Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Glorious Return!

Okay, it may not be that glorious for you, but it's glorious for me. I haven't blogged in a few weeks, but I have no shame in this since I was pretty busy with getting married. (I know, it's just terrible that I could allow such a little thing as my own wedding to interfere with my blogging!) But now the honeymoon is over and my husband and I are well on our way to being well settled in our new apartment, and I can relax and start blogging again.

Probably needless to say, I've done little-to-no reading in the time I've been gone...I wanted to finish Little Women, but unfortunately that did not happen. However, I still have some small hope that I might, just might, finish before the end of the year! I made pretty good progress on it, and I'm enjoying it immensely.

One of the first things I wanted to get organized in the apartment was, of course, my books! Here's a picture of my bookshelves:

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Foodies Read Challenge 2013

Another super-exciting challenge for me!

I love books. I love food. How could I possibly not like books about food?

(Also, I'm secretly trying to get my license as a foodie. If I succeed in this challenge, will I be a certified foodie? Only the powers that be can truly know...)

I don't want to go too far overboard with challenges for next year, since I am quite new to book blogging, so I will refrain from committing to the highest level and I'll commit to the "Pastry Chef" level (4-8 books). Since this should easily cross over with a couple other challenges (Nerdy Non-Fiction challenge and Books on France challenge), I don't think that number will be too much of a problem. I'm not going to make an official goal to go beyond 8 books, since like I said, I don't want to overdo it. I'll upgrade to a higher level if I find I can't stop reading food books!

Books Reviewed:

Julie & Julia by Julie Powell
A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
My Life in France by Julia Child
In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
The Truth About Food by Jill Fullerton-Smith
Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese
Food Rules by Michael Pollan

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

I didn't do a Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) last week because, well, it was about new releases in 2013, and I'm not really a "new release" kind of person. There are literally zero books I'm holding my breath for in the new year. I feel like most people who do that are more YA/fantasy/series kind of people, and I'm just not.

However, I do thoroughly like the topic for this week because this year I feel like all I want for Christmas is books! Since I will be moving to a space with a lot more room for books than I've had in the past, I want to start my collection.

10. Anything on my Classics Club list. Okay, this is probably cheating, and I will reiterate some of the ones I want the most later in the list, but it is much nicer to own a copy that I can mark and love and spend more than 3 weeks reading than it is to borrow it from the library, especially when it's a classic.

9. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I've been truly loving this book, and I'm afraid I might not be able to finish it before the break since I have so much to do in preparing for a wedding and the end of the semester. What will I do if I have to turn it in before I leave town?! And even if I do finish it, I'd just love to own it anyway.

8. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. This is such a long book, I know I might run out of renewals before I can finish it, once I get it started. And I've heard so many good things about it.

7. Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese. Ever since I heard of this book I've been wanting to read it, since I'm sort of obsessed with making my own food (and I will be even more once I have my very own blender, food processor, candy thermometer, and various other wonderful kitchen items which will hopefully grace my kitchen after I'm married).

Monday, December 3, 2012

The P&P95Forever Club

You may have noticed (or maybe you haven't...I, for one, never notice these sorts of things, so I won't judge you) that there's a new button in my sidebar with a picture of Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett, drinking a cup of tea. As the badge says, I am now a member of the P&P95Forever Club!

So what does this mean? Why should you care? What it means is that I'm taking my place among the ranks of "the opinionated, biased, and unswerving devotees of BBC/A&E's Pride and Prejudice." I'm not only admitting, but proudly defending my heartfelt devotion to this film adaptation of Jane Austen's classic.

You might think I'm exaggerating. Well...

I really love the BBC P&P. And I seriously question the loyalty of supposed Jane Austen fans who don't prefer it over any other version. (If this is you, don't worry, I'll still like you. Sort of.)

(Just kidding. Let's agree to disagree.)

