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Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Gratitude

I’m rather negative (cue laughter of my siblings at this gross understatement), and I tend to focus on negative (my reading breakdown of oh, half a decade; seeming dearth of good fiction I can love, etc.), so I’m going to try to point of 10 things I for which I ought to be grateful (and possible slip in a sociological study or two).

  1. I can read. Even though the statistics look excellent for the modern and the U.S. (Historical Rates for England & Global Literacy Rates), sometimes, they don’t really tell the whole story. I recently read a news article that my state reports a high level for high school graduation, but the system is graduating people who aren’t ready, who can’t read, etc. I’ve heard mention of illiterate kids at my siblings’ high school. I took a long time to learn to read, but I’m smart, and I read a ton now, reading late doesn’t mean a person is stupid, but it sure probably means someone or a lot of someones aren’t caring. I think it is cruel how kids are forced into cookie-cutter rates and shamed if they don’t fit. The main goals should be acquiring and using the ability, not meeting some superficial deadline.
  2. I do read. In 2013, almost one quarter of Americans didn’t read at all, and the overall average read per person was 12 (with a median of 5).
  3. I was raised to read. I grew up in a household where reading was both required and encouraged. My parents read aloud to us from childhood onward. We got those book and book on tape sets from the library (does anyone else remember those; there were in plastic bags with a hook and all hanged on a rod in the children’s section of the library?) this was a favorite activity, to pick our choices. We had shelves of books, we visited our library system, we visited our church library, we were given books as gifts. Much of my mom’s choice of homeschool curriculum focused on the “whole books” style of homeschooling. I think fostering a reading environment is a main part of what transforms “can” into “does.
  4. I have a family who reads. We received the fostering reading environment from readers (my parents) and we, siblings and in-laws are readers. My mom’s parents read as well, my grandfather especially, deeply with tons of history and biography. And potentially nieces and nephews, my baby niece already has a shelf full of books. We pass book ideas and thoughts back and forth; we speak the same or similar book language.
  5. I love the library. Besides knowing how to read and living in a reading environment accessing a library is a pretty significant help to bolster reading, yet in 2016, less than half Americans visited the library and almost 1/5 had never visited at all. Other than living in the boonies without a car, I can’t think of a reason why you couldn’t go. You pay taxes for this, why not use it (and it doesn’t only offer books!)?! Like I mentioned above, visiting libraries was a huge part of my childhood, and this shaped my love for them today.
  6. Growing up around readers. I was surrounded by readers for much of my life. Both churches we attended had libraries, I’m not sure that is the norm anymore. And almost a decade back, some of the young people formed a book club (now defunct) which helped propel me back into reading. The hostess’s made themed food and games, we picked solid books, we were introduced to Goodreads, and we had fun and interesting nerdy conversations.
  7. Beautiful books. I’m thankful for those who understand the importance of making the physical book beautiful from the illustrators of the gorgeous children’s books of my childhood, to the designers of Barnes and Noble and Penguin Clothbound classics. Two forms of art at once!
  8. Book ownership. Hardly anyone through time and place has had the physical and monetary access to books, yet now, here, we can easily build our own personal libraries.
  9. Goodreads. Enough said.
  10. Online reader-bloggers. I’m mainly indebted to the homeschool community, but I have appreciated some of the broader environment (such as TTT). I love having constant ability to continually build my TBR list; to discuss books online; to read reviews; and to participate in fun challenges, events, etc.

What I’ve Read: October 2018

Light Fiction

The Minstrel and the Dragon Pup. Children’s illustrated book by Rosemary Sutcliff. Cute story, but I thought the illustrations lacking.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Cute but definitely trying to hard to be whimsical.

