Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Last Ten Books Tag

I saw this meme first on Simon's blog at Stuck in a Book and thought it looked like fun. The original tag was created by Mark Nash on BookTube.  There are ten questions about the last book that....

1. The last book I gave up on
I rarely DNF books. But I did abandon Kushil's Dart by Jaqueline Carey which I picked up in a Little Free Library in my neighborhood a couple of years ago.  I have been wanting to read more Fantasy and had heard good things about this title from other sources. But reading the back cover, the first few pages and in particular the goodreads reviews, I realized there is an erotic component with sado/masochistic tendencies to the story and while I don’t think I am a prude (maybe I am?), that isn’t something I really want to read about in any genre.
2. The last book I re-read
I recently finished listening to Our Mutual Friend on audio as narrated by David Troughton (excellent job he did!).  I first read this title with my eyes a few years ago. It isn’t my favorite Dickens in particular because I have real trouble accepting how the Bella Wilfer story-line is handled, but listening to it did make me appreciate just how funny Dickens can be and also how I wish he had had the opportunity to at least finish The Mystery of Edwin Drood because Our Mutual Friend also has some excellent crime/mystery elements and it would have been fascinating to see Dickens develop more in that direction..
3. The last book I bought
The last book I bought was Smoke City by Keith Rosson. I was thinking it would be longlisted for the 2019 Tournament of Books (it wasn’t) and the description totally intrigued me - from goodreads:
Marvin Deitz has some serious problems. His mob-connected landlord is strong-arming him out of his storefront. His therapist has concerns about his stability. He’s compelled to volunteer at the local Children’s Hospital even though it breaks his heart every week.
Oh, and he’s also the guilt-ridden reincarnation of Geoffroy Thérage, the French executioner who lit Joan of Arc’s pyre in 1431. He’s just seen a woman on a Los Angeles talk show claiming to be Joan, and absolution seems closer than it’s ever been... but how will he find her?
That just sounds so amazingly weird and I was ordering presents for others online and…well, you know how that happens! 
4. The last book I said I read but actually didn’t
I don’t know that I have ever done that?  I wasn’t an English major so never felt any pressure in that regard. Nobody cared if I had read Moby Dick or not. LOL I do recall as a 12 year old lying about watching the movie Saturday Night Fever (I wasn’t allowed to watch R-rated movies) and using scenes from the movie-to-book adaptation of which I obtained a contraband copy to support my “proof” that I had seen it.  Kids are weird!
 5. The last book I wrote in the margins of
I rarely write in a book or highlight passages. However, I am currently reading Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann in German and am occasionally writing a note or translation in the margins to help cement it in my brain.   
6. The last book I had signed
I‘ve purchased second hand books that turned out to have been signed, but I have never myself requested that an author sign a book.  
7. The last book I lost
I don’t lose books often. I did leave a copy of Daphne Du Maurier’s The Parasites on a plane in 1986 (I never went back to it) and I also left a copy of Saul Bellows' The Adventures of Augie March on a train in the mid 1990s. This was unfortunately a library copy so I had to replace it and to add insult to injury, I kinda hated it. But I did eventually finish it.
8. The last book I had to replace
I accidentally ordered the U.S. version of Becky Chambers’  Record of a Spaceborn Few earlier this year and had to replace it with the much classier UK hard cover edition.
9. The last book I argued over
Like may bookbloggers, I don’t know many people IRL who read books with the intensity that I do. So even if I wanted to argue there is no one to counter-argue. The closest I come to lively book discussion is on the Tournament of Books group site The Rooster on goodreads.

10. The last book you couldn’t find
I think what is meant by this is a book that you want to read but cannot find in any store or library. I don’t know that there is any book that I have wanted to buy that I could not find!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Back to the Classics Challenge 2018 – Wrap Up Post

It’s a wrap!  I have officially completed the  Back to theClassics Challenge 2018 hosted by Karen at the blog Books and Chocolate.

AND I managed to choose and read all 12 titles from books I already had on my shelves. YAY!  

Details are as follows:

1. Fittingly, I started this literary journey off with A CLASSIC TRAVEL OR JOURNEY NARRATIVE, FICTION OR NON-FICTION.  I read Orient Express by Graham Greene, first published in 1933. It wasn’t as good as his better known books such as The Quiet American in my opinion, however.  