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know about this marvelous club, and to encourage you to join if you love the BBC P&P film! (You don't have to be as rabid a fan as I am, but if you do decide to join the Club, be aware that raving lunatics like me will probably be lurking in the shadows of the site...)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

My Books are Getting a New Home!

Photo by Ian Wilson on Flickr
With my impending marriage (er, poor word choice?), I will soon be moving into a brand-new apartment. Of course, I am excited beyond belief, for several reasons. First, and most obvious, I will be switching from living with 5 roommates to living with only one. Second, I will have infinitely more (well, it seems like infinitely more) storage space--and do you know what that means?!

More space for books, of course! Almost all the books I read come from the library. One reason is that I can't afford to buy books all the time, but mainly I just don't have any space to put them. But now that will be different!

But now I'm faced with an interesting dilemma: how do I organize my books? Ever since I started keeping my own collection, I've pretty much just put them wherever they would fit. But now that I'm planning on actually adding to my collection (slowly, of course, since I'll be even poorer after I get married), I'm not quite sure how to arrange them.
Photo by Moyen_Brenn on Flickr

Do I arrange them alphabetically by author? (Is that too difficult to maintain?) Do I arrange them by genre? Do I organize them by which ones I'm most interested in reading? Do I have specific shelves for favorites and TBR (like a real-life Goodreads...intriguing...)? Do I color-code them? (I've seen it done. Could make a striking display, but doesn't seem very practical.)

How do you organize your books? I'd love to get a good idea of what to do with mine before I throw caution to the wind and continue my current habit of stuffing them into every random nook and cranny...

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe

This is one of the lesser-known Ann Radcliffe books, the first I have personally read and, from what I hear, pretty representative of Radcliffe's other books. The female protagonist, Adeline, continues to get thrown into dire straits, keeps coming close to the edge of salvation, and then endures more misery before finally marrying the suitor of her choice (there were several) and partying with her friends. The book, being a Gothic novel, is sort of a blend between quaint images of the forest, sensitive musings of the main character, and creepy villainy, assassination rumors, yellowed manuscripts, and hidden skeletons (both figurative and literal).

First of all, Ann Radcliffe really deserves a lot of credit because this book was, after all, published in 1790, a time when novels were fairly new to the publishing world. She did quite a nice job at writing an interesting story with several twists and turns. To be fair, I actually really enjoyed this novel. Maybe it was because I was reading it fairly fast, but I thought it was pretty exciting. I was definitely interested in finding out what was going to happen.

But the literary critic in me (I know there's one in all of us) won't let it rest there. The book was fun, but it was also predictable. The characters lacked depth. Adeline was the quintessential damsel in distress, and the marquis was a perfectly evil villain. The character of La Motte, who at first saves Adeline but then takes part in the marquis's evil plot in order to save his own backside, was somewhat more interesting, but his character development had some inexplicable "huh?" moments.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Nerdy Non-Fiction Challenge 2013

I'm reeeeeeally excited about this challenge! I love non-fiction and I was glad to see a challenge dedicated to it! There have been lots of non-fiction books I've been wanting to read but they keep getting smothered by classics and school stuff. Now they shall have their own lofty place in my TBR pile!

The goal is to read lots of non-fiction in as many different categories as possible. Since I'm such a fan of non-fiction, I'm going to commit to the "Dork" level (7-10 books in at least 4-5 different categories) and try to go for the "Dweeb" level (11-14 books in at least 6-7 different categories). I'd like to reach the "Nerd" level (15+ books in 8+ different categories) but we'll just see how things go.

Here are a few of the books I've been wanting to read:
  • Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese
  • My Life in France by Julia Child
  • Julie and Julia by Julie Powell
  • How to Build a Dinosaur by Jack Horner
However, my true non-fiction way is to wander the stacks at the library and pick up whatever looks interesting. I'll probably pick up several biographies, maybe some history, and I've been really wanting to read a book about nutrition. I always like self-help and books and relationships. I'll definitely be reading more cookbooks. Travel books are always a must; probably some of them will include books about France for my Books on France challenge. And I can't possibly go a year without reading a few memoirs.

