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! ๐Ÿ˜‹ 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



๐Ÿ’— 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!

๐Ÿ’— 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.

๐Ÿ’—
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


๐Ÿ’— 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.

๐Ÿ’— 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.

๐Ÿ’— 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?

๐Ÿ’— 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. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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

 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Judging Book by Its Cover: Jane of Lantern Hill (L.M. Montgomery)



Judging Book by Its Cover is a blog feature where I analyze book cover art, compare it with its content, as well as with covers from few other editions.


Jane of Lantern Hill



For L.M. Montgomery's Jane of Lantern Hill, I read the e-book version from Virago, published in 2014. I loved the modern cover art, with a little girl standing in front of a full-blossoming cherry tree, with a full moon in the background. It's a perfect portrait of this passage:

"She had crept out to have a good look at the full moon . . . Jane had her own particular reasons for liking to look at the moon . . . and the white blossoming cherry-tree over in the yard of 58. The cherry-tree, with the moon hanging over it like a great pearl, was so beautiful that Jane felt a queer lump in her throat when she looked at it."

The girl looks so unhappy, and is searching for a little peace from the moon, which really looks like hanging over the cherry tree like a big pearl. It vividly portrays Jane's unhappiness when staying at her grandmother's house in 60th Gay Street.

However, if you look carefully at the girl, you can see there're still hopes for a brighter future. Her bright face and her clasping hands suggest that hopefulness. She feels alone, but she finds solace in the moon and the cherry tree; they're her temporary friends, until she finds lovely people who'd love and accept her as she is. Well, the pearly moon and the cherry blossoms help adding a touch of gayness to the cover too.

All in all, I love this cover art, modern, beautiful, melancholy, but with a touch of brightness.

Now, let's pick two more cover arts from different editions.


McClelland & Stewart (1st edition), 1937



I'm always curious by first edition of a classic. In this edition, there's the little girl, and the big moon. But what tree is that, with its hanging branches over the girl? I don't like this painting. The night is too dark, despite of the full moon. The tree looks rather ominous; and the girl's gesture seems like she's waiting for someone or something, rather than a lonely or unhappy child. It doesn't look charming at all; and if I was to look at this cover while hunting for a charming book at the bookstore, I won't pick it.



McClelland & Stewart (later edition), 1989



I rather like this one. It's obviously Jane and her father having a picnic during Jane's summer stay at Lantern Hill. They're having a good time, and the overall painting conveys a sense of warmth and coziness. But to me, it’s too straightforward; it lacks the depth and complexity of the story - Jane's struggle, her wonderful personal development after tasting love and freedom.


In the end, to me, the winner is the Virago's cover. It's artistic, beautiful, and true to the story.

What do you think? If you have read the book, which cover art do you think truly represents the story? And if you haven't, which one appeal to you most?


**This is my second entry for We ❤ L.M. Montgomery Week hosted by Hamlette (Rachel) @ Hamlette's Soliloquy **



Monday, February 20, 2023

Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery: A Review



๐Ÿงก Jane Victoria Stuart lived all eleven years of her life with her mother, aunt, and grandmother - the Kennedys - in 60th Gay Street, a respectable house in Toronto. But she always feels she doesn't belong there. The only thing she loves within the house is her mother. She hates everything else, especially the strict and prim of her grandmother, who seems to be jealous because her mother loves Jane. About her father, nobody in 60 Gay Street ever mentions; so Jane assumes he's dead.

๐Ÿงก Jane attends St. Agatha's, a respectable school chosen by her grandmother, but she doesn't belong there either. She's nervous and awkward, and seems to be useless at anything she does. And the Kennedys would sneer and laughed at her everytime she blunders, which would make her feel more inferior and miserable than usual. At times like that, her only console are the moon and Jody, an orphaned girl her age who shares her spirit.

"Jane had her own particular reasons for liking to look at the moon . . . and the white blossoming cherry-tree over in the yard of 58. The cherry-tree, with the moon hanging over it like a great pearl, was so beautiful that Jane felt a queer lump in her throat when she looked at it."

๐Ÿงก One day, a letter came from Jane's father. Her father, whom she thought was dead, is actually alive, and wants her to spend summer with him in Prince Edward Island! With many doubts Jane came, and found out that his father is an amiable man whom she can actually love and loves her back! He even bought them a charming house in Lantern Hill, where Jane feels belong to for the first time in her life.

