Saturday, December 31, 2022

Goodbye 2022! A Reading Wrap Up

 



πŸ“šBOOKS READ

In chronological order:

1. The Tale of Genji by Murashaki Shikibu ⭐⭐⭐
2. Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie (re-read) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
3. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
4. Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens ⭐⭐⭐
6. The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
7. Murder is Easy by Agatha Christie (re-read) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
8. For a Night of Love by Êmile Zola ⭐⭐⭐1/2
9. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman ⭐⭐⭐⭐
10. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
11. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (re-read) ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
12. A Lost Lady by Willa Cather ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
13. Evelina by Frances Burney ⭐⭐⭐⭐
14. Flappers and Philosophers by F. Scott Fitzgerald ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
16. My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life by Janine Marsh ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
17. The Girl, the Dog, and the Writer in Provence by Katrina Nannestad ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
19. The Seagull by Anton Chekhov ⭐⭐1/2
20. Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
21. One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie (re-read) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
22. The Girl, the Dog, and the Writer in Rome by Katrina Nannestad ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
23. Mrs. Osmond by John Banville ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
24. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier ⭐⭐⭐⭐
25. Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie (re-read) ⭐⭐⭐
26. The Knight of Maison-Rouge by Alexandre Dumas ⭐⭐⭐1/2
27. The Lark by E. Nesbit ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
28. Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron ⭐⭐⭐1/2
29. Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie (re-read) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
31. The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
32. Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies ⭐⭐⭐⭐


πŸ“ŠSTATISTICS

- Books read: 32
- Classics: 23 Non classics: 9
- Re-read: 6
- Non Fiction: 5
- Play: 1
- Short story/Short story collection: 3
- Classics new author: 6


πŸ† WINNER vs LOSER

Most favorite πŸ‘πŸΌ: The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Least favorite πŸ‘ŽπŸΌ: The Seagull by Anton Chekhov ⭐⭐1/2


πŸ“–READING CHALLENGES




The 2022 TBR Pile Challenge - COMPLETED 12/12 (click link to Master List)
2022 Chunkster Challenge - COMPLETED 4/4 (click link to Master List)
Back to the Classics Challenge 2022 - COMPLETED 12/12 (click link to Wrap Up Post)


This year has been surprisingly productive for me, despite of a bout of reading (& blogging) slump that lasted for about three months. But then, I have been catching up quite fast, that I surpassed last year total-books-read: 32! I only hope it will continue next year (the record, not the slump).

I'm also aware of  how much varied my reading had been this year. I guess I've found myself a personal formula to enhance the joy of reading. But the thing that makes me proud of myself the most, is that, I managed to review ALL read-books (though maybe few of them are just one paragraph, or a thread in Twitter). Next year, I intend to post reviews of all books (classics or not) here. To that purpose, I will launch a new feature for non classics reads (coming soon!). 

I want also to thank all of you, my friends and fellow bloggers, old and new. The pleasure of blogging is nothing without you!

Last but not least, I will say Au Revoir for now, as this will be my last post for 2022. Happy New Year! πŸ₯³

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

2023 Reading Plan

 


2023 is around the corner, it's time to create a new reading plan (or sort of!). Same like with 2022's, I divide mine into three sections. I will also read some non-classics, and I'm thinking of creating special feature for this. Because I love my blog name and theme, but including non classic reviews into a classic-themed blog seems strange, and I don't feel like creating a second blog, so.. a feature will be a perfect compromise. Anyway, here's the three sections:

  • By Month/Events - I love to read certain genre/author in certain month, but this year I'll limit myself to only several events.
  • By Category 
  • By Author - in line with my Author Challenge, and because certain authors need to be read every few years.


πŸ“š BY MONTH/EVENTS 

JANUARY

I will dedicate this month for #CC Spin, because it seems to be a fun way to kick off the new year.
As you might have known, #CC Spin #32 has picked me:

1. The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy


APRIL

Ladies and gentlemen... I proudly announce that #Zoladdiction will turn 10 in 2023! I have been hosting this beloved event for ten years now, who would believe that? I don't πŸ˜‹ I am still thinking what I should do to celebrate it, any idea? Your suggestions will be warmly welcomed! Maybe you'd like to co-host it with me, just for this special occasion? Don't be shy, just let me know! πŸ˜‰ Official announcement will be published around March.

Anyway, I'm going to read my last unread book of The Rougon-Macquart cycle:

2. Doctor Pascal by Γ‰mile Zola - #Zoladdiction2023




MAY

As per my habit for the last three years, I'll be reading Willa Cather in May. I call it: #CatherInMay. You are welcomed to join me! It will be a silent event, though, just reading and reviewing together. More on this will be posted around April. My book for this event:

3. The Professor's House by Willa Cather - #CatherInMay





JUNE

Laurie @ Relevant Obscurity and I used to dedicate June for #JazzAgeJune, reading books correspond to the the Jazz Age. I haven't discussed this with Laurie, but in the meantime, here it is (more to follow after our discussion):

4. The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald





JULY

July is for any French-related books for #ParisInJuly:

5. Perestroika in Paris by Jane Smiley
6. Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland



OCTOBER

7. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
8. The Hound of Death by Agatha Christie 


DECEMBER

Christmas reads! Will read at least three books (and maybe a novella/short story or two?) for A Literary Christmas:

