Cathy at 746 Books is hosting the 20 Books of Summer challenge yet again, and since I have seen this challenge around, but never participated before, I have decided to give it a go. The challenge involves reading and reviewing a certain amount of books from 1 June to 1 September 2023, and there are options go for 15 or even 10 books (instead of 20). Since this is my first time participating, I am going for the modest goal of 10 books, and below is my provisional, fiction-only, list of selected-for-this-challenge books.
Tag: Reading Challenge
The Italia Reading Challenge – Completed!
I have completed the Italia Reading Challenge, which was a challenge for me to read books by Italian authors throughout the year 2022. I would like to thank Emma from Book Around the Corner for contributing to this challenge and the first two books in the selection above are her review contributions. The challenge covered such diverse genres as literary fiction (Pavese), historical fiction (Bassani), play (Pirandello), non-fiction (Angela), short story (Buzzati) and memoir/poetry (Dante), as well as authors born in such diverse regions of Italy as Sardinia (Pulixi), Veneto (Buzzati), Piedmont (Pavese), Lazio (Rome) (Morante), Tuscany (Florence) (Dante), Varese (Fo), and Sicily (Pirandello).Continue reading “The Italia Reading Challenge – Completed!”
Review: Laura by Vera Caspary
Laura  – ★★★★★
“To solve the puzzle of [Laura’s death], [one] must first resolve the mystery of Laura’s life” [Vera Caspary, Houghton Mifflin/Vintage: 1942/2012: 16].
A beautiful and still aspiring socialite Laura Hunt is found murdered in her apartment in New York City. She allegedly opened the door to her murderer. A veteran detective Mark McPherson starts to investigate this tricky case, but soon finds out that few things make sense in Laura’s murder. Worse still, McPherson finds himself falling under the charms of Laura’s personality and her world as a number of possible murder suspects emerge, including Laura’s low-paid fiancé Shelby Carpenter and Laura’s friend, eccentric columnist Waldo Lydecker. It soon turns out that Shelby is a possible insurance beneficiary upon Laura’s death, and, then, someone also buys Laura’s portrait that hung on her apartment wall …could it have been the murderer? Clues are scattered throughout this clever mystery-noir, which also has a twist “to die for”.Continue reading “Review: Laura by Vera Caspary”
Around the World in 50 Books
I have finally completed my challenge of reading 50 books set in different parts of the world! I began this challenge almost with the start of my blog in 2018 and my last review of Maryse Condé’s book marked the end of this exciting challenge. Below are my book results categorised in the following sections: Europe, The Middle East, Africa, Asia, North America, The Caribbean, South America and Oceania. Please note that the books below correspond to plot locations and not to the authors’ countries of origin.
- AUSTRIA: Letter from an Unknown Woman by Stefan Zweig
- CZECH REPUBLIC, THE: Melmoth by Sarah Perry
- DENMARK: Havoc by Tom Kristensen
- FRANCE: The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux
- HUNGARY: Satantango by Laszlo Krasznahorkai
- ICELAND: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
- ITALY: The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni
- IRELAND: The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Tóibín
- NETHERLANDS, THE: The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker
- NORWAY: Hunger by Knut Hamsun
- POLAND: Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
- PORTUGAL: The Crime of Father Amaro by Jose Maria de Eca de Queiros
- RUSSIA: White Nights by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- SWEDEN: Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
- SWITZERLAND: Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
- TURKEY: My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk (The Ottoman Empire)
- UK, THE: The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy
Italia Reading Challenge 2022
Italy is such a historically and culturally rich country and there are/were so many great Italian authors – Alighieri Dante, Giovanni Boccaccio, Niccolo Machiavelli, Alessandro Manzoni (The Betrothed), Cesare Pavese, Umberto Eco (Foucault’s Pendulum), Italo Calvino (The Baron in the Trees), to name just a few. Taking this into account and since I loved some Italian books I’ve read recently I’ve decided to make 2022 my year exploring Italian literature and set up the Italia (Italy) Reading Challenge (to run between January and December 2022). To make this challenge more manageable for myself, I have decided to limit my reading goal to just 10 books written by Italian authors. If we consider that these books all come from just one country, I don’t think it’s a bad start at all, and here is my selection for this year:
- Alberto Moravia – Contempt/Boredom/The Time of Indifference
- Antonio Tabucchi – Pereira Maintains
- Primo Levi – If This is a Man/If Not Now, When?
