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Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Classics

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Classics

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: ClassicsThe Color Purple by Alice Walker
Published by Custom Publishing on December 1st 2010 (first published 1982)
Genres: LGBT+, Classic
Pages: 262
ISBN: 9781407230924
Goodreads
five-stars

Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on the life of women of color in the southern United States in the 1930s, addressing numerous issues including their exceedingly low position in American social culture.

Continuing with short reviews for LGBT+ books I read in 2016 for Pretty Deadly ReviewsLGBTQIA 2016 Reading Challenge, it’s now time for the classics!

I’ve repeated it multiple times now, but this is one of my highlights for 2016. The Color Purple had been on my want-to-read list for a while now, and I finally found the book in London last December. When Our Shared Shelf picked it as the book club read for February it was clearly time to read it!

Heart-breaking, breath-taking, beautiful, sad, funny, perfect. Every aspect of this book was amazing, from the style to the characters to every little detail in the storyline. An absolute must-read for everyone.

After the book I also took time to watch the movie. Mehhh. The first half was alright, and then it just went down the drain. Everything I loved about the book disappeared from the movie. So whatever you do, do not watch the movie instead of reading the book..! (as if you would do that..!)

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Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: ClassicsOranges are not the only fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Published by Vintage on 1991 (first published 1985)
Genres: LGBT+, Young Adult, Classic
Pages: 171
ISBN: 9780099935704
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Jeanette, the protagonist of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and the author's namesake, has issues--"unnatural" ones: her adopted mam thinks she's the Chosen one from God; she's beginning to fancy girls; and an orange demon keeps popping into her psyche. Already Jeanette Winterson's semi-autobiographical first novel is not your typical coming-of-age tale.

Technically I could’ve reviewed this book as a young adult book, but then the numbers would be too uneven 😉

I love Jeanette Winterson’s style, even though it is not always the easiest to read. I read Oranges after The Passion so I was expecting something very lyrical and quirky. However, Oranges is very accessible while still retaining the quirk. Not everything was easy to follow if you didn’t grow up in the UK though. Still, a very interesting coming-of-age novel not just for young adults. I think this is considered a classic by right!

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Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: ClassicsMr Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood
Published by Arrow on January 8th, 1987 (first published 1935)
Genres: LGBT+, Classic
Pages: 236
ISBN: 9780413422507
Goodreads
five-stars

On a train to Berlin in late 1930, William Bradshaw locks eyes with Arthur Norris, an irresistibly comical fellow Englishman wearing a rather obvious wig and nervous about producing his passport at the frontier. So begins a friendship conducted in the seedier quarters of the city.

I read this book as a culturally appropriate preparation for my trip to Berlin. Isherwood had been on my TBR for such a long time, so why not read him now? I really regret not doing so sooner! I’m not sure what I was expecting, but Mr Norris Changes Trains was wonderful. I read it in as little time as possible.

The characters, based on people Isherwood actually met during his time in Berlin, were fantastic. I had absolutely no problem imagining them, based on the descriptions. They are so vibrant and really make the characters come to life! Definitely one of Isherwood’s strengths. The characters are loveable and awkward, and by the end of the book you don’t really want to leave them.

So it’s no surprise that directly after finishing, I continued with…

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Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: ClassicsGoodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood
Published by Panther on 1977 (first published 1939)
Genres: LGBT+, Classic
Pages: 208
ISBN: 9780586047958
Goodreads
four-half-stars

First published in 1939, Goodbye to Berlin is a brilliant evocation of the decadence and repression, glamour and sleaze of Berlin society in the 1930's - the time when Hitler slowly starts his move to power. It is inhabited by a wealth of characters: the unforgettable and “divinely decadent” Sally Bowles; plump Fräulein Schroeder, Peter and Otto, a gay couple struggling to come to terms with their relationship; and the distinguished and doomed Jewish family, the Landauers.

…more Isherwood! Goodbye to Berlin was more of a memoir (although quite strictly not) than Mr Norris Changes Trains. Isherwood’s style is very straightforward and he’s great at descriptions without it ever getting tiresome. I really felt myself transported to Berlin in the 1930s, eager to learn more about the city at that time. (And so I did – I went on Brendan Nash’s Isherwood tour around Nollendorfplatz!)