9. Mistletoe Murders and Other Stories by P.D. James
10.
11.


πŸ“š BY CATEGORY

12. RE-READ: The Ladies Paradise by  Γ‰mile Zola  (tentative)
13. PLAY: The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
14. CHILDREN: Where The Red Fern Grows? by Wilson Rawls 
15. INDONESIAN CLASSIC: Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk (The Dancer) by Ahmad Tohari
16. 18th CENTURY: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
17. 19th CENTURY: Rural Hours by Susan Fenimore Cooper
18. 20th CENTURY: Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
19. NON ENGLISH: The Vicomte de Bragelonne by Alexandre Dumas
20. NON CLASSIC: Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer  (tentative)
21. NON FICTION: All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot


πŸ“š BY AUTHOR

22. EDITH WHARTON: Summer
23. DICKENS: Barnaby Rudge
24. AGATHA CHRISTIE:   Sad Cypress 
25.                                        - Evil Under the Sun
26.                                        - N or M?
27.                                        - The Body in the Library
28.                                        - Five Little Pigs
 

                                                       πŸ“š FREEBIES

29.
30.
31.
32.
33.
34.
35.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Back to the Classics 2022: WRAP UP



Despite of some personal struggles on second half of this year, I have managed to read ALL twelve categories of Back to the Classics 2022 hosted by Karen (Books and Chocolate). Here's the complete list (with some adjustments from the original one):

1. A 19th century classic:
Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim

2. A 20th century classic
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier 

3. A classic by a woman author
A Lost Lady by Willa Cather

4. A classic in translation
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

5. A classic by BIPOC author
The Knight of Maison-Rouge by Alexandre Dumas

6. Mystery/Detective/Crime Classic
Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie

7. A Classic Short Story Collection
For a Night of Love by Emile Zola

8. Pre-1800 Classic
The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

9. A Nonfiction Classic
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

10. Classic That's Been on Your TBR List the Longest
Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens

11. Classic Set in a Place You'd Like to Visit
The Lark by E. Nesbit (English countryside)

12. Wild Card Classic
Evelina by Frances Burney (18th century classic)


I'd like to thank Karen for, once again, hosting this fantastic challenge. It's not been an easy one for me, but somehow I completed it; it makes me so proud of myself!

my contact: vixxiomail [dot] gmail [dot] com

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Merry Christmas! A Literary Christmas 2022: WRAP-UP


First of all, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this year’s jolly season's reading. Thanks abundantly to Tarissa @ In The Book Case for hosting it! I’ve planned to read four books, but end up with five (thanks to Hamlette/Rachel @ The Edge of the Precipice! πŸ˜‰). Click the link to bring you to the reviews!

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron - πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—1/2

It’s just as I have expected. (Very) cozy murder mystery. Witty, with a bit of romances, and packed with Christmas jolly – English Christmas jolly!

 

A Very French Christmas: TheGreatest French Holiday StoriesπŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—1/2

A mixed of some Christmas delights and some not very Christmassy. Some were jolly, but some quite bleak. All in all, a good collection to be devoured with a blanket each night before Christmas!

 

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha ChristieπŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—

It’s a great murder mystery that happened to be committed on Christmas, but it’s definitely not what I’d hope for a Christmas read. There’s just too much blood for the festive seasons!

 

The Christmas Hirelings by MaryElizabeth Braddon - πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—

The perfect Christmas one can ever hope for! Joyful, heartwarming, full of love and forgiveness. 

 

Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine DaviesπŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—

A novella based on 1947's movie; heartwarming and a little inspiring. 

 

And last but not least, I would like to wish you all, from my heart to yours.…


Image by pikisuperstar on Freepik

 

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies


πŸŽ„ Kris Kringle, a kindhearted old man who lives at a senior house, believes himself to be the real Santa Claus. On the other hand, Doris, who works at Macy, is a hardworking sceptical widow who doesn't believe in miracles, let alone Santa Clause. Her only daughter, Susan, also shares her skepticism.

πŸŽ„ Several days before Christmas, Macy needs a 'Santa Claus', and Doris offered the job to Kris, who took it. He instantly becomes a star, Macy's customers loves his genuine kindness and cheerful nature. Kris even brings the Christmas spirit far beyond Macy.

πŸŽ„ However, he also realized that his main mission is to turn Doris and Susan into believers. And it's not an easy thing to do; when a selfish and greedy man turned a nasty obstacle into real impossibility. If he's really Santa Claus, can he do it?

πŸŽ„ As a Christmas story, this novella seems to be an ordinary modern tale about Santa Claus. What makes it special is because this novella is, in fact, an adaptation of a film Davies wrote in 1947, which earned him an Academy Award for Best Story.

πŸŽ„ If the story isn't that special, perhaps the hidden message it conveys is significant. No, it's not just about whether Santa Claus exists or not, it's about letting your heart takes control, together with your brain, in steering your own life. Let it embraces new hopes, and trust it.

πŸŽ„ What about the miracle? Well, miracle happens when you have faith. Because when you do, good things will happen through other people. How it works, nobody knows. But it's not a hocus-pocus thing, it's just believing that things could happen even when you don't have control over it.

Rating: 4 / 5

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Hope Santa Brings This Year


 

I may not do Top Ten Tuesdays hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl very often, but occasionally I can be tempted to do one, like today’s prompt (it’s super easy – I could have done more than ten!)


Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings This Year:


The Cornish Coast Murder (John Bude)


A Merry Christmas (Louisa May Alcott)


Father (Elizabeth von Arnim)


Lucy Gayheart (Willa Cather)


The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival (John Vaillant)


Murder Most Unladylike (Robin Stevens)


The Girl, the Dog, and the Writer in Lucerne (Katrina Nannestad)


Agatha Christie: An Autobiography (Agatha Christie)


Perestroika in Paris (Jane Smiley)


Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World (Mark Aldridge)


 Do you see some favorites here? Books you have read? Or just a few that you are interested in?

Saturday, December 17, 2022

The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon


πŸŽ„ Sir John Penlyon is a wealthy landowner. He became a cantankerous, hard hearted old man after the death of, first, his wife, then his first daughter. His youngest daughter's elopement was only the last straw.

πŸŽ„ His best friend, Mr. Danby, and his niece, Adella, have persuaded him to hire poor but respectable little children to liven up the Christmas at the mansion. An agreement was binding between the parties. Mr. Danby agreed to bring the hirelings, but Sir John should never ask about their background; while Sir John agreed to pay for everything on condition that the children leave the house immediately after Christmas - no strings attached!

πŸŽ„ Three little cute hirelings (a little boy and two little girls) arrive on Christmas Eve. The youngest girl, Moppet, instantly steals Sir John's heart with her sweet precocious nature.

πŸŽ„ Christmas celebration in the mansion is as joyful as one hopes; even Sir John's heart is warming up. But when he becomes quite attached to Moppet, something happens that threatens to take her away from him.

πŸŽ„ This story is the epitome of what true Christmas is about; joyful, heartwarming, love, forgiveness, and the chance to let go of the past, to right the wrongs, to start all over again with open heart.

πŸŽ„ A perfect Christmas read, that I might re-read again and again in the future - maybe as much as A Christmas Carol?...

Rating: 5 / 5

Thursday, December 15, 2022

A Very French Christmas: The Greatest French Holiday Stories

πŸŽ„ A compilation of fourteen Christmas-themed short stories from ten of French most prominent authors, classics as well as contemporary. Old tales as well as modern portrayals of Christmas, are packed into one collection to lift up your holiday spirits. Here are the fourteen stories:

πŸŽ„1. The Gift - Jean-Philippe Blondel
An lonely old man who loathes Christmas, unexpectedly met an old crush during a family Christmas dinner (where he's ignored by the family members), and believed that she was sent by his late wife as his last Christmas gift.

πŸŽ„ 2. St. Anthony and His Pig - Paul ArΓ¨ne
St. Anthony (the Saint himself) tells some children of his temptation story on Christmas Eve. In a vision of lavish pork dishes (black pudding, roast pork and gravy, sausages, etc.), the devil tempted him to kill and cook his only friend, a pig called Barrabas.

πŸŽ„ 3. The Louis d'Or - FranΓ§ois CoppΓ©e
A gambler who's lost all his money on Christmas Eve, found a louis d'or (golden louis) inside a sleeping child-beggar's shoe. He stole it to gamble and won back his money, all the while ensuring himself that he's doing it for the child's sake. An interesting story with a touching ending.

πŸŽ„ 4. Christmas in Algiers - Anatole le Braz
An ex-soldier is reminiscing the Christmas Eve he's spent in Algiers during war, where he was drawn by Arabic chant, and entered a mosque. During the prayer, visions of Christmas in his fatherland and of his lover appeared vividly before his eyes. A story without a plot.

πŸŽ„ 5. The Wooden Shoe of Little Wolff - FranΓ§ois CoppΓ©e
A kindhearted little orphaned boy (Wolff) who is treated wickedly by his aunt and bullied by his rich friends gives his wooden shoe to a barefooted child out of compassion, and must bear his aunt's wrath for that, but what a rewarding ending!

πŸŽ„ 6. Christmas Eve - Guy de Maupassant
A hilarious story of a man who hates Christmas Eve due to an unpleasant event occurred the year before. He invited a stout street girl to supper with him at home. It turns out she's not curvy, but pregnant! She gave birth that night, and the man must bear all the consequences...long after.

πŸŽ„ 7. Christmas at the Boarding School - Dominique Fabre
The title promises a jolly story, but it's not. It's a stream-of-consciousness styled story about mixed-race Senegal boy, Joseph aka Black Jo, whose parents sent him to France due to "events" (what does it mean?) Homesick and doesn't get along with other boys, he's devastated when he can't come home for Christmas.

πŸŽ„ 8. Salvette and Bernadou - Alphonse Daudet
A sad Christmas Eve at the hospital for two wounded infantry: Salvette and Bernadou. Salvette spent his last money to grant Bernadou's wishes of celebrating Christmas with wine and bread... just in time! A sad but sweet story.

πŸŽ„ 9. A Christmas Supper in the Marais - Alphonse Daudet
A seltzer water manufacturer in Marais lives in an old mansion which was formerly HΓ΄tel de Nesmond. On Christmas Eve ghosts of its old time guests arrive with their splendor, partying until morning light creeps upon them. A charming ghost story!

πŸŽ„ 10. A Miracle - Guy de Maupassant
It's a miracle story that happens on Christmas, when a woman was possessed after eating an egg her husband found mysteriously laid on the snow. A priest then celebrated eucharist, and raised the holy communion over the possessed woman until the devil surrendered. Well, it's not an unusual "miracle", and not really Christmassy!

