14 Romantic Novels to Make Your Heart Beat Faster

Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day this weekend or not, romance is in the air. It’s cold outside, so it’s a great time of year to heat things up inside. Here’s a list of books that run the gamut from romantic to sweet to full-on sexy.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. This one is actually a YA title, and a fairly chaste one at that. But it is incredibly funny and on-point about what it’s like to be a teenager with a crush. High school senior Anna is suddenly shipped off to boarding school in Paris, and she thinks her life is over. Until she meets Etienne St. Clair, a gorgeous fellow student. She spends the year almost falling in love with him and learning all about French cinema, until she finally gets the French kiss of her dreams. Incredibly charming.

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. Crusie’s most popular romance is still one of the great contemporary romance novels. It’s really a romantic comedy. Min Dobbs and Cal Morrissey start their rocky relationship with a bet. Her ex thinks Cal won’t be able to get her into bed, and Min decides to string him along to prove a point. But even though they seem terribly mismatched, there’s more going on there. Food, matchmaking, great humor. A great, lighthearted love story. Continue reading 14 Romantic Novels to Make Your Heart Beat Faster

Ever, Jane: An Austen-Inspired Virtual Game

© 3 Turn Productions

As a female gamer, I am acutely aware of the lack of interest gaming companies show in what interests and attracts me. Certainly I find games that I enjoy, but historically women have not been the target audience nor the participants of most game development. If we were, there would be more female characters with more role playing options and we would have the sensible option to don yoga pants and running shoes in fight mode. Fortunately, there is a new girl in town: 3 Turn Productions.

A new game development company focusing on women and gaming, 3 Turn seeks to produce games that extend the female imagination and play preferences. How the company came about is just as interesting as its founder. Judy Tyrer, mother and English Literature major, had always been a gamer. When she found programming, however, she found her calling. Rather than listen to statistics, she launched herself into a game development career at the age of 50. Being over the age of 30 and a female in the game development world is unique in itself, but Judy committed to her new life and learned everything she could. By six months in, she was pitching games to the company she worked for, gathering experience and information as she went. Eventually, her belief in doing what you love turned into a belief in creating what you love and she decided to embark on a new adventure.

“Games are an extension of our imagination,” Judy explains, but if 99% of games are focused on the male imagination, women are marginalized as an afterthought. Her love of virtual worlds and role playing, combined with her fascination around what inspired women and how women choose to obtain power, led her to form 3 Turn Productions and begin prototyping their first offering: Ever, Jane.

Ever, Jane is a virtual RPG based on the collected works of Jane Austen. A life long fan of Austen’s work, Tyrer knew it was the world she wanted to begin with. The basis of many women’s fantasies, the world of Austen is intriguing and proper, seductive and clever. Players can create their avatars based on the personal and physical traits of beloved characters from the books. The objective is to improve one’s station, solicit invites, and ruin your enemies by getting noticed, either through gossip or actions, but not too noticed. Blatant misbehavior will backfire, and so just as in Austen’s society, propriety is a delicate dance.

A prototype quality version is already out and available to download and play. According to Tyrer, this initial phase is all about forming community. So far, people are loving what is available, with many individuals spending time in the game to help newer players assimilate and build relationships. She tells the story of a player who jumped in and immediately began using inappropriate language and more. Instead of feeding the troll, the other players began questioning, treating him as a foreigner, asking what land he came from and pretending to look up translations. Eventually, he left. That seemed like a very Austen (and hilarious) way to handle the situation to me.

3 Turn Productions has recently launched a Kickstarter to raise development funds. You can access the game from there to try it for yourself, and become a backer for game perks once it is released. I asked Tyrer what characters she has developed herself and she said she had created an Emma-type character to be a liaison to new people in the game. This kind of character would be well acquainted with the village and rich enough to not have to participate in the quest for marriage. She also created a Mr. Collins type character so that she could be awkward and appropriately inappropriate. She is attracted to the weird characters, and I can’t blame her. I myself would jump at the chance to play someone who exemplifies the ridiculous or oblivious like Mr. Collins or Mrs. Jennings. It is, after all, these characters that reveal some of the best traits in our heroes and heroines.

