Pride, Prejudice, and Personal Statements

Pride, Prejudice, and Personal Statements by Mary Pagones

I was given this book free in exchange for an honest review. I had planned to post the review earlier, but I had to go out of town for my grandmother’s funeral, and then the rest of the week was packed.

But then I began to put it off as I have been having such a hard time reviewing this book.

But I’m actually glad I did. I don’t know if you have been following the college bribe scandal involving Lori Loughlin and Felicity Hoffman-but this book is right up that alley. Crazy parents who will do practically anything to have their kids go to a “good” college. Expensive college application tutors doing all they can to get the kids placed and increase their application. If interested, go to this link. For the review-keep reading.

First let me start that I want to give props to Mary Pagones. Writing is hard…

Writing a whole book is even harder, and then putting your work out there for people to praise or pull apart-

That’s hard. So for finishing your book, Mary Pagones-

So I have been having such a hard time reviewing this book. I thought it was interesting but I’m sorry, I know that this will probably make the author angry-but I didn’t see Pride and Prejudice at all, but Emma.

What?

Yep-

Yes, I…well let’d back up. I’ll go over that later, let’s do a quick plot synopsis first:

So this is the story of Lissa- Jane Austen megafan who is getting ready to apply to college. She faces all the difficulties of branding herself, having a personal statement, using the scholarship from one school to leverage getting more money out of the other, etc. Besides that, she has her senior year with her friends, and a new boyfriend, and trying to do what she can to ace her SATs, pad her application, and hopefully-get into the school of her dreams!

So the first thing that made this book hard for me was that this concept was so foreign to me. I was shocked and confused, is this really how it is like? My experience was soooo different. I graduated in 2010 and am the first in my family to ever go to a four year university, and one immediately out of high school. I had no clue how to do anything and had knew no one to ask about it. There were no “college applications tutors”. We didn’t even have a guidance counselor-just the former principal who had retired and volunteered. I had never even heard of a college application tutor until reading this book.

Uhhhhhhh

I am biracial and the running joke in my family is that the only college fund we have is that my mom is Mexican-and I could hopefully get scholarships. I’m from a low-income area, mostly agriculture, but I did go to college prep/art school. I applied in mass (thank you fee waivers) to four UCs and four CSUs. I was lucky to get into al but one, UCLA. There were no interviews-just my resume of extracurriculars (which I had a ton of), transcripts, letters of references, and a personal statement (that I cant even remember what I wrote but I did have a teacher review it for me). I received my letters and then judged them based on the amount I received in scholarship money-I didn’t even know that you could use one’s amount as leverage as stated in this book. Basically I ended up split between two schools that were giving me the most. The school I chose, my first year was paid for, I had to take loans out the next three years, and work two jobs to put myself through school.

I had a hard time reading this book and hearing Lissa whine about being poor when she and her sister have iPhones and each have a laptop. I had a CD player because I and my family couldn’t afford anything. We had one computer growing up-that was my dad ad I only got my laptop my first year of college through my scholarship funds, and because I had a family friend who worked with Apple. Unfortunately, the one I purchased was outmoded the next year. Only by the grace of God is it still running. My first cellphone was a flip phone I got for free from the company because they were outmoding them, and it cost $40 a month, the cheapest I could get.

Lissa and her family eat all kinds of hamburger, pizza, turkey meatballs, name brand cereal, etc-and she can afford to buy lunch everyday from the cafeteria. Poor is surviving on 1/4 cup of oatmeal, hot chocolate instead of milk, and having to choose between fruit and dairy (which I did in college until I got my two jobs). She says that she is poor, but snubs her nose at a school that has maid service-if she was really poor she’d be down on that. If I didn’t have to clean my four years-woohoo. Do you know how much cleaning supplies can add up to? Luckily, today the Dollar Tree carries a lot.

As poor as these ladies

The other part I had trouble connecting to is when Lissa describes being at the college and meeting all these goth/all black wearing, alternative, pieced people-in a Jane Austen literature class. Really? In a Jane Austen class? I’m not surprised there would be some-but what about all the other people who would be in such a class.

My junior year I took an upperclass history class: The History of the Novel. Half the kids were in there for history, half were English majors. There is a picture of us and I will describe how we look. First there is Kevin: Kevin was a super outdoorsy, park ranger, hiker type guy. Hiking boots, loved the outdoors, all-american blonde football-type, in a baseball cap, tee shirt, and jeans. Then there was Thomas, noir-loving, Sundance, type guy-like Jughead Jones in TV’s Riverdale stole his look with the long hair, jacket, etc. Angelica-long curly hair/afro, always wore big rings, and smart jackets-very professional. Gwynn wore her hair long, with side bangs over one eye-dark eyeshadow and liner, jeans, and thin hoodies. Belinda was in a sorority and always had perfectly straightened hair and wore a shirt/sweater with the sorority letters on it. Kate was full athlete-always workout gear and hair in braid or ponytail. And then me-I’m wearing a little jacket my mom made, lacy “Jane Austen” inspired shirt and cowboy boots. A large variety of personalities, clothes, and interests.

