Tag Archives: The Scarlet Pimpernel

2018 Reading Challenge: Honorable Mentions

With so many books read in 2018, several stand out but didn’t quite make the 5 star mark. I still have to give them a shout-out! (And you should consider adding them to your to-read list.)

In Another Girl’s Shoes & His Official Fiancé by Berta Ruck

Berta Ruck wrote in the midst of World War One and it makes her fluffy, female novels all the more intriguing. They are romantic and fun but written at a time when most women really did not know if their boys would make it back. It shows in her style. She also takes a strong, feminist tone that is remarkable considering women in England did not have the vote yet when these books were published. I have enjoyed everything I have read by her, but these two particularly stand out. I suspect they will become re-reads every year.

Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini

It took me over a year to get through this swashbuckling adventure, but it was worth it in the end. If you love Robert Louis Stevenson or Walter Scott, you’ll love this tale of nobility and piracy! (Stick with it, the last third is the best.)

Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman

I haven’t watched the TV show Orange Is the New Black and I was a little skeptical of the book, but my professor recommended it and I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. Kerman does a good job humanizing prison and talking about necessary reforms without getting on a soap box and alienating the reader. Definitely an adult book, though. Don’t recommend for younger readers.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

There are two sides to every story, and Bryan Stevenson does a powerful job telling the stories of the incarcerated men and women on death row. Agree or not with his conclusions – this is a powerful book.

The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle

Possibly this book stands out because I read The Stolen Songbird right before it, which basically has the same plot but done much more poorly. At any rate, this is the story of a young woman forced to be the Goblin King’s bride.  It is one of those fantasy books where the author takes an existing mythology and adds her own twist, creating a whole new legend to tell around the campfire. It reminded me of Lloyd Alexander (who the author credits), Beth Hilgartner (perhaps it is just the use of the name Kate, but there is a The Perilous Gard feel), and Diane Stanley.

A Lady of Quality by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Prior to this book, I only knew Burnett the author of Little Lord Fauntleroy, A Little Princess, and The Secret Garden. This book read so differently I kept double-checking to make sure I wasn’t confused and mixing up authors. But no, this is her! The heroine of A Lady of Quality is thoroughly strong willed and dislikable. She is mean and twisted. But Burnett redeems her, not by sacrificing her to wasting disease or anything like you would expect from an author writing in the 1800s, but by giving her a romance for the ages. Though the book builds towards her final, saving romance, it doesn’t revolve around it. Different kinds of love push the story along, from a sister’s devotion to a Father’s self-centeredness. It really is fascinating and not all what I expected from this era.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō

I went into this book mostly to better appreciate my sister’s minimalist lifestyle, and frankly, doubted it would apply to me. Turns out, it did! Kondō called out a LOT of my habits – like getting rid of clothes by forcing them on my younger sisters, saving boxes from appliances because maybe, someday I’ll repack, and keeping something because I got it as a gift once and have not used since. In fact, time and again her points hit so specifically home that I would experience a twinge of shock. Oh yeah…I do that…

Pimpernel by Sheralyn Pratt

I obsessively love The Scarlet Pimpernel. The book…the movies…the series…. you name it. I love it. And once upon a time I discovered Across A Star-Swept Sea, which was a fantastic, gender-bender retelling. But guess what? I FOUND ANOTHER AWESOME RETELLING. This book! Pratt takes the Scarlet Pimpernel we all know and love and turns him into a white-collar crime fighter. It works, partially because she does not try and recreate the Scarlet Pimpernel. Jack is very much his own man. He’s….well, Pimpernel. This is another book I can’t wait to re-read.

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

Hammett is a master at the crime noir genre, but I think he excelled in The Thin Man because he steps a tiny bit away from the dark, brooding shadows and creates a funny, likable couple as his main sleuths. Nick and Nora are great! I cannot wait to get my hands on the movie. (The only thing I like more than a good noir book is a good black and white movie.)


2017 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 2

My favorite reads from 2017…continued! 

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell “looks at the complex and surprising ways the weak can defeat the strong, the small can match up against the giant, and how our goals (often culturally determined) can make a huge difference in our ultimate sense of success.” An interesting, challenging read that explores the takeaway lesson of a relatively familiar Bible story. 

