Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: One-Word Reviews for the Last 10 Books I Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, and this week's prompt is... Rewind (Pick a previous topic that you missed or would like to re-do/update). I picked the May 2022 topic I haven't done before but found very interesting and quite tricky:

One-Word Reviews for the Last 10 Books I Read

This year I've read nine books and three short stories, so here are one-word reviews of all the nine books plus one of the short stories - I tried to not double-use the words, but choose the most appropriate one to represent each book/story. Follow the links to read my original reviews.

The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy:

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury:

Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie:

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder:

Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery:


The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim:

Rural Hours by Susan Fenimore Cooper (not yet reviewed):

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot (not yet reviewed):

Jack-a-Boy by Willa Cather (short story):

Have you read those books? What one-word would you use to describe them?


Saturday, March 18, 2023

Jack-a-Boy by Willa Cather: A Short Story #WCSSP2023

πŸ’™ For the past five years I’ve been living in an apartment building. And so, I have a certain interest in stories which are set in apartment or flat, just like this one. The name of the building is Windsor Terrace. I don't know what 'Terrace' alludes to in this case, but the narrator - a piano teacher called Miss Harris - says that "people who live in terraces are not usually those who have made the most brilliant success in life." Does it mean that the Terrace is the humbler type of flats?

πŸ’™ Jack-a-Boy and his family just moved in to number 324. He's a six year old girlish boy with big violet eyes. At first nobody pays any attention to him. Children are usually boisterous, and in an apartment building especially, they are doubly annoying. We can hear their footsteps while running around along the corridor, or shouting excitedly to their parents inside the lift. Oh yes, little children aren't truly welcomed in apartment buildings. But Jack-Boy isn't just any boy.

πŸ’™ He's a sweet little boy, unassuming, quiet and polite, affectionately warm to others. Right after the family's arrival, he visited his neighbors one by one, and they instantly succumbed to his pleasant habit of wanting to please everyone! At the Professor's, who study Ancient Greek, for instance, the boy would curl himself on the rug, quietly browsing at a picture book borrowed from the Professor, without disturbing him. And then he asks the Professor to tell a Greek story (Trojan war), to which he listened attentively. The boy kept reverently an ugly toy dog made by another neighbor, just because he "wouldn't like to hurt her feelings". How sweet!

Besides loving Ancient Greek stories and seemingly rather talented in playing piano, Jack-a-Boy doesn't like playing with other boys, because "they are such rough boys". But that doesn't mean he's a gentle coward either, for when a little girl was bullied by another boy, he bravely "flew at him like a wild cat, fists, teeth, feet and all the rest of him".

πŸ’™ Approaching May Jack-a-Boy busied himself preparing for his May-basket hanging - a basket filled with colorful tissue papers and flowers to be hung on the neighbor's door. What a sweet little boy, this Jack-a-Boy is - an angelic one, almost. And I think I've guessed all along how this story would end - what usually happens in literature to these kind of children, so I prepared myself.

πŸ’™ Reading this story, I could feel that Cather wrote it by heart; that this story is special for her. And I was right, searching on google, I learned that it's a reference to Cather's little brother whom she nursed through a serious disease.

πŸ’™ One more thing, the day after that fatal day, Miss Harris is discussing with the Professor about how missing Jack-a-Boy meant to them. The Professor's lamenting what Jack-o-Boy would have been if he were still with them - an exceptional Greek scholar. While Miss Harris was only missing him as himself, "It was the little human boy that I loved". I am perhaps more with Miss Harris, and I guess Willa Cather was too. But maybe it's better that he leaves this corrupted world while still being innocent. One might never know what he would turn into while growing up.

πŸ’™ A heartwarming little story about a little boy, that will leave you pondering more about human's frailty.

Rating: 5 / 5


Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk (The Dancer) by Ahmad Tohari: An Indonesian Classic

πŸ’ƒπŸ» Srintil and Rasus, our protagonists, were born and grew up in a small village in Indonesia called Dukuh Paruk, which, geographically, is quite isolated. It can only be reached from the outside by traversing the network of dikes bordering the wet rice fields. This isolation, I believe, has contributed to the illiteracy, poverty, obscenity, and superstition of its people.

πŸ’ƒπŸ» Set in the year 1950s-60s, Dukuh Paruk's pride is in their Ronggeng. Here's my previous post where I talked about Ronggeng and its little similarity with Geisha. They believe that when a Ronggeng spirit inhabits a little girl, she is destined to grow up as a Ronggeng. Srintil is this little girl. She loves to sing Ronggeng songs while playing with a boy called Rasus, her best friend. Like her, he is also an orphan, due to a tragic poisoning case which took their parents' lives. Becoming a Ronggeng, thus, is Srintil's obsession, though without fully understanding of what it truly is.

