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Mid-Year Reading Challenges Update Part I: Finished Challenges & Some Long-Term Challenge Tallies

 

Reading List image credit 

It’s almost mid-year. Time to take stock of the many reading challenges in progress or finished. In another post I’ll show how I’m doing in the on-going challenges and with my reading goals for 2022.

FINNISHED CHALLENGES

Japanese Literature Challenge

My reviews are linked.

The Cat Who Saved Books: A Novel by Sosuke Natsukawa

J-Boys: Kazu’s World, Tokyo, 1965 by Shogo Oketani, translated by Avery Fisher Udagawa

Tales From the Cafe by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Reading Ireland Month

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

The Statement: A Novel by Brian Moore 

Although read after Reading Ireland Month, if you like Irish authors you may want to see my review of the new book, Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Seamus O’Reilly.

Wales Readathon

 

 

Sugar & Slate by Charlotte Williams

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn (Included in spite of the controversy about him)

The Fortune Men: A Novel by Nadifa Mohamed

Reading Daphne Du Maurier Week

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Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier

 

1954 Club

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Mary Anne by Daphne Du Maurier

LONG-TERM CHALLENGES TALLIES

All-time Classics Club Tally

CC Spin #22 in 2020 was my first Spin. I have not stuck to the same list–I’ve had to tweak it do to time restraints. Many classics are huge and don’t lend themselves to my speed of reading in the short Spin time frame. And long audios can be exhausting. Here is what I’ve finished in the Spins. Twice I picked books I did not finish. I’ve finished other that I did not include here since they were not read in Spins.

  1. Groves of Academe by Mary McCartney
  2. Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier (I’ve read several others but this is the only one for a Spin)
  3. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  4. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  5. Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
  6. Passage to India by EM Forster
  7. Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
  8. Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  9. Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck

Backlist Challenge–a Challenge I Set Myself

I’ve been working through the backlist of some authors I like.

Barbara Pym–4 read

Muriel Spark–5 read

Daphne Du Maurier–7 read

Agatha Christie–9 read

Dick Francis/Felix Francis–12 read

Anne Tyler–have read most still have a few missed in busy years of my life

David McCullough (nonfiction)–7 read

Doris Kearns Goodwin (nonfiction)–most

JoJo Moyes–6 books before I stopped due to the plagiarism controversy in Giver of Stars

Two Publishers Whose Lists I’m Reading

Persephone Books–9 read

Dean Street Press/Furrowed Middlebrow–8 read

Reading the World

The original premise of the blogger A Year of Reading the World who started this was to read an AUTHOR from each country. (She has an new, updated edition of her book of the same title out now, too Note: this is a UK link). I’ve settled for reading a book set in each country, but some are also by authors from that country, such as my most recent book read for this challenge, The Sixteen Trees of the Somme, set in Norway and translated into English from Norwegian. Coming soon: My list of books read for this challenge. (I do not track USA or UK–too many). 

71 Countries “Read”

This is the list of countries I use: Britannica Countries of the World but I’ve added Scotland and Wales.

I finished Reading Across the USA last year. Here is my post with a book for each state (it also includes D.C. and Puerto Rico).

Do you enjoy geeky book nerd posts like this? Obviously I do! I’ve never met a book list I didn’t like. While I have almost zero knowledge of statistics, I do like tracking my reading in many ways. I know–nearly as geeky as the Duke of Kent keeping track of the amount of time each opera performance he sees takes, right? Leave me a comment about your own geeky book fun or give me a link to your post like this one. I love to see what others read and how/if they track it all.

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CCSpin #30…And the winner is…#5 Pastoral by Nevile Shute

I’m excited to be reading another by Nevile Shute! My most recent read by him was The Far Country, which I loved. (My review is linked).

Pastoral by Nevile Shute

Here’s my list:

NEW List for Spin #30

Newly added books are in bold.

  1. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (Serial Reader) 
  2. The Squire by Enid Bagnold
  3. A Son at the Front by Edith Wharton
  4. Sea of Grass by Conrad Richter
  5. Pastoral by Nevil Shute
  6. Mariana by Monica Dickens
  7. Vera by Elizabeth Von Arnim
  8. Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (Serial Reader)
  9. Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd
  10. Mornings in Mexico by DH Lawrence
  11. The Glass Blowers by Daphne Du Maurier
  12. Business As Usual by Jane Oliver
  13. In Summer Season by Elizabeth Taylor 
  14. Lost Horizon by James Hilton
  15. Portrait of a Marriage by Vita Sackville West
  16. Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard
  17. The Brazilian Adventure by Peter Fleming
  18. O! Pioneers by Willa Cather (Serial Reader)
  19. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
  20. Burmese Days by George Orwell

Are you happy with your spin result? Leave me a comment or a link to your post.

