Jane by April Lindner
Poppy • $17.99 • ISBN 9780316084208
On sale October 11, 2010
After 19-year-old Jane's parents die in a car accident, our heroine is forced to drop out of Sarah Lawrence and find a job through a nanny service. Because she's more into classical music than rock and never reads the tabloids, Jane is placed in the home of Nico Rathburn (it's better to avoid the fans)--a rocker with a bad boy image and a young daughter. I won't say more and spoil the ending . . . although if you've read Jane Eyre, I think you know where it's going. Still, it's a lot of fun to anticipate familiar scenes and watch them play out in a modern setting, and it doesn't hurt that Jane and Nico have awfully good chemistry.
Since Halloween is just around the corner, here's a creepy scene that Brontë fans will surely be able to place:
Once again, the house was silent, and I felt myeslf drifting back to sleep. I had just started dreaming when another sound startled me awake. This time it was a laugh--low, suppressed, and deep--that seemed to be coming through the keyhole of my bedroom door. I bolted upright. The room was pitch-dark; the only light would have come in between the slats of the window blinds, but tonight there was no moon. I sat perfectly still, waiting for my eyes to adjust. Had I dreamed that laugh? Had my sleeping mind taken a distant sound--a loon's cry, maybe?--and distored it?
"Is somebody there?" I whispered, and heard a floorboard creak just outside my door. Then I noticed something that made my heart pound even faster--a faint aroma of sulfur. I switched on the light, crept to the door, and yanked it open. On the carpet, at the top of the stairs, I saw a match smoldering. The air was thick with smoke, but the blue billows seemed to be coming from Mr. Rathburn's wing, on the opposite side of the house.
Also, do you have a favorite retelling of a classic?
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic • $17.99 • August 24, 2010
I know that many fans are afraid of spoilers, so all I'll say is that Mockingjay is a page-turner (duh); I am not disappointed with what I've read (aren't you always worried you'll be disappointed after looking forward to a series conclusion for so long?); and I love Katniss Everdeen—our heroine—more than ever.
You can listen to our staff's reactions to the story's twists, turns and surprises in a podcast we'll be posting later in the month. In the meantime, read a short excerpt from the novel:
"Katniss, I'm not arguing. If I could hit a button and kill every living soul working for the Capitol, I would do it. Without hesitation." He slides the last pencil into the box and flips the lid closed. "The question is, what are you going to do?"
It turns out the question that's been eating away at me has only ever had one possible answer. But it took Peeta's ploy for me to recognize it.
What am I going to do?
I take a deep breath. My arms rise slightly—as if recalling the black-and-white wings Cinna gave me—then come to rest at my sides.
"I'm going to. . . "
By the way, so far I've managed to avoid reviews of the novel—although I am happy to say that BookPage's review is a satisfying read, yet contains no spoilers.
Have you already managed to finish Mockingjay? What'd you think? Please avoid posting major plot twists (and if you're unsure of whether your comment is a spoiler, write "spoiler alert" before your note). Happy reading!
Annexed by Sharon Dogar
HMH, October 4, 2010
Curious to see what the fuss was all about, I took the book home with me and read it over the weekend. Annexed is told from the point of view of Peter van Pels, whose family hid in the Annex along with Anne's. I dimly remembered Peter from my own reading of Anne's diary, years ago. Dogar imagines what it would have been like to be Peter—to have to hide in the Annex, of course, but also to come to know Anne and her family, and to wonder what Anne was writing about him in her diary. I found that I wanted to know more about Peter and to think about what his experience of the Annex might have been.
As for the novel's sexual aspects, it spoils very little to say that Peter and Anne only share a few brief touches and kisses. Although I don't know whether or not the real Anne and Peter ever kissed each other, I do remember that Anne wrote about gradually developing feelings for Peter over the course of the two years they lived in the Annex together, and she also wrote about wanting to grow up, wanting to menstruate and to fall in love and to become a woman. Anne Frank was an adolescent girl, a young woman, and I can readily believe that she could have shared the kind of experiences with Peter that Dogar describes.
Dogar says she tried to stick as closely as she could to events that actually happened and were recorded in Anne's diary, such as the following scene, which takes place shortly after Peter's family arrives in the Annex:
I want to stretch out my arms and knock the walls down. I want to run so far and fast that I remember what it's like to feel my breath burn in my body. I want to move. I want to live. I want to . . .
I whistle. I whistle so loud that I imagine the whole of Holland could hear me. I'm a Jew. I'm a Jew! And I'm right here in the middle of Amsterdam. Hiding. See me! I take a big, deep breath and shout as loud as I can down the chimney.
"I won't come down!"
The Magician's Book by Laura Miller
December 2008, Little, Brown
The Magician's Book, which details Miller's reconciliation with Narnia, is a thoughtful and heartfelt book, and her exploration of the Chronicles resonates with me as much as the books themselves once did. She discovers that Narnia is big enough to contain not just the adventures she loved as a child, and not just the Christian themes that now appear obvious, but a whole world full of stories and wildness, bravery and treachery, ancient myths and Santa Claus; that loving Narnia allowed her to love all the stories it contained, referenced or built upon, and thus opened up untold worlds.
To me, the best children's books gave their child characters (and by extension, myself) the chance to be taken seriously. In Narnia, the boundary between childhood and adulthood—a vast tundra of tedious years—could be elided. The Pevensies not only get to topple the White Witch, fight in battles, participate in an earthshaking mystical event, and be crowned kings and queens; they do it all without having to grow up. Yet they become more than children, too. Above all, their decisions have moral gravity. In contrast to how most children experience their role in an adult world, what the child characters in these stories do, for better or for worse, really matters, and nowhere more so than in Edmund's betrayal.
. . . To the adult skeptic, the evident Christianity of the Chronicles makes their morality seem pat, the all-too-familiar stuff of tiresome, didactic tales. . . . But that's an illusion, fostered by an adult's resistance to what appears to be religious proselytizing. True, Lewis does populate Narnia with semiallegorical figures who represent eternal aspects of human nature in addition to more realistic characters like the Pevensies. The White Witch is bad through and through, almost as uncomplicated as a fairy-tale villain. But she's not the moral ground on which the story's moral battle is fought. Edmund is.
What are you reading today?