๐Ÿงก
A remarkable change came over Jane as soon as she's found freedom, love, and friendship in Lantern Hill - qualities that she never thought she has in her: courage, strength, and many amazing skills. She even finds comfort in cooking and keeping house for Dad. In short, she seems to have been born in Prince Edward Island - which she actually was!

๐Ÿงก Only one thing marred her blissfulness. If only her mother could join them in Lantern Hill! But it's impossible because her mother doesn't have enough 'backbone' to stand up to grandmother, and Dad don't love her anymore. Will her life always be divided into two poles: summer in Lantern Hill and spring to winter in Toronto?

๐Ÿงก I haven't read L.M. Montgomery's for a long time (the last one is Anne of Green Gables fourteen years ago), and this one is surprisingly a charming book. I loved Lantern Hill, though I always prefer mountains than beach. And I was amazed by Jane's character development. Jane is a genuinely independent creature, and it is only after letting her free to be herself that she will be blossoming into a great person. Love, freedom, and nature are the most powerful combination!

Rating: 4 / 5


**This is my first entry for We ❤ L.M. Montgomery Week, hosted by Hamlette (Rachel) @ Hamlette's Soliloquy.**

 


Friday, February 17, 2023

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Review of an Audiobook



 
๐Ÿ’™ Little House in the Big Woods is the one that started the series of nine autobiographical novels written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, based on her childhood memories in the American Midwest.

๐Ÿ’™ The story is told from Laura's perspective, who, in this book, is four years old. The family consists of Pa Charles, Ma Caroline, Mary - Laura's older sister, and baby Carrie who was just born. They lived in a log cabin at the edge of Big Woods in Wisconsin. The Ingallses are busy preparing for the upcoming winter. They are butchering the animals and preserving the meat; harvesting fruits and vegetables from their garden to be stored in the attic. Everyone is lending their hands to the works.

๐Ÿ’™ At night, when they are tired from the day hard work, Laura feels warm and contented by the blazing fire, the safety of their sturdy log house, the warmth of family love, while Pa's singing and playing his fiddle.

illustration by Garth Williams


๐Ÿ’™ Then the freezing winter came. There's Laura's cousins, aunt and uncle staying with them; the joy of finding presents inside their stockings (Laura got a beautiful doll she named Charlotte), and of course, delicious foods. It is so satisfying to follow Laura's excitement in every simple thing she's enjoying, like when she's scooping snow from outside of grandma's house, then grandma poured hot sticky maple syrup on it to make a sweet candy. It's really a bliss when one can obtain so much happiness from little things like that!

๐Ÿ’™ The joy continues on next in spring, summer, and fall. Of course, there're scary moments too when one lives on the edge of a big woods, such as when Ma and Laura went out to the barn, and seeing the shadow of what they thought is their cow, Suki. Ma slapped the animal, which turned out to be not a cow, but a bear! I couldn't imagine how scared they were (including the bear... it might be more scared for it to be slapped by human like that!!) ๐Ÿคฃ

illustration by Garth Williams


๐Ÿ’™ I enjoyed this book in audiobook version, narrated by Cherry Jones. Let me tell you, one of my favorites is Pa's fiddle. Every time there's a scene where he's singing and playing his fiddle, the narrator sings accordingly, accompanied by a fiddle play (played by Paul Woodiel)! That only enhanced the reading sensation; I felt as if I was transported to the Ingallses' log house by the big woods on a cold night!

๐Ÿ’™ I loved also Pa's stories. The one when he heard a scary voice in the wood when he's a boy coming late from running errand, for example, which turned out to be a screech owl's! ๐Ÿคฃ

๐Ÿ’™
But the funniest one is Pa's story about grandpa & his brothers' sled riding when they were kids, and the black pig. One day they sneaked out of the house on a Sunday afternoon while their father fell asleep, and rode the sleigh down the hill, when a pig appeared suddenly in front of them out of the wood. They couldn't stop the fast going sleigh, so the pig ended up landing on the boy's lap and they sleighed down with the scared pig squealing, passing the house to the astonishment of their father!๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ That was so funny I had to stop the audio for a minute to laugh out loud!

๐Ÿ’™ It was a so satisfying reading experience, that I planned to read through the whole series (I have only read Little House on the Prairie so far) from audiobook. Cherry Jones is such a perfect narrator for this series!

Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

1st Impression on The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim




Summary
:
A recipe for happiness: four women, one medieval Italian castle, plenty of wisteria, and solitude as needed.



The Enchanted April started with an advertisement of a small medieval castle in Italy, which to be let in April. There, four women embark on a holiday to get out of their dissatisfied lives, where they found beauty and warmth.

I was enraptured by the beautiful trees and flowers with which the castle is surrounded.

Wisteria


"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 can imagine now how it would've felt to be brushed by wet and scented wisterias across my face!


And imagine having wisteria on your porch to look at every morning when you first open your door! It's fortunate I don't have it though, or else, it would've caused struggles to tear myself from its sight everytime I need to go to work!

Judas Tree

I've never heard before that there's tree named Judas! I'd assume it to be an ugly one, but I was wrong...



Judas Tree is "one of the earliest trees to flower in spring, Cercis bursts into colour in April and keeps its large clusters of spectacular bright pink blooms right throughout May. The flowers are said to look like hummingbirds, with showy blooms tapering off into long, thin beak-like stems. [source]

Interestingly, Von Arnim wrote The Enchanted April in 1922 from Castello Brown, a 15th century castle in Portofino, where she herself was having a month-long holiday without her husband!



I wonder whether Castello Brown was as beautiful as what von Arnim described about San Salvatore!

In short, I've fallen in love with this book from the first chapter - no, the first paragraph. And I was instantly drawn to Lotty Wilkins' character. This would be a blissful reading for me, I'm sure, the one I'd be reluctant to end.

 

Monday, February 13, 2023

Re-reading Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie: A Review




๐ŸŒน This was the first time I've ever read a whole book by listening to audiobook (while occasionally reading the printed copy). And I'm glad with my decision; Sad Cypress is the perfect book to listen to. It's Christie's first time to incorporate law court scenes in her novel, and I think the scenes become more lively with a perfect dramatization from a great narrator, who is no less than Sir David Suchet!

๐ŸŒน What I admired from Suchet, is that he gives each important character their unique personalities; he can voice them in different inflection, power, and accent. Particularly whenever he voices Elinor Carlisle's reflection during court session - the soft, dreamy, and weary voice of a young woman after a tragedy.

๐ŸŒน Elinor Carlisle is accused of committing murder to Mary Gerard, daughter of lodge keeper of Elinor's wealthy aunt. It seemed to be a straightforward case - the motive (Roddy, a young man she loved and promised to marry, is smitten by Mary Gerard); the weapon (Mary died of poisoning after eating a sandwich that Elinor has prepared for an impromptu picnic) - all seemed to point out to Elinor as the murderer. Is she?



๐ŸŒน Luckily for Elinor, there's young Doctor Peter Lord, who's falling in love with Elinor, and believes in her innocent. It was him that contacted and persuaded Hercule Poirot to seek the truth. What kind of truth be revealed by Poirot? Is Elinor the real murderer? If not, who, and why?

๐ŸŒน Sad Cypress was written rather differently in structure, compared with Christie's usual method. The court scenes allowed her to break down the narrative into four phases. First, the court scene where Elinor as the accused pleaded "not guilty"; then the scene shifted to where it had begun, until Mary Gerard was found dead, and entered Poirot doing his routine interviews, interspersed with him discussing the progress with Peter Lord. Following that, the scene moved back again to the court, where the real murderer is finally revealed (not by Poirot as usual). My favorite part is the ending, where Christie tied up all the loose ends, satisfyingly.

๐ŸŒน The atmosphere of the whole story is more melancholy. There is not the usual red herring or plot twist; it's pretty straightforward, which gave Christie more space to delve into the characters' psychological struggles. Listening to audiobook only enhanced my understanding on this aspect, and made this reading a new and fulfilling experience (I still sometimes consulted the book when I didn't understand a word or two, especially when Poirot talked with his foreign accent.)

๐ŸŒน One more thing... I loved the cover art of my paperback edition, with a blur bluish image of a woman. It seems to portrait Elinor quite suitably. The artwork of Harper Collins edition with roses and thorns, seems suitable too. But you can understand its connection with the story only after reading it.

