Tuesday, February 27, 2024

A Century of Books (1925 - 2024): Another Project



This is another project (I won't call it challenge, to not adding pressure to the otherwise fun and exciting activity) I undertake starting this year, which is inspired by Simon @ Stuck in a Book. The idea is to read 100 books published during the last hundred years - one title for each year. I don't set any timeframe for myself, but I guess I'd able to finish this in two years. Part of the fun is to browse and find new books I have never heard of before, or books that I have wanted to read in the past but have been forgotten. The other is, of course, reading an interesting assortment of those books! :)

Here is my initial list in Google Sheet, with links to the ones I have read and reviewed. It's still incomplete, and I will keep adding (or changing) books along the way. Just reading one book for each year, how difficult will it be, right?

A Century of Books
1925Under the Tonto Rim (Zane Grey)
1926The Blue Castle (L.M. Montgomery)
1927The Wintringham Mystery (Anthony Berkeley)
1928The Mystery of the Peacock's Eye (Brian Flynn)
1929Missing or Murdered (Robin Forsythe)
1930Nancy Drew: The Hidden Staircase (Carolyn Keene)
1931Danger Calling (Patricia Wentworth)
1932Cold Comfort Farm (Stella Gibbons)
1933High Rising (Angela Thirkell)
1934Miss Buncle's Book (D.E. Stevenson)
1935Twice Round the Clock (Billie Houston)
1936The Wheel Spins (Ethel Lina White)
1937How Do You Live? (Genzaburo Yoshino)
1938Artists in Crime (Ngaio Marsh)
1939The Black Spectacles (John Dickson Carr)
1940Sapphira and the Slave Girl (Willa Cather)
1941Babbacombe's (Susan Scarlett)
1942The Moving Finger (Agatha Christie)
1943The Five Find-Outers: The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage (Enid Blyton)
1944Death Comes as the End (Agatha Christie)
1945The Moomins and the Great Flood (Tove Jansson)
1946Fire in the Thatch (E.C.R. Lorac)
1947Kate Hardy (D.E. Stevenson)
1948Finn Family's Moomintroll
1949Crooked House (Agatha Christie)
1950Old Herbaceous (Reginald Arkell)
1951The Daughter of Time (Josephine Tey)
1952Apricot Sky (Ruby Ferguson)
1953Excellent Women (Barbara Pym)
1954Sweet Thursday (John Steinbeck)
1955Fresh from the Country (Miss Read)
1956Near Neighbors (Molly Clavering)
1957A Winter Away (Elizabeth Fair)
1958The Greengage Summer (Rumer Godden)
1959My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George)
1960Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O'Dell)
1961Travels with Charley: In Search of America (John Steinbeck)
1962The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (Joan Aiken)
1963
1964
1965
1966The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (Dorothy Gilman)
1967From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E.L. Konigsburg)
1968Picture Miss Seaton (Heron Carvic)
1969
1970The Woods in Winter (Stella Gibbons)
1971When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (Judith Kerr)
1972
1973The Princess Bride (William Goldman)
1974Mister God, This is Anna (Flyn)
1975Crocodile on the Sandbank (Elizabeth Peters)
1976Letters from Father Christmas (J.R.R. Tolkien)
1977Quartet in Autumn (Barbara Pym)
1978The Bookshop (Penelope Fitzgerald)
1979
1980Duncton Wood (William Horwood)
1981The Hotel New Hampshire (John Irving)
1982
1983
1984Cold Sassy Tree (Olive Ann Burns)
1985The Ruby in the Smoke (Philip Pullman)
1986Howl's Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones)
1987The Shell Seekers (Rosamund Pilcher)
1988Dances with Wolves (Michael Blake)
1989Blitzcat (Robert Westall)
1990Animal Dreams (Barbara Kingsolver)
1991Toujours Provence (Peter Mayle)
1992The Thief of Always (Clive Barker)
1993The Club Dumas (Arturo Perez-Reverte)
1994At Home in Mitford (Jan Karon)
1995The Persian Pickle Club (Sandra Dallas)
1996Under the Tuscan Sun (Frances Mayes)
1997
1998The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (Alexander McCall Smith)
1999Bud, Not Buddy (Christopher Paul Curtis)
2000Scarlet Feather (Maeve Binchy)
2001Five Quarters of the Orange (Joanne Harris)
2002The Art of Hearing Heartbeats (Jan-Philipp Sendker)
2003The Housekeeper and the Professor (Yōko Ogawa)
2004Ten Big Ones (Janet Evanovich)
2005
2006
2007
2008Bruno, Chief of Police (Martin Walker)
2009The Easy Life in Kamusari (Shion Miura)
2010Days at Morisaki Bookshop (Satoshi Yagisawa)
2011The Martian (Andy Weir)
2012Cigarette Girl (Ratih Kumala)
2013The Murder at Sissingham Hall (Clara Benson)
2014Murder Most Unladylike (Robin Stevens)
2015In the Market for Murder (T.E. Kinsey)
2016The Whistler (John Grisham)
2017The Cat Who Saved Books (Sosuke Natsukawa)
2018
2019The Secret Guests (John Banville)
2020Snow (John Banville)
2021The Man Who Died Twice (Richard Osman)
2022The Golden Mole (Katherine Rundell)
2023What You Are Looking For Is in the Library (Michiko Aoyama)
2024Eleven Huskies (Philipp Schott)


