Thursday, June 29, 2023

Throwback Thursday #2: The Siege by Helen Dunmore

Throwback Thursday is a monthly bookish meme hosted by Davida @ The Chocolate Lady's Book Review Blog every first Thursday of the month, where we are highlighting one of our previously published book reviews.

I see this as an opportunity to re-post (or translate posts originally published in Bahasa Indonesia) my old book reviews, previously posted in my old (now inactive) blogs.

For #ThrowbackThursday this week I picked a book I have read and review in July, 2018 - a compelling story of war and humanity.

The Siege by Helen Dunmore

πŸ’™ You could never really know what the word "starving" means if you have never been deprived of the food SOURCE. This novel by Helen Dumnore teaches you to always be grateful for every single day of your life.

πŸ’™ The Siege depicted the historical siege of Leningrad by German (Nazy) Army in World War II; the biggest prolonged siege in the history. The novel particularly focused on the most extreme part of the siege, i.e. the winter of September 1941 to February 1942. Food ration was down to only 125 grams bread per person per DAY. Can you imagine that? 125 grams for 24 hours! And when the temperature was down to -30 degree (Celsius); many people died from combination of starvation, malnutrition, and freeze. Food and fuel suddenly valued like gold, while money became worthless (you couldn't eat money no matter how rich you were!). The siege was prolonged until January 1944 (900 days in total), but at least a new access was available after the severe winter had passed, that food supply was gradually back to normal--food ration was still on, but at least they didn't have to starve.

πŸ’™ The central characters of this historical novel are the working class family: Anna Mikhailovna, a young woman who lives with her father and her little brother Kolya. Then Marina Petrovna, a former actress and a friend of Anna's father, came to stay with them just before the city was besieged. Another important character was Andrei, a medical student who helped Mikhail (Anna's father) in war, and so he and Anna met and soon lived each other. These four adults and a little boy was a portrayal of how the city heroically held on and refused to surrender to the Nazi (Hitler's plan was to raze the city to the ground--another method of genocide?).

πŸ’™ And so, amidst the famine, struggle of life, bombardment, and cannibalism (yes, there were some cases of starving people ate human flesh!), there grew love and hope, which I believe were two important keys of survival. From their heroic acts, I see humanity at its highest and strongest state, which no one could dream to destroy.

πŸ’™ Two thumbs up for Dunmore for writing so vivid and compelling story of war and humanity.


Have you read this book? Or any other of Dunmore's?
By the way, I have just found out that there is a sequel to this book, which was published in 2010 titled 'The Betrayal', though I don't know if I ever want to read it - it sounds too depressing (from the Goodreads review)

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

I'm Joining: British Crime Classics Challenge 2023

I have been a crime/mystery fiction aficionado since I was in junior high school. It all began with Enid Blyton’s, and continued with Agatha Christie’s. Until very recently I mostly read Christie's books - I am even working on an Agatha Christie Perpetual Reading Challenge; re-reading her novels. But this year I'm intending to read most of the rest of the Golden Age era books, as well as modern cozy mystery.

And that's why I'm very excited when Rekha from The Book Decoder announced that British Crime Classics Challenge 2023 will start next month! It will be a good opportunity for me to explore more of the Golden Age Detective writers.

The Rules:
  1. Books must be written by a British Author
    NOTE: books by Brit author moved to other countries post birth/author born to Brit parents or during British rule are allowed
  2. Books must be published on or before 1965
    NOTE: reprints are allowed

My plans:

  • Reading at least 6 books (most probably more 😏) from July to December 2023.
  • Doing the Bingo (yes, there is a bingo card to spice the challenge up!).
  • Working with Monthly Themes whenever possible.

I will add books I read for this challenge here, with link to the reviews. And this will serve as my Master List:

1. Evil Under the Sun (Agatha Christie) - BINGO: Set on an Island
2. Heads You Lose (Christianna Brand) - BINGO: Closed Circle of Suspects
3. The Pleasure Cruise Mystery (Robin Forsythe) - BINGO: Mystery Set on Boat/Ship
4. The 12.30 from Croydon (Freeman Wills Croft) - BINGO: Death on Board: Aircraft
5. Murder in the Mill-Race (E.C.R. Lorac) - BINGO: Death by Drowning
6. The Body in the Library (Agatha Christie) - BINGO: Re-Read
7. The Crooked Wreath (Christianna Brand) - BINGO: Locked Room Mystery

The Bingo Card, I’m aiming for the 5x5 (will keep updating along the way):

If you're interested to participate, just go over to Rekha's post.


