Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Cold Comfort Farm

Cold Comfort FarmCold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This comic novel by Stella Gibbons was written in 1932 and takes place "in the near future." It seemed to me to be a bit of a spoof of the 19th century British novels of writers like Jane Austen and the Brontes. It even includes a very funny character with a weird theory about the novels of the Bronte sisters.
The main character, Flora Poste, is a practical young woman (in her own mind anyway) who sets about arranging things in a very Austen-like way and making observations on the world as she finds it.
“You have the most revolting Florence Nightingale complex,' said Mrs. Smiling.
It is not that at all, and well you know it. On the whole, I dislike my fellow beings; I find them so difficult to understand. But I have a tidy mind and untidy lives irritate me. Also, they are uncivilized.” 

This book could count toward several different categories for the Back to the Classics challenge: 20th century classic, by a woman author, a romance, or an award winning classic (it was the Winner of the 1933 Femina Vie Heureuse Prize).
This book also counts toward the What's in a Name challenge as an alliterative title.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Bout of Books Wrap-up

Day 7 (Sunday)
I was able to read most of the afternoon and finished Cold Comfort Farm

I had a very productive Bout of Books this time. I read 7 books, began an 8th (an audiobook) and finished 6 of them. My favorite of the batch was Last Days of Night.

The next Bout will be May 8-14, 2016. Hopefully I will be able to participate in that one too. If you haven't jumped into an online readathon I urge you to put the May one in your calendar. It's fun to focus on your TBR pile for a week and get stuff read! 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Bout of Books Penultimate Update

Day 4 (Thursday)
Spent the evening reading Last Days of Night.

Day 5 (Friday)
Only read for about 30 minutes before bed. Still working on Last Days of Night

Day 6 (Saturday)
Read most of the morning and finished Last Days of Night. Had plans for the afternoon and evening so no reading then. Started Cold Comfort Farm before going to bed. 

Hope to read a good bit of the day on Sunday.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Review: Last Days of Night

The Last Days of NightThe Last Days of Night by Graham Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novel is essentially about patent litigation, but it is a page-turner filled with fascinating characters, romance, intrigue, and corporate espionage. The setting is New York (mostly) at an amazing time in history.
"The trotting horses carried them up Broadway, past quiet Houston and the fashionable row houses of Fourteenth Street. The island was dark until they made the turn onto Fifth. Suddenly the electric lamps that lit the avenue became visible. The vast majority of New York streets were lit at night by coal gas, the same flickering light that had illuminated the city for a hundred years. But recently a handful of wealthy business owners had been able to outfit their buildings with these new electrical bulbs. Just a few streets contained something like 99 percent of the electricity in America, and their names were well known: Wall Street, Madison Avenue, Thirty-fourth Street. Every day these blocks grew a shade brighter as another building was wired for current. The high-strung cables formed a fortress around each block. Paul looked up Fifth Avenue and saw progress." (p. 9)
According to the author's note the people are mostly real as are the broad events which are known as the "current war." George Westinghouse, Thomas Edison, and Nikola Tesla are the main players and the story is told by Paul Cravath, a very young lawyer who basically invented the modern law firm.
"As an attorney, the tales that Paul told were moral ones. There existed, in his narratives, only the injured and their abusers. The slandered and the liars. The swidled and the thieves. Paul constructed these characters painstakingly until the righteousness of his plaintiff--or his defendant--became overwhelming. It was not the job of a litigator to determine facts; it was his job to construct a story from those facts by which a clear moral conclusion would be unavoidable." (p. 6)
Moore also wrote The Sherlockian (which I liked but wasn't blown away by) and the screenplay for The Imitation Game.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Bout of Books - Midweek update

Day 2 (Tuesday)
Read for several hours in the evening including The Penelopiad (Margaret Atwood) and a chapter of A Short History of Africa.

