Sunday, December 19, 2010


Jane by April Lindner

I saw the cover of this book and just couldn't resist picking it up.  When I saw that it was a "modern" Jane Eyre - I had to have it.  Gladly I can say that this book lived up to my expectations.  I love the original story and was interested to see what this one was about.  The author talks about "translating" some of the issues into modern contexts in the Author's Note in the back.  I thought she did a great job.

This book tells the story of a young woman named Jane Moore whose parents die in an accident while she is in her freshman year at Sarah Lawrence college.  She is a smart girl, though plain, and while she does have two siblings, they are horrible to her, and being away from them is not real loss.  In fact, Jane is glad not to have to see them.  Unable to pay for college once her parents die (the stocks they left her were worthless...though her sister seemed to be doing ok and got some money out of the deaths), Jane gets trained to be a nanny and seeks her first job.  She hopes to work and save money to eventually one day go back to school.

While applying and interviewing, she knows she is different from the other girls.  They are all perky and cutely dressed while Jane is plain and dressed in a mature looking suit from Goodwill.  This might have worked against her except that the agency needed a special person to fill a special nanny position.  Jane cares nothing for tabloids and celebrities so the agency sends her to be a nanny for the rock star Nico Rathburn.  Known for being a crazy party-hard star w/ many marriages under his belt and a history of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, Nico is sort of on a come-back tour right now.  He's gruff and strange, but eventually Jane sees other sides of his personality.  Add in the adorable Maddy, Nico's daughter, and a houseful of band mates, photographers, and housekeepers, and you have a wonderful backdrop for this modern retelling of a classic.

I loved Jane, and I loved Nico.  I felt that they were real characters, and I enjoyed every moment they were together.  Of course, knowing Jane Eyre made me anticipate their meetings even more.  I was wondering all the time when they would have a nice afternoon together and when Nico would go back to his abrasive self and be mean.  The love story was fun, and I really think that Lindner did a fabulous job.  Readers can like this book even if they haven't read the original, but hopefully this story will lead them to read the real book to see what it's all about. 

Monday, December 6, 2010


I loved Susan Beth Pfeffer's Moon books and was on the lookout for more of that type - survival in the "new" world when things have gone wrong.  I came across Empty by Suzanne Weyn.  Empty tells the story of three kids in a small town and how they deal with life once the United States basically runs out of gasoline.  It alternates chapters that focus on the three characters:  Tom, Nikki, and Gwen.  Each kid is very different but they all end up in the same boat when the problems start getting bad.

Here's what I did like about the book:  it makes you think.  We are so very dependent on all kinds of products that involve oil.  The book does a good job of showing readers just how much would be affected by running out of oil and by continuing to make the choices that we are making in regards to oil use.

But I just didn't really care about these characters.  I felt like they were just there to say stuff about what kinds of choices we should have made to not be in this no-gas situation.  They were flat for me.  Plus, the book was just overly didactic, which I just didn't love.  I felt that w/ the moon books (Life As We Knew It, the dead and the gone, and This World We Live In), you learned about the consequences but you cared about the characters, too.  This book just seemed a little to overt in its message to make me care about it as a good work of fiction.  Also, some things were just "oh so perfect" for the people in this little town.  For example:

"Guess who we met on the way over here--Mr. Curtin!" Tom said.  "And listen to this:  His wife is an environmental engineer, and as soon as we have power again, she's going to start giving workshops to people in Sage Valley on alternative fuels and all sorts of stuff like solar and wind power.  She's written up a grant to try to make the town a model of energy self-sufficiency.  Is that cool, or what?" (p. 155)

See - it's just too perfect.  While the book will definitely make you think about what might happen if we really were to run out of oil - maybe the pessimist in me (and I'm usually not like this) thinks that the "happy-ish" ending just is too perfect.  I preferred the way the moon books ended or The Road's ending - if it's the end of the world - let's face it - it's probably not going to be that pretty.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My 2010 Top Ten

All the book lists for 2010 are coming out at the moment, so I thought I'd put mine out there.  The book jackets will take you to and the links will take you to my reviews that of each.  These were my favs of the year and I can't wait to start yet another wonderful year of reading in 2011!  I'm already excited about it!  Here's what I loved most during my reading this year (and these are in no particular order):

Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins

Ship Breaker
by Paolo Bacigalupi

Will Grayson, Will Grayson
by John Green and David Levithan

Before I Fall
by Lauren Oliver

Hate List
by Jennifer Brown
(came out in 2009 - but on my 2010 reading list)

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder
by Julie Halpern
(published fall 2009 - but on my 2010 reading list)

The Sky Is Everywhere
by Jandy Nelson

The Monstrumologist
by Rick Yancey
(published 2009 - but I read it at the very beginning of 2010 - and haven't gotten the sequel yet but can't wait to get to it!)