Do you find your favorite books in the list? Or books you're exciting to read? Or do you want to recommend books I'd love to read for certain years? Please tell me on the comment section. I would love to hear some suggestions!

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Book Tour: The Library Murders by Merryn Allingham (Flora Steele Mystery #8)




It’s my stop today on The Library Murders by Merryn Allingham Books on Tour. Many thanks to Sarah Hardy of Bookouture for the invite, and for NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this delightful book.

πŸ“š About the Book:

Bookshop owner and amateur detective Flora Steele and her fiancΓ©, crime writer Jack Carrington, discover words can kill as they solve their most puzzling case yet…

It’s a sunny morning in Abbeymead as Flora cycles through the village and knocks on the door of the local library, planning to deliver a gift to librarian Maud Frobisher to mark her retirement. But Flora is shocked when she finds Maud slumped in the corner, and even more startled when she recognises the man holding the murder weapon – an enormous hardback book.

Flora’s known Lowell Gracey since her college days, but what is he doing working for Maud and now the main suspect in her murder? Suspicion mounts when Flora and Jack discover that Lowell is heavily in debt, and that a priceless rare first edition has recently gone missing, but Lowell is adamant that he’s innocent, and Flora believes him.

The pair are once more drawn into an investigation, but who would kill a beloved librarian?Perhaps Rose Lawson, a mysterious newcomer to Abbeymead known to be in dire financial straits? Or pompous bestselling author Felix Wingrave, who rumours say would do anything to get his hands on a valuable book for his collection?

Then the village is rocked by the discovery of a second body. Flora and Jack realise a vital clue lies in the pages of a novel – but the plot is thickening and the killer is closing in…

Flora and Jack are determined to solve this fiendish case by the book – but will this be the end of their story?

A completely page-turning and addictive cozy crime mystery. Fans of Agatha Christie, Faith Martin and Joy Ellis will adore this unputdownable series!




πŸ“š My thoughts:

It's good to see that the 8th book in this bookish-themed series brings us back to the charming Abbeymead village, meeting our beloved amateur-sleuth couple: Flora Steele and Jack Carrington. And this is probably the most bookish crime fiction I've ever read. Everything surrounding the mystery is about books. The victim is a librarian. The weapon is a hardcopy of Lord of the Rings (imagine how thick and heavy it is), smashed to the victim's head. The killer's motive isn't far away from literary world. And even the key clue to solve the mystery is in, or part of, a book!

