Classics Club Spin #31 – What Will I Be Reading?

The number picked for the Classics Club Spin #31 is #2.

And #2 on my list is……..

*drum roll*

I had two books I had already planned to choose from to prioritize in my reading in October: Jane Eyre and The Woman in White. I thought I might even try to read both. Still may. But given that we are currently in the middle of moving, it’s probably not going to be likely that I will get both books read. I was hoping that the Classics Spin would make the choice for me between the two books; and it did! The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins it is!

My blog here will probably be quiet for a short time while we get moved and settled. We started moving yesterday and will be moving over the next few days. Thankfully, we are getting to take several days to move instead of having to do all the packing then move all in one day. So that’s nice. I’m grabbing a few minutes early this morning to get this post up before we get started today.

If you are in the Classics Club, I’d love to hear what you got for your spin pick!

The Classics Club Spin #31

It’s time again for another Classics Club Spin. I’ve only tried one spin challenge so far which was Spin #29. And I ended up DNFing the book because I just didn’t care for it. I missed the last challenge and am really wanting to give this next spin challenge another go. Since this spin challenge runs through the end of October, I am including a number of October-ish atmospheric reads. Also, since we are getting ready to move, I am focusing this list mostly on shorter reads from my Classics Club list (shorter books, novellas, short stories). There are a few books on the list that are longer (like The Woman in White for example); but most are shorter.

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For The Classics Club Spin, you are to write a post listing 20 titles from your Classics Club list before this Sunday, September 18th. So here’s my list:

  1. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
  2. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (a re-read)
  4. The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
  5. My Kinsman, Major Molineux by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  6. Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  7. The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol
  8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  9. A Simple Heart by Gustave Flaubert
  10. The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant
  11. How Much Land Does a Man Need? by Leo Tolstoy
  12. The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares
  13. The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe (a re-read)
  14. The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe
  15. Dracula by Bram Stoker (a re-read)
  16. The Outsider by H. P. Lovecraft
  17. The Colour Out of Space by H. P. Lovecraft
  18. A Dog’s Heart by Mikhail Bulgakov
  19. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  20. Favorite Father Brown Stories by G. K. Chesterton

And there ya have it! My list of 20 titles for the Classics Club Spin #31. I can’t wait to see what book will be picked!

Readathon Update

Well, I did it. I had my first ever own readathon. I talked about it in my post yesterday. How did it go you may wonder? Well, I consider my readathon a success. I set out to make some progress in the book Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset and that I did. I got almost 4 chapters read and I’m on page 50. That may not seem like much progress. But for some reason, it feels like it’s taking me longer to read a page in this book than normal. And I can’t read this one at a faster pace either. So, while making it to page 50 in a novel that’s over a thousand pages may not seem like much, I consider the progress I made pretty good. Especially taking into account that I got started later than I had planned and also had some things to do today.

I think what giving myself a planned readathon did was help me prioritize my reading for the day. I often have a number of books going at once. But this time around, that really wasn’t my issue so much as that the last week has been tiring, as I mentioned in my previous post. And I just needed to say, that for this day, I am going to focus more on reading just this one book. That helped. And I think it was the kickstart I needed to get more read in this huge Norwegian classic novel.

And now, onward we go into another week. As Ms. Stacy says in Anne of Green Gables, “Tomorrow is fresh…..” Here’s to a new week!

What a Week! Time for a Readathon!

Y’all, this has been one of the busiest weeks I’ve had in a long time. Filled with mostly really good outings and things but also some stressful things. I have been feeling overwhelmed and am now worn out. I have literally read maybe a few pages all week long. I kid you not. And that means that I haven’t made much progress on Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. It also means I haven’t even started The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie. Or Christie’s autobiography for that matter either.

Soooo……..

This weekend, it’s time for a readathon. I have a whole list of things to get done today. I am aiming to get done what I have prioritized on that to-do list by dinner time. Then after dinner, I am going to start a 24 hour readathon. Well, more or less 24 hours anyway. 🙂 I need to make some progress in Kristin Lavransdatter and that will be my focus. I have this book in print, so I will likely read something different for my nightly bedtime Kindle read; I’m just not for sure what yet.

My plan is to have my readathon officially be from 5:30pm this evening until 5:30pm Saturday. I won’t read straight through that whole time as I don’t sit and read for long periods of time. So my readathon is really just a 24-hour period filled with many reading sprints. 🙂

If you find you might could use a readathon to make some progress on a book you’ve been wanting to read, feel free to join me. And if you do, please leave me a comment and let me know I have company during this readathon. I hope to be back on Sunday or Monday to post my thoughts on Kristin Lavransdatter so far and how the readathon went. Then I hope to start The Mysterious Affair at Styles sometime next week.

