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

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Au Revoir Paris in July, and Welcome August!

I wasn't in the mood to blog the last week updates on my #ParisInJuly, so this post will cover my activities for the last 2 weeks, which was mainly reading, with only one movie watched. It will also serve as my July reading wrap-up.

BOOKS:

πŸ“• The Girl, The Dog, and the Writer in Provence by Katrina Nannestad - ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2


The girl is Freja Peachtree, a ten year little shy but intelligent and unique girl who spends more time growing up in the nature, and makes friends better with animals than with human.

The dog is Finnegan, an always hungry big dog. It belongs to Tobias Appleby, the writer, a clumsy absent-minded, but kindhearted man, in whose care, Freja was left by her ill mom.

The trio moved to a Provençal hilltop village called Claviers, where an imaginative spirited little boy lives next door, a retired famous pastry chef opens a patisserie, and a charming young woman, Vivi, who steals Tobias' heart, is staying to work as apprentice at the patisserie. (actually..ahem.. that's the main reason of the trio's move to Provence!)

Long story short, it's a charming adventure novel about love, family, and friendship, with Provençal vibes, and a little mystery. A perfect mix for a delicious reading, non?



πŸ“• Toujours La France! : Living The Dream in Rural France by Janine Marsh - ⭐⭐⭐


After finishing the first two book of the series, I was thinking about ending #ParisInJuly with the 3rd book. Wrong idea. This one is less fun than the predecessors. Maybe I should've just stopped at no. 2, and kept this one for next year. I don't know... it's a bit boring. I felt that Janine Marsh has poured out her impressions on this small rural village in northern France in the first two, so that there's almost nothing more to be told, except for some facts or bits and pieces just popped into her mind after the first two've been published.



MOVIES/TV:

🎬 Nothing to Hide (Le Jeu) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Total lunar eclipse. Legend says that when the moon is totally hidden, your sins were washed away. Some old friends are meeting up for dinner with their spouses. To spice things up, they are playing a game where they must put their cell phones on the table, and reveal every call/message they receive during dinner. Awkward things happen when each of their hidden secrets (infidelity 🀫) are out in the open. An intense drama with intriguing topic: "secrets in relationship, hide or no hide?", and a surprising end-twist.


For Tamara and Deb, our two lovely hosts: Merci beaucoup! for hosting #ParisInJuly. It has been a blissful month for me. But for now I must say, au revoir!


πŸ“š What I've Read for Paris in July

πŸ“• My Good Life in France by Janine Marsh
πŸ“• My Four Seasons in France by Janine Marsh
πŸ“• Toujours la France! by Janine Marsh
πŸ“• The Girl, the Dog, and the Writer in Provence by Katrina Nannestad


🎬 Movies/TV Series Watched for Paris in July

πŸ“½ Midnight in Paris (re-watch)
πŸ“½ Stuck Together (8, Rue de l'HumanitΓ©)
πŸ“½ Nothing to Hide (Le Jeu)
πŸ“Ί Standing Up (DrΓ΄le)
πŸ“Ί The 7 Lives of LΓ©a (Les 7 Vies de LΓ©a)


πŸ“š Statistics

πŸ“Š Total books read: 19
πŸ“Š Challenge progress:
* 2022 TBR Pile Challenge: 7
* Back to the Classics Challenge 2022: 8
* 2022 Chunkster Challenge: 1


πŸ“š What's happening in August

With no reading challenge/event to attend to this month, I've decided to pick these two I've been wanting to read:

πŸ“— Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim
πŸ“— Mrs. Osmond by John Banville

What are you most excited for August?

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Four Seasons in France and A Walk in Paris for #ParisInJuly

The second week of #ParisInJuly, and I was celebrating (quietly) le quatorze juillet with these activities:

BOOKS:

πŸ“• My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life by Janine Marsh - ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2


Following the first memoir from Janine Marsh, The Good Life in France, this book tells Janine and Mark's experiences through the year in their old farmhouse in Seven Valleys, a rural village in northern France, in the region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais.

Far from the busy career woman Janine had been before moving to France, she is now busy with her farm life, specially with 3 dogs, 6 cats, 16 ducks, 4 geese, and 17 chickens! A lot of hilarious adventures came with these animals, not mentioning how Janine and Mark named them after celebrities. There is Mariah Carey, the high-pitched-squeal duck, for instance.. Then there are also Brad Pitt and George Clooney, the ducks, and many, many more that always trickle me to chuckles. Each of those animals has its own unique personality, just like their neighbors. After two books, I came to love Jean-Claude, Claudette, and all other kindhearted, but sometimes eccentric, people of Seven Valleys.

Not all of the stories are cheerful, though. I was heartbroken over a tremendous hailstorm that hit their tiny village, causing damages and heartbreaks. For Janine and Mark, especially, whose years of hard works of repairing the dilapidated house has just about to finish. I admired these people's caring and lovely spirits, helping each other, and still find ways to have fun through village events, or picnics, or just an outing to nearby flea markets.

Oh yes, I loved this book better than the predecessor. It's funny, sweet, and warm. It made me considering a quieter but more meaningful life after retirement, or like Janine said: "...shrugged off the cloak of detachment as form of protection to preserve some personal space in a crowded environment (in big cities)."



MOVIES/TV:

πŸ“Ί The 7 Lives of LΓ©a (Les 7 Vies de LΓ©a)
1 season, 7 eps ⭐⭐⭐



A fantasy drama about a girl (LΓ©a), who found the remaining body of a young man who died years ago, a school friend of her mother and father. And for seven consecutive mornings after that, LΓ©a awakes in seven different bodies of people in year 1990, while she tries to solve the intricate mystery surrounds the man's death. A thought-provoking thriller!

🎬 Stuck Together (8, Rue de l'HumanitΓ©) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Paris. Covid-19. Lockdown. Residents of an apartment building. Stuck together. There.. you can conclude what this comedy is about. It is hilarious, but sweet and heartwarming at the same time.



OTHER FRENCH THINGS

🚢‍♀️A Walk in Paris - a YouTube channel which brings us to take a stroll around a certain area in Paris with him. No commentary, no music, just walking and absorbing the city's dynamic spirit. I picked a walk in Le Marais area (34 mins), and then another along the Seine (26 mins). Now I'm tired after an hour stroll πŸ˜›, so... Γ  la semaine prochaine!

What about you? What've you been doing for #ParisInJuly so far?

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Memoir of Expats in France Rural Village and Other French Things for #ParisInJuly

I've been having a great time for the first week of July, "transporting" myself to France most of the time, thanks to #ParisInJuly! Here's what I've been doing so far:

BOOKS:

πŸ“• My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream by Janine Marsh - ⭐⭐⭐⭐


It's a memoir of a Londoner couple, Janine and Mark, who once visited France, had a coup de foudre with its rural village life, and decided to emigrate. Janine had a nice career in London, promising a secured high position. But that one trip she took, one afternoon, to buy wine for his grieved-father, unexpectedly brought her to sightsee some cheap farm houses in the rural Seven Valleys area in Pas de Calais, in northern France. One dilapidated house (used to be old barn), in particular, struck a cord in her heart. Several months later, Janine and Mark bought the house, left their comfortable metropolis life in London, to live a good life in rural France. Of course, starting new life in new country with different culture and lifestyle isn't easy; let alone in a quiet nowhere, with a rundown house.