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Classics Club Spin #30

ClassicsClubSpin

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin.

Before next Sunday, 12 June, create a post that lists twenty books of your choice that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list. On that day the Classics Club will post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by August 7,  2022.

My list for the previous spin is at the bottom of this post and shows the three books on that list that I’ve completed since that spin with links to their reviews. I do not necessarily list exactly the same books until they are done. I take into consideration what is possible to be read in the time frame and adjust accordingly. If that’s not ok…..oh well!

NEW List for Spin #30

Newly added books are in bold.

  1. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (Serial Reader) 
  2. The Squire by Enid Bagnold
  3. A Son at the Front by Edith Wharton
  4. Sea of Grass by Conrad Richter
  5. Pastoral by Nevil Shute
  6. Mariana by Monica Dickens
  7. Vera by Elizabeth Von Arnim
  8. Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (Serial Reader)
  9. Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd
  10. Mornings in Mexico by DH Lawrence
  11. The Glass Blowers by Daphne Du Maurier
  12. Business As Usual by Jane Oliver
  13. In Summer Season by Elizabeth Taylor 
  14. Lost Horizon by James Hilton
  15. Portrait of a Marriage by Vita Sackville West
  16. Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard
  17. The Brazilian Adventure by Peter Fleming
  18. O! Pioneers by Willa Cather (Serial Reader)
  19. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
  20. Burmese Days by George Orwell

     

OLD Spin #29 List

  1. Mariana by Monica Dickens
  2. Sea of Grass by Conrad Richter
  3. Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier  Review
  4. Mornings in Mexico by DH Lawrence
  5. Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (Serial Reader)
  6. Lost Horizon by James Hilton
  7. A Far Country by Neville Shute     Review
  8. O! Pioneers by Willa Cather (Serial Reader)
  9. Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers
  10. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (Serial Reader)
  11. Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (Serial Reader)  Review (did not read on Serial Reader)
  12. Portrait of a Marriage by Vita Sackville West
  13. Burmese Days by George Orwell
  14. Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd
  15. Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  16. Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard
  17. Bitter Lemons of Cyprus by Lawrence Durrell
  18. The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
  19. The Brazilian Adventure by Peter Fleming
  20. Business As Usual by Jane Oliver

Would you like to tackle some classics? You can join in the spin! Read all the details on about the

Spins at The Classics Club.

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Classics Club Spin #29 Result is….#11

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So, I’ll be reading or listening to the first Hercule Poirot mystery!!! It is available on Serial Reader if you like a handy read-as-you-go, daily portion. Not sure yet whether I’ll do that or look for an audio. Read all about The Classics Club and it’s “Spins” here.

My Spin #29 List

See my full post for Spin #29 HERE.

  1. Mariana by Monica Dickens
  2. Sea of Grass by Conrad Richter
  3. Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier
  4. Mornings in Mexico by DH Lawrence
  5. Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (Serial Reader)
  6. Lost Horizon by James Hilton
  7. A Far Country by Neville Shute
  8. O! Pioneers by Willa Cather (Serial Reader)
  9. Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers
  10. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (Serial Reader)
  11. Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (Serial Reader)
  12. Portrait of a Marriage by Vita Sackville West
  13. Burmese Days by George Orwell
  14. Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd
  15. Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  16. Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard
  17. Bitter Lemons of Cyprus by Lawrence Durrell
  18. The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
  19. The Brazilian Adventure by Peter Fleming
  20. Business As Usual by Jane Oliver

Join in with Classics Club Spins by following the blog, The  Classics Club.

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Classics Club Spin #27 Book Will Be….

#ccspin 

Number 6 is the lucky draw!

The book I must read by August 22nd is….

Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson-Burnett

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Frances Hodgson Burnett published The Making of a Marchioness in 1901. She had written Little Lord Fauntleroy 15 years before and would write The Secret Garden in 10 years’ time; it is these two books for which she is best known. Yet Marchioness was one of Nancy Mitford’s favourite books, was considered ‘the best novel Mrs Hodgson Burnett wrote’ by Marghanita Laski, and is taught on a university course in America together with novels such as Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Daisy Miller.ness by Frances Hodgson-Burnett

I bought this on sale on audio recently, so now I”ll enjoy it on my commute some week.

You can see my entire list for this spin HERE.

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Classics Club Spin #27–REVISED

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I’m LATE for another Classics Club Spin. By tomorrow, Sunday July 18, 2021, 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. Tomorrow, Sunday July 18th, the Classics Club will post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by August 22, 2021. #ccspin 

Note: I revised this after realizing I’d given away one book and forgot some recent Kindle purchases. She what happens when you are running late?

