I tend to read a lot of classics, as well as new-and-awesome independent authors, and January has been no exception. Christmas brought some more Jane Austen into my life, which I couldn't resist, and Disowned by Sarah Addison-Fox had been on my radar for a while, so it's safe to say January's reading material was great. If you like books that are quieter and not so action-packed, these might be for you!
My rating: ★★★★
Emma is a very solid four-star read for me. Austen has a way of bringing you right into the world of her characters, and making you care about little, everyday happenings, as well as the bigger, not-so-everyday stuff… like getting married. (I mean ‘cause you know it’s going to happen, being Jane Austen and all.) :P
Previously, I’ve read two other Austen novels: Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. I find them to be a pleasant variation from the typical “save the world,” type things I usually read, and going back in time to the eighteen hundreds is another plus. (I kinda sorta love that time period, *cough*.) The problem with having read two Jane Austen books before, however, is the fact that by round three, they begin to become a little predictable—there always seems to be a Mr. Collins, Wickham, and Darcy, to use Pride and Prejudice terms. (I won’t say more than that for fear of spoilers, but I saw who the main character, Emma, would end up with almost from the very beginning.)
Speaking of Emma, at the start of the book she was quite the “nonsensical girl,” as Mr. Knightley once put it, almost to the point of being irritating. However, by the end she had grown a lot, as a character, and as a person. I thought that it was a refreshing arc, because Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice already had a good head of sense on her shoulders, as did Elinor from Sense and Sensibility, but Emma was more relatable because she wasn’t perfect. (Also, she had declared that she would never marry—an extraordinary thing, given the time period and the fact that she’s in a Jane Austen novel. While I don’t think either extreme of the Marry-or-not-to-Marry spectrum is good—after all, we should be after what God wants in our lives—she wasn’t so bent on upholding that declaration that couldn’t be persuaded otherwise.)
As for the other characters--Mrs. E was infuriating, Mr. Knightley by far my favorite male character, Harriet quiet and sweet, Mr. Woodhouse funny and endearing despite his obsession with health, Mr. and Mrs. Weston just the sort of lovely people you want to associate with, and Miss Bates… holy cow, that woman could talk—just to name a few.
The reason I didn’t give it four stars despite the super-satisfying ending that gave you time to enjoy it before dropping you back into the real world again, was the fact that it did drag a little at times (although that might just be my attention span to blame there), and everyone lived Happily Ever After™. I know it’s Jane Austen, but I felt like the end of Harriet’s subplot was just a little thrown in, so you wouldn’t feel too bad about Emma’s turning out all right in spite of everything.
Those are my only complaints, however. Although Pride and Prejudice still reigns as my favorite Jane Austen novel to date, this one’s a close second, and is definitely worth the read!
Disowned (Allegiance #1)
My rating: ★★★★
Another reviewer mentioned that this book stands out for its quietness and homeyness, and if that isn’t a good description of Disowned, I don’t know what is. It’s not action-packed, full of heroes that never go wrong, no—it’s filled with real people living real lives with real problems. I was invested in Celeste’s life from the very beginning, since the story begins in medias res, and once she found herself in a home with people that didn’t see her as an object—and in fact wanted nothing more for her than her welfare—well, it was then that her healing began. Granted, it takes a while, but that makes it realistic.
As for the characters, Celeste is rough-around-the-edges, having spent almost her entire life in slavery, Mick is lovable and humorous despite being rough-around-the-edges in a different way, Maggie is the picture of strong, affectionate motherhood, Sadie and Joe are sweet, Ethan a big teddy bear (I mean really xD), and Asher... is Asher. *sidelong still-suspicious glance*
I also loved seeing a Christian homeschool family depicted in such a relatable way! It’s not something you see very often in fiction, and it brought back memories of my childhood. The Haynes’ faith in Etra (God) seemed natural, and wasn’t pushed on Celeste, but they made no effort to hide it, and when she asked to be taught from Etra’s book, Maggie was ready and willing. That said, there was a different religion in Kyraenea. Though it wasn’t described in detail, it was a nice addition! It’s another thing that made Celeste’s world so achingly familiar and realistic.