πŸŽ„ 11. I Take Supper With My Wife - Antoine Gustave Droz
A middle aged wife arouses a Christmas spirit long forgotten in her husband by giving him a proper Christmas supper, where they are reminiscing their fifty years of marriage. A sweet little story, written in stream-of-consciousness style.

πŸŽ„ 12. The Lost Child - FranΓ§ois CoppΓ©e
The best story of this collection, of a millionaire banker whose life is centered upon moneymaking, and only realizes that love is much more important than money when his beloved son is lost, then found, on Christmas Eve. Loving and inspiring!

πŸŽ„ 13. The Juggler of Notre Dame - Anatole France
A non-Christmas story of a skillful but ignorant juggler who is devoted to the Holy Virgin, that he becomes a monk. Eager to use his talent to praise the Holy Virgin, he performs his juggling before the altar of the Holy Virgin, to the consternation of the other monks.

πŸŽ„ 14. Noel - IrΓ¨ne NΓ©mirovsky
The last story of this collection is the most poignant of all. It shows how Christmas is celebrated by a disintegrated family with a forced artificial joy. It is written as if we are watching disjointed but chronological snippets from movie scenes. A great warning of Christmas spirit which has sadly faded from our world...

πŸŽ„ My favorite is The Lost Child, it's the only one of the whole collection which connects itself with the real Christmas. The beautiful ending, in particular, is quite heartwarming:

"...I am compelled to attribute this miraculous event to the influence of the Divine child who came down to earth nearly nineteen centuries ago to command men to love one another."

πŸŽ„ On the whole, what a refreshing Christmas read 
this has been!

Rating: 3,5 / 5

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie


πŸŽ„ Despite the title, I wouldn't dream to categorize this book as a Christmas read. In fact, Agatha Christie wrote this in particular to answer a critic who said that her books are too "pristine", they lack of blood. Hence, this bloody murder mystery - a fantastic novel nevertheless - which is happened to be set on Christmas Eve.

πŸŽ„ Simeon Lee is a tyrannical multi-millionaire. He ruled his family with fearmongering. His wife died unhappy, and of his four sons, only Alfred, the meek son, who stays with him and adores him. George left the house, while Harry is the "prodigal son", while David the sensitive boy couldn't forgive his father for making his mother unhappy.

πŸŽ„ This Christmas Simeon Lee invites his children to family reunion with their spouses. His Spanish granddaughter, daughter of his dead child also appears, as well as his longtime friend's son. But it's not for reconciliation, no.. far from it. First he let's them know that he's changing his will, then he triggers their anger in a cunning way. He really knows each son's sensitive weakness, and uses it to mercilessly torture them. To George, the money-lover, he cuts his comfortable allowance. To David, the mother's son, he insults his mother. To Alfred (the first son in the Bible's prodigal son parable), he specifically shows his preference to the prodigal son. And to Harry who boasts his manhood, he reproaches his sons as useless.

πŸŽ„ That night Simeon Lee was killed in his locked bedroom. But before that, he reported to the police that his collection of rough diamonds was stolen. So, is it a theft-outsider murder or a vengeful-insider one? Of course we know it's the latter because - as Hercule Poirot said from the beginning - the character of the victim determines the murderer identity, and the kind of murder itself.

πŸŽ„ All in all, it's a wonderful story. I always love Christie's psychological side in her stories, and this one provides a handful. It reminds me too of the tyrannical matriarch in Appointment with Death. The plot is fantastic, and the twisted ending is a refreshing surprise.

Rating: 4 / 5

Monday, December 12, 2022

The Lucky Spin Number is 6, and The Book Is...

 



CC Spin # 32 has drawn its lucky number: 6. And the lucky book from my list is...


The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy



Honestly, I was hoping to get no. 1 (Rural Hours) or no. 9 (Dandelion Wine). But The Woodlanders is nice too, at least it's not as bulky as Middlemarch! :)) Plus, I'm planning to read a Hardy next year, anyway.

My only concern is that I'll have to read it from my physical book (instead of e-book), and reading a paperback in January isn't perfect for me due to the lack of afternoon light. You see, between daily chores and full time job, I don't have much time left for reading. I can squeeze about an hour each (working) day by reading while commuting, during lunch break (if possible), and before sleep. The problem with January is that here in Indonesia we are in the midst of monsoon season, when it rains often in the afternoon on my way home. And that makes it almost impossible to read a book. Usually I pick books which I can read from my Playbook reader, and that's how The Woodlanders is a tough choice. I can probably switch to the e-book version, but it seems such a waste when I own a paperback copy!

Anyway, I'm still quite excited to start 2023 with Hardy. Maybe I just need to pick a second read from my e-book TBR list to read only in the afternoon, so that I won't waste my reading time. :)

Which book do you get? Are you satisfied with what you get?


Saturday, December 10, 2022

Jane and The Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron #InspiredByClassics


πŸŽ„Jane Austen is famous for her wit and intelligence in her writings. Now imagine, what if she's used those qualities to investigate a murder mystery? That's what Stephanie Barron captured in her "In Being Jane Austen Mystery" series. This Christmas story is the first time I heard about this series, but I loved it, so I might read more in the future.

