Category Archives: Challenges

September Reflections 2019

Have a told you that I love Septembers? This retired teacher finds particular pleasure in the warm and lovely freedom of Septembers without having to start a school year! I do miss the kiddos, but I am so happy to have time now to read, travel, volunteer and simply enjoy setting my own agenda for each day.

This September was full of books. I’ve been reading books that fit in with a variety of challenges that I either joined or created for myself. Mysteries have been the major focus of the month due to the annual Readers Imbibing Peril challenge, which I love. But I have read a book for my Official TBR Pile challenge, and read a few things that fit with my Embracing Seventy self-challenge, and my Wanderlust self-challenge. So it’s been a productive month as well as an enjoyable one. Here are some lists of books read in September.

Mysteries I read this month for R.I.P.-XIV:

  1. Christmas in Absaroka County, by Craig Johnson
  2. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
  3. The Religious Body, by Catherine Aird
  4. An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good, by Helene Tursten
  5. The Case of the Famished Parson, by George Bellairs
  6. Rose Cottage, by Mary Stewart
  7. The House on the Strand, by Daphne du Maurier (review pending)
  8. Trouble in Nuala, by Harriet Steel (review pending)

Other books I read in September:

  1.  Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside, by Edward Abbey
  2. Water Buffalo Days: Growing Up in Vietnam, by Huynh Quang Nhuong
  3. Legends of the Maori, by Witcombe’s Story Books
  4. The Librarian of Basra, by Jeanette Winter
  5. Lonely Road, by Nevil Shute

September was also filled with walking and exercise class, gardening, volunteering with Moms Demand Action, and a wonderful trip to the Washington Coast in celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary in August. Life is full and it’s a happy time for us. How nice to be able to say that. I hope your own September was a full and happy one.

Rose Cottage

I couldn’t help myself! I just had to read another Mary Stewart for my R.I.P.-XIV challenge! I do love Mary Stewart’s books, and Rose Cottage has been on my TBR list for quite awhile, so this weekend I picked it up and read it almost in one sitting.

from the publisher…

Rose Cottage, a tiny thatched dwelling in an idyllic English country setting, would appear the picture of tranquility to any passerby. But when Kate Herrick returns to her childhood home to retrieve some family papers in the summer of 1947, she uncovers a web of intrigue as tangled as the rambling roses in its garden. The papers are missing. The village is alive with gossip. Did her elderly neighbors, suspected of being witches, really see nighttime prowlers and ghosts in the cottage garden?

This was a fun read for my PERIL the FIRST for the R.I.P.-XIV challenge. A very nice read for a rainy weekend.

The Case of the Famished Parson

George Bellairs: a bank manager, a talented crime author, part time journalist and Francophile. His detective stories, written in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s, combine wicked crimes and classic police procedurals, set in small British communities.  Best known for his Detective Littlejohn stories, he is celebrated as one of Britain’s crime classic greats.

I always like to start a new mystery series at the beginning and read the books in order, but this time I decided to start with the book George Bellairs published in my birth year, 1949. The Case of the Famished Parson is somewhere in the middle of the Inspector Littlejohn series. I immediately liked this detective — Inspector Littlejohn is an older but very talented detective. His methods are more traditional than his newer counterparts, but he is very dedicated to his work, even when he is on bedrest recuperating from a gunshot would to the leg!

…from the publisher:

Dr. James Macintosh, the Bishop of Greyle, is a mysterious man; for a long time, nobody even seems to know his last name. But things suddenly take a turn for the worse when his body is found completely emaciated and battered having being pushed face-first off the edge of a cliff…

Inspector Littlejohn faces an incredibly peculiar case and must figure out how to explain the savage murder of a gentle Bishop? Perhaps he know too much about the secretive citizens of Cape Marvin, the seaside resort and the place of his murder.  Or did it have something to do with the strange family he had left behind in Medhope?

Above all, why was the Bishop’s body so undernourished that death by violence won out by only a few days over death by starvation?

I liked George Bellairs’ writing style and can easily see why he is considered “as one of Britain’s crime classic greats.”  I enjoyed meeting this new-to-me detective and was involved with the search for answers all the way through the book. It’s a series I would like to continue, but will go back and start with the first book.

I read this book for both my R.I.P-XIV challenge and my year long celebration of turning Seventy!

 

Classics Club Spin #21

Hooray!  It’s time for another Classics Club Spin!

How it works:

  • Before next Monday 23rd September 2019, 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 Monday 23 September, 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 31st October 2019.

My Spin #21 List:
(stop back here after September 23rd to see which book I will be reading for this CC Spin!  I’ll highlight it in red.)