This book is the first of a series of three (so far), focusing more on Janine and Mark's struggle to make their house habitable, learning social etiquette in France, and introduction to their neighbors. For a Francophile, this book is trully delightful, because it gives you insights about many towns or even small villages near Seven Valley, such as Montreuil-sur-Mer or Hucquelieres - what treasure one would find there, and sometimes even the name of the flea market or cafe worth a visit - which otherwise you would probably not know as tourists.

I also learned some fun facts about French people. For instance, how they like to kiss on the cheek, but not hug; that they are usually friendly even towards strangers - always greet you with "bon jour"; or that one of the most famous colors for kitchen is yellow - inspired by Monet's kitchen in Giverny! And I just found out about how easy it is to dump rubbish in France (there is the dΓ©chetterie: the municipal rubbish dunp). Here in Indonesia, you must pay someone (usually the workers) to dump the rubbish for you.

All in all, this is just a perfect book about something I love dearly: France. I love the way Janine wrote it, light, cheerful, humorous, not overdramatic, and you can feel the French vibes, as if you're there yourself. Now I can't wait to read the next book!


MOVIES/TV:

πŸ“Ί Standing Up (DrΓ΄le)
1 season, 6 eps ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Comedy series about young stand-up performers, struggling to start career from a comedy club called: DrΓ΄le. It's created by Fanny Herrero (who also created Call The Agent!)

🎬 Midnight in Paris (re-watch) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


SONGS:

🎢 Stacey Kent's album "Raconte Moi"
🎢 Some random Paris playlists in YouTube


OTHER FRENCH THINGS

🍽 1st time eating French Onion Soup (canned, "Baxters")



What about you? What've you been doing for #ParisInJuly so far?

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Waving June Goodbye, and What I'm Most Anticipating in July

June and July are the coolest months here where I live, so those are always my two favorite months of the year. It usually reflects on my reading mood.. no, my whole mood, too. I've had less and less "meltdown" these days, though life is still not easy yet, but one's just have to live through, right? I've had a fun reading - finishing Evelina, and then started on Flappers and Philosophers, which proved to be my most favorite short story collection. I guess the Jazz Age vibes helped a little? And of course, the anticipation of #ParisInJuly lifted up my spirits. How about you? Did your June turned out to be successful too?


πŸ“š What I've Read in June

Flappers and Philosophers by F. Scott Fitzgerald for #JazzAgeJune. Scott Fitzgerald is, indeed, the king of short story AND the writer who always explore the most fabulous Jazz Age vibes!

The Seagull by Anton Chekhov, on the other hand, was a flop. I've read The Cherry Orchard years ago, and loved it. It's not cheerful, of course, but at least had a good plot. I've expected The Seagull to be similarly melancholy-nice too, but I was disappointed. It's... weird. 'Till now I still couldn't grasp what it's all about. You'll see more in my review around next week.

Statistics

πŸ“Š Total books read: 15
πŸ“Š Challenge progress:
* 2022 TBR Pile Challenge: 7
* Back to the Classics Challenge 2022: 8
* 2022 Chunkster Challenge: 1

πŸ“š What's happening in July

One of the most anticipated bookish events: Paris in July! And not about reading too. I plan to read these 3 books (all non classics):
πŸ“• My Good Life in France by Janine Marsh 
πŸ“• My Four Seasons in France by Janine Marsh
πŸ“• The Girl, the Dog, and the Writer in Provence by Katrina Nannestad

Let's say I'm taking a break from reading classics, and having a vacation in Paris for the whole month.

Au revoir!

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Flappers and Philosophers by F. Scott Fitzgerald

πŸ”΅ If you've been following my latest blog posts, you'd notice that I had shrunk before from reading this short story collection for #JazzAgeJune2022. I was daunted, at first, by my bulky Penguin Classics copy - 643 pages and, uh, so many stories (it's pictured in this post; gorgeous, isn't it? Probably the most gorgeous book I've ever owned!) However, browsing on google I realised that my copy isn't the Flappers and Philosophers originally published in 1920, which contained only eight stories, 200-ish pages only! And of those eight, only three stories appeared in my copy. So, I decided to keep reading Flappers and Philosophers as I've originally planned, but reading it from the original version - for which I reluctantly bought another e-copy from Play Books.

πŸ”΅ Readers, it's totally worth it! The eight stories are all awesome, and I think this is the first time that I enjoyed a short story collection this much! Each story is memorable and worth reading (usually there will be at least one or two 'meh' stor(ies) in a collection that throws off the whole book).

πŸ”΅ I will discuss about each story here, so be prepared, 'cos this would be a long post... The first one, The Offshore Pirate reminds me a lot of The Great Gatsby. The prominent theme is the American Dream. Just like Jay Gatsby, Carlyle started off in the world as poor nobody, but he was obsessed with aristocracy. To obtain it, he becomes a pirate. Ardita, on the other hand, is a wealthy young girl who is bored and craved for excitement. She is on board of the yacht that Carlyle is about to rob. This story is about the young generation who was lazy, careless, egostic; whose monomania is to get rich instantly without caring of morality. It's also about the fading away of a dream... Overall, it's a delicious story to start a book! I enjoyed the ragtime and the adventurous sea journey vibes. And when a story begins with "a sea that was a blue dream, as colorful as blue-sky stockings, and beneath a sky as blue as the irises of children's eyes"... why, I'm sold instantly! This is actually one of my favorites, the most adventurous one.

πŸ”΅ Still on quite similar theme, The Ice Palace tells about a young girl, Sally Carol, who, bored with stagnant and lazy air of the hot Southerner, but longed to get excitement, engaged to a Northern young man, who brought her to his hometown in the cold North. They visited the Ice Palace, where Sally Carol got lost and almost frozen to death. And that experience kinda open her eyes of what she really wanted. This story is the most thrilling of all eight.

πŸ”΅ The funniest story is definitely the third one: Head and Shoulders. Horace Tarbox is a young prodigy of Princeton. However, his much predicted bright future changed 180 degree after a dancer, Marcia Meadows, comes to visit him one evening. This one is extremely entertaining and hilarious, witty and ironic. And I believe, only Fitzgerald who could bring it so perfect.

πŸ”΅ Don't laugh too much, though, because right after the last sentence of the third story, Fitzgerald plunged you to the most serious and tragic story of the book: The Cut-Glass Bowl. A newlywed couple, Harold and Evylyn Piper, received a large cut-glass bowl as wedding present. Their marriage was hit by disaster after disaster, which somehow, were always connected with the cut-glass bowl. I think Fitzgerald has wonderfully portrayed marriage in the wedding presents metaphor. The chinas, punch bowls are all beautiful at first, but sooner or later things would happen that would defect them; just as marriage. "...even the dinner glasses disappeared one by one like the ten little niggers.." - hey, did Fitzgerald just borrowed the same nursery rhymes that Agatha Christie also used for And Then There Were None?

