsessive fans while following its heroine in her first experiences with love and romance. The concept of combining Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, a parody of the melodramatic Gothic fiction so popular in Austen’s time, with the hugely successful modern Gothic tale Twilight was intriguing to me. The story had a promising beginning and then wanders away from Austen’s classic tale to the author’s unique plot and characterizations. Her hero and heroine do have similarities to Austen’s Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney: she is impressionable, naive and obsessed with Gothic fiction; he teases, likes fashion and the word nice, but beside a few other plot comparisons and character allusions, that is just about as close as it gets to the original. The ending brings us back to some resemblance of Austen’s story, but by then this reader was baffled.

Why am I picking at this funny and exuberant debut novel written by a promising new author you ask? Because of how it has been marketed. “This modern Gothic remake of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, with a nod to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, will leave you in stitches.” The Formidable in me must warn readers who purchase this book because of the Jane Austen connection that they will find very little Abbey in this Northanger. On the other hand, the Iconoclast in me admires the author’s energy and creativity, and blames her editor and publisher for not pointing out the egregious omissions and addressing them. Promoting this book as a retelling of Austen’s novel is misleading. Promoting this book as a Twilight inspired story for pre-teens pairs the author’s creative choices with her target audience. Northanger Alibi is a great concept novel and a fun read for those interested in Twilight, but not the most rewarding fare for the Janeite who is expecting more than a passing resemblance to the original story.

2 out of 5 Regency Stars

(BTW--I let Laurel Ann know that I was at fault for the promotion of the book--not my publisher/editor, as I was lucky enough to have my own blurb used for promotional purposes.)

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Marlyn over at Stuff and Nonsense surprised me with this review--I had no idea she even had the novel!

Just finished reading...
Northanger Alibi by Jenni James.

Sixteen-year-old Claire Hart is a huge fan of the Twilight books, and as a result has always wanted to go to Washington State. She's so thrilled when friends of her parents invite her to spend the summer with them in Seattle that she doesn't even mind when her mother insists that her older sister Cassidy is included.

Claire is so obsessed with Twilight that she's certain there are actually vampires and werewolves in abundance in Washington. When they meet the Halloways' Seattle friends the Russos, whose twins are about the same age as Claire, she's unimpressed at first. Then she bumps into Tony and feels as though she's hit a wall. When Tony seems to know what she's thinking, she's certain that he's a vampire, even though Cassidy attempts to make her see reason.

As the title suggests, this book is based on Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. The plot of Ms. James' book is quite similar to that of Miss Austen's, with the main exception, of course being the chronological setting. Claire's fascination with the Twilight novels and inability to separate fiction from reality parallels Catherine Morland's character nicely.

The changes in the plot suit the sensibility of the modern teen admirably; Claire's summer experience could possibly be the dream of every sixteen-year-old on the planet, Twilight aficionado or not.

This is a charming, amusing tale that captures today's teens accurately. I don't know if the author intended Alibi to lead young readers to the original Northanger; probably not, but who knows?


4 out of 5 stars!

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Andy over at Taliesin Meets The Vampires had this to say about Northanger Alibi--and boy did he blow me away! I thought for sure I'd get lampooned for this one (sweet, teen romance novels--without vampires--are not his thing...!)

Honourable Mentions: Northanger Alibi--

It does seem that, as well as vampires, Jane Austen adaptations remain all the rage at the moment. Sometimes the two subjects are merged as they were in Mr Darcy, Vampyre. When I reviewed that I admitted that I am not an Austin fan. Let me elaborate.

I am aware that the film Clueless is based, loosely at least, on Austen’s Emma. I enjoyed Clueless, the Emma adaptation my wife had me watch left me cold. Why? In modernising the work it became more accessible to me. I have not read Northanger Abbey but I understand it is unusual within the Austin books and is itself a parody of Gothic fiction – so perhaps I owe it to myself to give that one a chance at some point.

In the meantime this book by Jenni James is a modern retelling of Northanger Abbey, set mainly in modern Washington State. As a modern retelling I could understand where it was coming from and Jenni James uses the book to parody Twilight and the ongoing vampire fad. More than that, she specifically, though affectionately, lampoons the Twi-hards and their over-enthusiastic reactions to the franchise.

