Book Review – ‘My Calamity Jane’ (#3 The Lady Janies) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

The historical retelling I didn’t know I needed…

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical, LGBT

No. of pages: 544

Welcome ​to 1876 and a rootin’-tootin’ America bursting with gunslingers, outlaws, and garou.

JANE (a genuine hero-eene)

Calamity’s her name, and garou hunting’s her game—when she’s not starring in Wild Bill’s Traveling Show, that is. She reckons that if a girl wants to be a legend, she should just go ahead and be one.

FRANK (*wolf whistle*)

Frank “the Pistol Prince” Butler is the Wild West’s #1 bachelor. He’s also the best sharpshooter on both sides of the Mississippi, but he’s about to meet his match. . . .

ANNIE (get your gun!)

Annie Oakley (yep, that Annie) is lookin’ for a job, not a romance, but she can’t deny there’s something about Frank she likes. Really likes. Still, she’s pretty sure that anything he can do, she can do better.

A HAIRY SITUATION

After a garou hunt goes south and Jane finds a suspicious-like bite on her arm, she turns tail for Deadwood, where there’s been talk of a garou cure. But things ain’t always what they seem—meaning the gang better hightail it after her before they’re a day late and a Jane short.

Another entertaining fantastical historical romp to conclude the My Lady Janies trilogy. ‘My Calamity Jane’ pairs western legend with werewolf mythology in a comedic venture into the Wild West.

A spaghetti western with a paranormal twist written with humour and hints of feminism. I really enjoy this trio of authors working together. I am always amused and entrenched in the stories they write, the little twists to story and character, the little asides breaking the 4th wall to the reader.

We follow multiple perspectives revolving around the anecdotal stories of Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley, Wild Bill and the Pistol Prince. Calamity Jane, a member of Wild Bill’s travelling show, marvelling townships with their skills in gun slinging, knife throwing, and whip-cracking. But it’s all a cover as they hunt down werewolves bent on killing or intentionally infecting the naive populace. Jane is a smart-mouthed tom boy, driven to forge her place in a male dominated world… and live up to the legend the group had crafted to sell tickets to their show. Annie is a determined young lady, if a little rough around the edges, eager to join the sharp shooting crew as it’s newest member – because there aren’t many places for a lady with her skills to find employment. Wild Bill and his posse are the ticket to a life she’s always dreamed of. Frank is slightly egotistical, but always up for a challenge. As the team track down the leader of the garou pack, bent on infecting every unsuspecting human they can to build an army of their own; Wild Bills group has their work cut out for them. Facing off this threat is going to uncover some secrets buried from the past and force the gang to open up to each other about their own hidden past and desires.

I literally flew through this book. It is highly entertaining with plenty of twist, turns, and reveals. I was saddened to hear this was an end to this series, but joyous to hear of another trilogy following Mary’s in history. This trio of authors have struck gold.

The writing style is very tongue-in-cheek and combines historical deportment and language mixed in with a contemporary sentimentality: the combination is magical. Hand, Ashton, and Meadows do comedy well in combination to creating fantastic, relatable characters, and encompassing worlds.

The plot wasn’t quite predictable; you get a sense of its direction at the beginning, and then the plot take you on a wild ride, the many reveals completely displacing you from the saddle. There is so much charm in ‘My Calamity Jane’ I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Overall feeling: Blow me down!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘My Plain Jane’ (#2 The Lady Janies) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Another supernatural twist on a classic tale…

My Plain Jane (#2 The Lady Janies) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, Historical

No. of pages: 464

From Goodreads:

You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

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Another hilarious ride through a re-imagined classic from authors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows.

I did find the characters interesting and compelling, and the plot equally twisty and turny. Expect surprises, with ‘My Plain Jane’ but also mirroring the same tone to the original text this novel is inspired by.

While the authors are great at world building, the stand out aspect of ‘My Plain Jane’ is the complexity of the characters and their development. Historical mannerisms and social etiquette also add a comedic touch. I especially remember when Charlotte Bronte disguised herself as a footman and marvels how comfortable being dressed as a man is, and wonders why they aren’t sleeping all the time.

The story is told from three perspectives, that of Jane, Charlotte and Alexander. Jane can see ghosts and has a passion for writing. Everyone describes her as average, forgettable. Except for ghosts. The otherworldly spectres see Jane as beautiful and compelling. Charlotte is a fastidious beauty. The kind of always on the go perfectionist and Janes best friend. We do see a bit of jealousy, or sibling rivalry pop up between these two. And Alexander, an agent of the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits of which he tries to recruit Jane for her ability to communicate (and see) ghosts.

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Helen, the sassy 14 year old ghost and best friend of Jane Eyre has to be my favourite character from the book. I’d love her running the narration or giving opinion of what is going on.

The ghosts and their mythology were a great addition to this tome and I wish there was a sequel following these characters. (Maybe in the Marys trilogy.)

We get a few nods to the original text, as well as a mention of the main characters from ‘My Lady Jane’ which I found delightful.

The pacing felt slower in ‘My Plain Jane,’ I put this book down a number of times for rests. So too was the humour spread out much more. In comparison to ‘My Lady Jane’ where we got frequent asides to the reader, plenty of slapstick. I was always laughing… this felt sparse in ‘My Plain Jane.’