My List

  1. Loving Spirit by Daphne DuMaurier
  2. Finishing School by Muriel Spark
  3. Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  4. A Far Country by Neville Shute
  5. Mornings in Mexico by DH Lawrence
  6. Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson-Burnett
  7. Son at the Front by Edith Wharton
  8. Portrait of a Marriage by Vita Sackville West
  9. The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  10. Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd
  11. The Headmistress by Angela Thirkell
  12. Lost Horizon by James Hilton
  13. O, Pioneers by Willa Cather
  14. Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym
  15. Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne DuMaurier
  16. Burmese Days by George Orwell
  17. Working by Studs Terkel
  18. Sea of Grass by Conrad Richter
  19. Three Summers by Margarita Liberaki
  20. I, Claudius by  Robert Graves

You can see some of my former Spin Book Review posts here. The Spin Lists posts are linked within the review post:

Spin 26 Review: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Spin 25 Review: Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck

Spin 24 I DNF-ed Imperial Woman by Pearl S. Buck so no review. *(The link is to Amazon).

Spin 23 Review: Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy

Spin 22 Review: Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

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Classics Club Spin #26 Review: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

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The Classics Club does periodic “spins”–a fun way to get through our classics TBR lists.  It’s a fun way to tackle a book you want to read, but may never find the “right” time to do so. You make your list of classics TBR and then, on the assigned day, a number is announced. You read the book in that number/place on your list. Fun! Here’s the list I used last time that resulted in Wide Sargasso Sea. Link to Classics Spin #26.

The Club’s deadline was May 31st, but I’ve been struggling with print reading for a while, so I’m late.

My Interest in This Book

Jane Eyre was one of the first “grown-up” classics I read. I loved it. I’ve re-read it, but only once. My interest was renewed several years ago when Downton Abbey threw the “crazy wife in the attic” story line (is this a “trope”??) at poor Edith. I knew I owned a copy so I found it and added it to my list. Finally, in Spin #26 it was time to read it.

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The Story

“There are always two deaths, the real one and the one people know about.”

Wide Sargasso Sea tells the early life story of Rochester’s mad-in-the-attic-wife. From the down-at-the-heels family and estate, the now-free enslaved servants, the mysterious religious practices of the Caribbean islands, we get an interesting picture of this young woman. Married off by her step-father to a man too new to to the islands to know what to question, her life never gets better–in fact [no spoilers] in some ways comes full circle.

My Thoughts

Much has been made of this book as a feminist and post-colonial “classic.” Identity is a central theme. Rochester stats calling Antoinette “Bertha” supposedly as a way to break her spirit and make her into a woman he can understand. His identity as a man in charge of his destiny is rocked by the culture of the Islands. He no longer knows whom to believe or trust. The tales he is told about his new wife leave him confused. The newness of his life in the Islands leaves him vulnerable. Antoinette–does she love another? Was she forced into this marriage? What is the truth?

It reminded me most of all of a very hotly debated celebrity couple much in the news lately. From different countries and backgrounds the wife of the couple is either seen as a narcissistic sociopath or at least a liar, or is seen as the second coming of an imagined Saint. That is about how this book read to me!

Till she’s drunk so deep, played her games so often that the lowest shrug and jeer at her….I tell you she loves no one….” (p. 165)

She said she loved this place. This is the last she’ll see of it. I’ll watch for one tear, one human tear.” (p. 165)

They bought me….You deceived me, betrayed me, and you’ll do worse if you get the chance…(That girl she look you straight in the eye and talk sweet talk-and it’s lies she tell you. Lies. Her mother was so. They say she worse than her mother).” (p. 170).

And  then…. “I was exhausted.…(p. 170). “He has grey in his hair and misery in his eyes” (p. 178). Pretty much how the other marriage will end.

Rochester and Antoinette come to hate and loathe each other. Both have been used. Both become angry. Both wish to return to life without each other, but that is not possible.

Overall I was not very emotionally invested in this book. Parts of it brought up the time I was used/duped in another culture when I was fairly newly arrived. That didn’t make me on “Team Rochester” but I understood his confusion over who to believe. I also understood the resulting anger he felt. But, I also felt for Antoinette who, like women throughout the centuries, had no [GAG!] “agency” as I must say today!! My pet peeve of overly-woke word choice is meant only to belittle political correctness run amuck, not to ever to punish women over how little CONTROL or CHOICE [often the better word than “agency”] women have had over their life’s situation. She had far less say in her life than he had in his. That is the one difference I see with that well-known celebrity couple of today. That wife was no innocent like Antoinette. That wife had “agency” as she would undoubtedly say.