Rating: 4 / 5 

Friday, February 10, 2023

1st Impression on Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk (The Dancer) by Ahmad Tohari




Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk is an Indonesian classic historical fiction written by Ahmad Tohari. It was first published in 1982 in trilogy, but in 2003 Gramedia Pustaka Utama published it as a whole novel. It had then been translated into Japanese, Dutch, German, as well as English. The English version is titled The Dancer, translated by Rene T.A. Lysloff, and published by Lontar Foundation in January 2013. 


Cover of the English translation


Synopsis
Set in the tumultuous days of the mid 1960s, "The Dancer" describes a village community struggling to adapt to a rapidly changing world. It also provides readers with a ground-level view of the political turmoil and human tragedy leading up to and following the abortive Communist coup. This trilogy of novels traces the lives of two characters: Srintil, a dancer whose unwitting involvement with the region's leftist propaganda machine sets her at odds with Rasus, the love of her life who embraces Islam and finds a career in the army. Through their separate experiences, both learn the concepts of shame and sin: Rasus after he leaves their home village and journeys into the wider world and Srintil when the outside world finally comes crashing into her remote and isolated village.
 

I am reading the Indonesian novel edition, though, with its bright orange cover. Though the story isn't really as bright as the cover!



Two most important themes of the story are ronggeng itself and the historical political turmoil in Indonesia in mid 1960s, which would become one of the darkest tragedies of this nation.

About Ronggeng
Quoting from wikipedia: "Ronggeng is a type of Javanese dance in which couples exchange poetic verses as they dance to the music of a rebab or violin and a gong. The term "ronggeng" also applied for this female dancers. During a ronggeng performance, the female professional dancers are expected to invite some male audiences or clients to dance with them as a couple with the exchange of some tips money for the female dancer, given during or after the dance. The couple dances intimately and the female dancer might perform some movements that might be considered too erotic by standard of modesty in Javanese court etiquette. In the past, the erotic and sexual nuance of the dance gave ronggeng a shady reputation as prostitution disguised in the art of dance."

Ronggeng Dance by P. A. van der Lith (1893-1894)


So, 'Ronggeng' in the title alludes to the dancer, Srintil, our protagonist. Dukuh is a small village; so Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk can be freely translated as Ronggeng Dancer from Paruk Village.


Ronggeng and Geisha
From what I've been reading so far, I gathered that ronggeng is the "lower" version of geisha. While geisha is usually multi-talented, ronggeng's skill is mainly dancing and a little singing. They both entertained men - geisha, those of the upper classes; ronggeng, the lower working classes. One more striking similarity: to become eligible, there's a special rite they must perform, where their virginity would be sold to the highest bidder (I've at least gathered that about geisha from Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden). To become either geisha or ronggeng is regarded as an honor, and little girls dreamed to have such career. Geisha is perhaps more of honorable and intelligent entertainer, but ronggeng is plain prostitute disguised as dancer!


The 1960s Political Turmoil
The Indonesian genocide or Indonesian politicide was a mass killings primarily targeting members of the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), but also people or organizations suspected to be sympathizers of the ideology. It is estimated that between 500,000 to 1,000,000 people were killed during the main period of violence from October 1965 to March 1966.


Two rather unappealing historical facts in a novel - though the political turmoil, I suspect, will only appear rather later on the novel. But I decided to read through, because Tohari wrote this novel quite beautifully. I loved especially the first chapter, where he described the rustic beauty of Indonesian life in a small village - tranquil in its nature and simplicity - before modern life touched it.

I’m curious how the story and its characters would develop from that. I'm not really excited about this book – it might be a bit of a struggle for me - but let's just see!

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Blogger-Inspired Wishlist Ep. 2: A Short Story Collection and Three New Authors




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.

In this second episode you'll find me adding four more books into my wish list, three of which are from authors new to me.


Wessex Tales by Thomas Hardy
Inspired by: Reese @ Typings



Synopsis:
In addition to his great "Wessex Novels," Thomas Hardy wrote Wessex Tales (1888), a collection of six stories that, for the most part, are as bleakly ironic and unforgiving as the darkest of his great novels -- Jude the Obscure.

Readers will experience Hardy's uncompromising, unsentimental realism in Wessex Tales, and for those seeking a taste of the Dorset poet and novelist, they represent an ideal start.

From Reese's review:
"Those two stories, while perhaps not Tess of the D'Urbervilles tragic, are more what one thinks of as typically Hardy... Anyway quite entertaining, and much more varied than I was expecting."