πŸ”΅ Bernice Bobs Her Hair is the most "feminine" story of the book (I think it's also appears in Tales of the Jazz Age). It tells the story of Bernice, a mixed-race rural young girl who visited her cousin, a popular girl in the city named Marjorie. Bernice isn't popular with the boys at first, but after successful lessons from Marjorie, she begins to be center of attention; however, not without consequences. Jealous of Bernice, who attracted even Marjorie's beau, Marjorie challenged her to bob her hair. Girls' hair is considered to make a girl feminine and innocence. Bobbing hair means that the girl will lose certain qualities that attract men. Now I understand why Daisy in The Great Gatsby wanted her daughter to be a fool, "a beautiful little fool", because that's a guarantee to get a good husband, and good husband means good future. This might be one of my least favorites of the collection.

πŸ”΅ Benediction brings you yet another aspect of 1920s youths. I guess Fitzgerald's Catholic upbringing must have had influenced this story. On the way to a love tryst with a young man, Lois (not a devot Catholic) visits a seminary to meet her brother Kieth, who is to be ordained as priest. While attending a Benediction in the chapel, Lois experiences a kind of spiritual change. Not a very interesting plot for a story, perhaps, but it gives Fitzgerald opportunity to discuss the 1920s youths' views of religion.

πŸ”΅ Dalyrimple Goes Wrong is the opposite of its predecessor. It's about a war veteran, Dalyrimple, a lazy and immoral young man, who contemplated that to make ends meet, "cutting corners" or being "at the other side of the fence" is not wrong. It's just of "being hard" in order to have a better life. But is it so? This one, I think, is the most boring of the collection.

πŸ”΅ Now, I believe that to be a good short story collection, the last story must at least act as some sort of closure of the various themes presented through out. In this case, The Four Fists did a good job. Samuel Meredith comes from a wealthy family, and growing up, he always lives a comfortable life. Unconsciously, that quality can easily make a person to be arrogant and selfish - two characters that lead to evil. Samuel was nearly there too, but he's saved by the four punches he'd received during his life; in school, in college, when he's falling in love with a married woman, and the last, at work. Each of these punches wakes him up from selfishness, and steer him to be more considerate to others.

πŸ”΅ All in all, I felt that this is a beautifully written, cohesive short story collection, depicted the Flappers (careless youths) of its time, but also a reminder that youths also had choices to be "on the right side of the fence". Flappers and philosophers seems to be a yin and yang of the Jazz Age era.

Rating: 5 / 5

Monday, June 20, 2022

Paris in July 2022


Paris in July is back again this year! As a Francophile, it's one of my most favorite reading events of the year. This time Tamara @ Thyme for Tea will collaborate with Deb @ Readerbuzz to host the event. For you who are not familiar with it, here are what's going to happen during the month:


The aim of the month is to celebrate our French experiences through reading, watching, listening, observing, cooking and eating all things French!
There will be no rules or targets in terms of how much you need to do or complete in order to be a part of this experience – just blog about anything French and you can join in! Some ideas might include;

  • reading a French themed book – fiction or non-fiction,
  • watching a French movie,
  • listening to French music,
  • cooking French food,
  • experiencing French, art, architecture and travel
  • tasting French wine, or testing French cocktails
  • celebrating le quatorze juillet or Bastille Day

And here are what I'm planning to do:

Books

I will take a month break from classics, and will have fun with these contemporary books - fiction and non fiction:

* My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream by Janine Marsh
* The Girl, the Dog, and the Writer in Provence by Katrina Nannestad
* My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life by Janine Marsh

My plan is to read book-1 and 2, and if I really like book-1, then I'll go on to book-3. If not, I'll perhaps grab another book.


Movies/TV Series

For months I have added some French TV series into my Netflix "My List", and Paris in July 2022 would the best event to binge watch them all. Here're some from the list that I will choose from later (I might only watch 2-3 from them - any suggestion?):

TV Series
* The 7 Lives of Lea (supernatural thriller)

      * Standing Up (comedy about comedians)
* The Hook Up Plan (romance)
* A Very Secret Service (comedy)

Movies
* Midnight in Paris - of course, I have to re-watch this one every year, because I love Paris, but especially Paris in the 1920s!
* Stuck Together (comedy)

Other French Things To Do...

* Recently I love a YouTube channel: A walk in Paris. It's basically a video where a Parisian takes a walk in certain area. Watching it makes me calm, and I feel like taking the walk myself. I'd do more of it during the month!
* Listening to some French music? Maybe...

It would be full of fun, I can't wait!! :)

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Evelina by Frances Burney

♦️ Evelina, or A Young Lady's Entrance into the World is the complete title of this epistolary novel by a 18th century female British author: Frances Burney. This is my first time reading Burney, and I guess I'd like to read more of her. Though, like any other 18th century literature, Burney's flowery sentences often overwhelmed me, I enjoyed her witty satire very much.

♦️ Evelina can be considered a "half" orphaned girl. Or what would you call a girl whose mother has been denied by her husband (Sir Bellmont), and who then died after giving birth to her (the girl); while the father has never owned her, and so she was raised and educated by a village Reverend?

♦️ This story starts when Evelina's grandmother (her mother's mother) came to claim her. She brought Evelina - until then being sequestered under the Reverend's protection - out in the society; the opera, dinner parties, and what not. You can imagine how she made foolish blunders after blunders, especially in handling young men's attentions.

♦️ There are two particular young men who would take an important influence on Evelina - and kind of shape her future. The one is Sir Clement Willoughby, a boisterous, impertinent young nobleman who pesters Evelina wherever she goes, and forces her to love him. The other is Lord Orville, a charming, polite, and a truly gentleman, whom Evelina sees as a perfect character. And of course, it is this young lord who steals Evelina's gentle and kind heart.

♦️ Most of the chapters seem to be dedicated to tell us how the smitten Evelina, a high educated young woman, is ashamed of the shallow people with whom she is forced to associate with, and tries hard to conceal it from Lord Orville. But circumstances always plunge her to the worst incidents, right when Lord Orville is around to witness it. And that's what make the story more interesting.

♦️ These series of blunders was at first felt tedious to me, but along the way I quite enjoyed the hilarious comical scenes, particularly when I have got used to the tedious sentences.

♦️ It is interesting to learn about society mechanism in 18th century. I was confused, particularly, by the letter from Lord Orville that Evelina thought is impertinent, that she feels thoroughly insulted. I read it twice, and found nothing's wrong. I thought it's over-sensitivity on Evelina, but later on the Reverend has also the same opinion. I guess written communications are more intriguing because we can't hear the "tone", and just have to "read between the lines" to measure the exact sentiment that the writer means to convey. One thing I would've loved to keep from the 18th century is the art of correspondence!

♦️ Overall this is a very enjoyable novel, but only when you read slowly, savoring every passage. Otherwise, it's be just a bunch of tedious letters.

Rating: 4 / 5

Saturday, June 11, 2022

A Lost Lady by Willa Cather


πŸ‘’ The lady suggested by the title is a Mrs. Marian Forrester, wife of Captain Forrester, a noble pioneer of a prairie town called Sweet Water. She is an exceptional woman with elegant beauty and lively spirits; gracious, warm, and kind. People respect the couple, and the boys, in particular, always praises Mrs. Forrester.

πŸ‘’ One of the boys who grows up idolizing Mrs. Forrester is Niel Herbert. It is from his point of view that we witness her gradual social decline, which, at the same time represents that of the American West frontier, amidst the rising of industrial capitalism.

