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…

2016 TBR Challenge Review: The Valley of the Dolls

The Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Sussan

Paperback, 448 pages

First published 1966

Source: Library

581811

Dolls: red or black; capsules or tablets; washed down with vodka or swallowed straight—for Anne, Neely, and Jennifer, it doesn’t matter, as long as the pill bottle is within easy reach. These three women become best friends when they are young and struggling in New York City and then climb to the top of the entertainment industry—only to find that there is no place left to go but down—into the Valley of the Dolls.

Oh my goodness this book!  

I expected a good trashy read and this book definitely begins as that.  Starlets and sex, movie stars and affairs!  I didn’t expect this book to evoke a real connection to the characters and so many emotions!  I was up and down and hopeful and crushed and then the cycle would begin again.  Addiction, infidelity, sexism and the ruin caused by celebrity – this book got heavy!

Anne, Neely and Jennifer – my heart broke a bit when those dolls appeared, knowing their individual paths might to go into the bottles, but I absolutely did not expect their paths to vary so much.  The Valley of the Dolls left me thinking about how far women can go for love and how little we love ourselves.   

This is the 50th anniversary of publication and I think this is a book that holds up to the years.  I’m already pushing it on my friends (watch out Holly)!

Now I have to see the movie!  

2016 TBR Challenge

Happy almost 2016! It’s time to set the stage for our 2016 TBR Challenge. We didn’t quite finish our 2015 lists, but we’re ready to give it a go again this year.

Last year’s challenge was officially sanctioned, but that’s been discontinued, so we’re tracking our own progress along with Eva, The Paperback Princess. In keeping with the rules from last year’s challenge, these are all books published in 2014 or earlier.

Holly

2016 List

  1. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple (2012) – Finished 3/21/2016
  2. Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott (1886)
  3. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (2012)
  4. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (2008) – Finished 3/19/16
  5. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan (2006)
  6. Name All the Animals by Alison Smith (2005)
  7. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (1817)
  8. Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson (2014)
  9. Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman (2009)
  10. Sister  by Rosamund Lupton (2010) – Finished 3/1/16
  11. Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson (2011)
  12. A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman (2014)

Alternates

  1. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin (2010) – Finished 4/26/16
  2. We the Animals by Justin Torres (2011)

2015 TBR Carryovers

  1. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (1990)
  2. The Emperor of all Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee (2010)
  3. Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman (2006)
  4. When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins (2009) – Finished 1/24/16
  5. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (2001) – Finished 1/8/2016

Amanda

2016 List

  1. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (1817)
  2. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Sussan (1966) – Look out book club!
  3. Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson (2014)
  4. Cinder by Marissa Meyer (2012)
  5. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright (2006)
  6. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed (2012)
  7. The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan (2013)
  8. Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood (2012)
  9. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (1996)
  10. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (1948)
  11. The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1) by Agatha Christie
  12. The Spellman Files: Document #1 by Lisa Lutz (2007)

Alternates

  1. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (2006)
  2. The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1) by Scott Lynch (2006)

2015 Holdovers:

  1. Primary Colors by Anonymous (1996) [this has been sitting on my bookshelf taunting me for like 10 years]
  2. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980)
  3. Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond (1997) [What was I thinking buying this on my honeymoon all those years ago? Not light beach reading]
  4. Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink (2013)
  5. Lipstick Jihad A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America and American in Iran by Azadeh Moaveni (2005)

Some of these even cover Estella’s Revenge‘s #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks Challenge which is exciting!  Link up if you want to challenge yourself with us!

2015 TBR Challenge – I Cry Uncle

Last December, Amanda and I signed up for the 2015 TBR Challenge. Though I had lofty aspirations, between an extremely demanding work year, and the amount of time I spent laboring over Romantic Outlaws, I just didn’t get it done.

I did, however, make a late run, finishing another 4 books from my list since the end of October, for a total of 7/12. Coming soon…our 2016 TBR lists, for a super casual challenge with Amanda and I, plus Eva the Paperback Princess. Feel free to join in with your own list!

Recent Completions

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (2008)

One-sentence summary: This book is a lovely, happy story for 90% of the book, and then it crushes your soul.

This pause in time, within time…When did I first experience the exquisite sense of surrender that is possible only with another person? The peace of mind one experiences on one’s own, one’s certainty of self in the serenity of solitude, are nothing in comparison to the release, and openness and fluency one shares with another, in close companionship.

Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson (2000)

One Three-sentence summary: Fascinating look at the formation of the weather service and the power of a 1900 hurricane. Not my favorite Erik Larson, though it would take a lot to replace my beloved Devil in the White City. I wanted more scandal and turmoil, which was a bit buried beneath all the bureaucracy – as it tends to be, I suppose.

The chief did not want his observers just sitting around between weather observations, a wise policy, given the sex scandals, grave robbing, and other incidents that would soon surface and further undermine the weather service’s reputation.

Little Men by Louisa May Alcott (1871)

One-sentence summary: Jo has grown up.

As there is no particular plan to this story, except to describe a few scenes in the life at Plumfield for the amusement of certain little persons, we will gently ramble along in this chapter and tell some of the pastimes of Mrs. Jo’s boys.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1970)

One-sentence summary: I am glad I read this, but if you can only read one coming of age story, please let it be Coming of Age in Mississippi.

If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat.

Have you read any of these 4?

