2016 TBR Challenge: I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

Published: 1948

Source: Chicago Public Library

31122Through six turbulent months of 1934, 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain keeps a journal, filling three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries about her home, a ruined Suffolk castle, and her eccentric and penniless family. By the time the last diary shuts, there have been great changes in the Mortmain household, not the least of which is that Cassandra is deeply, hopelessly, in love.

Ok so I’m basically failing at our self made 2016 TBR Challenge.  But if I’m going down without reading those 10 books, at least I picked up I Capture the Castle.  This was just a delightful read.  I almost felt like I was a kid meeting Anne Shirley for the first time again. Or Emily Starr and the letter bills that she filled with her writings.  So if you enjoy either of those LM Montgomery heroines you should definitely pick up I Capture the Castle.  

Yes, Cassandra’s family is kind of ridiculous, but they have a lot of charm.  I kind of wanted to poke her father and hug her stepmother – but I still enjoyed them all!  Maybe I didn’t love how things played out between Cassandra and her sister, though that could be simply because my sister is my favorite and I couldn’t do those things!  This was a short, sweet and sometimes silly read.  Definitely one I needed this year.  If you need a book to put a smile on your face leading into November I definitely recommend this one.  I just spotted Primary Colors on my bookshelf – now more than 10 years waiting to be read. Maybe that will have to be my next challenge attempt for a swing in the opposite direction…

2015 TBR Challenge: The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness, Emmuska Orczy


First published 1903

Source: Purchased for the 2015 Roofbeam Reader TBR Challenge


Armed with only his wits and his cunning, one man recklessly defies the French revolutionaries and rescues scores of innocent men, women, and children from the deadly guillotine. His friends and foes know him only as the Scarlet Pimpernel. But the ruthless French agent Chauvelin is sworn to discover his identity and to hunt him down.

Check another book off my 2015 TBR Challenge list!  When I first stumbled onto The Secret History of the Pink Carnation years ago I was raving to my mom about this new series (everyone does this right?).  Her response was “Just like the Scarlet Pimpernel,” which resulted in a blank stare from me.  She explained the similarity and of course I learned yes, these were Lauren Willig’s inspiration.  There may be spoilers here but the book is over 100 years old, so it’s not my fault if the mystery is ruined for you!

So it took me a few years to get to the The Scarlet Pimpernel, but I am so glad I finally read it!  The Pimpernel is just as full of attitude and daring as his imitator the Pink Carnation!  I loved his determination to beat the French despite the risks.  I really didn’t think the romance would come through between Sir Percy and Lady Blakeney but I was definitely feeling the love in the end.  I liked that the Scarlet Pimpernel has his own band of charming agents – just like those that I’ve fallen for in the Pink Carnation series.  I really enjoyed the adventure!  I might even keep reading the other Scarlet Pimpernel books eventually to see how similar they are.  For being a classic this was a really light and fun read.  I’m definitely in the mood to finish the Pink Carnation series now – just 3 books to go!

They seek him here, they seek him there 

Those Frenchies seek him everywhere 

Is he in heaven or is he in hell? 

That demned elusive Pimpernel.

Bottom line, does it hold up to say a book by Jane Austen?  No.  But Sir Percy was delightful and honestly pretty swoon-worthy for a character over 100 years old! Thanks Mom for telling me to read this!

Next off my TBR Challenge List – Swamplandia!

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 Tuesday: Our Favorite Classics

Today we’re hooking up with the Broke and the Bookish for their Top Ten Tuesday and here are our top ten classics



Jane Eyre – I wrote about this one here, about how I had to read this to read The Eyre Affair. Swoon – crazy locked away wives and traumatic childhoods can’t withstand the power of love!

The Great Gatsby – Ain’t no party like a Gatsy party, amirite? I think I liked this one in high school because the plot was easy to follow (none of that flowery language, thankyouverymuch), but the characters were complicated. Well, except for Jordan Baker. She doesn’t have much going. on.