πŸ‘’ At first I thought Niel is falling in love with Mrs. Forrester, but it turns out that it is only what she represents that charmed him: elegance, dignity, and nobleness of a lady. How sad he becomes when first witnessing Mrs. Forrester's love affair with Frank Ellinger, and later on, Ivy Peters, the coarse, vulgar businessman.

πŸ‘’ Mrs. Forrester wants to reach the glorious past which she missed, and to achieve that, she is ready to sacrifice her own self. Morality, dignity, are not important anymore, but that vague and glittering thing - the American Dream!

πŸ‘’ And that's essentially what this novel (novella?) is about. It is a dreamy, poetic, and charming story of the glorious past, on the brink of modernization. It has the similar quality of The Great Gatsby - in fact, Fitzgerald himself owned that this book was his great inspiration for The Great Gatsby.

πŸ‘’ As always, Cather never disappoints me; her writing is calming and beautiful. It's another of my favorites.

Rating: 5 / 5

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie


πŸ–€ I don't think this is a book which many of you will be interested to read what I thought about. It seems that at some points, everyone has read this one of Christie's masterpieces, at least once. Or have you never read it? Then you should! If you only plan to read only a few from Christie, pick this as one of them.

πŸ–€ As for myself, this is probably my fourth reading, so I doubt I could add anything new to write, but as I always write about what I read..., here we go...

πŸ–€ I won't put a proper synopsis here, for most of you might have known the story already. But for those who haven't, it's about ten strangers who are invited to spend holidays in a deserted island (Indian Island), where one by one was mysteriously murdered, to the last person standing.

πŸ–€ It seems like a usual crime story, but what makes it outstanding, is how Christie crafted it in a dark, superstitious, looming-danger atmosphere, that will send chills down your spine during the entire reading. That aspect, perhaps, is what makes it so beloved by fans, and gives it title as one of the best mystery novels ever written.

πŸ–€ As I have read it many times before, the whodunnit aspect gave me less thrill than for first time reader. I didn't care whether the murderer is one of the ten, or perhaps an 'invisible' stranger on the island. I know who the murderer is, I know who would die next, and how. This time I was focusing more on the psychological aspect of each character, and more importantly, how Christie crafted her ingenious plot without, for once, revealing the murderer. Considering the motive - which was revealed on the guests' first night on the spot - we should have easily guessed which one has the most interest, and therefore, the most probable murderer. But I bet many of you, like me, can't! 🀭 And that only highlighted Christie's admirable genius.

πŸ–€ I believe this might be my last reading of this book, as I have feeling that this book's charm will keep fading on every further rereads I'd do in the future. And hence this post/review. Let me just remember Christie's genius which, years ago, has once given me one of the best reading experiences I'd ever had in my life.

Rating: 4,5 / 5

Sunday, May 29, 2022

May Wrap-Up, What's Next for June

First of all, I would like to thank all of you who have left encouraging comments to my last month post. I've read every single one of them, and I'm really, deeply touched by your attention and support! I'm sorry I couldn't make myself responding to your comments, but I really appreciate it. Thanks! πŸ’

How am I doing now, you might wonder? Apparently, May has brought new challenge for our family. On top of my father's Parkinson's and osteoporotic spinal pains, he has caught a Herpes Zooster. It's a terrible blow, not only on my father, but also my mother and me. But we have to keep going, right?

I was so afraid of going down the mental exhaustion again, that I must find ways to numb my mind and emotion whenever I was idle. Reading didn't give me the expected result, so I turned to Netflix. It worked! I've binge-watched The Good Doctor (5 seasons), Heartland (seasons 14 and 15), Downton Abbey (re-watching the whole 6 seasons, anticipating its rumored of leaving Netflix soon), and re-watching season 6 of When Calls the Heart. I have also been watching season 13 of Masterchef Australia on youtube. Reading? Of course I still read, but not much.

Now I'm looking forward to June. This is always my favorite month of the year, because the air will be cooler, but not too windy. Time to do reading by the window again! (that's the picture of me reading, above).

πŸ“š What I've Read in May

Following your advises in the comments, I have finished my slowl reading of Cather's A Lost Lady (❤ it!). I'm also having been through half of Frances Burney's Evelina (quite enjoyable, though sometimes boring). Reviews will follow soon.

What about you? How's your May reading? Were you having fun?


Statistics

πŸ“Š Total books read: 12
πŸ“Š Challenge progress:
* 2022 TBR Pile Challenge: 5
* Back to the Classics Challenge 2022: 8
* 2022 Chunkster Challenge: 1

And so, I am now ready to face the new month!


πŸ“š What's happening in June

I will continue on reading the last half of Evelina, of course.


And I think I will keep #JazzAgeJune going, though I can't make my mind on what to read yet. I don't feel like having too much Fitzgerald's short stories right now. Maybe I'd pick Wharton's Twilight Sleep instead. And combine it later with a few of Fitzie's shorties? Hmm...
By the way, you are welcomed to join me in #JazzAgeJune if you want to.

After that I'd perhaps need a play for a change. A Chekhov's would be nice. The Seagull perhaps?

What about you? Do you have plans for June reading?

Thursday, May 26, 2022

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff


✍🏼 This book is probably the best non-fiction-feel-like-fiction books I've ever read so far. In the middle of the reading, I had actually googled it to make sure that the story had really happened in real life, and not a fictional account of a historical event. And it surely is 100% real.

✍🏼 Helene Hanff is an American aspiring writer who loved to read classics or rare books. In 1949, four years after World War II ended, access to rare books was limited. In this condition, Helene wrote a letter of purchase order to a British out-of-print book store: Marks & Co., located in 84, Charing Cross Road, London - a correspondence which lasted in twenty years.

✍🏼 And so this book is a compilation of these correspondences, consisting of Helene's and the bookstores staffs' letters, for over twenty years. And what is amazing and beautiful about it, is that those letters were not only of business issues; they also developed into a warm friendship, not only between Helene and Frank Doel, the corresponding staff, but also with other staffs.

✍🏼 The friendship was even far exceeding the literary matters, which, along the way, felt less and less important. They started telling stories about themselves, sometimes funny, but often touching. Learning about food shortages in Britain as the aftermath of WWII, Helene sent Frank Doel and other staffs food parcels, often during special occasions like Christmas, which delighted them very much.

✍🏼 During those twenty years, everyone became good friends, and we, as readers, witness the most touching and inspiring acts of humanity, only by reading their letters.

✍🏼 It's really a wholesome book to read - light but at the same time, deep. And of course, there are tons of literary discussions and classic books mentions, which are equally delightful for classics fans like me.

Rating: 5 / 5

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Zoladdiction 2022 & April Wrap Up, Reading Plans for May


For me personally, April seems to come and go in one swing. I got quite a severe mental exhaustion during the first half of the month. I didn't know what it was at first, but lately I had been easily irritated, which then grew into cynicism and violent thoughts. I was pretty scared for my health, so I googled it, and found that they are symptoms of mental exhaustion.