Goodbye to Berlin is much more fragmented than Mr Norris, with many characters being introduced, floating in and out of “Issyvoo”‘s life. But that is precisely what makes this novel such a slice-of-life kind of ‘memoir’. I loved it, and will definitely be seeking out more Isherwood (especially his post-WWII work, as I’m now quite curious how he has developed!).

Goodbye to Berlin was actually the basis for Cabaret (the 1972 movie), which I really should rewatch..!

On another note, if you’re not a fan of these rather uhm ‘classic’ covers, Penguin’s Vintage Classics has released a beautiful set of new covers.

LGBTQIA 2016 Reading Challenge

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Young Adult novels

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Young Adult novels

Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Young Adult novelsTell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Published by Pan Publishing on February 14th 2013 (first published 2012)
Genres: LGBT+, Young Adult
Pages: 355
ISBN: 9781447202141
Goodreads
four-half-stars

1987. There's only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that's her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn's company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June's world is turned upside down. But Finn's death brings a surprise acquaintance into June's life--someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

I enthusiastically participated in Pretty Deadly ReviewsLGBTQIA 2016 Reading Challenge, but haven’t written all the reviews I’ve been meaning to write. So to catch up, here’s a collection of short reviews for the YA bunch!

Firstly there was Tell The Wolves I’m Home. Let me start with the positives: This was a beautiful and moving book and I really thoroughly enjoyed it. The author did a great job at describing emotions – loss, doubt, jealousy – and life as a teenager. The characters were interesting and for the most part likeable, even if they did unlikeable things. Also, like a proper YA novel, the pacing of the book was excellent.

At the same time I also have strong mixed feelings about the book. It’s told from June’s perspective, and in the grander scheme of things I get why. But she did not feel like the most important person in the book, the person deserving the attention. That, in my opinion, was Toby. I wish we had gotten more from him, about him, from his point of view. I wanted to get to know Toby, to feel his pain. June has lost the most important person in her life, but so did Toby.

All in all, I do recommend this book. Gorgeous, oh and do grab the tissues!

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Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Young Adult novelsFalling From The Sky (Bear Creek #1) by Nikki Godwin
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on February 21st 2014
Genres: LGBT+, Young Adult, Romance
Pages: 288
Goodreads
two-stars

All stability in sixteen-year-old Ridge McCoy’s life crashed and burned in the plane crash that killed his dad. This summer-long basketball camp is his chance to improve his skills and escape his problems back home. But his summer plans take a turn in an unexpected direction when he meets Micah Youngblood, the guy who runs the carousel at the local mall and has a reputation for devouring straight boys’ heterosexuality for breakfast, alongside his chocolate chip pancakes.

Confession time: I only read this book because I was on the other side of the world, in the middle of nowhere, with a Kindle that had just broken down, and this was one of the few e-books on my phone that was semi readable.

I actually won this book back in 2014, but never got around to it before. To be frank, this book made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. Slightly too romantic, almost voyeuristic. And I was going to say: with a target audience that is probably not me, but that wouldn’t be fair. I have liked books like this before, it can be done well. And the book wasn’t all bad. It just definitely, definitely wasn’t for me.

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Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Young Adult novelsYou Know Me Well by Nina LaCour, David Levithan
Published by Macmillan Children's Books on June 2nd, 2016
Genres: LGBT+, Young Adult
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9781509823932
four-stars

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

This was a spur-of-the-moment, I-want-to-read-something-recently-published buy. And I have no regrets! Although the synopsis sounds a bit ‘whatever’, the book itself is pretty cool. The book takes place during Pride celebrations in San Francisco, and while it started out just alright – the focus is very heavily on friendship and (potential) relationships – it soon turned into this fun YA/Pride explosion. And that’s mostly the appeal of this book, I think. I feel like I was missing out as a teenager!

Recommended!

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Catching up on LGBT+ reviews: Young Adult novelsThe Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on May 12th, 2011
Genres: LGBT+, Young Adult
Pages: 264
ISBN: 9781461179931
Goodreads
one-star

Three thousand years ago, a god told a lie. Now, only a goddess can tell the truth. Persephone has everything a daughter of Zeus could want--except for freedom. She lives on the green earth with her mother, Demeter, growing up beneath the ever-watchful eyes of the gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus. But when Persephone meets the enigmatic Hades, she experiences something new: choice. Zeus calls Hades "lord" of the dead as a joke. In truth, Hades is the goddess of the underworld, and no friend of Zeus. She offers Persephone sanctuary in her land of the dead, so the young goddess may escape her Olympian destiny. But Persephone finds more than freedom in the underworld. She finds love, and herself.

I practically want to throw a tantrum over this book. I really, really wanted to like it. Lesbian retelling of Greek mythology? Yes please!

But nope, I ended up hating it. It started out alright, and I had high hopes for it. But frankly, it just went downhill and became a steady two-star read. And that’s when I just should’ve stopped reading, about three quarters in. But I was stubborn, and so many people had liked it, so I decided to finish it.

BAM, 1 star. I hate it when that happens.

LGBTQIA 2016 Reading Challenge

Challenge Update: Women’s Classic Literature Event

Challenge Update: Women’s Classic Literature Event

Women's Classic Literature Event

My first Challenge Update this year was my late halfway-into-2016 update on the Goodreads reading challenge. You can read more about that here!

One of my aims this year has been to read as many books written by women as possible. When I saw the Women’s Classic Literature Event hosted by The Classics Club, I didn’t have to think twice.

So here is what I have read so far:

  1. The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall
  2. The Waiting Years by Fumiko Enchi
  3. A Riot of Goldfish by Kanoko Okamoto
  4. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  5. The Secrets of the Wild Wood by Tonke Dragt
  6. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
  7. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
  8. A Haunted House by Virginia Woolf
  9. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

And what a wonderful experience it has been so far! Not a single disappointment yet. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of these books. The Color Purple is my highlight of the year so far, but otherwise it’s hard to pick a favourite. Some of these authors I had read before, many of them had been on my list for forever, and then I am also glad to have tried new-to-me author Shirley Jackson.

I am definitely not going to stop reading classics by women, and recommendations are always welcome!

Challenge Update: The Classics Club Challenge

Challenge Update: The Classics Club Challenge

The Classics Club Challenge

The Classics Club is a challenge to read at least 50 classics within a maximum of 5 years. I joined this challenge on August 1st, 2012, meaning my deadline would be July 31, 2017.

Well, without realising, I already passed my challenge, with over a year left! It took me a little while to update my challenge stats, and when I did, it turned out I had already read 53 books! You can read all my challenge posts here.

So here is what I have read so far:

  1. Atwood, Margaret – A Handmaid’s Tale (read Nov 15, 2013)
  2. Austen, Jane – Lady Susan (read Aug 19, 2012) [review]
  3. Baldwin, James – Giovanni’s Room (read Oct 5, 2012) [review]
  4. Bradbury, Ray – Fahrenheit 451 (read Aug 19, 2013)
  5. Bradbury, Ray – The Martian Chronicles (read Jul 27, 2014)
  6. Burroughs, Edgar Rice – A Princess of Mars (read Jul 18, 2014)
  7. Capote, Truman – Breakfast at Tiffany’s (read Nov 2, 2012)
  8. Christie, Agatha – Murder on the Orient Express (read Oct 11, 2014)
  9. Doyle, Arthur Conan – A Study in Scarlet (read Jan 6, 2013)
  10. Fanu, Joseph Sheridan Le – Carmilla (read Apr 15, 2014)
  11. Forster, E.M. – Maurice (read Oct 22, 2014)
  12. Garden, Nancy – Annie on My Mind (read Oct 14, 2015)
  13. Gilman, Charlotte Perkins – Herland (read Jul 21, 2014)
  14. Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm – Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm (read Jun 8, 2014)
  15. Hall, Radclyffe – The Well of Loneliness (read Jan 17, 2016) [review]
  16. Highsmith, Patricia – Carol (read Dec 15, 2015)
  17. Homer – The Odyssey (read Mar 23, 2014)
  18. Isherwood, Christopher – Goodbye to Berlin (read Jul 09, 2016)
  19. Isherwood, Christopher – Mr Norris Changes Trains (read Jul 07, 2016)
  20. Jackson, Shirley – We Have Always Lived in the Castle (read May 22, 2016)
  21. Lee, Harper – To Kill a Mockingbird (read Dec 03, 2014)
  22. Lewis, Carroll – Alice in Wonderland (read Jun 13, 2014)
  23. Lewis, Carroll – Through the Looking Glass (read Jun 16, 2014)
  24. Maurier, Daphne du – Rebecca (read Feb 8, 2014)
  25. O’Brien, Robert C. – Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (read Apr 23, 2015)
  26. Orwell, George – Animal Farm (read Aug 25, 2013)
  27. Plath, Sylvia – The Bell Jar (read Mar 09, 2015)
  28. Shelley, Mary – Frankenstein (read Jun 30, 2014)
  29. Stoker, Bram – Dracula (read Jun 21, 2014)
  30. Tolkien, J.R.R. – The Hobbit (read Dec 23, 2012)
  31. Voltaire – Candide (read Aug 15, 2012) [review]
  32. Vonnegut, Kurt – Slaughterhouse-Five (read May 31, 2015)
  33. Walker, Alice – The Color Purple (read Feb 14, 2016)
  34. Wells, H.G. – The Time Machine (read Mar 10, 2013)
  35. Wilde, Oscar – Complete Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde (read Dec 11, 2012)
  36. Wilde, Oscar – The Importance of Being Earnest (read Dec 31, 2013)
  37. Winterson, Jeanette – Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (read May 19, 2016)
  38. Woolf, Virginia – Haunted House (read Jul 02, 2016)
  39. Woolf, Virginia – Mrs Dalloway (read Jul 20, 2016)
  40. Woolf, Virginia – Orlando (read Apr 19, 2014)
  41. Zamyatin, Yevgeny – We (read Jan 08, 2016)

    Classics by Dutch authors:
  42. Dragt, Tonke – De Brief voor de Koning (The Letter for the King) (read Nov 22, 2015)
  43. Dragt, Tonke – Geheimen van het Wilde Woud (Secrets of the Wild Wood) (read May 05, 2016)

    Classics by Japanese authors:
  44. Abe, Kōbō – The Woman in the Dunes (read May 24, 2014) [review]
  45. Akutagawa, Ryūnosuke – Rashomon and Other Stories (read Jan 16, 2012)
  46. Edogawa, Ranpo – Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination (read Jan 7, 2014) [review]
  47. Enchi, Fumiko – Masks (read Jan 25, 2015)
  48. Enchi, Fumiko – The Waiting Years (read Jan 22, 2016) [review]
  49. Mishima, Yukio – Forbidden Colors (read May 18, 2014)
  50. Mori, Ogai – 山椒大夫 (read Apr 12, 2015)
  51. Okamoto, Kanoko – A Riot of Goldfish (read Jan 27, 2016) [review]
  52. Osamu, Dazai – No Longer Human (read Jun 24, 2013))
  53. Soseki, Natsume – Kokoro (read Mar 28, 2013)

I actually also gave up on two classics:

  • Heller, Joseph – Catch-22
  • Shikibu, Murasaki – The Tale of Genji

There were books I loved and books I frankly hated. See the two that I didn’t finish above 😉

So, now that I have technically finished the challenge, what does that mean? Not a lot! I will continue reading classics, and especially classics by women (also see the Women’s Classic Literature Event!). We’ll see where I am in a year, when the challenge is really ‘over’ (and of course, when it is, I am still not going to stop reading classics!).

When the (my) event has ended on July 31st 2017, I will wrap it up properly with a list of favourites, etc. 🙂

Challenge Update: Goodreads Reading Challenge

Challenge Update: Goodreads Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Carola has
read 42 books toward
her goal of
52 books.
hide

This was supposed to be my halfway-into-2016 update, but I’m late as ever. Still, I figured I’d update on my challenges. Goodreads sent me a happy e-mail a little while ago, telling me I was ahead of my challenge. Which I knew because I’m always eyeing my Goodreads challenge, haha.

I am now 42 books into 2016. My goal is 52, so I will easily make it. I have to admit I read a lot of shortish books this year, and even a few short stories. Still, I’m pretty satisfied with my reading this year so far! Without going into specifics on the other challenges I participated in (separate posts will follow later), here are a few stats for this year so far:

I’ve read 42 books with a total of 9391 pages so far. Among these, there were 10 short stories, 12 books had 300 pages or more and 18 books had 200 pages or less. I read 2 graphic novels and 4 non-fiction books. In total there are 14 5-star reads, 18 4-star reads, 7 3-star reads, 2 2-star reads, and 1 1-star read, meaning this is not a bad year for reading at all! My favourite read of 2016 is still The Color Purple by Alice Walker. My least favourite read was The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer. I am currently reading 4 books, and did not give up on any book yet so far.

My goals for this year remain the same – albeit stronger than ever: read as much LGBT+ literature, and as many books written by female authors as possible. More on that in a future post!