- Elena Ferrante – The Days of Abandonment
- Leonardo Sciascia – To Each His Own
- Giorgio Bassani – The Garden of the Finzi-Continis
- Italo Svevo – Zeno’s Conscience
- Dacia Maraini – The Silent Duchess
- Elsa Morante – Arturo’s Island
- Luigi Pirandello – The Late Mattia Pascal
Finally, if you want to join me on this journey this year (reading any number of books), you can grab the banner and leave links to your reviews throughout the year in the comments section on this permanent page – Italia Reading Challenge 2022 or below and I will add them to the general list, as well as do a summary post in December 2022 – #ReadItaliaChallenge.
Novellas in November: Daisy Miller by Henry James
This review is my contribution to the Novellas in November Reading Challenge hosted by Cathy at 746 Books and Rebecca at BookishBeck.
Daisy Miller  – ★★★1/2
“Daisy…continued to present herself as an inscrutable combination of audacity and innocence” [Henry James, 1879: 44]. In this story, young and wealthy American living abroad Frederick Winterbourne becomes infatuated with Daisy Miller, an unmarried American girl touring Europe with her mother and brother. Daisy Miller is a bold and flirtatious girl who continues to mystify Winterbourne daily since their fateful meeting in Switzerland. Now, in Rome, Italy, Winterbourne’s puzzlement turns into true incredulity and then horror as he watches Daisy’s interactions with one handsome Italian Giovanelli. But who is Daisy Miller, really, and how “common” she really is and how “innocent”, or not? Henry James (The Turn of the Screw ) penned a novella which showcases the societal power of prejudice to the fullest, even if it also gives the feeling of being generic and predictable.Continue reading “Novellas in November: Daisy Miller by Henry James”
Japanese Short Stories from Akutagawa, Enchi, Endō, Inoue & Kawabata
Meredith at Dolce Bellezza is hosting The Japanese Literature Challenge 14, which takes place from January to March 2021, and this post on five Japanese short stories is my contribution to the challenge (see all the other exciting entries here and for my entries to the previous Japanese Literature Challenge 13 see my reviews here and here).
I. Murder in the Age of Enlightenment  by Ryunosuke Akutagawa – ★★★★
This memorable story with confident prose by the “father” of Japanese short stories Akutagawa (Hell Screen ) is told through a letter and diary entries written by one young man to Viscount and Viscountess Honda. The story’s unreliable narration that deludes the truth and makes motives questionable introduces us to one hidden obsession as we plunge deep into the psyche of one disturbed man. If Akutagawa’s short story The Spider’s Thread  relied on Dostoyevsky’s story of a woman and an onion from The Brothers Karamazov , here we also see certain close similarities with other works. The story starts close to The Sorrows of Young Werther  by Goethe (unrequited, forbidden and passionate love/drastic action), but finishes very similarly to Doctor Glas  by Hjalmar Söderberg (doctor/mental torment/similar action taken to secure the future of a beloved woman). I read this story in Murder in The Age of Enlightenment (Essential Stories) by Ryunosuke Akutagawa [translated by Bryan Karetnyk, Pushkin Press 2020].Continue reading “Japanese Short Stories from Akutagawa, Enchi, Endō, Inoue & Kawabata”
Thoughts on Non-Fiction
Since November is designated for the Non-Fiction Reading Challenge, I thought I would talk about my favourite non-fiction genres and my experience of reading non-fiction books. The only non-fiction genre which I love but will not cover below is medicine/cognitive science. It will be the topic of my next post and I also previously covered it in this list here.
