September Giveaway: Undeniable by Bill Nye

Hello, Readers!

In 2014, I was fortunate to have received dozens and dozens of books, from publishers, friends, authors, and contests. Among all of these acquisitions, however, were a number of duplicates.

So, in 2015, I’ve decided to feature one of these duplicate books each month, and offer that book as a giveaway to one of you! Yes, it’s The Year of Giveaways!

This month, the spotlight is on: Undeniable by Bill Nye

22609791Description:

“Evolution is one of the most powerful and important ideas ever developed in the history of science. Every question it raises leads to new answers, new discoveries, and new smarter questions. The science of evolution is as expansive as nature itself. It is also the most meaningful creation story that humans have ever found.”—Bill Nye

Sparked by a controversial debate in February 2014, Bill Nye has set off on an energetic campaign to spread awareness of evolution and the powerful way it shapes our lives. In Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation, he explains why race does not really exist; evaluates the true promise and peril of genetically modified food; reveals how new species are born, in a dog kennel and in a London subway; takes a stroll through 4.5 billion years of time; and explores the new search for alien life, including aliens right here on Earth. With infectious enthusiasm, Bill Nye shows that evolution is much more than a rebuttal to creationism; it is an essential way to understand how nature works—and to change the world. It might also help you get a date on a Saturday night.

If you would like to win a copy of this fantastic book, here’s what you need to do:

Rules:

  • Must be an e-mail or WordPress subscriber.
  • –Must be 13+ with parental permission if under 18.
  • –Winners must respond to e-mail within 48-hours or new winner selected.
  • –Winners chosen randomly through Rafflecopter.
  • -Giveaway ends at 11pm Central Time (USA) on the last day of the month.

Enter by Completing This Rafflecopter Form

Pemberley and Poltergeists! #AustenInAugustRBR #RIPX

Goodbye to Austen in August!

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I’m not quite sure how this has happened, but the last day of August has arrived which means Austen In August 2015 is at its end. Oh, dear!

As we move onward from this annual event, I offer a few reflections:

  • First, I think it can be said without question that this fourth annual #AustenInAugustRBR event was the most successful ever! As of this posting, there are 100 link-ups on our Mister Linky widget: the most we’ve ever had!
  • Next, I’d also submit that this year’s giveaways were insane and the guest posts incredibly creative, unique, and interesting.
  • The engagement on Twitter, in blog post comments, and on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and other social media outlets was awesome! It was so exciting to see all of you posting your Austen (and Austen-related) thoughts in various ways and across a variety of platforms. I saw photos, videos, .gif animations, written posts, and so much more.

51qbyy-TmrL._SX300_BO1,204,203,200_All that being said, I am also pleased to have finished one book for the event this year, which is the Penguin Classics Clothbound edition of Jane Austen’s Love & Freindship and Other Youthful Writings.  I’ve now read all of Jane Austen’s published works, including juvenilia and unfinished pieces, at least once (most of them more than that).

Reading the juvenilia was so much fun. It was fascinating to see the young Austen flexing her muscles, as it were, and playing with the styles and conventions of her day. It is clear to see how she developed her craft. What I think I most enjoyed about the experience, though, was getting to know Jane Austen a bit more. Her brilliance truly shines through her writing, but her youthful writing also offers generous glimpses at her personality.  Having read Austen in the way that I did (first the completed novels, then the unfinished stories, then the juvenilia–so, backwards, as it were), I find I can appreciate in a unique way her skill, her practice, and her profound wit and intelligence.

Of the juvenilia, I do have a few favorites.  First, I think, is “Henry and Eliza,” which I found to be incredibly funny.  Another is “The Three Sisters,” which is an early attempt at a novel and in which, I think, we see the very early manifestations of certain iconic Austen characters, such as Mrs. Bennet, Emma, and Mr. Darcy.

“Love and Freindship,” of course, is the titular story for a reason; it is humorous, insightful, witty, and characteristic of the author who would be Austen. Another point of interest for me in this story, as well as in a few other of these early works, are hints at homosexuality. Jane Austen was much more daring than many readers give her credit for, even in her later, finished works, where she discusses a number of important themes in subtle ways. She’s more audacious and overt in these youthful writings, though, which is a pleasure because it allows us to see how knowledgeable and socially aware she really was, and how adept she became at revealing just as much as she wanted to — a craft developed through genuine talent and practice. Austen, such a lady, even includes a number of murders in these early tales!

jane-austen-coversTwo other sections I really enjoyed were “The History of England,” which is an absolute riot. Young Austen responds to some of the critical histories of her time that claim to be unbiased (Oliver Goldsmith’s The History of England for example) with a work saturated by overt opinion representing itself as pure fact. She employs characterizations of her own family, with the help of images drawn by her sister Cassandra, which adds personal intrigue and humor to the story as well, and she lambastes Queen Elizabeth I at every opportunity (with sincerity? in jest?). It’s one of the funniest and charming stories in the whole collection. In addition, the section of letters, which seem to be simply practice for creative/fictional epistolary writing, are a joy to read.

I had my doubts about reading Austen’s juvenilia, not because I thought it would be boring or without merit, but because I wondered what it could possibly add to my understanding of Austen as an author, which is best understood by reading and interpreting her finished works. The reality is, though, because Austen was always a writer, one organized her work in volumes, even the early attempts and scraps, reading these pieces adds an extraordinary amount of depth and richness to the entire experience. I could see a lot of the later novels’ themes and characters beginning to develop in these early attempts. I think it will be great fun to re-read (again) the big six works and consider all the practice Austen had put into her craft originally.

Hello to RIP X!

Image used with permission, property of Abigail Larson.
Image used with permission, property of Abigail Larson.

Now that Austen has concluded, I’ve decided to approach the future with much more general abandon, meaning I don’t want to plan too much of my reading. I’m still participating in The Classics Club, so I do have a “list” for that, and I’m also writing a dissertation, so I have plenty of works that I must read as part of my research. Other than these projects, however, I have little intention of participating in any other events or challenges for the foreseeable future, with one exception: RIP X!

For those who don’t know, RIP stands for R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril. It’s an annual event that takes place in September and October of each year. The goal is to read books/stories or watch movies that fit into the categories of horror, thriller, suspense, gothic, mystery, etc.  This is its tenth year, but my first time participating.  I’m getting married on Halloween this year (it is our favorite holiday), so I thought — well, all the stars and such are aligning! Why not?

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There are a variety of challenge levels and goals and such, but I’ll keep my plans pretty simple: read at least two books in the horror/suspense genre. If all goes well, I might add a third, so I’ll list that as an alternate.

RIPX

Book One: Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764). This is essentially the godfather of the gothic genre. It is very short and I’ve been meaning to read it for years. It’s also an entry on my Classics Club list, so I’ll knock out a two-fer if I finish it.

Book Two: Stephen King’s The Drawing of the Three (1987). I read the first in this series a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I’ve been meaning to continue on with the Dark Tower books ever since, but things get in the way. This will be a great way to get back into it.

Alternate: We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962) by Shirley Jackson.  I love Shirley Jackson – her short story, “The Lottery,” is one of the best ever written, in my opinion, and I also absolutely loved The Haunting of Hill House. I can’t wait to read more from her, so hopefully there will be enough time for me to get to this one as well (I do plan on it, actually, but I don’t want to set the bar too high with so much else happening right now).

So, that’s it! The end to one extraordinary event and the commencement of another. I hope you all had a great time with Austen in August this year, and if you plan on participating in RIP X, let me know! I’d love to hear your thoughts and reading/viewing plans.  

#AustenInAugustRBR Giveaway: Swag!

It’s time for our final giveaway of Austen In August.  Sad, I know, but we’ve had SUCH a great time, with so many amazing guest posts, giveaways, and participants – wouldn’t you agree? 

Anyhow, as we wind-down and prepare to move on with the year (and from Austen – gasp!) what better way to remember the event than with some really awesome Austen swag!?

jane_austen_gift_tile_coasterThis giveaway is hosted by Maggie of Macarons & Paperbacks!  Maggie is offering up one set of 6 Austen-themed tile coasters. How cool is that!?

Please head over to Macarons & Paperbacks to enter. Remember, you must be a registered participant in Austen in August (hosted right here at Roof Beam Reader) in order to be eligible for prizes.

Centre Stage Off Stage: Imagining Austen’s Children

Please welcome this guest post and giveaway from Jenetta James!

Centre stage off stage: Austen’s children and how we might imagine them now

Babies and children pop up all the time in fan fiction but in Jane Austen’s original works, the littlest characters are frequently off stage, the world beyond the nursery door seeming rather a closed book. Several of the children who populate Austen’s novels are not even given names – the Gardiner children in Pride and Prejudice being among them. In Emma, Isabella Knightley’s brood and the Musgrove children in Persuasion do have names but as characters they do not progress much from a haze of cotton dress clad scamps whose existence is measured out in terms of his it impacts upon their parents.

This is in contrast with much of fan fiction where there are many characterful infants playing a more obvious role. Partly this is due to the fact that many of the books in question are sequels. If a writer is focussing on Darcy and Elizabeth as a married couple, what is more natural but to think about what their young family might look like.

The reality is that the modern conception of childhood is completely different to that which pertained in the regency period. It is hard now to imagine babies being fed by wet nurses and children whose nannies were their main focus in the home. It is still harder to imagine fathers playing very minimal and formalised roles in the lives of their children.

But does that mean that the babies and toddlers who abound in fan fiction are somehow wrong or out of place? I don’t think so. Jane Austen’s children are important; she just presents them in a manner redolent of her age. It is one of the roles of fan fiction to tease out existing but disguised themes from canon, and so it is in this case: let’s throw open that nursery door…

Giveaway:

One lucky participant will win a copy of Jenetta’s book Suddenly Mrs. Darcy! All you have to do to be considered is 1) be a pre-registered participant of Roof Beam Reader’s Austen in August event and 2) leave a comment on this post saying you’d love a copy! Note: This giveaway is open until 10pm CST on September 1st and is available to International participants

About the Book:

25273436Elizabeth Bennet never imagined her own parents would force her to marry a virtual stranger.

But when Mrs. Bennet accuses Fitzwilliam Darcy of compromising her daughter, that is exactly the outcome.

Trapped in a seemingly loveless marriage and far from home, she grows suspicious of her new husband’s heart and further, suspects he is hiding a great secret.

Is there even a chance at love given the happenstance of their hasty marriage?

About the Author:

71H8Albq25L._UX250_Jenetta James is the nom de plume of a lawyer, writer, mother and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society.

After graduating, she took to the law and now practises full time as a barrister. Over the years she has lived in France, Hungary and Trinidad as well as her native England.

Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing and playing with Lego. Suddenly Mrs Darcy is her first novel.

Thanks, Jenetta, and good luck to all entrants! 

Me and Jane Austen #AustenInAugustRBR

janepictHello, Austenites & Austen Newbies!

I thought I’d dive further into this event by revisiting an old Classics Club question about the appeal (or not) of Jane Austen.  To do this, let’s begin with some delightful thoughts on Austen, from one of my favorite writers, Mark Twain.

In 1895, Twain was sailing across the Indian Ocean. He wrote in his journal that he found Austen “thoroughly artificial” and praised the ship’s library for its lack of Austen novels. He claimed that this “one omission alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn’t a book in it” -Twain, Following the Equator (1897).

His dislike for Austen did not change much over time. He wrote the following in a letter, much later:

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“Whenever I take up Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility, I feel like a barkeeper entering the Kingdom of Heaven. I mean, I feel as he would probably feel, would almost certainly feel. I am quite sure I know what his sensations would be — and his private comments. He would be certain to curl his lip, as those ultra-good Presbyterians went filing self-complacently along. …She makes me detest all her people, without reserve. Is that her intention? It is not believable. Then is it her purpose to make the reader detest her people up to the middle of the book and like them in the rest of the chapters? That could be. That would be high art. It would be worth while, too. Some day I will examine the other end of her books and see.” – from “Jane Austen” in Who Is Mark Twain by Mark Twain.

Was Mark Twain right? Was he being fair when he said that Austen’s books so angered him that “every time [he] read Pride and Prejudice [he wanted] to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin bone?”

Well, it’s certainly fair for anyone to have his or her own opinion. And the great Charles Dickens happened to agree with him, although Dickens’s criticism was more misogynistic in nature (he didn’t think women had the capacity to be genuinely or effectively humorous). So, who am I to disagree with these giants of American and British literature? Well, I’m a reader with my own equally valid opinions. And I say Jane Austen is a master novelist, perhaps one of the best who ever lived. She’s certainly up there with Emile Zola, D.H. Lawrence, and Thomas Hardy, in my opinion.

jane-austenAre her books similar in theme? Sure. But they’re also vastly different. Mansfield Park cannot be confused with Sense and Sensibility. Marriage, family, and the middle class – they have a place in every Austen novel, because this is what Austen knew. But it’s also this privileged world and these gossipy people whom Austen dissects and often chastises, in many different ways. Marriage for love or for convenience? Property and station or happiness and companionship? These are questions one can expect to find in Austen.

But there’s much more to her and her works than love and marriage.  Did you know, for instance, that you’ll also hear about human trafficking and the slave trade? What about sexual impropriety in the military, alcoholism, parasitism, and hypochondria? Yep, they’re all in there! These issues and so many more are explored through masterfully constructed narratives, delivered in sometimes biting parody and satire.

Yes, it is safe to say that I love Austen. It took a while, though, and I can understand why, in our contemporary world, we might find her to be a bit dull on the surface. But when you take your time with her, when you look for the subtleties, such as her brilliant control of narrative time and her employment of multiple narrative types to craft a deeper, more complex prose, you might begin to see what all the fuss is about.

northanger-abbey-jane-austen-paperback-cover-artMy first attempt at reading Austen was early in college. I started (and failed to finish) Pride and Prejudice. I reacted in the typically dismissive male-centric way: “This is girly.” Later, in graduate school, I was fortunate enough to study Northanger Abbey and my appreciation for and interest in Austen was piqued. Could I have been wrong??

Shortly after finishing that semester, I revisited Pride and Prejudice on my own. And I finished it. And I thought, “Adam, you dolt!” I had been so utterly, completely, painfully naive and wrong. I re-read P&P again last year, and my appreciation for it grew even deeper. I also hosted Austen in August in 2013 and managed to read Sense and Sensibility, Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon.

In 2014, I was able to finish Mansfield Park and participated in Austen in August (hosted by Jenna of JMill Wanders as a favor to me while I was working on my doctoral field exams) and read Persuasion.  I’ve now read all of Austen’s published work except her juvenilia, which I’m working on right now, and I can say with some confidence that while a lot her works might seem similar in many ways – style, themes, focus- in reality, they’re quite different and, somehow, never disappointing.

Watercolour of Jane Austen by her niece Cassandra
Watercolour of Jane Austen by her niece Cassandra

Do I have my favorites? Sure. Could I rank them in some kind of personal “best” to “worst” order? Yes, although that “worst” categorization would be basically meaningless, as there’s no such thing as a “bad” Austen novel. Ultimately, they all have value, they are all entertaining, and they are all complex, but in different ways. Some readers are going to respond better to the funnier, lighter novels, while others will respond to the craftsmanship and depth of the more serious works.

As for me, my favorite is and will probably always be Northanger Abbey. It was Austen’s first book, though the last to be published. It is raw, it is hilarious, and it has its flaws. But it made me double-check myself and my opinions. It made me fall in love with Austen. So, there it will sit, on its lofty pedestal, forever and ever.

#AustenInAugustRBR Giveaway: Better World Books

Hello, Austenites!

It’s time for another giveaway! This one is hosted by Michelle from True Book Addict!

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In Michelle’s words:

To make this charitable, as well as awesome, I’m going to offer two winners to pick the Jane Austen novel, or retelling, of their choice from the Better World Books bargain bin. If you’re not familiar with them, BWB donates a book to someone in need for every book you buy. I’ve donated 98 books to people in need since becoming their customer! They also offer free worldwide shipping and a carbon neutral shipping option. So it’s a win-win. Austen in August and bringing literacy to the world, one book at a time.

Thanks, Michelle! What an awesome idea! Please head over to Michelle’s Blog to enter. Remember, you must be a registered participant in Austen in August (hosted by Roof Beam Reader) in order to be eligible for prizes. We’re checking! :)

Guest Post: On Regency Correctness #AustenInAugustRBR

glasses picturePlease welcome Suzan Luauder of “Road Trips with the Redhead” who is here to talk to us about regency correctness.  Be sure to read all the way through for a special treat!

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The war of words serves is merely a starting point in the quest for Austen-inspired Regency romance writers to create the feel of the era. Yet they forge ahead, checking suspects within their prose against the Online Etymology Dictionary, and tossing aside average language like okay, hello, and gotten—all Americanisms from much later than the Regency—as well as the language of the romance novelist, including décolleté, fiancé, potent, and feisty, all coined later than the period in question, 1811-1820. The story may take place in an even tighter time line; most are 1811-1812, to coincide with the time line of Pride and Prejudice!

595px-Beer_bottle_sealed_with_a_cork_and_muselet (1)Some novelists push it to the limit, checking every little detail with inexhaustible fervour, including use of British spellings, since the story takes place in England. Others are mavericks, sneaking in contraband like muselet (1844), gobsmacked (1985), and burped (1932)—only because they’re the very bestest words for the situation, and a meticulous search for alternates led to boredom in the world of prose.

The trouble is, the more magical (say it isn’t so!) Victorian era saw the coining of thousands of new words and expressions, many within a few years of the death of the insane King George III, which ended the Regency, since his son, the Prince Regent, ascended the throne as King George IV. Now the Austenites get excited—you mean Jane Austen’s death didn’t end the Regency? Impossible!

Then on to technology: austenite is a type of stainless steel grain. Sorry, that’s a bit far off the topic! Hold on; technology is a mid-20th century word! There—back on track!

Poor dear Jane Austen never saw train travel or paved roads. Her home was lit by candles, because gas lighting was new, and used in only a few locations in London. She listened to a forte piano, since the modern piano came years later; wrote with a quill pen that had no metal nib; and used a chamber pot that was kept under her bed, as the water closet was not a regular household item—yet.

“A Regency Lady Writing (from Ackermann’s Repository for Art)”

And fashion: Take pity on that poor Regency romance novelist whose cover included a heroine with a zipper on the back of her gown! There was no elastic, either, and buttons were expensive. But underwear was exciting: it had baleen to stiffen it—the stuff whales use to filter water into their mouths. Okay, there’s something gross about the visual! But that was just her corset. She wore no panties. Way grosser.

On the Jane Austen fan fiction web site, A Happy Assembly, a year doesn’t go by without at least three new threads complaining of being jarred out of the magical Regency experience because Mr. Darcy rode his horse from Longbourn to Pemberley in a day in yet another story. Everyone knows he’d have a dead horse by London if he pushed it at that speed! Even if he had a well-hung, uhm, well-sprung carriage, it was a three-day trip, and horses had to be changed every 20 miles or so.

But wait—another pet peeve rears its ugly head! London is not on the way! Shame on the innocent writer who forgot to consult their geography map, the special one that shows all the fictional locations of Austen’s novels.

Let the botanists and zoologists have their day too: make sure the flowers were actually cultivated at that time, and blooming at the right time of year, and never mention a racoon or hummingbird. And worms—well, they’re something else altogether in Hertfordshire.

unnamedSome question why bother to go to such great lengths when many readers don’t realize the errors, and others say an anachronism jars them out of the story. I suppose it depends on how severe the anachronism is. “Plead the fifth” is my favourite error: an actual quote from a Regency romance set in England. In that case, an about-face is called for, even if that’s from 1861.

As a novelist, a huge part of the job is words, and I enjoy the part where you discover how word use changed over time, and the challenge of getting the right word is as much like solving a mystery or puzzle as it is about integrity of one’s works. So, dear colleagues, learn to laugh and joke about the ones that went sideways instead of grumbling about the difficulty of writing in a different time in history or eschewing the responsibility to the reader. It’s a metaphor for life.

Alias Thomas Bennet 1263 x 900Giveaway:  One lucky winner (who is a pre-registered participant of our Austen in August event) will receive a signed copy of Suzan Lauder’s novel, Alias Thomas Bennet, along with one reticule from The Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment PLUS one custom-made Regency lace cap! Ends August 31.

What an interesting post and fun giveaway idea. Thanks so much, Suzan, and good luck to all entrants!  To enter: just leave a comment on this post saying you’d love a signed copy of Suzan’s book plus swag!