Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Final Reminder: The Back to the Classics Challenge Ends Tomorrow!


It's not too late! Tomorrow is the very last day to post any links if you'd still like to participate in the Back to the Classics Challenge. You can still post your links for the twelve categories, plus the Final Wrap-Up Post.

Approximately 30 people have posted links (including myself, but don't worry, I'm not included in the prize drawing!) out of about 150 people who signed up originally. Odds are still pretty good -- you only have to link posts to six different book reviews to qualify for the $30 (U.S) gift certificate to Amazon.com OR The Book Depository!

Complete rules are here, and don't forget, you MUST link to a wrap-up post WITH LINKS to your reviews to qualify for the drawing. Post your link to your final wrap-up HERE to be included by midnight Central Standard Time tomorrow, December 31. 

I'll announce the winner early next week! Good luck to all the participants and thanks again for signing up!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Back to the Classics Challenge 2015: My Final Wrap-Up Post


I've completed my Back to the Classics Challenge list! Even though I'm not entering myself into the drawing, I wanted to include my list of what I read in 2015 for this challenge:


1.  19th Century Classic: Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope. Completed 4/20/15.

2.  20th Century Classic: The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. Completed 9/17/15.

3.  Classic by a Woman: Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Completed 3/13/15.

4.  Classic in Translation: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Completed 7/26/15.

5.  Very Long Classic: The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. Completed 3/1/15.

6.  Classic Novella: Liza of Lambeth by W. Somerset Maugham.  Completed 2/20/15.

7.  Classic With a Name in the Title: Lady Anna by Anthony Trollope. Completed 3/29/15.

8.  Humorous or Satirical Classic:  Frozen Assets by P. G. Wodehouse.  Completed 1/8/15.

9.  Forgotten Classic: The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macauley.  Completed 2/26/15.

10.  Non-Fiction Classic: Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl. Completed 8/11/15.


11.  Children's Classic:  Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers. Completed 1/26/15.

12.  Classic Play: An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde. Completed 12/21/15.

I think my favorites were Lady Anna, The Count of Monte Cristo, and The End of the Affair.  My least favorite was probably The Pickwick Papers, which took forever to get through. It's 400 pages shorter than Monte Cristo but it took much longer to finish. Only a few of them were from my Classics Club list, but I'm definitely pleased to have read twelve more classics!

There's just over a week left until the end of this challenge -- who's finished? Which books were your favorites? And have you signed up for the 2016 challenge yet?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde


My final book for the Back to the Classics Challenge -- and naturally, the shortest read took me the longest to select. I don't normally read plays, though I've actually been going to the theater more the last few years since I started visiting New York, and because I have a daughter who's very active in her school drama club. I kept waffling between different plays -- Shakespeare? Agatha Christie? Ibsen? Finally, I settled on my original idea -- a play by Oscar Wilde. Since I read and loved The Importance of Being Earnest for a classics book group a few years ago, I'd been meaning to read more of his work. And I was really glad I chose Wilde, because even his more serious works have laugh-out-loud, highly quotable moments. 

The story begins at a society party in 1890s London. The hostess, Lady Chiltern, is the wife of Lord Chiltern, a prominent Member of Parliament. Among the party goers are her sister-in-law, Mabel Chiltern; her husband's best friend, Lord Goring, who is kind but idle; and Mrs. Cheveley, who wangled an invitation so that she could speak privately to Lord Chiltern. Lady Chiltern remembers Mrs. Cheveley from school, and the frosty reception makes it clear that she does not have fond memories of her old classmate. 

We soon learn that Mrs. Cheveley is indeed a bad lot, and is trying to blackmail the almost saintly Lord Chiltern into doing something corrupt. A man of impeccable reputation, Chiltern made a youthful mistake and now she wants him to pay for it. He's desperate to get out of the situation without losing his position, his reputation, and most of all, his wife's love. Lady Chiltern has elevated her husband on such a high pedestal that he's terrified of disappointing her.

The real star of the show is actually Lord Goring, who is witty and charming and has a handle on the situation; also, he has by far the best lines. This being Oscar Wilde, everyone has their share of bon mots, but Goring is my favorite character. Here's a mere sample of the amazing dialogue, an exchange between Lord Goring and his manservant, Phipps, at the start of Act III:

GORING: You see, Phipps, fashion is what one wears oneself. What is unfashionable is what other people wear. 

PHIPPS: Yes, my lord.

GORING: Just as vulgarity is simply the conduct of other people.

PHIPPS: Yes, my lord.

GORING: And falsehoods the truths of other people.

PHIPPS: Yes, my lord.