Simon. A Rosemary Sutcliff novel set in Civil War England. I enjoyed it, but I definitely prefer her more ancient settings (and those tend to be better written). This made me curious about the division of England, how and why? As far as I know my family was from the very far north. Puritanism was strongest in the lower east. But how much did actual Puritanism play as opposed to just plain anti-Catholic sentiment (and wasn’t the North more Catholic for a time or was that just more ancient? It wasn’t Catholics who emigrated in the particular wave from which I hail) or just plain anti-Charles I sentiment?

Literary Fiction

Frankenstein. I posted my review previously.

Taliesin. Quite unique in conception I think, I of course, LOVED the Roman-Celtic Britain setting.

An Episode of Sparrows. I got confused and posted about this for September, but I read it in October.

Nonfiction

A book on a county in my state.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Items I Want to Own

I’m linking up here with The Artsy Read Girl for Top Ten Tuesday.

  1. These book plates (plus several of the other designs)
  2. These book ends (or something similarly fanciful and elegant)
  3. Book sleeves similar to this for when I lend out books
  4. A page anchor or something similar
  5. Miniature classic favorite book necklace or classic book locket
  6. Something like this in silver for Captain Wentworth’s letter
  7. Nonspecific book locket
  8. Some bookish art
  9. A map or two or three of Narnia
  10. Some bookmarks featuring favorite books

A Literary Christmas 2018

I’m linking up here for A Literary Christmas again.

I actually planned and researched better this time (I have a list for holiday books to choose from now), and below is my Christmas reading list; I’ve  ordered these already (because previous years I didn’t think, that you know, other people might have requested books near Christmas), and I should be able to put off reading them until December (or at least until after Thanksgiving) to read.

I’ve used up my interlibrary loans for this month, but I think I might try to order some Christmas ones in December, we shall see.

Most Christmas books I seemed to see are either kids books (I’ve included a few from my childhood), Hallmark style (I’ll stick to the movies), moralizing (no thanks), or Christmas histories. So most of my choices are kids books and histories of Christmas traditions, carols, etc.

I’ve also included the Christmas baking books from the library I want to peruse along with the one I own for some Christmas goodies.

Juvenile Fictions
The Holly and the Ivy Rumer Godden
The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story Lemony Snicket
Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story Cynthia Rylant
The Christmas Day Kitten James Herriot
The Lump of Coal Lemony Snicket
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Barbara Robinson

Grown-Up Fiction
Christmas At Fairacre Miss Read

Christmas History
Christmas In Williamsurg: 300 Years of Family Traditions K. M. Kostyal
Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas Ace Collins (I didn’t get to finish this previously)
Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, And Rituals at The Origins of Yuletide Christian Rätsch

Christmas Baking
Scandikitchen Christmas: Recipes and Traditions from Scandinavia Brontë Aurell
Classic German Baking: The Very Best Recipes for Traditional Favorites, from Pfeffernüsse to Streuselkuchen Luisa Weiss
Festive Baking: Holiday Classics in the Swiss, German, and Austrian Traditions Sarah Kelly Iaia

Review of Frankenstein

I read Frankenstein this month for The Classics Club October Dare. I’m a procrastinator, so I’m really lucky that I have a review done at all; I’m actually proud of myself since I did think ahead, takes notes, and make an outline. I just didn’t leave myself enough time for a couple drafts. And I have more words on this book/the background than the close to 1,000 below.

I’d never really wanted to read Frankenstein; I am not drawn to horror which is what I thought this book was. I procrastinated to start it, and then quickly realized that the book is incredibly dull, predictable rather than suspenseful and frightening. Then I procrastinated because of the tedious verbosity and dull, slow (because of said verbosity) plot. This book requires far too great a suspension of disbelief and not for creativity but for plot holes and devices. I knew some of the circumstances of the writing, written by a teenager during a sort of dare (although undergoing revisions, possibly with her eventually husband’s help). But because it was a classic I was expecting a solid story and prose vs obviously written in Romantic vein by uncontrolled, undisciplined teenager! I think it is famous for the barest plot concept that more recent portrayals have developed and that readers then insert into the story.

