August 31, 2010

Reading in Cars with Boys

One of my favorite things about the boy-who-would-become-my-husband when we first met was that he was always reading and talking about what he'd read. He reads anything, though the scales usually tip in favor of poetry and nonfiction. Better yet, he was interested in what I was reading and he would listen to me go on and on about my most recent character/book/author obsession without any apparent fatigue. In fact, he wouldn't just listen. He'd ask questions. He'd remember what I said and why I loved it. And sometimes. Sometimes he would ask me to read them to him. 

Another favorite thing about this particular boy is he loves road trips. He loves getting out of Dodge. And the ride itself is part of the pleasure. Since I feel the same exact way, it didn't take us long to put the two pastimes together and start reading aloud on our drives. We've gone thousands of miles now, with the landscape and the words flying by. And sometimes, if we just can't swing getting out of town, we pile in the car and I read to him as he drives up the canyon, around the lake, to the 7-Eleven and back if that's all the time we've got. Some of my happiest memories are riding and reading in cars with that boy.

In this manner, we've worked our way through the Mercy Thompson books, the Queen's Thief series, Harry Potter, The Road Home, the Alanna quartet, Sharon Shinn's Twelve Houses series, a handful of Sookies, Ender's Game, and a raft of Stephanie Plums. Among others. This last weekend we were able to sneak out of town to attend a Shakespeare Festival down south and on the way we started a new series. It's a favorite of mine and one I've been telling him he'd love for some time now. We managed to finish the first book just as we were pulling back into town. Can you tell from the picture which book it is? 

Why yes--I do do all the voices.

So do you guys read aloud with your significant others? In the car or elsewhere? And are there any particular books/series that have been winners?

August 27, 2010

Retro Friday Review: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted here at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time! I include roundups from participating bloggers in my post every week.


I heard about Cold Comfort Farm for the first time while I was on study abroad in London my sophomore year of college. Some of the girls in my group were chatting about the film adaptation of it one night and I listened in as they laughed and laughed and quoted perfectly hilarious lines that had me itching to watch it myself, particularly given the wonderful cast, which includes Kate Beckinsale, Ian McKellen, Rufus Sewell, and Stephen Fry. One of the girls had actually read the book itself and told me I should make sure to start there before viewing the movie. So, when I ran across a lovely used copy on sale for a pound in an Oxford bookshop, I pounced on it and stashed it in my suitcase to read when I got home. You see, I had some inkling of how homesick I would be for England after I left it and knew I would need some good reading to get me through the transition back to the States. Originally published in 1932, Cold Comfort Farm was Stella Gibbons' first novel and a cracking good one at that. With a wonderful and quite shameless panache, it parodies the dark and angsty rural novels popular at the time, particularly the works of Thomas Hardy, Emily Bronte, and D.H. Lawrence. Several of their novels are actually referenced in the book itself and anyone familiar with them (fans or not) will appreciate the light touch Gibbons takes while poking fun at them. I am curious as to how many of you have read, or at least heard of, this novel. It is an absolute gem and one that never fails to bring a smile to my lips.


Flora Poste is in some difficulty. Having been meticulously educated to within an inch of her life, she finds herself unable to support herself when her parents die rather suddenly, leaving her penniless and homeless. After temporarily moving in with an old friend, she sets about writing a sheaf of letters to a host of distant relatives, inquiring after the possibility of moving in with them until she can come up with a way of taking care of herself. Though she receives numerous and downright alarming responses from various and sundry relatives, it is the last one that catches her eye. And for good reason.
The last letter was written upon cheap lined paper, in a bold but illiterate hand:


"Dear Niece,


"So you are after your rights at last. Well, I have expected to hear from Robert Poste's child these last twenty years.


"Child, my man once did your father a great wrong. If you will come to us I will do my best to atone, but you must never ask me what for. My lips are sealed.


"Child, child, if you come to this doomed house, what is to save you? Perhaps you may be able to help us when our hour comes.