GORING: Other people are quite dreadful. The only possible society is one's self.

PHIPPS: Yes, my lord.

GORING: To love one's self is the beginning of a life-long romance, Phipps.

PHIPPS: Yes, my lord.

GORING: . . . For the future, a more trivial buttonhole, Phipps, on Thursday evenings.

PHIPPS: I will speak to the florist, my lord. She has had loss in her family lately, which perhaps accounts for the lack of triviality your lordship complains of in the buttonhole. 

GORING: Extraordinary thing about the lower classes in England -- they are always losing their relations. 

PHIPPS: Yes, my lord. They are extremely fortunate in that respect. 


An Ideal Husband was adapted into a film back in 1999, and I vaguely remember seeing it in theaters, but I didn't remember at thing about it except that Lord Goring was portrayed brilliantly by Rupert Everett (he also played Algy in the film version of The Importance of Being Earnest, co-starring Colin Firth). I've already requested both DVDs from my library so I can view them again, and I'm trying to track down a copy of The Good Woman, an adaptation of Lady Windermere's Fan set in the 1940s on the Amalfi coast of Italy.

Any other play recommendations, bloggers? 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Back to the Classics Challenge 2016: My List


I've been working on my list ever since I finalized the new categories, and here's what I finally came up with -- most of these are on my TBR shelves or my Classics Club list.

1.  19th Century Classic: Armadale by Wilkie Collins. I read No Name this year and loved it, and it's one of the last 10 books on my Classics Club list.

2.  20th Century Classic: A Dance to the Music of Time (First Movement) by Anthony Powell. Also on the Classics Club list.

3.  Classic by a Woman Author: Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain, or maybe something by Edith Wharton -- I still have a few of her books left unread.

4.  Classic in Translation: The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, or maybe The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas. Again, from the Classics Club list.

5.  Classic by a Non-White Author: Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata. I've owned this for about ten years!

6.  Adventure Classic: The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas or The Four Feathers by A. E. W. Mason
7.  Classic detective novel: I've always wanted to read something by Josephine Tey, or maybe The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne -- I only just discovered that the creator of Pooh wrote mysteries as well! And I've never read anything by Dorothy Sayers. Busman's Honeymoon could count for the Reading England Challenge also.

8.  Classic Science Fiction: something by H. G. Wells -- either The Invisible Man or The Time Machine.

9.  Classic with a Place in the Title: I have several of these on left on my Classics Club list that would work: Lark Rise to Candleford; Main Street; or New Grub Street. I also own Deerbrook by Harriet Martineau; The Conquest of Plassans by Emile Zola; and The Belton Estate by Anthony Trollope.

10.  Banned or Censored Book: most everything Zola wrote was censored, so that's an easy pick! I still haven't read The Fortunes of the Rougons, first in the Rougon-Macquart series. It was extensively revised to meet Victorian publication standards, so it definitely qualifies.

11.  Re-read a Classic From School: The Mill on the Floss or Howards End. I read The Mill on the Floss back in high school and hated it, so I should really give it another chance as an adult -- I loved Middlemarch, so maybe George Eliot deserves another try. Or I could just reread Howards End, which I read back in college, and absolutely loved.

12.  Short Story Collection: I have a LOT of short story collections on the TBR shelves, including  Ashenden by W. Somerset Maugham; A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor; and Plum Pie by P. G. Wodehouse. I also have the collected stories of Stefan Zweig and Evelyn Waugh.

Bloggers, which do you recommend? Which should I erase from this list? I'm really looking forward to next year's reading!

And if you still haven't signed up, here is a link to the sign-up post for the Challenge. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

One of Ours by Willa Cather

Willa Cather is mostly known for her novels set in the great prairies of middle America, and though I lived in Nebraska for three years, I didn't seriously start reading her novels until I moved far away to Florida and then Texas. In the past ten years, I've read nine of her novels, and it took me this long to read One of Ours,which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923. It's both a prairie novel and a World War I novel. Mostly, it's about a young man who is searching for meaning in his life, and has to travel halfway around the world to find it.

The book starts about 1910, when Clyde Wheeler is a young man, splitting his time between his family's Nebraska farm and his education at a small religious college in Lincoln. He really wants to transfer to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, but his parents fear that footballs and fraternities would be a bad influence; besides, they've decide he needs to work full-time on the farm. He loves his family, he loves the farm, but he wants more out of life. Over the next few years, things start to heat up in Europe, and he finally gets the chance to do something meaningful -- enlist in the army and fight in the Great War. Like The Professor's House, this could almost have been split into two different novels. 

