Sunday, September 18, 2011

"Is there any chance I'll turn from plastic back to flesh?” - Nico Rathburn

Jane – April Lindner

373 pages

Genre:  Updated Classic; Realistic Fiction; Romance

Summary:  Jane is a modern-day retelling of Charlotte Bronte’s classic, Jane Eyre.  In this adaptation, Jane Moore is a shy, college girl who is forced to drop out of school because of a family tragedy that has made her unable to finance her education anymore.  She decides to pursue becoming a nanny in order to keep herself afloat for the foreseeable future, and because of her discreet nature, she is paired up with a rock star named Nico Rathburn.  After spending time with Nico and his daughter, Maddy, Jane finds that her feelings for Nico are changing; somewhere along the way, she began to fall in love with him.  Nico, however, has a terrible secret that few people know about, and practical Jane’s emotions become even more conflicted.  Will her feelings be reciprocated, and will she ever discover what Nico is hiding?

Review:  Most people that know me well know about my love for Jane EyreJane Eyre is definitely my favorite classic, and in all honesty, it may be my favorite book…ever.  I’ve always been drawn to Jane’s inner strength and how she easily puts Rochester in his place, and every time I read the book, it’s like I’m reading it for the first time. When I saw Jane sitting on the shelf, it beckoned to me like a siren’s call; I knew I had to have it.  Since I do love Jane Eyre so much, however, I wasn’t sure how much I was going to like Lindner’s updated version, but much to my delight, I really enjoyed it.

Turning the brooding Rochester into internationally recognized rock star Nico Rathburn was a really clever way to update the character, and it truly highlighted just how different Jane and Nico really were.  Nico was rather complex, mysterious, and kept secrets hidden from most everyone, which made him incredibly compelling to read about.  I also loved the addition of Maddy to the story, as she was extremely likeable, and in some ways, reminded me of Jane. 

Jane Moore was definitely similar to the Jane Eyre I’ve come to know and love, but they also differed quite a bit, too.  While both were strong and serious, Jane Moore was a bit more emotional than Jane Eyre, but I didn’t think that was necessarily a bad thing; they were just different.  There were also a couple of instances in which I questioned some of Jane Moore’s decisions, as they seemed a bit out of character, especially as it relates to things that happened with Nico (I don’t want to be too specific, just in case you aren’t familiar with the story), but it didn’t detract too much from my enjoyment of the book.

In my opinion, the treatment of the Bertha character in Jane (Bibi) didn’t work quite as well as it did in Jane Eyre, mostly because that situation didn’t really translate well to the present day.  The author did a great job in capturing the deranged personality, however, and the scenes with Bibi were definitely interesting.

Ultimately, this was a rather great re-telling of Jane Eyre that kept me interested from beginning to end.  If you’re interested in classics, or are looking for a book with tons of twists, turns, and romance, definitely give Jane a try.  Jane has inspired me to read Jane Eyre again, and I can’t wait to read more by April Lindner.

*There is a little bit of sexual content in this book, so if that makes you uncomfortable, proceed with caution.

Rating:  4/5

Read-alikes:  Jane Eyre- Charlotte Bronte, Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys, The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde

For another perspective, check out Nori's review:  Jane

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Whoever had decided that school should start so early in the morning and last all day long needed to be hunted down and forced to watch hours of educational televison without the aid of caffine." - Vlad

Eighth Grade Bites (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod #1) – Heather Brewer

182 pages

Genre:  YA; Paranormal; Urban Fantasy

Summary:  Middle school is the stuff that nightmares are made of for pretty much everyone, and thirteen-year-old Vladimir Tod is no exception.  Not only does he have to deal with the normal trials and tribulations of being a teenager, but he also has a secret he’s trying to hide from everyone he knows:  he’s half vampire.  As Vlad tries his best to fly under the radar, strange things begin to happen around town, people begin to go missing, and a bizarre new substitute teacher takes control of his English class…and takes a special interest in Vlad.  Will Vlad be exposed for what he truly is, or will he be able to continue hiding his identity from the world?

Review:  Eighth Grade Bites was a decent story that moved along at a nice pace.

The story itself was a bit predictable for me, and I was hoping that things would take a different, surprising turn because the events therein seemed so obvious.  Perhaps there is more to the story than meets the eye, however, as I’m sure other avenues are explored in the subsequent books, and appearances may prove to be deceiving.

I didn’t feel particularly attached to any of the characters, with the exception of Otis.  Otis was rather intriguing and whimsical, and I enjoyed that I could never quite figure out what his true intentions were.  In a way, he kind of reminded me of Sirius Black from Harry Potter (who was one of my favorite characters in the series), but unlike Sirius, I’m left to wonder if he really is who he says he is.  The other characters, including Vlad, didn’t seem real enough to me, and I had a hard time sympathizing with any of them.  I’m sure more character development happens in later books, but in Eighth Grade Bites, the characters fell a bit flat.

One thing that kind of drove me crazy was the focus on food throughout.  I thought it was funny the first time Vlad’s diet was mentioned, but after being beaten over the head with it 3435 times, the joke started to get a bit boring and didn’t really seem relevant to the story.  He drinks blood; we get it!

Despite its flaws, Eighth Grade Bites did have some really great things, too.  Although I didn’t sympathize with the characters, I thought the author did a great job of capturing the middle school experience.  Vlad dealt with bullies, crushes, friendships, and other things that go hand-in-hand with being a teenager, and many people can definitely relate to that.  This book was also laced with humor, and I often found myself laughing as I read some of the dialogue or descriptions.

While it isn’t perfect, Eighth Grade Bites would be a great read for middle or high school students, especially boys or reluctant readers, as they could probably relate to many of the situations within the book (well, not being a vampire, of course, but the experiences of Vlad as a student).  This would also be worth looking into if you enjoy YA urban fantasies.

Rating:  3/5

Other Books in this Series:  Ninth Grade Slays (Book 2), Tenth Grade Bleeds (Book 3), Eleventh Grade Burns (Book 4), Twelfth Grade Kills (Book 5)

Read-alikesCirque du Freak series – Darren Shan, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling, City of Bones– Cassandra Clare

Saturday, September 10, 2011

"Who was I before I existed? Who am I now that I no longer do?" - Maddy Stanton

The Everafter – Amy Huntley

248 pages

Genre:  YA; Paranormal; Romance

Summary:  Maddy Stanton knows she’s dead, but no matter how hard she tries, she cannot remember the circumstances surrounding her death.  While her physical body no longer exists, her soul lives on in a place called “Is,” an in-between space that isn’t the Everafter (the place people go after they’ve accepted their deaths), nor is it life.  While Maddy does seem stuck between a rock and a hard place, Is does offer one very unique thing:  all of the objects she has lost over the years are with her, and by thinking of the situation along with the object, she’s able to visit the memory of when the item was lost.  Will Maddy ever discover the circumstances surrounding her death through these lost objects, or will she be stuck in Is forever?

Review:  The Everafter ensnared me from the very first pages, and even though I was pretty tired when I started reading it, I had absolutely no desire to put it down.  This is a quick read that will leave you turning the pages feverishly as you try to puzzle together the events surrounding Maddy’s death right along with her.

One of the biggest strengths of this book centered around the philosophical questions throughout.  Huntley didn’t shy away from discussing the question of whether or not a supreme being existed, and if one did, why was Maddy in this state of limbo?  In the same vein, The Everafter also touched on the experience of being in two places at once, as Maddy and other characters were both alive and dead simultaneously.  Can we exist on two different planes?  I’ve often thought about this myself, and if nothing else, The Everafter will definitely get other readers thinking about life and death in these terms, too.

I thought it was really interesting that Huntley chose to use objects as memory attachments for Maddy.  Many people really do get attached to their possessions, and allowing Maddy to return to different times and places by associating the lost object with a memory was a really neat idea.

Maddy was a very authentic teenager, full of doubt and questions, which made her extremely relatable.  At one point, I think she even remarked that everyone else who was dead understood both life and death better than her, and she couldn’t believe that she still didn’t understand it all, even after her own death.   The romance between Gabe and Maddy was incredibly sweet and genuine, and I found myself smiling whenever the pair were together.

While this isn’t the happiest of novels, it is an interesting one and definitely worth reading if you’re into questions about life and death or paranormal books.  The pacing of The Everafter would also make this a great choice for reluctant readers, as it moves quickly and there is very rarely a dull moment.  I can’t wait to read more from this author.

Rating:  4/5

Read-alikes:  Everlost – Neil Shusterman, A Certain Slant of Light – Laura Whitcomb, The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Mary E. Pearson, If I Stay – Gayle Forman

Friday, September 2, 2011

"He looked as though I'd just run over his pet puppy (though no actual puppies were harmed in the formation of that metaphor)." - Cammie Morgan

I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You – Ally Carter

284 pages

Genre:  YA; Action; Humor; Romance

Summary:  The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women isn’t your average school.  The name alone may bring to mind images of extremely smart girls buried in a mound of books in the library…and that’s exactly what they want you to think.  While the girls that attend the Academy are brilliant, they’re actually learning skills that one cannot learn in an ordinary school:  how to become spies.  Cammie, the daughter of the headmistress of the school and a future spy herself, is a particularly exceptional student who is well on her way to achieving her family’s legacy.  When things begin to happen in her life, however, will she continue to pursue the life that she is destined to live, or will it completely throw her off?

Review: What first drew me to I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You was definitely the title.  When I saw the title, it made me laugh and I knew it was something that would probably be a fun read, so I ended up buying it.  Fortunately, it was quite an entertaining, quick, absorbing book, and I’m really looking forward to reading more in this series.

For me, one of the best parts of this book was the fact that it took place in an all-girls spy school.  These girls weren’t damsels in distress; quite the contrary, actually.  Not only could they take a grown man down with the self-defense moves that they were taught, but they were also extremely bright, observant, and mentally strong.  I really loved all of the technology that was used throughout, and the secret passages were great!  For most of the book, I couldn’t help but wish that I went to that school.

The characters were really well done, especially Cammie and Macey.  While Cammie was incredibly smart, she was absolutely clueless when it came to boys, had a lot of flaws, and all in all, was a really believable, teenage character.  She did wear her heart on her sleeve a little bit too much and it didn’t quite fit with her spy persona, but nonetheless, I did grow attached to her.  Macey was probably my favorite character in the book, and I loved that there was more to her than what the persona she cultivated was giving off.

As a whole, I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You was a fun read with strong female characters.  If you enjoy books packed with action, humor, and non-cookie cutter girls, definitely give it a try. 

Rating:  3.5/5

Other Books in the Gallagher Girl series:  Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy (Book 2), Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover (Book 3), Only the Good Spy Young (Book 4), Out of Sight, Out of Time (Book 5; will be released in 2012).