Happy Reading Friends!

This and That – Sept. 2, 2022

It’s September y’all! Already! I admit, I’m happy for it. I’m sure you know by now how much I love the fall season. 🙂 Today, I just wanted to sit down and chat a bit. So grab a cup of coffee, hot tea, or your favorite cool beverage if it’s still pretty hot where you are at. 😉

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

My hubby and I finished the new season of Stranger Things two weekends ago. Wow! I was so nervous to watch season 4 because everyone was saying it was straight up horror. But I have to tell ya, it didn’t feel like that. Personally, I would say the season is still firmly sci-fi thriller but has some horror elements in it. There were definitely some scenes that I had to close my eyes; especially the opening of episode 1. I couldn’t watch that part. Still, the whole show was really good. And I felt season 4 just really tied some things together. I won’t say much so as not to give any spoilers. But it was good!

I think one of the things the show does so well is balancing intensity with humor. Anyway, I just have to say, of all the 80’s music in the show, season 4 had my favorite remix of the whole show in episode 8. Yep – the remix of “Separate Ways.” Dang it’s good!

Once we finished Stranger Things, we moved on to watching the new season of Virgin River. I’m liking the season so far but wow what a huge change after watching Stranger Things! LOL I also watch the show Heartland, so I’m watching season 14 of that right now as well. 🙂

I’ve also been working on some fall recipes for baking. I tried creating a vegan maple pumpkin chocolate chip donut recipe. And I was so thrilled with the results. I’m going to try another round in the next week or so but this time adding a crumble topping to it. In the meantime, I am planning to create a vegan apple pie muffin/donut recipe. Here’s a picture of the maple pumpkin chocolate chip donuts. I have since also made this recipe as muffins as well.

I also recently tried a recipe I found online for a veggie burger. And one that does not use any of the vegan meat substitutes. I was totally impressed! I have had to make some tweaks but the texture alone is crazy! It looks like a hamburger….the texture is like a hamburger….but it’s not a hamburger. It really is a veggie burger.

I recently learned how to make a cappuccino with my French press. Oh my stars y’all! I made a vegan cinnamon vanilla brown sugar cappuccino and it was amazing!

My husband enjoys cooking and usually cooks a meal every week and breakfast on weekends. Last week, he made this absolutely scrumptious vegan creamy gnocchi soup. It is like cozy comfort in a bowl.

My hubby is an amazing cook! He has that flair for cooking that is like an internal instinct of knowing what works well together with seasonings and food combinations. Know what I mean? We both cook around here but I actually enjoy baking more than cooking. And with him enjoying cooking, we make a good pair in the kitchen. 😉

In book news, I am gearing up to start both Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset as well as The Mysterious Affair at Styles. I decided to take a little detour first though. I bought a book on the history of Norway and decided to read some of that first before diving into Kristin Lavransdatter. Since it’s a historical fiction novel set in 14th century Norway, I wanted to learn more about Norway’s history before starting the novel. The book I bought is called History of Norway and it’s pictured below on my Kindle. I bought the ebook so I can have it as one of my nightly Kindle reads. 🙂 I am wanting to read the history book up to at least the 14th century. I feel like it would help me get a better feel for the time and place of the novel. I’m already on Ch. 2 and only need to read through Ch. 4 to reach the time frame of the novel.

I also received the copy I ordered of Agatha Christie’s autobiography yesterday. So I’m looking forward to a slow read of that as I begin reading her works. I am aiming to start reading her first book The Mysterious Affairs at Styles on Monday.

I’ve been excited to see the temperatures in our area dipping down into the 60s and upper 50s some this past week at night. That means Autumn is peaking around the corner! We still are having some hot days – 80s and close to 90 a day or two here and there; but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that maybe the cooler temperatures of the fall season will be arriving to stay a little earlier than usual. Please? 🙂

I think the more Autumnal temperatures this past week has thrown me full on into Autumnal reading vibes already. LOL This week, my husband, daughter, and myself have been reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson and plan to have a family book club style discussion this weekend. It’s my third time reading the book but the first time my daughter has read it. I think it’s maybe the second time my hubby has read it. Anyway, it is very good! Then my daughter and I plan to read The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe next week for a read-aloud. We are totally getting into the Fallish/October vibes over here.

