Review: Re Jane: A Novel

Re Jane: A Novel, Patricia Park


Publication: May 5th 2015 by Pamela Dorman Books

Hardcover, 352 pages

Source: ARC from ALA MW Meeting


From Goodreads…

Journeying from Queens to Brooklyn to Seoul, and back, this is a fresh, contemporary retelling of Jane Eyre and a poignant Korean American debut

For Jane Re, half-Korean, half-American orphan, Flushing, Queens, is the place she’s been trying to escape from her whole life. Sardonic yet vulnerable, Jane toils, unappreciated, in her strict uncle’s grocery store and politely observes the traditional principle of nunchi (a combination of good manners, hierarchy, and obligation). Desperate for a new life, she’s thrilled to become the au pair for the Mazer-Farleys, two Brooklyn English professors and their adopted Chinese daughter. Inducted into the world of organic food co-ops, and nineteenth–century novels, Jane is the recipient of Beth Mazer’s feminist lectures and Ed Farley’s very male attention. But when a family death interrupts Jane and Ed’s blossoming affair, she flies off to Seoul, leaving New York far behind.

Reconnecting with family, and struggling to learn the ways of modern-day Korea, Jane begins to wonder if Ed Farley is really the man for her. Jane returns to Queens, where she must find a balance between two cultures and accept who she really is. Re Jane is a bright, comic story of falling in love, finding strength, and living not just out of obligation to others, but for one’s self.

I’ll just say I loved Jane Re.  I also love Jane Eyre so I went into this book with high hopes.  Jane Re lives in pre-9/11 Queens with her maternal Uncle and his family. She works at “Food”, her uncle’s small grocery and mainly interacts with the same Korean immigrant community she’s known all her life.  Jane feels she‘s constantly other– she’s a niece not a daughter, she’s not Korean “enough” for the residents in her neighborhood, and she choose the wrong college to attend.  When her promised job in the financial market disappears Jane interviews to nanny for the Mazer-Farley family.  Their daughter Devon was adopted from China as an infant and as her friend puts it “Their daughter’s Asian, you’re also Asian…-ish.”  A surprise to Jane, she and Devon quickly bond.

Jane feels as though she’s an important part of the Mazer-Farley family, something she’s not experienced before.  She’s encouraged to question Beth and Ed and to give her own opinions.  Jane’s new behaviors do not endear her employers to her uncle who orders her to return home when her grandfather visits from Korea.  This is the same grandfather who would have let Jane go to an orphanage when her mother died, so she’s understandably resentful.  As Jane is opening herself to this new lifestyle she also realizes she’s developing feelings for Ed – and that he is also falling for her.  This made me a bit uncomfortable with Jane and Ed both I’ll admit.  I don’t enjoy reading about infidelity as a rule, and while this was not as blatant as Hausfrau, it was quite a betrayal.  This was very different than Jane Eyre and her innocence of Bertha Rochester’s very existence.  From here, Jane’s story broadened from that of her namesake.

Just as the affair is about to take off, Jane learns her grandfather has died.  She leaves for Korea where she sees a whole new world that she could learn to fit into. Jane also finds a loving aunt that she had no memories of.  Jane decides to stay and begins teaching English to Korean adult students.  One of my favorite things was that Jane’s new Korean friends adopt the names of Monica, Rachel and Chandler.  I loved the mix of the Korean culture with the late 90’s American life.  At some point, Jane realizes she needs to make a choice- does she belong in Korea or in New York?  Park uses Korean expressions throughout the book and they kind of exemplified Jane’s very crisis to me– she had Korean feelings in an American lifestyle.

In the end I thought Re Jane became much richer than the classic it was based on.  I loved Jane’s determination to make things right- even when I felt myself cringing away from the book at her efforts.  This was a book of self-discovery and I loved who Jane becomes.  This was a book about immigration, culture and education and a young woman who finds much more than her love story.

4.5 stars!

Thank you Pamela Dorman Books for this advance copy.

Top Ten Books In My Beach Bag

We’re back for Top Ten Tuesday with the Broke and the Bookish with the top ten books I want to read this summer.  Poor Holly is too busy to realize that summer is nearly here!

