Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Classics Club: Antony and Cleopatra

Fanda is hosting one of the greatest "challenges" for the end of the year:  aptly named "Let's read plays", it offers one classic play per month to enrich our knowledge of this great genre.  It starts now in November and goes on for a yearlong celebration! 

November is Shakespeare Tragedy month, and I chose to read Antony and Cleopatra.  I've seen the Hollywood version of it, with E. Taylor and R. Burton (I assume this is also the more famous interpretation), but I've always wondered how much the excitement and ups and downs in the film were because of this couple, or whether they were depicted in the play as well...

Monday, 26 November 2012

The Classics Club: To kill a mockingbird

This being my mother's favourite book, I've heard about To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee ever since I was a child. So, when I received it as a present, I was really looking forward to this treat.   

I wanted to see how deep into the social circumstances of that era I would dive in, and I was also interested to see whether I would understand why this had been Lee's only published work so far...

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Challenge ahead: 2013 TBR Pile challenge

Adam at RoofBeamReader is hosting the fourth annual “TBR Pile Challenge.” Like many bibliophiles, I have an immense stack of books that remain in my bookshelves, waiting patiently for their turn - only to realise that yet another "new" book has cut in and taken their place in the reading order...

The Goal: To finally read 12 books from my “to be read” pile - within 12 months.

My intentions:

Travels with my aunt - Graham Greene
By Nightfall - Michael Cunningham  

The Upright Piano Player  - David Abbot
My TBR pile for this challenge
(there are more, obviously...)
The Breaking of Eggs - Jim Powell
(I bought these two after watching a BBC programme on new writers in March 2011 - I wonder where the authors are now...)
The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde
The Hare with Amber Eyes - Edmund De Waal 
(and these two were because of rave reviews from other bloggers - it's high time I recorded MY thoughts!)
The Lathe of Heaven - Ursula Le Guin
The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë - Daphne Du Maurier
The Yacoubian Building - Alaa Al Aswany
L’élégance du hérisson - Muriel Barbery
A literature of their own - Elaine Showalter
The vanishing Act of Esme Lennox - Maggie O'Farrell

Sophie's world -  J. Gaarder (in Greek)
The Taste of Sorrow - Jude Morgan

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Recipe: Pumpkin cookies

While we may not officially celebrate Thanksgiving in Belgium, I could not but help my (American) friend Jessi celebrate a proper Thankgiving dinner here!  She undertook the ueber-major task of cooking (and carving) the turkey, and I contributed ... with cookies!  Pumpkin cookies that is, and they turned excellent (in my humble opinion!).  So easy to make, and I got to use the remaining pumpkin puree from Halloween!!!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

2013 Challenges ahead!

Believe it or not, the blogosphere is already buzzing with challenges for next year. As this has proved to be an excellent way to get me to read unusual (to say the least) works of literature, I'm signing up for Beth Fish Reads' What's in a Name 6 book challenge. These are my intended reads so far:

1. A book with up or down in the title:  Down and out in Paris and London, by G. Orwell

2. A book with something you'd find in your kitchen in the title:  Unleavened bread, by Robert Grant

3. A book with party or celebration in the title:  Doctor Fischer of Geneva, or, The Bomb Party, by Graham Greene

4. A book with fire (or equivalent) in the title:  The fire people, by Ray Cummings

5. A book with an emotion in the title: The Taste of Sorrow, by Jude Morgan

6. A book with lost or found in the title:  The Lost world, by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sign up and join us!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Dracula's guest, by Bram Stoker

Having read Dracula by Bram Stoker, I was really looking forward to reading what I thought was a sequel, Dracula's guest.  It featured in a series of short stories and was published post-humously.

In it, we follow the adventures of the main character in Munich. It is Walpurgis Night and he decides to leave his carriage to wander off and see an abandoned village (which the driver has refused to drive to).

Obviously, there is a horrible storm and our character manages to seek refuge in a tomb.  Several minutes and many, many supernatural instances later, he is found lying with a wolf on top of him ready to kill him (drink his blood?), but not before military men discover and save him. The search had been ordered because of a demand from his host Dracula that he may have been lost.

Having read this short story, I have to admit I still preferred Bram Stoker’s original novel, Dracula, because the plot has a lot more complexity and offers material for every taste.  What I really liked about this story, however, is the rumour that this main character (who is never named) actually Jonathan Harker is before his first visit with the count (but that cannot be confirmed).  Meaning that this could really be the prequel, with which we are smoothly introduced into one of the best classics...