Claire is a sixteen year old girl who, along with sister Cassidy, is taken to Seattle for summer vacation by friends of the family. The husband of the friends is there for a training seminar and they have friends in the city who have teenage kids. Claire is wary of the twins, as they must be rather sad if they need friends to be imported into the city, but is excited about the trip generally. You see, Claire is a Twilight fan and wants to visit Washington State – she even brings the four books of the series with her.

She actually gets on with Tony and Nora but something about Tony seems odd. He seems stronger, perhaps, than he should, he seems to be able to read her thoughts and he doesn’t seem to want to eat food. She realises that Tony must be a vampire and he seems interested in her. She also meets, through a stolen kiss, a young man called Jaden. He, it transpires, is Native American – indeed a Quileute – he has a rash nature and the surname Black… Could he be a werewolf?

Claire is going to discover that matters of the heart are much more complicated than any book and some secrets are there for the best of reasons. She will also discover that the supernatural is perhaps more mundane than she allowed for.

I found myself enjoying this quite a lot. Okay, at heart it is a teen romance novel but it is also a parody, and the sharpness of the writing is definitely one of the pluses to the book. It takes the Twilight fad and gently pokes fun at it, but in such a way that it couldn’t be seen to be offensive in its parody and thus will be accessible to the Twilight fans more so than the more caustic parodies (not that there is anything, conceptually, wrong with those). James opens the sticky question of teenage romance and first love, as well as confusion of the heart, and lays it bare with a scalpel of witty prose.

Perhaps one of the more unusual books that will feature on the blog, due to its intrinsic nature and the target audience, but with its Twilight based premise it deserves an honourable Mention.
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Thank you, Laurel Ann, Marlyn and Andy once again! Your interest in my book, and willingness to review it, is so greatly appreciated! You rock!

20 comments:

  1. Wonderful reviews. Congratulations.

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  2. It's interesting how each reviewer find different strengths and weaknesses to discuss. Thanks for sharing and congrats on your launch!

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  3. Awww, well, I wish I could review it! I never got the ARC even though they said they'd send me one.

    Congrats on these reviews!

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  4. WooHOOOO, Jenny James, author woman!

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  5. PS I hate old age. I KNOW your name is Jenni, but my fingers put a Y instead. LOL

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  6. That's a nice balanced variety of reviews. I'm happy for you, and still looking forward to my copy.
    Have a great weekend. :)

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  7. It is an interesting range of reviews. They all seem to be positive about the book. Myself personally, when reading an Austen rewrite I wouldn't want they same story. There needs to be similarities and differences. If they were exactly the same they would not fit in our contemporary line of thinking. I am looking forward to my copy arriving in the mail.

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  8. Pretty much true to form ... you'll have some reviewers who love it, some who hate it, and some in between. But even the negative review had some positive points, so I say, it's a win.

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  9. These are excellent reviews! Congratulations. I am very much looking forward to receiving my copy in the post, I already know what a talented writer you are and am a fan of both twilight and Austen and love the idea of your modern take on this one!

    Warmest wishes
    Rebecca

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  10. Wow!! I just can't even imagine what it would be like to be reviewed at all!! Congrats!! I enjoyed reading all 3 reviews. I have no doubt this book will be entertaining (which is why I read in the first place). I can't wait to receive my copy!!!! What a ride!!!

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  11. Even the negative review looked pretty good to me. I don't think the minutiae of the original plot would have translated well in the modern world anyway, or been nearly as much fun as what you did with the story.

    Congratulations.

    When will the book be available - Amazon don't seem to know at present.

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  12. It was so fun reading your reviews. I know you're enjoying the ride. It seemed to me that the first reviewer's main complaint was that you didn't follow the story very closely. Ah, well. I think it's more in the "Clueless/Emma" ballpark comparison. I think it will be incredibly accessible to its target audience.

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  13. Loved the reviews, thanks for sharing!

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  14. An interesting blog. Congratulations.
    Daniel D. Peaceman, editor of CHMagazine

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