If my comparison of the two couples makes me seem foolish–fine, I can live with that. I am only being truthful (but not giving “my truth”) about what I thought of while reading the book.

My Verdict

3.0

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

#ccwhatimreading #ccspin

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Classics Club Spin Winner is…..#11

Lucy Number ….

  1. Loving Spirit by Daphne Du Maurier
  2. Finishing School by Muriel Spark
  3. Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  4. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  5. Mornings in Mexico by DH Lawrence
  6. Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway
  7. Son at the Front by Edith Wharton
  8. Portrait of a Marriage by Vita Sackville West
  9. The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  10. Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd
  11. The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

  12. Lost Horizon by James Hilton
  13. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
  14. Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym
  15. Jamaica Inn by Daphnew Du Maurier
  16. Burmese Days by George Orwell
  17. Working by Studs Terkel
  18. Sea of Grass by Conrad Richter
  19. Bostonians by Henry James
  20. I, Claudius by  Robert Graves

A Modern Classic

Wide Sargasso Sea, a masterpiece of modern fiction, was Jean Rhys’s return to the literary center stage. She had a startling early career and was known for her extraordinary prose and haunting women characters. With Wide Sargasso Sea, her last and best-selling novel, she ingeniously brings into light one of fiction’s most fascinating characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. This mesmerizing work introduces us to Antoinette Cosway, a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Mr. Rochester. Rhys portrays Cosway amidst a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind.  (Amazon)

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Classics Club Spin #26

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin. Before next Sunday 18th April, 2021, 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 April the Classics Club will post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by 31st May, 2021. #ccspin 

  1. Loving Spirit by Daphne Du Maurier
  2. Finishing School by Muriel Spark
  3. Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  4. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  5. Mornings in Mexico by DH Lawrence
  6. Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway
  7. Son at the Front by Edith Wharton
  8. Portrait of a Marriage by Vita Sackville West
  9. The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  10. Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd
  11. The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  12. Lost Horizon by James Hilton
  13. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
  14. Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym
  15. Jamacia Inn by Daphnew Du Maurier
  16. Burmese Days by George Orwell
  17. Working by Studs Terkel
  18. Sea of Grass by Conrad Richter
  19. Bostonians by Henry James
  20. I, Claudius by  Robert Graves
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Classics Club Spin #25 Review: Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck

#ccspin

What’s a Spin?

A Classics Club Spin is a game where you make a list of the 20 classics you want to read. Then, on the announced date, the Classics Club [blog] randomly draws a number. You read the book on your list that corresponds to the number drawn. It’s fun! You can read my List for Spin 25 here.

 

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My Interest in Tortilla Flat

I needed short choices from the classics for this challenge. I also wanted to try more Steinbeck even though East of Eden gave me real world nightmares. To date I’d read East of Eden, Grapes of Wrath, The Pearl Of Mice and Men (all three in high school in the 70s). I wanted a Steinbeck that wouldn’t depress me too much, too.

The Story

In a run-down part of town, Danny and his friends do their best to avoid working, yet still acquire wine. One day, Danny’s luck changes and he inherits his Grandfather’s two run-down houses. He agrees to ‘rent’ one to his friends who never actually pay rent. Danny begins to see the other side of owning something worth having. The friends start to resent his wealth. Then they are all friends again. A woman gets involved. A terrible accident sets the stage for conflict…that does….not…happen. In fact nothing much happens.

The chapter titles tell the story, for example:

“How Danny’s Friends sought mystic treasure on St. Andrew’s Eve. How Pilon found it and later how a pair of serge pants changed ownership twice.”

On and on nothing really happens. They talk. The find or beg or have gifted their wine. They steal chickens to eat. They have run-ins with others in the Monterey neighborhood of the title. They accomplish nothing.

Supposedly the story mirrors Arthurian legends with Danny as Arthur. Sure, John, if you say so. Whatever. Maybe I am too stupid to “get it” again–like with many Japanese books? To me, Arthur had class, style, manners, and did stuff. These guys are what used to be called “bums.” Not “hobos” because they (usually) have a home of some sort somewhere.

They reminded me of the guys in Last of the Summer Wine (a British sitcom in which little happens while the men avoid their wives) but dirtier and with coarser manners and different accents. And not enjoyable like LOTSW was.

My verdict

4.0 For the actual writing. 

2.0 For how it held my interest.

I’ll be honest–I’m done with Steinbeck except for Travels With Charley–I do still plan to read it and possibly Harvest Gypsies.

Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck

Random episode of the random antics of Last of the Summer Wine

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