πŸ’ƒπŸ» Rasus, on the other hand, longs for a mother's affection. He's often wondering how his mother looks like, and innocently he took Srintil as the perfect image of a mother he never knew. When Srintil is 11 years old, it's time to initiate her to be a Ronggeng. The initiation includes a rite called 'Bukak Klambu' (freely translated as opening the mosquito net, which is usually hung around the bed). In other words, it's when her virginity is sold to the highest bidder.

πŸ’ƒπŸ» This rite enraged Rasus - not so much because he cares about Srintil, but more because it shatters the image of his unknown mother, which he hitherto portrays in her head like Srintil. He left Dukuh Paruk - but not before having sex with Srintil, as she has rather offered her virginity to him than to the highest bidder of Bukak Klambu. Not a proper gentleman this Rasus man, I know.

The Ronggeng dance in the adaptation of Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk, 2011

πŸ’ƒπŸ» 1960s marked a dark turmoil in Indonesian politics, as I have slightly alluded in previous post. Rasus becomes a soldier, while Srintil becomes a famous Ronggeng of Dukuh Paruk. When she doesn't perform on stage, she receives men who wishes to have sex with her, all arranged by an old couple who serve as Srintil's agent slash pimp.

πŸ’ƒπŸ» Due to Dukuh Paruk people's ignorance, Srintil is unwittingly involved in the revolutionary's event. Srintil and her group were caught and imprisoned, accused of being supporters of communist party, while their village was burnt down. The imprisonment itself is already bad, but not as bad as the label then applied to ex-political prisoners after they were released. They were banished from society, and viewed as the main cause of the tragedy, though many of them, including Srintil, didn't even understand what it was all about.

πŸ’ƒπŸ» The imprisonment changed Srintil's view of life considerably. She refused to perform as Ronggeng, as well as serving men. Instead, she's inspired to be an ordinary but respectable house wife. Rasus' return to Dukuh Paruk (now a respectable soldier) provides a new hope in Srintil. Not only her, all Dukuh Paruk people fervently hope they will eventually marry, and thus help reviving their village. But no, marriage isn't Rasus' inclination, though there's no doubt that he loves her still.

πŸ’ƒπŸ» After Rasus, came Bajus, a polite handsome young man from Jakarta. He pays attention to Srintil, and gentlemanly paying court to her. Now he is Srintil's last hope. He will prove to be, either her great salvation, or the crushing blow to her already battered soul.

πŸ’ƒπŸ» Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk quite surprised me. I didn't expect to love it, though had been rather intrigued by the Ronggeng theme (I have thought it's about dancer, never expected to be disgusted by prostitution!) Political tragedy is not appealing to me, nor the grossness of most of Dukuh Paruk people. The only thing that made me keep reading, though, is Tohari's poetic prose and his beautiful portrayal of the rustic village landscape. I was transported to the peaceful and calm life in the village, to the sounds of birds, the shady trees, or the melodious music of traditional instruments. It's a perfect portrayal of a humble small village, before the touch of modernization enters it.

πŸ’ƒπŸ» I officially crowned Ahmad Tohari as one of the best Indonesian writers I've read so far. Many people worship Pramoedya Ananta Toer perhaps, but I have read two books of him, and don't quite agree. He was a good story-teller, but rather melodramatic and sometimes exaggerating. While Tohari's prose is perfectly proportional; brutally realistic, not overwritten, but beautiful at the same time. Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk has been translated to English by Rene T.A. Lysloff, titled “The Dancer”, and published by Lontar Foundation in January 2013.

Rating: 4,5 / 5


Monday, March 13, 2023

Blogger-Inspired Wishlist Ep. 3: Very Random Selections

Blogger-Inspired Wishlist is a feature where I post recent additions to my wish list, which had been inspired by reviews from my fellow bloggers. It includes some synopsis, as well as some excerpts of the review which have intrigued me, complete with a link to the blogger's original post.

For this 3rd episode I've collected five interesting books from a wide range of genres, from fiction to non fiction, contemporary to classic.

The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere by Pico Iyer

The Art of Stillness considers the unexpected adventure of staying put and reveals a counterintuitive truth: The more ways we have to connect, the more we seem desperate to unplug. Iyer also draws on his own experiences as a travel writer to explore why advances in technology are making us more likely to retreat.

