February Wrap-Up

February was a bit of a slower month of reading for me, I usually average at least 10 books each month, but with a long and persistent cold, a month full of deadlines and various projects, my reading time was cut down quite a bit. This being said, the books I did read, I enjoyed immensely, and being able to take a bit more time, enjoying and savoring each book, with plenty of time to contemplate, actually made this a slower month of reading in a good way.

ANNA KARENINA by Leo Tolstoy
My Rating: 4/5
Anna Karenina has been one of those daunting books that has been on my list for years. This year, one of my big reading goals, is to tackle those books that one would classify as “literary fears”. Books that have been collecting dust on my bookshelf, or on my Goodreads TBR list, etc. With the publication of The New Vintage Russian Classics Series by Vintage Books, and a book club they are hosting called #readingtherussians, I decided I’d like to join them, taking down a few of the Russian titles lingering on my shelves, plus it’s a good excuse to buy their gorgeous editions! What can I say about Anna Karenina, I think I’ve fallen in love with Tolstoy. His writing is fresh, easy to read and honestly flows like a new contemporary novel, not something written in 1873. Even though it took me a bit to warm up to the characters, and I never fully empathized or liked the title character, Anna Karenina. I appreciate that Tolstoy addressed tough issues, such as fidelity in marriage, extramarital affairs, lust, sex, desire, the rights of women, the uprise of the lower classes, and ultimately the consequences one faces when one gives into temptation, and disregards the norms and rules of society. After all is said and done, if this is a novel that you’re a bit leery or nervous about reading, just pick it up and give it a try, there is so much depth and richness in this beautifully written novel.

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FRAMLEY PARSONAGE by Anthony Trollope
My Rating: 4/5
Oh how I adore Anthony Trollope! I have absolutely enjoyed my foray into the world of Trollope and the Barsetshire Chronicles. Framley Parsonage, is the fourth book in the series, and I think one of my absolute favorites. I’ve been reading these lovely editions with a group on IG, and haven’t we enjoyed #trolloping together. Trollope has such a wonderful sense of humor, and his little asides to the gentle reader are my favorite parts in each of his novels. He also writes the most wonderful female characters, most if not all of them have a strong opinion, sense of oneself, and can be seen as quite spirited and modern for the time. I love how they are the standout characters in his novels, not the men, who are meant to be in charge. Usually even his most liked male characters will still take a back seat role, when it comes to character development and depth, when up against his female component. Quite progressive indeed, Mr. Trollope! Even though, Trollope can be a bit long winded at times, his quick wit, subtle humor and ability to address human nature makes these books a sheer delight to read. And again, even though he wrote over 150 years ago, his ability to understand and write plausible characters, and understand human behavior makes this modern reader adore him even more.

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THE VOYAGE OUT by Virginia Woolf
My Rating: 4.5/5
Woolf is another literary fear I’ve wanted to address for quite some time, and after mentioning it several times on IG, @coffeecoffeecat and I decided to start reading her works in publication order. Woolf’s first novel, The Voyage Out, which Woolf started working on, as early as 1905, remained the novel she continued to edit, change, and re-publish throughout her lifetime. As I sit here, trying to organize my final thoughts for this novel, I find myself struggling a bit, not because I don’t have anything to say about the novel, but because I have so much to discuss and talk about. Reading this book, took me back to university courses, the excitement of discovering an author and work that strikes something deep inside of you. I loved underlining passages thought the novel, the notes in the margins, and how often, I had to stop and reflect on what I was reading. The beauty of Woolf’s sentences, and descriptions, simply move you. Even though Woolf is writing a full century before I read the novel, the themes, thoughts and worries, Woolf’s characters discuss in this novel, could easily be placed in our century. Woolf’s main character Rachel, reminds me quite bit of other literary heroines; a touch of Jane Eyre, with her naivety, and goodness, and quite a bit of Marianne Dashwood; young, eager to find love, and passionate about all that she sees and does. But, this is Woolf, so, The Voyage Out doesn’t end quite as fairytale-ish as an Austen or a Brontë. Many of the personal issues and concerns of Woolf made an appearance throughout the novel, including characters in her latter novels, the freedoms and rights of women, the rise of the lower classes, marriage and fidelity, how to handle a changing world order, and even a hint of the exoticism. For my first foray with Woolf, I wasn’t disappointed in the least.

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THE POISONED CHOCOLATES CASE by Anthony Berkeley
My Rating: 4/5
February’s choice for the #BLCCChallenge was one of my favorite so far. I’ve always loved golden age mysteries and these editions feature some of the best that I’ve read in this genre. This was such a fun set up for a crime novel, and was actually highly admired by the likes of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers.

In 1928, Berkeley had conceived the idea of inviting fellow detective novelists to meet up for dinner and conversation – often about real life murder cases, which he found fascinating, and which regularly provided plot material for his novels and those of his friends. The dinners proved popular, and Berkeley soon came up with the idea of forming a members’ club for leading crime writers. The result was the Detection Club, which came into being in 1930, adopting a formal set of rules and a constitution a couple of years later; the club thrives to this day. Its fictional forerunner was the Crimes Circle which features in this novel.

This novel, takes the multiple solutions which members of the Crimes Circle formulate to explain the poisoning of the victim in the novel. Each of the amateur detectives present their theories, and although are convincing when being presented quickly become disproved. I thought I had guessed the solution to the murder, but was pleasantly surprised when the truth was finally revealed. An added perk to this British Library edition, were two additional solutions; one written in 1979 by a young writer who knew Berkeley, and the other written by Martin Edwards, who writes several of the introductions to these editions, and is a prolific  author himself.

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FIVE LITTLE PIGS by Agatha Christie
My Rating: 5/5
February’s choice for the @maidensofmurder book club has quickly become one of my favorite Christie’s. When Hercule Poirot is hired by a captivating young women, to prove the innocence of her mother, accused of poisoning her father 16 years ago, the task of uncovering the truth seems even too much for the brilliant mind of Poirot. But, as he proceeds to interview the five individuals present at the time of the murder, he cleverly uses the childhood rhyme, Five Little Pigs to solve the murder. After listening to each of the accounts in person, he then asks the witnesses to write down their exact movements and memory of the day of the crime. What ensues is a quick paced tale of lust, passion, deceit, anger, selfishness and ultimately tragedy. I must say, Christie who is notorious for throwing out red herrings, easily tricks you into thinking you know the answer, until the truth is revealed at the very end. This book will be at the top of my Christie favorites, including, And Then There Were None, Murder On the Orient Express, and Crooked House.

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