  1. Death Be Not Proud, by John Gunther
  2. Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke
  3. The Gaucho Martin Fierro, by Jose Fernandez
  4. The Sussex Downs Murder, by John Bude
  5. The Secret Agent, by Joseph Conrad

  6. Kokoro, by Natsume Soseki
  7. Excellent Women, by Barbara Pym
  8. The Story of an African Farm, by Olive Schreiner
  9. The Sea Runners, by Ivan Doig
  10. Rose in Bloom, by Louisa May Alcott
  11. Sons, by Pearl S. Buck
  12. A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf
  13. Night, by Elie Wiesel
  14. The Solitary Summer, by Elizabeth von Arnim
  15. Marcovaldo, or The Seasons of the City, by Italo Calvino
  16. A Room With a View, by E.M. Forster
  17. The Ramayana, by Bulbul Sharma
  18. The Lost Prince, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  19. The Measure of My Days, by Florida Scott-Maxwell
  20. Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden, by Eleanor Perenyi

This challenge is a fun recurring event of The Classics Club. Click here to see my list of 50 books to read in 5 years.

The Religious Body

 

The mystery author, Catherine Aird, first came to my attention when I worked at The King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City in the early 1980s. TKE is known for its wonderful mystery section, and I loved becoming familiar with the stock and reading as many of those books as time and money allowed me. I don’t know why, but I did not read any Catherine Aird at that time, although I sold many of her books. So when I was planning my reading for the R.I.P.-XIV challenge I decided to read the first book in her series and see how I liked it.

Her first book, The Religious Body, was about the murder of a nun inside the convent. Was the murderer one of the other nuns or had someone gained access to this highly secluded and protected place? Detective Inspector C. D. Sloan and Detective Constable Crosby were called in to investigate this mysterious death.

I liked the detectives and enjoyed this mystery and Catherine Aird’s writing, so I definitely will be continuing on with this series.

 

 

 

I read this book for the R.I.P.-XIV reading challenge.

 

 

Christmas in Absaroka County

Christmas in Absaroka County is a collection of short stories by Craig Johnson. He has added some novellas and short story collections to his Walt Longmire  mystery series, and they are a lot of fun to read.

from the publisher…

I am very fond of the character of Walt Longmire and am enjoying slowly reading through this mystery series. The extra glimpses of Walt that we see in these short “in-between” books give us a deeper understanding of the character and just add a lot of interest and fun to whole experience of this series.

 

I read this book for the R.I.P.-XIV reading challenge.

It’s Time for R.I.P. XIV

It’s THAT time of year again! Time for the annual Readers Imbibing Peril book challenge celebrating all things spooky and mysterious! This is the 14th year for this Fall festival of fun reading, and I’m so excited to participate again.

Here’s how it works:

The purpose of the R.I.P. Challenge is to enjoy books that could be classified as:

  • Mystery.
  • Suspense.
  • Thriller.
  • Dark Fantasy.
  • Gothic.
  • Horror.
  • Supernatural.
The emphasis is never on the word challenge, instead it is about coming together as a community and embracing the autumnal mood, whether the weather is cooperative where you live or not.

The goals are simple.  

1. Have fun reading.
2. Share that fun with others.

There are different ways to participate by choosing which “PERIL” you want.  You can choose PERIL the First;  PERIL the Second;  PERIL the Third;  PERIL of the Short Story;  PERIL on the Screen;  PERIL of the Review.   Click here to see the descriptions of each of these PERILS.

MY PLAN:

This year, I am choosing both PERIL the First, and PERIL on the Screen. That means I will be reading a minimum of 4 books and watching some movies. Because I love this genre, I have an endless list of books on my bookshelves that will fit nicely for the PERIL I have chosen. And my husband and I love a good film festival, so for my PERIL on the Screen, we will be watching as many Agatha Christie movies/TV series as we can.

So check back here from time to time in September and October to see what I have added to my list of books read and movies watched!

Have fun everybody!

BOOKS I READ and MOVIES I WATCHED FOR THIS CHALLENGE:

PERIL the FIRST:

  1. The Lost One, by Mary Stewart
  2. The Little Sister, by Raymond Chandler
  3. Christmas in Absaroka County, by Craig Johnson
  4. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
  5. The Religious Body, by Catherine Aird
  6. An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good, by Helene Tursten
  7. The Case of the Famished Parson, by George Bellairs
  8. Rose Cottage, by Mary Stewart
  9. The House on the Strand, by Daphne du Maurier
  10. Trouble in Nuala, by Harriet Steel
  11. Whiteout, by Ken Follett

PERIL on the SCREEN:

  1. 4:50 From Paddington, (1987) starring Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. Hubby and I watched it as a welcome to the beginning of my R.I.P.-XIV Peril on the Screen. It was very good and quite true to the book. I love Joan Hickson as Miss Marple!
  2. Murder at the Gallop, (1963) starring Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple. When I was growing up, my parents took us to see all the old Agatha Christie movies that came to town. I remember Margaret Rutherford from way back when!
  3. The Mirror Crack’d, (1980) starring Angela Lansbury as Miss Marple. I liked Angela Lansbury in this film, and it was fun to see so many Hollywood greats in the cast — Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Kim Novak, Geraldine Chaplin. However, it was so Hollywood-ish that it put me off a bit. Definitely not my favorite Agatha Christie movie!
  4. Murder Most Foul, (1964) starring Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple. Another fun mystery with a lot of humor.