Monday, June 26, 2023

The Bookshop Murder by Merryn Allingham (2021): A Cozy Mystery

πŸ“š After her aunt died, Flora Steel - an orphan who had lived with and adored her aunt - inherited a local bookshop in a quiet English village: Abbeymead. The year is 1955. Now she runs the bookshop, which is struggling, but Flora always dreams about travelling aboard, seeing the world beyond, have an exciting life. Well, she can't do that now, can she?

πŸ“š On the day that will change Flora's life completely, two unusual things happen: a recluse handsome crime writer who lives in the village, Jack Carrington, visits the book shop. It is unusual because Jack never comes to the bookshop himself. He places his orders through an errand boy. Then when the books are ready, the same boy will pick them up and delivers to his house. The other unusual thing is, while browsing the rare-books shelve, Jack finds a dead body!

πŸ“š The police aren't interested in the incident because the cause of death is heart failure. But Flora is quite sure it was a murder. Now she determines to investigate the case herself to save her bookshop's reputation, since customers begin to avoid it (well, you know how a small village rumours can be toxic, right?) And who's the better partner she could pick than a crime writer? So, that's how Flora Steel and Jack Carrington begins their partnership in this first book in a series.

πŸ“š As the title hinted, it was a murder after all. But how can a heart failure case become a murder? What is the weapon? Why the victim - a guest from the Priory hotel - entered the bookshop at night when it was closed, unknown, in the first place? These questions were slowly answered in surprising plots. Allingham is very smart not to choose the usual weapon and motive for this case. And it's these two elements which add charm to this cozy mystery, besides Flora and Jack's…ahem...growing intimacy.

πŸ“š All in all, I surprisingly enjoyed this book very much. I loved Flora's and Jack's characters. Allingham did a great job in developing their characters - a solid foundation for the series, I think. I loved the time setting (1955) which is emphasized by Betty - Flora's beloved bicycle she uses for delivering books - and the use of library books in facts finding, instead of google and internet things that would have appeared had this is set in modern time.

πŸ“š The murder motive might be a bit farfetched for crime fiction lovers, especially fans of golden age crime fiction, but as this is a cozy mystery, I have no complain. Like I said, it spices the story a bit, giving it a thrilling adventure vibe.

Rating: 4,5 / 5


Friday, June 23, 2023

Blogger-Inspired Wishlist Ep. 6: A Mixed-Genre Compilation

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.

A memoir, two crime fictions, two love stories, one historical fiction, and one reflective novel. That's what I've compiled this time, thanks to reviews/post of these amazing book bloggers:

Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson

Shot through with the indulgent pleasures of life among New York’s one-percenters, Pineapple Street is an addictive, escapist novel that sparkles with wit. Full of recognizable, lovable—if fallible—characters, it’s about the peculiar unknowability of someone else’s family, the miles between the haves and have-nots, and the insanity of first love—all wrapped in a deliciously funny, sharply observed debut of family, love, and class.

From Liz's review:
"It’s often very funny, skewering family pretensions, and there’s a hilarious note near the end where a house basically takes its own revenge, but also there’s quite a lot about how difficult it is to be super-rich and not know whether people are going to take advantage of you, explaining why the super-rich only hang out together.

It’s also competently written and plotted and nicely structured; we don’t realise until a long way through the book the import of the person centred in the Prelude, for instance, and there are some plot doublings and echoes that come to light as we progress which are very nicely done. And there is a lot of humour in it."

A Summer Surprise at the Little Blue Boathouse by Christie Barlow

When Bea Fernsby discovers her fiancΓ©’s eyes have been wandering, she calls off the wedding and hits the road. The village of Heartcross in the Scottish Highlands is about as far away from home as she can get, and when she stumbles into the ideal summer job at The Little Blue Boathouse and meets gorgeous vacationer Nolan Hemingway, things finally start looking up.

Now, as an old mystery surfaces and Bea and Nolan band together to find out what happened to his late grandfather’s one true love, fate throws Bea some unexpected curveballs…and promising opportunities.

From Liz's review:
"I loved the details of running the boathouse which we find out as Bea learns the ropes, and there’s a super theme about keeping people safe. Not to mention there’s a light aircraft towing a proposal that offers a tantalising glimpse of the next novel to come … Long may Barlow keep producing these delightful novels!"