  1. The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. Does it count as summer if I start this next week?  Can’t wait any longer.
  2. The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan.  This sounds so cute!
  3. The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta.  Its totally time for a reread.  Something about Finnikin makes me swoon and Froi breaks my heart.
  4. The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace
  5. I Regret Nothing by Jen Lancaster.  Please be as funny as Bitter is the New Black!
  6. Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson. This just sounds like something you have to read at the beach.
  7. The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig.  so close to the end of the series!
  8. A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson.   I cannot believe I haven’t read this yet!
  9. The Hero and the Crown series by Robin McKinley.  Highly recommended by a friend- I love finding series to binge on that are already all published!
  10. Second Position by Katherine Locke.  I was lucky enough to beta read about these sexy ballet dancers and I need to read the finished book!

What’s on your summer reading list?

2015 TBR Challenge The Painter of Battles

The Painter of Battles, Arturo Perez-Reverte


Published January 8th 2008 by Random House
Hardcover, 211 pages
From Goodreads…
Andres Faulques, a world-renowned war photographer, has retired to a life of solitude on the Spanish coast. On the walls of a tower overlooking the sea, he spends his days painting a huge mural that pays homage to history’s classic works of war art and that incorporates a lifetime of disturbing images.
One night, an unexpected visitor arrives at Faulques’ door and challenges the painter to remember him. As Faulques struggles to recall the face, the man explains that he was the subject of an iconic photo taken by Faulques in a war zone years ago. “And why have you come looking for me?” asks Faulques. The stranger answers, “Because I’m going to kill you.”

This story transports Faulques to the time when he crossed continents to capture conflicts on film with his lover, Olvido, at his side. Until she walked into his life, Faulques muses, he had believed he would survive both war and women.

As the tense dialogue between Faulques and his visitor continues, the stakes grow ever higher. What they are grappling with quickly proves to be not just Faulques’ fate but the very nature of human love and cruelty itself. 
I am kind of afraid to tell my husband I finished this book, but at least I have another off my 2015 TBR Challenge list.  I think my first Arturo Perez-Reverte book was the Queen of the South.  That book is gorgeous!  The story is captivating and tense and Teresa is a totally kick-ass character.  I forced that one on my husband and he loved it also – we have since collected almost all of Perez-Reverte’s books but for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to pick up the Painter of Battles when it came out.  I think the subject matter — the Balkan War- intimidated me.  My husband counts this among his favorites but sadly it turns out this just was not for me.
I was totally caught up in the beginning when the stranger appears and tells Faulques that he was there to kill him. When I learned why the stranger was there I was really emotional, but sadly soon after that I felt myself losing interest. I went back and forth as I read- interested and then out of it.  I felt bogged down in the words a lot of the time, which is surprising for such a short book.
There were parts of this book that were just beautifully written.  I can only imagine how it would flow if you read his work in the original Spanish.  I felt like I could see the brutality of the battles Faulques painted and photographed.  The scenes between the characters just didn’t have that depth. But I felt like I was lost as Faulques was deep in in the past or pondering the violent tendencies of human kind.  This one is going back on the bookshelf quietly and not onto my list to reread.  I might pick up the Queen of the South again soon though.
Have you read any of Perez-Reverte’s books?  Do you have a favorite?

Review: The Walls Around Us

Before the review of this kick ass book – if you’re reading the Garden Intrigue with us check out our recap on the Bubblebath Reader.  Regency historical fiction is kind of the opposite of this YA I’m about to review…

The Walls Around Us, Nova Ren Suma


Published March 24th 2015 by Algonquin Young Readers

Hardcover, 336 pages

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss


From Goodreads…

“Ori’s dead because of what happened out behind the theater, in the tunnel made out of trees. She’s dead because she got sent to that place upstate, locked up with those monsters. And she got sent there because of me.”

The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices—one still living and one long dead. On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of a girls’ juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries.

We hear Amber’s story and Violet’s, and through them Orianna’s, first from one angle, then from another, until gradually we begin to get the whole picture—which is not necessarily the one that either Amber or Violet wants us to see.

You know the kind of book that you read wondering WTF is actually happening and you fly through it working it all out?  And when you finish you still kind of wonder WTF just happened even though you kind of loved it at the same time?  This is that kind of book.  I finished this book a few weeks ago and I’m still honestly going back and thinking about these girls and that ending.