Anyway, this is one of the challenges I'm most excited about!

Books Read (by category):

* Health, Medicine, Fitness, Wellness
--In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan
--The Truth About Food by Jill Fullerton-Smith
* History- US, World, European, etc
--Versailles: Biography of a Palace by Tony Spawforth
--Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
* Religion, Spirituality, Philosophy
--Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott
* Technology, Engineering, Computers, etc
* Business, Finance, Management
* Sports, Adventure
* Food- Cookbooks, Cooks, Vegan Vegetarianism, etc
--A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
--Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese
* Autobiography, Biography, Memoir: 
--Julie & Julia by Julie Powell
--Night by Elie Wiesel
--My Life in France by Julia Child
--Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
--In Short by Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones (editors)
--My Lost City: Personal Essays by F. Scott Fitzgerald
* Art, Photography, Architecture
* Music, Film, TV
* Self Improvement, Self Help, How To
--The Jackrabbit Factor by Leslie Householder
* Home, Garden
* Science-Nature, Weather, Biology, Geology
* Anthropology, Archaeology
* Animals-Insects, Mammals, Dinosaurs, etc
* Family, Relationships, Parenting, Dating, Love
* Crime, Law
* Poetry, Theatre
* Politics, Government, Current Affairs
* Literary Criticism/Theory
* Cultural Studies
* Travel
* Crafts

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge for 2013

Here's my next (and possibly easiest) challenge I'll be participating in for 2013!

The challenge is simple: just read more books in 2013 than I read in 2012!

And even though I'm a new book blogger, I will actually be able to do this, because like some kind of nerd I've been keeping a list of the books I read each year since, I believe, 2010. I usually average between 25 and 30. I know; I shudder to even think such a tiny number. But 2013 will be different!

So, since I'm such a loser with book numbers, I am making a commitment for the "Breaking a sweat" level (11-15 more books) and a goal for the "I'm on fire!" level (16+ more books). I'm looking forward to this challenge! Sometimes with everything else that gets crowded into my life, I just need to read a book--any book, so long as I'm reading!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Well. Well, well, WELL.

Before I begin, I should warn you that in my experience so far, one can either say nothing about Mrs. Dalloway, or one can write a hundred pages about it. Finding a middle ground is practically impossible. I'll attempt to find the middle ground right now, but I'm just warning you, I might get carried away.

Reading this book was sort of...surreal. Probably because it was a stream of consciousness novel (I know--Captain Obvious here). I'd never actually read a stream of consciousness novel before, so it was quite a bit of of a stretch, but it was well worth it.

Going off the stream of consciousness theme, these were probably close to my thoughts as I read the first 25 pages:

"What? What? And...who? What? Where? What? And what's that...and this? And who? And what?"

Okay, you get the picture. It would have been easy to throw this book away, never to look at it again (except for the fact that I had to read it for a class--whoops). But like I said, this book was worth the mental journey.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Little Update

First of all, happy Thanksgiving! I actually wrote this two days ago and scheduled it for today because I'm busy stuffing myself with turkey and pie (as I hope you are, too--even if you aren't American/are vegetarian/don't celebrate Thanksgiving for one reason or another, I wish you turkey and pie to make your day merrier. Okay, if you're a vegetarian, I won't wish turkey on you, but I will wish pie).

Ahem. Onto more relevant things.

I have been sadly lacking in reviews for the blog, but I have lots of good reasons:

1. I have been reading, but I've been reading three different books, which each take up different amounts of my time and for some annoying reason or another, I can't seem to finish any of them.