For a war story, there isn't a whole lot of action, at least not until the very end. The first half of the book is mostly set in Nebraska, giving background and showing Clyde's disillusionment. A large chunk of the book details Clyde's journey overseas, especially the difficult sea voyage in which hundreds of his fellow soldiers fall ill (a significant percentage of soldiers died of disease, some before they actually saw any combat). When Clyde finally gets to France, there's a lot of vignettes about different people that he meets, soldiers and civilians, and how they impact his outlook on life. 

It's not what you'd call a fast-moving book with a lot of plot, but I loved the descriptions of farm life in Nebraska, and Clyde's character development. It's also inspired me to read moreWorld War I literature -- I still own Birdsong, The Guns of August, and Testament of Youth, which I'm planning to read next year for the Back to the Classics Challenge.

Bloggers, what other World War I books do you recommend?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Reading England Challenge 2016


Once again, I'm signing up for the Reading England 2016 Challenge, hosted by o of Behold the Stars. The challenge is to read a certain number of books set in different British counties throughout the years. I have no shortage of British books on my TBR shelves; the challenge for me will be to spread them out throughout the different counties. It can be a little tricky because some books are set in multiple counties, and county names and borders have changed over the years.

I'm signing up for Level 3, 7-12 counties. I finished books from seven different counties so far in 2015 so I think I can achieve that number next year as well. Here are the possible reads I've been able to match with particular counties:


Berkshire: Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy


Buckinghamshire: Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson


Cambridgeshire: Maurice by E. M. Forster


Cornwall: Basil by Wilkie Collins

Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier

Cumbria: Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransom


Dorset: Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy

Thank You, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse

Gloucestershire: The Code of the Woosters by P. G. Wodehouse

Hertfordshire: Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers


Kent: The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Darling Buds of May by H. E. Bates
The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens
Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham
The History of Mr. Polly by H. G. Wells

Lincolnshire: The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot



London: New Grub Street by George Gissing
A Dance to the Music of Time (First Movement) by Anthony Powell

Norfolk: Armadale by Wilkie Collins


Northamptonshire: Mistress Masham's Repose by T. H. White


Oxfordshire: Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley


Somerset: Every Eye by Isobel English

Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer
The Belton Estate by Anthony Trollope
Aunts Aren't Gentlemen by P. G. Wodehouse

Staffordshire: Adam Bede by George Eliot

Surrey: The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

Sussex: Mapp and Lucia by E. F. Benson
The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer
The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer
The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells

That turned out to be quite a list! There's no way I'll get through all of these but it was fun to search through Wikipedia (if you're interested, just search for "novels set in England by county.")

Anyone else signing up for the Reading England Challenge? What other challenges are you signing up for next year?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Back to the Classics Challenge 2016


It's back! Once again, I'm hosting the Back to the Classics Challenge.  I hope to encourage bloggers to discover and enjoy classic books they might not have tried, or just never got around to reading. And at the end, one lucky winner will receive a $30 prize from Amazon.com or The Book Depository!


Here's how it works:


The challenge will be exactly the same as last year, 12 classic books, but with slightly different categories. You do not have to read 12 books to participate in this challenge!

  • Complete six categories, and you get one entry in the drawing
  • Complete nine categories, and you get two entries in the drawing
  • Complete all twelve categories, and you get three entries in the drawing
And here are the categories for the 2016 Back to the Classics Challenge:

1.  A 19th Century Classic - any book published between 1800 and 1899.


2.  A 20th Century Classic - any book published between 1900 and 1966. 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.


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.


5.  A classic by a non-white author. Can be African-American, Asian, Latino, Native American, etc.


6.  An adventure classic - can be fiction or non-fiction. Children's classics like Treasure Island are acceptable in this category. 


7.  A fantasy, science fiction, or dystopian classic. Dystopian could include classics like 1984, and children's classics like The Hobbit are acceptable in this category also. 


8.  A classic detective novel. It must include a detective, amateur or professional. This list of books from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction is a great starting point if you're looking for ideas.


9.  A classic which includes the name of a place in the title.  It can be the name of a house, a town, a street, etc. Examples include Bleak House, Main Street, The Belly of Paris, or The Vicar of Wakefield.


10. A classic which has been banned or censored. If possible, please mention why this book was banned or censored in your review.


11. Re-read a classic you read for school (high school or college).  Re-visit a book you were assigned to read! If it's a book you loved, does it stand the test of time?  If it's a book you disliked, is it any better a second time around?