But the most important question, the one I was sure my dear readers would be most interested in hearing, is whether or not we will be able to virtually watch Mr. Darcy emerge from a lake, soaked and deep in thought. It may not be in the books, but has certainly become part of the fantasy. Tyrer laughed and assured me it was possible, but this idea, like much of the Ever, Jane world, relies on getting enough funding to support the beautiful graphics they want to cultivate. If you are a gamer (or not) and a fan of Austen, I encourage you to check it out. I’ll see you in there, with a character based on the naughty Crawfords.

Stride and Prejudice: A Jane Austen Endless Runner

The two modes of Stride and Prejudice

I had you at “a Jane Austen endless runner” didn’t I? I’ll keep going anyway… Can you think of a better way to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice than with an adorable little Lizzy Bennet as she jumps through the sentences of the novel? Me neither.

This Stride and Prejudice app is the latest from my friend Carla Fisher and her crew at No Crusts Interactive, who brought us the Williamspurrrrg app of which I was also quite fond. This endless runner begins as it should, on Chapter 1. Little Elizabeth Bennet, who almost looks as though she’s been embroidered onto the scene, jumps through the entire text of Pride and Prejudice. The text is thoughtfully broken down into full sentences or at least full thoughts, which actually makes it quite a readable.

Ms. Elizabeth Bennet begins her journey.

There are two different modes in the game. In Survival Mode, you have to start over from the beginning each time Ms. Bennet falls into the abyss. If you’re serious about reading the book, though, check out Reading Mode where you can begin where you left off. Quite thoughtfully, there are settings that let you adjust the color of the text and the background to what’s most readable for you, and you can adjust the speed to either making it a more exciting game or a reading experience with more longevity.

I really hope to reach a point in the app where Lizzy jumps into Mr. Darcy’s arms.

Your failure is softened by a wide array of Jane Austen quotes.

Stride and Prejudice is only $0.99 and is available for both iPhone and iPad.

GeekMom received a copy of this app for review purposes.

This Week With The GeekMoms

This week, Jules‘ youngest turned 13. Now she is officially the parent of two teenage boys. Jules is also happy to announce that next week, Sunburst Award winning Canadian author Alyx Dellamonica will be co-hosting Jules’ Geeky Pleasures Radio Show. They plan to discuss her newest book Blue Magic, LGBT issues, and more. If you’ve missed on of Jules’ Geeky Pleasures Radio Show interviews, you can subscribe to them on iTunes.

Nicole Wakelin is heading to Boston Comic Con with her girls and can’t wait to see their reaction to their first comic convention!

Chaos Mandy is hoping the rain will hold off so she can go to the local flea market this weekend. She is in search of Magic cards among other things.

Kelly Knox
is heading to the Seattle Center this weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the World’s Fair and Space Needle. Any time there’s a festival laden with food trucks, she’s there!

Kris Bordessa is preparing for a couple of short work-related trips that will take her to both Oahu and Maui. She’s thrilled that while she’s on Maui she’ll have a chance to attend her college son’s performance at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. The concert will feature students from the Institute of Hawaiian Music at University of Hawaii, Maui College along with Grammy winner George Kahumoku, Jr.

Brigid spent the better part of the week designing illustrations for a new secret project she’s super stoked about. She updated her website with a new look, and is sharing gratitude.

Kristen Rutherford is playing the part of Jeanne in the English dub of the French animated film A Cat In Paris and gearing up to write another round of Nerdist specials for BBCA. Here, we define “gearing up” as “thinking about cool, nerdy things to do and see in London.” Isn’t there some sporting event happening there soon?

Marziah was on the Computer America radio show on Wednesday. You can catch the podcast online.

Melissa Wiley spent the week geeking out over a Jane Austen connection in her current garden-lit reading binge—and delighting in introducing Brambly Hedge to her just-turned-six-year-old.

Ruth has been crafting for her three-year-old’s Star Wars birthday. As a result, she’s gotten covered in spray paint, spray-bonded sand to her fingers, and stained the kitchen with red velvet cake.

Rebecca Angel is still sick from PAX, just barely managing to sing a few songs at last week’s GeekFest. She is adamant about getting well because on the 26th is her birthday. Yes, it is an official GeekMom High Holy Day. All Birthday wishes should come wrapped in Get Well wishes. Thank you.

