Thursday, December 30, 2010


I'm not very tight-lipped about which are my favorite books in the whole world. In fact, I don't even usually have to tell people, because they can figure it out for themselves. For instance, since the same yellowed, dented copy of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has been in my travel pack every single summer since I was eight, you can hazard a guess that I like it. Since I've read Pride & Prejudice nine times in the few years since I first read it in the winter of eighth grade, you may have an inkling of my preference. And you don't even have to wait around for me to show you what's lurking at the bottom of my backpack; all you have to do is ask me the simple question, and I will almost immediately give you a top 5 list.

Jane Eyre has been on that list since last January, when we read it for Sophmore English. Soon afterwards, I jumped on to Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair (which has a strong tie to the classic), and the Masterpeice Theatre version became my favorite of all of the series.

So, of course, as soon as I heard that there was a modern interpretation of my favorite coming out, I was as anxious to pick it apart as everyone else. Too many times is a book hawked as a revamped classic, but is quickly revealed to be no more than a shallow shell of the story, leaving us not with a renewed love of the classic novel itself, but instead, the wish that they would just leave the literature alone. However, I sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, loved Jane, by April Lindner. Like, a lot.

People who have not yet read Jane Eyre would enjoy the plotline, about a young East Coast dropout, forced to seek a new way of life after the tragic death of her parents, becoming the nanny of a rich rock superstar. However, to those of us who have, the book provides plenty of opportunity, not only for reflection back on the classic novel itself, but on the clever connections between the old and the new. I, personally, enjoyed being able to spot the ties that bound the two together, to form the same story that has proved timeless. For instance, St. John Rivers? Named River St. John. I won't lie, it made me smile :).

In the Author's Note, Lindner revealed that she was inspired to write Jane after seeing all of the modern interpretations of Pride & Prejudice, and how she wanted the classic she loved the most recognized as well. You can tell that the painstaking modernization of the novel came from a place deep in her heart. I am so glad that she wrote it, because it allowed us other members of Team Charlotte to come forward, too, and enjoy her wonderful interpretation of a classic favorite :).

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Since Christmas...

I have managed to go through five of the books I received for Christmas in the few days since then. Granted, these books were not terribly long, and in fact, the are some of the few YA novels that I've read in a while. However, I did enjoy them, and the fact that I have been able to read at all is a welcome addition to my daily schedule. Hooray for Winter Break!

The first I read was I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend, by Cora Harrison. To be perfectly honest, I approached this book feeling a little conflicted. After my first perusal of Pride and Prejudice back in the eigth grade for a book report, I found in Jane Austen a voice I loved to read, especially in describing the society of the time in which she lived. That being said, some of the fiction that I have read in the past based around actual people have been neither interesting, nor historically accurate.

However, from the first page, the book was both. Well, mostly interesting, but some of it was accurate :). The author's notes in the back of the book do signify that while the particulars of the story are not exactly true, the overall facts are: Jenny (really also named Jane, like her famous cousin) did send a letter from the boarding school where she and Jane resided, and really is credited with saving the life of her famous cousin by smuggling out a letter to her family, detailing Jane's extreme sickness. Also, the main romance in the story is true, but to give away any more than that would be giving away the book. :)

All in all, even though it was a little slow in parts, and there were a great load of characters in it (some of whom were a little forgettable), I enjoyed the book. (However, if you plan on buying it any time soon, make sure to check out the UK version... the cover art is so much cuter!)

The next four books I read are actually part of the Once Upon a Time series from Simon & Schuster, which feature retellings of classic fairy tales: Golden (Rapunzel), Wild Orchid (The Ballad of Mulan), Before Midnight (Cinderella), and Sunlight & Shadow (Magic Flute), all by Cameron Dokey. Its a series of books that I've been reading ever since middle school, but one that I've only decided that I needed to collect recently. I have always been a sucker for a good fairy tale, and these novels only seem to lend more magic to them. They aren't that thick, only about 180- 200 pages each, but they still manage to pack in a good story, and, of course, a happily-ever-after at the end. Other authors in the series include Tracy Lynn, Debbie Viguie, Nancy Holder, and Suzanne Weyn.

Now I am left to sort through the rest of my Christmas presents. I'm leaving the best - and the thickest - for last, with MFK Fisher's The Art of Eating (the collection of her five best books on food, released for her 50th Anniversary in 2004), and the new Autobiography of Mark Twain, vol. 1. However, first I am going to read Jane, by April Linder, a book I've been looking forward to reading since I heard about it in early November.

Everything I recieved for Christmas was awesome, especially the books (and the Junior Mints :)). Thank you so so very much, to those who know me so well!

(ps. Pictures would have accompanied this post, if not for me screwing up my camera. I accidentaly turned off the flash somehow, and now all of my pictures just turn out sort of sepia-toned).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas for Kids

I just get such a kick out of Christmas trees. I love to see them lit up and decorated, mainly because everyone has such different styles. Some go for the themed tree, like a friend, who had a sparkly pink tree every year, decorated with her meticulously curated Barbie doll ornament collection, and with extra sparkly tinsel. Some go for the less-is-more tree, sparsely decorated save for a string of lights with brightly colored bulbs. Then there's the everything-but-the-box-they-came-in method, which involves practically throwing everything you've got at the tree -lights, tinsel, ornaments, all - until it threatens to pancake all of the presents stored underneath.