The “stuff” comes in the form of brief instances of smoking, drinking (including Someone getting very drunk), a very light smattering of swear words (two or three times total?), injuries being described in a fair amount of detail (which might bother some—I’m not squeamish), a couple instances where a male observer took extra notice of female beauty, and the fact that working the mines isn’t the only kind of slavery Celeste’s people engage in... there’s also one that involves a revealing red dress. That sort of thing is always difficult to think about, especially as a woman, but it was handled tactfully, and in the end, I had no objection to it being there.
My only non-“stuff” dislikes are mainly about the... vagueness?... of the physical appearance of the world. There was a lot of world building, but I found myself missing a mental image for the kinds of structures to be found in a typical Etraean village. They had electricity, so it seemed fairly modern, but Celeste observed early on that they were more advanced that Kyraenea, so I wasn’t sure whether the world took a more fantasy or sci-fi or modern-with-a-hint-of-fantasy leaning. I guess I’ll learn more about that in the next book, after the way this one ended, but it would have helped to have a little more detail there.
In the end, however, everything about Disowned is so down-to-earth, that what I just mentioned interfered very little with my enjoyment of it. The effect of war on a man, the highly-researched injuries, treatments and symptoms, the way it embraces every messy detail of life, including upchuck, water rings on the table, dishes, and the occasional bit of family tension... seriously, you guys. Read it! It’s refreshing in its quiet power.
My rating: ★★★★
This book is glorious, simply put. For a large chunk of it I had to wonder why it seems to be one of the lesser-known Jane Austen novels. The chosen heroine, Catherine Morland, grew up a tomboy, is bookish, rather naïve, and a hopeless romantic—her Love Interest is even more well-read than she is—and Austen fearlessly breaks the fourth wall on a regular basis. In short, I was thoroughly prepared to give it five stars and challenge Pride and Prejudice as the reigning champion of my favorite Jane Austen novel, except for the end, which just wasn’t satisfying.
But before I get into that, let me just talk about Catherine a little more. She was a tomboy until age fifteen, (when she settled down somewhat), loves to read, fangirls before it was a thing, views life through the colorful lens that reading gives it, is, admittedly, a little oblivious from time to time, always wants to think the best of people, and is infatuated old architecture. She’s like Anne Shirley meets Jane Bennet meets me. *awkward laughter* Also, she never fell for anyone but the Right One. (Can I get a hallelujah?? Amen.)
Northanger Abbey seems to be a little more condensed than most Jane Austen novels, as well, and therefore moves quicker without introducing a Collins or Wickham, (although there was one guy that was kind of a jerk, but could’ve been worse, I s’pose), and kept me interested throughout. The character that disgusted me the most in this book was not a scoundrel of a man at all, in fact—it was a certain scoundrel of a young lady who dared to call herself Catherine’s friend. *glares* A close second was Mr. Love Interest’s father, when he showed his true colors.
As for the rest of the book, it was glorious, like I mentioned. Catherine gets herself into a truly awkward scrape when snooping where she shouldn’t (think reader death-by-second-hand-embarrassment type situation), but experiences grace unlooked-for. This tames her wild imagination somewhat, and makes her a steadier person altogether.
The only reason I didn’t give it five whole stars, as mentioned above, is because of the ending. It was sudden (a reoccurring problem I’ve noticed with Jane Austen in general), and because of this, the moment when Catherine’s Mr. Right confesses his feelings is skimmed over and summarized in a few paragraphs. There wasn’t one line of dialogue. That eliminated the payoff, and left me feeling rather cheated, since the rest of it was so enjoyable. *whispers* Authors, don’t do that. There’s a time and place for summarizing conversations, but the moment of payoff isn’t it.
All things considered, however, Northanger Abbey was a fitting end to this collection of Jane Austen novels, and definitely worth a read, if you like reading about characters that like reading. (I know I do!)
Welcome to Katelyn Buxton Books! I'm a Christian author and blogger, with a passion for writing stories that are not just enjoyable, but also lead people closer to Jesus. Feel free to look around, and enjoy your stay!