Friday, July 12, 2019

Mini Book Reviews: The Midnight Dress, Where Am I Now?, My Plain Jane...

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton
Published June 26th, 2018 by HarperTeen
Genre: Retelling, historical fiction, young adult, paranormal,
Format: Kindle ebook, 464 pages, own
Rating: 3 stars

Thoughts: Jane Eyre is one of my favorite novels...well, it's probably my actual favorite. It still holds up after all this time since the first time I read it as a teenager. So I was very interested in this quirky retelling. Hand, Meadows, and Ashton are retelling stories of famous Janes in literature/history. This is their second collaboration.

This version has Ms. Bronte and Jane sharing the same world. Charlotte is a budding writer and her fellow Lowood friend is perfect for inspiration. In her world ghosts exist and the Crown has a special division devoted to tracking down spirits and helping them move on. Jane Eyre happens to be a very special person, one who can see and talk to ghosts but also attract them and make them do things she tells them.

It's a bit convoluted but it's entertaining. They do call out some anti-feminist ideas in the original Jane Eyre which I thought was funny and tongue-in-cheek. 

The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee
Published February 1st, 2013 by University of Queensland Press
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages, library
Rating: 3 stars

Thoughts: This story blends a touch of magic with its world. Most of the time I enjoy that. This time, though, I felt it made the world and story a lot more confusing. Foxlee has some great poetic lines. She has a fantastic way with words. But I was confused. She opens with a big mystery. A girl goes missing. We think it's probably the protagonist Rose but we're not sure. As the story unfolds more tidbits are revealed through different characters' and their thoughts. By the end, I knew who was missing and why but there was a lot in the middle that I did not figure out. There was a lot of subtle hints at pedophilia as well...

Maybe if I had been in a different mood when I read it? I don't know. I liked a lot of it but mostly it just left me confused.

*Read for Erin's 11.0 Book Challenge: read a book with an article of clothing in the title.

Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame by Mara Wilson
Published September 13, 2016 by Penguin Books
Genre: Memoir, humor, non-fiction
Format: Audible, 7 hours, 22 minutes, own
Rating: 3.5 stars

Thoughts: I loved learning more about Mara Wilson and her family life and the struggles of being a young actress. I had no idea about the death of her mother while she was filming "Matilda" or how she has struggled with OCD and anxiety, or truly how awful it must have been when her parts dried up after she was no longer the cute Matilda-like child anymore.

My biggest complaint is I felt her story arc wasn't quite put together. Each chapter jumped from childhood to teen years, to college and back, and no reason real tie for me to bring it all together. Well worth the read to hear all about Mara and what an amazing human being she is. Lots of little tidbits too about when she worked on films as a kid.

Five Midnights by Ann Davila Cardinal
Published June 4th, 2019 by Penguin Books
Genre: Young adult, horror, myth
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages, library
Rating: 4 stars

Thoughts: Cardinal brings us to Puerto Rico. Lupe comes down to stay with her aunt and uncle (a cop) for the summer while her dad attends rehab. Soon her cousin and his friends are being hunted and killed by someone or is it some thing? Cardinal introduces us to el cuco the boogeyman that's meant to scare children into being good. I liked the story development. Overall, the myth worked for me. She brought the sights and sounds and smells of Puerto Rico to life and I really enjoyed her world-building. It made me want to get down there and try all that yummy food.

She did set up someone to be the bad guy and then it didn't happen. And there was some weird ethics about drugs and what makes a good person....but I think she just had to go with it in order to bring the myth alive into the contemporary world. 

Calvin by Martine Leavitt
Published November 15th, 2015 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Genre: Young adult, mental illness, coming-of-age
Format: Hardcover, 188 pages, library
Rating: 4 stars

Thoughts: This was a fantastic quick read. Leavitt packs a powerful story about mental illness, family, friends, and philosophy. Calvin has started hallucinating...he's actually seeing Hobbes from the comics by Bill Waterson. He believes if he can just get Bill Waterson to finish one more comic strip for him and write out Hobbes, then he'll be cured. And guess who comes along for the ride? His best friend Susie. Or is she a hallucination too? I wasn't sure exactly what was going on but it's a heartfelt story about a kid who'd figuring out how to handle his mental health and how to ask for help.