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund 

A futuristic, sci-fi retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel. I’d give the plot about 4 stars but the characters definitely bump it up to 5.  I love the characters. The author does an amazing job capturing the spirit of the The Scarlet Pimpernel but with a gender-bender twist. The science talk occasionally bogs the story down, but it was nice to have a YA book that “makes you think” while telling the story. Politics, science, moral responsibility, right and wrong, good and bad…it is all to be found hovering at the back of the characters and their actions and decisions.

Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel by Megan Morrison 

Book 1 in the Tyme series. Rapunzel retelling…starring Jack and his beanstalk. This is one of those books you have to stick with all the way through. Rapunzel starts off as a very annoying, naive, rude character who doesn’t know a map from a mother. However, her character arc is wonderful. The story is much more nuanced than most fairy tale retellings. Lovely world building and almost no romance!  

Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison

Book 2 in the Tyme series. Though billed as a “Cinderella retelling,” this book breaks from the usual Cinderella mold and has very little to do with the original story. It has a bit of an Ever After High vibe going but it transcends that with really solid, interesting characters and social justice themes. (A YA novel with a couple interested in something other than each other! Hurah!) That said, if I have one complaint with this book, it would be the romance. Overall, unexpectedly enjoyable.

The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved. But Tessa’s return unearths buried memories and questions that don’t add up…leading back to the night of the murder. My Caveat: I’d give this book 5 stars for its genre. Not sure 5 stars compared to books overall. However, as a psychological thriller, I really enjoyed this one. It has deep, meaningful characters with twisted, broken personalities. There is no unlikely romance and there are strong, female friendships. It is creepy without being overwhelming. 

I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Desi Lee can accomplish anything as long as she has a plan. Soccer? Student body elections? College applications? She has it down. Coming to terms with her non-existent love life, Desi decides the problem is that she hasn’t put together the right plan. And what better place to find a plan than in a K-drama? I am obsessed with K-Dramas so I loved all the references. But really, I loved this book in general. Desi could easily have been a goody-two-shoes character. Yet somehow she comes across as relatable and hilarious. While her behavior at times is downright crazy, all she had to do was reference a drama and I was totally for the plan. Why not stage a car accident or create a fake love triangle?

Loyalty and Legislative Action: A Survey of Activity by the New York State Legislature 1919-1949 by Lawrence H. Chamberlain 

This book focuses on three legislative investigations of “subversive” activities conducted by the New York legislature. While that doesn’t sound like a topic you’d want to curl up with in a rainy day, I found it surprisingly readable and interesting. What continually surprised me was how relevant the book was. Though specific examples may no longer apply, the government’s actions and arguments are only too familiar. From John Doe investigations gone horribly wrong to the overuse of (possibly illegal) warrants, the general facts sound eerily like something you would hear in the news today. 


New BFF: Persis Blake from Across A Star-Swept Sea

Let me begin by saying, I love The Scarlet Pimpernel. I love the book. I love the 1982 movie starring Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, and Ian McKellen. I love Sir Percy Blakeney, aka The Scarlet Pimpernel. I love the story, the series, the characters, everything. 

So you better believe that when someone recommended a young adult, science fiction, gender-bender retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, I was understandably wary. I’ve seen The Scarlet Pimpernel retold before, and it isn’t always pretty. Thankfully, Across A Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund turned out to be an amazing exception to the rule. This book was creative, well-written, fun, and actually quite believable. A great part of this was due to the main character: Lady Persis Blake. Aka, my new literary best friend. 

I liked Persis initially simply because she reminded me of Sir Percy Blakeney. I came to love her, however, because she takes all those attributes I liked in Sir Percy and makes them uniquely her own. Persis is a smart, strong, and likable heroine. Her transitions from empty-headed court lady to fearless leader to nerdy and dutiful daughter were believable and fun. She is a heroine but she isn’t a revolutionary. At some level, she accepts and takes for granted the limits placed on women in her society and I was pleasantly surprised by that. She wasn’t angsty. 

In fact, for a young adult novel, this book does a good job avoiding angst, even with the romance! No insta-love or mooning allowed.

Persis Blake combines all the attributes I like about The Scarlet Pimpernel with her own charm and context and I think that alone makes this book worth reading. 


Challenge: Ten Books That Stayed With You

Reading Challenge

“List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and do not think too hard. They do not have to be the ‘right’ books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way. Tag 10 friends and me so I can see your list.”

Following the example of Lady Z, The Artist Librarian who tagged me, I decided to turn this challenge into a blog post instead of a Facebook note.