Wow!

So I have to say that this book wasn’t for me. I just couldn’t connect with the characters or the plot. I guess a lot has changed in nine years. Or it might have been the area I grew up in versus where this is set.

I guess I’m too old.

So lets move on to why do I think this is Emma?

So the story is of a widowed father who loved his wife dearly, and lost her suddenly. He has two daughters which he cherishes, has a close relationship too, and worries constantly about.

Then we have the main character, Lissa. Lissa is headstrong and stubborn-but at the same time she is also a tad manipulative, thinks she knows everything, and can be harsh and judgmental. True-Elizabeth does share some of these qualities but I feel Lissa is way more Emma.  Like Emma she thinks she knows everything and in the end discovers that she was much more naive than she thought.

She can be very controlling of her friends-pushing Calvin to “officially” out himself, instead of letting him do things how he wants. She is also constantly trying to match her friend Jacqui up-first with a guy they go to school with, Noel, but when she determines that he is not worthy-tries to get her to match up with a guy Jacqui met on a school tour.

She meets a guy, Hugh Fitzgerald, and because of how he dresses basically she believes that he is perfect-not really getting to know him and enjoying his sarcastic jabs at everyone and everything…

That is until his jabs are aimed at her and she realizes that he is not that great of  person after all-very much like how Emma realizes Franck Churchill is a major jerk. Hugh is so Frank Churchill, he uses Lissa to get him through English and write a screenplay for his movie which he takes full credit for-while at the same time boinking her sister; just as Frank used Emma to deflect he was involved with Jane.

Jacqui is so a Harriet in my opinion. Jacqui is Lissa’s best friend and is kind, sweet, and completely convinced into doing whatever Lissa thinks she should do. Lissa thinks she should get closer to Noel, Jacqui does. Lissa thinks that Jacqui should go with her to the Regency Fair, even though Jacqui isn’t into it-Jacqui not only does, but has a dress made, gloves, etc. Then Lissa pushes Jacqui to another guy, and she does go after him.

Lissa hates on a classmate Charlotte so much, but I don’t see any real reason to dislike her. Charlotte is wealthy, goes on lots of trips, talks about her grades and Princeton constantly-but she cares about people and never flaunts what she has in other people’s faces. She may gossip a lot but she’s not mean about it or cruel. Lissa just hates on her because she is jealous-and all her reactions reminds me of Emma and Jane Fairfax. Jane Fairfax is Emma’s number-one hated person but there is no real reason to dislike her. Emma just does because she is jealous off all she has and her talents.

I think Calvin was supposed to be Charlotte from Pride and Prejudice, but I see a Mrs. Weston vibe. Calvin tries to help Lissa and give her some advice, but then is also easily led by Lissa.

And then there is Mr. Clarke-he is so Mr. Knightley. He tries to help Lissa, instructing her in books, schools, and life.

They even dance together and quote from Emma (although that’s not something I think Mr. Clarke should have with all the teacher/student romantic relationships that have been in the news.)

This has nothing to with Emma, but Lissa’s little sister-ouch. Lissa should have told her father that her sister makes awful decisions about boys and will be ending up pregnant or with an STD if dad doesn’t get into checking on her. But really Lissa, giving your skeezy boyfriend’s number to your young, naive, impressionable sister and setting them up to all kinds of things together alone-reminds me of my friend Shannon, who had her friend Samantha tutor her boyfriend Vincent, and next thing you know-Vin and Sam were together.

Forget you!

So I know I have been harsh, as I said I don’t think this book was for me. I will say that I really enjoyed her writing style, it was a very engrossing read.

And I LOVE how she wove points and quotes from Jane Austen throughout her work. It is littered with it, and a fangirl’s delight.

She was able to tell a story based on a Jane Austen work, but it is something that an non-Austen fan can easily follow along with.

I also think that she made some very strong points and observations of Austen and her novels in her work. You might not agree with everything, but she has sound reasoning and presents a good case and an interesting view.

Hmmm….

I liked her depictions of teenagers and how Lissa thinks she knows everything, but is not as on it as she thought she was-falling for a narcissistic pig like so many young teens and women fall victim too.

As I said it was a hard review to write. I think it is definitely worth checking out, especially in light if the recent scandal and how far parents will go to get their kids into school. I mean bribing admissions so your kids can get in? I could see Mrs. Bennet doing it.

If you do read it, comment below what you think. I’d love to hear it.