The murders (yes, there's a second murder - also quite bookish) happens during a crime-writer conference which is held in Abbeymead. Jack is co-hosting, while Flora caters a bookshop stall for the participants. So, of course, beside the recurring characters (which are Flora and Jack's friends or neighbors), all the suspects are mainly literary people. And this bookish aspect makes this book very satisfying for book lovers.

Needless to say, I loved almost everything about this book. Flora and Jack's dynamic relationship after they're engaged added a sweet touch to the story, and the plot itself is cleverly woven. One thing which is a bit off to me is the denouement. While the second murder is wrapped up neatly, the first one isn't very clear. I wished to know more about it. But other than that, it is a perfect getaway book if you love books (who doesn't? πŸ˜‰), picturesque village in the 1950s, loveable characters, splashed with a touch of romance and sprinkled with witty dialogs. 

πŸ“š About the Author:

Merryn taught university literature for many years, and it took a while to pluck up the courage to begin writing herself. Bringing the past to life is a passion and her historical fiction includes Regency romances, wartime sagas and timeslip novels, all of which have a mystery at their heart. As the books have grown darker, it was only a matter of time before she plunged into crime with a cosy crime series set in rural Sussex against the fascinating backdrop of the 1950s.

Merryn lives in a beautiful old town in Sussex with her husband. When she’s not writing, she tries to keep fit with adult ballet classes and plenty of walking.

πŸ“š Social Media links:

Website: https://merrynallingham.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MerrynWrites
Twitter: https://twitter.com/merrynwrites

Sign up to be the first to hear about new releases from Merryn Allingham here:  https://www.bookouture.com/merryn-allingham

πŸ“š Purchase Link:

Amazon: https://geni.us/B0CLRWF1ZXsocial

Be sure to check out other stops on the tour to see what others thought. Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street (2008) by Jeanne Birdsall




πŸ‘­ When Rachel (Hamlette) of Hamlette's Soliloqui announced the We πŸ–€ Sibling Stories Week, I knew it's time to revisit The Penderwicks - the first of which series I'd read many years ago. The Penderwicks consist of the father, four sisters (who might remind you of the four sisters in Little Women), and a dog.

πŸ‘­ It's four years after their mother's death, the Penderwick sisters live on Gardam Street, still with their father, and the dog. Rosalind, the elder, has grown up to be the little housewife of the family. She's responsible, much matured for her age, and little Batty - the youngest - depends on her much like a child to a mother (she can't sleep before Rosalind tells her a story - nobody can tell stories like Rosalind!). The second sister Skye is the tomboy (like Jo in Little Women?) and the most intelligent one. She's obsessed with math, logics, and scientific stuffs. Jane, on the contrary, is the most imaginative and romantic one in the family. She's the poet and writer. Last but not least, is little Batty, the imaginative kid who loves animals.

πŸ‘­ On the fourth year of their mother's death, the Penderwicks is visited by Aunt Claire who brings an unpleasant tidings from the past: a letter written by their late mother right before her death. It's her wish that Mr. Penderwick starts dating again. This gives the Penderwicks such a consternation, who had hitherto live comfortably in each other's company. The sisters, worrying that they might end up living with a terrible stepmother, devise a plan to thwart any chance of their father marrying again.

πŸ‘­ The Save-Daddy Plan - that's the name of their mission. As usual, when something crucial happens, Rosalyn as the eldest, would call for a MOPS - Meeting Of Penderwick Sisters, where they vow of secrecy. It's decided then that, as they couldn't prevent their dad of dating - it's their mother's wishes too anyway - they could choose a terrible date for daddy, that he would hate! Little do they know that Mr. Penderwick himself has some secret plans on his mind about this dating business. You can imagine how hilarious they're to read - hilarious, warm, and charming!

πŸ‘­ I love the sisters' dynamic relationship, and how they support each other, while always maintaining the Penderwicks honor! My favorite plot is Skye and Jane's swapping homework - Jane is writing play for Skye, while Skye is doing an essay for Jane. You know how these would go in consequence. They provide more laughter and drama to our delightful read! All in all, it's a satisfying, entertaining read.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

Read for:

hosted by Rachel (Hamlette) @ Hamlette's Soliloqui



Monday, February 19, 2024

Cigarette Girl (2012) by Ratih Kumala #IndonesianLit




🚬 I'm proud to say that Cigarette Girl is the best Indonesian historical fiction I've read so far. A highly entertaining story with good plot and pace. Most importantly, it is unpretentious, unlike most of others in the same genre from the same country. This is my second read, and I enjoyed it as much as before.

🚬 Whether we, Indonesians, like it or not, cigarette is always part of our culture. For me personally, the aroma of tobacco sticks to my memory. It is something I grew up with. My late father was a smoker until many years later when he stopped smoking. The tobacco smell coming from my father's body or clothes always associated to me the sense of love and protection. No matter how hard life is, it will be okay because my father will there for me. God, how I miss those feelings right now! Nowadays people might condemn cigarettes as silent killer etcetera, but I always have a soft spot for cigarettes, tobacco, and cloves. But enough about me, now about the story itself.

🚬 Tegar, Karim, and Lebas are the offsprings of a wealthy cigarette business owner Soeraja. They are summoned home as their father is dying. Unexpectedly, on his death bed, Soeradja mentions a woman's name they've never heard of, but enrages their mother: Jeng Yah ("Jeng" is a respectable address to a woman, similar to Ma'am). Who is Jeng Yah? And why does their father want to meet her? The brothers decide to solve the mystery and look for the answer by taking a trip to M town, where it all began.

🚬 Parallel with the present line, Ratih Kumala brings us to the past. It all began in the early 1940s when the Dutch was still colonizing Indonesia. A visionary ambitious young man called Idroes Moeris was working as a cigarette roller, but longed to produce and sell his own cigarettes. His time came when the Japanese arrived in 1942 and confiscated Moeria's boss' belongings. Fortunately the boss still keep some cloves and tobacco in stock, which Moeria then bought for his first venture in cigarette industry.

🚬 Soedjagad was Idroes Moeria's colleague, and close competitor, not only in stealing the heart of a pretty girl called Roemaisa - daughter of a scribe - but also in buying the boss's cloves. Roemaisa rejected Soedjagad's proposal because she fell in love with Moeria; and we know who eventually got the cloves. These brought bitterness to Soedjagad, and from then on he was like a thorn in Moeria's flesh, a shadow that shrouded his life.

🚬 Both competitors thrived as two big cigarette industries, but Moeria was always leading with his genius business inventions and good taste in concocting delicious sauce for his clove cigarettes. Soedjagad, meanwhile, was always copying his ideas, but lacked Moeria's secret recipe of the sauce. But it would all change in the hand of their successors.

🚬 Moeria and Roemaisa had two daughters. The elder one is the most beautiful and intelligent. Her name is Dasiyah, but people called her Jeng Yah. The enigmatic Jeng Yah. Dasiyah inherited her father's knack of cigarette making, and was soon entering the industry. How did she meet Soeraja, and what happened then, is an engaging mystery to unfold!

🚬 What I liked most from this book is how Ratih Kumala alternately and proportionally tells the story from the point of view of characters from both the past and present, and was able to connect them so seamlessly, yet we still distinctly perceive the time difference. It is equally amazing how she could explore each character - present and past - beautifully in just under 300 pages.

🚬 I love mostly the portrayals of the three Soeraja brothers. Tegar was made the heir from childhood, but envied his brothers for happily living their childhood, while he was forced to learn about family business. Lebas, the laid-back child, on the contrary, envied Tegar for being with their father all the time, while he and Karim played together alone. And Karim, the calm trustworthy Karim, who later becomes the mediator between the two opposite-pole of his brothers, is satisfied to work for their family business. Lastly I'm satisfied with ending, with the way the three brothers react to the revelation of Jeng Yah and their family secret history.

🚬 On the whole, it is a story about two most important events in Indonesian history: Japanese occupation which led to independence proclamation in 1945, and the 1965 genocide. They are nicely presented through the intricate stories of love and jealousy, ambition and struggles, business intrigues and betrayals, as well as the interesting history of clove cigarettes industry. Cigarette Girl has also been made a Netflix series, currently playing. I haven't had chance to watch it (some people had recommended it), but I'm pretty sure that the book, as usual, would be much better.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read for:


Friday, February 16, 2024

The Affair at the Bungalow: A Short Story #AgathaChristieSS24




πŸ’Ž In a dinner party, a pretty young actress, Jane Helier, tells a remarkable story. She's the type that people usually think beautiful but silly. So that when she begins with "it happened to a friend of mine", the others - Miss Marple included - are all convinced that the friend is Jane herself.

πŸ’Ž A burglary committed in a riverside bungalow, belongs to a wealthy man, taken for his mistress, an actress. A young man got a letter from Jane Helier, invited him to discuss a play at the bungalow. But Jane never actually sent him the letter. He came, and met a girl who called herself Jane Helier. He was served a cocktail, and passed out. The moment he came to himself, he's lying out in the road. And then the police arrested him for burglary; the jewelry which was kept at the bungalow was stolen.

πŸ’Ž It was a remarkable story, indeed. No one present could solve the mystery: who really stole the jewelry, why the deception? Everyone is perplexed, even, it seems, Miss Marple. However, just before she leaves, Miss Marple whispers something to Jane. A cryptic message, it seems to us, but it shows that Miss Marple has solved the perplexing mystery, which appalls Jane.

πŸ’Ž It is surprisingly a short and simple story with a brilliant plot twist! I wouldn't have guessed the truth. A superb short story for Agatha Christie's fans!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Easy Life in Kamusari (2009) by Shion Miura #JapaneseLitChallenge17




🌳 Yuki Hirano has just finished high school and doesn't know what to do next. So, his parents enrolled him to Mount Kamusari to be trained as a forester. As Yuki was, in a way, forced to take the job, he arrives at the small village grumbling. More so because Yoki Iida, in whose house he would live, snatched and threw his phone away, so that he feels desperate, lonely, and out of place.

🌳 Forestry works are no leisure. Yuki struggles in his first training, but soon gets the hang of it. And it is then that he realizes the beauty of this village at the foot of Mount Kamusari, and appreciates the meaningful job he has in preserving nature. The easy life in Kamusari is far different from his former life in Yokohama city, and he embraces this new life. Yuki even let's himself attracted to a girl older than himself, Nao - a local teacher and sister-in-law of Yuki's boss, Seiichi.

🌳 This book provides a really comfort reading. Shion Miura's writing transported me to the everyday simple life on Kamusari, brought me to meet the people, and learned much about forestry, the little village tradition. I love how the Nakamura team member accepted Yuki in no time, and especially Yoki's household: grandma Shige (Yoki's mother), Miho (Yoki's wife), and even Noko the dog. They grew to love him eventually. But the best part of this book is the detailed description of the forestry work - it's really remarkable, and even kind of epic sometimes. All in all, it's beautiful, refreshing, funny, and warm coming-of-age story.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

Monday, February 12, 2024

Fresh from the Country (1955) by Miss Read




πŸ‘©πŸ»‍🏫 Miss Read is the pen name of Dora Jessie Saint MBE, an English writer and schoolmistress who was famous for her novel series such as the Fairacre and the Thrush Green. She also wrote some children novels, as well as a couple of standalone novels like this one: Fresh from the Country.

πŸ‘©πŸ»‍🏫 Anna Lacey is a "fresh from the country" young teacher who's starting her career in a London suburb primary school. The story is about her challenges and struggles. Not only the kind of new teachers would face in their early stage of educational career, like dealing with unrelenting pupils, facing "difficult" parents, or even "rum" characters of her colleagues. Those are minor challenges, as little by little Anna gets the hang of the teaching business. The real struggle for her is the contrast of city life with her countryside origin.

πŸ‘©πŸ»‍🏫 Anna experiences a culture shock. Being used to simple life with simple country folks, she's having hard time to adapt with the boasting or greedy people around her. Not mentioning their obsession in money and achievement. Poor Anna is always distressed near the end of term, and can only return to herself after a few days breathing the pure and calm air in the country.

πŸ‘©πŸ»‍🏫 Overall, it's a refreshing read that calm you down after work rush, and it makes me want to read the countryside series. This charming and at time funny book was first published in 1955, and re-printed by Furrowed Middlebrow (the imprint of Dean Street Press) in 2020.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐1/2

Friday, February 9, 2024

The Pearl of Price: A Short Story #AgathaChristieSS24




πŸ’œ I didn't remember of ever reading a Parker Pyne mystery before. Or if I had, it slipped my memory. In this story Pyne is having a holiday trip to Petra, in the Middle East - a journey which, no doubt, was inspired by Christie's own journey with husband Max Mallowan.

πŸ’œ Among Pyne's fellow tourists were a wealthy American with his daughter and also secretary, an archeological doctor, a British politician, and a few others. The American girl is wearing pearl earrings, which her father boasts of costing him very expensively. The earrings' screws are rather lose, and the day before the incident, she had almost lost them, witnessed by the others, coincidentally, after a talk about honesty. 

πŸ’œ On their journey to the next day, the girl is, again, losing one of her pearl earring. But this time, they are nowhere to be found. Which means, that one of the men present had stolen them. Which one, though? They searched each other without avail. Parker Pyne must use his deduction ability to solve the mystery.

πŸ’œ It is a very straight forward case. I'm pretty sure everyone can easily guess the whodunnit, but perhaps not the howdunnit. Or maybe, if you pay close attention throughout the story, you'll guess it right. It's clever, easy, and pretty straightforward.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐1/5

Monday, February 5, 2024

#MurderEveryMonday: Covers with City on or in the Title




Murder Every Monday
was created by Kate @ Crossexamining Crime and @ArmchairSleuth. Put simply, the plan is for readers to take a photo of a crime fiction book (novel or short story collection) which meets a given week’s theme criteria and to then share it online, using the hashtag #MurderEveryMonday.

This week's theme is:

Cover with a city on or in the title








Have your read any of them? Which cover(s) do you like most?

If you want to participate, here's the list of the weekly theme:

Friday, February 2, 2024

Agatha Christie Short Stories 2024 - FEBRUARY #AgathaChristieSS24




Thank you all of you who have participated in #AgathaChristieSS24 January! I will recap all your reviews (hopefully soon!) and will include the links in the January post.

In February we will read two stories:

THE PEARL OF PRICE

Published in 1934, this is a Parker Pyne story. He joins a party of people from Amman, through Jordon to Petra. When talk turns to the nature of honesty and a pearl earring goes missing, the group suspect each other of theft.

The journey is, of course, inspired by Christie's experiences with husband Max Mallowan. She wrote this particular story after she and Max had visited the temples and rock tombs of Petra, a location which also features in the novel Appointment with Death.

This story first appeared in the UK in Nash’s Pall Mall Magazine, and was later included in the 1934 collection Parker Pyne Investigates.


THE AFFAIR AT THE BUNGALOW

A beautiful actress becomes embroiled in a tale of theft, adultery and confusion. Even Miss Marple claims to have trouble solving this mystery.

The story was first published in 1930 in The Story-Teller magazine, then was later included in The Thirteen Problems.

I have found an audiobook (?) of this story in YouTube Soundbook Stories. I haven't even heard about YouTube Soundbook; have you? Anyway, here's the link if you're interested.