Some of my favourite non-fiction books fall into the categories of history and travel (culture exploration). Be it dinosaurs (The Rise & Fall of the Dinosaurs), the Middle Ages (A Distant Mirror) or stories of survival in hostile terrains (Miracle in the Andes), I find all these topics completely fascinating. My previous favourite reads also included books on Mexico, New Orleans, New York and Rome. Though some I enjoyed more than others (for example, I did not get along with Peter Mayne’s Marrakesh book nor with Kurlansky’s Havana), I am always keeping my eyes open for interesting books in these categories. Thus, I am currently looking forward to reading A History of the Bible by John Barton, The Ghost: A Cultural History by Susan Owens, The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans by David Abulafia, and Medieval Civilisation 400-1500 by Jacques Le Goff, an author that was recommended to me by Ola G.Continue reading “Thoughts on Non-Fiction”
The 15th Readers Imbibing Peril Reading Challenge
My favourite time of the year has started, and this year I have decided to start the Readers Imbibing Peril Reading Challenge earlier than usual. This is because, firstly, yes, I am impatient to delve into all those exciting scary books, and, secondly, I want to have plenty of time to decide what I want read for this challenge, and then read and review those books. This year I spotted this challenge at Robin’s A Fondness for Reading (it was first started by Carl V), and the goal is to read a certain number of books associated with the Halloween season. This year I am planning to read at least four books in one or more of the following categories: horror, thriller, mystery, dark fantasy and the supernatural. I have not yet decided on specific books, but I will definitely be reading something from both Daphne du Maurier and Shirley Jackson. Are you participating in this challenge this year? What authors or books are you planning to read?
Review: The Silent Cry by Kenzaburō Ōe
The Silent Cry [1967/88] – ★★★★★
Full of uneasiness and foreboding, The Silent Cy is a subtly powerful work that masterfully evokes the unsaid, the forbidden and the terrifying, getting us close to the real Truth and to the final Hope.
In The Silent Cry, we are presented with the early 1960s and Mitsu, a disillusioned husband to an alcoholic wife and a father to a child who is now in an institution. Mitsu sees his life changing when his estranged brother Takashi arrives from America and together they travel to their native village in Shikoku, one of the main islands in Japan. There, they find that there is a shift in local power and one rich Korean magnate is proposing to buy what remains of Mitsu and Takashi’s land inheritance – their storehouse. Reluctantly, Mitsu finds himself drawn into a complicated political situation of the village, while also realising that Takashi starts to wield the unprecedented power over the village inhabitants. The Silent Cry is a slow-paced descent into one kind of a nightmare where the violent history of the village is about to be re-enacted and other grim discoveries made as the relationship between the two brothers takes an unexpected turn. Continue reading “Review: The Silent Cry by Kenzaburō Ōe”
The Year of the Asian Reading Challenge – Completed!
I am happy to inform my followers that I have completed my Year of the Asian Reading Challenge for 2019. My initial, very modest, goal was to read 12 books by Asian authors in 2019, and I managed to read 15 (coupled with time pressure and my other reading challenges). I know that there is still one month left before this challenge officially expires, but since I do not plan on reading Asian authors in December, I thought I would make an official concluding announcement. My mascot for this challenge was an Indian cobra (corresponding to the level of between 11 and 20 books), and, in 2019, I read authors from the following six countries: South Korea, Pakistan, Japan, China, India and Afghanistan. The books that impressed be the most during this challenge came from the Japanese writers Kobo Abe (The Woman in the Dunes/The Face of Another), Durian Sukegawa (Sweet Bean Paste), Akira Yoshimura (Shipwrecks) and Yoko Ogawa (The Memory Police), as well as from the Chinese-born author Eileen Chang (Half a Lifelong Romance). Below are all the books with the corresponding links to reviews. Continue reading “The Year of the Asian Reading Challenge – Completed!”