"Yr. affec. Aunt,

"J. STARKADDER."
Against her friend's probably wise wishes, Flora immediately decides to go and live with the Starkadders at Cold Comfort and see what exactly Aunt Judith means by "her rights" and if they might include something practical like oh, say, money. Or a house. But when she arrives in Sussex, it is clear that it is she who has something to give to her bizarre and backwoods relatives. And so, in true Flora style, she rolls up her sleeves and goes about setting things to rights. What follows is one the most hilarious romps I've had the pleasure of encountering. 


There's no resisting Cold Comfort Farm's charms and that's all there is to it. It's really too funny for words. I can't imagine anyone being able to stay away from such a place and such people after reading that letter. From Flora's tribe of mad family members (all held under the imperious thumb of Aunt Ada Doom), to their hysterical habit of always referring to Flora ominously as "Robert Poste's child," to the poor cows Adam is forever milking who go by the names of Graceless, Pointless, Feckless, Aimless, and Fury, it seems everywhere Flora (and the reader) turns there is another hopeless case just begging for her refining touch. And so she romps about the countryside, meddling in other people's affairs, fending off suitors, and all the while tamping down her dismay and befuddlement at everything from their nearly incomprehensible accents to their insistence that there is a curse on the farm itself. Something to do with old Aunt Ada having seen "something nasty in the woodshed" when she was just a girl. That's right. The whole thing is a perfect riot. Here is one of my favorite scenes, in which Flora encounters her cousin Reuben for the first time:
"Will you have some bread and butter?" asked Flora, handing him a cup of tea. "Oh, never mind your boots, Adam can sweep the mud up afterwards. Do come in."


Defeated, Reuben came in.


He stood at the table facing Flora and blowing heavily on his tea and staring at her. Flora did not mind. It was quite interesting: like having tea with a rhinoceros. Besides, she was rather sorry for him. Amongst all the Starkadders, he looked as though he got the least kick out of life. After all, most of the family got a kick out of something. Amos got one from religion, Judith got one out of Seth, Adam got his from cowdling the dumb beasts, and Elfine got hers from dancing about on the Downs in the fog in a peculiar green dress, while Seth got his from mollocking. But Reuben just didn't seem to get a kick out of anything.


"Is it too hot?" she asked, and handed him the milk, with a smile.


The opaque curve purred softly down into the teak depths of the cup. He went on blowing it, and staring at her. Flora wanted to set him at his ease (if he had an ease?) so she composedly went on with her tea, wishing there were some cucumber sandwiches.


After a silence which lasted seven minutes by a cover glance at Flora's watch, a series of visible tremors passed across the expanse of Reuben's face, and a series of low, preparatory noises which proceeded from his throat, persuaded her that he was about to speak to her. Cautious as a camera-man engaged in shooting a family of fourteen lions, Flora made no sign.


Her control was rewarded. After another minute Reuben brought forth the following sentence:


"I ha' scranleted two hundred furrows come five o'clock down i' the brute."


It was a difficult remark, Flora felt, to which to reply. Was it a complaint? If so, one might say, "My dear, how too sickening for you!" But then, it might be a boast, in which case the correct reply would be, "Attaboy!" or more simply, "Come, that's capital!" Weakly she fell back on the comparatively safe remark:


"Did you?" in a bright, interested voice.


She saw at once that she had said the wrong thing. Reuben's eyebrows came down and his jaw out. Horrors! He thought she was doubting his word!


"Ay, I did, tu. Two hundred. Two hundred from Ticklepenny's Corner down to Nettle Flitch. Ay, wi'out hand to aid me. Could you ha' done that?"


"No, indeed," replied Flora, heartily, and her guardian angel (who must, she afterwards decided, have been doing a spot of overtime) impelled her to add: "But then, you see, I shouldn't want to."
And that is just a small sampling of what you find inside this slim, delightful novel. The parody is masterful and the whole, twisted plot just gets zanier and zanier right up to its dramatic, fitting, and perfectly folded hospital corners conclusion. Highly recommended for Jane Austen fans in need of a good laugh. 