Reese and I agree, to read (and enjoy) Hardy's you need to be in the right mood. What if you want to but are not in the right mood? I think this short story collection would be the best choice!


Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart



Synopsis:
Widowed Charity Selborne had been greatly looking forward to her driving holiday through France with her old friend Louise - long, leisurely days under the hot sun, enjoying the beauty of the parched Provencal landscape. But when Charity arrived at their hotel in the picturesque French town of Avignon, she had no way of knowing that she was to become the principal player in the last act of a strange and brutal tragedy. Most of it had already been played. There had been love--and lust--and revenge and fear and murder.

From Jane's review:
"I absolutely loved the setting, starting out in Avignon and ending up in Marseille, with terrific car chases, visits to ancient Roman and medieval French sites and landmarks, cafe lunches, moonlit strolls, kidnapping, and lots of derring-do along the way.

The romance is pretty sappy, but palatable. The suspense is marvelous--definitely couldn't put it down as I neared the end of the story."

A cozy mystery set in Southern France is enough to hook me up! ๐Ÿ˜‰


The Foolish Gentlewoman by Margery Sharp



Synopsis:
Light, humorous novel in the usual Sharp style, Isabel Brocken, a sentimental English widow, extends her hospitality to a rather mixed group of friends and relatives who have been left without living quarters by the war.

From Mallika's review:
"A charming piece of fiction. The story is gentle and told with humour and yet also realistic all through. I loved reading this book and how Margery Sharp told this unusual little tale. She gives us a good feel of post war England, with the changing face of the neighbourhood—some people having lost their lives, others moved away, old houses lost or badly damaged; the different views and problems."

Seems like a charming, delightful book!


Near Neighbours by Molly Clavering
Inspired by Heavenali @ heavenali 



Synopsis:
At number 6 Kirkcaldy Crescent lives Mrs. Lennox and her five children (all in their late teens or early twenties). Number 4, the house next door, Miss Balfour, a gentle and unassuming spinster who was constantly surprised to find "how astonishingly nice and good people were when you knew them..."
What she did not know and would not have believed was that the people who knew her could not help living up to her belief in their good qualities.

From Heavanali's review:
"An unashamedly delightful read – without being in way sugary or silly. Molly Clavering has created a cast of characters her readers can become immediately invested in. Her central character Dorothea Balfour in particular is a wonderful character – her back story is somewhat sad, and the reader can delight in her late blossoming and happiness. Near Neighbours is a very cheerful and hopeful novel. Certainly, an author I shall read more of in the future."

Another delightful book from Dean Street Press that is hard to resist!


Have you read any of these? 


Previous Blogger-Inspired Wishlist posts:
- Ep. 1 (Christmas edition)

 

Monday, February 6, 2023

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury: A Review



๐Ÿ’š Dandelion Wine is Ray Bradbury's remembrance of his childhood in Waukegan, Illinois, which he changed to Green Town in this book. It was originally developed from a short story of the same title.

๐Ÿ’š Douglas Spaulding, the twelve years old boy, main character of this story, is Ray Bradbury himself. The story takes place in one summer in 1928. Summer is Douglas' favorite season. During summer holidays Douglas and Tom, his little brother, used to stay at their grandfather's house, and help him preparing bottles of Dandelion wines. In Douglas' view, each bottle contains the essence of every event that had happened during that summer holiday, that he wishes not to forget.

๐Ÿ’š Douglas (or Bradbury) is an imaginative boy, while Tom is the opposite; he's the sensible one. They both take notes of day to day small but memorable events during that summer; happy and sad, terrifying and exciting. Douglas' new tennis shoes, for instance, is an important event in Douglas' summer.

๐Ÿ’š Then there are things which excited their summer, but also made them contemplating about life. The Happy Machine, Colonel Freeley's 'time machine', and their last ride on the green trolley, are some of these. There are also Misses Fern and Roberta's Green Machine, the Buffalo dust and Ching Ling Soo, the Tarot Witch at the amusement park, and of course, the Lonely One! But maybe, the one that touched Douglas most during that summer, is when his best friend John Huff moved out from the town.

๐Ÿ’š
Though this story has been modeled as a novel, I think it would be more fun to read it as short story collection. It still lacks a little cohesiveness to become a whole novel, because there is no plot. Nevertheless, all stories made us reflect about happiness in the past, and what matters most. There are those who tries hard to preserve and live in the past, such as Mrs. Bentley, who keeps bric-a-brac from her past. But there are also people like Douglas' grandfather who believes:

"Once a time was over, it was done. You were always in the present."