From Robin's review:
"This little volume on “going nowhere,” really spoke to me right now. The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere, caught my eye and turned out to be a real treasure for me because it is about being present in the NOW of our lives. I found that it was packed with wisdom and much needed perspective on what is really important in life."

πŸ”Ή️It seems a perfect book I might need right now!

The Lilies of the Field by William E Barrett
Inspired by: Hamlette @ The Edge of the Precipice

One of the most beloved of modern classics returns with a beautiful new cover. The enchanting story of two unlikely friends, a black ex-GI and the head of a group of German nuns, The Lilies of the Field tells the story of their impossible dream--to build a chapel in the desert.

From Hamlette's review:
"Wow.  I mean, wow.  This book is going to end up on my top favorite new reads of 2023 list. book is warm and sweet and good-humored and funny."

πŸ”Ή️ It sounds like a good-humored but touching at the same time – can’t wait to read it!

The Willows in Winter by Duncton Wood
Inspired by: Cath @ Read-warbler

Now, in an act of homage and celebration, William Horwood has brought to life once more the four most-loved characters in English literature: the loyal Mole, the resourceful Water Rat, the stern but wise Badger, and, of course, the exasperating, irresistible Toad. The result is an enchanting, unforgettable new novel, enlivened by delightful illustrations, in which William Horwood has recaptured all the joy, magic, and good humor of Grahame's great work - and Toad is still as exasperatingly lovable as he ever was.

From Cath's review:
"William Horwood is the author of the Duncton Wood series of books but he also wrote four sequels to The Wind in the Willows. This is the first of them, The Willows in Winter"

πŸ”Ή️I didn't know there are sequels to The Wind in the Willows, it's a pleasant surprise!

Mrs Van Gogh by Caroline Cauchi

She’s been painted out of history…until now. In 1890, Vincent Van Gogh dies penniless, unknown, a man tortured by his own mind. Eleven years later his work is exhibited in Paris and his unparalleled talent finally recognised. The tireless efforts of one woman gave the world one of its greatest creative minds. But twenty-eight year old Johanna Van Gogh-Bonger, Vincent’s sister-in-law and the keeper of his immense collection of paintings, sketches and letters, has, until now, been written out of history. This beautiful, moving novel finally gives this extraordinary woman a voice…

From Stephanie's review:
"Mrs Van Gogh is a beautifully written historical fiction novel which allowed me to really feel as though I were immersed in Montmartre life in the 1880s and 1890s. The Parisian streets, cafΓ©s and clubs leap vividly from the page and I loved spending time with Johanna, her brother, and the Van Gogh brothers too. As historical fiction I found it to be an entertaining read."

πŸ”Ή️ It's been a while since my last read of a proper historical fiction. And this one is about Van Gogh's universe too - irresistible!

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa

Natsuki Books was a tiny second-hand bookshop on the edge of town. Rintaro Natsuki loved this space that his grandfather had created. He spent many happy hours there, reading whatever he liked. It was the perfect refuge for a boy who tended to be something of a recluse. After the death of his grandfather, Rintaro is devastated and alone. It seems he will have to close the shop. Then, a talking tabby cat called Tiger appears and asks Rintaro for help. The cat needs a book lover to join him on a mission. This odd couple will go on three magical adventures to save books from people who have imprisoned, mistreated and betrayed them.

From Lark's review:
"This is a quirky and enchanting little book. But what's at the heart of this bookish novel is the idea that books truly are more than mere words on paper and are therefore very much worth saving. And I completely agree."

πŸ”Ή️This looks like a charming Japanese novel; books and cat are never be wrong! πŸ˜‰

That's all for this episode, have you read any of those?
See you on next episode! (I have gathered quite a few interesting books... so, hopefully it won't be long!)


Friday, March 10, 2023

Classic Character: Lotty Wilkins of The Enchanted April

Lotty Wilkins is the most influential character in The Enchanted April. Without her, there will never be a holiday of four women at San Salvatore to begin with. She is also the one with biggest transformation by the end of the story.

When the story begins, Mrs. Wilkins appears to be an unassuming young wife of a dingy lawyer. Shy and insecure, Lotty is always socially awkward. Her brutal honesty and impulse even make her misunderstood by the society. On the other hand, Mr. Wilkins always depends on his charm to be successful in his law business. Having an awkward wife doesn't help him; and maybe that's why he ignores her because she disappointed him.