πŸŽ„ The Austens were invited to celebrate Christmas at the Vyne, home of William Chute, a prominent figure in British politics. By the Austens I meant Jane, her mother, her sister Cassandra, her brother James and his family. Yes, Barron brought the real Austen's family and friends into the story. Not only that, in fact Barron based her story on Jane Austen's letters and journals.

πŸŽ„ It's the year of 1714; Napoleon has been banished to Elba, and John Quincy Adams signed the Treaty of Ghent on Christmas Eve. A messenger was sent to dispatch the treaty, but was killed while staying at the Chutes' while the area was snowbound. Meaning, that the murderer is one of the staying guests. The question is, is it a political murder, or a personal one?

πŸŽ„ It being a cozy mystery, the murder itself only happened after one third of the book. And if you worry lest the Christmas vibes is going to be polluted by the murder, don't be! There's a lot of Christmassy things to be enjoyed despite of the murder. Jane and Cassandra's Christmas presents to their niece, for instance. A beautiful doll and its twelve gorgeous handmade outfits, each submitted in twelve days of Christmas, is perhaps what most girls would ever dream of! And don't forget about the hint of a (promising) romance throughout the story..l. 😘

πŸŽ„ All in all, if you are a fan of Jane Austen, or at least of 18-19th century literature, and in need of cozy mystery with Christmas vibes, then this book is a perfect one. But diehard fans of crime novel might be disappointed by the plot.

Rating: 3,5 / 5

Thursday, December 8, 2022

The Lark by E. Nesbit

πŸ’ The Lark is the last adult novel Edith Nesbit wrote in 1922. It's a charming, delightful, and witty bildungsroman story.

πŸ’ Jane and Lucilla are orphaned cousins who lived in boarding school until they were coming of age. They were supposed to get into a nice income, hitherto managed by their guardian. But the guardian gambled away the money, and so the two young girls must start their independent lives, free from school, with only £500 and a small yet lovely cottage in the village.

πŸ’ Lucilla was disconcerted when they first realized of their predicament, but not Jane. Jane is an optimistic girl, though a bit too imaginative. She believes that "life is a lark", and so it should be how we perceive of life!

πŸ’ The two girls start to earn a living by selling flowers from their little garden. But the garden is soon inadequate for their enterprise. If only they could own the uninhabited mansion house they saw down the road, with a large garden! One day they sneak into the house. Jane fell off the stairs, but luckily a handsome young man who is nephew to the house owner helps her. His name is Rochester. Wait... Jane... and then Rochester? As in... well, you know what I'm talking about, right? Is it a coincidence? I believe not!

πŸ’ The house owner, charmed by the girls' personalities, let them use the garden, which delighted them. The flower enterprise is soon enlarged to a boarding house business.

πŸ’ It's quite delightful to watch the two inexperienced girls entering an adult life with all the blundering, which they try to perceive as an adventure - or as a "lark"!

πŸ’ This book is so refreshing - funny, witty, affectionate, heartwarming. It's hard for not loving and enjoying it. If you love Nesbit's children books, you'll love this one!

Rating: 4,5 / 5

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Classic Club Spin # 32 #CCSpin



UPDATED 

I haven’t done CC Spin for quite a long while, but now I’m more than ready to shake up the beginning-of-year-reading. Let’s do it!

  1. Rural Hours by Susan Fenimore Cooper
  2. The Vicomte de Bragelonne by Alexandre Dumas
  3. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
  4. Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens
  5. Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk (The Dancer) by Ahmad Tohari
  6. The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy
  7. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  8. Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore
  9. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
  10. Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
  11. No Name by Wilkie Collins
  12. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  13. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
  14. Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Moskow by Paul Gallico
  15. The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
  16. Eugenie Grandet by Honore de Balzac
  17. The Scarlett Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
  18. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
  19. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
  20. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston


  • The list consists of books that are on my TBR pile, either in physical or e-books.
  • I have shuffled the chunky and lighter ones, so.. let's hope for the best!
  • Some of them I have intended to read this year, either for reading challenges I’m participating, or for my own reading events/schedule.
  • Some of them have appeared in my previous CC Spin (and didn’t get picked), and few were even entered for last challenges but then I changed my mind (sorry, Middlemarch!)
  • A Room with a View, I have started reading few chapters a couple of months ago, but I guess my mind was too pre-occupied at that time. Anyway, I’m willing to make another trial.

So, whichever gets to be picked, bring it on! I’m crossing my fingers for Rural Hours, though, so hopefully no. 1 will be lucky πŸ˜„!

 

Saturday, December 3, 2022

The Knight of Maison-Rouge by Alexandre Dumas

πŸ‘‘ Dumas did it again! Alexandre Dumas pΓ¨re never failed to bring readers to the 18th century France with its heroic chevaliers, swordplay and romantic scenes, in fast-paced, high adventure historical fictions. This book is no different.

πŸ‘‘ The Knight of Maison-Rouge is related to the Marie Antoinette Romances, though it's not part of the series itself. It is set in 1793, right after Louis XVI's death, in what was known as the Reign of Terror - a series of massacres and public executions to those who were not a fervent followers of the Republic, after the French Revolution. Marie Antoinette was in prison with her children and sister, and some Royalists had been plotting to rescue her, with a mysterious man called le chevalier de Maison Rouge as the mastermind.

πŸ‘‘ Our protagonist is a brave Republican, Maurice Lindey. One night he rescued a beautiful mysterious lady who was found on the street alone after curfew, and caught by the National Guard. Unfortunately his infatuation with the woman unwittingly led him into the Royalists' plot.