All of the trees are good to me. There's a certain magic to them, and I can literally spend hours sitting in our living room, watching ours.

Our tree is fake (I know, it's terrible), and decorated with the same set of themed ornaments as we have for the past few years. It's become familiar to me, which is why I like it. We have other decorations too (like the entire collection of Nutcrackers leering at you from our fireplace mantle, sheesh), and while I'll always love our various Nativity scenes, or the wreaths hung up everywhere, my favorite will always be the tree, and the things underneath it.

Well, more like underneath, and then a little to the side. Regardless, our beautiful tree stands tall above what I believe is the most precious sort of decorating: our Christmas books. We pretty much have a collection of books for every season. All our tea party-bunny rabbit-Easter books are out around Springtime, and all of our spooky stuff is out around Halloween, but our Christmas book collection is by far the most expansive, and the favorite among the family.

They total in to about forty-three books, with doubles of The Polar Express and The Nutcracker, and a pop-up carousel of The Night Before Christmas. I've read all of them, multiple times. Each one will sufficiently infuse you with holiday spirit.

My favorites, though, are easy to pick out. These are the ones that bring me the most joy, the ones that traditions have formed around.

1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
A classic, and one that will always have its place in my heart. Mainly because of Jim Carrey :)

2. The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg, illustrated by James Bernadin
In my opinion, the best Christmas book under our tree. It details the story of a girl, learning the truth of the season, through a story about how candy canes are decorated. I really love this one.

3. The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell, illustrated by Paul Micich.
I have to make sure no one else is in the room when I read this one, because it always, no matter how many times I've now read it, makes me cry. It is about the gift of a small angel to the newborn baby Jesus, and it is the most beautifully illustrated book in our collection.

4. Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera.
The Cheerleader's favorite. A pretty cute book about a spoiled girl, who learns the true meaning of Christmas, thanks to her mysterious Auntie Claus.

5. Alabaster's Song and The Crippled Lamb, both by Max Lucado, and illustrated by Michael Garland and Liz Bohnam, respectively.
Our mom has this huge thing about Max Lucado's children books, particularly the ones about Punchinello & the Wemmicks, which we read to our Sunday School class every spring. Out of the two Christmas books of his we own, I like the Crippled Lamb, which does not make me cry, the best, as opposed to Alabaster's Song, which does make me cry. Another thing I like about the Crippled Lamb is that he wrote it with his daughters, which I think is something I have always wanted to do with my Dad.

There are plenty of other good Christmas books, of course. And if you ask my siblings, the youngest two would probably say they like Alan Katz and David Catrow's silly dilly song collection, Where Did They Hide My Presents?, the best. However, mine were chosen because they always manage to remind me of the greatness of the holiday, and why we celebrate it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snowdogs and Schoolwork

And then I blinked, and December was nearly halfway over.

I think I just need to get a handle on my schedule, because I will sit down and type if someone reminds me to do it, but if I get distracted, then, well... I tend to lose focus completely. With so much going on (getting excited about the holidays, having your teachers drown you in homework before said holidays, etc.), it's really hard to keep a straight head. However, we are entering the last week of school before break (!!!), and even our teachers are starting to have a hard time keeping it together. Cases in point: Spanish teacher, who, after our presentations are turned in on Wednesday, is going to let us watch Toy Story 3 (in Spanish), and Journalism teacher, who, after our newspaper goes out on Wednesday, has pretty much said we could do whatever we want for the rest of the week. Granted, the rest of the week is onlly 1.5 days, but still. We'll take freedom whenever we can get it.

Speaking of freedom, I'm practically loose of the first Reading Assignment (Book) of the year: after 24 dialectic journal book logs, four papers, and two in-class timed essays, I am only one peer-edit away from the Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Not that it was terrible, or anything, but I just really didn't enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed other school-mandated books. I was especially surprised to hear that some of my classmates enjoyed this book more than Jane Eyre, seeing as though Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books ever, and this one barely piqued my interest. I really didn't enjoy having to mark out every inch of symbolism, rhetoric, and progression of character for every single plot point for either of them, but with the Scarlet Letter, it was just a little more... irritating, I guess. At any rate, I scored better on all of my papers for the Scarlet Letter than for Jane Eyre, so while it did nothing for my soul, it did improve my grade, for which I am thankful. :)
While school has inspired me to avoid Puritan villages (c.1800s) at all cost, our current weather statuses have inspired me to read a little about the Klondike. The snow we experienced late last month gave me reason to read Call of the Wild by Jack London. This book, I really loved. I don't usually like animal books (except for The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling), so the fact that I found this tale of a family dog's kidnapping, and immersion into the hard snowdog life, inspiring, is surprising. I liked how Buck's sort of final transformation into a creature of the wild, and reversion into his natural self, is triumphant and celebrated, when in society, acting "like an animal" is frowned upon. Buck was once a family dog, petted, pampered, and pretty tame, but all of a sudden, he is thrust into this world he knows nothing about, and he has to learn all the new rules to survival, the Laws of Club and Fang. However, instead of his growing aggressive nature and strength attracting negative light, he is viewed heroically, and all he does is viewed sympathetically. I really liked this book, and I'm going to read White Fang soon.

And so the Christmas season is upon us. I finally finished my Wish List, and holiday cookies are baking in the oven. The candy cane trees are in full bloom, and sugarplum fairies are beginning to swarm. :) Only 4.5 days until I get out of school for break, but hey, who's counting?