Lotty is a genuinely amiable person, but ignored by her husband, and bored of always trying to do what's expected from her, made her unhappy. She's burdened by a sense of failure, and the distress makes her more confused than ever, which makes everything worse in the long run.

Lotty's instinctive nature made her jump to the idea of a holiday alone, without her husband. She deserves it after all, after her efforts to please her husband (and Lotty loves to please others!) She even conquers her shyness by approaching Mrs. Arbuthnot, whom she noticed was interested by the same advertisement which had captured her attention earlier.

Josie Lawrence as Lotty Wilkins in 1991 adaptation

After experiencing freedom and being embraced by the beauty of nature, Lotty Wilkins seems to suddenly transform into another person: positive thinking, affectionate, and confident. Or does she?

I have reflected much on this transformation. And it occurred to me that the holiday was made possible in the first place because Lotty knows what's best for her (the more logical Mrs. Arbuthnot rejected the idea at first). But once an idea captures Lotty, she'd do everything to make it happen, and finally successful in persuading Rose Arbuthnot. That has struck me as one of Lotty's genuine characters: positive thinking. Her affectionate nature is always there, too, from the beginning. Hence, her continual efforts to please Mellersh, her husband (what a name though - Mellersh!)

Then, Lotty's biggest seemingly transformation: her confidence. Where goes the shy, awkward, irresolute young woman that we saw at first chapter? Those qualities appeared as the result of the cold, snobbish nature of London society, who dictated what or how a respectable wife should or should not be! It's this harsh expectation that has strained and stifled Lotty's genuine warm qualities.

After the rejuvenating atmosphere in San Salvatore, Lotty's original qualities flows, even bursts, out because she experiences love - loved and embraced by nature; and by its Creator. And with that, she, in her turn, inspires and infects others.

Lotty Wilkins is officially my new favorite heroine. Do you know one thing that's often asked on book tags or surveys: which book character you would like to hang out with? Now I have a certain answer: Lotty Wilkins! Imagine, how fun and refreshed my day would become!


Wednesday, March 8, 2023

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim: A Review

What would you do if you happened to see, one day in your newspaper, an advertisement that says: "To Those Who Appreciate Wisteria and Sunshine. Small mediaeval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be Let Furnished for the month of April." ? I would have sighed contentedly and imagined what it'd be like for a while, but more likely would have soon dismissed it from my mind.

🌺 For Lotty Wilkins, though, it becomes her only way to escape the struggle of unhappy marriage with a stingy lawyer she's always afraid of. Usually shy and awkward in social life, this young woman impulsively persuaded a woman in the club she didn't know before, a Mrs. Arbuthnot, to join their little nest-eggs and spend a holiday - alone, without their husbands - they rightly deserve for having been a good housewives in their dull marriage lives.

🌺 Rose Arbuthnot is a reserved, pious young housewife, whose husband is a writer of scandalous books she disapproves of. She plunges herself in charities, serving the poors in order to expiate, what she feels as, her husband's sins. After a struggle, she is eventually persuaded to realise their plan. But, as they need two more women to afford the rent, they published an advertisement.

🌺 Thus, two other most dissimilar women finally joined them to the little castle of San Salvatore, Italy. Lady Caroline Dester is a young, very pretty girl who's sick of continually being worshipped, both by women, and especially, by men. Mrs. Fisher, on the other hand, is an elderly, pompous woman, who still clings to her Victorian ideals.

🌺 San Salvatore proved to be the enchanting, beautiful place it has been advertised for. These four ladies of very different backgrounds, with their own reasons to escape, found delicious peace and freedom amidst the rustic beauty of mother nature.

🌺 However, when four dissimilar persons gathered, there were more likely frictions. Lady Caroline aka Scrap disliked Lotty Wilkins and Rose Arbuthnot, whom she thought were 'originals' (boring). Mrs. Fischer was even more extreme, she's rude to Lotty all the time, disgusted by her impulsive and awkward nature.

🌺 However, and here's the beauty of this book, Lotty Wilkins' warmth and positivity gradually infected these other women. She's the only one who, from her first arrival at San Salvatore, has found... love! Her first act when entering the castle (after a hilarious 'adventure' of arriving in the darkness of the night) was warmly kissing Rose!

🌺 The beauty of mother nature seems to change everybody there. The first one to be affected is Lotty. In place of that awkward, dubious woman, there stood a cheerful, self-esteemed woman, burst with love and longing to please others. What a change! Scrap is now fond of her; even Mrs. Fisher in the end finds her bearable, and calls her 'my dear'!