πŸ‘‘ Although it is not one of Dumas' best or most known works, this historical fiction offers more than just romance and swashbuckling adventure. It provides a glimpse to the humane side of both parties: the royals with their aristocratic followers, and the Republicans. I loved how Dumas portrayed them equally. There's no good side or bad side, it's how the people treated other human beings that made them who they were.

πŸ‘‘ In this story, Marie Antoinette, for instance, is depicted as a woman - like all other women - with compassion. On the other hand, one of her ardent supporters turned out to be selfish and cruel. The same goes to the Republican side; there are brave patriots like Maurice, who fight for humanity cause, but there are also selfish cowards who pretended to be patriotic, but I think they're just poor people who are jealous of the rich aristocrats.

πŸ‘‘ I liked this book, though not a favorite - a perfect book to bring you out of a reading slump, for sure! πŸ˜„

Rating: 3,5 / 5

Thursday, December 1, 2022

2023 Victorian Reading Challenge


 
Why oh why… whenever you want to restrain yourself from reading challenge, interesting ones always make a way to you! When I found this 2023 Victorian Reading Challenge created by Mrs. Sarah Coller of Belle’s Library, I knew I won’t be able to resist because Victorian books will always appear on my list…any year. So, here we are:


The Rules

*Books published during the Victorian age (1837-1901) are acceptable.
*Books written about the Victorian age are acceptable, no matter what year they were published.
*Stories are not limited to Victorian Britain. Read about what was going on in other parts of the world during this time!

My List:

  1. The Vicomte de Bragelonne: Ten Years Later by Alexandre Dumas
  2. Rural Hours by Susan Fenimore Cooper
  3. Doctor Pascal by Γ‰mile Zola
  4. The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy
  5. Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens

Will you join me?
πŸ˜‰


Monday, November 28, 2022

Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie

🍎 This one is, perhaps, by far, my least favorite of Christie's. The background is promising - a teenage Halloween party in English country village - packed with traditional games like bobbing apple, snapdragon, and many more. That part IS fun, also the appearance of Ariadne Oliver, but not, unfortunately, the murder part.

🍎 Ariadne Oliver, the famous crime writer who also makes her appearance on several others Poirot's mystery, is staying at a friend's in a country village. At a Halloween party prep, Joyce, a 13 y.o. girl blurted out that she'd witnessed a murder years earlier, though at that time she didn't understand what it was. Nobody believed her, though, as she's a liar and boastful girl.

🍎 But at the Halloween party, someone drowned her head in a pail full of water used for the apple-bobbing. A deliberate murder! Does it mean that Joyce did witness a murder after all, frightened the murderer, who then took a huge risk by killing her in the middle of a party? Or she's indeed a liar, and some mad scoundrel just happened to randomly kill her?

🍎 Ariadne Oliver called her friend, Hercule Poirot, to investigate the case. He immediately went through all murder cases that had happened some years earlier, which might have incidentally been witnessed by a little girl.

🍎 There'd be the second murder, of course, and then Poirot would come to a conclusion no one would have ever thought, as usual. So, it should have been one of my favorites, but it's not. I wonder why Hallowe'en Party had felt nothing like Christie's. Poirot seemed to be not his usual arrogant, confident self. He's more often on doubts and relies (too much) on other people's opinion. The whole plot/story also felt somewhat (too) unreal. I don't know, on the whole, it's not my favorite. And it's not the kind of book you'd hope to list as Halloween readings - well, unless what you seek is the British Halloween party vibes...

Rating: 3 / 5

Thursday, November 24, 2022

The 2023 TBR Pile Challenge


TBR Pile Challenge has been one of my favorite challenges, and next year it will turn 10! Congratulations, Adam!


My initial list for The 2023 TBR Pile Challenge:
(it will change along the way, of course, but one must start from something, right?)

  1. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
  2. Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens
  3. Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk (The Dancer) by Ahmad Tohari (Indonesian classic)
  4. Doctor Pascal by Γ‰mile Zola
  5. The Professor’s House by Willa Cather
  6. The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  7. The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy
  8. Summer by Edith Wharton
  9. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  10. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
  11. We Have Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
  12. Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie

Alternates:

  • The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

 To participate in this challenge, just hop to the sign up post.


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

πŸ’Ž Another brilliant piece of work from du Maurier! Although not as magnificent as Rebecca, it's still brilliant.

πŸ’Ž The story is told by one of the most unreliable narrators in literature: Philip Ashley; an orphan who'd been brought up by his cousin: Ambrose Ashley, the owner of a large estate in Cornwall, England.

πŸ’Ž Ambrose is Philip's world; he worshipped him as brother, father, and guardian. They have each other, this two brothers, and Philip will be Ambrose's heir after he turns 25. But their world is shattered the day Ambrose left to Italy, in need of warmer weather. He met a distant cousin, Rachel, a widow in Florence. He was soon infatuated by her, and eventually married her, and stayed in Florence.

πŸ’Ž Ambrose soon fell ill with terrible headaches. His letters to Philip changed tone; he didn't trust Rachel, and even called her his tormentor. At this point Philip, whose hatred toward Rachel has rapidly growing, departed to Florence to save Ambrose. But it's too late, Ambrose's dead and buried in Florence.