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I am a bit behind on writing some book reviews. Maybe I will do a post that’s more a summary style of several books. We’ll see. But I’ve finished The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher and Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer. And I still need to write a review for Oh! William which I actually finished several weeks ago.

Well, I guess that’s about all for now. Thanks for stopping by for our cozy chat. I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! 🙂

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict – Book Review

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict
Length:  297 pages
Genre:  Fiction, Historical
My Rating:  4.5 stars

From the back cover:

In December 1926, Agatha Christie goes missing. Investigators find her empty car on the edge of a deep, gloomy lake, the only clues some tire tracks nearby and a fur coat left in the car — strange for a frigid night. Her husband and daughter have no knowledge of her whereabouts, and England unleashes an unprecedented manhunt to find the up-and-coming mystery author. Eleven days later, she reappears, just as mysteriously as she disappeared, claiming amnesia and providing no explanations for her time away.

The puzzle of those missing eleven days has persisted. With her trademark exploration into the shadows of history, acclaimed author Marie Benedict brings us into the world of Agatha Christie, imagining why such a brilliant woman would find herself at the center of such a murky story.

What is real, and what is mystery? What role did her unfaithful husband play, and what was he not telling investigators?

This book was the perfect pick for me to gear up for my Simply Christie Chronicles project. It added to my excitement to get started on Christie’s first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which I plan to begin on Monday. This novel is mentioned a number times in the book along with some other Agatha Christie novels. Speaking of that, I found that I did have to skip just a few lines when the novel talks about Christie’s book The Murder of Roger Ackroyd because I didn’t want any spoilers for the book. 😉

In The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, I think the author did a really good job intermingling facts with the imagined plot line of one possible explanation for Christie’s disappearance. From all that I read in my research, Christie plotting her own disappearance is one of the theories that has been presented as an explanation. Benedict did a fantastic job fleshing out that theory in a fictionalized story. I was engrossed in the book and found it fascinating to see a what-might-have-been presented on the pages.

In the Author’s Note, Benedict explains why she chose to go with this particular explanation for Christie’s disappearance. She says:

Surely a writer this talented in the art of plotting could not have been a victim in her own vanishing. How could she have suffered from amnesia or gotten herself into some sort of fugue state, as some have theorized? She had to have crafted her disappearance as skillfully as she crafted her mysteries, as a vehicle to serve her own ends. This speculation about Agatha Christie, the writer and the woman, was the genesis of The Mystery of Mrs. Christie. To my way of thinking, Agatha was that rare example of a woman who used her skill and talent and moxie to escape from the confines of her era – with the limitations it placed on women – and wrest control of her life. So, instead of writing a forgotten woman back into history, as my other books have done, this book explores one strong woman’s successful endeavor to take her history into her own hands and write herself back into the narrative.” (p. 308-309)

I really appreciate that the author wanted to highlight one of the theories that offered the opportunity to present Agatha Christie as taking charge of her own destiny despite the confines she may have found herself in as a woman due to the time frame she lived in. Even though it is fiction, this book gives us a potential with the imagined plot line; and it was brilliantly executed on the pages with masterly skill.

Also, as I mentioned in another post on the book HERE, I did a bit of research myself as I read the book; and from the various things I’ve read, I think Marie Benedict succeeded well in presenting various details of Christie’s life in this novel with great accuracy. You can check out my other post if you’d like to see a handful of examples of things Benedict accurately portrayed in the storyline.

As a result of reading The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, I now want to read Agatha Christie’s autobiography. And in fact, I have ordered the book and it is due to arrive tomorrow! Also, in the back of the book, Benedict gives a list of books she recommends if you have an interest in reading more about Christie’s life. Christie’s autobiography is listed, as well as several other books. I plan to check out each of the books recommended. Maybe I can incorporate them into my reading off and on as I work on my Simply Christie Chronicles reading project.

My Other Posts on this Book

The Simply Christie Chronicles Kick-off – The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie – Reading Schedule

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie – Some Thoughts So Far on the First 17 Chapters

Reading Kristin Lavransdatter This Fall

One book that I wanted to prioritize reading this year is Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. And I am finally going to get to it! Katie at The Cozy Burrow and I are going to buddy read this book. Yay! We are each going to read at our own pace; but being me, I am making a general schedule. As I said before, it’s just how I roll. 🙂

If you are not familiar with Kristin Lavransdatter, it’s comprised of three volumes. You can buy each volume individually as a book, or you can buy an all-in-one edition (which is what I have).

I have this gorgeous Penguin’s Deluxe Classics edition:

It comes in at a whoppin’ 1119 pages. If huge books feel intimidating, never fear! You can read this one volume at a time. In the edition I have, the three volumes break down as follows:

Volume I: The Wreath – 287 pages
Volume II: The Wife – 401 pages
Volume III: The Cross – 422 pages

The way I’m breaking this down is one volume/book per month throughout the Fall season. So it makes this huge novel feel less overwhelming. Here is the general plan:

SeptemberThe Wreath (Book I)
OctoberThe Wife (Book II)
November The Cross (Book III)

I don’t know why, but I feel like this book is going to be a perfect pick for reading during the fall season. It is set in 14th century Norway. I dream of one day visiting Norway; especially northern Norway…seeing the Northern Lights and experiencing the Norwegian winter.

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With the concept of hygge in mind, I already picture myself cozying up with this sweeping Norwegian novel while the weather is crisp and cool outside. From what I understand, the word hygge (hoo-guh) is actually of Norwegian origin. Basically it is a term that is all about atmosphere and experience. It evokes a feeling of wellness and contentment, coziness and warmness. That feeling of home, of being with those you love. It encompasses that feeling of comfort, harmony, and security.

Photo by Dagmara Dombrovska on Pexels.com

I do plan to start reading Kristin Lavransdatter in September as per the schedule above when the temperatures in my area will still be bouncing back and forth between 80s (and the occasional 90s) and 70s. However, I am anticipating those cooler temperatures that should hopefully arrive by the first of October and picturing myself snuggling up with a warm cup of tea or coffee, turning the twinkle lights on, maybe lighting a candle, and settling in with this book as I continue to read it.

Can you tell I’m excited to read this novel? 🙂

I plan to get started reading it this weekend. And as always, feel free to join in if you’d like to read this book with Katie and I. I love reading books with others! If I decide to break down each book into daily reading chunks, I am happy to share my schedule. Also, it is my plan to blog through this book. So I am thinking that I will be doing some regular posting for it through the fall season. 🙂

Upcoming Reads for September

We are getting close to my favorite season of the year. AUTUMN! I love the fall season SO much. Crisp, cool temperatures, overcast skies, gorgeous tree foliage, sweatshirts, more hot tea and coffee, pumpkins, October spooky season…. I just love all things fall.

In our area, we really don’t see the crisp, cool fall temperatures consistently until late in September or even the first of October. While we do typically start seeing more 70s temperature-wise in September, we usually still get temperatures in the 80s and even occasional 90s throughout the month. So for me, I think October when I think of the full start of the fall season, even though the official first day of Autumn is September 22nd. And, October just happens to be one of my favorite months of the whole year. I’m already thinking about books I want to read, movies and shows I want to watch. Spooky books, mysteries, one of my favorite movies to watch in the fall (hint: it has the “Shop Around the Corner” in it….can you guess which movie it is?)

But I’m getting ahead of myself. *ahem*

We need to talk September books first. 🙂

First off, as you probably know if you’ve been reading my blog, I will be starting my Simply Christie Chronicles reading project in September. Beginning September 1st, I will be reading Christie’s first novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles. I’ll be getting a post up for that probably on the 1st or maybe a day or two before.

I mentioned in THIS post that Katie from The Cozy Burrow and I are planning to read Kristin Lavransdatter together. First of all, isn’t that just the most gorgeous book cover??!! Anyhoo, Katie has some chunky reads planned in September and I have some reads already planned for October. Therefore, we are planning to go ahead and start in September but take it however slow we each need to accommodate what we already have in our reading plans. I like to make myself a general schedule so I’ve done that as tool for us to have if we’d like, but it’s still very laid back and a read-at-our-own pace style.

If you haven’t noticed by now, I like the read-at-your-own pace approach with buddy/group reads. But I do find it helpful for me to have a general schedule I can follow if I have a time frame I’d like to read a book in. And that is true not just for buddy/group reads, but for many of the books I read. The schedules keep me on track if I need it but are always just a tool and can be tweaked or even completely set aside if I feel the need to do so. So in general, I will typically make myself a schedule for the books I choose to read, whether it’s a buddy/group read or me reading a book myself. That’s just how I roll. 🙂

Anyway, all that to say, our buddy read is very relaxed while still having a general schedule as a help. I will be posting the schedule sometime in the next few days. I’ll talk more about it in that post.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to start reading Kristin Lavransdatter! It’s been on my TBR for a long time and I decided I wanted to prioritize it this year. The approaching fall season just seems to be the perfect time to begin this book.