When in French by Lauren Collins
Inspired by Simon @ Stuck in Books 

When in French is a laugh-out-loud funny and surprising memoir about the lengths we go to for love, as well as an exploration across culture and history into how we learn languages—and what they say about who we are. Collins grapples with the complexities of the French language, enduring excruciating role-playing games with her classmates at a Swiss language school and accidentally telling her mother-in-law that she’s given birth to a coffee machine. In learning French, Collins must wrestle with the very nature of French identity and society—which, it turns out, is a far cry from life back home in North Carolina. Plumbing the mysterious depths of humanity’s many forms of language, Collins describes with great style and wicked humor the frustrations, embarrassments, surprises, and, finally, joys of learning—and living in—French.

Police at the Funeral by Margery Allingham
Inspired by Simon @ Stuck in Books 

The imperious Great Aunt Caroline Faraday runs her old Cambridge residence like a Victorian fiefdom, unconcerned with the fact that it's 1931. Furniture and meals are heavy and elaborate, both motorcars and morning tea are forbidden on account of vulgarity. The Faraday children--now well into middle age--chafe at the restrictions, but with no money of their own, they respond primarily by quarreling amongst themselves. The illustrious Faraday family endless squabbling is tedious, but the tense tranquility is punctured when Nephew Andrew vanished without trace one Sunday morning after church, only to be found dead in a secluded stream.

Albert Campion must untangle a web of family resentments, little does he expect to be greeted by a band of eccentric relatives all at daggers with each other. He must unravel a chillingly ingenious plot, strewn with red herrings to get to the real secret of the Faradays.

From Simon's review:
"It’s a very satisfying solution, with enough clues along the way that we don’t feel cheated. I loved the set up with the horrendous family. I don’t remember finding Allingham’s writing so enjoyably funny and dramatic before, so this was a goody."

The Blue Sky by Galsan Tschinag
Inspired by Marian @ Classics Considered

In the Altai Mountains of northern Mongolia, the nomadic Tuvan people’s ancient way of life is colliding with the pervasive influence of modernity. The first and only member of the Tuvans to use written language to tell stories, Galsan Tschinag chronicles their traditions in this fascinating, bittersweet novel.

From Marian's review:
"As with so many great novels from around the world, it was the universality of the themes that really grabbed me. In fact, much of the book reminded me of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series—she, too, was writing autobiographical fiction from a child’s perspective, and both authors lived hard lives compared to our modern-day circumstances.

Loss features in both stories, as well as farming practices and hardships. it carried a sincere gentleness that I did enjoy, and the uniqueness of the setting makes it very worthwhile. There is beauty, joy, and sorrow here, but no romanticism

The Bookbinder of Jericho by Pip Williams
Inspired by Brona @ This Reading Life

It is 1914, and as the war draws the young men of Britain away to fight, women must keep the nation running. Two of those women are Peggy and Maude, twin sisters who live on a narrowboat in Oxford and work in the bindery at the university press. The Bookbinder of Jericho is a story about knowledge--who creates it, who can access it, and what truths get lost in the process.

From Brona's review:
"Through Peggy’s eyes we see the hardwork, effort and pride that went into making these lovely editions. She loves books and words and grabs any chance to read a line, a paragraph or a page. For most of the girls though it is just a job. For Peggy it is a chance to gather knowledge, soak up new ideas and glimpse another world. One where a poor, working class girl can not only get an education but attend the women’s college, Somerville, just across the road from the bindery. The Bookbinder of Jericho has a lot more to offer lovers of well-researched historical fiction than a ‘town and gown’ story. There’s the war of course, and the story of the nurses and female ambulance drivers. The Bookbinder of Jericho is a rich, satisfying story full of memorable characters and fascinating historical details."

Murder on Black Swan Lane Andrea Penrose
Inspired by Hamlette (Rachel) @ The End of the Precipice

In Regency London, an unconventional scientist and a fearless female artist form an unlikely alliance to expose unspeakable evil . . .

The Earl of Wrexford possesses a brilliant scientific mind, but boredom and pride lead him to reckless behavior. He does not suffer fools gladly. So when pompous, pious Reverend Josiah Holworthy publicly condemns him for debauchery, Wrexford unsheathes his rapier-sharp wit and strikes back. As their war of words escalates, London’s most popular satirical cartoonist, A.J. Quill, skewers them both. But then the clergyman is found slain in a church—his face burned by chemicals, his throat slashed ear to ear—and Wrexford finds himself the chief suspect.

From Rachel's review:
"The whole book is thoroughly enjoyable, especially if you enjoy lots of Regency slang and fashion and other period-correct details, plus a dastardly plot to untangle, but without delving into sordidity. Although there are some ugly murders, and some violence toward children, the book does not devolve into grisly, preferring to remain grimy but not gruesome."

Have you own/read these books? Can you guess which book I've instantly bought after this? ;)

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Shelf Control #2: Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier

Shelf Control is a weekly feature created by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. Since early January 2023, Shelf Control has moved base to Literary Potpourri.