2. I have been swamped with other school reading and homework, what with finals coming up.

3. Not only have I been doing schoolwork, I've also been visiting family and being out of town quite a bit lately.

And perhaps the most valid reason of all:

4. I am getting married in less than a month, which takes up a lot of my time and, more important, almost all my focus.

So anyway. I really have been reading, though, and I promise reviews soon. Here's just a few thoughts on the books I've been reading:

Mrs. Dalloway: A review of this will be coming shortly, since I only have about 50 pages left (and I have to finish it by Monday). It took me several pages to just be able to follow the story at all and figure out what was going on, but now that I've pushed through that initial stage, I'm really enjoying this book. I'm actually finding it sort of magical. I've also been very inspired to read more from and more about Virginia Woolf. A biography, perhaps?

Little Women: I keep mentioning this in order to sigh over the warm fuzziness of this book, and I'll gladly sigh over it a little more now. I really wish I'd given this book more attention when I was younger. Even though it goes against everything my English professors have taught me, I flatly refuse to acknowledge any faults about this book. (Well, not at this point, anyway. I'm sure I'll be happy to mention faults in my official review.) It's been just what I need, and I've been loving every minute of it.

The Romance of the Forest: I've actually been enjoying this book a lot as well, although so far I've had infuriatingly little time to read it. The characters are a little flat and uninteresting, but I'm expecting some serious action in the pages ahead... (Okay, I admit it. I actually speed-read the entire thing one afternoon a week or so ago, so I know most of the events that are going to happen. Believe it or not, this actually makes me more excited to read it and soak up the details.)

The Old Man and the Sea: Um, what? Who put that on there? Okay, so I might have started reading it in the hopes that I would finally finish this tiny book that I have never managed to finish. Well, the moral of the story is that just because a book is short and easy doesn't mean I'm actually going to read it. I think this will have to go back to the library for now... Maybe next year...

Also, I've found one or two more challenges I'm planning to sign up for for next year. So when I come back from vacation, I will have posts detailing my blogging adventures in the year to come!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Top Ten Books/Authors I'm Thankful For

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

I'm feeling awfully thankful for books this week--especially because with a break from school, I'll actually get a good chance to read those books I've been trying to finish! (Unless my family is too distracting, which is entirely possible...)

10. Jane Austen. Her books were some of the first classics I really loved, and I'm grateful she wrote plenty because it means I still have more to read! One thing I love about Austen is that she writes with a sort of veiled sarcasm that I've come to appreciate a lot more as I've gotten older.

9. William Shakespeare. Believe it or not, I started reading and loving Shakespeare when I was only 13. (I don't know how much I really understood, but I felt like I understood a lot...) I think the first play I ever read was King Lear. Since then, I have come to love Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Richard III, Hamlet, and especially Othello. (I get shivers just thinking about creeper Iago...)

8. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I read this when I was about 12 and I loved it. I have a fun edition with a soft cover that I got for Christmas. For me, this book represents everything magical about childhood.

7. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I read this recently and I feel like I can't help mentioning it in every conversation (or blog post). This book has made me really excited to dig into more Victorian literature.

6. The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton. I read this book earlier this year and it's been one of those books that has actually changed the way I think, in just a small way. It has made me more grateful for my life and the little miracles I get to witness every day. Maybe a re-read is in order...

5. Elizabeth Gilbert. Call me a "chick lit" girl, but I really enjoy reading Gilbert. Her writing is so genuine--and hilarious! While other writers inspire me as a reader, Gilbert inspires me as a writer.

4. C.S. Lewis. I really enjoy both his fiction and his Christian apologetic writings. I think both Christians and those questioning Christianity ought to read Lewis. I really like that he isn't afraid of the hard questions, and I think too many of us are. Do we really want to ask about the seeming paradoxes of life and religion? Lewis has really helped me navigate those dark waters.

3. Stephen R. Covey. I've ended up reading a lot of self-help books for some reason (I'm not quite sure why), and Covey's books have helped me so much. Even though I haven't read them in a while, I still think about the principles. The principles in Covey's books aren't just quick fixes; they're principles for a great life in general.