πŸ’Ž When Rachel came to Cornwall, Philip has been planning a revenge, since he's sure that Rachel has killed Ambrose. But this spoiled boy, who had nearly no experience in dealing with women before, was soon falling in love head over heels with his cousin Rachel.

πŸ’Ž Now history repeats itself, Philip began to have similar illness to Ambrose, right after his 25th birthday, when he handed over the estate to Rachel and wanted her to be his wife. The question is, did Rachel really poisoned Ambrose (and now Philip) for their money/estate? Or she's merely an impulsive spendthrift woman who loves gardening, and thus keeping a packet of poisonous laburnum tree seeds in her drawer?

πŸ’Ž One of my biggest pet peeves in literature is ambiguous ending. I'd prefer a rounded up story, of which I could either satisfyingly happy or mournfully broken-hearted, so that I can immediately close the book, and move on to next one. An uncertain ending, however, left me uncertained, and it's really annoying. My Cousin Rachel is one of the latter. Du Maurier leave us to guess ourselves whether Rachel is really an evil woman, or it's all just Philip's sentiment because of his jealousy. Remember, we know Rachel only from Philip's perspective, and he's emotional and unreliable, and perhaps on the border of madness (as was Ambrose).

πŸ’Ž On my part, I prefer to conclude that Rachel is not innocent. She's a spendthrift - that's a fact - and her relationship with the lawyer/best friend Rainaldi could not have as innocence as she said it to be. They never talk openly, and always talk in Italian when Philip leaves the room. And the laburnum seed.. why keep it in her drawer? There could have been simple reason, but it's rather fishy, don't you think?

πŸ’Ž All in all, it's rather an appropriate gothic reading, beautifully written. I admired Maurier's tension building and psychological thriller around a mysterious woman (just like in Rebecca), but.. like I said, I hated the inconclusive ending.

Rating: 4 / 5

Friday, November 18, 2022

A Literary Christmas 2022



It’s that time again! Tarissa of In The Bookcase is hosting another A Literary Christmas Challenge – though “Christmas” and “challenge” should not be in one sentence, right? Anyway, I’m joining again, and this year I’m planning (hoping) to read:


A Very French Christmas: The Greatest French Holiday Stories
French and Christmas in one sentence – now, c'est superb! It’s a compilation of Christmas or holiday stories by French writers such as: Guy de Maupassant, Alphonse Daudet, IrΓ¨ne NΓ©mirovsky, and some other contemporary authors.

Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies
A holiday classic and a novella, yum!

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie
It’s not a Christmas reading list without at least one murder mystery, right? And it’s on my list of Agatha Christie Perpetual Reading Challenge anyway, so why not reading it on Christmas?

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron
What if Jane Austen investigates a murder mystery that happened at a Regency-era Christmas party? Delicious prospect, eh?

The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
Another novella which seems to be charming, inspired by Hamlette's review.


Have you also created your Christmas reading list? I’m even thinking of starting my 1st book this month, or as soon as I’ve finished my current readings (two books)! If you want to participate in this event, go directly to the sign up post.

 

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Mrs. Osmond by John Banville #InspiredByClassics

πŸ–€ Mrs. Osmond is none other than Isabel Archer from Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady. Banville wrote this book to imagine Isabel's fate after her marriage with the deceitful Gilbert Osmond, who actually loved other woman (Madame Merle) and only married Isabel for money.

πŸ–€ Mrs. Osmond starts where Portrait ends, thus making it a sort of its direct sequel. Banville's similarity in writing to James' style is also quite uncanny.

πŸ–€ After Ralph's death in Portrait, Isabel was said to be leaving for Rome, returned to her bitter marriage with Gilbert Osmond. But Mrs. Osmond "revealed" to us that she's actually reluctant to return home, and made a detour, instead, to familiar places in England and France, in order to sort out her own predicament and what she would/could do when she must inevitably confront her husband. Would she continue to live unhappily in Rome, or could she secure her freedom, which Ralph has intended to when he left her the inheritance?

πŸ–€ Reading this book reminded me again of how I was drowned to Isabel Archer's personalities while reading Portrait. Her intelligence, her crave for freedom, and her independent way of thinking. But also her pride and sense of duty to others who depended on her, which eventually led her to bitterness. In a way, I share those qualities, and that's why both Portrait and Mrs. Osmond would forever be two of the most memorable readings for me.

πŸ–€ I would love to share Isabel's final decision here, but I think knowing the ending would lose the charm of reading this book. You need to follow Isabel's psychological struggle, moments of doubts, and her courage, to truly understand and appreciate the ending, whatever it might be.

πŸ–€ A marvelous book, one that I'm sure Henry James himself would have approved!

Rating: 4,5 / 5

Saturday, November 12, 2022

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie

πŸ₯Ώ "There are certain humiliating moments in the lives of the greatest of men. It has been said that no man is a hero to his valet. To that may be added that few men are heroes to themselves at the moment of visiting their dentist." - This quote alone might be one reason why One, Two, Buckle My Shoe is quite memorable. It's one of very few times when Poirot ever feels helpless. He seems to be more humane than usual; he's just like us whenever we do have to see the dentist. But for me personally - I'll always remember this book with affection - it's the shoe buckle. I remember that that is Poirot's key clue to solve the murder mystery. And only Poirot (whose appearance is always impeccable - he's a dandy!), who could have paid attention to small details like that.