Read for the Ireland Reading and Mystery and Suspense Reading challenges

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Irish Short Stories: The Ghost and the Bone Setter -- Out of the Rose

Sometimes, it's just fun to read short stories and see how novelists manage to get a full tale told in a compact manner.  I read these two short stories within a really short time and was amazed at the penmanship:

Sheridan Le Fanu is known for his ghostly stories and The Ghost and the Bone-setter (from the Purcell papers collection) is no exception.  I found this story particularly enjoyable, because I could picture some narrating it around a chimney, during an extremely windy and rainy night, possibly around Halloween... 
It recounts the story of a Terry Neill, a bone-setter - basically our present-day chiropractor, whose turn it is to watch a castle while its owner is away.  The trouble is that one of the ghosts (because, let's face it, all castles have ghosts) like to descend from his painting and have a drink or two while walking around the rooms, so Terry has to overcome his fear and find a way to get rid of him.
I just loved the pace of the story, the dialect used to best describe the "heart" of the characters, and the humour that permeates this ghost story.  Great reading from one of the masters of gothic tales!

W.B. Yeats, on the other hand, is known for many, many things aside his literary work (which I have yet to start reading...).  Solution:  start with the short stories, and see how he tackled the challenges of this type of writing.  Out of the Rose (from The Secret Rose collection) takes us to the beautiful world of Celtic knights... 
A wandering knight helps peasants face thieves, and while he's lying injured on the grass, he tells his story to one of the peasants treating his wounds.  Suddenly, we are transported to a world of the Knights of St. John and the Knights of Palestine - to a world where a strange infection lead to corruption.  The Knights had to fight evil to escape corruption and the wrath of God.
This is the story of this knight as well, who, alas, will not have his story told to anyone else, as the peasant proves to be more interested in arranging cock-fights...
I was really surprised at the many twists in this story and came to appreciate Yeats's art of writing!

I thoroughly enjoyed these two stories, and now have more appetite for more:  it will be interesting to see who else from the famous writers has tried their hand in short stories...

Read for the Ireland Reading and Mystery and Suspense Reading challenges

Monday, 12 November 2012

The Night Circus

What I like about my book club is the ability to read modern literature.  I'm so fixated on my classics that I sometimes lose contact with what is happening in the literature world today, and I don't want to.  I want to feel the inspiration that drives literature nowadays, the problems, the challenges and I want to read in the "modern" way - otherwise, I risk of speaking in Victorian English before I know it! This time around, the book was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and this proved to be a great challenge for me...

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Recipe - cheese and olive cake

What do you get to a potluck gathering when you're not sure whether there will be vegetarians in the party?  Simple answer:  my cheese and olive cake - such a delicious, simple cake that will appeal to vegetarians as well as the non-vegetarians.  As an added bonus, it will also provide a solution to having a snack any time during the day!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Classics Club: Mrs. Dalloway

I've wanted to read Mrs Dalloway by V. Woolf ever since I read Sarah's comments. I couldn't wait to dive into a complex, unconventional book where I would witness a completely different type of writing and savour Woolfe's penmanship.  I was not dissapointed - I was swept away from the very beginning and almost read it in one go...

The whole book takes place in one day.  This shouldn't be too long, should it?  And yet, by following the streams of thought of everyone participating in this plot, we get pages and pages of such diverse thoughts, wishes and regrets that I started thinking whether this happens in real life...

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Classics Club: who's afraid of the Classics...

For November, the Classics Club's question had me thinking:  given my obvious preference for the Classics, would I still have any hidden fear for certain types of classic literature?  would any certain languages, any certain volumes intimidate me, make me keep away from them? 
There is a simple answer to this:  

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Recipe: Quiche Lorraine for beginners

I started cooking at the tender age of ... 28!  I had just got my first proper kitchen, so obviously I wanted to try and learn all there was in this exciting world. The days of internet recipes were not yet that advanced, so it would have to a proper cooking book that would have to guide me in this journey.  The plethora of cookbooks,  however, required some knowledge of basic equipments, measurement techniques, differences between various ingredients... In short, not for me - I needed a cookbook that would take me by the hand and make sure I did not get lost.  This book for me was The Student Crumb Cookbook (out of print, I'm afraid) that introduced me to the new world of cooking:  since then, I've cooked most of its recipes over and over again, but one will always remain my first ever success:  the Quiche Lorraine.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Pin it and Do it: Wrap up post

When Trish announced that she would be hosting this pinteresting challenge in October, I knew I had found a great challenge:  a whole month free to cook and craft (in my case, knitting and papercraft) was exactly what I needed to counter the intense workdays in the office!

I was overly ambitious and went for the 8+ level!  Would I make it?  Let's see - these are my pins:



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