And, just for fun, here is the trailer for the 1995 film. It's hysterical and I absolutely adore it.


August 26, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I was so excited to go to my local bookstore's midnight release party for Mockingjay. I hadn't been to a midnight release party for quite awhile and it's such a singular experience, wandering the aisles and just soaking up the high pitched excitement and general camaraderie in the air. And this time I got to do it all with my always-up-for-a-good-time sister Liza and the lovely Holly from Book Harbinger. Together the three of us admired the radical Capitol hairstyles, watched the archery contest, and stood slack-jawed as a couple of serious fans wowed the audience with their insane knowledge of Hunger Games trivia. And when we stopped in the cafe for some drinks and snacks and saw the special offerings (Creamsicles for Team Peeta vs. Root Beer Floats for Team Gale), I just went ahead and ordered that root beer float as a last toast to the guy I thought she'd be happiest with. When I walked out of the store that night with my shiny blue copy, I could not wait to get home and start it. I was very entertained by the first book and thought (after my initial anxiety attack) that the second installment was even better than the first, full of twists and turns and awesome intensity. So I went into the third and final novel up for anything, harboring a few suspicions and fears, but certain that Suzanne Collins would bring her A-game one more time.

District 12 is no more. This is the thought Katniss Everdeen must repeatedly force through her head until it makes some sort of sense. Gale's impossible words have failed to penetrate her brain and she must see the ashy remains for herself in order to accept what has happened and move on. To the fabled District 13. Where she is expected to breathe new life into her Girl on Fire persona and rally the troops from all twelve other districts in a full scale attack on the Capitol. She is expected to do this without protest, without questioning why, without the one person by her side who made it all seem possible. As a prisoner of the repulsive President Snow, Peeta is trapped beyond her reach. And Katniss must decide where to throw her support. Outside of the arena, she's assumes a different but equally crushing load of responsibilities worrying about her mother and Prim, keeping up with her best friend Gale who is putting his considerable intelligence and skills wholeheartedly at rebel command's disposal, and maintaining her fragile connection with the other surviving tributes, including beautiful, damaged Finnick and the deceptively savvy Beetee. Hanging over it all are the sinister, yet unmistakable hints that President Snow is watching her more closely than she knows. Surrounded by a tight circle of people who call themselves her allies, but do not always act accordingly, Katniss must claw her way through an ever-widening fog of manipulation and deception if she is to settle on a course of action and truly be the Mockingjay the world of Panem so desperately needs.

Honestly, I feel a bit raw, you guys. Worked over and only sort of holding it together. Under a thin veneer of composure, I went about my day, drifting from home to work, methodically going about my responsibilities and tasks. When all the time my mind was spinning and returning over and over to the adrenaline shot that was this book. I read the first 75 pages that night and, in a carefully controlled way, closed the cover and went to sleep. I finished the last 300+ pages the following night in one headlong gulp, looking up at the end with tears in my eyes. What an incredible feat of entertainment! And how very much I loved the ending. It was perfect down to the final word and somehow that perfection and attention to detail to the bitter end made me okay with it all. Even though it is the most brutal of the three books. Even though the things we find out about the real under workings of the Capitol are so much worse than I feared. Even though there was no way these characters I loved were going to make it out unscathed. But I was okay with it--the bleakness and the alienation and the loss--because it felt real and unvarnished. And because, though I had as much fun as anyone spouting my team allegiance from the top of any available elevated location, it was never about the triangle. It was about Katniss. It was her personal, harrowing account. That is how it started and that is exactly how it ended. And if I didn't necessarily agree with a few of her choices, I absolutely understood why she was making them and, more importantly, that they were hers. I loved her when she was the flame that ignited a revolution and I loved her when she was unbearably cold and flawed. A favorite passage early on that encapsulates so much of Katniss:
By the time we get to Command, Coin, Plutarch, and all their people have already assembled. The sight of Gale raises some eyebrows, but no one throws him out. My mental notes have become too jumbled, so I ask for a piece of paper and a pencil right off. My apparent interest in the proceedings--the first I've shown since I've been here--takes them by surprise. Several looks are exchanged. Probably they had some extra-special lecture planned for me. But instead, Coin personally hands me the supplies, and everyone waits in silence while I sit at the table and scrawl out my list. Buttercup. Hunting. Peeta's immunity. Announced in public.