While removing the cause (as suggested by some articles) is impossible, I have resolved to make some changes to make my current life more balanced. The long and short of it is that I decided to pick only cozy readings and losen my reading challenges for a while. First step is to discard Zola's L'Assommoir (I know the ending too well, and it's not good for me at this moment) which I've intended for #Zoladdiction2022, and replace it with some light and comfort books; books that I really want to read.

Second step, I'm reducing my blogging time, and only focusing on what matters most: my fulltime work, caring for my Parkinson's father, and the never-ending household stuffs. I thank you all who have joined me in #Zoladdiction2022. I have done my best to retweet or tweet your posts, but I might not be able to read them, let alone leaving comments. Please don't feel me rude if I don't respond to some of your comments on this blog. I would love to keep reading your comments, though (I'd feel less stressful to know that there're people out there who still care for me 😊), but I also understand that some of you might feel unproductive to comment on inactive blog. It's perfectly understandable, don't worry about me. I wish I could say how long this will happen, but I can't, and so, for the time being I'll just read for leisure, and blog about it whenever I feel like it. (Painting: Woman Reading on Couch by Michael Shane Neal, 1968)


πŸ“š What I've Read in April

For a Night of Love is my first (and only) book for #Zoladdiction2022. I read it right before the mental exhaustion took over me. It's so-so, but short story has never been my cup of tea anyway.

While cancelling off L'Assommoir, I've been thinking what book should I read next, when I stumbled upon this book on Twitter: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. I googled it, and the premises of an elderly club in a senior house investigating murder, intrigued me right away, that I immediately bought an e-copy, and read it. It was entertaining - a little humorous, but a little sentimental too.

Next I picked a newly arrived book order - another warm and cozy read which I enjoyed very much: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (review will follow soon). And it is perfect to replace Bhagavad Gita, which I've picked earlier for Non Fiction entry for Back to the Classics 2022. Splendid!

My last April read is: Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None (review will also follow). It's my third of fourth read, so there's not much I can add, other than Christie's neat and genius plot (which, I'm sure, many of you have realized too).

What about you? How's your April reading? Were you having fun?


Statistics

πŸ“Š Total books read: 11
πŸ“Š Challenge progress:
2022 TBR Pile Challenge5
Back to the Classics Challenge 20227
2022 Chunkster Challenge1

And so, I am now ready to face the new month!


πŸ“š What's happening in May


I've decided to keep my seasonal reading of Willa Cather or #CatherInMay on. A Lost Lady is my pick.

I will also keep my original plan of 18th century reading for 2022, and am now reading: Frances Burney's Evelina, or, A Young Lady's Entrance into the World. I love it so far, a comical satire of inexperienced young girl among the English society.

I think both books will be enough to amuse me during the whole month.

Do you have plans for May reading?

Monday, May 2, 2022

For a Night of Love by Γ‰mile Zola


πŸ’œ For a Night of Love is a collection of three stories with one similar theme: love. But, this is from Zola, so don't expect anything romantic - it's far from it! πŸ˜„

πŸ’œ Title of this collection is lent by the first story, which is also the longest - it might have been between short story and novella: For a Night of Love (Pour une nuit d’amour). It tells a story of a shy and unattractive young post office clerk, Julien, who lives in a small flat, and loves to play tunes in his flute. Opposite his flat is a large building occupied by a wealthy family with a beautiful daughter. Julien often watches her from his window, plays his flute for her, and eventually falls in love with the girl. But the girl, ThΓ©rΓ¨se, usually ignores him. One day she throws him kisses from her window, and summons him to come; not out of love, apparently, but to help her getting rid of the dead body of her lover.

πŸ’œ This first story sets the tone of the whole book - or at least the first two stories - which is the excessive crave to be loved.

πŸ’œ Nantas is the title of the second story, but also the name of its protagonist. He's a poor but intelligent young man with huge ambition, who comes to Paris to reach his dream, but desperately unsuccessful. On the brink of committing suicide, someone offers him a huge sum of money to marry a prominent young girl who is pregnant from a married man. He accepts the "business proposal", makes himself the most powerful man in France, but is unhappy because his wife doesn't return the love he eventually comes to feel for her. This one is my favorite from the the three stories. It is written superbly, and the ending is quite unpredictable.

πŸ’œ The last story is rather anticlimactic and rather out of theme. Fasting is about religion hypocrisies. In a church, a baroness seems to be fascinated while listening to her favorite priest's sermon about fasting - except that she is struggling to stay awake. The priest, on the other hand, seems to be preaching earnestly about fasting - except that all he's thinking all the while is going to a concert and having dinner with a countess. It's rather a funny satire, which talks nothing of love. Or, maybe, this whole thing is not meant to be about romantic love after all, but more about unsatiable desire, Zola's main topic in most of his other books.

πŸ’œ I am never a fan of short stories, as I always find them lacking of depth. They are usually sharp, yes, but it's like when a thorn is pricking your finger - you definitely feel the pain, but an hour later you won't feel anything, and would completely forget the incident. Though I appreciate Zola's brilliant writing in this collection, I still think his novels are much better.

Rating: 3,5 / 5

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Murder is Easy by Agatha Christie


πŸ’š I've said this a couple of times before: reading Agatha Christie for the 1st time when I was a teenager has changed forever my perception on good vs evil. It's also struck me that it's so easy to commit a murder - so easy that what one need is, apparently, only the decision itself. Most of Christie's novels proved this. But this one: Murder is Easy, seems to highlight it.

πŸ’š There have been some "incidents" that led to deaths in the village of Wychwood for the last several months. Everyone took them as natural - everyone except Lavinia Pinkerton, an old intelligent spinster, who'd remind you to Miss Marple.

πŸ’š Miss Pinkerton had noticed a peculiar look everytime the murderer (a respectable personage in the village) looks at someone. Then that someone will be found death from some sorts of accident not long after that. She can't report it to the local police because no one would believe her, so she decided to go to the Scotland Yard.

πŸ’š On the train to London, Miss Pinkerton confided her purpose to a symphatetic retired police officer: Luke Fitzwilliam, who first took it as an old woman's babbling. But when he read in the newspaper the death of a doctor, whom Miss Pinkerton said would be killed next, and followed by the spinster's own deadly accident, he smell something fishy, and decided to investigate it.

πŸ’š So, is murder that easy? Yes, if you are a respectable person with blameless character whom no one suspects you; clever and lucky enough to make it look like accidents; and mad enough that conscience won't get you! That's the murderer in this book. Unfortunately, the madness aspect isn't revealed until the last chapter, and that provides a nice plot twist in the end.

πŸ’š This book is categorized under "amateur detective", though Luke Fitzwilliam isn't that good, considering he's a retired police officer. Superintendent Battle made his appearance too, but only as an insignificant cameo.

πŸ’š Overall, as a crime novel, this  is an okay one. It won't ranked on the top list of my favorites, but I still loved it for the English rural village vibe, and a pinch of straightforward romance between the main characters.

Rating: 4 / 5

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

March Wrap Up & Zoladdiction in April


While March is rolling on towards the end, my life in general is a little bit calmer than before. This month I have managed to read three books (which is a bit productive for me), and one of them was a solid five star! (Painting: credit to centuriespast.tumblr.com)


πŸ“š What I've Read in March

I originally picked Go Tell It on the Mountain for March, but changed my mind after reading the synopsis. I thought it's too depressing for my mood, and so opted for something more 'colorful and spicy' - if you know what I mean. Scanning my bookshelves, my eyes finally rested on Wharton's The Custom of the Country. That would be perfect, thought I. And it was!! I loved it immensely. I think it's the best book to read right before the upcoming Zoladdiction. Why? You'll find the answer in my review.

The buddy read of Orang-Orang Bloomington was rather fun (reading with others is always fun), though the book was too gloomy for my present mood. Nevertheless, I'm quite happy for having read it at last.

Last book I've just finished is another Agatha Christie - the second of this year - Murder is Easy. It's a reread, though I remembered nothing from the 1st read. It's another story in the 'amateur detective' line, and although I won't classify it with Christie's great novels, I enjoyed the little village atmosphere with the usual mixture of local doctor, major or colonel, and a spinster. Its end twist also adds another nice element to make it a perfect round up reading experience. (Review will follow).

What about you? How's your March reading? Were you having fun?


Statistics

πŸ“Š Total books read: 7
πŸ“Š Challenge progress:
* 2022 TBR Pile Challenge: 4
* Back to the Classics Challenge 2022: 3
* 2022 Chunkster Challenge: 1

And so, I am now ready to face the new month!


πŸ“š What's happening in April




Zoladdiction 2022 is coming!! I feel awful, though, that I didn't work much to arrange or promote the event. But nowadays I'm constantly feeling exhausted and need more and more time to recover, and reading is my only solace. Maybe reading quietly is the best approach at present.

For Zoladdiction I will reread my second favorite of Zola's Rougon-Macquart series: L'Assommoir. After about ten years, it's exciting to see my impression on this second read.

Zola's short story collection will be my second entry for Zoladdiction. I picked For a Night of Love, rather than

The Attack on the Mill
 which was my original choice, as the latter I've found too dark for my present mood (the first is much shorter too! :P )

If you are interested to read Zola next month, you are welcomed to join us in Zoladdiction 2022. Here's the announcement post for more info and details.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton


πŸ”Ά️ I always believe that Edith Wharton is the female Γ‰mile Zola, in terms of the Naturalism movement in her writing. This remarkable novel, The Custom of the Country, is the perfect proof of it. Not that Wharton is less in writing quality compared to Zola, but because she applied the naturalism theme in a more subtle way, while Zola was more ferocious.

πŸ”Ά️ Why makes me think that The Custom of the Country is the perfect proof? How about Wharton's other famous novels, like The House of Mirth or the one that gave her a Pullitzer prize - The Age of Innocence? It's because the significance of human's inability to resist their circumstances is portrayed in almost every character in this book. More significant than in The House of Mirth (which is relying almost solely on Lily Bart's character). How about The Age of Innocence? Well, to be honest, I've completely forgotten its story. And to this day I'm still puzzled over how that book could win Pulitzer, instead of The House of Mirth or, even, The Custom of the Country.

πŸ”Ά️ Undine Spragg is a selfish spoilt girl from middle class background, but with an upper class taste. Her sole desire is always having the "best" in life. By the best, it means the most luxurious and glorious lifestyle. However, her perception of the 'best' keeps changing.

πŸ”Ά️ Undine Spragg reminds me of a little girl who longs for a beautiful doll she plays with at her friend's. She'd do anything in the world to have that beautiful doll, and it's a happy day when she finally gets it and plays with it. Then, her other richer friend brings a Barbie doll with the most magnificent dress she'd ever seen. Now she thinks her present doll is ugly, and that having that Barbie doll would be her next sole purpose in life. And it's repeating again and again. Undine Spragg could be the grown up version of that little girl, but instead of dolls, her 'commodity' is social fortunes, and her means of procuring it is... a husband-no, husbands.

πŸ”Ά️ Undine's first husband is Ralph Marvell, a pleasant young man from an old money family. She presumed at first, that this set of family is the highest in the society ladder. Soon, however, she found that the Marvells are too conventional, neither wealthy nor fashionable, and she began to despise her husband.

πŸ”Ά️ From this first stage of her career we witness our anti-heroine's egoistic, heartless and ruthlessness. She never cares for anyone else, not even her own son. Undine whole universe is herself. And that would certainly bring ruins to people around her.

πŸ”Ά️ Ironically, other characters in this book (particularly Undine's husbands) show the determinism in their inability to think or respond beyond the principle values in which they have been brought up. While in Undine's case, her determinism is in herself; while her values kept re-shaping.

πŸ”Ά️ Edith Wharton had written this story brilliantly. The irony, the tragedy, and of course, her portrayal of the New York society in the turn of the century are poignantly beautiful.

πŸ”Ά️ I am, probably, more captivated by the character of Paul (Undine's son with Ralph Marvell). Following the hereditary doctrine of Naturalism, Paul should inherit both parents' characters (flaws). But fortunately, Paul seems to disinherit Undine's, and is more like his father. His politeness, reserved manner, and fondness of books are all of Ralph's. Her mother might have left him the evasive and uprooted feelings in him, as a result of her ever changing world. I wished Wharton wrote another book about Paul Marvell - what becomes of him when he's grown up - it would certainly be an interesting book.

Rating: 5 of 5

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Orang-Orang Bloomington (People from Bloomington) by Budi Darma


πŸ”·️ Budi Darma is one of Indonesia's prominent modern writers. He graduated with an MA from Indiana University Bloomington in 1976. His experience and observation during his college days are the inspiration of this collection of seven short stories, titled Orang-Orang Bloomington, or People from Bloomington in English. Now Penguin Classics is translating this book in English, and it is due to publication in April.

πŸ”·️ Orang-Orang Bloomington is a realist book, tinged with absurdism in several of the stories. Though all of the stories are told from an anonymous narrator's point of view, it is clear that each has its own narrator (or at least there are more than one narrator). Nevertheless, they seem to have some similarities in personal character; they are all inquisitive and lonely. Indeed, loneliness seems to be the single theme that connect all the stories.



πŸ”·️ First story: The Anonymous Old Man (Pak Tua Tanpa Nama) sets this tone for all the rest. Residents in the houses and apartments are mostly individualists who lack touch of human compassion; they mind (too much) their own businesses, full of cold suspicion and prejudice, and some, even, have violent temperament.

πŸ”·️ The narrators aren't perfect either. The one in Joshua Karabish, for example, shamefully claimed his dead friend's poems as his. Another in Keluarga M (M Family) cowardly attacked a small boy in burst of rage after his car was scratched at the parking lot. But the worst is probably the narrator in Orez - it's way too cruel for me, though the one in Ny Eberhart (Mrs. Elberhart) is no less heartless either - bullying an old woman?! Though in the end they realized their mistakes and perhaps felt sorry, it's only a silent proof that the society of Bloomington (which represent our own modern society) aren't okay - there's a latent hatred and evil hidden beneath our struggles in life.

πŸ”·️ My favorite of all is the first story. The last two or three stories are too absurd for my taste, and the last one - I felt it inconclusive. I really admire the crude beauty and poignancy in Budi Darma's writing (he reminds me of John Steinbeck - but Steinbeck's is way more eloquent), but not his absurdism side.