…Arthur Rackham

This Star Shall Abide

Long before many of the dystopian books that are so popular these days were written, Sylvia Engdahl wrote a very compelling young adult science fiction trilogy. The first volume was called This Star Shall Abide, and I read it last week. It’s a book that has been on my TBR shelf for a long time and I’m so glad I finally got to it! It was a read I couldn’t put down, and I was very impressed with the ideas that were the basis of the story. The idea of “truth”, for example, and how important it is to be true to oneself. Such a timely concept!  It’s what I used to call a “thinker book” when I was teaching. Books that were full of very human dilemmas and problems to be solved, and books that make for very thoughtful discussions. Those are the kind of science fiction books I really like.

Synopsis of the story from the author’s web site:

Noren knew that his world was not as it should be–it was wrong that only the Scholars, and their representatives the Technicians, could use metal tools and Machines. It was wrong that only they had access to the mysterious City, which he had always longed to enter. Above all, it was wrong for the Scholars to have sole power over the distribution of knowledge. The High Law imposed these restrictions and many others, though the Prophecy promised that someday knowledge and Machines would be available to everyone. Noren was a heretic. He defied the High Law and had no faith in the Prophecy’s fulfillment. But the more he learned of the grim truth about his people’s deprivations, the less possible it seemed that their world could ever be changed. It would take more drastic steps than anyone imagined to restore their rightful heritage.

From The School Library Journal in 1972:

“Superior future fiction concerning the fate of an idealistic misfit, Noren, who rebels against his highly repressive society….  Although there is little overt action, the attention of mature sci-fi readers will be held by the skillful writing and excellent plot and character development.”  It received the Christopher Award in 1973,  for its “affirmation of the highest values of the human spirit.”

Some interesting quotes from the book:

…“Wherever he went he would be a stranger, for there was no home in the world for such as he.”

…“But as long as he kept on caring, nothing could touch the freedom of his inner thoughts.”

…”Knowledge was what he’d longed for, and he could not believe that the process of absorbing it would be anything but a joy.”

About the Author:

Sylvia Engdahl is an Oregon author, which is another reason I like reading her books. A few years ago, I read her book, Enchantress from the Stars, and loved it. That book received a Newbery Honor Award in 1971. You can read more about her and her books at her web site. http://sylviaengdahl.com

 

I read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

Ugetsu

 

Last night, my husband and I watched the old Japanese film, Ugetsu, a film based on two stories from the book, Tales of Moonlight and Rain, by Ueda Akinari, which I read many years ago. The film was directed by the great filmmaker, Kenji Mizoguchi, and released in 1953. It is a classic of Japanese film and a beautifully filmed, ethereal and haunting story.

from The Criterion Collection:

By the time he made Ugetsu, Kenji Mizoguchi was already an elder statesman of Japanese cinema, fiercely revered by Akira Kurosawa and other directors of a younger generation. And with this exquisite ghost story, a fatalistic wartime tragedy derived from stories by Akinari Ueda and Guy de Maupassant, he created a touchstone of his art, his long takes and sweeping camera guiding the viewer through a delirious narrative about two villagers whose pursuit of fame and fortune leads them far astray from their loyal wives. Moving between the terrestrial and the otherworldly, Ugetsu reveals essential truths about the ravages of war, the plight of women, and the pride of men.

summary of the story from Roger Ebert:

Two brothers, one consumed by greed, the other by envy. In a time when the land is savaged by marauding armies, they risk their families and their lives to pursue their obsessions. Kenji Mizoguchi’s “Ugetsu” (1953) tells their stories in one of the greatest of all films — one which, along with Kurosawa’s “Rashomon,” helped introduce Japanese cinema to Western audiences. The heroes are rough-hewn and consumed by ambition, but the film style is elegant and mysterious, and somehow we know before we are told that this is a ghost story.

We were captivated by the story and enveloped by the visual beauty of this film. It is a film experience I highly recommend.  It is available for purchase or rental from Amazon Prime, but we streamed it free-of-charge from Kanopy, the movies available for streaming through our local library system.

 

 

I watched this film as part of the Japanese Literature 12 Challenge hosted by Meredith at Dolce Bellezza.

January Shakespeare Update

…painting by James Christensen

The 2019 A Year of Shakespeare, hosted by Rachel (@ Hibernator’s Library) is underway. I am participating by reading three of Shakespeare’s plays this year. The one I have started with is The Winter’s Tale, which is completely new to me. My plan is to read numerous “retellings” of the story so I am familiar with it. Then I will read the play and listen to an audiobook version. Also, if I can find an available copy, I’d like to watch a film version. And, of course, I would love to see a live performance of it, too, but I don’t know what my chances are of that!

So far in January, I have read five different retellings of the story, and enjoyed each one.

I loved Edith Nesbitt’s retelling, and highly recommend her book, The Best of Shakespeare. I also loved the Charles and Mary Lamb version. Bruce Coville’s retelling was in picture book form and had lovely illustrations.

After reading those retellings, I started listening to the audiobook performance but found it was hard to tell which characters were speaking. I hadn’t picked up a print version of the play yet, so I stopped listening until I get the book and  can do both at once.

I made a lot of progress with this part of the Challenge in January, and I’m enjoying getting to know Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale!

…painting by James Christensen. Antigonus abandoning the royal baby, Perdita, on the Bohemian coast!