πŸ₯Ώ So, Poirot's visited Mr. Henry Morley, his dentist. He saw/met several other people at the waiting room, but he's mostly impressed by a foot protruding from a taxi which was just stopped in front of the dentist office, wearing a new but non fashionable leather shoe with a large gleaming buckle. The shoe belongs to a former actress, Miss Mabelle Sainsbury Seale.

πŸ₯Ώ Later after Poirot's visit, Mr. Morley was found dead at the dentist office, shot by a gun he held on his hand. Then one of his patient that day was also found dead, poisoned by overdose anaesthetic. Is Morley's death caused by suicide (after realizing that he'd given an overdose anaesthetic to his patient), or was it a deliberate murder? Mabelle's disappearance later on only helps to further complicate the plot.

πŸ₯Ώ This is one of my favorites from Christie. The ingenious plot and a hint of political influence on the case (the rest of suspects include a fascist, a prominent banker, and a leftist) added to the charm. And don't forget the confusion over a double identity, which Poirot alone can solve, thanks to his attention to small details!

Rating: 4 / 5

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim



✍🏼 Elizabeth von Arnim, neΓ© Mary Annette Beauchamp was born in Australia. But then she married a German Count, and moved to Nassenheide, Pomerania, as Countess von Arnim-Schlagenthin.

✍🏼 Von Arnim wrote Elizabeth and Her German Garden as a mockery to German aristocratic society. It's a semi autobiographical novel, written as a diary of the protagonist, Elizabeth, who was developing a beautiful garden on the estate, though she knew almost nothing about gardening.

✍🏼 I enjoyed the book so much for three reasons: a) At times it's so hilarious, I had often to stifle my laughter while reading in public. b) It talks much about gardening, and though I'm not keen on the subject, I love everything concerning nature. c) I loved most of Elizabeth's unorthodox views on life and tradition, which I can well relate. I quote here some of her entries, which is bluntly honest and hilarious.

“I believe all needlework and dressmaking is of the devil, designed to keep women from study.”

"If you have to have neighbours at all, it is at least a mercy that there should be only one; for with people dropping in at all hours and wanting to talk to you, how are you to get on with your life, I should like to know, and read your books, and dream your dreams to your satisfaction?"

"I never could see that delicacy of constitution is pretty, either in plants or women."

"What nonsense it is to talk about the equality of the sexes when the women have the babies."

"To most German Hausfraus the dinners and the puddings are of paramount importance [...] but, I would humbly inquire, are there not other things even more important? And is not plain living and high thinking better than the other way about? [...] It cannot be right to be the slave of one's household gods, and I protest that if my furniture ever annoyed me by wanting to be dusted when I want to be doing something else, and there was no one to do the dusting for me, I should cast it all into the nearest bonfire and sit and warm my toes at the flames with great contentment, triumphantly selling my dusters to the very next pedlar who was weak enough to buy them. [...] is it not pathetic to find a young woman bravely struggling to learn languages and keep up with her husband?"

✍🏼 It's a short but entertaining novel, and I can't wait to read more of von Arnim. The Enchanted April is next. Maybe next year?

Rating: 4,5 / 5

Saturday, September 3, 2022

The Seagull by Anton Chekhov

The Seagull is my second Chekhov's play. The Cherry Orchard is the first - and I loved it - and that's why somehow I've expected the first would be, at least, as good as the later. Unfortunayely, I was wrong.

First of all, I don't really like Chekhov's style of focusing on indirect speeches, instead of dramatic actions, in this particular play. If you haven't been familiar with it, it's like when someone wanted to tell you that a character is dead, instead of dramatizing the death scene, he would write a dialog (that is supposed to happen a week after, for instance), casually indicating that that character (X) is dead:

A: "I don't know how we would ever complete this task."
B: "I know, after X's death, I can't seem to handle anything."


You know what I mean, right? I believe it's called 'subtext'. I'm not a fan of it. It makes the play somehow seems vague or dreamy. Add that to the fact that The Seagull is a considerably short play, and, as usual, with its confusing Russian's names and nick names. In short, it's a confusing little piece that I can't really grasp the meaning. What's it all about? I have no clue...

What I remember from the play is, there's a playwright (Konstantin), son of a retired actress, who was desperately trying to make his mother proud of his theatrical talent, but failed. His last attempt was writing and producing an unconventional play - play within play - on a built-in outdoor stage. The audience failed to comprehend his ideas - especially his mother who continuously mocked him. The play was stopped midway, and Konstantin stormed out with humiliation.

Then there's multiple love affairs between the characters. Konstantin loves the actress performed at his play, Nina; but the actress loves another writer, whom is also loved by Konstantin's mother. Meanwhile, Masha loves Konstantin, but she eventually married the schoolmaster who loves her. Meanwhile, Masha's mother is having an affair with a doctor. Really confusing, and with the shortness of the play, I couldn't really relate to their feelings, or even to the main characters.

I haven't talked about the seagull itself. It is an important factor in this play, as it is meant to be a symbol of something - which I didn't get to solve. The gull was shot by Konstantin, and he gave it as a gift to Nina, who was horrified by the sight. Maybe Konstantin isn't really a bad playwright, but he's certainly a bad lover!

All in all, it's not an entertaining play, and now I'm wondering whether I should move on to Chekhov's other major plays? Or should I just bailed on him? What would you recommend?

Rating: 2,5 / 5