For September, these two books are my priority. Then it will just be mood reading to go along with it. I’m almost done with The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher, which is my nightly Kindle read. So I will be looking for another Kindle read soon. On audio, I’m trying to finish up Breaking Dawn, the last book in the Twilight series. I’m almost at the 80% finished mark. I must admit, I’ve not enjoyed this book as much as the other books in the series. Ironically though, Breaking Dawn Part I and Breaking Dawn Part II are my favorites of the whole movie series (although I love all of the movies). I will probably try to start reading Midnight Sun (or pair it with listening to the audiobook) sometime in September before my hubby and I begin our annual October watch of the entire Twilight series movies. 🙂

What are your reading plans for September?

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Length:  336 pages
Genre:  Fiction, Contemporary, Historical, YA
My Rating:  4.5 stars

This is the third novel by Ruta Sepetys that I’ve read so far. I know that when I pick up one of her books, I am sure to not only love it but not want to put it down. A few years ago, I read Salt to the Sea. Between Shades of Gray actually introduces us to one of the characters found in Salt to the Sea – Joana. I would consider Joana a secondary character in Between Shades of Gray, but she is a central character in Salt to the Sea.

In Between Shades of Gray, Sepetys shines light on another part of World War II that doesn’t seem to be as well known. Lina and her family are forced to leave their Lithuanian home in 1941. We follow the harrowing account of their deportation. We see the horrendous treatment inflicted upon them by Stalin’s regime.

Before their deportation, Lina loved art. She was a talented artist herself. During the years of her and her family’s deportation and exile into Siberia, art becomes her consolation…her way of trying to cope with all they had to endure.

This novel is hard to read. Sepetys doesn’t shy away from portraying horrors that were committed. While the novel depicts some of the inhumanity and suffering, it also shows the spirit of hope and the strength of a people. It is a powerful, compelling read.

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie – Some Thoughts So Far on the First 17 Chapters

I am really enjoying this book so far! It checks a number of boxes for me: my favorite genre of historical fiction, engaging writing style, providing ample opportunity for going on rabbit trails, alternate timelines. And, this really has been proving to be a great choice for kicking off my Simply Christie Chronicles reading project!

As I’ve been reading the novel, I’ve been going on rabbit trails and learning more about Agatha Christie. I’ve taken the time to research more on what was known about Agatha Christie’s life as well as her disappearance. I have to say, from all that I’ve learned thus far, Marie Benedict has done a great job so far in presenting various details of Christie’s life in this novel with great accuracy. Today, I want to take the time to highlight just some of the various details accurately portrayed in this story in these first seventeen chapters.

* The book that got Agatha hooked on the mystery/detective genre was called The Leavenworth Case by Green. It’s interesting to note that Green was considered the first author to really define what parts would make up the detective genre. This one is definitely going on my classics TBR!

* Where Agatha and Archie met for the first time was indeed at a dance in 1912.

* Agatha did have a close relationship with her mom. And her sister was called Madge and her brother was called Monty.

* Agatha’s sister, Madge, did indeed write some essays that were published in Vanity Fair.

* Charlotte Fisher was a real person. Agatha employed her as her secretary and as a governess for Rosalind.

* Agatha and Archie’s daughter, Rosalind, was 7 years old at the time of Agatha’s disappearance.

* Agatha left behind three letters (at least three that are acknowledged pretty much across the board): A letter for Archie, which he read and promptly burned; a letter to her secretary which from what I read, Christie may have possibly written in that letter “I must get away. I cannot stay here in Sunningdale much longer.”; and a letter to her brother-in-law in which she told him she was going to go away to a spa for “rest and treatment”.

* Agatha Christie did do volunteer hospital work during the first world war. It was during that time she learned all about chemicals, medicines and such. She put in over 3,000 volunteer hours and did both nursing and dispensing of medicine. Interesting to note, her volunteer record card from during World War I has been made available for the public to view.

Agatha Christie in her nursing uniform

That’s just a few of the things I’ve read about so far in my research. I haven’t read the Author’s Note yet (I will read that when I finish the book); but I hope that the author will talk about her research process for this book. With Christie’s disappearance in 1926 still widely considered a mystery, Benedict really had a lot of room to play with in writing this novel. I think it’s interesting to see one possible explanation for Christie’s disappearance spelled out on the pages of this book.