๐Ÿ’š Maybe the best way is to keep happy memories, like Douglas' summers in bottles of Dandelion wine; then moved on, and to continue on living in the present - savoring all the little things we can, to be preserved then, in the next batch of Dandelion wines. Just like Douglas' grandfather's wisdom:

"When you’re my age, you’ll find out it’s the little savors and little things that count more than big ones. A walk on a spring morning is better than an eighty-mile ride in a hopped-up car, you know why? Because it’s full of flavors, full of a lot of things growing."

๐Ÿ’š Dandelion Wine is a happy and delightful reading, with its sweet simplicity, its summer vibes, packed with fun adventures, written in a poetic and beautiful style by Ray Bradbury. I loved most of the stories, but two of my favorites are perhaps Douglas' half blind grandma's splendid food only while the kitchen is in topsy-turvy condition; and the kindhearted Mr. Jonas the not-ordinary-junkman who always know what one needs most. I know what I need most... more books that makes one smile like this one, please!

Rating: 4,5 / 5

 

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Six Degrees of Separation, from Trust to David Copperfield




Six Degrees of Separation is a meme, now hosted by Kate @ booksaremyfavoriteandbest.

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:

Note:
- I have read all book except the starter.
- Each title is linked to, either my review, or to Goodreads page if I didn't review it.


I haven't read the book, but the theme is money/financial scheme. One book popped up instantly in my head:

 

1. Money by ร‰mile Zola

It's about speculation and fraudulent financial scheme on Paris Bourse in 19th century. Aristide Saccard - main character of this novel - is anti-semitic. His principal rival is a Jewish banker. Another book where its character is also an anti-Semite who deals with a Jewish is:

 

2. Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

There might be quite many books set in Venice, but one book that instantly came to my mind:

 

3. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe

While the story isn't entirely set in Venice, it is in Venice that poor and innocent Emily meets Count Morano for the first time. Emily isn't the only orphaned girl with aggressive suitor in literature. I've read last year a book where the heroine suffered similar predicament:

 

4. Evelina by Frances Burney

Evelina, or A Young Lady's Entrance into the World is an epistolary novel, and so is...

 

5. Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim

It is a semi autobiographical novel of Elizabeth von Arnim, which reminds me of another book that share the same genre, but from different century:

 

6. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Another semi autobiographical novel, which is also one of my all-time favorite books.


And that’s how the chain ended. It’s been fun… I should do this more often!

 

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

January Wrap Up & Exciting Things on February!


Woman Reading, Portrait of Sofia Kramskaya, Ivan Kramskoy (1886)


The first month had come and then gone so quickly, but it has changed my reading life quite considerably.


๐Ÿ“š Books Read in January

The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy
- for CC Spin #32
A thorough and satisfying read; wrote four posts about it.
Read from: printed book

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury (reviewed, unpublished yet)
1st Impression
A delightful and colorful read!
Read from: e-book

Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie (unreviewed yet)
My first-time audiobook reading listening; a fantastic reading of otherwise rather melancholy book.
Read from: audiobook / printed book combo

The Affair at Grover Station by Willa Cather (short story)
A murder story marred by racism
Read from: e-book


๐Ÿ“š Started but unfinished yet

* Rural Hours by Susan Fenimore Cooper (e-book) - 1st Impression

* Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (audiobook)

 

2023 Statistics

๐Ÿ“Š Total books read so far: 3
๐Ÿ“Š Total short stories read so far: 1
๐Ÿ“Š Challenge progress:
* 2023 TBR Pile Challenge: 2
* 2023 Victorian Reading Challenge: 1
* 2023 Audiobook Challenge: 1


๐Ÿ“š What's happening in February

* Buddy Read with Melisa (@melmarian), reading an Indonesian classic: Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk (English edition: The Dancer) by Ahmad Tohari

* A Blog Party hosted by Hamlette (Rachel) @ Hamlette's Soliloqui: We ๐Ÿ–ค L.M. Montgomery Week
I'll read Jane of Lantern Hill and plan to write two posts for the party; this would be exciting!



* Continuing Rural Hours (this one might stretch on to March!) and Little House in the Big Woods.

* Listening/reading combo of The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim


How's your January reading? And what's your plan for February?