Day 3 (Wednesday)
Read during my break at work and then several hours in the evening. Finished The Penelopiad and read my first "Deal me in" challenge piece (an essay from 1990 about Salman Rushdie). I started Last Days of Night by Graham Moore.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Review: The Penelopiad

The PenelopiadThe Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am not a huge fan of mythology, but I do really like stories you think you know told from a new perspective and I love Margaret Atwood's writing.
This book, part of The Myths series from Canongate, tells the story of Odysseus from the perspective of Penelope who was waiting at home for him to return.
It is a mixture of Penelope's narrative--which is classic Atwood in tone and style--and poems and songs and such from the chorus of the twelve maids murdered by Odysseus. The mixture works very well as the early chorus sections review the basic tale and then offer alternate views and variations as the story unfolds.
This book counts toward the 10th Canadian Book Challenge.

Cakes and Ale

Cakes and AleCakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book made me laugh from the very first page. 
“I have noticed that when someone asks for you on the telephone and, finding you out, leaves a message begging you to call him up the moment you come in, as it's important, the matter is often more important to him than to you.”  
It is a satire of the world of letters, and also of a small British village. It is alleged that the great writer he describes is meant to be Thomas Hardy. The story is told in the first person and moves back and forth in time quite seamlessly. Now and then the narrator speaks up in his role as author of the novel, but mostly he sits back and unwinds his recollections and observations of the world (and himself) for the reader. The writing is excellent, the observations spot-on, and the story well structured. My only quibble with it is that I would have liked to have a better sense of how the narrator became the man he did. We learn a lot about his boyhood, and the kind of boy he was, but it felt like there was a big change between the boy and the man telling the story which wasn't accounted for fully.

This book is one of my Classics Club titles and could be counted toward the Back to the Classics challenge as either "a 20th century classic" (first published in 1930) or "a classic set in a place you'd like to visit" (much of it is in London).

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Back to the Classics 2017

Since one of my goals for 2017 is to finish up my Classics Club list the Back to the Classics Challenge hosted at Books and Chocolate fits in perfectly. The goal is to read between 6 and 12 classics (at least 50 years old), one for each category. This year's categories are:
1. A 19th Century Classic - any book published between 1800 and 1899.
2.  A 20th Century Classic - any book published between 1900 and 1967. Just like last year, all books MUST have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify. The only exception is books written at least 50 years ago, but published later, such as posthumous publications.
3.  A classic by a woman author
4.  A classic in translation.  Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language. Feel free to read the book in your language or the original language. (You can also read books in translation for any of the other categories).
5.  A classic published before 1800. Plays and epic poems are acceptable in this category.
6.  A romance classic. I'm pretty flexible here about the definition of romance. It can have a happy ending or a sad ending, as long as there is a strong romantic element to the plot.
7.  A Gothic or horror classic. For a good definition of what makes a book Gothic, and an excellent list of possible reads, please see this list on Goodreads
8.  A classic with a number in the title. Examples include A Tale of Two CitiesThree Men in a Boat, The Nine Tailors, Henry V, Fahrenheit 451, etc. An actual number is required -- for example, Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None would not qualify, but The Seven Dials Mystery would. 
9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title.  It can be an actual animal or a metaphor, or just the name in the title. Examples include To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, The Metamorphosis, White Fang, etc. If the animal is not obvious, please clarify it in your post.
10. A classic set in a place you'd like to visit. It can be real or imaginary: The Wizard of Oz, Down and Out in Paris and London, Death on the Nile, etc.
11. An award-winning classic. It could be the Newbery award, the Prix Goncourt, the Pulitzer Prize, the James Tait Award, etc. Any award, just mention in your blog post what award your choice received.
12. A Russian Classic2017 will be the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, so read a classic by any Russian author. 

Bout of Books: Let the Reading Begin!

Day 1 (Monday)
  • Read for about an hour between midnight and 1am (Boiled Over by Barbara Ross).
  • Completed the #insixwords challenge (I'm tweeting from @urbanquilterNH this time around)
  • Read 10:30 to 4:30 with occasional breaks to eat and to help my husband with his brew-day (Classic American Pilsner). Finished Boiled Over and worked on Africa: A Short History.
  • Read during the evening as well including The Nook Book and Cakes and Ale.
Since I was off work today I had lots of time to read. The rest of my week will have much shorter reading sessions.

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