October 2019 Wrap-Up: From The Memory Police to The Axeman’s Jazz
The Memory Police [1994/2019] by Yōko Ogawa – ★★★★★
This book is the one that surprised me the most this month. I found myself enchanted and slightly disturbed by Ogawa’s world of disappearing objects. It was very interesting to read about the uncertainty and characters’ determination to live normal lives despite the disappearances and the Memory Police’s harassment.
The Face of Another  by Kōbō Abe – ★★★★★
Kōbō Abe’s unusual book proved to be a great read for me. When a scientist in this story becomes facially disfigured, he vows to become “normal” again and have a face to fit into the Japanese society again. Abe explores the mental torment of someone who no longer sees himself as part of a society, making insightful observations on the power of personal transformation.
Continue reading “October 2019 Wrap-Up: From The Memory Police to The Axeman’s Jazz”
Review: The Axeman’s Jazz by Ray Celestin
The Axeman’s Jazz  – ★★★
This is a debut historical fiction book that fictionalises real serial killer murders that shook New Orleans in 1918 and 1919 and were dubbed the Axeman’s murders. The book is a winner of the 2014 John Creasey (New Blood) Award, and I just could not pass by an opportunity to read this book since it is set in New Orleans of all places, a city that has been fascinating me for a long time and so much I have previously mentioned/talked on my blog about its history, art and notable celebrations. This very atmospheric book follows three people investigating the gruesome murders of the Axeman: (i) a professional investigator Detective Lieutenant Michael Talbot; (ii) a nineteen year-old amateur sleuth and secretary at a local detective agency Ida Davis, and (iii) a recent convict and once detective Luca D’Andrea. Each one of them is under pressure to discover the identity of the murderer before anyone else, and the task is not easy since the murderer taunts the police and leaves strange clues behind, such as Tarot cards. Soon corruption in high places, the Mafia and false leads all complicate the case, as well as the most recent strange demand of the murderer: “play Jazz on one particular Tuesday and you will be safe”. Charmingly evoking the atmosphere of one-of-a-kind place in the world which was New Orleans in the early twentieth century, Ray Celestin concocts a worthy-of-a-read crime thriller, even if it is at times slow, overwritten, unnecessarily confusing and wobbly in its logic. Continue reading “Review: The Axeman’s Jazz by Ray Celestin”
The 14th Readers Imbibing Peril Reading Challenge
It is not long now until that spooky period of the year begins when we have to be careful if we do not want to become victims of witches, goblins and vampires. Halloween has always been my favourite festivity, maybe because I was born near this period and have always been fascinated by mysteries and the unknown. Thus, this year I have decided to participate in The Fourteenth Readers Imbibing Peril (R.I.P.) Reading Challenge hosted by Andi, and this challenge is all about reading books of mystery, horror, dark fantasy, or the supernatural. There are numerous levels of participation, such as Peril on the Screen and Peril of the Short Story, and I am going for Peril The First – which means my goal is to read four books of any length in the broad horror genre in the month of October 2019. I do not have a preliminary list of books, but I do have a goal to cover the works of Shirley Jackson and Edgar Allan Poe. Does this challenge sound interesting to you? Would you like to participate?
The Year of the Asian Reading Challenge 2019
This week I heard about The Year of the Asian Reading Challenge (YARC) 2019, organised by the amazing bloggers from Shut Up, Shealea, The Quiet Pond, Sprinkles of Dreams, & Vicky Who Reads, and cannot help but join the celebration of Asian authors. The challenge is to read as many books as possible written by Asian authors, and this is a great challenge because there are tons of books by Asian writers, which are just amazing and deserve more recognition.
For this challenge I am going for a very modest goal of reading 12 books by Asian authors by the end of the year, and will be updating my progress on this page. This is because I am already participating in my other personal reading challenge on travel, and have too many to-be-read books that have been on my shelf for far too long. As I am going for 12 books, my “mascot” for this challenge is an Indian cobra, representing a challenge to read between 11 and 20 books. I strongly urge everyone else to join this challenge, because there will be monthly prompts, link-ups, as well as interesting discussions and exciting giveways.