🌺 Then came complications. Lotty felt she must invite Mellersh Wilkins, her husband, to enjoy their holiday together. She even persuaded Rose to also invite her husband Frederick to join them. Scrap was aghast, since she came to San Salvatore precisely to avoid men, and now there will be men around them. Even the castle's owner, Mr. Briggs, came uninvited because he's attracted to Rose. How would they avoid the coming 'storm'? These parts proved to be the most hilarious passages of the book, you'll see!

🌺 To conclude, I love everything about this book. The beautiful scenery (wisterias, periwinkle, and all), the theme (nature compels love), the hilarious scenes, and the intriguing women's characters (of whom we get to know through their continuing self-dialog). Lotty Wilkins is my favorite, she is an amazing character. I will write a character analysis on her very soon! In short, such a perfect book!

Favorite quote:
"Beauty made you love, and love made you beautiful."

More interesting facts about the flowers and from where von Arnim had drawn inspiration to write this book could be found in my 1st Impression of this book.

Rating: 5 / 5

Read from: combo of printed and audio book (narrated by B.J. Harrison - my new favorite narrator)


Monday, March 6, 2023

Announcing Zoladdiction 2023 #Zoladdiction2023

Zoladdiction turns TEN this year! Who would’ve thought I will host this event for ten years? 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 you who haven't read Zola, it is the perfect time to get started! This is my personal guide to read Zola if you don't have idea where to start.

For the whole month, then, we will read, post, and talk about Γ‰mile Zola - his life, his works, and his influences.

How It Works

  • Pick any of Zola's works, or Zola's biography, and read them. Any books about Zola by other writers are acceptable too.
  • Post your review/thoughts on your blog/social media (you can use hashtag #Zoladdiction2023).
  • But I also 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 related to Zola. A book you're reading reminds you of Zola? Share it! Found Zola's quote on Twitter? Retweet it! Or Zola-ish picture/caricature on Instagram? Make a story of it! Watched movie about Zola? Share it! Anything.
  • Don’t have time to read one book? Worry not, a short story or an essay is equally good.
  • To participate, simply leave comment on this post, or mention me on Twitter, using hashtag #Zoladdiction2023, and tell us your plans for Zoladdiction (it might inspire others).
  • If you want, you may grab and put Zoladdiction 2023 banner on your blog, so that others might aware about this event.
  • If you blog about your participation, leave the link in comment box.
  • Linky will be provided in the Master Post (will be published on April 2nd). You can submit links to your Zola posts (either on blog or social media) there.
  • To celebrate Zola’s birthday on April 2nd, there will also be an Γ‰mile Zola Tag, which we can share and have fun (I will post about this around mid March, so you can prepare your posts beforehand).

So, would you join me? What's your plan?


1. Fanda - will read The Ladies' Paradise (re-read) & Doctor Pascal
2. Gypsi @ Gypsi Reads - will read Germinal
3. JaneGS @ Reading, Writing, Working, Playing - will read ?
4. Mallika @ Literary Potpourri - will read ?
5. Brona @ Brona's Book - will read L'Assommoir
6. Alok @alokranj - will read biography/critical study
7. You!  

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Six Degree of Separation, from Passages to Rebecca

Six Degrees of Separation is a meme, now hosted by Kate @ books are my favorite and best.
On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.

This month we start from a book I haven't read:

0. Passages by Gail Sheehy

Subtitle: Predictable Crises of Adult Life

A non fiction self-help book about how one manage each life crisis occurred during one's lifetime. Either we are entering our 20s, 30s, or even 70s or 80s, there would be changes in every phase, which might turn into crises. Quoting from Goodreads synopsis: "You'll see how to use each life crisis as an opportunity for creative change." Creative change (during a life crisis) is the key to my first chain, that leads to a book I've read two years ago:

The book is about a group of elderly residents of a retirement village who turn into sleuths. Each of the four faces her/his own life crisis, from loneliness, physical limitation, to taking care of a dementia spouse. But they don't succumb to inactivity. On the contrary, they turn their helplessness into creativity - solving murders. Who would have thought that four helpless elderly could fight against murderer(s)? They are the most unlikely group of sleuths you'd ever get! My second chain is another unlikely sleuths duo, who come from much younger generation:

This is a children (teenager?) murder mystery, with two English schoolgirls in 1930s become sleuth. The book I read is the fifth of the series, and it contains beautiful perfect Christmas vibes while they are solving a murder during Christmas holiday in snowy Cambridge. Another book I've read last year with the same beautiful Christmas vibes is:

This is a perfect Christmas book - equal to A Christmas Carol - which speak about love, family, and forgiveness. A wealthy but cantankerous and bitter widower hired poor children to enliven his mansion on Christmas. That he was alone, is entirely his own fault. He banished her daughter after her elopement, and hence the separation between father and daughter. Although of different circumstances, these father and daughter in my fourth chain are also separated, which caused their unhappiness:

Jane unhappily spent her early years with her mother in her grandmother's snobbish, cold house, always thinking her father is dead. It turns out he's alive, and now invites her to stay the summer with him in a small village of Lantern Hill. The beautiful scenery and the sense of freedom enables her to love. And with love, her personality changes. It's astonishing how nature compels one to love. At first I thought it might be a bit exaggerated, but the next book I read was surprisingly shared similar theme, and so I picked it to be my fifth chain:

Four dissimilar women rent a medieval castle in Italy with beautiful scenery for a month. Each has her own reason to escape life routine, and spent a rejuvenating holiday. Nature is an important role in this story. Two of the women - Mrs. Wilkins and Mrs. Arbuthnot - arrived in the dark of the night, and on the way up to the castle, were first welcomed by profusion of flowers, which they realized the next morning to be wisterias.

"All down the stone steps on either side were periwinkle in full flower, and [Mrs Arbuthnot] could now see what it was that had caught at her the night before and brushed, wet and scented, across her face. It was wisteria."

I felt that the wisterias isn't just flowers here, it's almost like a character of its own, symbolizes warmth and love from mother nature. And that reminds me of another book, in which flowers also becomes character to the story. And this will become my last chain:

Like the two women in The Enchanted April, on her first arrival at her new home, Manderley, Mrs. de Winter was also "welcomed" by the profusion of rhododendrons.

"...on either side of us was a wall of colour, blood-red, reaching far above our heads. We were amongst the rhododendrons. [...] They startled me with their crimson faces, massed one upon the other in incredible profusion..."

The rhododendrons represent the enigmatic Rebecca with her strong destructive passionate personality. How much different it is with the tenderness of the wisterias in The Enchanted April, with its capability of rehabilitation; but nonetheless, each flower has its own power on our protagonists.


I was so satisfied by how these chain turn out beautifully. I've thought this one will be slightly difficult because we have a non fiction for the starter, but it turned out to be the easiest and best one I've worked out so far!

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Leaving February Behind, Welcoming March!

credit: Vecteezy

February is always the wettest month of the year, it rains heavily almost every afternoon, just at the end of office hours! While it's rather annoying, it also means I can enjoy my reading more.

πŸ“š Books Read in February

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (started in January)
A very entertaining audio sensation of an old classic.
Read from: audio book

Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery - for We πŸ–€ L.M. Montgomery Week
A jolly delightful book!
Read from: e-book

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim (unreviewed yet) - 1st Impression
A blissful read of a beautiful inspiring book.
Read from: audiobook / printed book combo

Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk (The Dancer) by Ahmad Tohari (unreviewed yet) - 1st Impression
Surprisingly, I liked it. Tragic, but very beautifully written.
Read from: printed book

A Singer's Romance by Willa Cather (short story)
A sweet, straightforward story.
Read from: e-book

πŸ“š Started but unfinished yet

* Rural Hours by Susan Fenimore Cooper (e-book) - 1st Impression
I have started on January, and my progress has been very slow because I'm savouring Susan's daily walks and observations.

* The Ladies' Paradise by Γ‰mile Zola (audiobook) - a re-read, preparing for Zoladdiction in April

πŸ“š Reading Events attended

We ❤ L.M. Montgomery Week, hosted by Hamlette @ Hamlette’s Soliloqui
It was a fun blog party! We get to know new bloggers with lovely posts, a chance to win prizes, several games. My contribution:
- reviewing Jane of Lantern Hill
- analyzing cover art of Jane of Lantern Hill
- answering The L.M.M. Tag

I thank Hamlette for hosting this, and wish she would host another next year. But if not, this has been a cheerful one!

2023 Statistics

πŸ“Š Total books read so far: 6
πŸ“Š Total short stories read so far: 2
πŸ“Š Challenges progress:
* 2023 TBR Pile Challenge: 3
* 2023 Victorian Reading Challenge: 1
* 2023 Audiobook Challenge: 3

πŸ“š What's happening in March

πŸ”Έ️Reading a non fiction: All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot (e-book) - I've wanted to read my newly-fore-edge-painted copy, but decided to keep it intact, and read the e-book version instead. 🀣

Continuing Rural Hours (10% more from e-book) and the audio book of The Ladies' Paradise (the latter will stretch on until April)

πŸ”Έ️If I can finish above books sooner, I might begin with Stone of Chastity by Margery Sharp sooner for The 1940 Club week on April.


Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Crime Fiction Authors I Love to Read/Re-read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, and this week's prompt is... Freebie! I've always been a fan of crime/mystery novels, so this is my...

Top Ten Crime Fiction Authors I Love to Read/Reread

Agatha Christie

Most of my childhood reads were dominated by Agatha Christie. And ever since, I've read almost all of her crime novels. So far, no one has ever surpassed her style in the crime novel universe, and perhaps no one ever will.

Now I am on my way to re-reading all her novels, and starting next year will also read and review all her short stories as stand alone works (not in collections or omnibuses). In short, I might keep reading Christie perpetually during the rest of my life!

Dorothy L. Sayers

Christie's contemporary in the golden-age-of-detective-fiction lore, and are often praised as her equal. But she wasn't! I've only read Whose Body? so far, and although I rather like Lord Peter Wimsey, but I found it rather soulless. But I'm ready to read more of Sayers", who knows, I might like her more some day, though she'll never equal the queen!

Laurie R. King

Confession: I don't really like Sherlock Holmes. He's too dull for my liking. But when Laurie R. King wrote about Holmes from the point of view of Mary Russell - Holmes' apprentice then wife - I actually kinda like him! Maybe Doyle's Holmes is just to masculine. He needs a feminine touch!

I have read about five or six from King's Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series, and intend to read more.

Richard Osman

Amateur sleuth and cozy mystery are one perfect combination. Osman's sleuths are extraordinary, four elderly who live in the same retirement community. Unexpected, funny, and sometimes touching. I've read the first of the series: The Thursday Murder Club, and can't wait to read the next book!

Robin Stevens

Another unlikely amateur sleuths in a cozy mystery series from Robin Stevens. It's actually a children (teenager) murder mystery. The sleuths are two schoolgirls in 1930s England. Very refreshing! I've read only the Christmas edition: Mistletoe Murder, but intend to start over from the first book.

Stephanie Barron

OK, one more cozy mystery won't hurt. Barron has impressed me last year with an unusual combo of murder mystery and a famous author. Jane Austen turns sleuth! My first introduction to the Being Jane Austen Mystery series was also the Christmas edition: Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, and loved it. Can't wait to return to that charming universe!

G.K. Chesterton

The only book from Chesterton I've ever read is The Innocence of Father Brown in 2018. Another of unlikely amateur sleuth, a Catholic pastor! I rather missed him, though I've wished Chesterton had written at least one novel of Father Brown, instead of 53 short stories. But well...

The next three authors are those whose books I've never read, but curious enough to try some day.

Ngaio Marsh

Another confession: until very recently, I've always thought Ngaio Marsh is a male! πŸ˜‹ Dame Ngaio Marsh was Agatha Christie's contemporary. I've only read one book when I was at high school (don't even remember the title). I wasn't very impressed at that time, but I'm curious to have another try. Have you read her? Any title recommendation?

P.D. James

Another female author from the golden age detective stories era I haven't read, though I've heard a lot of praises for her book. What's your favorite from James?

Jessica Fellowes

The last one is a contemporary cozy mystery author, who is the niece of Julian Fellowes- the creator of Downton Abbey TV series & movie. Since I, for some reasons, will most probably never watch Downton Abbey again, it's a real pleasant to have found a murder mystery with very similar style and period as Downton Abbey. I can't wait to start reading Fellowes's Mitford Mystery series!

Found a favorite authors of yours? Any other crime authors you like that you'd recommend?

Saturday, February 25, 2023

A Singer's Romance by Willa Cather: A Short Story #WCSSP2023

πŸ’— Our second Willa Cather's short story for #WCSSP2023 project has a very different tone from last month's. It is very short, light, and straightforward; and very appropriate too for a February read - a romance!

πŸ’— Frau Selma Schumann is an opera singer. She had zealously worked hard her entire life to achieve the present level. Not that she minds it, as hard working is a spirit she inherited from her father. But at forty two years old, she begins to have a little regret for never having tasted the sweet taste of romance.

The story begins on a rainy night when she is about to leave Metropolitan Opera House after finishing her performance. Struggling to replace her wind-swept mantilla, she dropped her jewels bag. A handsome Latin man with black hair, mustache, and a red carnation in his buttonhole, sprightly lept to snatch it, and returned it to the owner with a bow.