Rating: 3,5 / 5

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens

πŸ’° If I have to categorize Dickens' novels into favorites and non favorites, then Martin Chuzzlewit would definitely go to the non favorite (along with Hard Times and Dombey and Son). Not only that Its humour is dry - exaggerated sarcasm rather than comical - its plot is also weak and felt weird. There're abundant characters but lack of development, and the story is dragging on in the first two third; only started building pace in the last third. I honestly thought of DNF-ing it, but decided in the end to plough on - which is quite paid off, for at least I can check it off from my Dickens-unread list. Only one Dickens novel left now to read!

πŸ’° Tired of his greedy and selfish family, wealthy old Martin Chuzzlewit lived a secluded life with only a companion - a pretty young girl called Mary Graham - to whom he said quite frankly that he will pay her wages generously, but she will not be left anything in his will. By this arrangement the old man hoped that she will serve him best without wishing him dead (in the hope of inheriting something).

πŸ’° His grandson, young Martin Chuzzlewit fell in love with Mary (the feeling is reciprocated), but when he uttered this to his grandfather, the old man was enraged, and grandfather and grandson separated ways in anger.

πŸ’° Then young Martin was apprenticed to a gentleman by the name of Seth Pecksniff. He calls himself a surveyor and architect, but all he ever produces are the works of his pupils which he claimed as his own. Yes, Pecksniff is what you call a sanctimonious person - a hypocritical swindler in a gentleman disguise. He accepted Martin because of his rich grandpa, but then banished him when the fact of their separation was known to him.

πŸ’° Humiliated and poor, young Martin left for America with the jolliest young man on earth as his servant-slash-companion: Mark Tapley. Here is a chance for Dickens to reflect upon his own visit to America. And boy, didn't he smash those Americans with ugly picture of mean, selfish, greedy, hypocrite and opportunist people! Martin Chuzzlewit might be considered as Dickens' personal favorite, but I doubt if it would be an enjoyable read for American people. Is that one of the reasons why this book becomes one of Dickens' least favorite? Hmm...

πŸ’° Anyway, the America period in young Martin Chuzzlewit's adventure changed him considerably when he touched English land months later. And meanwhile, we were introduced to another villain-even more evil than Mr. Pecksniff: the coward heartless scoundrel: Jonas Chuzzlewit, nephew of old Martin Chuzzlewit. The cruellest villain in Dickens' novel so far.

πŸ’° Martin Chuzzlewit is a story about greediness, excessice pride, and selfishness. It is also the first appearance of a detective in Dickens' novel. It could have been a promising story, but like I said before, the first two third is rather flat, and only the last third is really enjoyable. It has some memorable secondary characters: Tom Pinch - the naive and tenderhearted pupil of Pecksniff who failed to see his hypocrisy; Ruth Pinch - Tom's little energetic sister; and John Westlock - another alumni of Pecksniff academy, and a kind-hearted young man. Unfortunately Dickens included too many characters in this story that he hadn't had enough space to develop them further.

In the end, while the story is conclusive enough to be satisfying, it's far from making it memorable. I have even forgotten some of the plots while writing it!

Final rating: 3 of 5

Saturday, March 5, 2022

1st Story from "Orang-Orang Bloomington" by Budi Darma

I was so impressed by the 1st story from Budi Darma's Orang-Orang Bloomington (People from Bloomington - the English translation will be available in April - published by Penguin Classics) that I need to post exclusively about it.

The seven stories in this short story collection are told from the narrator's point of view. We know not his name; he's just mentioned as 'young man', an Indonesian student lives in Bloomington in the 1970s.

In this first story, titled "Laki-Laki Tua Tanpa Nama" (The Anonymous Old Man), the narrator rented an upstair room from an old widow Mrs. McMillan, in a lonesome street called Fess, with only two other houses along the street, owned by two other widows. These women prefer to live seclusively; always minding their own businesses. That's their way of living peacefully.

A strange old man, veteran of World War 2, rented the upstair room nextdoor (Mrs. Nolan's). He's always carrying and pointing a gun, and, sometimes, threatening to shoot people. On the other hand, his landlady, Mrs. Nolan, owns also a gun, with which she often shoots birds or other small animals that annoys her.

The narrator, whose habit seems to be curiously watching his neighbors, is a little concerned with the old veteran's alarming behaviours. However, his neighbors take it all easy. One day, the mounting tension finally broke, and something bad happened.

πŸ”« The center theme of this story is, first, that appearance can be deceiving. When the incident occurred, who was an easy blame? An nervous old war veteran and a total stranger, or a respectable widow whom everyone knows? Then there's the second theme - the psychological background. Whoever pulled the trigger, he/she could have had a dark secret no one knows. It's easy to judge a person as mean, but we never know that person deep down, beyond his/her appearance and our own perception of him/her - which is often very far from the truth.

πŸ”« Privacy or indifference?

Being born and live in Asia, one of my biggest pet peeves is curious people who like to know private things about you (shamelessly asking your age or marital status, while you never know them before, jeez!). Maybe that's why I chose to live in an apartment. At least I can get various neighbors all the time without really knowing intimately each other, and just having enough courtesy to share polite nods when we pass each other at the lobby or in the lift.

So I can relate to and quite agree with the three widows' policy to not interfering with other people's business. But I think there's a certain limit between privacy and indifference. We can still maintain privacy while at the same time being warm and friendly to others. We just need to set a certain barrier between things we can afford to share with others and things that we want to keep to ourselves (or family). Living alone is often the best choice - especially for introverted people like me - but that doesn't mean we should stop being a kind and loving human being that God has intended us to be.

Will the remain six stories be as intriguing as this? Let's hope so. So far, I'm quite enjoying it. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Zoladdiction 2022: Announcement | #Zoladdiction2022

 


Zoladdiction will be back next month! This would be the 9th Zoladdiction I've hosted in this blog. For you who are not familiar with it, Zoladdiction is a reading event on April, to celebrate the birthday of Γ‰mile Zola. It is mainly because we love Zola's writings, and also to get more and more people to appreciate his works. For the whole month we will read, post, and talk about Zola - his life, his works, and his influence.


What's in Zoladdiction 2022?

  • I encourage you to go beyond reading.
  • Yes, we will still read Zola, but during April we can also share/post/tweet/talk about just any thing that is related to Zola. A book you're reading reminds you of Zola? Share it! Found Zola's quote/picture on Pinterest? Share it! Watched movie about Zola? Share it! Anything.
  • If you chose to read quietly, it's OK. You can pick one of Zola's works, or Zola's biography, or any books about Zola by other writers.
  • Don’t have time to read one book? Fine, a short story or essay is equally good.
  • To participate, simply leave comment, or mention me on Twitter, using hashtag #Zoladdiction2022, and tell me your plan for Zoladdiction (it might inspire others).
  • If you blog about your participation, leave the link in comment box.


So, are you in? What's your plan?

Mine is to re-read L’Assommoir and The Attack on the Mill (Zola’s short story collection).