Dakster Sullivan will be at Walt Disney World on Friday to celebrate her 27th birthday. Saturday, she will be helping her husband at his first official 501st legion troop at Acme Comics in Longwood, FL! Her son Brandon is already looking forward to the milkshake he gets after every successful troop.

Corrina has just returned from a whirlwind trip of Chicago and would love to recommend Yolk on Michigan Avenue to anyone in that area. Truly wonderful. Also Red Velvet French Toast.

Discover Jane Austen: A Life Revealed

Jane-Austen-A-Life-RevealedWhat better year than 2011, the 200th anniversary of the publication of Sense and Sensibility, her first published novel, to learn a bit about Jane Austen’s life? Maybe you’ve seen a movie or two made from her books, or maybe you’ve even read the books themselves. But Jane Austen’s life had few things in common with the happy endings of her novels.

One way to learn about Jane, the person, is to read Jane Austen: A Life Revealed. It takes you through Jane’s life from birth to death, hitting all the highlights and delving deeper into detail. What we know about Jane is chiefly through her letters to others, others’ letters to her, and what people later wrote about her.

I draw your attention to the back matter first, since it will be helpful as you read through the book. In addition to the usual index and notes, there is a very useful and extensive family tree for both Jane’s mother’s side and her father’s side. The book talks about many relations, some of whom intermarried, so it’s useful to follow along on the family tree.

Back to the front of the book, it starts with a general description of Jane Austen and the world in which she lived. It then talks about her family, who did not live a life of privilege. Her father was a clergyman, and her mother helped run a farm and boarding house. Her father also taught pupils who stayed at the boarding house. Learning and exploration were encouraged by her father. Jane had a small amount of formal education, but since nothing was regulated at that time, she learned more at home on her own. Despite having to work for a living, the Austen family was still considered part of the gentry and observed much of the etiquette of that class. Jane was one of eight children, mostly brothers. As a woman, she had to marry well or be dependent upon her friends and relations to support her, since she wouldn’t inherit any of the family property or meager fortune. Since she never married, that was indeed how she ended up living. And when her father retired and had to relinquish the family home, Jane’s life became more mobile, staying with various family members and friends for the rest of her life.

While the book sheds much light on Jane Austen as a person, she was still a puzzle. Accounts of her are varied and often contradictory. We’re not even sure exactly what she looked like. Her love life was a similar mix of fact and mystery. She never married, but she seemed to get close a few times.

The book discusses her writing at length, giving summaries of all six of her published novels, plus touching on her several incomplete works. Though she didn’t live a life of privilege, she saw enough of all levels of society to write from her own personal knowledge for her stories, so even her details of the nobility are accurate and informed. The book also discusses what was going on in England at the time, to give you context for her life.

Jane Austen: A Life Revealed isn’t a terribly happy book, since it really shows a typical life of someone in her position. Plus, life then was much harder than it is now in many respects, with very little medical care, much infant and maternal mortality, accidents, disease, and illness. But Jane left us with some special literature that is treasured even more today than it was in her time. The adaptations and movies of her six novels keep Jane Austen’s words fresh in our minds and our culture.

Jane Austen: A Life Revealed retails for $18.99. I recommend it to anyone who wants to know the author behind the novels.

Note: I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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Jane Austen Meets Marvel Comics

Image: Marvel

Just because it is 200 year old romantic literature doesn’t mean it can’t be represented in a graphic novel.

Sense and Sensibility. Image: Marvel

Recently, Marvel Comics put out several graphic novels with stories that don’t have superheroes. At least not in the traditional sense. Two of them are the Jane Austen novels, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice. (They also put out some The Wizard of Oz books, for those of you playing along at home.) I was so excited when I saw these that I bought them for myself for Christmas.

Naturally, this kind of format can’t delve as deeply into the story as the original books, or even the many movie adaptations, but they are long enough to capture the storyline and the characters. Distilling stories down into their most important parts has got to be difficult, especially when original quotations from the books are often used. Like with the movies, entire stretches have to be skipped over, but the challenge is how to do that and not ruin the overall picture.

Sense and Sensibility was adapted by Nancy Butler and beautifully illustrated by Sonny Liew. The art is soft and delicate. It’s almost like the story is a backdrop for the art. But while there are some pages and frames with plenty of action or a tone-setting drawing, the graphic novel is very text heavy. And as with Austen’s original books, it helps to know the storyline before reading. There are a lot of characters and details to keep track of and Regency era traditions and etiquette to be baffled by.

