I admit, I didn't like Jane Eyre when I first tried to read it when I was about 11. So then I didn't read it until I was about 25, when I absolutely lI admit, I didn't like Jane Eyre when I first tried to read it when I was about 11. So then I didn't read it until I was about 25, when I absolutely loved it. Another thing I love: retellings of classics. So this retelling of Jane Eyre for the YA audience was right up my alley!
Janie has to move from Hawaii to San Francisco after her parents are killed in a car accident. She's never heard of this family, the Rochesters, that she's moving in with (the lawyer explained people often forget to update their will many years later when circumstances have changed.) They're insanely wealthy which makes Janie feel even more like a charity case. She's immediately shipped off to a fancy prep school along with the daughter who is her age. But things don't go well there as it's soon clear she's a mean girl. Back at the house, the little brother, Nicholas, keeps telling Janie things his twin sister, who died last year, is telling him to do. Creepy. And then there are the noises coming from the attic...
It is a thoroughly modern story with texting and smart phones and surfing and the like, but it has an eerie gothic feel totally in keeping with the original. Ms. Gagnon changes up just enough so that those familiar with the story won't know exactly how it will end. And the ending is scary! In fact, I must recommend not reading the end right before going to bed, like I did, as it's hard to sleep after!
I liked this book so much that I actually gave it away, twice, while I was reading it (luckily it is published by Soho Press, my employer, so I was always able to get another copy at work the next day.) I kept telling people about it and how great it was! Janie is a completely relatable teenager who feels real and three-dimensional. She's a little impulsive but that works. It's a zippy, fast read that will suck you in and it's certainly the first time that I wished my train on my morning commute would get stuck and be delayed. It's not out until April though, so you'll have to put it on your wish list for now....more
As I've mentioned, things have been rough the last few months. Moving across the country, settling in to a new town, starting a new job, these thingsAs I've mentioned, things have been rough the last few months. Moving across the country, settling in to a new town, starting a new job, these things are all highly stressful. As usual, books have been a solace for me. But it has highly affected what books I gravitate towards right now. I think one thing I'm currently finding comforting is similar to schadenfreude: I appreciate seeing other people who are going through bad things (often worse things) and eventually coming out on the other side. It's not really schadenfreude because I am not reveling in their misfortune--instead I am empathizing.
Neil is depressed. He worked at one job for his entire adult life which he mostly disliked as it got further and further away from his natural strengths and instead became more and more the parts he didn't like, mostly dealing with people. Luckily, it was a tech start-up which went big and he was able to quit his job at 39 with a substantial savings and just be able to basically do nothing for a year or so (he does some consulting work but who knows how little of that he might do. It must be fairly little given what he's about to set out on.) He's in a new relationship, but he hates relationships because from day one, he's always worried about how and when they're going to end and how much he will hurt. His one consolation through all this is birding. He's been a serious birder since he was a teenager, first in England, his home country, and then in Boston, where he's lived his entire adult life. As he struggles with restlessness, lack of direction, and ennui, he keeps denying that he'd even consider doing A Big Year. That's when a birder decides to try to see all the birds he/she can in a designated area in a single year. You can do a Big Year in your county or state, but most people do their country. Most people (including me) know about this from the book and the movie of the same name: The Big Year. But in the spring, round about March, Neil finally gives in and admits what he'd been noodling all along: he would like to do a Big Year and this is the perfect time to do it. But yikes, he's already behind!
Except he's not really. He'd been birding heavily, being unemployed with plenty of money and all. The only thing he's behind on are trips around the country to catch various bizarre out-of-place birds. That's the only way to get a good number for your Big Year. North America has (I hope I'm remembering this right) around 400 native birds, but the records for Big Year are int he very low 700s. So that's an extra 300 birds he needs to see in North America that don't normally come year. So it's birds who have blown off course from a storm, who have gotten tired and pooped out before making it home, or whose internal compass is backwards. When he hears about a weird bird in New Mexico or Alaska, if he wants to have any chance at the record, he's got to hop on a plane and get there.
Midway through the year, he also begins taking an antidepressant. When his depression starts to lift, he's actually annoyed, and hopes it isn't the pills, because if so, it's something super simple that takes a second or two and he could he resolves it easily ages ago and he's an idiot. He's resolved it's the birding. Although he doesn't stop taking the antidepressants.
Anyway, he's resolved that due to starting so late, he's just going for a personal best, as he has no shot at the record. Or does he?
Yes, you hear a lot about birds in this book. He does make it fascinating (and I could have finished the book faster if I didn't keep looking up to see what birds were on the tree across the yard.) but if that idea gives you the shakes, this book isn't for you. However, if you like nature, but in a contained way, this book is right up your alley. I wish birding appealed to me more as it seems like a lovely hobby, and pretty cheap so long as you don't do a Big Year (or if you do, stick to your county.) But I'd never be able to tell the difference between the subspecies. I can tell a robin from a cardinal, but that's about it.