Catcher in the Rye – Okay, I loved this one in high school, because you know, I like, totally got Holden Caulfield, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to read it since.

Coming of Age in Mississippi – If you don’t know this book, go read it now. I read this one in an undergrad sociology class, and it blew my mind. It’s an amazing memoir of a black woman growing up in the South. My professor threw out an option for extra credit if we could find Anne Moody (who does not appear in public).No one got that EC – she’s way too clever to be found if she doesn’t want to be. Read this book!

Ordinary People – 3 out of my 5 five here are definitely from sophomore year American Lit class. Maybe I need to read more classics. Or maybe Mr. Leitner was just the man. This book tears my heart out.


Catch-22.  Is 1961 too recent to be considered a classic?  I say not because this book is magical.  If you haven’t read this, stop and get it now.  Its hilarious and heartbreaking.  I am definitely naming our next dog Major-Major.

Pride & Prejudice: Thank you Brother Ruhl for teaching me to read this.  I wrote about my thoughts on this one here.  I love Elizabeth and Darcy-that’s all.

Great Expectations – I hated this book when it a high school requirement. Was that just because my freshman English teacher was evil? I swear, she really was.  Because when I read this again in my 20’s I found it laugh out loud funny at parts.  I loved it.  Then I read Thursday Next: Lost in a Good Book and fell in love with Miss Havisham.

Jane Eyre -Ditto my sister as usual!

Anne of Green Gables –  I need to reread these soon! This was the first book that made me cry. I still remember that moment that I realized I was in tears because I was so moved by a book.  And I’ll be honest I’ve never really stopped crying at books since 🙂  I cannot wait to share these with my daughter.

These are our top ten-what are your favorites?


Book Pairings

Let’s talk about books that you should read together. No, not like series or books by the same author, but books that make more sense (or are more fun), if you read both.

This post is inspired by my recent reading of For Darkness Shows the Stars (futuristic/post-apocalyptic Jane Austen) and companion Across a Star Swept Sea (retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel), but I fully enjoyed those without (yet) reading the accompanying classics. So, here are some pairings where you must read both, in order for the magic to truly happen.

1. Jane Eyre + The Eyre Affair


No one should be shocked that my sister demanded I read a book set in a bizarro 1985 London involving time travel and literary detectives. The Eyre Affair is about our heroine, Thursday Next’s, attempt to track down the villain who stole one Jane Eyre. As in, just plucked her, right out of the story! So, you see where I’m going with this – I had to first read Jane Eyre, then read this silly Jasper Fforde novel.

And, of course she was right. I loved Jane Eyre. I loved Thursday Next. I reference the Toast Marketing Board as often as possible. Amanda win.


2. The Great Gatsby + Great


I’ve seen a few positive reviews of Great recently, and I’m intrigued. I loved The Great Gatsby in high school English. I read it again last year, and I wondered why I loved it so much since the characters are generally unlikeable, shallow, and vapid. Oh dear, what does that say about me? Don’t answer that.

Anyway, Great is a contemporary YA retelling where Nick has become Naomi and Gatsby is Jacinta. Scrolling through Goodreads, there are definitely some haters of this book, but whether people loved or hated, the consensus is that Great makes the most sense with the background of the original work. This is totally on my list to read soon.


3. Treasure Island + Treasure Island!!!


You guys. Have you heard of Literary Disco, the amazing book podcast co-hosted by 90s teenage heartthrob Rider Strong? Yeah, I hadn’t either, until recently, but now I am totally hooked and working my way through 50+ episodes. It’s amazing. (Note, J may disagree as he had the pleasure of listening to several episodes on a recent drive to NC. However, I think his disdain was less about the show and more about my excitement over Shawn Hunter.)

Okay, so the show is actually really really funny. One of the books they covered was this goofy Treasure-Island-With-3-Exclamation-Points. It’s Episode 6: go listen, and then try and tell me that you don’t want to read this book. But I think we should read Treasure Island first, for maximum effectiveness. Agree?


What other book pairings do you suggest?