"The New Yorker" by Constantin Alajalov, 1937

πŸ’— The incident is only one of several occasions where this signorino always appeares wherever Madam goes with her valuable maid/companion Antoinette. Antoinette is an orphan, daughter of a former opera singer, whom Frau Schumann took into her service.

πŸ’— Naturally Madame believes the signorino is attracted to her. But why does he never say anything, nor attempt to communicate with her? She has even manoeuvred some incidents to let him take the first move. But nothing happens. Meanwhile, Madame decided to look after her appearance more carefully, and stop drinking champagne. Still, nothing happens. When she finally hears signorino's voice, things turned out very unexpectedly, and so she turns back to champagne again.

πŸ’— Overall, it is a sweet, but melancholy story; a little humorous but ironic. It reminds me of Song of the Lark - the same hardworking women, sacrificing their private lives to be successful opera singers. And what then? They might or might not be successful, but in the end, is it all worth it?

πŸ’— I quite love this story, although it's not the usual Cather's quality writing I always expect of her, it's sweet, simple, and entertaining.

Rating: 4 / 5


Friday, February 24, 2023

My Gorgeous Fore-Edge Painted Book!

Have you ever been longing to own a book with gorgeous fore-edge painting? "A fore-edge painting is a scene painted on the edges of book pages." (Wikipedia)

I have! I've seen some on Etsy, but they are so expensive, and one cannot choose the book, nor the scene, to be painted. I am very fortunate though, that one of my best bookish friends: Melisa (twitter: @melmarian) is not only an avid reader like myself, but also a wonderfully talented artist! One of her best works is fore-edge book paintings, and she has been opening commissions for some time.

Since February is my birthday month, I've treated myself with Melisa's gorgeous fore-edge painting on my copy of All Creatures Great and Small (James Herriot). I love the cover art, with the English rural village vibes. And so, I ordered more 'English-villagey' scenes to be painted on. Here's the result:

the cover

the fore-edge painting, gorgeous isn't it??

I specifically asked Melisa to paint the wooden fence and... a cute Robin!

...also the flower bushes to add more cheerfulness to the scene..

if you wonder about the top and bottom
edges, they are painted plain green

Do you own fore-edge painted books? Did you actually read it? Or do you keep it save, and just read an e-book version instead for fearing you might spoil the paint?? 

Thursday, February 23, 2023

The LMM Tag

This week we are celebrating L.M. Montgomery in a blog party, hosted by Hamlette. Here's a tag about LMM, with my answers:

1. Who introduced you to L. M. Montgomery's writing?  Tell us the story!
No one, really. My first introduction to L.M. Montgomery was Anne of Green Gables. I read and reviewed it (in Bahasa Indonesia) in 2009, and it was among the first books which influenced me to love classics. 

2. What LMM books have you read?
As far as I can remember, only Anne of Green Gables (shame on me!) I owned a book rental then an online second-hand bookstore back in 2015-2018, and during that time I’ve purchased translations of the Anne series, which my clients love, but I didn’t remember ever read them.

3. What movies or shows based on her books have you watched?
Anne with an E on Netflix – loved it! And it brought back memories of reading LMM. I’ve been wanting to read more of Anne's since that!

4. Which LMM character is your kindred spirit, the one you'd like to hang out with in real life?
I would love to hang out with Jane Victoria Stuart from Jane of Lantern Hill. She’s amiable and relates much with nature. It would be awesome to take a stroll and maybe a little picnic with her!

5. Which LMM character do you relate to the most?  And why?
I’m not sure, but maybe Diana from Anne of Green Gables? I didn’t remember her much, but from Anne with an E TV series, she seems calm and mature, always wants to please others. Yet, courageous enough to stand on her own (well... thanks to her friendship with Anne, of course)

6. Have you ever been to Prince Edward Island?
Nope, though I would love to if I had chance to go abroad some day!

7. Who is your favorite LMM heroine?
Since I’ve read only two LMM’s so far, I don’t have much to choose from, so I’ll go with Jane Victoria Stuart.

8. Who is your favorite LMM hero?
Jane’s father: Andrew Stuart

9. Do you have any fun merch related to her books?  If so, please share some photos!
No. I seldom collect bookish merch anyway. 😊

10. What are some of your favorite LMM quotations?

"There is no pleasure in life like the joy of achievement." ~ Jane of Lantern Hill

“I can talk a blue streak when the spirit moves me. When it doesn't I like people to let me be.” ~ Jane of Lantern Hill