Treasure island by Robert Louis Stevenson

The young Jim Hawkins gets his hands on a treasure map from the old sailor Billy Bones. The map belonged to the feared pirate captain Flint and indicates the location of riches on Skeleton island. Jim sets sail to the island with a few friends, but the one-legged cook John Silver turns out to be an old shipmate of Flint and the crew turns against them.

This classic novel was my result for the 27th CC spin and I must admit that I was looking forward to reading it as I had just finished the Starz series ‘Black sails’, which can be seen as a prequel to this novel. I also do have a thing with pirate stories and novels that take place on a ship.

The book opens with Billy Bones coming to stay at the pub of Jim and his parents. He offers old tales of his life as a seaman and is scared of a pirate with a wooden leg. When he dies, Jim finds a treasure map in his belongings, just before a pirate crew can get hold of it. Subsequently, Jim and his friends from the town set sail to Skeleton island but mutiny looms around the corner and Jim has to use his wit to make it out the adventure alive.

I must start with admitting that this was not an easy read for me. I struggled with the language (I read it in English). A lot of words were unfamiliar to me and I had difficulties with understanding what was going on at times and who was speaking. This is a common critic on this novel apparently. Maybe, next time I should read it in Dutch.

But it is a classic adventure novel with a lot of imagination. It highly influenced how we think of pirates and it has a lasting impact on popular culture (Black Sails is a great example of that of course). The story did feel a bit outdated at times, and I expected more action. But still, I believe I enjoyed this one enough.

I in particular loved the opening chapters, where Jim and his mother try to outwit the pirates. John Silver proves the ideal villain, although I can’t help but love him too. It was a short and entertaining read but I had expected to love it even more.

This is book 7/50 for the classics club. And book 10 for #20booksofsummer.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Have you read this? Did you enjoy it?

CC Spin #27: my result

Last week, I made a list of 20 classics still remaining on my Classics Club list in random order. At Sunday, the spin result was announced. And the lucky number is 6!

This means I’ll have to read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island by August 22nd.

I must admit I made a list of 20 books I was looking forward to read. So of course I’m happy with the result. I would have picked up Treasure island soon anyway. We’ve just finished watching Black Sails and now I’m curious to see what happens next. It also seems a perfect summer book and a lighter read than my previous ones.

Are you happy with your result? Have you read Treasure island?

Far from the madding crowd by Thomas Hardy

Sheep farmer Gabriel Oak falls in love with the outspoken and beautiful Bathsheba Everdene, but she refuses him. However, Gabriel stays loyal to her and becomes her shepherd when Bathsheba inherits a farm from her uncle. Bathsheba wants to govern the farm herself and attracts the attention of two new suitors in doing that. One of them is her neighbour farmer Mr. Bolwood, a quiet single man ten years her senior. The other is a soldier and womanizer who goes by the name of Frank Troy.

I was looking forward to discover Hardy’s writing, expecting a romance that would swoon me away. The story is set in the fictional county of Wessex in the 19th century and centers around Bathsheba Everdene and her three suitors. When Bathsheba becomes head of a farm run by men, she wants to do things in her own way.

This is a difficult review to write. Hardy is a master writer. I loved his poetic writing. But I’m sorry to say that I didn’t enjoy the plot at all. I’m no romance person in general, but I had too many issues with the unhealthy relationships that were a focus in this story.

I didn’t like Bathsheba at all. She’s impulsive, restless and can’t make up her mind. Her character evolves during the story, but still I find her selfish in her behaviour towards the men. She only seems to care about her own feelings. Her joke on Valentine’s Day towards Mr. Boldwood made my eyeballs roll out.

And then we come to the men. Mr. Boldwood comes forward as a pusher, or a stalker even. He expects Bathsheba’s love in return for I don’t understand what. And Troy is just the casual bad boy who has a nice talk but don’t takes it serious with any woman. The only character I really felt bad for in this novel was Fanny Robin, poor thing.

But luckily we have Gabriel Oak. Sweet and loyal Gabriel. Patient and trustworthy Gabriel. He always knows what to say or when to stay quiet. Gabriel is perfect. He never stinks. I’m just not into perfect characters. So yes, he is the least annoying, but I found him irritating nonetheless 😅.

I really appreciated Hardy’s writing and the humour in the discussions by the villagers in the local pub. They were fun. But I’ve again experienced that good writing isn’t enough for me. I need to enjoy the plot and this starts with having characters I can relate to.

I still have ‘Tess Of d’Urbervilles’ on my classcis club list, so I’ll definitely give Hardy another change. I really expected to like this one, as everyone seems to do. So don’t let my review put you off from reading this.

This is book 6/50 for the classics club. And book 3 for #20booksofsummer.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Have you read and enjoyed anything by Thomas Hardy?

CC Spin #27: my list

Woohoo, time for another Classics Club spin! The rules are simple: list 20 books from your CC list you still need to read in a random order. At the end of this week, a number is chosen and you have to read the book that corresponds to that number on your list.

The result of the 27th edition is announced on Sunday 18th July and you’ve got time to read and review your spin book until Sunday 22nd August (and that is during my summer holidays, so this should work!).

Last time, I read Lady Chatterley’s lover which was ok but not so much fun. In the meantime, I’ve only read Hardy’s Far from the madding crowd from my classics club list and I didn’t enjoy it at all. So I could use a good spin book!

  1. To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  3. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  4. The fifth queen by Ford Madox Ford
  5. North and south by Elizabeth Gaskell
  6. Treasure island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  7. The bell jar by Sylvia Plath
  8. The woman in white by Wilkie Collins
  9. Love in time of cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  10. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  11. Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier
  12. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  13. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  14. Tender is the night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  15. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  16. The remains of the day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  17. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  18. And then there were none by Agatha Christie
  19. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoj
  20. I, Claudius by Robert Graves

I’m not hoping on a particular result, as I still have more than enough books to go on my list. Except for Du Maurier and Fitzgerald these are also all new authors to me. Let’s see what we get on Sunday!

Do you participate? What’s your favourite classic from this list?

Lady Chatterley’s lover by D.H. Lawrence

Middleclass woman Connie Read marries Clifford Chatterley of the Wragby estate, who got paralysed during WOI and is now bound to a wheelchair. This also means he isn’t able to give Connie any children of his own. The monotonous life at Wragby starts to bore Connie. When she meets her husband’s gamekeeper, the troubled Oliver Mellors, she loathes him at first. But in time, she visits him more and more in the woods and the two of them start an affair.

This is the winning novel of my first classics club spin. I added this book to the list because I saw the excellent BBC movie with Richard Madden and Holiday Grainger a few years ago. I didn’t remember anything from the plot so I was curious to start reading Lady Chatterley’s lover, expecting a romance novel with a lot of sex and drama.

But this didn’t turn out as expected. It’s written during the interwar period and has that typical early 20th century atmosphere. There were a lot of philosophical discussions that I wasn’t prepared for. About themes as social class, communism, women’s rights, industrialization… And that’s why I felt the story dragged on at times.

This book has a lot of sex, but compared to 21st century standards (I mean, we have 50 shades) it isn’t big deal. I can assume that in the 1920’s this was not done and the book has been banned in a lot of countries. But I also believe this was the cause because the book is about an affair between two people of a different social class. A respectable lady who mingles with a gamekeeper, who is far below her status… It would have caused quite a scandal in real life.

I didn’t feel the romance. Connie hates Mellors at first and slowly they grow towards each other, but I couldn’t understand why. The first times they have sex, it’s all about the sex and Connie is even thinking about other things while having intercourse. Her feelings towards Oliver change suddenly, but it’s never explained why. Mellors is a character that I couldn’t relate with. He speaks a certain dialect that I couldn’t understand (I read this book in English so that made these parts unreadable to me). I didn’t root for them, but I couldn’t also stand Clifford, who has little thought and affection for his wife.

The second part of the book got better (more action and dialogue, less philosophical themes), but all together I believe this story is better suited for a 2-hour movie than a 6-hour book.

This is book 5/50 for the classics club.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Have you read anything by D.H. Lawrence?

CC Spin #26: my result

Last week I made a list of twenty classics for the classics club spin. It’s my first participation, so I was excited to discover my result. And the lucky number is…. 11!

This means I’m going to read ‘Lady Chatterley’s lover’ by D.H. Lawrence.

I wasn’t expecting a particular book. I made a list of 20 random and not too bulky books. Lady Chatterley’s lover doesn’t seem like the most hard or serious book on the list. This book was banned back in the 1920’s because of explicit sexual language. I’m quite sure that will not be the case if you compare it to current standards (50 shades anyone?), so I’m eager to see what the fuzz could have been about.

I know this is not a high-rated classic or story. A lot of people dislike it. But I did enjoy the 2015 BBC movie with Richard Madden and Holliday Grainger. So that’s why it ended up on my classics club list. 😅 I don’t remember everything from the story, so I guess it’s a nice moment to start reading the book.

I’ll start this classic after finishing my current historical mystery ‘Rags of time’.

What’s your result?

Howards End by E.M. Forster

The middleclass sisters Margaret and Helen Schlegel are living in London together with their younger brother Tibby. On holiday in Germany, the land of birth of their deceased father, they meet the Wilcoxes, a family rich by business. Back in England, Helen goes to live a few days with them at Howard’s End, the favourite house of Mrs. Wilcox. But things don’t go as planned. After a romantic affair with the youngest son Paul, Helen returns to London. At an opera show, she accidentally steals an umbrella of the clerk Leonard Bast who has a poor income. In the coming years fate will bring these three families together again.

I had already seen the most recent BBC/Starz adaptation, so I knew the story a bit. I love how everything comes together at the end and how Howard’s End seems to be an extra character in the book. The house is always there, looming over the events.

Howard’s End was published in 1910 and offers a pre-war perspective on European relationships. At times, it felt like a total different world out there. The book covers a lot of interesting themes: social class, poverty, prejudice, feminism and sisterhood. The three families are all part of a different social class. The Schlegel sisters are middleclass. They love art, poetry and culture and don’t need to worry about money. The Wilcoxes are affluent, trying to make even more money thanks to the right investments. They tend to value things over people. While at the same time, the Basts are struggling to make ends meet. Leonard wants to get higher up in life and starts taking an interest in books and art, a subject he enjoys discussing with the Schlegel sisters.

The main perspective was that of Margaret, the older Schlegel and not my favourite character. Margaret is sensible and thoughtful. She’s the perfect opposite of her impulsive and emotional sister and the rather dull and rational Wilcoxes. She’s the much needed conscience in the story, as many of the other characters appear rather flat and insensitive at times.

The writing is good, although I found it a bit difficult at times. There is some dialogue, but also a strong narrator perspective where Forster directly speaks to the reader. Some of these aren’t always that easy to follow. There are also some time jumps that can be confusing.

In the end, I understand why Howard’s End is considered a true classic. The unique atmosphere of Europe before the Great War combined with themes that are still highly relevant today make for a great novel. I also have ‘A passage to India’ from Forster on my classics club list and am looking forward to see if I’ll like it even more.

This is book 3/50 for the Classics Club.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Have you read anything by E.M. Forster? What’s your favourite?

My reading challenges for 2021

It’s time to look forward to my reading year of 2021. Every year I try to participate in a few reading challenges just to help me prioritize certain books. I’m not a big fan of joining challenges with random book prompts. I’ve noticed that reading outside my TBR can be disappointing. I’m quite good at picking books that I know I’ll like and I also try to read outside my standard (royal) historical fiction genre a few times a year.

Goodreads reading challenge

2020 was the first year where I raised my Goodreads challenge from 30 to 35 books. And I managed to hit that target in November. For 2021, I’ll also set my challenge on 35 books. I do want this challenge to be manageable, especially as I plan to read some big books and/or classics. But I still want to read 3 to 4 books a month and this means I’ll end up around 35 books.

The historical fiction reading challenge

Originally hosted by a few other blogs, than by Passages of the past and now by Intrepid Reader, this challenge is all about my favorite genre: historical fiction. The goal is to pick a number of historical fiction books you want to read, corresponding to a certain historical era. Write a review of what you’ve read and link-up your reviews every month at the Intrepid Reader.

These are the different levels you can choose from:

  • 20th Century Reader – 2 books
  • Victorian Reader – 5 books
  • Renaissance Reader – 10 books
  • Medieval – 15 books
  • Ancient History – 25 books
  • Prehistoric – 50+ books

For me this is an easy choice. I will strive to meet the Ancient History level. Almost 90% of what I read is historical fiction so this should be easy. I secretly hope to hit more than 25 books, but Prehistoric will be too ambitious as I don’t read 50 books a year (yet—one may have hope :D).