My pick this time is:

Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier

Tracy Chevalier is one of my favorite historical fiction writers. It all started since my reading of Girl with A Pearl Earring, which is, so far, my favorite. Since then I've also read: The Lady and the Unicorn, The Virgin Blue, Falling Angels, and Remarkable Creatures.

What I loved most from Chevalier is her subjects. She usually picks an extraordinary historical art or culture, then weaves a remarkable story around it - story of people involved in it: their lives, struggles, and triumph. Chevalier's great penmanship allows us to be transported to the past, mingling with these characters and living their lives.

In Burning Bright, we are transported to the 18th century London. From Amazon: 1792. Uprooted from their quiet Dorset village to the riotous streets of London, young Jem Kellaway and his family feel very far from home. They struggle to find their place in this tumultuous city, still alive with the repercussions of the blood-splattered French Revolution.

Luckily, streetwise Maggie Butterfield is on hand to show Jem the ropes. Together they encounter the neighbour they’ve been warned about: radical poet and artist William Blake. Jem and Maggie’s passage from innocence to experience becomes the very stuff of poetic inspiration…

I haven't heard about William Blake before, but it is rather interesting, right? Can't wait to be immersed once more into an absorbing reading with Chevalier's.

Have you read this book? Or any of Chevalier's?


Sunday, June 18, 2023

One by One They Disappeared by Moray Dalton (1929): A Golden Age Mystery

πŸ”Ή️Nine men and one cat had survived a sunken ship. The oldest - and richest - of them, Mr. Pakenham, as a token of gratitude to his fellow survivors for helping him on board the live boat, has been hosting  annual elaborate dinners for them over the years. On the last dinner, he announced that the eight of them were made joint-beneficiaries in his will.

πŸ”Ή️This year, however, only two of them appeared at the dinner. Young uprising Inspector Hugh Collier from Scotland Yard was present at the same building when the two guests arrived. Therefore, when few days later he learned that one of them died from an accident, he feels that something isn't quite right, and investigates the case.

πŸ”Ή️Tracing the remaining survivors, Collier finds out that several of them has been died recently. Either by accident or presumably by nature. It's clear now that it's murder for money gain. Someone, apparently, is too greedy that he wants to dip into the whole inheritance at once.

πŸ”Ή️Also involved in this case is the other guest attended the dinner, a Gerald Freyne. He's attracted to a girl called Corrina, the ward of Freyne's neighbor: Mr. Stark. When Freyne disappears one day, Inspector Collier was helped by Mr. Pakenham and Jehosaphat, his beloved cat, both of whom proved to be of hugely valuable helps in solving the case.

πŸ”Ή️ All in all, it was a fast-pace whodunnit murder mystery spiced with a little bit of romance. Dalton wrote this in 1929, the first book of a series. Maybe due to it being the first book, the Inspector I found isn't very smart. He made a huge blunder (which no detective should ever do) that nearly caused catastrophe to one of the innocent parties. I cringed everytime he did it, like: "Don't do that!!" Moreover, old Pakenham also inspired Collier more than once during the investigation. I do hope he'll be much developing throughout the series, since I still want to read more of it!

πŸ”Ή️Of the murderer, I could guess pretty easily, so it's not a surprise. Despite of the flawed detective, I enjoyed this mystery, especially the most critical moments in the last chapters. One more thing I do not agree is the way Dalton "off-staging" the brave cat Jehoshaphat by only mentioning casually of him in a conversation (or in the narrative?) He saved a girl’s life, no less! It's not the way one treating a hero, but you can’t dictate a writer, right?

Rating: 3,5 / 5

I'm not sure whether one might call this book a cat-theme book. There's a cat, yes, and he has a substantial role in the mystery, but he makes seldom appearance and very little stage was provided for by the writer. So, I would put this book as an honorary entry to Literary Potpourri's Reading The Meow 2023.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Art Heists and Hairballs by Bailey Booth: A Cozy Mystery #ReadingTheMeow2023

"I need your help. I've been catnapped." Imagine what you'd think if a cat has greeted you with those words after you’ve rescued her! Addie Dawson, the founder of Helping Paws Animal Shelter, was quite astonished when a cat inside the box she found outside the shelter's door, greeted her so.

🐈 The cat introduced herself as Persephone. She's a beautiful, well-fed cat who lives with an elderly woman named Margaret, the owner of an art gallery. Persephone tells Addie, who's apparently the only person who can talk with her, that she has witnessed an art heist, and been catnapped.

🐈 There's a huge reward for whoever can return the stolen painting, and Addie can well use it for helping more animals (Helping Paws is a no-kill shelter) until they find their forever homes. With Persephone's help, surely, she would be able to catch the thief and return the painting.

🐈 So off Addie goes to the gallery, bringing Persephone to reunite with Margaret, while Addie tries her best to dig information surrounding the art heist. Unfortunately, Addie doesn't have enough lucidity to become a proper sleuth. But for Persephone's clues (how the thief smells, for instance), she won't be able to solve the mystery.

🐈 As a cozy mystery, I think there's not much of mystery in this novella. It lacks of suspects, and I guessed instantly the criminal even from their first appearance. For cat lovers, however, or cat-cozy-mystery lovers, this is a cute story. I loved how Persephone gives Addie titbits info she hears from the other cats, which will help Addie and the shelter crew to provide more fitting treatments for them. And a talking cat gives more personality to the feline creature, and giving her more highlights than that, otherwise, of an ordinary cat.

🐈 All in all, it is a cute little cat-cozy-mystery, a proper introduction to the series, of which I think I'd love to read more.

Rating: 3,5 / 5


**My third read for  Literary Potpourri's #ReadingTheMeow2023**

Getting to know the Meow:
My name is Persephone, and I am the purr-tector of an art gallery.
One day I was catnapped after witnessing an art heist!
My contribution to the story: I help Addie (a nice lady who found me) to find the thief. She can speak my language. It's nice to have a human who can understand me, and gives me food that I want to eat! In exchange, I tell her what other animals in the shelter need/want.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Aunts Aren't Gentlemen by P.G. Wodehouse: A Review for #ReadingTheMeow2023

Bertie Wooster wakes up one morning to find red spots on her chest, and the doctor's (E. Jimpson Murgatroyd) order is to stay quietly in a peaceful place. So go Bertie and his smart valet Jeeves to Maiden Eggesford, a rural town where Bertie's Aunt Dahlia is staying with her friend, Colonel Briscoe, in a house called Eggesford Hall.

🐱 But will Bertie get his prescribed dose of the quite life in Maiden Eggesford? Of course not! As usual, a series of chaos would certainly ensue wherever he goes. This time in the shape of a stray cat!

🐱 There will be a horse race in nearby town. Colonel Briscoe and a man called Cook, who lives in a house called Eggesford Court, were longtime rival. Cook's horse, Potato Chip (what a name for a racehorse!πŸ˜‚) is very attached to a stray black cat. He always performs well whenever the cat is present.

🐱 When Bertie was calling on Colonel Briscoe for lunch, he mistakenly arrived at Eggesford Court (Cook's residence) instead of Eggesford Hall. He saw a black cat, and played with it. But, alas, Pop Cook saw it and thought Bertie wanted to steal his cat to sabotage Potato Chip's training. Bertie recounted this unpleasant incident to the 'old ancestor' (Aunt Dahlia), who has actually placed a bet on Simla, her host's horse. Knowing a way to secure her win, she arranged with a local poacher to steal the cat, and to place it temporarily at Bertie's cottage!

🐱 This then created a string of complex but hilarious misunderstandings, mis-timings, and whatever you call it that usually happens to Bertie Wooster! Add to it the romance between a headstrong girl (Cook's daughter), whom Bertie had once proposed to but regret it now, and a communist young man (Bertie's friend) who are now jealous of Bertie. To make it more complicated, Major Plank, whom Bertie had had trouble with in the past, happened to be staying as a guest at Pop Cook's!

🐱 If you're familiar with Wodehouse's Jeeves stories, you'll guess how chaotically funny these awkward situations can become, and how the ever reliable Jeeves could always save his master from the worst possible intricacies he's liable to put himself in.

🐱 As usual, one will always feel much satisfied after a dose of laughter along Jeeves stories. This one is no different. Though the cat seems not to appear very often, it did have an important and cohesive role in this particular adventure.

Rating: 4,5 / 5

**My second read for Literary Potpourri's Reading the Meow 2023 **

Getting to know the Meow:
I won't tell you my name, but I am very fond of my horse friend: Potato Chip.
I'm hanging around him during his trainings (he's a race horse, isn't it cool?)
My contribution to the story: I was catnapped! Poor Potato Chip refused to do what he's told because I'm not there with him. 
I don't understand why people make fuss about it, 'cause 
I'm having a good time, and I love following people around!


Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Classics Club Spin #34


CC Spin is back! 

It’s easy. At your blog, before next Sunday 18th June, 2023 create a post that lists twenty books of your choice that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list. This is your Spin List. You have to read one of these twenty books by the end of the spin period. On Sunday 18th, June we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by the 6th August, 2023.

As my reading schedule will be quite tight coming July, I choose only short classics (100-200ish pages) which I think I would enjoy. There are only ten of them, so I double the entry to make it twenty. Here's my Spin list:

  1. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
  2. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
  3. The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
  4. Mrs. Harris Goes to Moscow by Paul Gallico
  5. Three Men in A Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
  6. Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome
  7. The Enchanted Barn by Grace Livingston Hill
  8. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
  9. Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
  10. Letters from My Windmill by Alphonse Daudet
  11. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
  12. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
  13. The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
  14. Mrs. Harris Goes to Moscow by Paul Gallico
  15. Three Men in A Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
  16. Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome
  17. The Enchanted Barn by Grace Livingston Hill
  18. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
  19. Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
  20. Letters from My Windmill by Alphonse Daudet

Have you read these books? Which one do you wish me to get?

Monday, June 12, 2023

The Cat Saw Murder by Dolores Hitchens (1939): A Murder Mystery #ReadingTheMeow2023

🐈 Samantha is probably the richest cat in the world. The black cat is an heiress of a wealthy eccentric lady, inheritor of quite a fortune! Now she lives with Rachel Murdock, the deceased lady's (Agatha) sister.

🐈 Rachel is a seventy years old spinster, living in a village with her sister Jennifer, also a spinster. Their ordinary peaceful days is interrupted when Rachel receives a letter from her step-niece, Lily, calling for help. So, go Miss Rachel and Samantha the cat to Breakers Beach, California, to stay at a shabby boarding house where Lily lives.

🐈 Lily is a gambler and in desperate need of cash. She has a share of her aunt's inheritance, but she can only get that after Samantha's death. So, when Miss Rachel found that a poisoning attempt had been made towards the cat, we had suspicion of whodunnit, right? Is Lily a murderer, then? Not of the cat, surely, since she will see a murder - as indicated in the title, but maybe the guy that went missing? The guy (fellow resident) to whom it seems Lily has a crush? Or perhaps deeper than that? Whoever it may be, there is indeed something sinister going on in the house.

🐈 Then Lily herself was murdered, while Miss Rachel was drugged at Lily's bedside when she's visiting her niece's room. Lieutenant Mayhew is the formal investigator of the case, but the real sleuth is, of course, Miss Rachel - a calm, intelligent old lady who'll remind you instantly of Miss Marple. Though Miss Rachel is much more agile than Miss Marple. It's amazing to read how she heaves herself up the attic to spy on the other residents through a hole in their attics!

🐈 However smart and agile Miss Rachel is, she wouldn't solve the case without Samantha. The dear cat has a trusting personality, and likes to follow people. When the murder was committed, she's the only witness, though of course she can't tell it to anyone. But by following the murderer out of the room, Miss Rachel later notices something which shouldn't have been there. And that turns out to be an important clue to the case.

🐈 This is a combination of a gripping murder thriller with a cozy mystery of a charming amateur sleuth and her cat. It also has the Golden Age crime fiction vibes, being published in 1939. The plot is reasonable, spiced with some thrilling action near the end, and good investigation from the police. Though I've guessed the murderer correctly from the beginning, it's still an entertaining crime story to read. I loved the charming Rachel Murdock and the grubby Lieutenant Mayhew. I wish to see more of this unlikely partnership, with Samantha purring and meowing every now and then, preferably in the most critical moment.

Rating: 4,5 / 5

Getting to know the Meow:

My name is Samantha.
I am very rich, I am an heiress of a wealthy lady.
I love following people around, no matter who they are.
My contribution to the story: I witnessed a murder, and then following the murderer around. It's up to Miss Rachel (she's the nice smart lady who takes care of me) to notice anything amiss with me after that, and solving the mystery. I can't tell her who the murderer is, she can't speak my language!

Friday, June 9, 2023

Book Title Challenge

Woman Writing by Hendrik Jacobus Scholten

I saw this fun bookish tag in Golden Age of Detective Fiction blog, who had also seen it in another blog. I thought it would be a fun way to bring back some favorite books I have read and reviewed here years ago. So, let's play!

A Book with A Number In The Title

Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas

You might be more familiar with Dumas' Three Musketeers, but my favorite from this series is actually the direct sequel: Twenty Years After. It is, as the title hinted, twenty years after the four friends' last action in The Three Musketeers. We saw them in this book as more matured men. They struggled with more personal or family issues, and it all changed their views. But one thing stays rather the same: their friendship. It was even more deepening toward the end. A very compelling, heartwarming book, still with some swashbuckling scenes to entertain you.

A Book with A Name In The Title

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

One of my favorite books that deal about conscience and free will. "If God does not exist, then everything is permitted" always provides you ample ground of argument.

A Book with A Setting In The Title

This book remains one of my favorites from Christie. It's a straightforward case, inside a family, and set in a peaceful English countryside. It is also Christie's first book. And having been listening about the writing process in her autobiography very recently, only added the book's charm in my memory. Christie even named her first house 'Styles'!

A Book with An Animal In The Title

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

A wonderful book that deals on the two sides of human being: the good and the evil.

Book with a Colour In The Title

The Black Tulips by Alexandre Dumas

A lesser known work of Dumas, though with the same intricately woven plot. Combining historical events and passionate agricultural personages, the result is highly entertaining story.

A Book with One Word In The Title

Beloved by Toni Morrison

A very powerful read that will blow your mind. If you have to read only one from Toni Morrison, this one would the perfect choice. It's a beautiful albeit bitter story about slavery in the South of America around the end of Civil War, or in the Reconstruction era.

Feel like doing this yourself? Then consider yourself tagged!


Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Summer by Edith Wharton: A Review

πŸ’š Charity Royall is one of just a few of Edith Wharton's heroines who didn't come from upper class society. She came from "up the Mountain" - a slum raked with poverty - but her mother gave her away to be brought up by a lawyer in a respectable house.

πŸ’š Charity grew up with these two identities pulling each other inside her. In a way, she's ashamed of her origin, and grateful of her respectable house. But she also feels of not really belonging in the Royalls' family, and longing to be independent. That's why she takes a job as the village librarian in order to fulfil her dream, though she hates the job.

πŸ’š When Lucius Harney - a handsome young architect, nephew of her boss - comes from the city, Charity is attracted to him. I think she's more attracted to the prospect of leaving her shameful past, than to Lucius himself. Or is it that she feels flattered to be loved by an educated man? Either way, Lucius is Charity's only ticket to freedom and more exciting life. The fact that Mr. Royall wants to marry her, and even made an inappropriate advance to her (ugh!) only strengthens her longing.

πŸ’š As much as I'm excited for Charity's growing intimacy with Lucius, knowing that it is a Wharton's story, I was having trepidation along the reading. Wharton's naturalism meant that most of her heroines are unable to make a life of their own. Charity and Lucius' fourth-of-July cheerful outing is so good that I feared something terrible must awaits in the next chapter(s).

πŸ’š Summer is a coming-of-age story. I'm happy with Charity's development into a matured and wiser woman. Maturity means that one can accept of one's self as it is, and thus, knowing what must have to be done and what's best for one's own.

πŸ’š I have read this book in a very wrong moment, and that's why I didn't enjoy it as much as I should've been, though I realized it as one of Wharton's finest writings. I think I might have to stay away from Naturalist authors for some time. It's not good for my depression. At this moment I only need cheerful stories with happy ending, or fast-paced stories that don't require me to feel anything.

Rating: 3,5 / 5


Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Feel/Look Like Summer

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, and this week's prompt is...

Top Ten Books or Covers that Feel/Look Like Summer

The first four are books with the word "summer" in their titles. I have only read two, while the other two are in my TBR.

Summer by Edith Wharton (Read but not yet reviewed)
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden

The next five are with covers that looks like summer:

My Good Life in France by Janine Marsh
The Earth by Γ‰mile Zola

And the last one is simply the essence of summer trapped in a book:

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Have you read any of them? Any favorite?


Saturday, June 3, 2023

Six Degrees of Separation, from Friendaholic to The Martian

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly 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:

by Elizabeth Day

"As a society, there is a tendency to elevate romantic love. But what about friendships? Aren't they just as – if not more – important? So why is it hard to find the right words to express what these uniquely complex bonds mean to us? In Friendaholic: Confessions of a Friendship Addict, Elizabeth Day embarks on a journey to answer these questions." - Goodreads

I haven't read this book, but the title says it all. The center theme is about friendship, which I picked to build my first chain - a friendship of two men which was developing throughout the years, or throughout the books where they were in together. I'm talking about....

1. The Big Four by Agatha Christie

...Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings. It was when fighting this international intrigued which threatened to control the world, that Poirot and Hastings were in the closest danger of death. In the most crucial hours, we get to see how deep their friendship was.

For my next chain, I used the word Four from the title, and picked another book from Christie with the same number in the title:

2. 4.50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie

It is one of Miss Marple's cases, where she looks into her friend's claim that she witnessed a murder on a train.