This book features absolutely atrocious prose. I was gagging over the stock Romantic language and expression; the flowery verbosity and excessive, sanctimonious and fawning emotionalism and sentimentality. The author is tedious and repetitiveness with details that take away from the story rather than add to it. These fountains of extraneous detail fill in most of the story which would have little substance else because concepts pertinent to the plot are vague and general. And I didn’t find a hint of irony in all this language either.

In amidst all this fluff, some scatter trails of a plot float. With much unrelated verbosity we are get the story from various narrators in a general and literal way (and Frankenstein continually drops spoilers). Everything has told us by the author via her narrators rather than displayed via art; she gives no detail (regarding the actual plot), not from mystery, but from ignorance and lack of creativity. In addition to having a spare plot delivered literally, the plot has so many devices, holes, and implausible points. Shelley exhibits total unawareness of any other class than her own (and any other point of view than her coterie) and this leads to so many of the issues.

Let’s start with Victor Frankenstein, who by the by is no doctor but a pedantic, spoiled, sheltered, young fool. Because of these things, I don’t see how he had: 1) the ability to pursue this creation; he very obviously isn’t the brightest, 2) the interest/passion to pursue such a thing (so little reason had he that I assumed his friend would die and he would revive him, nope, he is just playing around, and he didn’t seem to have passion for anything except whining and protestations, 3) the stomach for such a task; he was such a hypochondriac and always talking about his delicate sensibilities, and 4) the will for such a task; he is indecisive, passive, and lazy elsewhere in the story, dragging his feet at every turn.

Now onto his implausibly created monster. He isn’t described and since the author doesn’t forget any other descriptions (however poor they are and however little they apply to the story), this doesn’t come across as mysterious but rather a lack of creativity. Everything about Frankenstein’s creation is implausible; he has a fully developed mind with the elasticity of a child’s brain with the thought processes of adults. His mind is full of Romantic sensibilities which he quickly taps into thanks to the improbably (and highly Romantic) circumstances of finding himself by educated people who coincidentally aid his learning. All of this is too convenient. He could have had the soul of a demon or another dead person or the mind of the person whose brain Frankenstein gave him. He could have truly come from nothing, truly a blank slate in which case he would have had the mind of an infant or an animal.

In the same vein, a double-minded author doesn’t equal a truly conflicted villain; that requires insight and talent. He comes across as a psychopath; only when he gets what he wants does he act anything like appropriately, his manipulations and revenge, his complaints and reviling, his vicious triple murders (two of which were in cold-blood, the other a child murder) of innocent people to wreak personal revenge all point to psychopathy. His rage isn’t the bewildered, blind lashing out of the abused and abandoned by humanity (that is also implausible, no one gives him any aid at all?), it is very specific, clever revenge. He goes from zero to one hundred in this quite fast. Of course, there are inconsistencies here, sometimes he does rage against humanity (from his tiny experience).

Overall the moral issues are grossly and falsely simplistic expressions of false choice moral “dilemmas”—more from inconsistent plot and lazy thinking, ignorant/irresponsible idle upper-class perspectives than from any understanding of the complexities of human nature and circumstances. All sorts of misunderstandings of duty and virtue. Virtue doesn’t turn to evil; doing good in good times doesn’t make one virtuous; the monster wasn’t ever virtuous, nor did he try. As to the idea that Frankenstein is the villain, I don’t think the story has the depth and irony; I don’t see any irony at all in Victor Frankenstein’s portrayal; I don’t think Romantics understood or appreciated in since they enacted in their own lives as well as in their stories such drama that is ludicrously ripe for satire). I think we can get deep discussion out of the plot and morals (or lack thereof) in the book, but that fact doesn’t make the novel itself deep.

After reading, I immediately had to look and see what other reviewers thought on Goodreads. This review expresses my opinions (and I’m sure others) in a hysterical way.