Any sub-genre of historical fiction is accepted, as there is historical romance, historical mystery, historical fantasy, young adult, history/non-fiction… Roughly counted, of the 38 books I read in 2020, 33 of them are historical fiction. A few others are in a kind of grey zone if they are either historical or contemporary/fantasy (How to stop time and the winter of the witch for example).

The classics club

And then of course, 2021 will be my first year of the Classics Club! You can read my sign up post for this challenge here and my progress can be followed on my Classics Club page. I will start with The tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brönte as my first classic. And after that, who knows? Maybe, I’ll join some of the Classics Club spins where you have to compile a list of 20 books and then read the books corresponding the number that was the outcome of the spin. Funny way of choosing your next read.

This is it for now. Maybe I’ll join some other challenge during the year. Maybe not. I’m looking forward to all those great (or so I hope) reads!

What reading challenges are you aiming at in 2021?

I’m joining the classics club in 2021

And it scares the hell out of me. A few years ago, I already started my own classics project. And I did read some great classics: the novels of Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, The three musketeers… I enjoyed them all, but the last years I’m just picking up other books above classics. Mainly because I think they will be too difficult to read and thus take too long to finish. But I kept enjoying TV adaptions of classics such as War and peace and Les miserables. So now, I want to start reading classics again.

That’s why I joined the classics club where the goal is to make a list of 50 classics and read them in the coming 5 years! You review them on your blog and track your progress on a separate page. I don’t have high hopes in really finishing 50 classics in 5 years. I will try, but as I only read around 35-40 books every year, it’s a great commitment. But I’m not afraid of a challenge. I know that by joining I will have read a lot more books from this list by 31st December 2025 than without this challenge.

My list consists of authors I already enjoyed or think I will enjoy (the Brontë sisters, Dumas, Du Maurier…), of stories I already know because of the TV version (Vanity Fair, Les miserables, War and peace…) and of some older historical fictions works (Richard III, The fifth queen, I Claudius…).

When you take a look at my list, you should keep this in mind:

  • No Jane Austen on this list as I already read her books.
  • No Ernest Hemingway, as I hated ‘the old man and the sea’.
  • Not too much of dystopian fiction as it really isn’t my thing. So no Orwell or Wells, I made the exception for ‘a clockwork orange’ since one of my best friends loved it so much and for ‘the handmaid’s tale’ because everyone seems to love it.
  • There are some authors on this list that I’m scared to start reading because of what I heard about their writing. That’s why I only chose one book from them so that I can give up on the author if the writing is not my cup of tea. This is the case with Charles Dickens, G.G. Marquez and Fyodor Dostoeysky.

This is my list:

  1. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  2. My cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier
  3. Jamaica’s Inn by Daphne Du Maurier
  4. Villette by Charlotte Brontë
  5. Shirley by Charlotte Brontë
  6. The tenant of Wildfell hall by Anne Brontë
  7. Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë
  8. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (reread)
  9. War and peace by Leo Tolstoj
  10. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoj
  11. Les misérables by Victor Hugo
  12. The count of monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  13. The man in the iron mask by Alexandre Dumas
  14. La reine Margot by Alexandre Dumas
  15. The Borgias by Alexandre Dumas
  16. The prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
  17. Utopia by Thomas More
  18. Howard’s end by E.M. Forster
  19. A passage to India by E.M. Forster
  20. To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee
  21. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  22. Tess d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  23. Far from the madding crowd by Thomas Hardy
  24. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  25. Lady Chatterly’s lover by D.H. Lawrence
  26. I, Claudius by Robert Graves
  27. The handmaid’s tale by Margaret Atwood
  28. Tender is the night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  29. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  30. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  31. And then there were none by Agatha Christie
  32. Great expectations by Charles Dickens
  33. The color purple by Alice Walker
  34. The idiot by Fyodor Dostoeysky
  35. North and south by Elizabeth Gaskell
  36. The remains of the day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  37. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  38. The fifth queen by Ford Madox Ford
  39. The woman in white by Wilkie Collins
  40. Treasure island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  41. The Iliad by Homer
  42. The Odyssey by Homer
  43. The scarlet letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  44. A clockwork orange by Anthony Burgess
  45. The cacher in the rye by J.D. Salinger
  46. The trial by Franz Kafka
  47. The bell jar by Sylvia Path
  48. Richard III by William Shakespeare
  49. Love in time of cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  50. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

What’s your favorite classic?