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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..!)

***

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!

***

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…

***

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

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. 🙂

TBR Pile Challenge 2015 – two down…

TBR Pile Challenge 2015 – two down…

TBR Pile Challenge 2015 – two down…Masks by Fumiko Enchi
Published by Vintage on September 12th 1983 (first published 1958)
Genres: Japanese literature, Classic
Pages: 141
ISBN: 9780394722184
Goodreads
three-stars

A curiously elegant and scandalous tale of sexual deception and revenge. Ibuki loves widow Yasuko who is young, charming and sparkling with intelligence as well as beauty. His friend, Mikame, desires her too but that is not the difficulty. What troubles Ibuki is the curious bond that has grown between Yasuko and her mother-in-law, Mieko, a handsome, cultivated yet jealous woman in her fifties, who is manipulating the relationship between Yasuko and the two men who love her.

I did not forget about this challenge this year! The previous years were a bit of a disaster, but this time I am determined to make it. Looking at my list I get a bit nervous though.

Anyway, I can happily announce I am two books down (and have ten more to go)! I don’t think I can bring myself to write full reviews, but here are mini reviews for the two books I finished.

Masks was the first book off my TBR pile challenge that I finished. It was actually one of the alternates, and I ended up reading it for January in Japan. I was looking forward to reading something by Enchi, she was one of the classic authors I hadn’t read anything by yet.

Frankly… I read Masks back in January, and to my shame I don’t even remember how it ended. I can’t say it left a very deep impression on me. The characters didn’t do much for me, as did the storyline. What I did enjoy a lot were the nôh aspects, although I know close to nothing about nôh. And even better, the references to The Tale of Genji – that I thankfully do know a bit more about (although those who have been with me longer know I errr strongly dislike that story haha).

So while this book may not have ended up among my favourites, I am glad to have had the experience of reading it.

* * *

TBR Pile Challenge 2015 – two down…The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Published by Faber & Faber on 2005 (first published 1963)
Genres: Classic
Pages: 234
ISBN: 9780571226160
Goodreads
four-stars

Esther Greenwood is at college and is fighting two battles, one against her own desire for perfection in all things - grades, boyfriend, looks, career - and the other against remorseless mental illness. As her depression deepens she finds herself encased in it, bell-jarred away from the rest of the world. This is the story of her journey back into reality.

While reading this I went through a few stages. The first few pages, I couldn’t help but feel it was one of “those books”. I am sure you know what kind of books I am talking about – the youngster growing up, stepping out into the world, a few doubts here and there, with a touch of misplaced glamour. Except this time not with a young man but a young woman as a main character, so that was refreshing at least.

I completely changed my opinion a little bit onwards, as we got to know more about Esther and her life in New York. I was really beginning to enjoy the book. And then – although I saw it coming it still felt quite sudden – mental illness prevailed. It was almost shocking how relevant the book is even in this day and age (minus certain old-fashioned treatments).

I am glad I read this book. It really impressed me. Of course it is (sadly) no surprise Plath was able to write about it so well…

2015 TBR Pile Challenge

2014 Top Ten

2014 Top Ten

So after last week’s Top Ten Tuesday, where I featured my favourite science fiction books of 2014, my initial idea was to make separate Top Ten lists featuring my go-to genres. And then I figured that would just get tiresome for you all to read, so change of plans!

Here is first of all my overall top 10 for 2014. It was incredibly hard to put together, as I read so many amazing books this year. Many more 4 and 5 stars than last year (in 2013, when 3-star-average books seemed to reign…). I can recommend all these books wholeheartedly!

Harry Potter China Mountain Zhang Daughter of Smoke & Bone The Bone Clocks Rebecca

Top Ten of Books Read In 2014

  1. Harry Potter(series) by J.K. Rowling
  2. China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh
  3. Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
  4. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
  5. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  6. Krabat by Otfried Preussler
  7. More Than This by Patrick Ness
  8. The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
  9. Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
  10. Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

Krabat More Than This The Miseducation of Cameron Post Hogfather Revenge

And now, here are all my genre Top Tens for 2014 together.

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