What I Read: September 2018

I feel like I have a habit of slacking off and then reading a ton  . . . and then not keeping a good pace. I read 15 books this September. As of this writing, I’m 25 books behind my goal.

Rereads (3)

Magic for MarigoldPat of Silverbush, and Mistress Pat by L.M. Montgomery. Nothing like an L.M. Montgomery book for a soothing and beautiful read.

Light Fiction (6)

Murder is Easy, Towards Zero, Destination UnknownThe Secret of ChimneysThe Seven Dials Mystery, and Sparkling Cyanide. I needed some more easy reads, but of course I needed to save some of Agatha Christie, and I usually get a little freaked out after awhile.

Literary Fiction (1)

An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden. The beginning was slow, the middle beautiful, the ending rather slapdash and ludicrous and also made the beginning look silly too. I’ll still read more of Godden though for that middle goodness.

Serious Nonfiction (2)

Death by Living: Life is Meant to Be Spent by N.D. Wilson. I love his voice and his prose and his insight even if I’m estranged from his message.

The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. I think this straddles the below category because while the subject is serious, I think the treatment is deceptive it is “depth.” And I’ll leave it at that.

Popular Nonfiction (3)

Book Girl: A Journey Through the Treasures and Transforming Power of a Reading Life by Sarah Clarkson. I think this straddles the serious category because it is far deeper than the similar book below. So much in here struck a cord with me. I’ve experienced Sarah’s deep writing on her blog and her sister’s writing on her blog. I was sure enough on the depth of this book that I preordered it (I mean she promised extra reading lists and such for preorders too); I’m so glad I treated myself. This is something I will be going back to again and again. I had hardly started in before I was bursting into my sisters room raving about Sarah’s discussion of discernment (an opportune irony moment, my sister had a peculiar smile/smirk and when questioned, revealed the cover of the book she was reading, one of the Twilight books, ha, I’ve read them too, at I think the same age). I’ve since lent the book to another sister. This is just the deep discussion of humanities and taste of which I’ve felt a lack.

I’ve already picked up one of her recommendations (one I’d heard of but wasn’t at our library, so I hadn’t pursued strongly). I’d read many recommendations, but she had plenty more, including some I’d heard of and thought I should try to pursue more seriously (most of the times I add books to my massive library TBR list and then randomly order them and possibly try them).  I since noticed that Joy, her sister, has started a podcast, so I’ve listened to a few of those, including one with her brother about heroes (go listen!). That family clearly knows how to discuss deeply. I know my mom had their mother’s books that I skimmed growing up, but I since I skimmed those ages back probably sort of pushed them all (unjustly) too close to those other Christian Mom type books (which can be really fluffy), but now I want to know pursue more of her work with her children.

Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People by Vanessa Van Edwards. This was interesting book on interpersonal skills, more in my language than Crucial Conversations. Probably a book I need to own and reread.

I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life Popular Nonfiction by Anne Bogel. This is superficial; this is from that group of readers who I just can’t relate to even if I technically agree with some of the words and opinions expressed, there is no real Kindred Spirit. I read it for contrast and to have quick read (cheap, I know) with Book Girl (publishers seem to have a theme going, I have my sights on another book in this category, probably more in the Book Girl league).

 

Top Ten Tuesday: The Longest Books I’ve Ever Read

I’m linking up here with The Artsy Read Girl for Top Ten Tuesday.

To the best of my knowledge this are the longest books I’ve read (as of 9/2/18). I was relying on Goodreads, and editions vary because of size of pages, size of type, any extras (introductions), and anything else that may or may not affect actual page count or numbered page count.