Image: Marvel

Pride and Prejudice, also adapted by Nancy Butler but illustrated by Hugo Petrus, has a completely different feel from Sense and Sensibility. The art inside is more harsh, the drawing more clearly delineated, and if I didn’t know better, without reading the text I would think it was a vampire story or a book about characters that drink ink (most of the characters’ lips have strange black markings on them). I don’t care for Petrus’s style, but I’ve not let that stand in my way of enjoying the adaptation. The story of Pride and Prejudice is fantastic, and Nancy Butler does a nice job telling it in this new format. If you’re familiar with the original book, you’ll spot where Butler goes off script to summarize some parts, but that’s obviously necessary in such a short work.

Both of the books have the original comic book covers in the back. If you see the covers for Pride and Prejudice and are confused, it is because Sonny Liew also did some of the artwork for the Pride and Prejudice covers. I’m glad to have the full books and not to have to wait for new issues to come out. Having them in hardback is a better way to go, in my opinion!

Marvel’s Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice each retail for $19.99, but are cheaper on Amazon. I recommend them to anyone who appreciates Jane Austen or is interested in seeing classic works interpreted in a new way. The books are also a very good way to get people who aren’t traditionally comic book readers exposed to the format.

Pride and Prejudice. Image: Marvel


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Happy 200th Anniversary, Sense and Sensibility!

Jane Austen drawing
Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

This year, 2011, marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. It was the first of her six novels to be published, so this year starts the several-year celebration of the 200th anniversary of all of her novel publications (two novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, were published posthumously, in 1818).

I find that many literary geeks are also Jane Austen geeks. I don’t label myself a literary geek, but once I got entranced by Jane Austen’s stories, I’ve done my best to become as much of an expert on her time and her stories as possible (I’m still working on it).

The first time I tried to read a Jane Austen book, I did so without first knowing the story. Not the plot, not the characters, nothing about the time period. I was completely lost. The 200-year space between when she wrote and when I read proved to be too much.

But after years of watching many movie versions of her six books, I did manage to read a couple of them. Now I’m going through them all again, successfully reading, enjoying, and understanding what is going on. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice (a couple of times), Persuasion (my second favorite story), Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, and I’m currently working on Emma. Mansfield Park, my least favorite story, will come last. I hope the book is much better than the stories shown in the movie versions I have seen.

Jane Austen for Dummies
Image: For Dummies

A couple of books written by others have helped me along the way to understand Jane Austen’s writing more deeply. I did a great deal of research into which books on Jane Austen’s time I should read, poring over descriptions and tables of contents, and reading dozens of reviews. Here is what I came up with.

The incredibly informative but unfortunately titled Jane Austen for Dummies has been the most helpful. It gives specific information on many aspects of life during Jane Austen’s time in the different classes, but particularly the gentry. In Jane’s books, a subtle look here, a word dropped there, now had a whole new meaning for me. One minor detail meant someone’s life had changed drastically. They were disinherited. Or were slighted. Or were obligated. Or were in love. I could now read and appreciate all the specifics in the books, the subtleties of Jane’s writing, and of life in her sphere during that time. For example, shaking someone’s hand or using someone’s first name both held different meanings then than they do now.

Jane Austen manners
Image: Bloomsbury USA

Another book which was helpful was Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Manners: Compliments, Charades & Horrible Blunders. It’s a beautiful little book with a ribbon bookmark and lovely watercolor illustrations. It contains organized etiquette rules, divided up into topics. You’ll never doubt when you need to return a call (an in-person visit) again! If you’re in Regency England, that is. It also contains fun analyses of travel times and yearly budgets, figuring out more details about the lives of characters from Jane’s books.

If you like romance or excellent literature and you’ve never tried reading Jane Austen before, give it a try. It it proves insurmountable, try watching a movie version first, and then re-reading the book. Once you understand the sometimes complicated relationships among the characters, the books are much easier to understand.

Jane Austen’s six novels are available for free on Kindle or Project Gutenberg, or you can buy bound volumes online for various prices. Jane Austen for Dummies retails for $19.99. Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Manners: Compliments, Charades & Horrible Blunders retails for $14.95.

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