2. Charles Dickens. I've only read two of his books, and practically every day I feel the pull to read more. I really want to get into Our Mutual Friend or Bleak House. I feel like I've barely scraped the tip of the iceberg, and I really can't wait to read more Dickens.

1. Victor Hugo. I've loved Les Miserables ever since I read it a few years ago, and it changed me more than any other novel I've ever read. I'm serious. I read The Hunchback of Notre Dame this year for the first time and loved it too (although not as much as Les Mis).

Oh no! I've already listed ten and I haven't even mentioned the Bronte sisters (Heathcliff! Mr. Rochester!), Gone With the Wind (Scarlett! Rhett!), To Kill a Mockingbird (Atticus! Scout!), or Hemingway, or The Great Gatsby, or The Scarlet Letter...drat. Well, I guess that's the great thing about counting your's too hard to stop!

What books/authors are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Books on France Challenge 2013

I have found the first challenge I've decided to commit to for 2013!

This challenge is being hosted by Words and Peace. Basically, you read books that are either:
a) set in France,
b) written by a French author, 
c) written in French (not Canadian French), or
d) about a French theme. 

Now, I'll be honest. Since I took my last required French class over the summer, French and I have not been the best of friends. We just needed some time away from each other. 

But when I saw this, I remembered all the good times. I remembered that deep down inside me, there is a francophile waiting to come out. And I realized that although I need a good long break from structured French classes, I still try to read the washing instructions in French on the tags on my towels, sheets, and clothes. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Looking for a good challenge...

Before this blog, I felt sort of out of place in the blogosphere, even though I had had a few other blogs and was even keeping one up. I didn't really feel like I could fit in or get to know people.

Well, one of the big reasons for starting this blog in the first place is so I can connect with more people who share my interests. Since I've started the blog, I've really made an effort to reach out and find other people who like the same books I do. I've been sorting through other blogs and finding ones I want to follow. It's been really fun!

But I'll be the first to admit that I'm quite the rookie when it comes to being part of all this. What I really want to get into is...CHALLENGES.

Now, obviously, I've sort of already joined a challenge (The Classics Club). But the Classics Club is a lot more open-ended than regular challenges, and I really want to try something else in addition.

So as the end of the year approaches, I've been looking for challenges for 2013. Finding the perfect challenge, though, is harder than it seems. I want to find something that challenges me to get out of my comfort zone, but will still be fun enough that I can keep it up for the whole year. And I want something that isn't too demanding, since I am, after all, in school. Here are the options I've been considering:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Top Ten Books I'd Want on a Deserted Island

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Here are the top ten books I would want on a deserted island...whether or not I've read them.

10. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. This book is everything I could want in a book, not to mention it's extremely long! I've been wanting to re-read it ever since I read it for the first time, so on a desert island I could really dig into it.

9. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. I can't die without reading a thick Dickens tome, you know. Sometimes I dream about the day I get to read this book...

8. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. A few days ago I wrote about being afraid of it, so I'd finally get a chance to face my fears. ...Yay.

7. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. After three ridiculously long books to keep me busy, here's a book I would read on days when I was feeling depressed about, you know, being stranded on a desert island. And I would finally get more time to finish it.

6. My Jane Austen collection. (That might be cheating, but technically it is one book...) I could re-read some of the great ones and finally get into the ones I haven't read yet (i.e., Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

November Meme: Intimidating Classics

Today I'm going to answer the November meme question from The Classics Club:

What classic piece of literature intimidates you, and why? (Or, are you intimidated by the classics, and why? And has your view changed at all since you joined our club?) 

Oh, dear. There are really quite a few classics that intimidate me.

First of all, War and Peace. I know that's on basically everyone's list of intimidating classics, which might be why it intimidates me. It's not so much the length that's frightening; it's Tolstoy. I don't have a great history with Russian literature. I ended up putting down both Crime and Punishment and Anna Karenina after getting a good way through them (although the main reason was time constraints, not so much boredom). I'm not sure at all how I'll fare with War and Peace.