  1. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: 908 pages. I’m glad to save I’ve read this, but if I read again it would be skimming or an abridged version and still not sure it would be worth it.
  2. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo: 1,463 pages. Um, overrated. Not literature-quality writing/prose, and much digging and parsing required to reach the literature/epic-quality plot.
  3. Camilla by Fanny Burney: 992 pages. 18th/19th century fluff reading, lol.
  4. Cecilia by Fanny Burney: 1056 pages. 18th/19th century fluff reading, lol.
  5. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens: 985 pages. I need to re-read, one of his best.
  6. Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens: 894 pages. Meh.
  7. Bleak House by Charles Dickens: 1,017 pages.I think this is supposed to be one of his best, but I didn’t like the characters much, and I don’t think I care enough for his prose and the plot.
  8. Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer: 972 pages. An excellent history.
  9. Middlemarch by George Eliot: 904 pages. Definitely worth a re-read.
  10. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke: 1006. Bizarre. Ended rather abruptly and confusingly.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Book Blogs/Bookish Websites

I’m linking up here with The Artsy Read Girl for Top Ten Tuesday. I’m including blogs that I used to read that really helped encourage my reading, not only sites I use now, nor is this list comprehensive; I frequently find book lists on blogs or sites that I like that aren’t exclusively or mainly focused on reading which fact I love, I think I find a broader range of topics this way.

(1) My library site that allows me to order ridiculous amounts of books, suggest purchases, order interlibrary loans, and categorize my TBR lists.

(2) Goodreads. This site along with the book club that introduced me really helped spur my reading after my long slump.

Older blogs that aren’t being maintained regularly anymore including:

(3) Yet Another Period Drama Blog 

(4) Old-Fashioned Charm

(5) Classy with a Dash of Quirk

(6) Along the Brandywine

Blogs that I pull suggestions from now and/or have fun bookish posts such as:

(6) Elisabeth Grace Foley

(7) The Wilds of Wonder

(8) Both of Hamlette’s blogs: Hamlette’s Soliloquy and The Edge of the Precipice

(9) Coffee, Classics, and Craziness

(10) Random sources such as such the web; the Pulitzer, Bancroft, and Francis Parkman prizes for history; and random websites from others’ links or that I’m browsing while not looking for books particularly

What I Read in July

Fiction, Rereads

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Fiction, New to Me

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

Little House in the Big Woods

A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port William Membership by Wendell Berry

Celtic Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

At the beginning of the month I was still on my Agatha Christie kick and finished/read 9 more novels/collections: Nemesis, They Do It with Mirrors, Double Sin and Other StoriesAt Bertram’s Hotel, Postern of Fate, N or M?Partners in CrimeBy the Pricking of My Thumbs, and The Secret Adversary

Nonfiction

Epidemics and Pandemics: Their Impacts on Human History by J.N. Hays. This is an essential read for anyone who wants to understand history and the modern world. I would not stop here, but it is a great place to start as an overview of significant epidemics and plagues from ancient times until 2005 (when the book was published). A few notes although I would have a preferred a more updated version (obviously, the world has continuing outbreaks of the epidemics he mentions as still in force plus the Ebola epidemic and the Zika epidemic, just to name ones I know), this is still an excellent place to start on the study of the historical impact of disease. A few notes, I think a microbiology books would come in handy (he didn’t describe the modern understanding and remedies; I think a section for that on each epidemic/pandemic would have been helpful for connotation, and I think the author had a bit of a weird tone about modern medical science and sanitation in the more modern epidemics(or at least his tones was easily confused with the ideas of those about whom he was writing).

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Not what I was expecting, not sure what I was thinking, but it felt very stylized and impersonal. I think that is the style of personal writing then.

Vaccines: What Everyone Needs to Know by Kristen A. Feemster. An absolutely essential read for everyone. The author gives a brief history of vaccines, a brief explanation of vaccines, discussion on the development of vaccines and the usage and availability of vaccines within sections of society and the globe. She ends with a discussion of vaccine hesitancy (and there I do have a bit of a problem with her tone/take; as much as vaccine hesitant and anti-vaccine people infuriate me, her tone tends a bit authoritarian while the previous chapters were informative and persuasive; the people who infuriate me, I find aggravating because of deliberate ignorance/suspicion, not skepticism) I do think that some people may need a bit more explanation of vaccines, I don’t know how much everyone hears and remembers. I think this fit nicely with Epidemics and Pandemics, with the latter emphasizing the need for vaccines. And a good microbiology books would fit it quite well with these books also.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books to Read by the Pool or Beach

I’m linking up here.