Anyway, he's moderately amusing, honestly talks about his foibles, and I found the book a pleasant distraction with an ounce of hope for better times to come. It may not have inspired me to buy binoculars, but weeks later, I am still looking at birds much more closely and with more interest. Who knows, maybe I will pick it up one day....more
I am a Janeite. While my membership has lapsed (I really should rejoin), I was a longtime member of JASNA. I took a seminar on Jane Austen in collegeI am a Janeite. While my membership has lapsed (I really should rejoin), I was a longtime member of JASNA. I took a seminar on Jane Austen in college and so yes, I have read all the novels, some a few times. I have seen all the movies from the last 20 years, some scores of times. I am the audience for these books. And what fun this book was!
Jane Austen is visiting her brother in London as he is very ill. She is invited by the Price regent's librarian to his London house, and while there, she stumbles across a dying man in the library, and hears his last words: "Waterloo map." They find this map and also clear signs that he has been poisoned. Concerned for the safety of this map, she tries to find out more, and is bludgeoned in the head for her troubles. She enlists the help of the artist Raphael West and her niece Fanny (and eventually her brother Henry after he's recovered), and in the end, uncovers the truth of the murder and the map.
This is an adorable cozy mystery. Not so cozy that people aren't murdered and in danger, and there are a couple of bludgeonings and a possible second murder, but at the same time, Jane is concerned about her clothing at the Prince Regent's, and is wondering if Mr. West might be interesting in courting her, and is trying to push young fanny into the path of an eligible young man. Ms. Barron has thoroughly done her research, and this novel fits in perfectly with the known facts of Ms. Austen's whereabouts and doings at the time. She is reviewing the proof pages of Emma before it goes to press, and in a debate with the court librarian about dedicating Emma to the Prince Regent (who Ms. Austen dislikes a great deal, but she was informed what a great honor it would be for her to dedicate the book to him with his permission. It's not a request exactly. And in fact Jane Austen did dislike the Prince Regent and she did dedicate Emma to him.) For Jane Austen fans, the character of Jane here appears to act in character with what we know of her, and the facts all line up, so it's a delightful imagining of what could have been, had Jane Austen been a precursor to Nancy Drew in between writing her novels. I have the previous book and will read that one pretty quick as this book was just sheer fun and pleasant distraction through and through....more
I love memoirs! They take me to places and into situations where I would never be, they're honest, and they encourage empathy. I haven't read much inI love memoirs! They take me to places and into situations where I would never be, they're honest, and they encourage empathy. I haven't read much in the way of fish out of water/international memoirs but I thought this one looked good (what a great title!) and it is a book published by my new company and I will be with the author at NEIBA this fall, so I figured I'd better give it a shot! And it was quite enjoyable.
Okey has a wonderful sense of humor. I doubt I'd have been able to take half the things that happened to him in such stride and with such goodwill as he does. But I'm sure his positive outlook is a big part of what has taken him so far in life. For me, I particularly liked the first half of the book, when he is growing up in Nigeria, and his first few weeks in America. He comes here in order to start up a magazine for Africans and Nigerians specifically, founded by his friend Chinua Achebe. The funding is iffy from the very beginning and once again, his humor and positivity prove a boon as he negotiates with vendors and pleads with writers with long-outstanding invoices. Eventually it does fold, but by then he's gotten a toe-hold in Boston and a friend greases the path for him to enter into a prestigious MFA program right away.
I wasn't as crazy about the rest of the book which was more episodic and not as linear as the first two-thirds. I wish he'd told us how he met his wife and kept along with the "making of a Nigerian-American" theme of him coping with homesickness and culture clashes. He does tell funny stories about misunderstandings (several related to how his first name sounds exactly like "Okay" and therefore mix-ups occur, such as when his ride at a conference asks a stranger, "Are you Okey?" and he hears "Are you okay?" and says yes, when he is not Okey Ndibe.) These were endearing and charming, but lost the narrative thread. That said, he gives a great idea of what it's like to move from Nigeria and land in New York City in January without a coat (his family back home found the concept of "cold" as a weather description so foreign, the only way he could explain it was that it felt like living inside a refrigerator.) And I adored him talking about his first night at a mutual friend's apartment, where he used every single soap and shampoo that he found in the guest bathroom, repeatedly. It felt so gloriously decadent! This was an amusing tale that could have been fraught with terror and horror stories (he was rounded up by police from a bus station his very first week in America because he "fit the description" of a bank robber) but instead, Okey accepts his adopted country with its faults and strengths, and cheerfully gathers up more funny stories for his next cocktail party, and presumably for his next book as well....more