 We start from Amber’s perspective inside the prison walls.  The beginning almost lost me I’ll admit, Amber herself doesn’t understand what’s happening when the prison doors just open.  Why did they open?  How did they open?  I still don’t quite get it.  Amber has been in prison for years and when the prison doors free her she can’t bring herself to leave because its all that she knows.  Oh, and Amber is dead by the way.

 We then change time and perspective entirely and meet Violet. Violet is about to perform her final ballet before leaving for school.  Violet is determined to be a prima ballerina and won’t let anything stand in her way.  She’s ready to leave her hometown behind and to become as star. Both girls begin to tell us the story of Orianna and what happened in a dark tunnel outside the theater.

 I’m afraid to say too much because you need to just read this book and take it in.  You will see what the dead say about the living and how the living can haunt the dead.  This is a book about friendship and betrayal, about guilt and innocence, about power and powerlessness.  A beautifully written book that will stay with you.

 4 stars!

Thank you Algonquin Young Readers and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

Review: Oh! You Pretty Things

First! Holly’s also posting today at the Bubblebath Reader!  Check out her post about life as a graduate student in real life and in fiction!  Are you reading the Garden Intrigue along with us?

Oh! You Pretty Things, Shanna Mahin


Published April 14th 2015 by Dutton

Hardcover, 368 pages

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss


Jess Dunne is third-generation Hollywood, but her star on the boulevard has yet to materialize. Sure, she’s got a Santa Monica address and a working actress roommate, but with her nowhere barista job in a town that acknowledges zeroes only as a dress size, she’s a dead girl walking.

Enter Jess’s mother—a failed actress who puts the strange in estrangement. She dives headlong into her daughter’s downward spiral, forcing Jess to muster all her spite and self-preservation to snag a career upgrade.

As a personal assistant for a famous (and secretly agoraphobic) film composer, Jess’s workdays are now filled with shopping for luxury goods and cooking in his perfectly designed kitchen. Jess kills at cooking, a talent that only serves her intensifying urge to dig in to Los Angeles’s celebrity buffet.

When her food garners the attention of an actress on the rise, well, she’s all too willing to throw it in with the composer and upgrade again, a decision that will have far-reaching ramifications that could explode all her relationships.

All the while, her mother looms ever closer, forcing Jess to confront the traumatic secrets she’s been running from all her life.

Oh! You Pretty Things is a dizzying ride at the carnival of fame, a fast-paced and sharply funny work that dares to imagine what happens when we go over the top in a town of gilded excess.

This was a delightfully snarky and funny book.  Jess lives at the edge of Hollywood and like so many others desperately wants to be part of the inside world of the stars.  She doesn’t actually want to be an actor, but she wants in on the glitz and the glamour.  I really liked Jess!  She lives with her best-friend who is an up and coming actress and they were great together.  I love reading about friendships that feel real and are supportive and encouraging – and those that make it through mistakes.  I think the relationship between Jess and Megan was my favorite thing about this book.

In the opposite of a healthy relationship we have Jess and her mother, Donna.  Donna was determined to make Jess into a child star and when that failed she pretty much washed her hands of parenthood.  Donna begins circling closer and closer to Jess as she gains access to celebrities leaving Jess living in fear of how her mom might poison the life she’s created.   I felt myself cringing every time they interacted I was so nervous for Jess!  I loved the family that Jess built herself in contrast to what she had with her mother.

For a book about a girl who wants celebrity this had much more depth than I expected, but Jess still didn’t take herself too seriously.  This debut was a good look at some of the grime behind the glitz of stardom and the real people that live in L.A.   I will definitely look forward to seeing what else Shanna Mahin writes.

4 stars!

Thank you Dutton and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1), Sarah J. Maas


Publication: May 5th 2015 by Bloomsbury Children’s

Hardcover, 416 pages

Source- Galley from ALA MW meeting


From Goodreads…

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

A Court of Thorns and Roses was described to me as a retelling of Beauty & the Beast with fairy elements.  This was not your Disney version of Beauty & the Beast!  Feyre and her family are starving.  They live in hovel and she hunts to get what little food she can.  She points her bow at a wolf in the woods with the knowledge she could be killing a fairy – but she is so full of hate towards the fae that she does not care.  In the world Maas has created the fairies are the former slave masters to the human race and it took a war for the humans to be freed.  They live with the knowledge the fairies can really return at any time and slaughter them.  When Feyre learns she did indeed kill a fairy she must pay the price- to be killed or to give up her life in another way by returning to the fairy lands with Tamlin.  She goes, but plans to try to escape as soon as possible.