For more Emma, go to Jane Austen Chinese Zodiac

For more Emma variations, go to Dangerous to Know, Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues: MODERATE

For more Pride and Prejudice, go to Dangerous to Know, Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues: MATURE

For more Pride and Prejudice variations, go to Why Do People Love Bridget Jones’ Diary?

For more Young Adult novels, go to Victoria and the Rogue

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Book Club Picks: The Undoing of Saint Silvanus

So every month  a different member in my book club chooses a book for us to read and discuss the next month.

So the member who’s turn it was, was thinking of possibly doing a mystery. When our group met, she decided on this:

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus: A Novel by Beth Moore

This is Beth Moore’s first novel after years of nonfiction. It was something new but something she had been thinking about doing for a while.

Hmm…

Julia Stillwater is living in San Francisco in an controlling and very bad relationship. But when she discovers that her boyfriend is cheating on her she is hit hard and unsure of what to do.

Then she receives a call that her long estranged father is dead.

And that her grandmother, the ice queen, who she also hasn’t seen in over twenty years is offering to pay her way to New Orleans so she could attend the funeral.

As her life is currently in shambles, Jillian decides to take it.

However, there is a lot that was kept from her. It turns out that the housekeeper, Adella Atwater, came up with the idea for a family reunion, not her grandmother, Olivia.

This could get ugly.

It also turns out that she lives in an church turned boarding house-full of all kinds of characters. There is David a forty-year old bachelor and music teacher; Carrie a student in medical school and always studying or working; and an elderly dementia suffering woman.

What have I gotten myself into?

With no money, no reason to go back to San Francisco, and not sure what to do…she remains in the house.

Seriously

Meanwhile, the New Orleans Police Department have been looking into the murder of Jillian’s father, Raphael. But while they try to uncover a killer, a lot of other strange things start happening. Baby things are left outside the house, someone tries to break into the house, things go missing, etc. The NOPD spend a lot of time coming to the house trying to figure out what does this all mean? A sentiment shared by the rest of the residents.

Besides that Saint Silvanus holds a secret from its first beginning as a church. Will it be revealed?

Hmm…

Will Jillian ever learn the truth about her fathers death? Will she grow to enjoy living in Saint Silvanus? Will her family rifts be mended? Or torn further apart?

Hmm…

So let’s start with what I didn’t care for or thought wasn’t as finished.

1)First of all Jillian is unsure what to do when she comes across the homeless. She has never had to deal with such things and finds the “sour smells” of the city unbearable.

Come on now. I am from California and have been to San Francisco many times. I have been everywhere from the high price areas to the touristy ones and there are homeless EVERYWHERE. They hide in bushes and jump out to surprise you; walk out into traffic; are on every street corner along with “sour” smells. I don’t know what San Francisco Moore encountered but that sounds nothing like the one in California.

2) What happened with the church?

So throughout the novel, Moore has the story of the church’s beginning and the first pastor intersecting with the story of Jillian. But she never really says why this matters to the characters as they have no connection to each other and they never say who killed the minister. Was it suicide or murder?

3) There are a lot of little details missing.

Hmm…

In my class, The History of the Novel, we read an article about how hard it is for a nonfiction author to switch to fiction as there are a lot of little things they aren’t used to writing about-how they look, the clothes they wear, the food they eat, etc. Moore falls into the same issue as she doesn’t always describe her characters. For instance she calls Julianna “dark”. Dark hair? Dark skin? Mexican? African-American? Greek? Spanish? Italian? Black hair? Brown? Chestnut?

I know it is her first time writing a “novel” so it makes sense there are a few kinks.

4) The mystery isn’t really mysterious

I knew as soon as the character entered the picture. It was extremely obvious the way they acted was not normal

So what was good?

1) The characters

The characters were amazing! I loved every single one and each felt extremely lifelike and ones you would meet in real life.

They all had their own hangups, issues, and backgrounds that were relatable-either to you or reminded you of someone you know. They made the book interesting, a page turner, and had you feel at home in Saint Silvanus.

This in itself made the book worth reading.

For more of my book clubs reads, go to Book Club Picks: At Home in Mitford

For more mysteries, go to Suspense & Sensibility (Or First Impressions Revisited)

So after this book it is my turn to pick the next book. I was going to bring a few choices to the meeting and pulled out a western, as you know I love stuff like that:

I also took out My Fair Godmother as that book cracks me up.

I was trying to think of a third option, when I decided on one book that’s been sticking in my mind:

Yes, my book club is going to read The Darcy Monologues. This will be very interesting as:

  1. One member has read the book and seen the 1940, 1995, and 2005 versions.
  2. One member has only seen the 1995 and 2005 versions, never read the book.
  3. And the other member has not seen any film or read the book.

Will they love it? Will they hate it? I don’t know, but I am sure of one thing:

And we all know what I thought of it:

Read what I think of Part I: The Regency and Part II: Other Eras