Second, The Divine Comedy. I know next to nothing about it, honestly, and there is just nothing that interests me about it. I'll read it someday. But who knows when that day is...

Third, pretty much anything from the modernists. I'm just starting the modernism unit in my British Literary History class, so I can't really escape it now. I'm excited and intimidated at the same time. Mrs Dalloway is sitting on my bookshelf, waiting to be picked up and read, but I'm afraid I won't like it... I mean, I have read some modernist classics, of course, but I feel far from any understanding of the period.

What books intimidate you? 

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

Okay. Honestly? I didn't like it. And I don't feel guilty about it one tiny bit.

I probably wouldn't even have finished it, despite the fact that it's short enough to be a novella, except I had to for a class. It served mainly as a reminder that I do not like science fiction.

I didn't like the time traveler--self-serving, self-righteous, superior, overly restless, condescending, violent, and know-it-all. I'm not sure that's really the impression Wells wanted his readers to have of the time traveler, but I couldn't see much good in him. The Eloi were basically good because they were sort of like him and he thought they were beautiful (even though they were pitiful and stupid, according to him). The Morlocks were obviously evil, because...uhhhh...because they were ugly. And because they raised other species for food. (Oh, wait. Where have I heard of that before?)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Top Ten Books I'm Most Excited to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Today is a Top Ten Tuesday freebie and since my literary excitement is still new and fresh, I thought I'd write about books I'm excited to read! (Both from my Classics Club list and otherwise.)

10. The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe. This isn't on my list, but I need to read it for a class. I'm actually really excited about it! I'm severely deficient in pre-Victorian novels (except for Shakespeare), so I'll be glad to get one under my belt. Especially because a) it was written by a woman, and b) at the time it was written, novels were just starting to get popular. Aaaand it's a Gothic novel. It just intrigues me...

9. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. Oh, Dickens! I'm really excited to just get my teeth into this book. It's been a while since I've read a really massive novel, and I also want to get a lot more familiar with Dickens (hence my many titles by him on my list of classics). Plus, one of my professors mentions it and how wonderful it is every couple weeks, and she is one of my favorite professors (despite some horrific expectations, but that's another blog post).

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau

This book has literally been on my currently-reading shelf since...February. Oh, dear. *smacks forehead* And it wasn't even long and boring. Actually, it was rather exciting, so it's kind of strange that it took me so long.

But I finally finished it! And I'm certainly glad to have done so.

In lieu of a summary of this book (since it's a non-classic), I'm going to direct you to this great video where Nancy Bilyeau gives a better explanation of it than I could:

(I apologize for the music in the's awfully ridiculous to have elevator music going on while an author explains her historical fiction thriller. Hmph.)

Anyway. There were a lot of things I liked about this book, but also a few that irked me. So here's a handy-dandy bullet list:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Importance of Being Earnest, and Taking a Sick Day

I recently re-read The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. As usual, I laughed my head off. If you haven't read this marvelous play, you should...even if you've seen the movie. It's different from the movie (as books usually are).

I was going to write a review on it, but I read in an introduction to the play that Wilde himself said it was meant to show people that they should treat trivial things seriously, and serious things trivially. I suspect that Wilde's play, though it may seem rather trivial, is actually a serious thing, and to treat it seriously would be against the author's intent.

You might be shaking your head in disbelief at me, but seriously. Wilde wanted the play to be laughed at, and although there's certainly plenty for English majors to debate over all day, I'm not sure that's what he really would have wanted. And I've already done more debating over the social issues raised in the play in my English classes, so I certainly don't want to beat the poor thing over the head with it in my blog.

Besides, I have lots of other books to think and write about today! I am taking a sick day. And let's be real--a stuffed-up head and a sore throat are a small price to pay for the chance to sit in bed all day and read.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Is it bad that I went into this book kind of expecting not to like it? I saw a film version a while back (haven't we all?) and, of course, I wasn't super impressed. I'm not really a scary-movie, ghost-story kind of girl, and that's what I expected this book to be. Spooky if read by candlelight with a thunderstorm raging outside, but otherwise, rather dull and uninspired.

This is how we all imagine Frankenstein's monster...
Well, all of you who have read Frankenstein, you'll understand my embarrassment. If you haven't read Frankenstein and think the same way about it that I, read it. Read it right now.

Frankenstein has the power to turn a sunny, cheerful neighborhood at high noon into a creepy alley with shadows lurking around every corner, which made it a perfect read for Halloween. But the book was more than that--much, much more.

The book is not about a stupid green monster with nails sticking out his neck who was created by a cackling mad scientist. (Probably needless to say for most of you, but I needed the education.) It's about human nature and the way people treat each other, and the way people see themselves.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Top Ten Kick-Butt Heroines

Thank you to The Broke and the Bookish for this Top Ten Tuesday meme (sans profanity)!

10. Margaret Hale from North and South. One of the things that got me about this book right away was its fantastic heroine. Margaret is tough and fights tooth and nail to protect and take care of her family. She's willing to defend a man she dislikes in front of an angry mob, even taking a hit for him. She never backs down, even in the face of death.

9. Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. I actually hesitated to put her name because it felt cliche, but just because Elizabeth is well-liked doesn't mean she doesn't deserve a place on my list. Lizzie does what she wants without following proper societal "rules," but she does what it takes to protect her family's reputation. She's determined to marry for love and won't let any other circumstance prevent her from doing that.

8. Juliet Ashton from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Juliet is the heroine of my all-time favorite non-classic novel. Juliet makes people laugh in the worst of times in England and then reminds them of what's important once the worst is over. She has her priorities straight--she's willing to run into a burning building to save books. She's protective of those she loves and tough with those who don't love her. I secretly want to be just like her.

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara
7. Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind. In some ways I hate Scarlett, but in truth, I really, really love her. She doesn't care what anyone thinks of her, unless they're a man and she wants to get something out of them. She's clever and cunning and does what it takes to get what she wants. She takes care of her own and never looks back. She's tougher, stronger, and more determined than any other character in the story.

6. Aibileen from The Help. Heroine of another non-classic, Aibileen is one of those people you can't help but love. She works long and hard for her family, but she's tougher than she seems. She's talented and strong and everyone knows that God answers her prayers the most.

5. Viola from Twelfth Night. In the face of tragedy, Viola decides to run off and earn her own living dressed up as a man, but she knows when it's time to tell the truth. She's clever and witty and works hard to gain favor, but she can talk her way out of an uncomfortable situation. She doesn't let anyone tell her what to do.

Monday, October 29, 2012

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

You know that feeling you get right after you read a really good book? That sighing, that warm bubbling in your heart, that sudden wonder you have for everything around you? It had been so long since I had felt that, but I felt it again as I closed the cover of Elizabeth's Gaskell's North and South. 

As I was reading, I kept asking myself, Why haven't I heard more about this book? I think it's slightly appalling how little recognition this book gets. With all the rage surrounding Jane Austen these days, you'd think Elizabeth Gaskell would get a break. This book has all the romance, social charge, and gender issues of Austen novels, but fewer scenes of people just sitting around waiting for men to come and entertain them.

England, the setting of North and South
(No offense to Jane Austen. I really do love her. But if I'm being completely honest, her books just aren't as exciting as this one.)

The characters in this book are so absolutely beautiful and real. I also love that Gaskell can weigh in on the debate about the workhouse horrors without obviously taking a side. She sees both sides of the issue, unlike many of the other authors of her time, and she presents them fairly.

The characters of Margaret and Mr Thornton and their relationship captivated me. There are just so many themes and ways to read the characters.