I think one thing that slowed the pace down for me is the continual head-jumping as multiple points of view are followed in ‘My Plain Jane.’ Changing with each chapter, their voices weren’t that distinct, and the authors had to establish a little about the character and the scene before moving the story forward – and many of the chapters are short – so I think this was the main culprit for the pace feeling slow. Especially in the first half of the novel. I think if the authors tackled several plot points in a chapter before switching point of view it would have driven the story further a lot quicker and given the reader enough time to connect to the narrator before hearing from another of the main cast.

The overall plot was very enjoyable. I’d re-read this for a lazy Sunday afternoon sipping hot tea on the porch to wind down from a busy week.

There is a great amount of predictability, given ‘My Plain Jane’ is a re-imagining of ‘Jane Eyre,’ but I felt this novel stood on its own, and the fuzzy memory I had of the original story still did not impede the surprises and twist of the storyline. I kinda liked the way it ended.

Another solid recommendation. A fun by-the-side for lovers of the classic novel.

Looking forward to the final book in this trilogy ‘My Calamity Jane,’ due for release sometime in 2020 and I also noted that there will be another trilogy for the Marys (the first set in the same universe as ‘My Lady Jane’) and am ecstatic to see these three authors collaborate on further novels in this tone. So much fun to read!

Overall feeling: fun and funny, but a bit flat

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My Plain Jane (#2 The Lady Janies) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘My Lady Jane’ by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

A fantastical romp through history…

My Lady Jane Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, Historical

No. of pages: 491

From Goodreads:

The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England.

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My Lady Jane’ was lyrical, humorous, melodic. Though not so much in the writing style. Don’t expect copious these and thous as expected in the historical setting of the novel. The narrative is decidedly modern and relatable. I was amused the entirety of the novel. It has sassy female characters helping to deconstruct the battle of the sexes and equality for women oodles before it’s time. Not to mention the magical element of characters suddenly transforming into one animal or another. It was all pulled off with charm and grace that befalls royalty – with all the political intrigue and macabre plots of assassination that comes in tow.

It strongly reminded me of ‘The Princess Bride’ and ‘Ella The Enchanted.’ Both with tones of whimsy, fun characters, and an interesting plot.

Jane is the epitome of every head-strong bookish heroine I’ve ever come across. She is stubborn and sticks fast to her beliefs – even in the face of certain death (which she may or may not see coming.) I love how she believes that books hold the answers to everything… a girl after my own heart. Even with the Victorian/Edwardian social pressures of being married off and being owned by a husband, Jane’s attitudes are years ahead of her time, making her obstinately endearing. The predicaments she finds herself in, dangerous or not, due to her pig-headedness and romanticism of life is something I myself do on a daily basis. So to say I related to Jane on a molecular level is not farfetched. And yes, I am a ginger too J

Edward, the king, is a man on the verge of an awakening – to that of the feminine whiles. Those of his cousin Jane, and the various women he meets on his journey. I remember at University, discussions on how history has been written primarily by white men in power and their perspective. Women and people of colour are often forgotten or villainised. If history were to be rewritten by women, I feel it should capture the spirit much like that of ‘My Lady Jane’ All those untold stories of female heroism and plotting and planning behind the scenes. Edward gets to experience the prejudices of class, gender, race (Edians) and have it shape him into a different person… I totally loved this.

My Lady Jane Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgG was adorable. Who doesn’t love horses. And cute guys? G (Gifford) was both rolled into one. While I found his ‘curse’ on the surface preposterous, it was in fact the source of great comedy. I think it also kept G in a state of innocence and adolescence longer to enable him to grow and develop as a character with Jane, rather than in the male aristocracy. He was in effect, mostly untouched by the prejudices of that era, and we see him go through an awakening similar to that of Edward.

My Lady Jane’ looks like a chunky book. And I have to admit, being classified with the historical fiction tag turned me off somewhat, that I had neglected to start reading for some time after its purchase. It was the continual positive reviews I saw popping up on my feed that finally did me in to give it a read… My idea of historical fiction is the likes of Chaucer and Jane Austin, where the language and social custom ooze from the page, where the tome is rich with subtext and symbolism – ultimately making it a little dense and difficult to read. You need to pay attention with these sorts of books. ‘My Lady Jane’ is nothing like that. It’s light, funny and has hints of fantasy.

Given this light tone of the narrative, I felt the novel for the most part was predictable – who would create a dark conclusion to such an upbeat novel – that is just nasty! This was like an entertaining rom-com, and I did not mind that things turned out the way I hoped they would – it gave me great satisfaction.

I almost cheered aloud when I read those famous words “Off with her head!”

My Lady Jane’ exceeded my expectations, granted they weren’t high, because I was anticipating an entirely different style of read, and while not exceptional, it definitely had me laughing and smiling. I engaged with the characters and was eager to see what was going to happen in the next chapter. A light Sunday read.

I may have rated it higher if the angst was dialled up slightly, and if I got that nervous energy in anticipation leading up to the climactic event of the novel. But the build was more subtle and the light comedic tone continued throughout – so not a big loss, but it softened the punch for me.

Some of the jokes felt like Dad jokes – but I always laugh at Dad jokes, so they appealed to my nature.

Looking forward to the next instalment of The Lady Janies ‘My Plain Jane’ due for release sometime in 2018 dealing with Jane Eyre and Charlotte Bronte. Bring it on!

Overall feeling: Surprisingly fun

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.