 

Monday, February 28, 2022

February Read & An Exciting Buddy Read in March

I am now on the way of finishing my only read for this month: Martin Chuzzlewit - only 50-ish pages left to go. February has been a hectic month - as usual - but I'm beginning to be adapted to this new condition. I'm quite proud that in between chores and work, I can still squeeze 25 minutes of exercise and 60 to 90 minutes of reading every day. And these days, when everything looks gloomy, I feel that reading is getting more and more important to keep me peaceful and stay away from depression. (Painting: Woman Reading By A Window by Gari Melchers)


πŸ“š What I've Read in February

I've picked Martin Chuzzlewit to read for my #DickensInFebruary this year. And while I haven't entirely completed it, just considered it done, haha! At least, after reading quite many Dickenses, I think I can roughly guess what the ending will be, anyway.

I have to say, Martin Chuzzlewit isn't my favorite. The first two third is quite boring; the humours felt dry, and Dickens created too many trifle characters that I felt weren't necessary, except to prolong the story, rather than developing more of the main characters.

Statistics

πŸ“Š Total books read: 4
πŸ“Š Challenge progress:
* 2022 TBR Pile Challenge: 2
* Back to the Classics Challenge 2022: 3
* 2022 Chunkster Challenge: 1

And so, I am now ready to face the new month!

πŸ“š What I Will Read in March

March is promising to be an exciting reading month! My fellow Indonesian book, Melisa,  is hosting a buddy read of a short story collection from one of the most prominent Indonesian writers: Budi Darma. The book is: Orang-Orang Bloomington (or People from Bloomington in English).

 

It's exciting for me, not only because I haven't buddy-read with Melisa for years, but also because this book is being translated by Penguin Classics, and will be published next April, yay!

Excerpt from Penguin Classics:


An eerie, alienating, yet comic and profoundly sympathetic short story collection about Americans in America by one of Indonesia’s most prominent writers, now in an English translation for its fortieth anniversary, with a foreword by Intan Paramaditha.

In these seven stories of The People from Bloomington, our peculiar narrators find themselves in the most peculiar of circumstances and encounter the most peculiar of people. Set in Bloomington, Indiana, where the author lived as a graduate student in the 1970s, this is far from the idyllic portrait of small-town America. Rather, sectioned into apartment units and rented rooms, and gridded by long empty streets and distances traversable only by car, it’s a place where the solitary can all too easily remain solitary; where people can at once be obsessively curious about others, yet fail to form genuine connections with anyone. The characters feel their loneliness acutely and yet deliberately estrange others. Budi Darma paints a realist world portrayed through an absurdist frame, morbid and funny at the same time.

It promises to be an interesting read (I have tasted the 1st chapter, and really liked it), and it would be such an honor for me to read it to celebrate its forthcoming recognition as one of most important Indonesian canons.

Next book I plan to read next month:

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

I picked that up simply for Back to the Classics challenge, and it's in my 300 Books to Read list, so I have no expectation at all. Sometimes it might be good to start an unexpected journey, and to be a little surprised at what one might find from it. Let's hope it'll be a good one for me!

Saturday, February 12, 2022

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond


🐻 This is my first read of Paddington (and certainly not the last!) It seems to me that the more you aged, the more you need children books for comfort reading. Do you think so too?

🐻 I loved Paddington instantly when the Browns met him for the first time at Paddington Station, sitting alone on his battered suitcase, with a note attached to his coat that reads "Please look after this bear. Thank you."

🐻 Paddington is a young spectacled bear, who's just arrived from Darkest Peru (where his species used to be found). After a huge earthquake killed both his parents, he was raised by his Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo. Before Aunt Lucy entered a retired home for bears, she sent Paddington in a lifeboat to London.


🐻 The Browns decided eventually to let the bear stay with them as a family member, and named him 'Paddington' from the station where they've found him.

🐻 I never like aggressive or mischievous children (both as a child and adult). That's why I'm very fond of Paddington, because he's wonderfully polite - rising his shabby hat (inherited from his Uncle Pastuzo) - when first greeting the Browns. He's also respectable and gentlemanly in manner and appearance.


🐻 But a very quiet bear is rather unappealing in a story, you might think. Don't worry! Besides his politeness, Paddington has another quality: a tendency to please others and right what he innocently thinks is wrong. And from this latter, came endless troubles and hilarious adventures; of which, somehow, Paddington seems to bring more good in the end for himself and for others.

🐻 I loved all the Brown family members, but especially Mrs. Brown and Judy Brown - the daughter. Mr. Brown was hesitate to have anything to do with a bear at first. Nevertheless, he's so sweet in buying the creamiest buns for Paddington, knowing how fond he is of marmelade, when they were waiting for others.

🐻 I also loved Paddington's best friend, Mr. Gruber, the owner of an antique shop on Portobello Road, who always treats him with nothing but respect, discussing serious things with him, and calls him Mr. Brown. Oh, how cute is that?


🐻 Paddington Bear is now a famous character from numerous novels (initially a compilation of several stories), picture books, and - later on - TV series and movies. You can even find his statues at Leicester Square, as well as at Paddington Station. And he truly deserves it. A smart talking bear with unique character and fine manner, with a hard stare that'll melt you when you say something disagreeable, how could one fail to love - and want to hug - him?

Rating: 4,5 / 5

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie

πŸ’‰ For the first time since I read my first Agatha Christie at the junior high school library, more than thirty years ago, I did not immersed myself into the most important aspect of every detective story: the crime itself, while reading Appointment with Death. Instead, I was mostly enjoying the more interesting psychological theory and discussions around the mentality of both victim and suspect-to-be. For that, I must applause Dame Agatha Christie: Bravo! In fact, I'd prefer to categorize this book under psychological thriller, rather than crime/detective.

πŸ’‰ Old Mrs. Boynton is a sadistic tyrant. She used to work as prison warden when she was young, because she likes to dominate others. Now, instead of the prisoners, she tortures and bullies her own family. Instead of the prison, she imprisons them in the family house. In short, she is an evil person. Her children hate her, but they cannot free themselves from her domineering power.

πŸ’‰ We get to learn these facts from the observations of two fellow travellers (a psychologist and a fresh graduate doctor) during vacations to Jerusalem and Petra which the Boyntons and several others are taking .

πŸ’‰ Along the way to the end of Part One - where the murder takes place - we can feel how the psychological tension is culminating. The atmosphere is ripen with a foreboding climax. And it's safe to say that nobody will have doubt that the victim would be Mrs. Boynton.

πŸ’‰ The most interesting part is that after Mrs. Boynton was found dead (weapon is poison through injection), all I can think of is not who did it, or whose alibi is false, and all the usual stuff related to murder mystery. No, I felt so happy and relieved that her children and daughter in law can now finally be free; that they are still young enough to have a happy normal life; that their "war" is over. I went even further to think what they each should do to start a new life. You know, I was so absorbed to their earlier afflictions, thanks to Christie's genius way of portraying their mental agony. It almost felt like reading Zola, but with modern setting!

πŸ’‰ Not that I didn't enjoy Poirot's investigation process- the usual talking and the grey cell working - I always like them! But it seems almost not important anymore, because their common "enemy" has been defeated. Who cares whodunit? Anyway, subconsciously (because I was not focusing my mind on the crime), I already knew who the murderer is before the revealing chapter. It's so obvious, I believe many mystery fans would be disappointed with this book.

πŸ’‰ Plot wise, it's not Christie's usual standard, but psychology wise, it's wonderful, and it easily becomes my new favorite!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