Review: The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow

I’m currently slowly rereading all of Jane Austen’s novels with a group of fellow fans on Litsy. Right now, we’re reading Pride & Prejudice one chapter per day, and I’m appreciating awkward wallflower Mary so much more this time around. I thought it was the perfect time to finally read this book.

What it’s about

From the Goodreads description:

What if Mary Bennet’s life took a different path from that laid out for her in Pride and Prejudice? What if the frustrated intellectual of the Bennet family, the marginalized middle daughter, the plain girl who takes refuge in her books, eventually found the fulfillment enjoyed by her prettier, more confident sisters? This is the plot of The Other Bennet Sister, a debut novel with exactly the affection and authority to satisfy Austen fans.

Ultimately, Mary’s journey is like that taken by every Austen heroine. She learns that she can only expect joy when she has accepted who she really is. She must throw off the false expectations and wrong ideas that have combined to obscure her true nature and prevented her from what makes her happy. Only when she undergoes this evolution does she have a chance at finding fulfillment; only then does she have the clarity to recognize her partner when he presents himself—and only at that moment is she genuinely worthy of love.

My thoughts

Janice Hadlow is to be commended: she has so well captured that special Austen style that reading The Other Bennet Sister was very much like reading one of Jane’s own novels. That is a wonderful thing, as far as I’m concerned, and this book was an absolute delight to read.

Hadlow takes Mary as Austen created her and gives a little more backstory—we see why, by the time Netherfield was let at last, Mary behaved in the way she did. We then experience the events of Pride & Prejudice through Mary’s eyes, including the often-speculated Mr. Collins/Mary match, before jumping forward 2 years and following Mary as she embarks on her own life away from her mother.

I’ve always been a Mary fan, and I love the way Hadlow has expanded her character. At various points while reading this book, I was heartbroken for Mary, angry at her and immensely proud of her. If you’re the kind of reader who felt sympathy for Mrs. Bennet, though, this book may not be for you. I was steaming mad at her every time she was around. I enjoyed the glimpses we got of the Bingleys, the Darcys, the Collinses, Hill, and especially the Gardiners, who finally got their trip to the lake country. Oh, and Caroline Bingley is still around to annoy the hell out of everyone. I also loved the new characters that Mary meets in London.

The writing is brilliant, the story is fantastically satisfying, and I loved being immersed in Austen’s world again. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice, regency era stories, or just plain great books.


Review: Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

Chosen Ones is billed as the first novel by Roth written for adults, but having read the Divergent series as well, I’m not sure what makes it adult… maybe the slightly more frequent profanities? It’s certainly not any more descriptive sex scenes, as ‘adult’ sometimes can indicate. Perhaps it’s just because the characters are approaching 30 as opposed to approaching 20? Anyway…

What it’s about

From the Goodreads blurb:

A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens—Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther—had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesized to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.

Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift—no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended.

That’s the basic premise, but this book has a whole lot more going on.

My thoughts

I’m not sure what I was expecting from this new series, but while I did like it, I wasn’t exactly blown away. I really enjoyed the Divergent series (right up until that last book, anyway), and was intrigued with the billing of Chosen Ones as an ‘adult’ book about a group of 5 heroes, ten years after they apparently saved the world as teenagers.

The book is actually a whole lot more than what the blurb lets on: much of it takes place in an alternate-dimension Chicago, and this world is full of magic. Nothing is quite as it appears, and the whole concept is very original.

Roth’s writing is strong, and the plot is clearly developed. The book is very compelling at the beginning, but there is quite a lull in the action towards the middle. Fortunately, things pick up again near the end, which is really quite brilliant. No cliffhangers, but I’m definitely down for a second book.

From the blurb, you would think that the book is about all of the 5 heroes… but really it’s about Sloane. One of the 5 dies near the beginning, another is nearly absent from the rest of the book, and the other two are peripheral at best. I’m not sure if the next book will deal more with the other ‘chosen ones,’ but I would love more development of those characters. For much of the book, I didn’t like Sloane very much, and she felt a lot like a YA character trapped in an adult character’s body, but she grew on me. Esther and Mox are really fun characters, but again, I would love more about them.

I chose to listen to the audiobook, currently only available on Audible (boo), because I am a sucker for a ‘full cast’ production. Dakota Fanning is the main narrator, and she did a great job, but there’s a whole list of other narrators who had parts, including the amazing Robin Miles, who is one of my favorites. I do recommend the audiobook, if you can get it.