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A Reader of Fictions: Review: Austensibly Ordinary

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Friday, December 7, 2012

Review: Austensibly Ordinary

Austensibly Ordinary

Author: Alyssa Goodnight
Pages: 320
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date:January 29, 2013
Source: Author for review

Description from Goodreads:
Steamy, funky, and thoroughly modern, Austin, Texas isn’t much like the gardened country estates of Jane Austen’s work. But there might be a few similarities in its inhabitants…

Cate Kendall is no stranger to daydreams of brooding men and fancy parties—after all, she teaches one of her beloved Jane Austen novels in her English classes every year. But as for romance or adventure in her own life, the highlight of most weeks is Scrabble with her cute coworker, Ethan, and he draws the line at witty banter. But Cate is ready for a change. When she finds a mysterious journal that seems to have a link to the soul of the great Jane Austen herself, she knows it’s her chance. And she grabs on with both hands…

Before she knows it, Cate has invented an alter ego with an attitude, attended some seriously chic soirees, and gotten tangled up with a delicious mystery man. And she’s uncovered enough unexpected secrets about Ethan that her Scrabble partner has taken to brooding looks and unfathomable silences. It’s a positively Austenite predicament, and Cate is sure she’ll land in hot water and heartbreak—but maybe not with Jane herself to guide her…

First Sentence: "'What does it say about me that I'm jealous of the lives of fictional characters?'"

Yet again the universe rewards more for not writing an author off after one uninspiring experience. In preparation for reading this, I read Goodnight's first book to which this is a companion, Austentatious. While I did enjoy reading Austentatious, I really wasn't wowed by the book either, and had assorted issues therewith. Goodnight has improved so much, and Austensibly Ordinary turned out to be an utter delight from start to finish.

Since I read predominantly for character, a heroine can make a big difference. Though I didn't dislike Nicola, I didn't relate to her particularly either, though. Cate Kendall, though, I love. She's sassy, silly and completely ridiculous. Where Nicola spent much of the book endlessly considering the scientific possibilities of the journal, Cate takes things much more at face value. Plus, Cate's funny and a little bit crazy. Her character came through much more strongly. Not only that, but I got a much better feel for her family and friends as well, which gave the novel a broader impact.

Another wonderful change from Austentatious to Austensibly Ordinary is that I think the Austen references have been much more pertinently used than before. Austensibly Ordinary loosely retells Emma, using the matchmaking subplots to full comedic effect. While this does make the story more predictable, I have no problem with that whatsoever, since shock value is not what readers go to Austen retellings for. Mostly, we go for clever allusions to Austen, which I found in spades here.

The common thread weaved through these two books is a magical journal, a bit of magical realism, supposedly possessed by the spirit of Jane Austen. When a person writes an entry in the journal, "Jane" erases all but a few words, leaving a pithy, vague, fortune-cookie-fortune sort of message for the reader. These pieces of advice nudge the heroine in the right direction eventually, but they're so vague that the heroine generally takes some major detours along the way, much like Jaye does in episodes of Wonderfalls. While Cate does use and very much enjoy the journal, she does not obsess over it the same way that Nicola did. Taking a step back and leaving the journal as a fun little aside from time to time was the right choice in my opinion.

Like Emma, Cate makes some really stupid romantic decisions along the way, perhaps even dumber ones. However, you're so much in Cate's head that, even though you want to shake her, you can understand why she had to see a particular situation through. Basically, she's confused and a lot of things change that she was in no way prepared to handle. Also, I did not mind her action as much because she did act, coming up with plans to make her way through confusion, rather than whining about her inability to decide. I like my heroines proactive.

The romance here really worked for me. Cate's Mr. Knightley is nerdy deliciousness. I mean, seriously, sign me up for one of those. *waits* There relationship has a firm foundation and is one that I can really imagine lasting, rather than some sort of instalove disaster doomed to imminent failure. Also, these two have mad crazy sexual tension that comes out of nowhere and I love that. The scene when they first get together consists of much swoon. Though a departure from Austen's format, I liked that the novel didn't end immediately after the couple managed to find their way to one another.

If you liked Austentatious, you're sure to love Austensibly Ordinary. If you didn't or were on the fence, I still think it might be worth your while to give Goodnight another chance. I deem Austensibly Ordinary to be a delightful romance, with Austen-y goodness and a bit of fantastical silliness.

Rating: 4/5

Favorite Quote: "'That's what friends do,' he said, taking another pull on his beer and keeping his tone matter-of-fact. 'They warn you off unsuitable men. Men have a way of impairing your judgmentI call it the Darcy Effect. Bad manners and mediocre good looks and you think he's a worthy specimen. Turns out he's more like a bug. So I dissect him.'"

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Blogger Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer said...

I did not read your review, but as I scrolled down, I kept repeating oh, please, please say she liked it as I looked for your rating. And you Did! *Squee* I am reviewing this for Fiery Hot Reads in February and will be giving away a copy too...I am delighted you enjoyed it and cannot wait to share notes after I read and write my review!

December 7, 2012 at 4:04 PM  
Blogger Estelle said...

I just got this in the mail this week and I cannot wait to read it. I haven't read the first one, but even from your review, it seems like I will be okay. I'm so glad there some swoon and a good amount of JA in here. I'm no JA expert but I do enjoy her... so that will be nice! You just made me really excited about this read!

December 7, 2012 at 8:27 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I didn't read Austenacious but WOW this sounds really good! Love me some Jane Austen :) Great post!

December 7, 2012 at 10:50 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yay! I am pretty sure you will really enjoy this one. Light and fun, with a crazy heroine who goes for what she wants!

December 12, 2012 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yeah, I think you'll be just fine. You can go back and read the former afterwards without losing anything. :)

December 12, 2012 at 9:35 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

You should check it out!

December 12, 2012 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

How have I never heard of Alyssa Goodnight?!?! I am adding this book along with her other book to my list to read. Thank you for sharing this author, book and review!

January 28, 2013 at 7:03 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I'm glad you'll be reading this!

January 29, 2013 at 9:49 AM  

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