Suite Scarlett and Scarlett Fever
by Maureen Johnson
(Suite Scarlett came out in 2008 and Scarlett Fever in 2010 - I read both of them together in 2010 - can't wait for more Scarlett books!)

The Body Finder
by Kimberly Derting

If you want a good YA read - check one of these out!  It's always so hard to pick, but these are the best in my humble opinion.  A few more weeks to add to my 2010 reading list and then I'll begin again!  I didn't get to my goal of reading 100 books, but I did read more than last year (right now at 52 and hope to add a few more before the New Year!).  As long as I am keeping up and doing my best - I think that's what matters.  And....I'll be adding more children's/picture book reviews next year and in the years to come as we are almost ready to welcome a little bookworm into our family soon!  Happy Holidays and New Year to all - and most importantly - HAPPY READING!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Anna and the French Kiss

So  this book is really special to me because the author, Stephanie Perkins, is from my town!!  She's a local writer and we are so proud of this book.  Gayle Forman recommended this book on NPR as one of the best young adult reads of the year - check her list out here.  I couldn't agree more - this was a fun, french, flirty, fabulous read.

Anna is a senior in high school, but her senior year isn't going to be like she thought because her father really famous writer who...

"writes novels set in Small Town Georgia about folks with Good American Values who Fall in Love and then contract Life Threatening Diseases Die." (p. 5)

decides to send Anna to American boarding school in Paris for her senior year.  Don't get it wrong - Paris for a year is an amazing opportunity - but Anna is a bit bummed about leaving her best friend, her job, and the cute boy at her job for a country she knows nothing about - I mean, she took Spanish in high school; she doesn't even know a word of French.

But once she's at school, she makes friends, settles in, and meets the gorgeous Etienne St. Clair.  He's, simply put, just perfect - except that he has a girlfriend.  Anna and St. Clair become friends, have these special moments where she thinks it could be more, and seems to slip away.  But they seem to have this wonderful connection.  One of my favorite passages is about when the gang is all out at the movies.  Anna is sitting next to St. Clair.  She loves movies, but her proximity to this beautiful boy is making it hard to concentrate on the film:

"The characters on the screen are squabbling, but for the life of me, I don't know what about.   How long have I not been paying attention?

St. Clair coughs and shifts again.  His leg brushes against mine.  It stays there.  I'm paralyzed.  I should movie it; it feels too unnatural.  How can he not notice his leg is touching my leg?  From the corner of my eye, I see the profile of his chin and nose, and--oh, dear God--the curve of his lips.

There.  He glanced at me.  I know he did.

I bore my eyes into the screen, trying my best to prove that I am Really Interested in this movie.  St. Clair stiffens but doesn't move his leg.  Is he holding his breath?  I think he is.  I'm holding mine.  I exhale and cringe--it's so loud and unnatural.

Again.  Another glance.  This time I turn, automatically, just as he's  turning away. It's a dance, and now there's a feeling in the air like one of us should say something.  Focus, Anna.  Focus.  "Do you like it?" I whisper.

He pauses.  "The film?"

I'm thankful the shadows hide my blush.

"I like it very much," he says.

I risk a glance, and St. Clair stares back.  Deeply.  He has not looked at me like this before.  I turn away first, then feel him turn a few beats later.

I know he is smiling, and my heart races."

How awesome is that? I mean, I don't really know what to say except I really loved the book.  I loved all the characters.  Yes, it takes place in France, but it's just good kids and a good story.  And the romantic city is a fun get away setting for the reader.  I enjoyed my time in Paris as a read this book.  I usually enjoy boarding school books, too.  It's just fun to read a book and have the fun freedom that the boarding school kids experience.  Anna was just a great girl.  She knows what she wants.  She's got goals and ambitions, but she's just a regular girl, too, hoping for her wishes to come true.  She's in the right city for that!   I recommend it and hope you enjoy it as much as I did.