Apparently, I keep mixing up the Top Ten Tuesday topic dates, oh, well.

I’m not going to make this a TBR list, because that isn’t how I read. I’m going to go by what I think are a good fit for summer.

Any sort of the feels summery, light, mild adventurous. Lots of middle-grade books, I think. Nothing too serious, magical, or dark.

  1. The Penderwicks (I’ve probably already re-read these and read the new one by the time this posts, sorry, not waiting for summer)
  2. A Bridge to Terabithia
  3. The Grandma’s Attic series
  4. The Borrowers series
  5. The Little House series
  6. Keeper of the Bees
  7. Any L.M. Montgomery, but Magic for Marigold is especially summery as are:
  8. Anne of Avonlea
  9. Rainbow Valley
  10. Jane of Lantern Hill

What I Read: June

I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit.

When one adds Agathe Christie to the months reading numbers, one looks like a prodigious reader. Of the 10 books I read last month, 6 were Agatha Christie’s. I’ve already read 10 books this month (again, thanks mainly to Agatha Christie novels).

The Secret Adversary (Tommy and Tuppence #1), The Thirteen Problems (Miss Marple, #2), The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side (Miss Marple, #9), The Pale Horse, A Pocket Full of Rye (Miss Marple #7), and Crooked House. These are just page-turners and most didn’t stand out much except the Crooked House which was the best mystery I think, but I almost cried at the end. The rest aren’t her most interesting.

Switzerland by Lura Rogers Seavey. This is a children’s Enchantment of the World series book. I think kids’ books are great for quick overviews of subjects, particularly for subjects I know very little about. I thought this was a solid source of beginning information on countries, and I plan on reading more of this series.

Outlaws of Time #3: The Last of the Lost Boys by N.D. Wilson. I’ve been less satisfied with most of his more recent writing, I feel like his unique voice is being drowned out or diluted. This novel was fast and forgettable and rather pointless I thought. This series is my least favorite.

Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson. I found parts of these books quite funny, but I think put together they were a bit repetitive, mundane, and tedious; the adults came across as spiteful (that ballgame section, ouch) and whiny especially since I was comparing my grandparents (who all were children in the 40’s like Jackson’s children) and their families’ to Jackson’s; I suppose the Northeast was quite a bit wealthier and more modern (e.g. my grandparents didn’t always have plumbing as children, I’d have to ask about a telephone, and I know my grandmother recently mentioned an aunt as having more money as the one with the camera) at that time period if this family was “tight” on money. Regional and historical differences like that are quite intriguing.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Throwback: Fictional Crushes

I wrote this and scheduled this months ago and apparently the topic was changed in the interim, but I’m still going to leave this.

I’m linking up here for Top Ten Tuesday

I’m a noodle is all I can say, I’m trying to remember by very early ones, when I really, seriously had a crush on a book character, not just theoretically.

  1. Henry from The Boxcar Children series
  2. Lewis from Little House Charlotte Years
  3. Ben from the Felicity books
  4. Drew from one of the Love Comes Softly books according to my sister (I was trying to remember all my childhood book crushes without much work, so I asked her); I don’t recall that name but I’m sure I had a least one crush from these books, I’d forgotten what I read then
  5. Laurie (of course!)
  6. Ethan from Calico Bush (Caleb was too young for my preteen/young teen self, lol)
  7. Sheftu from Mara, Daughter of the Nile
  8. Esca from Eagle of the Ninth (yeah, I liked him better than Marcus, at least in the old days
  9. Aquila from Lantern Bearers
  10. Mac from Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom