Friday, January 15, 2021

Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie

Poirot is travelling alone, again, when a murder committed. This time he travels from Paris, back to London, by plane. There are twelve passengers in that flight, and what a group of people they are! - a mystery writer, two archeologists, a dentist, a hairdresser, a doctor, a Countess, a moneylender woman, a businessman, and of course... a famous detective!

When the plane is about to land, the steward found one passenger - Madame Giselle, the famous moneylender - is dead, apparently by a sting in her neck. Several passengers remember of seeing a wasp flying around while the last meal is served. Then Poirot found a poisonous dart - the one used by primitive savages - under the victim's seat. Later on an empty blow pipe, from which the dart has been blown, was found.... under Poirot's seat!

It is perhaps one of the boldest murders ever performed in Christie's books. Imagine! In a confined space of an aircraft, where everyone could have noticed someone blowing a dart, not mentioning the trained eyes of Hercule Poirot- oh wait...! The irony is, Poirot was asleep during most of the flight due to his blasted airsickness! The murderer even had the audacity to place the blow pipe under HIS seat. It must have been a mockery to the famous detective.

The first thing acted on is, of course, to search the passenger's baggages. Of this, Poirot has found some intriguing objects, from which he begins to build his hypothesis - which, as usual, he kept to himself. Poirot was assisted by Chief Inspector Japp and Jane Grey, the hairdresser, in this investigation.

The tone of this case is the boldness of the murderer - and the person is very lucky that the greatest detective who would normally have had him under suspicion, must fall asleep while the murderer performed it. There is a plot twist in the end, and once again, Poirot acted as a matchmaker for two of the passengers.

Once again, a very entertaining crime story from our beloved Dame.

Rating: 4 / 5

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin: #CCSpin25

Novel in verse has never been my favorite. I prefer the flowing narration in prose which is more soothing to the mind. Reading, anyway, is (for me) more of therapy than challenge. Therefore, I have started Eugene Onegin with much trepidation - I wasn't sure I'm gonna like it, but I'm curious all the same. #CCSpin25 helped me to finally plunged into it. The result? Still didn't enjoy the novel, but I admired the beautiful rhymes Pushkin had woven to narrate a simple yet deep and meaningful tale.

When I said Eugene Onegin is a simple story, I really meant it. The plot is very simple, and there are only four main characters: Eugene Onegin, Tatyana Larina, Vladimir Lensky, and the Narrator - which is the embodiment of Pushkin himself. The simple plot allowed Pushkin to explore the personality if each character. From the opening scene (the dying bed of Onegin's uncle), for example, we know instantly what kind of man Eugene Onegin is:

But God, how deadly dull to sample
sick room attendance night and day
and never stir a foot away!
And the sly baseness, fit to throttle,
of entertaining the half-dead:
one smoothest the pillow down in bed,
and glumly serves the medicine bottle,
and sighs, and asks oneself all through:
"When will the devil come for you?"

I don't think I've ever hated a character as early as in the first page, as I did Onegin! Cold hearted, egotistical, selfish - a young man without any compassion at all! And to think that he inherited his uncle's property in the country after that, enraged me more.

So, the cold hearted Onegin started his "career" as St. Petersburg's dandy; flirting, dancing, partying, until he gets bored. After moving to the country, he gets to know a young romantic but naive poet: Vladimir Lensky. It was Lensky who first brought Onegin to the Larins' - Olga Larina is Lensky's fiancee. Olga's sister, Tatyana - an introverted young girl who loves to read - fell in love with Onegin. She wrote a letter expressing her passionate love to him, but, not only coldly rejected her because he thought marriage is boring, Onegin even scold her for daring to express her feeling to a man.

"You'll love again, but you must teach
your heart some self-restraint; for each
and every man won't understand it
as I have... learn from my belief
that inexperience leads to grief."

Lensky took an initiative to persuade Onegin to attend Tatyana's name ceremony at the Larins, where he lived that it's just a family event. Angry with Lensky after knowing the truth that it's a rural social event, and that the guests rumored about him and Tatyana, Onegin avenged Lensky by dancing and flirting with Olga. The wounded Lensky challenged Onegin to duel. Out of convention, and despite finding the truth that it's all just a misunderstanding, Onegin and Lensky fought the duel nevertheless. There are more proofs of Onegin's egotistical which you'd find throughout the story, and which will ruin many people's lives (and himself at the end).

As I said, it's a simple story with clear message, but told beautifully by Pushkin. I admired how he highlighted each individual's personality through the stanzas, which limited dialogues.

In the end, novel in verse is still not my cup of tea, but I'm glad to have finally read it. It was so beautiful, but at the same time it was quite a struggle for me. I understood, perhaps, only 80% of the verses, and, but for the simple plot, would have abandoned it halfway through!

Rating: 3,5 / 5

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Announcing: Nicholas Nickleby Readalong 2021

February is the birth month of Charles Dickens, so I usually celebrate it by reading Dickens in February. This year it will be for Nicholas Nickleby, and I invite you all to join me in:

(February 1 ~ March 13)

My original plan is to read it in February, but after breaking down the chapters (and there are 70 of them!), I decided to stretch it through the 2nd week of March, making it a six weeks event. This way, I believe, we can read quite leisurely, without pressure.

I will try to post one update each weekend, summarizing the chapters we have read, and maybe with one or two topics to discuss, but I don't make any promises, as it will depend on how busy I will be; but at least I'll try! 😊

Without further ado, here is our time frame:

in six weeks

1st week (February 1~February 6): Ch. 1-11
2nd week (February 7~February 13): Ch. 12-21
3rd week (February 14~February 20): Ch. 22-31
4th week (February 21~February27): Ch. 32-41
5th week (February 28~March 6): Ch. 42-51
6th week (March 7~March 13): Ch. 52-70
March 14~March 20: REVIEW/WRAP UP

I will be reading from Wordsworth Classics edition, and my copy has 769 pages, meaning I will have to read about 130-ish pages each week 😱. I really doubt I can catch up with that pace, but let's see! Having buddies to read with helps a lot, I hope!

How to join?

  • Please comment below if you'd like to participate. Or you can mention me on Twitter using hashtag: #NicholasNickleby2021.
  • You are welcomed to post about this readalong in your blog/social media, but it's okay if you don't feel like it.
  • I will publish a kick-off post on February 1st with a linky, where you can put links of your blog posts during the readalong.
  • You may post as often as possible (updates, thoughts, quotations, review, wrap-up, etc) either on blog or Twitter. For Twitter, please use #NicholasNickleby2021 hashtag.
  • Last but not least: READ (or Reread) and ENJOY!


Saturday, January 2, 2021

Beginning A New Era on Classics Reading

It's my first post in 2021, Happy New Year!! 2021 is a special year to me, because I will be turning 50 in less than two months. It's the end of an era, but at the same time, the beginning of another. Reading-wise, I realized last year, how many great books out there that I won't be able to read in this life. And that's when I started thinking of building an extensive list of great books I would love reading in the next 20-30 years. If I can't read all the books in the world, at least I read the greatest! In that spirit, since last year, I have begun to construct an extensive list of...

300 Books to Read in 20 Years (or more)

🔹️Just click the link to bring you to my list.

🔹️It mostly contains books which I'd love to read, either by my favorite authors, or even new authors I'd like to explore.

🔹️It isn't a challenge, so I won't put books suggested by many as "classics you must read..." or "the best classics..." blablabla. I don't have all the time in the world, so from now on I read only for comfort, not for pride.

🔹️Some of the titles are for rereading - books that I'd love to revisit in the future.

🔹️Of course, the list can (and will 🤭) keep changing along the way, because my preference might differ in the next 5 or 10 years. And if I read a new author but don't like it, I would delete his/her other books altogether. Or the other way round, I might add more from a new found favorite author.

🔹️It only contains of 200-ish titles at present, but I keep adding books I'd love to read along the way. You are warmly welcomed to suggest titles you think I might love in the comment below the list! 😊

🔹️I put the original list in google sheet (you are welcomed to take a peek by clicking the link). This will be my way of tracking and managing my reading and book shopping. I've added columns for new author, books I own, and books I've ordered but still on the way. Everytime there's promo on my favorite online bookstores, or I just want to buy books😎, I can check from the list, which books I need to buy (or not to buy). That way, I won't waste my money for books I probably will never read.

🔹️And so, here we come to my new approach to The Classics Club challenge I have mentioned before. With 300 books to read in 20 years, my plan is to read about 15 classics each year - but again, it's not a challenge, so no pressure at all. I might occasionally read non classics too, and I'm still doing (leisurely) the Agatha Christie Perpetual Reading Challenge. There's also the Rougon-Macquart Project which will be going on in the next 3 or 4 years. Anyway, the 15 classics I'm going to read every year would be the base of my The Classics Club lists. It means that, instead of having a fixed list of 60 books to read in 5 years, I will add the titles as I read them, so it will be a sort of an ever growing list for five years. It eliminates the pressure, and I will have the freedom to pick any books from my original list every year. Is it cheating? I don't think so, because the challenge is to READ classics, not to read from a fixed list.