This is a true challenge for me. Only 10 books? I re-read 10 of my favorite books on a monthly basis! (Okay, maybe not anymore, but I used to!)

Instead, I offer a compromise. 10 author and 10 books. 10 authors because rarely does a particular author influence me only once. 10 books because occasionally one novel completely wins over my heart and deserves a spot on the list. I am leaving The Bible and C.S. Lewis off the list because, though they deserve spots, both fulfill an ‘obvious’ role in this post.

I suppose ‘stayed with you in some way’ means ‘books that have affected you in some way’, but I could never narrow that list down to 10. Possibly not even 50. For the sake of your attention span, I am going to go with books I have read over and over. Books I can replay in my head. Books that I cannot walk past without walking to pick them up. Books (or authors) that formed me.  In only a very general order…

10 Authors That Have Stayed With Me

  1. Elizabeth George Speare. The author of my favorite novel, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Speare also wrote Calico Captive, The Sign of the Beaver, and The Bronze Bow. I’ve re-read them all numerous times over the past 10+ years.
  2. Elizabeth Marie Pope. As far as I know, she only wrote The Sherwood Ring and The Perilous Gard. I love them both.
  3. Eloise Jarvis McGraw. She wrote The Moorchild, The Golden Goblet, Moccasin Trail, Master Cornhill, and The Seventeenth Swap. Most importantly, though, McGraw wrote Mara, Daughter of the Nile.
  4. Georgette Heyer. Though best known for her Regency novels, Heyer wrote detective mysteries and medieval fiction. My favorites by her are The Grand Sophy, Frederica, Cotillion, Arabella, and Devil’s Cub though I also really enjoyed Regency Buck, Friday’s Child, The Masqueraders, and The Talisman Ring. If Heyer wrote it, I’ll definitely re-read it.
  5. Jessica Day George. Though her novels do not represent as much of my heart as the first four authors, I have read (almost) every book she has written. Her Princess and Dragon Slippers series always make for a good read.
  6. Emmuska Orczy. The Scarlet Pimpernel, people! I’ve read most of the series. It doesn’t matter how predictable his characters may be after a while, nothing beats Sir Percy Blackeney.
  7. Shannon Hale. She wrote Goose Girl. Like Jessica Day George, I easily include her as an author I have faithfully followed.
  8. Diana Wynne Jones and Patricia C. Wrede. I stick them together because each offers a series I have read numerous times but I haven’t really gotten into the rest of their work. To find my favorites, however, look no farther than Howl’s Moving Castle (all 3 books) and the Enchanted Forest Chronicles.
  9. Gail Carson Levine. I debated putting her on the list and then remembered that I re-read Ella Enchanted for like the 18th time a month ago. She definitely belongs on the list for that book alone. Fairest a good, frequently re-read, one too.
  10. Robin McKinely. I don’t like all her books. In fact, I loathe quite a few. But she did write The Blue Sword and Beauty so for those two she deserves a spot because I love The Blue Sword.

 

10 Books That Have Stayed With Me

  1. A Murder For Her Majesty by Beth Hilgartner. Third favorite/most re-read book of all time.
  2. Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster. Read it, loved it, read it again, loved it more…and so forth.
  3. Bargain Bride by Evelyn Sibley Lampman. In my opinion, a hidden gem of historical fiction. I grabbed it when the library was selling it and now have a very well-loved copy.
  4. The Iron Peacock by Mary Stetson Clark. Another great historical fiction novel.
  5. Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher. A story that takes place in the world of Scheherazade and her Thousand and One Nights.
  6. Around The World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. A favorite adventure novel!
  7. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. If you have not had the pleasure of reading this one, go by yourself a copy. Delightful storytelling.
  8. The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye. Maybe because the princess’s name is Amy, I’ve always treasured this one. Truly a charming little story.
  9. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham. It inspired me to try and read Bowditch’s The American Practical Navigator and Newton’s Principia numerous times. I never made more than a dent in either but I sure wanted to be as smart at Nathaniel Bowditch!
  10. Seven Daughter and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen. Captures the imagination and tells a good tale

 

In retrospect, I did not purposefully make this a list of fiction or choose just about only female authors. These are just the books I go back to, over and over again, since I was a kid. They are just some of the books that make me…me.

If you liked mine, you’ll love The Artist Librarian’s! Check out Z’s post at – http://theartistlibrarian.blogspot.com/2014/09/ten-books-that-have-stayed-with-you.html#comment-form