29 December 2019

Wrapup: Back to the Classics 2019 Challenge

At the beginning of the year I joined the Back to the Classics 2019 challenge hosted by Karen at her BooksAndChocolate blog: Read 12 books from the twelve given categories in 2019.

Now here's my wrapup post for the challenge. I've completed 7 parts of the challenge, reading and reviewing books for 7 categories, so I have earned 1 entry to the prize drawing. Karen, you can contact me at DuchessMaude [at] gmail [dot] com .

I enjoyed doing this as it gave me some structure to the rather vague notion of "reading more classic books". I don't think there will be another one next year, which is sad. But I have signed up for the 2020 Mount TBR Challenge and there are plenty of Classic Novels on my shelves.

Books read with links to my reviews:

1. 19th Century Classic.
"Northanger Abbey", Jane Austen (1817)

2. 20th Century Classic.
"God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater", Kurt Vonnegut (1965)

3. Classic by a Female Author.
"Lolly Willowes", Sylvia Townsend Warner (1926)

4. Classic in Translation.
"Grand Hotel", Vicki Braun (1929)

5. Classic Comedy.
"Queen Lucia", E.F. Benson (1929)

8. Classic Novella.
"Adrift on the Nile", Naguib Mahfouz (1966)

10. Classic From Africa, Asia, or Oceania.
"A Cat, a Man, and Two Women", Jun'ichiro Tanizaki (1936)

27 December 2019

Book Beginning: The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction by M.A. Orthofer


Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

More than anywhere else in the world, it is domestic fiction that dominates bookstore shelves, best-seller lists, and media and review coverage in the United States. Tens of thousands of new works of fiction are published annually here, the vast majority by American authors. Most of the rest were also originally written in English, and only a few hundred are translated works of fiction. In almost every other country, foreign literature occupies a central and prominent position, but in the United States it seems to sit far more precariously on the fringes.

I've been interested in reading literature in translation for a long time. Luckily with the advent of the internet a lot of information has appeared about novels translated into English, sometimes too much information. I was looking for a more general overview of this literature, and happened upon this book which covers that exact topic. Huzzah!

20 December 2019

Book Beginning: Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader. Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

Olivia knows what they are doing is stupid. If seen they will be sent home--possibly to a tribunal. Never mind that to touch him could be life-threatening.

This is January's pick for our library's book club and it looks interesting. The librarian has picked some rather depressing or disturbing books lately, so this is a relief. The grown children of the Birch family are all home for the holidays for the first time in many years. And they are confined to the house for seven days of family bliss. Maybe.

16 December 2019

Mrs. 'Arris Tackles America

Mrs. 'Arris Goes to New York
Paul Gallico
Drawings by Mircea Vasiliu
Doubleday, 1960
192 pages

In this second book of the series. our adventurous Mrs. 'Arris, a London char, sets out to right another wrong. Her neighbors are mistreating a little boy who was left in their care by his mom when she remarried and the new husband didn't want the child. In her innocent view of the world in the 1950s it must be a simple task to find little Henry's father, George Brown, in America. You just needed to take a ship over there and look him up.

As is usual with Mrs. 'Arris's plans, things do not go quite that smoothly. And as is also usual with Mrs. 'Arris, her friends, employers, and even new acquaintances are always eager to help her out of a jam. Thus she and her friend and fellow char, Mrs. Butterfield, find themselves on an ocean liner to New York courtesy of a client who desperately needs their help settling in to a large New York apartment. And her old friend from Paris, the Marquis Hypolite de Chassagne, the new French Ambassador to the US, happens to be on board, as well.

Mrs. 'Arris does indeed find a new forever family for little Henry in America, after an arduous search. With a little help from her friends. She is one of the most endearing characters ever to grace the pages of a book. Her stories are more like modern, feel-good fairy tales than novels. All of her exploits are worth reading. Alas, I have now read all four of the Mrs. 'Arris books and so cannot look forward to more. Rereads are in my future!


"Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris"

"Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Moscow"

"Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Parliament"


The versions published in the UK have slightly different titles and don't use the abbreviated version of her last name. Actually in the books she is always called Mrs. Harris, but the US publishers saw fit to drop her Hs, as does Mrs. 'Arris herself in her cockney accent. She will forever be Mrs. 'Arris to me, too. Also note that British English does not use a period/full stop after "Mrs" or "Mr".

Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris - Flowers for Mrs Harris
Mrs. 'Arris Goes to New York - Mrs Harris Goes to New York
Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Parliament - Mrs Harris MP
Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Moscow -  Mrs Harris Goes to Moscow

15 December 2019

Joining Mount TBR 2020

I think I have found the perfect book challenge for me: climbing Mount TBR!! I moved last year and prepared for it by sorting through all my books, eliminating many boxes of them. I sold quite a few and donated others to the Friends of the Library here in Cincinnati. I also catalogued the keepers in the online library catalogue Libib, which I reviewed here: https://booktapestry.blogspot.com/2018/07/libib-built-for-personal-collections.html

So now I know the frightening reality of my book collection. Let's just say that they cover 66 linear feet of bookshelves. Time to get reading my own books and stop getting new ones out of the library, no matter how fascinating they may sound in a review. Please!

Enter Mount TBR 2020. I am joining at the Mount Ararat level, pledging read 48 books from my To Be Read piles during 2020. I might go for more, but let's be sensible for right now; I can upgrade to a newer mountain later if I need to. I am just going to wing it and list them as I go along, because I often choose books based on other challenges I join.

This should be fun and accomplishing this goal will make me very happy next New Year's Day!

14 December 2019

Book Beginning: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton


Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader. Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

The village lay under two feet of snow, with drifts at the windy corners. In a sky of iron the points of the Dipper hung like icicles and Orion flashed his cold fires. The moon had set, but the night was so transparent that the white house-fronts between the elms looked gray against the snow, clumps of bushes made black stains on it, and the basement windows of the church sent shafts of yellow light far across the endless undulations.


Anther American Classic I haven't read and I am trying hard to read lots of them now. I have read two of Wharton's novels and enjoyed them, so this novella should be interesting, too. I understand it's a tragedy.

11 December 2019

A Gothic Bath Visit

Northanger Abbey
Jane Austen
Penguin, 1995 (originally published 1817)
231 pages

I think this is my first Jane Austen novel! Hard to believe, I know, but it just never came up; not in high school and not as a chemistry major in college. This was the first novel written by Austen, apparently around 1799, although it wasn't published until after her death in 1817.

"Northanger Abbey" is divided into two nearly equal parts, 98 &103 pages. In part 1 our heroine, Catherine, is introduced as a sweet, unworldly girl from a country village who is introduced to high society in Bath, England, sometime during the early part of the Regency period, which lasted from 1790 to 1820. Fashionistas from all over England travelled to Bath to see and be seen, in addition to drinking the famous curative waters. We follow Catherine as she takes in the scene and meets some new friends.

In part 2 Catherine visits some people she has met in Bath, Eleanor and Henry Tilney, at their father's estate in Gloucestershire, Northanger Abbey. Having read numerous gothic romance novels, popular in the late 1700s, Catherine lets her imagination run away with her at the abbey. Creepy sounds, dark passageways,  seemingly odd events, a dead wife, all bring her terror, sleepless nights, and misery. Never fear, there is a happy ending!

I was not fond of this book. I know it's satire and things are overblown on purpose, but it was a bit boring. I did not like the writing style, either; it seemed a bit too coy. Austen herself lived in Bath from 1801 to 1806 and her contemporary account of what Bath was like during the Regency Period was very enjoyable, though. I knew that people visited the Pump Room to drink the waters, and that there were festive gatherings, but I didn't understand how it all worked before reading this.

This is my entry for the Back to the Classics 2019 Challenge, in the Nineteenth Century Classic category.


Jane Austen's World
"This Jane Austen blog brings Jane Austen, her novels, and the Regency Period alive through food, dress, social customs, and other 19th C. historical details related to this topic."

07 December 2019

Book Beginning: How to Become a Federal Criminal by Mike Chase


Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader. Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

If you're like most Americans, your first experience with the heart-pounding thrill of committing a federal crime came from a little white tag on the end of your mattress.
"Cut me," it dared you. "Tear me off."

I am greatly looking forward to reading this provocatively-titled book. Full title: "How to Become a Federal Criminal: An Illustrated Handbook for the Aspiring Offender". I've been following the author on Twitter - @CrimeADay - and the daily crime tweets have been very entertaining!