12. A volume of classic short stories. This must be one complete volume, at least 8 short stories. It can be an anthology of stories by different authors, or all the stories can be by a single author. Children's stories are acceptable in this category also.


And now, the rest of the rules:

  • All books must be read in 2016. Books started before January 1, 2016 do not qualify. All reviews must be linked to this challenge by December 31, 2016. I'll post links each category the first week of January which will be featured on a sidebar on this blog for the entire year. 
  • You must also post a wrap-up review and link it to the challenge no later than December 31, 2016. Please include links within your final wrap-up to that I can easily confirm all your categories. 
  • All books must have been written at least 50 years ago; therefore, books must have been written by1966 to qualify for this challenge. The ONLY exceptions are books published posthumously.
  • E-books and audiobooks are eligible! You may also count books that you read for other challenges.
  • Books may NOT crossover within this challenge. You must read a different book for EACH category, or it doesn't count.
  • Updated: Children's classics are acceptable, but please, no more than 3 total for the challenge.
  • If you do not have a blog, you may link to reviews on Goodreads or any other publicly accessible online format. 
  • The deadline to sign up for the challenge is March 1, 2016. After that I will close the link and you'll have to wait until the next year! Please include a link to your original sign-up post, not your blog URL. 
  • You do NOT have to list all the books you're going to read for the challenge in your sign-up post, but it's more fun if you do! Of course, you can change your list any time. Books may also be read in any order. 
  • The winner will be announced on this blog the first week of January, 2017. All qualifying participants will receive one or more entries, depending on the number of categories completed. One winner will be selected at random for all qualifying entries. The winner will receive a gift certificate in the amount of $30 (US currency) from either Amazon.com OR $30 worth of books from The Book Depository. The winner MUST live in a country that will receive shipments from one or the other. For a list of countries that receive shipments from The Book Depository, click here
So what are you waiting for? Sign up at the linky below! I'll be posting my list of possible reads for 2016 in the next couple of days. Happy reading!

Updated: The sign-ups are now closed. Check back at the end of the year to sign up for next year's Back to the Classics Challenge! 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Classics Spin #11



It's time for another Classics Club Spin! I'm nearly finished with my list -- only 11 books left to go, and it's Classics Spin #11 -- how can I resist?

On Monday, the Classics Club will post a random number from 1 to 20. Since I only have 11 left, I've put them in order, and then repeated 9 of them again to make an even 20. Fate will decide my next book selection, to be posted on February 1. Here are my choices: 

1.  Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
2. A Dance to the Music of Time (First Movement) by Anthony Powell
3. New Grub Street by George Gissing 
4. The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas 
5.  Armadale by Wilkie Collins
6. Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson 
7. The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens 
8. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo 
9.  The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James 
10. The Four Feathers by A. E. W. Mason 
11. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis 


And to make it an even 20, here are the repeats:

12. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

13. The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas
14. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
15. Armadale by Wilkie Collins
16. A Dance to the Music of Time (First Movement) by Anthony Powell
17. The Four Feathers by A. E. W. Mason
18. New Grub Street by George Gissing
19. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
20. Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson

Which books should I hope for? I really loved No Name so I'm hoping for Armadale by Wilkie Collins, or maybe New Grub Street. (I can also count my pick towards next year's Back to the Classics Challenge!) Anyone else participating? 


Updated: The Classics Spin number is #19! So I'll be reading Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Back to the Classics Challenge Reminder


Less than a month left to finish up the Back to the Classics Challenge! How is everyone doing? Last year, 132 people signed up for the 2014 challenge; a total of 21 people completed it and had their names entered into the drawing. This year, about 150 people signed up and only six people have linked to their wrap-up post -- the odds are ever in your favor! Remember, you only need to complete six books to be entered into the drawing -- one lucky winner will receive a $30 gift card to Amazon.com or The Book Depository!

All you need to do is write a short-wrap up post and link it here to get in the drawing! And there's almost a month left -- the drawing closes at midnight U.S. Central Standard Time on December 31, and I'll post the winner the first week of January. Please remember that all books must be at least 50 years old to qualify (with the exception of posthumous publications); therefore, a book must have been WRITTEN by 1965 at the latest.  To see the rest of the rules, click here.

If you didn't sign up for the challenge before the deadline, don't worry -- you can always sign up for the 2016 Back to the Classics Challenge! Yes, we are on for another year. Details will be posted soon.

And how's everyone doing with the challenge?  I've finished 11 of the 12 categories -- I still have to read my Classic Play, which should be a quick read. I can't believe I've put off reading it for so long -- it should be so easy to complete! I really enjoyed this challenge and look forward to posting my final wrap-up soon.