Feyre is not a quiet Beauty that goes to her Beast.  In fact, something that struck me while reading this is how long it takes before any suggestion of Feyre’s appearance even comes up.  Yes, she becomes beautiful but at the beginning of her story she is not a beauty inside or out.  She has a lot to learn about herself, her own family and the world she moves into.   Maas builds beautiful worlds when she writes – if you’re a fan of fantasy and not reading her Throne of Glass series you’re missing out!  She creates hard and sometimes cruel worlds for sure, but as a reader you are immersed where she wants you to be.   Feyre is accustomed to being responsible for her own survival so by her constant questioning of Tamlin and his court she learns a mysterious sickness is plaguing the fairy lands and putting her human world at risk.

I appreciated how smart Feyre was – and she recognized her own weaknesses.  She knows she can fight and she can hunt, but she knows her odds against the fairies especially in their own lands are not good.   She soaks up information to try to find her way home.  This was definitely a story of hate to love — but it was a slow development.  I was glad Feyre didn’t fall quickly head over heels.  I really loved the dynamic between Feyre, Tamlin and his emissary Lucien as well.  The banter and the action was great.  Feyre is really a sad character at first – she’s lonely, she’s bitter and she needs someone to love her.  I was really glad she started with finding friends, even if she didn’t trust them fully.  And back to the love to hate- wow.  This romance gets HOT.

I really can’t think of why you shouldn’t read A Court of Thorns and Roses!  Kick-ass heroine, deadly villains, mysterious blights to fairies, great friendships, and a sexy “Beast”.  I am really excited to see where Book 2 goes and I hope to learn more about the other lands and about the history of the fairy courts.

Other than my slight obsession with Seanan McGuire and her October Daye series I don’t really read a lot of books about the fae.  No matter how much I love the books I always feel a little lost in the mythology- and I felt the same while reading A Court of Thorns and Roses.  I think that’s going to be my homework while we wait for both of Maas’ next books.  Any suggestions out there where I can about the Tam Lin?  Or things like puca and the other fairies out there?  Maybe that will get me ready for whatever awaits Feyre and Tamlin!

5 stars!

Thank you Bloomsbury for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Review: Scarlett Undercover

Scarlett Undercover, Jennifer Latham


Published May 19th 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Hardcover, 320 pages

Source: NetGalley


From Goodreads…

Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic, kick-butt, Muslim American heroine, ready to take on crime in her hometown of Las Almas. When a new case finds the private eye caught up in a centuries-old battle of evil genies and ancient curses, Scarlett discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinks — and that cracking the case could lead to solving her father’s murder.

I loved Scarlett! She had some sass and she is smart as can be.  We begin right in the action which honestly is not always my favorite. Scarlett is a 16 year-old high-school graduate and instead of looking ahead to college she’s working as a private detective.  Her parents have died and she lives with her older sister who is crazy busy in medical school so Scarlett is largely left to her own devices.  Our investigation begins when a young girl comes to ask Scarlett to prove that her older brother didn’t kill himself.  I did spend some time during the first third of the book wondering why exactly Scarlett got to be a teen detective– but when the explanation came clear I found myself nodding along at the book.  Yes a bit of suspension of disbelief, but it worked for me.

It was refreshing to read a book about a character who was so very different than your usual YA!  Scarlett is Muslim, but that’s just one facet of her.  She’s as conflicted about her obligations to religion as nearly any other teenaged girl.  She wants to listen to her older sister who is responsible for her, but also chafes at following rules.  Also, yay for some teenage romance that doesn’t dominate the book!  Scarlett has a crush, she acts on it –  but that’s not the end all and be all of her life then.  She doesn’t drop everything to listen to a boy.

There’s a suggestion of magic to the plot, but not this was definitely a mystery – not a fantasy novel.  Scarlett believes some day she can figure out why her father was murdered, even if the police have given up.  I loved that Scarlett was brave and determined, but not unwilling to ask for help.  She is sarcastic and funny even when she’s in over her head.

This was a really fun young adult debut and while there is no sequel planned right now I really hope to catch another case with Scarlett!

4 stars!

Thank you Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!


Holly and I are posting today on The Bubblebath Reader and will be all month about Lauren Willig’s The Garden Intrigue! Stop by!