Again, I use one word from the last book title: Paddington, for my next chain:

3. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond

Everyone knows who Paddington is, a fictional animal character who can think and talk like human being.

Another book with animal who can think like human being, and even narrate the book from its point of view is:

4. The Black Beauty by Anne Sewell

"Black Beauty's story, as told by himself, is the fascinating tale of the life of a horse a hundred years ago, when horses were a part of daily life." - Amazon

Another book with a horse in the story as well as in the title, would be my next chain:

5. All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

Before finding this book in online second hand bookstore, I didn't know that this book has been adapted into movie starring Matt Damon! Have you watched it?

And so, for my last chain, here is another book from my TBR with Matt Damon starring in the movie adaptation, and also appears in the cover:

6. The Martian by Andy Weir

"A meticulously researched, briskly paced and surprisingly funny story about an astronaut left behind on Mars, presumed dead, who must now figure out how to survive and let the folks back on Earth know he is alive and needs rescue." - a Goodreads review.

I haven't read this, because this is a rare condition where I have watched the movie first before reading the book. Serious question: is it worth reading?

There, another fun chain to build. It begins with a book which provides many possibilities to create lovely chains. The one I posted here was my third options, which I found most interesting.

Have you read those books? If you do #sixdegree, how it worked out for you this time?


Thursday, June 1, 2023

Throwback Thursday #1: Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin

Throwback Thursday is a monthly bookish meme hosted by Davida @ The Chocolate Lady's Book Review Blog every first Thursday of the month, where we are highlighting one of our previously published book reviews.

I see this as an opportunity to re-post (or translate posts originally published in Bahasa Indonesia) my old book reviews, previously posted in my old (now inactive) blogs.

For my first #ThrowbackThursday, I picked a book I've read and reviewed in June 2014. It's a heartwarming, mouthwatering book about baking cakes and humanity.

Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin

🧁 In 1994 Rwanda was torn by ethnic genocide. Now in 2000, six years after the tragedy, the survivors are still in traumatic condition. Distrust and fear are still thickly clouding their daily lives. In this condition, the Turangaza family move in from Tanzania, and live in an apartment.

🧁 Angel Tungaraza is a professional cake baker, and through this business Angel spread to the neighborhood the spirit of reconciliation. Reconciliation of the two ethnics that were fighting in the genocide: the Tutsis and the Hutus, as well as personal reconciliation with each of their pasts.

🧁 In Kigali, seems that everyone has experienced the losing (at least) a family member. Although coming from Tanzania (and did not experience the genocide), Angel and her husband, Pius, are also victims of traumatic experience of losing their children by death. AIDS, as we all know, is another deathly terror in Africa at that time besides Rwandan genocide. The Tungarazas’ children have died of AIDS, and now Angel and Pius must raise their grandchildren (five of them!) by themselves. Fortunately, in the time of resurgent after the tragedy, there are plenty of things to be celebrated. And, what is a celebration without a cake?

🧁 Since the best cake in Kigali is Angel’s, her business springs, and people from all background come to her apartment to order cakes. Gaile Parkin described the cakes to tiny details in every chapter, and that—apart from the people struggles—gives the book its unique attraction. Each chapter portrays each cake, each event of celebration, each individual, with each problem.

🧁 Angel’s cakes are not only delicious in taste, but they are also impressive in decoration. The cakes are rich in colors (as the African like it) and they are tailor-made to the celebration itself (or the person who is celebrating it). But Angel does not run the business only for money, more than that, she helps her customers to regain happiness in her own simple way.

🧁 When customers come, Angel would let them sit down, and gives them her portfolio for their reference, while she is preparing her Tanzanian spiced tea, accompanied with cupcakes. She never runs out of these cupcakes because she used to make them from what’s left of the cakes she makes for customers.

🧁 Over the tea and cupcakes—and most of all, her friendly but professional manner—Angel would drive her customers to tell their success—or bitter—stories of life. Being a good listener with tender heart, Angel often brings hope—if not solution—to them. And, as a bonus, she gets the order, plus the happiness of baking and decorating beautiful cakes, which is her passion.

🧁 For a debut, Gaile Parkin has written a tremendous work. ‘Baking Cakes in Kigali’ is a sweet and pleasant reading which bears a serious theme. It flows naturally and conveniently, offers sweetness (from the cakes things), a bit of mystery (from Angel’s traumatic past), and a lot of humanity aspects (love, racialism, freedom, etc.). I love it from the beginning, and the book certainly made me craving for cupcakes! :)

Have you read this book?
I just realized that it has a sequel - I would love to go back to Kigali and 'taste' Angel's cupcakes again!