This is it. Probably my only chance to bargain. Think. What else do you want? I feel him, standing at my shoulder. Gale, I add to the list. I don't think I can do this without him.

The headache's coming on and my thoughts begin to tangle. I shut my eyes and start to recite silently.

My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years old. My home is District 12. I was in the Hunger Games. I escaped. The Capitol hates me. Peeta was taken prisoner. He is alive. He is a traitor but alive. I have to keep him alive . . .

The list. It still seems too small. I should try to think bigger, beyond our current situation where I am of the utmost importance, to the future where I may be worth nothing. Should't I be asking for more? For my family? For the remainder of my people? My skin itches with the ashes of the dead. I feel the sickening impact of the skull against my shoe. The scent of blood and roses stings my nose.

The pencil moves across the page on its own. I open my eyes and see the wobbly letters. I KILL SNOW.
Ms. Collins most definitely brought her A-game and it shone brightest in the excellent cast of secondary characters, in the complex and painful path of introspection Katniss trod, and perhaps most of all in the expertly crafted fight to the finish. Several times I paused while reading to silently acknowledge the brilliance of a certain plot twist or to admire the way she always kept me guessing. My emotions tumbled over the edge at the most unexpected of moments. As I smiled and frowned, questioned and disagreed, and thought and thought and thought. I felt winded and yet filled to bursting with excitement for the entire 400 pages and that caliber of reading experience will never be lost on me. Mockingjay assaulted all my senses and left me with not a little of my own post-traumatic stress. It made me feel and long and rage and cry and I loved every word. Finest kind.


Linkage
Book Aunt Review
Bookworm Nation Review
The Eager Readers Review
Green Bean Teen Queen Review
The Ninja Librarian Review
Novel Novice Review
Paperback Dolls Review
Reviewer X Review
The Story Siren Review

August 25, 2010

In Which I Finish Mockingjay

And all I have to say (at this incredibly late hour) is

Holy. Crap. 

Oh, and


Always.

August 24, 2010

Star Gazing by Linda Gillard

I first heard about Star Gazing through Valerie's lovely review over at Life is a Patchwork Quilt. And I have to thank her for that review because I don't think I would otherwise have come across Linda Gillard's work. Gillard is a British author who lived for several years on the Isle of Skye, where much of this book takes place. From what I can tell, her books tend to focus on women above the age of 35, who are dealing with the everyday, yet perilous issues of adulthood, aging, love, mental health, family, etc. As such, they sounded sort of awesome to me, and I immediately placed her most recent book on my wishlist. It seemed unique and appealed to me for several reasons, including the fact that the main character is a blind widow. The setting was also a draw. I have only been to Scotland once, but it made a lasting impression on me and I love reading books set there. So that's why I was so excited to receive a copy of Star Gazing for my birthday. I cracked it open that night, fell in love immediately, and pretty much flew through it.

Marianne Fraser has several valid reasons to be as angry as she is. Blind since birth, she's navigated her way through life without the ability to see what's coming at her. Widowed just a few years into her marriage, her grief was compounded by the fact that she was pregnant at the time and lost the baby shortly after the horrible accident that took her husband Harvey. Living with her sister Louisa in a flat neither of them much like, she goes about her daily routine with almost furious precision. Counting and memorizing the number of steps from here to there, she has a place for everything. Her few outlets include walking through the park, touching the trees, listening to the rain, and going to the occasional opera. One snowy eve she drops her key outside her door and a man comes along and offers to help her find it. Not thinking much of it at the time, she finds herself remembering his voice at odd times. So that when she randomly comes across him again on her next opera outing, Marianne is surprised at how pleased she is to have a chance to talk with him again. Keir Harvey shares more than just his last name with her departed husband, though. He, too, works on an oil rig, predicting where the best places to drill are, how complications will arise, and when storms might interfere with the work. Originally from the Isle of Sky, he returns home as often as he can to the only place he feels truly comfortable. When he offers to take Marianne there and show her the beauty of that wild place, she throws her habitual caution to the winds and jumps at the chance.

I ended this book so conflicted! The first half is literally moving. Simply and carefully written, it is so beautiful and readable. I was almost instantly enamored of Marianne and the dogged way she went about living what was left of her life. Even though I could not perfectly understand the monumental challenges she faced on a constant basis, I felt as though I was there right there with her. Her frustration and longing were palpable to me and I allowed myself to hope just a little bit along with her that Keir would be the unlooked for sweet resolution to her years of struggle and pain. Keir is a wonderful character. Strong and extremely blunt in his speech and mannerisms, he pushes Marianne to move past her carefully constructed inhibitions, even as he carves out a space of peace and gentleness for her in his life. Their interactions are taut and quietly affecting. Marianne's sister Louisa and her hilarious assistant Garth the Goth brought a nice level of humor and warmth to the story and I found myself laughing more than once at this homey woman who writes vampire romance novels by the score, takes care of her sister, and finds herself in the most unexpected of romantic scenarios. Suffice it to say, I was hooked. And then somewhere along the way things got murky. Marianne's anger and fears overwhelmed her and things got out of step between all of them. That in and of itself did not bother me at all. Rather it moved the tale forward in interesting and complex ways. But it never seemed to find its rhythm again after that. The conflict grew and grew and their interactions became stilted to the point that I was crying out for some sort of harkening back to that original connection they formed to relieve the awkwardness that had taken over. Somewhere along the way my involvement was severed and by the time the ending arrived I had become lost and could not find my way back to that breathless place of discovery that so enchanted me for the half of the novel. I guess I wanted a little more time to explore the resolution they came to. That said, I enjoyed it enough that I am definitely going to seek out Ms. Gillard's earlier work. Emotional Geology in particular looks good and I foresee myself ordering it in the very near future as I loved the first part of Star Gazing.

Linkage
Dear Author Review
Geranium Cat's Bookshelf Review
Joyfully Retired Review
Life is a Patchwork Quilt Review
Random Jottings of a Book and Opera Lover Review

August 23, 2010

Once More With Feeling

I'm about to walk out the door to go to my local Mockingjay release party and figured I'd go ahead and say it one last time before I go quiet:
Happy reading!

Sinister Pretties


Chilling, aren't they? With the staring eyes and the the expressions on their faces, ranging from the haunted to the haunting, I just keep coming back to look at them. And I'm anxious to be creeped out and entertained by each one of them.

Red Glove by Holly Black
I have to say this cover reminds me of poor Annie and the freaking Red Room in the second season of Twin Peaks. And for that I have to say, "Thanks a lot, cover gods!" The end of that excellent show still makes me shudder. Sequel to White Cat, this is the second book in Black's Curse Workers series. I'm a bit behind and need to catch up before it comes out. I've heard very good things. Fortunately, I've got a little time. Due out April 5th.

The House of Dead Maids by Clare B. Dunkle
I would be reading this book for the title alone, awesome cover aside. And for the fact that it's by Clare Dunkle and I loved her Hollow Kingdom trilogy. What makes this even more attractive is the fact that it's a Wuthering Heights prequel of sorts. Tabby Aykroyd comes to Seldom House to look after an unusual young boy. Haunted by the ghost of her predecessor, she tries to wrangle the young Heathcliff and stay alive at the same time. Due out September 14th.

A Touch Mortal by Leah Clifford
It appears I cannot give up on the angels. But this one caught my attention and I have high hopes. What intrigues me is that it sounds as though it begins after the action, so to speak. Eden already fell for a fallen angel and now she's dead herself. Or rather, trapped in between life and death, with a dangerous power at her disposal. The first in a planned trilogy and Ms. Clifford's debut, you can put down as very interested. Due out February 22nd.

August 20, 2010

Retro Friday Review: The Claidi Journals by Tanith Lee

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted here at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time! I include roundups from participating bloggers in my post every week.

Just over six years ago I walked into this little bookstore called Books of Wonder for the first time in my life. And on the front end cap, directly facing the revolving door, on the middle shelf, was a thick book with a purple cover and a gold spine entitled The Claidi Journals. I had heard of Tanith Lee before, but never read any of her books, and I had her sorted in my mind as a dark fantasy/horror writer. As I picked up the hefty volume and examined it, it appeared it was actually an omnibus collection of three novels: Wolf Tower, Wolf Star, and Wolf Queen. A fourth and final installment--Wolf Wing--was subsequently published. I usually prefer to start with the original volumes themselves and then invest in an omnibus edition if I like them and if it's a particularly attractive edition. In this case, however, something about the collection grabbed me. DH and I were stopping off in New York to visit my sister-in-law and her family on our way to Italy to visit my parents, and I was in need of some good trip reading to take with me. Then I made the mistake of opening the book and reading the first few lines.
Yes.

I stole this. This book.

I don't know why. It looked . . . nice, I suppose, and nothing has been nice for years.
That right there sealed the deal. I loved how she sounded both defiant and utterly lost at the same time and I simply had to know who she was, what was in that book she stole, and why things had gone so badly for her for so long. So, like Claidi, I made up my mind to take the book with me. Only I decided to go ahead and pay for it first.


Claidi is a servant and has been her entire life. In the House of Lady Jade Leaf, she spends her days and nights forced to wait on the ridiculous princess hand and foot. Tempers are short and punishments abundant in the House and Claidi chafes against the ties that bind her, physically and emotionally. One day she comes across an empty book and decides--despite the no doubt painful consequences--that she will take it. It turns into a journal of sorts for the lonely young woman, in which she records her thoughts, and later her adventures. For soon after she discovers the book, a stranger walks inside the walls of the House. A stranger from beyond the desert, with golden hair, and an escape route in his hands. And before she knows it, Claidi is off with the enigmatic Argul on the adventure of a lifetime. Trouble is, she's never quite sure where they are headed or who might be after them. It's a rough and tumble journey, full of misdirection, aborted weddings, and not a little abduction. There are palaces whose rooms refuse to stay put, monstrous creatures, and princes who look too much like people they are not. And all of it leads to the mysterious Wolf Tower, which seems to hold in it the secret of who she is and who she might become. Claidi spends much of the time confused and near panic, but she is a resourceful young woman, and her frequent journal entries chronicle the unfolding story in engaging detail.

These books are a wild ride. Claidi has something of the Tamora Pierce heroine about her. Adventure seems to be in her blood, though she's not quite as devil-may-care in her approach to it as some of Pierce's girls. She is thrust forcefully into the outside world after living an extremely sheltered, though awful, life and having the story told in her own words in journal format brings her quickly into the reader's affections. Her growing relationship with Argul is quite sweet and a bright spot among all the subterfuge. This is another case of people not always being exactly who you think they are and, over the course of the four books, there were several times I came perilously close to washing my hands of most of them. All but Claidi, really. But at the same time it served to cement my loyalty to the main character and remember to question each new character that arrived, which is really not so bad a thing after all. Each book expands on the world they live in and these revelations come as just as much a shock to Claidi as they do to the reader. At times, it can be a bit frustrating  to be so in the dark. But the world Lee paints is so foreign, so innately other that I found myself awfully intrigued to find out what particularly rabbit she would pull out of the hat next. There is definitely a strong thread of science fiction running through the fantasy and I found the blend unusual and refreshing. All in all, a highly entertaining series featuring a heroine I never tired of and who becomes much more than she would otherwise have been because she stole a book and took a chance on a stranger. Recommended for fans of Garth Nix and Sherwood Smith.


Reading Order: Wolf Tower, Wolf Star, Wolf Queen, and Wolf Wing.


Retro Friday Roundup
In Bed With Books reviews The Tricksters by Margaret Mahy


Linkage
tin heart tomes review

August 18, 2010

Music Wednesday

I guess musing on the whole rock star aspect of Jane has put me in a listening mood. So here for your pleasure are a couple of the songs I can't stop playing lately. First up, Lissie's fierce cover of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance." Thanks to DH for bringing this one to my attention and knowing I'd like it. He always brings me the good stuff.
And second, the incomparable The National's "So Far Around the Bend." Possibly my favorite musical discovery of the last five years, this band. Every song is good. This is just the one I'm crushing on the most at this moment. His voice, you guys. His voice.

August 17, 2010

Jane by April Lindner

I have had my eye on this book ever since I saw Chelle feature it over at Tempting Persephone a few months back. As you know, I am a sucker of the largest order for a good retelling. Retold fairy tales in particular are a weakness of mine, but when I saw that April Lindner's upcoming novel Jane was, in fact, a modern retelling of Jane Eyre, I didn't know my heart could beat quite that fast. I got my masters in literature, specifically Victorian lit, and Jane Eyre has been a special favorite of mine ever since I first read it on a cross country road trip when I was 14. As I am also a huge fan of historical fiction and YA, I think we can safely say I am sitting just about dead center in this novel's target audience. But it should also be noted that quite a bit of that quickening heartbeat can be chalked up to this breathtaking cover. I want to marry this cover. I think it perfectly conveys what you are getting with this package--from the misty moors landscape feel, to the girl in the timeless outfit that could be either Victorian or present day, to the bold pink lettering of the title. It's a modern Jane Eyre. It's got some excellently updated twists. It is at once faithful and fresh. In other words--it's the real deal.

Jane Moore walks up the stone steps of Discriminating Nannies, Inc. with several desperate hopes in her heart. Having just completed her freshman year at Sarah Lawrence, she is forced to drop out and search for work as a nanny when her parents are killed in a car crash and her indifferent siblings make off with what inheritance there is, leaving Jane to give up her education and scramble to support herself as best she can. An art major with only a few child development classes under her belt to qualify her for the job, she feels certain the agency won't deign to look twice at her short resume, but will send her packing in short order. It turns out, however, that she does have one rare and highly sought after qualification. Shy and somewhat taciturn by nature, she does not bother to keep up with popular culture. And, as such, she just might be the perfect nanny for one of the agency's high profile clients. Nico Rathburn, an enormously famous rock star who is trying to mount a comeback tour, has recently found himself in need of a nanny to look after his five-year-old daughter Maddy. And, just like that, Jane is off to Mr. Rathburn's Connecticut mansion Thornfield Park. With a single suitcase containing all her meager belongings, she approaches her new position with some hope but much more trepidation, wondering if she'll be up to the task of being in such close proximity to the rock star's infamously wild lifestyle and temperament in addition to taking care of his little girl. But Thornfield Park turns out to be not at all what she expected. And neither does Nico Rathburn.

Reader, I loved this book so much I can't stop thinking about it. I had such a gut feeling about Jane from the first time I heard about it and it really is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world when your first uninformed impressions of a book come true. It was honestly difficult putting this one down at night and then getting through the next day all the way until reading time once more. I kept eying it, sitting there in my purse. I finished it somewhere in the vicinity of 2 AM a couple of nights ago, with an enormous grin on my face and no one to talk to about it. You see, this is an incredibly faithful retelling. I was actually caught off guard at how closely it sticks to the original tale. What made it even more astonishing, however, was how April Lindner managed to keep so much from the original story and make it her own at the same time. It exists in the marvelous space, where the old and the new meet and wonderful things happen. Nothing about it felt odd or disjointed. This Jane is definitely a descendant of the original. She is just as independent, just as practical and plainspoken and consistent. And Ms. Lindner delicately brought out her vulnerable side, born of such a solitary upbringing, and my heart went out to her. I loved her and worried about her. I wanted to protect her from what I knew was coming. But the thing is? She didn't need me. She was fully up to the task of her story and I was free to sit back, mesmerized, and enjoy the whole thing unfold. A favorite passage from one of Jane's few remembrances of her childhood (taken from my uncorrected ARC):
On one of my days off, cold rain kept me in my room until late afternoon when the sun finally broke through. I pulled on my rainboots, grabbed my raincoat and my tackle box full of art supplies, and hurried out the door. It felt so good to be outside that for once I didn't stop at the high iron fence surrounding Thornfield Park. The guard on duty was a young, open-faced man with long blond hair. He waved me through the gate, smiling, and looked for a moment as though he wanted to speak to me. I considered stopping to introduce myself, but the very thought brought a flush to my cheeks. I looked down at my feet, letting my hair fall forward to curtain my face, and kept hurrying on.

"Smile at the other children," I remember my mother telling me at the little playground near our house. "Don't cling to me. Go over to the monkey bars and say hello."

I followed her instructions and walked over to the monkey bars. I even tried to say hello to the laughing girls hanging upside down from the topmost bars, but they were so happy and familiar with each other, their long hair sweeping from side to side like banners, that I felt the words die in my mouth. I stood frozen a long time until, still laughing and chattering, the girls unfurled down to the ground and ran off to the swings.

My mother's anxiety about my social skills grew more acute the older I got. "By the time she was your age, Jenna had three boys fighting over her," she would say. "Why don't you ever go on dates?" Usually I would brush the question off and retreat to my room, but once I made the mistake of answering.

"I'm not as pretty as Jenna," I said, as though it needed saying.

"If you smiled you'd be more approachable." She put a hand on my arm. "Isn't there a boy you like?"

There was: Michael, a popular boy with creamy skin, roses in his cheeks, and dark brown eyes, a basketball player. I'd liked him since fourth grade. Unlike the other popular boys, he wasn't unkind to girls like me. Once in junior high when the bell rang, I left my pencil case on my desk, and he ran after me, shouting my name.

"You forgot this." He pressed the case into my hands. "It's nice. You wouldn't want to lose it." He was gone before I could thank him. But he knew my name. And he had cared enough to run after me. The next time I saw him, I wanted to speak to him but hadn't dared to.

"Well?" asked my mother. "There's no boy you like?"

I couldn't bring myself to utter his name, to break the magic spell of secrecy and expose my crush to the ordinary light of day. "Not really."

My mother withdrew her hand. "You're a cold fish," she said.

Tears rose to my eyes. I knew there was no use pleading my case, and before I could think of anything more to say, she turned and walked away. "I'm not," I whispered to the empty room.
I love that whisper sent out into the void. She is not. And her spirit will not be dimmed by rough treatment on the part of people who ought to love her. And--while we're on the subject of love. Jane features a splendid one. I have noted that, despite my love for the original book, I often have trouble with May-December romances, in which there is a large age gap between the two principal characters. But I was immediately and fully behind Jane and Nico. Nico is . . . well, Nico is hot. Yeah. You're going to love Nico. The rock star angle works exceedingly well and definitely adds a sexier tone to the novel as a whole. His history is nothing if not cringe-worthy and it is in turns painful and hilarious watching these two beings from different worlds interact. Their relationship is handled so simply and naturally that it somehow becomes its own entity, both echoing and extending the relationship that inspired it. I fell in love with them on their own merits, if you will. At times, my pulse raced for them. This book has the potential to be an excellent crossover novel as these two are old souls and their romance reflects that, enhanced as it is by the modern setting. Happily, the writing matches the characterization. Assured and smooth, I felt shored up by the words. How many books have you read where you already knew exactly what was going to happen, and yet they still held you spellbound? Because that's exactly what happened to me here. As with the best retellings, Jane will leave you utterly satisfied, and with a strong desire to pull out that old copy of Jane Eyre and settle in for a nice, long visit with old friends. 
Jane is due out October 11th. 

Linkage