Margaret: Haughty, proud, and distant to strangers, but unabashedly loyal to her loved ones. She gives up her own comfort throughout the entire book in order to save her family members from discomfort. She hides her own despair in order to please everyone around her. But is she in the right? As admirable as her self-sacrificing is, is it right to be completely unfair to oneself in order to please others? She nearly kills herself with the stress of taking care of everything and not allowing anyone to help or even comfort her. In trying to help everyone, she completely isolates herself from them. Is she truly doing right by them and herself?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

October Meme: Why Read Classics?

Over at The Classics Club they have a meme question for the month of October. I thought, what better way to start up my blog than to respond to...

Why are you reading the classics? 

There really isn't an easy answer to this question. One answer is that, being an English major, I am often surrounded by very literary people who have read seemingly every classic work of literature that exists in the Western canon. (And they talk like that, too. And despite all that, they're really very likable people...for the most part.) And frankly, I haven't. Yes, I am halfway through my college career of studying literature and yet, in the world of literary riches, I feel completely destitute. (Oh dear...I think I'm starting to talk like the rest of them...)
One of my favorites.

So yes. I have a reputation to uphold.

But it's more than that. Much, much more than that.

I love the classics. I would be lost without them. Without classics, I would just be a young, spoiled American girl who has never known hunger or loss or heartache. I'm not saying classics brought those things into my life--I mean, I am still that spoiled American girl, if I'm being downright honest--but they have made me more than that. They show me, through a peephole, a world beyond myself, where more than just myself exists.

Classics are a social miracle. They allow us to have relationships with people we would never have had otherwise. Right now I'm forging a relationship with Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who lived two hundred years ago in a different country. I would never have known a single thing about this person--I would never have been aware of her existence--but now I am able to see into the deepest part of her mind, I can see all her mystery and her passion, through her classic novel Frankenstein. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Welcome and Classics Club List

Hey everyone! Welcome to my book blog!

This blog has been a long time in coming. As an English major, of course, I love to read books and write about books, and I've finally decided to use blogging as an outlet for doing that. But talking about books isn't the same unless other people speak up and respond--so I hope you'll feel free to openly agree or disagree with anything I say!

Since I love reading classics and I realize my severe deficiency in that area (aren't we all deficient in that area?), I've decided to join the Classics Club, which I've been wanting to join for quite some time now. The idea is to read at least 50 classics in five years.

The list is a living list--I'll change it according to my reading and how things are going. If I read a book by an author that I absolutely love and I want to read more by that author, I might add it. Or if I really hate a book and I can't bear to finish it, I might replace it with a different one. No matter what, though, I'm going to keep a list of at least 50 which I'll finish by November of 2017.

So here's my list! If you have any recommendations, feel free to give them!

1. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
2. Our Mutual Friend - Charles Dickens
3. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
4. Agnes Grey - Anne Bronte
5. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
6. Mrs Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
7. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
8. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
9. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
10. Les Miserables (re-read) - Victor Hugo
11. Middlemarch - George Eliot
12. Cranford - Elizabeth Gaskell
13. Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
14. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
15. Ivanhoe - Sir Walter Scott
16. Ulysses - James Joyce
17. The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
18. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson
19. Breakfast at Tiffany's - Truman Capote
20. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
21. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
22. 1984 - George Orwell
23. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
24. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
25. Dracula - Bram Stoker
26. A Room With a View - E.M. Forster
27. Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
28. The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
29. The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank
30. Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
31. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey
32. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
33. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
34. All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
35. The Crucible - Arthur Miller
36. Song of Solomon - Toni Morrison
37. Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
38. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain
39. Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen
40. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
41. The Fall of the House of Usher - Edgar Allen Poe (short story)
42. Around the World in Eighty Days - Jules Verne
43. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
44. Their Eyes were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
45. The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling
46. Joan of Arc - Mark Twain
47. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
48. The Time Machine - H.G. Wells
49. Man's Search for Meaning - Viktor E. Frankl
50. Arabian Nights
51. Mary Barton - Elizabeth Gaskell
52. The Portrait of a Lady - Henry James
53. Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus - Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley