Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The 39 Steps by John Buchan

I read this book for the following category in my 2017 Back to the Classics Challenge:

8.  A classic with a number in the title

I thought the book was pretty good, but not great. From Amazon:
The novel is set during May and June 1914; Europe is close to war and spies are everywhere. Richard Hannay has just returned to London from Rhodesia in order to begin a new life, when a freelance spy called Franklin P. Scudder calls on him to ask for help. Scudder reveals to Hannay that he has uncovered a German plot to murder the Greek Premier and steal British plans for the outbreak of war. Scudder claims to be following a ring of German spies called the Black Stone.
I rate it 3 out of 5.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

I read The Maltese Falcon for category #9 in my 2017 Back to the Classics Reading Challenge:
9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title
The "name of an animal in the title" is Falcon. I saw the movie version, with Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, many years ago, and have wanted to read the novel for a long time. I didn't remember much about the movie until I started reading, but a lot of it came back to me as I read. Now I want to see the movie again to see just how close the story is to the book; it felt pretty close, but as I said, it has been many years since I saw the movie.

I enjoyed the book, although the detective novel is not my favorite genre. And if I am going to read a detective novel, I prefer Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey series, which is much lighter reading due to Wimsey's character. But The Maltese Falcon had a good story and was well written. This is the second book by Dashiell Hammett that I've read; last year I read The Thin Man for the Classic Detective Novel category in the same reading challenge. Between the two books, I liked this one more; even though The Thin Man was lighter reading, the two main characters (Nick and Nora Charles) annoyed me with the fact that they spent most of their time drinking.

According to the back of the book:
A treasure worth killing for. Sam Spade, a slightly shopworn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics. A perfumed grafter named Joel Cairo, a fat man named Gutman, and Brigid O'Shaughnessy, a beautiful and treacherous woman whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime. These are the ingredients of Dashiell Hammett's coolly glittering gem of detective fiction, a novel that has haunted generations of readers.
I rate The Maltese Falcon 3 out of 5.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers

I have really enjoyed the Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy L. Sayers, but this one was my least favorite so far. What I've liked so much about the others is the characters, especially Lord Peter Wimsey and his manservant, Mervyn Bunter. To me, the mystery has always been secondary. 

The Five Red Herrings was written in a different style from the earlier books. When the dead body of a painter is found at the bottom of a cliff, there are six other painters who could have been guilty of the murder. The book focuses on those six painters and their movements and motives in excruciating detail. I found it more confusing than the previous books in the series, and harder to keep the characters straight. In addition, Lord Peter played a smaller role in the story (although he was the one who ultimately solved the murder) and Bunter was hardly in the story at all. So I rate it 3 out of 5.

I read this for my 2017 Back to the Classics Challenge. It could be counted in several different categories (for example, #8, A classic with a number in the title or #9 A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title), but I'm going to count it as #10 A classic set in a place you'd like to visit (Scotland). However, I do reserve the right to change my mind on the category.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

Mary Yellan promised her mother that after her death, she would go to stay with her Aunt Patience. What Mary's mother didn't know was that Patience's husband, Joss Merlyn, had become involved in evil schemes at Jamaica Inn, and that no one stayed at the Inn any more. Mary is intent on protecting her aunt as best she can. I found the novel to be very well written and compelling; I often couldn't put it down. I read this for the Gothic or Horror Classic category in my Back to the Classics 2017 reading challenge, and I rated it 5 out of 5.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Emma by Jane Austen

This is the fourth book by Jane Austen that I've read, and it was my second favorite, after Pride and Prejudice. Emma Woodhouse is quite happy being single and living with her father, but she delights in trying to make a match for her protege Harriet Smith, against the advice of her good friend Mr. Knightly. When her plans unravel, she must face the unexpected consequences. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and found it to be quite humorous. I read it for the category A Romance Classic and rate it 4 out of 5.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers

This is the sixth Lord Peter Wimsey book I've read (five novels and one collection of short stories) and I've enjoyed every one of them. But this one is my favorite so far. It introduces Harriet Vane, a novelist who is accused of killing her fiancé in a way she wrote about in one of her books. Lord Peter not only believes she is innocent but also wants to marry her. The delightful Miss Climpson, who made her first appearance in Unnatural Death, is back as well.

I read this for the category Classic By a Woman Author and I rated it 5 out of 5.

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers

When elderly General Fentiman is found dead at the club, no one knows exactly when he died. And the exact time of death must be known to settle a half-million pound inheritance. Lord Peter agrees to help determine the time of death.

I read this for the category 20th Century Classic, and I rated it 4 out of 5.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Back to the Classics Reading Challenge 2017

I have decided to sign up for the Back to the Classics Reading Challenge again this year. I may not read 12 books, but there are several classics that fit the challenge categories that I want to read anyway, so I might as well read them for the challenge, right?

Here are the categories:

1.  A 19th century classic - any book published between 1800 and 1899.

2.  A 20th century classic - any book published between 1900 and 1967. 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, such as posthumous publications.


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. (You can also read books in translation for any of the other categories). Modern translations are acceptable as long as the original work fits the guidelines for publications as explained in the challenge rules.


5.  A classic originally published before 1800. Plays and epic poems are acceptable in this category. Translations can be modern in this category also.


6.  
A romance classic. I'm pretty flexible here about the definition of romance. It can have a happy ending or a sad ending, as long as there is a strong romantic element to the plot.


7.  A Gothic or horror classic. For a good definition of what makes a book Gothic, and an excellent list of possible reads, please see this list on Goodreads

8.  A classic with a number in the title. Examples include A Tale of Two CitiesThree Men in a Boat, The Nine Tailors, Henry V, Fahrenheit 451, etc. An actual number is required -- for example, Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None would not qualify, but The Seven Dials Mystery would. 


9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title.  It can be an actual animal or a metaphor, or just the name in the title. Examples include To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, The Metamorphosis, White Fang, etc. If the animal is not obvious, please clarify it in your post.


10. A classic set in a place you'd like to visit. It can be real or imaginary: The Wizard of Oz, Down and Out in Paris and London, Death on the Nile, etc.

11. An award-winning classic. It could be the Newbery award, the Prix Goncourt, the Pulitzer Prize, the James Tait Award, etc. Any award, just mention in your blog post what award your choice received. It must be an actual award-winner; runners-up and nominees do not count.


12. A Russian classic2017 will be the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, so read a classic by any Russian author.