2. Then I moved on to a sure fire good read:  A CLASSIC CRIME STORY, FICTION OR NON-FICTION.  I read and really enjoyed  The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey.

3. The enjoyment factor took a nose-dive with my choice of  A 20TH CENTURY CLASSIC. While I am glad to have read Winesberg, Ohio  by Sherwood Anderson because I can now cross it off the Modern Library 100 Best of List, I think this was probably my least favorite of all 12. Too bleak and monotone for my taste.

4. I was pleasantly surprised with my choice of  A CLASSIC WITH A COLOR IN THE TITLE. I read The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorn and once I got past that unnecessary prologue, I found it really interesting and strange (in a good way).

5. My absolute star was the book I read for  A CLASSIC IN TRANSLATION.  I loved Guy de Maupassant’s Bel Ami. Such a great book about a really unpleasant man!

6. Next up was A CLASSIC WITH A SINGLE-WORD TITLE which I fulfilled by reading  Passing by Nella Larson, a short but very powerful read.

7. Possibly the hardest to choose for was the category RE-READ A FAVORITE CLASSIC.  I finally landed on Wuthering Heights by Emilie Bronte. This turned out to be a great choice because I think this is a book upon which one’s perspective can change dramatically with age and experience.

8. For the choice of   CHILDREN'S CLASSIC  I read and enjoyed the Newbery award winning Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes, a book a never read as a child.

9. For my favorite category of A 19TH CENTURY CLASSIC I read  Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop which was not his best in my opinion, but nonetheless, wonderful because Dickens was a genius.

10. For A CLASSIC BY AN AUTHOR THAT'S NEW TO YOU  I read  Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston which was pretty fabulous.

11. For the choice of A CLASSIC THAT SCARES YOU I girded my loins and read Light in August by William Faulkner, which wasn’t as difficult as I had feared.

12. Finally I read No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym for the category of  A CLASSIC BY A WOMAN AUTHOR  which I really loved as I have loved everything I’ve read by Pym thus far. 

As usual, I am so looking forward to the 2019 edition of this challenge and so pleased that Karen has graciously decided to continue hosting for another year. Contact information is: naessa[at]yahoo[dot]com.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Back to the Classics Challenge 2018: No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym

Like many readers, I buy books with the best of intentions and yet often don’t act upon them, i.e. read my own damn books. To wit, I own nine Barbara Pym but had only read two of them. Now I’m up to three! Because I read Pym’s No Fond Return of Love, first published in 1961, for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2018 category “Classic by a Woman Author”.

One of the most delightful things about No Fond Return of Love was the realization that there is a “Pymverse” of London in the late 1950’s in which many (maybe all?) of Barbara Pym’s characters operate. For careful readers there is a tiny Easter egg from Excellent Women in Less Than Angels and now I found another follow up tidbit from Less than Angels in No Fond Return of Love. I love this idea and really look forward to discovering more of these little surprises as I read more of Pym’s works.

No Fond Return of Love covers familiar territory found in her other books: academia, marriage vs singledom and the Anglican Church. The main protagonist is Dulcie Mainwaring who decides to attend a weekend conference on publishing (she works freelance as an indexer and research) to help her get over her broken engagement. Dulcie likes researching people as well. ‘I love finding out about people’, said Dulcie, ‘I suppose it’s a sort of compensation for the dreariness of everyday life’.  I have to imagine that Dulcie shares this curiosity about in the lives of strangers with Barbara Pym herself.

At the conference, Dulcie meets the rather difficult and sulky Viola Dace, a fellow indexer and Aylwin Forbes, a handsome, married forty-something author with whom both Viola and Dulcie maybe, sort-of fall in love. It’s all very Pymsian as their lives intertwine, making the London suburbs seem more like a cozy village rather than a sprawling metropole. And as usual, I laughed out loud multiple times. The humor is so subtle and surprising. I can see where Pym’s humor would not be to every reader’s taste, but when you get it, you really get it if you know what I mean.

This is now the last book that I needed to read for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2018. Not as early as some but still happy to be crossing the finish line in good time! My wrap up post will be forthcoming. :D