2015 TBR Challenge Review: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, Laurie King (Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes #1)

Published April 1st 2010 by Minotaur Books

ebook, 368 pages

Source: Chicago Public Library

8079164

1914, a young woman named Mary Russell meets a retired beekeeper on the Sussex Downs. His name is Sherlock Holmes. And although he may have all the Victorian “flaws” listed above, the Great Detective is no fool, and can spot a fellow intellect even in a fifteen-year-old woman.

So, at first informally, then consciously, he takes Mary Russell as his apprentice. They work on a few small local cases, then on a larger and more urgent investigation, which ends successfully. All the time, Mary is developing as a detective in her own right, with the benefit of the knowledge and experience of her mentor and, increasingly, friend.

And then the sky opens on them, and they find themselves the targets of a slippery, murderous, and apparently all-knowing adversary. Together they devise a plan to trap their enemy–a plan that may save their lives but may also kill off their relationship.  This is not a “Sherlock Holmes” story. It is the story of a modern young woman who comes to know and work with Holmes, the story of young woman coming to terms with herself and with this older man who embodies the age that is past.

So I’m probably not making it through my 2015 TBR Challenge books but I am still trying! I am so glad I got The Beekeeper’s Apprentice off my to read list – however, it’s now been replaced by the sequel, A Monstrous Regiment of Women.  Also, I now really have to read Sherlock Holmes himself I think.  

Young Mary Russell nearly falls over Sherlock Holmes while out walking one day.  A friendship is struck between the odd pair and as she grows up and studies Mary realizes that Holmes is more than her teacher, and that she is a fit partner for the semi-retired detective.  Their adventures are told by Mary herself reflecting back in time.  

I loved reading about a young woman like Mary.  She’s brilliant and determined and she’s not cowed by Holmes just because of who he is.  Mary is not perfect and I really enjoyed how she and Holmes balance each other out.  I particularly enjoyed picturing them as a gypsy father and daughter trying to get themselves arrested to start to solve a kidnapping.  I appreciated that King gives the reader more than just one mystery in this first book and I liked seeing Mary take bigger steps as a detective in each case.  I look forward to seeing how the series unfolds.

4 stars!

3 weeks, 4 challenge books to go.  I will get as far as I can before I admit defeat!  Sadly Adam at the Roofbeam Reader has decided he will not be hosting a 2016 TBR Challenge due to commitments outside of book life.  Holly and I liked the challenge so much that, along with Eva at The Paperback Princess, we’re going to continue to push ourselves to clear our TBR shelves.  Let’s be honest, we’re not as organized as Adam was so we won’t be as fancy.  But if you are looking for a challenge please join us and make a 2016 TBR list!

2015 TBR Challenge Review: The Sandman

The Sandman, Preludes and Nocturnes, Neil Gaiman, (The Sandman #1)

Published January 1st 1991

Paperback, 240 pages

Source: Chicago Public Library

6657541

Goodreads…

In PRELUDES & NOCTURNES, an occultist attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. After his 70 year imprisonment and eventual escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. On his arduous journey Morpheus encounters Lucifer, John Constantine, and an all-powerful madman.
This book also includes the story “The Sound of Her Wings,” which introduces us to the pragmatic and perky goth girl Death.

I have made it pretty clear I think that I’m basically in love with everything that Neil Gaiman writes.  If I had one book I could read forever it would be American Gods.  So I was kind of ashamed that I’d never tried his graphic novel series The Sandman – thanks to the Roof Beam Reader TBR Challenge I can say I’ve crossed the first in the series off my list!   Of course now the next book is on my TBR but that’s ok because it’s Neil Gaiman.  

So the Sandman, Morpheus, is captured by some creepy dudes who are trying to actually capture Death.  When he finally escapes – 70 years later – there are lots of scary dreams happening.  Morpheus needs to find his objects of power to reestablish his power as the King of his land and must deal with humans, demons and total madmen to do so.  

There are some worlds that Neil Gaiman has created that I would live in – The Sandman’s is not one of them.  I do not want those dreams thank you very much.  The dreams in the Sandman won’t just leave you scared when you wake up – you might not wake up at all.  I expected darkness, I don’t think I expected the level of violence that would be in these stories or maybe it just hit me differently because it really is right there to see the blood not in my imagination?  Either way – ick.   

Morpheus was a far more sympathetic character than I expected though.  I was really sad he had so much work to do to recover from his kidnapping.  I was sad for the people that were having such horrific dreams because he was out of balance.  And Death – I kind of loved her as strange as that sounds.  I hope she’s present in the next book!

I haven’t read a lot of graphic novels but as I read this I was just blown away by the amount of work that had to have gone in – writer, artist, colorists.  How do they all collaborate I wonder?  Definitely something I’ll be reading about when I have the next 4 books in the TBR challenge read!  My favorite thing about this book – I finished and handed it to my husband who immediately started reading it too. Gaiman books for everyone!

2015 TBR Challenge Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

Published September 27th 1995 by Del Rey Books (first published 1979)

Mass Market Paperback, 216 pages

Source:  Borrowed from the husband!

11

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox–the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.

Can I simply say I don’t know that I’ve done enough drugs in my life to fully get this book?  Or are you not supposed to get this book, I don’t know?

I knew this was going to be a bizarre read, but I think I expected more substance?  Maybe I’ll find it as I continue in the trilogy.  I am very curious to see what happens to this motley crew and the depressed robot at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.  I was definitely entertained, and I’m curious as to what else Adams says about the meaning of the universe.  

On the upside, I do know where my towel is!  On to the next TBR Challenge book!