Thursday, January 28, 2010

Review: Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford

Genre: Paranormal Fiction
Pages: 320
Date Published: December 2009
Publisher: Ballantine Books

Book description:
Two hundred years after her death, Jane Austen is still surrounded by the literature she loves—but now it's because she's the owner of Flyleaf Books in a sleepy college town in Upstate New York. Every day she watches her novels fly off the shelves—along with dozens of unauthorized sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations. Jane may be undead, but her books have taken on a life of their own.
To make matters worse, the manuscript she finished just before being turned into a vampire has been rejected by publishers—116 times. Jane longs to let the world know who she is, but when a sudden twist of fate thrusts her back into the spotlight, she must hide her real identity—and fend off a dark man from her past while juggling two modern suitors. Will the inimitable Jane Austen be able to keep her cool in this comedy of manners, or will she show everyone what a woman with a sharp wit and an even sharper set of fangs can do?

The best thing about Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford is the humor. This book pokes fun at the publishing industry and at the avalanche of Jane Austen spin-offs that this book itself is a part of. It imagines how Jane would have felt to meet some of these authors that are riding on her coattails, and in the instance when she absolutely loathes the author she gets a tasty snack as well. But Jane is a fairly benign vampire. She avoids completely draining people (and thus killing them) and refuses to make anyone into a vampire. She is generally conscientious about whose blood she drinks and where she bites them. And she is not really happy being a vampire and is definitely not fond of the man who made her this way--Lord Byron. The literary connections don't stop there, though. Apparently Byron was a busy blood-sucker and made a few other famous writers of the period into vampires too. Charlotte Bronte makes an appearance as a jealous rival.

It is a fun read, but one I wasn't entirely satisfied with. First, I had a really hard time seeing the Jane in this novel (going by the name Jane Fairfax) as Jane Austen. Jane Fairfax just wasn't witty enough to be a believable Jane Austen for me. The other characters fell flat for me too. I didn't understood why Jane decided she wanted to try a relationship with the love interest (she never really seemed that attracted to him), and Jane's friend and employee was equally flat as a character. She was likable enough, but seemed a bit two-dimensional. Charlotte Bronte was a lunatic, and Byron was obsessive and annoying. I guess I just didn't click with any of the characters, which made the book less enjoyable.

Jane Bites Back is funny--it really is--but as a whole it sort of fell flat for me. A lot of readers will probably love it, I'm just not one of them. There is a sequel to this book planned (Jane Goes Batty) that I will probably give a try because things were starting to get interesting at the end and because, let's face it, the book was funny and easy to read. Don't go into it expecting something deep and meaningful, take it for the humorous diversion that it is.

**I won a copy of this book in a GoodReads giveaway.**



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