Now I can't wait to begin with this new list (I'm actually in the middle of my #CCSpin book: Eugene Onegin). This is going to be an exciting lifetime journey, don't you think?

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

My Life in Books - the 2020 version

I have planned to write a kind of wrap up post of this year's reading, but then I found this book tag by Annabookbel, and I thought it would be much fun (and easier!) way to do it. Here we go...

In high school I was... The Accomplice (Theodore Boone series by John Grisham) - not reviewed

People might be surprised by... Whose Body?

I will never be... The Vicar ofWakefield

My life in lockdown was like... This Side of Paradise (staying at home is a bless-in-disguise for an introvert!)

My fantasy job is... The Deerslayer

At the end of a long day I need... One Hundred Years of Solitude

I hate being... Murder(ed) on the Orient Express

Wish I had... The Fortune of theRougons

My family reunions are... Hard Times

At a party, you'd find me with... The Belly of Paris (food is my sole entertainment at parties! 🤣)

I've never been to... Dublin(ers)

A happy day include... The Song of the Lark

Motto I live by... Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (or: when you're not sure, asking is better than assuming)

On my bucket list is... Three Act Tragedy (I've never seen live performance )

In my next life, I want to be... The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

Monday, December 28, 2020

The Classics Club #2: COMPLETED! - A Wrap Up

Today I proudly announce that I have completed my 2nd The Classics Club challenge which I started in March 2017. Here's some summaries of what I've read in less than four years:

Original time frame
📚 60 books - March 1, 2017 ~ March 1, 2022

Actual time frame
📚 50 books - March 1, 2017 ~ December 20, 2020

Most mind blowing
👍🏼East of Eden - John Steinbeck

Most boring
👎🏼Resurrection - Leo Tolstoy

Most surprising
🤩 Max Havelaar - Multatuli
I thought it would be boring, it being a semi non-fiction, but turned out to be rather hilarious and interesting!

Most disappointing
Possession - A.S. Byatt

New favorites
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Brontë
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Cannery Row - John Steinbeck

Newly found favorite authors
Anne Brontë
Willa Cather
Daphne du Maurier (still partial, but will definitely read more of her)

Glad I've Read (but once is enough!)
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
This Earth of Mankind - Pramoedya Ananta Toer

You might wonder why I had stopped at the 50th book, while there's still a year and three months ahead to finish the challenge. It's because I'm planning on having a new approach of the challenge, starting next year. And that's why I have to stop this year, to start afresh on January. You'll get to know more about this next week. Stay tune! 😉

Friday, December 25, 2020

The 12 Days of Christmas Book Tag

Saw The 12 Days of Christmas  Book Tag over at Hamlette's blog the other day, and I think it's one merry way to celebrate Christmas!


#1 Use a different movie for each prompt 
#2 Add photos and/or explanations of how your choices fit the prompts 
#3 Tag a few friends to play along

Let's play!!

1. A Partridge in a Pear Tree - book that involves agriculture:

2. Turtle Doves - book about a long-lasting relationship:
The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The book isn't about relationship, but thinking about long-lasting one... there aren't many relationships which are as strong and long-lasting as Hercule Poirot's and Captain Hastings, right? 😉

3. French Hens - book that takes place in France:
The Belly of Paris... the title says it all, right?

4. Calling Birds - book where people talk on the phone:
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The phone call is one of the essential factors in this case.

5. Golden Rings - book with multiple romance:
Sense and Sensibility... ❤❤

6. Geese A-Laying - book with a birth or that features babies:
Dombey and Son

7. Swans A-Swimming - book where someone goes swimming:
The Pearl

It's not really a leisure swimming, but plunging into the water, nonetheless, right? 😆

8. Maids A-Milking - book with cows:
The Earth

"The cow had bolted and was galloping through a patch of lucerne, followed by the girl, who was desperately trying to hold her back."

9. Ladies Dancing - book with a dance scene:
War and Peace

How could one ever forget Natasha's dancing scene??

10. Lords A-Leaping - book about athletes:
The Great Gatsby

Jordan, the female golfer

11. Pipes Piping - book with someone playing a musical instrument:
The Song of the Lark... before becoming an opera singer, Thea is studying to be a great piano player

12. Drummers Drumming - book with characters in the military:
One Hundred Years of Solitude... how will one ever forget Colonel Aureliano Buendia and his entourage?!

Want to share the fun? Consider yourself tagged!