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Texts From Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg, illustrated by Madeline Gobbo

Source: Diary of an Eccentric
Hardcover, 240 pgs
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Texts From Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations by Mallory Ortberg, illustrated by Madeline Gobbo, provides the right amount of literary humor from classics like Jane Eyre to modern characters like Katniss and Peeta from the Hunger Games.  Readers can turn to this little gem again and again for a good laugh.  Text messages are sometimes completely off the wall, but totally in character with either the fictional people or the authors who send the texts.  However, readers will garner more enjoyment from the conversations if they are familiar with the books and authors involved.

From “Wuthering Heights” (pg 114-119 ARC)

“i love you so much i’m going to get sick again
just out of spite

i’ll forget how to breathe

i’ll be your slave

i’ll pinch your heart and hand it back to you dead

i’ll lie down with my soul already in its grave

i’ll damn myself with your tears

i love you so much i’ll come back and marry your sister-in-law

god yes

and i’ll bankroll your brother’s alcoholism

i always hoped you would”

Some are visited more than once in text conversation, particularly Hamlet, and those conversations are fantastically done.  It’s fun to see Regan and Goneril fighting via text, as it is also humorous to see Heathcliff and Cathy profess their love for one another in the most Gothic ways possible.  There are others that could have been better, like the one for William Carlos Williams.  While readers will see the intent to play off of his famous poems, the text conversations could have been more inventive.  And the text conversation with John Keats was uninspired, though it recalled his famous poem Ode on a Grecian Urn.

What readers will love about the book is the use of modern technology and text-speak as classical writers and characters could use them with both their antiquated notions and points of view mixed with a more modern sensibility in some cases.  Ortberg has clearly given her imagination free reign here, and while in most cases, it pays off with a chuckle or a snicker, there are some cases where it falls flat. Texts From Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations by Mallory Ortberg, illustrated by Madeline Gobbo, is a fun little bit of humor to cheer you up on a gloomy day.

About the Author:

Mallory Ortberg is a writer, editor, and co-founder of the feminist general interest site The Toast. She previously wrote for Gawker and the Hairpin, where she met Toast co-founder Nicole Cliffe.

By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review by Pamela Paul

Source: Henry Holt & Company
Hardcover, 336 pgs
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By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review edited by Pamela Paul, foreword by Scott Turow, is a collection of question-and-answers from The New York Times Book Review with authors, scientists, and more.  Some of these questions stay the same, like what their favorite books are, what genres are their guilty pleasures, and what books disappointed them.  Any book lover who does or does not read the Book Review (though why wouldn’t you) will want this book to get the inside scoop on writers and their writing and reading lives.

Pamela Paul knows just what questions other readers want answered from their favorite authors, and she knows that starting conversations about what people are reading can lead to some in-depth and interesting questions — even philosophical ones.  “Asking someone what she’s read lately is an easy conversational gambit … It also serves an actual purpose: we may find out about something we want to read ourselves,” Pamela Paul says in the introduction.

As Turow says in his foreword, “whether a given writer likes or abhors a given book, all writers probably would concede that … they are who they are because of every one of the books with which they’ve ‘stoofed’ themselves during their lifetimes.”  Book lovers of all ages will love this compilation because they will find something else to read, increase the size of their stacks, and experience the deep appreciation writers and artists have for one another and their work.

By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review edited by Pamela Paul, foreword by Scott Turow, is a fantastic compilation of interviews.  Some interviews are humorous, while others are more serious.  The book itself is likely to garner The New York Times Book Review a few more subscribers.

About the Author:

Pamela Paul is the editor of The New York Times Book Review and the author of Parenting, Inc., Pornified, and The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony. Prior to joining the Times, Paul was a contributor to Time magazine and The Economist, and her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and Vogue. She and her family live in New York.  Visit her website and her on Twitter.

72nd book for 2014 New Author Reading Challenge.

Fox Forever by Mary E. Pearson

Source: Shelf Awareness
Hardcover, 304 pages
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Fox Forever by Mary E. Pearson is the third installment in the Jenna Fox Chronicles, please read the first two books as this review will contain spoilers.

Locke Jenkins has left California and his past behind to return a favor, and he has no idea what is in store for him or how much his life will change.  But he can never run too far from what he’s become, but he learns quickly that the Boston he knew and loved is gone forever and that he must cope with his new reality.  In exchange for the help he received in book two, Locke must now return the favor, and it’s more than just making sure a non-pact gets bread at a good price or isn’t beaten by citizens just for being a non-pact.  He connects with the Resistance and is asked a lot of questions about himself and his BioPerfect capabilities.

“Closure.  That’s what I came for but now that I’m standing here, I think letting go of the past doesn’t come in a single moment.  Maybe the past has to fade away slowly like letters in granite.  Worn away over time by wind, rain, and tears.”  (Page 1 ARC)

This is another fast-paced dystopian novel for young adults, but unlike the other books that raise ethical questions about what makes us human if we become bioengineered, this novel is more focused on Locke coming to terms with his losses and building a new life.  Pearson twists the coming-of-age novel, molding it into a novel that seems to have an older perspective in which the past becomes something deeply missed and longed for — not the usual perspective for a 17-year-old.  While Locke seems older than his years, he also has the same fault that most teens have — they believe they are invincible.

Fox Forever by Mary E. Pearson is a futuristic whirlwind of a novel, which is part spy thriller and part coming-of-age story.  Locke is a sympathetic character who gets in too deep, and when he’s forced to reveal the truth, readers will be biting their nails to see if he’s forgiven.  With dark and scary half-humans living in the former tunnels of the T in Boston, and an oppressive Secretary of Security on his heels, Locke is in for a journey that is both exhausting physically and emotionally, especially when his past comes roaring back to the present.

About the Author:

Mary E. Pearson is an American author of young-adult fiction. Her book A Room on Lorelei Street won the 2006 Golden Kite Award for fiction.

The Fox Inheritance by Mary E. Pearson

Source: Shelf Awareness
Paperback, 320 pages
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The Fox Inheritance by Mary E. Pearson is the sequel to The Adoration of Jenna Fox (my review), a book you should read before you read this review because it could contain spoilers.

It is 260 years into the future and Locke and Kara are awakened in new bodies, but with all of their memories from their 17 years as teens.  Their time in the black boxes was tortuous with only their memories of the good and bad to comfort them, but Locke and Kara managed to create a bond that surpasses human understanding — whether it is telepathy or just super-intuition.  Mostly told from Locke’s point of view, readers get a sense of his ease at the Gatsbro estate and the unease that Kara feels when asked to act as a trained monkey.  Gatsbro claims to be a savior, but because he is so cloying, readers will sense there is more to the story.  A final realization sets Kara and Locke out into a world they do not understand, and seeking the one person they know to be alive from their time as humans — Jenna Fox.

“I watched her change.  Right then.  Like veined marble was traveling up her legs, across her lap, up to her shoulders, stiffening her neck and finally covering her face, leaving a cracked version of who she once was.” (page 16 ARC)

Once again Pearson explores the ethical questions of biotechnology, but also the questions about what makes us human and how much of our flesh and minds is necessary for us to remain human.  And can we be human just by saving human flesh and the memories in our minds?  Or is there more — something less tangible that cannot be preserved beyond death?  Locke is a sympathetic character who struggles with trust and guilt, while Kara seems to be a shadow of her former self — one that struggles to remain who she was, but also adapt to the new world she finds herself in.  Pearson carefully demonstrates how Kara is the same and how she is different through expressions, looks, and other cues, and in the same way, she illustrates the differences Locke finds in himself and how he is still human.

The Fox Inheritance by Mary E. Pearson is a strong second book in a trilogy and while exciting and deeper than most young adult novels with its ethical questions, it lacked some of the mystery in the first book.  With that said, the novel does continue to raise questions about what it means to be human and at what point machines can become seemingly human — having dreams and goals outside of their programming.  Highly enjoyable if readers are looking for some down-to-earth science fiction, with high tech effects explained in layman’s terms.

About the Author:

Mary E. Pearson is an American author of young-adult fiction. Her book A Room on Lorelei Street won the 2006 Golden Kite Award for fiction.